Thursday, November 27, 2008

Nograles Threat to National Patrimony

When Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) was ratified, I think we have already sold our country piece by piece. Imagine being the toxic burial place of the Japanese. just like liberalizing our trade in agricultural products, we have also opened our doors for zero tariff on waste to b dumped here in our shores. Economic in expense of what?

Sadly, our fellow Mindanaoan legislator who holds an important position in the Congress--being a house Speaker, (Davao, 1st District) Rep. Prospero Nograles aims to open Mindanao for investors. The catch, we have to let these foreign investors to have a full ownership of our lands. He passed House Resolution 737 . It assails the constitutional provision, particularly sections 2 and 3, Article 12 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution on national patrimony by allowing foreign investors to operate vast tracts of agricultural lands. Furthermore, plantations which are under labor administration, cultivated, and developed for exports crops, and it will be excluded from Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) Compulsory Acquisition scheme. He claims that for 20 years of CARP implementation, Mindanao has not moved on. He claims that

“Many people are still poor in Mindanao because of the insurgency problem and we have an insurgency problem because there are no investments coming in to help the poor. We have been trapped into this kind of situation for long a time now and there’s nothing we can do about it just because of two provisions in the Constitution"

What a myopic analysis of the problem. Insurgency is a product of landlessness, of unequal distribution of wealth and resources, Mr. house Speaker. He added that by repelling the ownership restriction of the Constitution, it would be possible for Mindanao to move forward because of investment especially coming from Arab investors. He also added that
“Arab investments can be best situated in Mindanao because the insurgency problem in the region is mainly Muslim-related. I think that even members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Abu Sayyaf will not attack any Arab investment."

Wow! Is that how you view the Mindanao situation? Is that your solve all remedy to the historical injustices committed to our Lumad and Moro brothers and sisters and continuing poverty in the island?

Mindanao is continually hailed as the country’s food basket wherein we contribute 45 to 60% of the national export economy. Ironically, only few rural elites carry this basket, while millions of members of rural poor population filled it up. Being a land of abundance, the stark reality remains that six (6) out of the ten poorest provinces nationwide is here.

Rank Probinsiya Rehiyon Poverty incidence
1 Tawi-Tawi ARMM 78.9
2 Zamboanga del Norte Western Mindanao/ Zamboanga Peninsula 63.0
3 Maguindanao ARMM 62.0
4 Apayao CAR 57.5
5 Surigao del Norte Caraga 53.2
6 Lanao del Sur ARMM 52.5
7 Northern Samar Eastern Visayas 52.2
8 Masbate Bicol 51.0
9 Abra CAR 50.1
10 Misamis Occidental Northern Mindanao 48.8
Source: Philippjne Poverty Statistics, National Statistical Coordination Board.

Not until poverty and inequalities are addressed, insurgency will continue. Giving full ownership to the foreigners will only compound the already very complex problem.

Mindanao Week of Peace

Starting today, members coming from civil society groups join hands to reinstate the call to end the ongoing war in parts of Mindanao. Just right after the controversial Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) was declared as "unconstitutional" by Supreme Court, strife way South has escalated leaving children and women vulnerable.

In time also for the Celebration of Mindanao Week of Peace (MWOP) from Nov. 27- Dec.3 , different activities will be conducted to air our voices to the public. There are no victors in war. We lose everything on it- life, properties and our dignity. Lucky for us who sits comfortably on our comfort zones, while the rest of the conflict- affected villages fear for their lives-- always on the look-out to run.

Take action. Take part in MWOP activities. For the list of activities, click here.

Now, the "bakwits" (refugees) themselves have talked and called for the cessation of armed conflict. It is time that peace talks must be resumed. And the government must have learned it lessons now in negotiations . I personally call for a better, more transparent and right tri-people composition of Mindanao in the peace talks. And it must resume NOW!!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Controversial Prayer for Supremacy

Prayers are powerful. It is our open communication to the Great Being. But when it was used by Press Secretary to pray for the health of the President to be able to rule this country until 2010 AND even beyond, the prayer becomes a blunder, a political tool, a self- serving utterance.

