Archive | April 2006

Farmers’ group tags leader’s murder to agrarian reform failure

By Walter I. Balane / MindaNews / 27 April 2006

DAVAO CITY — A group of farmers and landless farmworkers has condemned the killing of one of its leaders last Monday and blamed the failure of the implementation of agrarian reform for his death.

Leaders of the Pambansang Ugnayan ng mga Nagsasariling Lokal na Organisasyon sa Kanayunan (UNORKA) said in a press conference Wednesday that their secretary-general Enrico “Eric” Cabanit, 53, could have not died if only the country’s agrarian reform program was implemented well.

“The brutal murder of Ka Eric signifies continuing failure of our government to give serious commitment to alleviate the plight of its ordinary citizens, and protect especially the impoverished majority in the countryside from the wicked maneuvers of the wealthy elites,” UNORKA said in a statement issued Wednesday.

Cabanit was gunned down around 6 p.m. on April 24 at a public market in Panabo City, 32 kilometers northeast of Davao City, hours after presiding a dialog between Department of Agrarian Reform and UNORKA officials. His daughter, Daffodil, 19, sustained a gunshot wound on the left side of her chest and is now recuperating in a hospital.

UNORKA and DAR officials led by Undersecretary Narciso Nieto discussed a stand-off between the farmworkers and owners of the agricultural estate TADECO, a company owned by a Floirendo corporation. According to DAR, about 386 hectares of the 1,023-hectare estate have been exempted from redistribution being a pasture land area. But DAR and UNORKA officials considered it a “gray area” because the exemption was issued without an application for it.

In the dialog, UNORKA said DAR issued instructions for the conduct of ocular inspection in the area. Nieto also reportedly committed to send a DAR committee to investigate the 400-hectare citrus farm run by WADECOR, also reportedly owned by a Floirendo corporation.

Cabanit was chair of the WADECOR Employees Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association (WEARBAI). UNORKA said they had been pushing for the immediate acquisition by the government of thousands of hectares of land owned by the Floirendo family for distribution to farmer-beneficiaries, as mandated by Republic Act 6657, or the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARL).

Rosauro Tapal, president of UNORKA Mindanao, said it has become very difficult for the farmers to struggle for agrarian reform within the legal process.

“It is such a long legal battle, from the local agrarian courts to the Office of the President, Court of Appeals, to the Supreme Court,” he said.

UNORKA said they are fighting for justice for the death of Cabanit, the fourth victim this month.

“Money has become more powerful than the law in this country,” he said. “But Ka Eric’s death is not a defeat for us, there will be more Ka Eric who will continue the struggle,” he stressed.

UNORKA, which claims a membership of 80,000, with around 18,000 of them in Mindanao, called for the government to impose mechanisms to counter hindrances put up by landowners.

“The government must take action on this or the farmers would have to suffer more as CARP expires in 2008,” Tapal said.

The 10-year Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) was created by the enactment of RA 6657 in June 1988. When the law expired in 1998, and with the government not even halfway through the program, Congress passed RA 8532, which extended the program for another 10 years.

DAR regional director Rodolfo Inson told MindaNews that DAR also condemned the killing of Cabanit. He said he has sought for the immediate investigation of the murder.

“Doing agrarian reform work is a very difficult job. Indeed it is very hard to meet the interests of the landowners and the farmers,” he said.

Inson admitted that farmers have to go through a long legal battle with the present system.

“But I have to disagree that the program has been a failure,” he said.

He cited that in Region 11, they have already distributed around 200,000 hectares of lands to 134,000 beneficiaries out of the target of 210,000 hectares.

“Our difficulty is in covering commercial farms, which started only in 1998, as the CARL provided for a 10-year deferment period for these areas,” he said.

Inson said they have problems in identification of beneficiaries, areas to be covered, litigation and administrative constraints, land valuation and also in budget for “just and fair compensation” for the landowners and support services to beneficiaries.

He said that only land distribution will stop in 2008, but agrarian reform projects will continue after that.

But Inson said the “government must have a political will to resolve pending cases in different courts,” regardless of who own the lands.

“It must source out budget for a fair and just compensation for lands subjected to distribution so that landowners won’t make it difficult for DAR and the beneficiaries,” he said.

He also cited a problem on disparities in land valuation between the initial figures given by Land Bank of the Philippines, mandated to do official land valuation under CARL and the figures given by the Court of Appeals when land owners appeal the cases.

Another problem is budget support for support services to beneficiaries. “We are not giving enough support for there is insufficient budget,” he said.

One major problem of DAR that Inson projected is the exodus of lawyers who are supposed to defend beneficiaries in cases, from the department's provincial and regional offices to other offices for greener pasture.

