Novaliches priest is NASSA’s new right-hand man

Novaliches priest is NASSA’s new right-hand man

Fr. Antonio Labiao Jr, the new Executive Secretary of the CBCP’s National Secretariat for Social Action, with his predecessor Fr. Edwin Gariguez. PHOTO FROM NASSA

By Roy Lagarde

July 19, 2020

Manila, Philippines

The Catholic Church’s social action arm has appointed Fr. Antonio Labiao Jr., of the Diocese of Novaliches as its new executive secretary.

Labiao, 66, will replace Fr. Edwin Gariguez of the Apostolic Vicariate of Calapan, who resigned from the National Secretariat for Social Action (Nassa) effective July 31.

“I personally would like to express my sincere gratitude to you for all the support, solidarity and collaboration that you extended to NASSA Caritas Philippines through the years during my term,” Fr. Gariguez said.

Fr. Gariguez had led the Church’s emergency and recovery programs for various disasters and calamities that hit the country over the past 10 “challenging” years.

Under his term, Nassa attained a milestone in taking a step forward in integrating the resiliency framework in its institutional strategies and interventions.

From 2009 to 2019, through emergency appeals and bilateral programs, Nassa or Caritas Philippines received more than P1.7 billion from the Caritas confederation worldwide.

He was also instrumental in the establishment of Nassa’s Center for Resiliency, Empowerment and Integral Development (CREED), also known as “social action academy”, in Tagaytay City.

In 2012, Fr. Gariguez was awarded the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize for his works in protecting the environment and indigenous peoples against large-scale mining projects in the country.

Nassa’s justice agenda also went beyond the anthropocentric lens to include the whole issue of ecology, under his watch. This is the impetus for its “Green Initiatives” campaign on the Right of Nature, food security and divestment from coal and fossil fuels.

“We hope that the meaningful partnership we have established will be sustained and further strengthened even with the needed transition,” he said.

A native of M’lang in North Cotabato, Fr. Labiao is currently the Pastoral Director of the Novaliches diocese and Rector of the Cathedral Shrine and Parish of the Good Shepherd.

Serving under co-terminus status, he will assist Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo of Kidapawan, who assumed as Nassa’s new chairman in December 2019.

Fr. Gariquez said he will go back to where he started: his Mangyan Mission in Mindoro.