In this highly volatile political scenario of our country, I could not help but grimace at Dureza. I mean, is that his "prayers from the heart"? To have the current administration continue its rule beyond 2010?

And Dureza coming from the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace PRocess (OPPAP) before becoming the Press Secretary, it made me wonder, does he know their REAL motive behind the now aborted MOA-AD-- not for lasting peace but for political reasons?


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Electrifying Partying!

Partying in CLub Watt without the guilt. Read why.
(Picture taken from NY TImes)

For the youngbloods (The twenty something) who loves to party and gyrate on the dance floor, here's another way not to be guilty. Aside from sweating it out while swigging some beer, how about contributing electricity by dancing?

No don't raise your eyebrows. The Club Watt in Rotterdam, Netherlands discovered a way for sustainable dancing-- a dance floor that harvests the energy emitted by the jumps and bodily movements and convert it to energy.

According to the Club Owner, the electricity is used to power the light show. But if you want to power it for your own oven toaster, you can do so. Based on their calculations, two average people by dancing can light a bulb!

This is another way of reducing electricity consumption. Indirectly, this is another way of mitigating climate change. Tagged as "greener clubbing" , Club Watt owner Mr. Tieleman says it is his own way of raising consciousness, energy experiment but without sacrificing entertainment.

It is still on experimental stage but the concept is really great.

Now with so many disco bars here in the country and yuppies (who likes to party every Friday nights or week-ends), this is should be replicated here.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Habal Habal Chronicles

I grew up in a barrio and one mode of transportation is a motorcycle called skylab.I ride the skylab only every NOv.1 or 2 everytime we visit the cemetery (it’s an uphill affair that no jeepney or other vehicle would like to stuck its tires into) or visiting my classmates in sitios. My grandmother forbade us to ride this “dangerous ride to hell” as she called it.

In some areas here in Mindanao, a plank of wood is put across behind the driver to accommodate more passengers.Just like this below.

In some areas, they have made some improvements. They no longer put woods, but steel bar to make it more sturdy. They even added umbrellas to protect its passengers against blistering heat or heavy rain. Recently, I snapped this photo for an improved invention of the habal-habal in Davao Oriental.

I decided to take my undergraduate degree in UP Mindanao (located in the serene boondock of MIntal, Bago Oshiro), and I never thought I’ll be encountering the skylab or habal-habal (as the Bisaya calls it), Everyday!

And every time I see this mode of transportation, it reminded of an incident during college. On one fateful day, I was waiting for my (guy) friend to share a ride and to save some money, of course.

I: “Ali, maghabal ta.” (Come, let’s take a ride.I just shorten the term, habal pertaining to the vehicle).

Then I heard laughter from other HH drivers and some bystanders. Confused, I asked them.

I: “Ngano diay?” (Why ?)

Manong: In Bisaya, Habal means sex.

The nuances of language.*Sigh

So much for the ride. (--,)

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Say Cheese at Lachi's

Just when we were trying to shed some saddlebags by sweating it out at Smash and Drop (every Thursday or Friday) my officemate Ate Lizyl wanted to eat dinner. She recommended Lachi’s.

I still have a date with my sorority sis Melody and Brod James but my stomach is growling too. I was torn between an additional fat that I have been trying to shed through this work-out and craving for cheesecake. But then again, I am hearing beer at the back of the mind (if I go with Mel and James..hhhmmm..either ways, I'll add carbs and fats) so I decided to try out Lachi's.

Just when we finished our mini tournament, it rain so hard. We waited for how many minutes for a cab but to no avail. It was rush hour. Good thing our companion, Yasou (ni tomodachi) our Japanese IT specialist decided to hail a cab and golly! He got a cab just for seconds! These cabs really know how to identify foreigners.

Before going astray with my topic, let’s go back to Lachi’s. This quaint little place is known for its mouth- watering desserts. It is owned by twins and both are really good at the kitchen (too bad we weren’t able to take their pics). They bake cakes and pastries as well as viands.

With just eight tables, the place is cramped already when we arrived. Two tables were already reserved. I learned later that you need to make reservations before coming to the place. I guess they no longer need to advertise. Word of mouth advertisement works better for them.