Inson is confident they are going to complete land distribution of around 10,000 hectares by 2008, including around 6,000 hectares identified to be “problematic” areas or those with pending legal cases.

One fine day in Mindanao

By Walter I. Balane On April 25, I got invited to attend one function of the Mindanao Coalition for Transparency and Accountability in Governance (MCTAG). A forum, run by various organizations, including the Asian Institute of Management Policy Center in Makati; would be held the following day to mark achievements of seven pilot cities around Mindanao who took their City Coalition for Transparency and Accountability in Governance (CCTAG).

On April 26, on my way to the forum, I got a call from a friend from an NGO working with farmers in the
Davao region. I was invited to an urgent press conference of UNORKA, a farmers' and landless' group, whose leader Eric Cabanit was murdered on April 24. His death was linked to the groups’s struggle for the implementation of the agrarian reform program. Cabanit’s 19-year old daughter also figured in the shooting incident that killed her father in the
Panabo City public market.  

Cabanit’s group just came out that day from a dialogue with the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) led by Undersecretary Narciso Nieto. DAR regional director Rodolfo Inson, who condemned the killing, told us in MindaNews that it was a smooth and normal dialogue. The dialogue was about hundreds of hectares of agricultural lands considered by the DAR and the farmers as “gray lands”. Around 386 hectares of a total of 1023 hectares owned by the Floirendo family in Davao del Norte was the subject of the dialogue, pushed by the farmers who said almost have lost their faith in the government’s agrarian reform program.

On my way to the forum, I have to take a detour. I was in a typical call of duty. One, where I have made a prior commitment, the other, though with short notice, was important too.

DAR’s Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program, created in June 1988 by RA 6657, was mandated to redistribute lands to the landless from the country’s landed elite. It was also tasked, with other national government agencies, to give support services to these farmers so that they will not end up selling these lands in times of distress.

DAR was supposed to complete the distribution in 1998, but did not. Congress enacted a law extending the program for another 10 years in 1998. So in a couple of years, DAR is supposed to complete the distribution of 'CARPable lands'.

But farmers from UNORKA, although retaining hope, claim this is not happening. They said the death of Cabanit is one indication that they are still on a long way to go. For them CARP is a failure. They cited the long and gruesome legal process of agrarian cases that land in the Office of the President and the Court of Appeals.

It was indeed a depressing press conference to cover, held at Kuya Ed's restaurant along Magallanes Street in Davao City.

Of course, I did not regret choosing to go to the press conference first. My Communication 2 term paper at the University of the Philippines in Miagao in 1995 was on CARP. Cabanit's death and the press conference was a short revisit to an earlier interest, and I proved that I did not lose that interest after 11 years.

After the press con, I proceeded to cover the forum in Apo View Hotel. I felt relieved when I saw many journalists in the forum. I made the right choice to got there first, otherwise, who would have gone there?  Yes, there were eight of us who covered the agrarian story, not bad.

That choice was only a beginning of a whole day of choices I made as I continue to juggle multi-tasked work of a being a MindaNews reporter, a marketing guy for our journalists’ cooperative and also as a student of everyday Mindanao.  

It was, after all, another one fine day for learning.

        

  

Commencement Speech: UP Mindanao graduation, 22 April 2006

Speech delivered by Dr. Jose M.
Tiongco at the 9th Commencement Exercises of the
University of the Philippines in Mindanao, 22 April
2006).

Were I to introduce myself, I would present a simple
country bumpkin of a doctor, a surgeon who was born
and raised in Mindanao. And will die here too. And
that would probably be soon, if I do not finally learn
in my old age to keep my mouth shut.

I have gone around the world a few times and talked to
quite a number of people of different races, people of
different cultural, economic and educational
backgrounds. And this is not the first time that I am
speaking to a UP audience. But I get goose bumps every
time I find myself in a UP institution. It is not easy
to talk to UP people. I should know that. I come from
UP myself.  You can always tell a UP graduate from
those of the other Universities. You would generally
be looking at a person who is multi-talented,
multi-tasked, interesting, interested, articulate,
efficient, effective, competent, self assured, and
eager to learn more; even if you understandably would
also have to deal with a certain palpable cockiness.
Would you agree?

But if there were a Jesuit in the audience today, he
will probably rise up to say that I am really
describing an Ateneo person as well! I have been with
the Ateneo much, much longer than I had been with UP.
And I would have to agree, especially on the cockiness
part. But I will argue that it is in the University of
the Philippines that the student acquires on top of
all that I described, a sense of Nationalism, of
cultural identity, and a burning sense of outrage at
the historical and present oppression of our country
and our people.