First, I tried spicy tuna with coconut milk. If you manage to get into their place, try their laing. It is not written on their menu so be sure to ask their attendants.

Both Ate Anna and Ate Lizyl tried laing while Yasou tried their fried tofu with teriyaki sauce. Tofu is good for people who wanted to lose weight.

And for the much awaited dessert, we ordered classical sans rival, midnight chocolate cake, blueberry cheesecake and New York tart.

Okay, for a better picture of it, look at these.

Lachi’s is located at Marfori Heights.

Satisfied. Onaka ga suita (hungry) no more.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Human Rights-- CSOs and AFP and PNP's Concerns

Human Rights is inherent rights of every individual. It is a universal, indivisible right of every person. But how many times do we hear violations of these rights?

The unresolved cases of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances in recent years, our country got the attention of the international community. We have Task Force Usig, the Commission to Address Media and Activist Killings (commonly known as "Melo Commission" since it was headed by retired Supreme Court Justice Jose A.R. Melo) and the coming of United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial executions Philip Alston to conduct investigations about these cases.

One of the highlights of Prof. Alston's findings is that the State agents-- the military and the police who are expected to protect these rights, are ironically the perpetrators of human rights violations.

It is in this context that a community- based dialogue between the Civil society organizations (CSOs) and the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines were conducted last Tuesday to Wednesday at Waterfront Hotel. It was one of the series of dialogues to be conducted in 10 regions nationwide initiated by ALG (ALternative LAw Groups), Bengigno S. Aquino Sr. Foundation, Han Seidel Foundation, PNP and AFP.

I was lucky to be included.

There are many concerns that were raised and were summarized such as:

a. Harassment -- threats to organizing and/ or support groups, harassment to Moro communities, raid of youth camp in Calinan (the case was dismissed due to technical reasons), mistaken identity, branding and labelling (such as antiming= communist, ergo you are enemy of the state)
b. enforced disappearances
c. vigilantism/ extrajudicial killings
d. militarization in the countryside and recruitment of IPs, and the so called "Investment Defense Forces"

The experiences of different organizations in seeking redress with these government agencies were also discussed and most of the time, "justice delayed, justice denied" tactic applies.

On the first day of the dialogue, there was a separate briefing between the CSOs and the members of the security forces. At night, there was an informal get together with the military and the police. Good thing no one was in uniform.

The next day was a grueling and intensive day of discussion. The PNP and the military were given a chance to present their mechanisms for human rights complaints lodged on their offices. That was the first time I heard of the PNP Human Rights Affairs Office (PNP- HRAO) and of AFP Human Rights Office (AFP HRO).

While the creation of these respective human rights offices within the AFP and PNP are surely positive signs of openness, these should be complemented by coordination with the civil societies and local communities.

One thing that I am very concerned with is the creation of the Mindanao Indigenous Peoples Conference for Peace and Development (MIPCPD) with the auspices of a certain AFP COl. Capuyan. It was headed with Datu Joel Unad and other leaders whom we know of. One objective of the said group is to arm the IPs against the New Peoples' Army. They claimed that NPAs are extorting them and/or their competitor in asking benefits from mining companies. Okay, I am with them on this grounds. But my other concern is the State's definition of its enemies.

Once you are against the "development projects" of the state such as large- scale mining, you are branded as an activist, a communist, thus, an enemy of the state and treated as such. Also it can be a divisive factor in the community. And what's more alarming is the operations on the grounds. Beyond this security concern is the groups' commitment of 500 thousands (more or less) hectares of land to be planted by jathropa.

The great food with its equally great spoon (so big!)

Also, it is known that places where mining operates is highly militarized. It was a heated discussion that I it made my stomachs growl. I tell you, the food was great, but I almost got choked when Task Force Davao Regional Commander, Col. Oscar Lactao muttered these words "there are issues used by the CPP-NPA-NDF. For the LUmads, they use LAND, for the students TUITION FEES, for the laborers WAGES, for the army the CORRUPTION OF THE SENIOR OFFICERS, and for the professionals or middle class, HUMAN RIGHTS. "

As Human Rights Advocate, are we now communists or NPA sympathizers sir?

If only we can equate everything to that. The complex ideological battle of communism, of socialism, equality, security and yes, human rights can only be summarized into that.

I even asked him in our FGD, "Sir, if I say I am an anti-mining advocate will you arrest me? And you have said as Army, you are securing stability- externally and internally- the territory of the State. You need to protect the people and the State. But to whom will your loyalty lies if the framework of the State is contradictory to that of the people?"

TFD COmmander Col. Oscar LActao

He was not able to answer directly. But when he said that he is in favor of large mining corporations so that it can be regulated, I already knows where his loyalty

Major. Rolando Dumawa, Chief AFP Public Affairs Office

As Major Rolly Dumawa of Public Affairs Division of J&, "Are you afraid of us (military)?" That's one concern of the people in the community since it was reported that people in fatigue cause fright.

Without battling an eyelash I said "No. Because my two uncles are men of uniform. But until now, we are still arguing about human rights, activism, the State and their role as defense force. But still I respect his opinion, even how difficult it is. And even yours." and he smiled.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Mindanao Bloggers Summit Shout-outs

I know this is a very late post. I have been scolding myself for not finishing the post beforehand. Been caught in Heroes and hanging process documentation work. (sad faced) Okay. After being soooo excited for a week since I received my e-pass, I finally met persons who are making waves in the blogosphere. More pictures here.

There’s Mr. Avel Manasala , the owner of the Bariles Republic site who talks about his beloved hometown. Mr. Bloggie Robillo (his more known as Bloggie. I even forgot his first name.. memory lapse, ggrr..), the author of several blogs. One of which is my favorite,, that emerged as one of the emerging influential blogs. To know more about food- round-abouts in Davao City, you have to check this site.

Mr. Walter Balane, a journalist- blogger, Mr. Hector Minoza and Mr. Bobby Timonera are the speakers. There were also shout- outs from student blogger like Mikko, advocacy blogger like my dear old high school classmate and friend (who was the one who really encouraged me to write and get involved with the Mindanao Bloggers community), Mark Aethen Agana, as well Dr. Bone, from Tacurong.

I can't forget Ms. Sarah Matalam, a mother, a yoga practitioner and a Muslim (which to some were very intriguing. "Pwede palang magyoga ang mga Muslim?" yes read it right . You can be both.), who conducts relief operations for the IPDs in Lanao. She's really inspiring.

There’s also Lyle Santos, a nurse turned into professional blogging and now earns from Google Adsense 3 to four times bigger than the minimum government employee gets per payday. And then, nothing beats, Ms Ria Jose who have 12 active blogs and earning from it! A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!!

It was also a time for UP Mindanao people—sorority sis Tiara Mejos, Elton, Rea, Corin, Vanessa and Yasmin to meet up.

True to its essence, Mindanao bloggers are organizing, empowering itself to finally say “enough”! with the mainstream media’s portrayal of Mindanao.

You can check Pierre Galla’s notes for his realizations about Mindanao and for an outsider's POV.

Until the next summit guys and gals.

P.S. I am still (trying hard) writing about my serious realizations about the summit. haha.

remembering the living, the dead and those in-between

To face death is horrible. But not knowing if your beloved someone is dead or alive or either ways, is much much more horrible. You cannot sleep. You cannot eat.

In death, you can say with finality that he/she has finally been laid to rest. But in the case of “desaparecidos” [disappeared] like in the case of Jonas Burgos, James Balao, Sherlyn Cadapan, Karen Empeño and the list of missing activists and journalists, nothing is final.

(picture taken from For full story, click this.)

Day by day, the agonies of those they left behind who hold on, clinging that justice will be served to those who are responsible, pulls my heart. Watching Mrs. Editha Burgos, the parents of two missing fellow UP students and student councils, fighting…. asking for Lady Justice not to put a blind eye on their cases, make sme wonder. How many Philip Alstons or UN Special special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions will we have before we act on it?

As the All Saint and All Soul’s day ends, I continually pray for who are still living. That they will continue be given strength to continue the struggle, and tell the tales of injustices committed.


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