And this is what UP is really known for. Would you
agree?

Yes. I can attest to that, having graduated 35 years
ago from the University of the Philippines College of
Medicine in Manila. And those were the times in our
nation’s history when the UP students hurled
themselves at the Marcos military in the cities and in
the countryside to tell them and the rest of the world
that they would rather die than tolerate oppression.

That was 35 years ago. And today I often wonder what
happened. How could such a pure and pristine movement
that wore the invincible armor of love of country and
resistance against fascism degenerate after all those
years into the tattered rags of banditry, extortion
and opportunism?

Those who were fortunate enough to die in the struggle
have remained true to the cause. But that cannot be
said for the unfortunate many who survived. For one
can now see quite a number of them carving out their
opulent lifestyles in USA, paying only lip service to
the sufferings here in the Philippines. And those who
have decided to stay in the Philippines can now be
seen walking the corridors of power, integral parts of
the system they had previously fought against and
wished to destroy.

What started out with a bang has now ended with a
pitiful whimper, if not with the clink and clatter of
thirty pieces of silver.

Is our history really meant to be this way?

In a couple of years, the University of the
Philippines System, the most venerable educational
institution in the country will be celebrating its
centennial.

How would history judge UP in the last one hundred
years? If the long suffering people of the Philippines
were to examine the University of the Philippines
System and grade its performance for the country in
the last 100 years, would the UP pass or fail the
examination?

Or to put it bluntly and more graphically, if the
President of the University of the Philippines System
were to be dragged kicking and screaming into a
people’s court to account for the one hundred years
the blood sweat and tears of the poor people of the
Philippines were used to support UP as the citadel of
the True, the Good and the Beautiful in the country,
would she be able to give an answer that will be
acceptable to the tubercular stevedore in Sasa wharf
who eats only once a day and whose children sit in
malnourished stupor by the roadside?

Can she answer for the fact that up to 90% of the
graduates of the UP College of Medicine are serving
the Americans and not the Filipinos who sacrificed for
their education and training?

Can she answer for the fact that even as the graduates
of UP College of Law top the Bar every year, the halls
of Congress in the Philippines are filled with UP
lawyers who use their legal gobbledygook to pass laws
favorable to the multinational business industries in
the country and detrimental to the poor in the
Philippines?  Can she justify why justice in the
Philippines is officially and unofficially for sale
and is out of the reach of the ordinary Filipino who
lives below poverty level?

Can she answer for the fact that the graduates from
the UP College of Agriculture in Los Banos devastate
hundreds of thousands of hectares of prime land in
Mindanao growing bananas, pineapples and oil palm for
the transnational industries while the Philippines
must still import the Filipinos’ basic needs in rice
and sugar?

Can she answer for the fact that UP Geologists and
Mining Engineers ravage our mountains and soil our
pristine streams, our rivers and our seas and
irreparably harm the environment and the health of our
indigenous tribes and people as they extract minerals
and precious metals for foreign business concerns?

Can she answer for the fact that while UP College of
Mass Communication supposedly teaches the loftiest
principles of information dissemination and the
responsibilities that come with the freedom of speech
and __expression, her graduates lead big Media
organizations in the Philippines that are active and
willing servants of big business interests and
political pressure groups? The Philippine Media is a
world wide marvel for its prattle and irresponsibility
and for the naked arrogance of its power over our
people. It has become more predatory, mercenary and
corrupt than the government institutions it denounces
every day in print and in lurid broadcast coverages.

I could go down the line and pile up quite a lot of
indictments against the UP system. But my time here as
a speaker is limited.

Of course, it could be argued that UP’s role is that
of Education and is different from that of the
Government of the Philippines that makes the policies
and enforces the laws of the land.

But UP’s role as the country’s premier institution in
education and training precedes that of the
government; because it uses the Filipino taxpayers’
money to train the leaders who eventually control the
reins of government and private enterprises in the
Philippines.

If the University of the Philippines takes great pride
that her graduates easily top the government
examinations in any professional undertaking, the
University of the Philippines must also bow its head
in shame and sorrow because it cannot shirk the
accountability and responsibility for her graduates
who raid the coffers of the country, corrupt the
morals of our people, and turn the Philippines into an
international basket case and permanent laughing stock
of the nations of the world.

I am a simple country doctor. And I do not have claims
to be part of the academe. But I do not believe in
Education and Training for the sake of Education and
Training themselves. I do not believe that Education
does not have anything to do with Moral Duty and
Accountability. I believe that UP, as an educational
institution, must have something to do with the clouds
of unmitigated materialism and greed that darken the
cultural horizon of the Philippines today. I believe
that a University education, especially in UP has to
do with the constant search for what is Good, what is
True and what is Beautiful, no matter how polluted
these concepts may have become through their constant
prostitution for personal motive and gain.

What makes a UP student momentarily flash the bright
colors of Nationalism and love of country, and then
upon graduation, promptly fall into the grey colors of
compromise and conformity just to be able to exist in
a way of life that forces him to suppress the shame
and the painful voice of conscience within himself,
shut himself inside his own ego, praise with bitter
half-smiles the oppression and exploitation of his own
people so he can beg with his eyes for a small part of
the loot to be thrown his way?
What dulls the edge of his seething outrage?

I came back to Mindanao from my studies in UP Manila
to seek the answers to these questions.

Mindanao is the second largest island in the
Philippines. It comprises thirty percent (30%) of the
country’s land area and is home to twenty percent
(20%) of the population. Seventy five percent (75%) of
the Mindanawons are of migrant stock, from the
different areas in the Philippines who came to escape
the cultural, political and economic baggage that
burdened them in their places where they were born.
They came prepared to bear the new burdens of
adjustments with and consideration for others of
different cultures, traditions and religions. They
came prepared to work. And work hard for their
children and for their children’s children as well.
They came prepared to respect others and be respected
in their own right.

Mindanao is the richest island in the Philippines. It
produces 54% of the Gross National Product but gets
only 7% of the national Budget. One senator from
Mindanao once describe it as the National Cash Cow
that gets only dog food – crumbs from the tables of
the rest of the country. But without Mindanao, the
entire Philippines would starve to death.

The Philippines is a typical example of external
exploitation by the G-7 countries, and Mindanao is the
typical example of internal exploitation by the
central government in Manila.

But it is here in Mindanao where the real heart of the
Philippines beats.

The average Mindanawon is multi-cultural and
multi-lingual. He lives in his community, comfortable
in his culture, his own way of life, even when his
next door neighbor and friend dresses differently,
eats differently, talks to his children in another
language, and adores another God. His children play
happily with the children of people in his community
whom his ancestors used to be afraid of and hated and
waged continuous wars against.

It is here in Mindanao where the people consider
diversity not as a divisive factor but the key to
Unity and progress. It is here where we respect the
rights of others to their own thinking and culture.
Here where the central government is physically and
administratively distant, the people have learned that
working together in mutual respect and consideration
is the key to save our families, our communities and
our country.

For generations, your fathers and mine, products of
different cultures in the Philippines, have worked
hand in hand and side by side in peace and brotherhood
with each other and the indigenous peoples here in
Mindanao. We belong here.

It is only when the Manila government makes moves in
Mindanao that devastating wars happen among the
inhabitants of our island. It is a past and present
government practice that the undesirables in the
military and civil services in Luzon and the Visayas
are punished for their transgressions by sending them
to Mindanao – where they usually wreak havoc on our
lives.

Generations of hard work and carefully nurtured
goodwill among peoples in our island have been erased
by thoughtless and exploitative laws that are passed
in Congress in Manila by people who have never been to
Mindanao and are even afraid to visit it.

Twenty years or so ago, a group of UP graduates here
in Mindanao visited the other sites of UP in other
areas in the Philippines like, Baguio, Diliman,
Manila, Los Banos, Iloilo and Cebu. And they wondered
why there was no UP in Mindanao.

Thus was born a dream. And the dream was brought to a
reality ten years later. I have watched UP Mindanao’s
development through the years as the youngest, least
funded and most neglected institution in the UP
system. And I have cheered your valiant efforts. I
knew in my heart that you would be different from all
the other UPs in all the other places in the
Philippines because of the legacy of cultural
belongingness, respect and tolerance you have been
exposed to. And I never doubted your success.

I do not believe that the majority of your students
use UP Mindanao only as a jumping board to UP Diliman.
Only the most calloused and unseeing students would
not swear to the vision and mission of UP Mindanao.

The University of the Philippines in Mindanao is
committed to lead in providing affordable quality
education, scholarly research, and responsive and
relevant extension services to diverse, marginalized
and deserving sectors in Mindanao and neighboring
regions through its programs in the sciences and the
arts inculcating a passion for excellence, creative
thinking, and nationalism in the context of cultural
diversity in a global community.

As you graduate from the youngest UP institution,
aware of your role in community building in Mindanao,
you are sending a dare to the older institutions in
the University of the Philippines System. Here is UP
Mindanao’s answer to the failures of the University of
the Philippines System: Belong to the Land and to the
People, and serve them well!

From here onwards you have crowned yourself with the
laurels of commitment to service.

Do not listen when they tell you that the crown of
laurels you wear is soaked in disappointments and
bitterness and the dried leaves hide thorns and
maggots. Do not listen when they say that a life
dedicated to others is not a life; that it does not
bring food and comfort to you and your children; that
it brings you no honor and laurels serve not even as
condiments for a meal. Do not sell your life of
service to your countrymen for thirty pieces of
silver.

Because if you do, then deep in the night, years and
years from now, when your remaining hair has turned to
silver, a small voice will speak to you, just before
you fall asleep. And you will have to listen to it. Or
break apart.

And it will be in Spanish. Because it was said by a
man who died young, twelve years before the University
of the Philippines was born in 1908. He was a man who
spent the last years of his life here in the service
of our people in Mindanao. And he said it to an old
man like me, who had white hairs on his head. And this
may well have been spoken by you, the graduates of a
young and dynamic UP Mindanao to the old and failing
University of the Philippines System.

Cuando tenga canas come esas, senor, y vuelva la vista
hacia mi pasado y vea que solo he trabajado para mi,
sin haber hecho lo que buenamente podia y debia por el
pais que me ha dado todo, por los cuidadanos que me
ayudan a vivir, entonces, senor, cada cana me sera una
espina y en vez de gloriarme de ellas, me he de
avergonzar!

Ug sa ato pa:

Sir, pagabut sa panahon nga ang akong ulo, maora sad
kadaghana ang uban susama sa inyo, unya balikon nako
ug lantaw ang akong kinabuhi, unya Makita nako nga ang
akong mga paningkamut diay, alang lang sa akong
kaugalingon ug walay kalabutan sa mga maayong butang
nga ako untang nabuhat u di kaha kinahanglan buhaton
alang sa lungsod nga mao’y naghatag sa ako sa tanan,
alang sa akong mga isigkatao ng mitabang sa ako arun
manginabuhi; nianang panahuna, Sir, ang tagsa-tagsa ka
uban nga anaa sa akong ulo mahimo ug maidlot nga tunok
nga muduksak sa akong panghunahuna ug inay nga
mahimayaon ako sa akong katigulangon, iduko hinuon
nako ang akong ulo sa tumang kanugon ug kaulaw!

So if there is anything then, that Mindanao has taught
you here in University of the Philippines, it is to
belong to land, to belong to others, especially those
who have made you what you are; to be sensitive to
their needs, to constantly consider the other person’s
way of thinking, in much the same way as you
considered everyday, what language to use to talk to
the little child of a jeepney conductor who took your
fare, or to the daredevil habal-habal driver who took
you over the butt breaking roads to your refreshing
little UP Mindanao campus.

Look up to the mountain that you see everyday. Breathe
in the pure air of Mindanao. This may be your last day
in the campus. Take it all in. And remember it well.
Most of you will wander far over yonder, but you will
never find anything more beautiful.

Because you will never find the True, the Good and the
Beautiful in the world, no matter where or how you
search, unless you find them first here on that
mountain where the gods of our beloved Mindanao dwell,
here among your people who made you what you are now,
and finally, here in your own heart. (Dr. Jose M.
Tiongco is a graduate of the University of the
Philippines College of Medicine Class 1971. He writes
a column titled “Child of the Sun” for MindaNews and
is the author of “Child of the Sun Returning,” a book
about the early years of the Medical Mission Group
Hospitals and Health Services Cooperative-Philippines
Federation, where he is chief executive officer).

Mindanao legislators urged to act on population bill

By Walter I. Balane

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/22 April) — Mindanao officials
have to take local actions for the passage of a law on
reproductive health and population management,
according to Senator Rodolfo Biazon and Bukidnon 1st
district Rep. Nereus Acosta.

Biazon and Acosta encouraged local legislators to
follow the example of the Province of Aurora, which
passed a Reproductive Health Care Ordinance in 2005,
the first in the country, amid strong opposition from
local organizations.

Both legislators spoke Friday at an assembly here of
vice governors, board members, vice mayors and
councilors in Mindanao to urge them to help “snowball”
moves to pass House Bill 3773 and Senate Bill 1280 or
the Reproductive Health Care and Population Management
Act.

Acosta said that through this initiative, local
legislators will be the one to shape policy-making in
the country more than congress can.

Biazon said the country’s population, projected by
National Statistics Office at 85.2 million in 2005, is
increasing at a rate of 2.36 percent every year.

“It has become one of the major causes of the
country’s crises and has continued to strain its
political, economic and social conditions,” Biazon
said.

Both legislators cited the strong opposition from the
Roman Catholic Church as a major hindrance to the
passage of the law.

“We cannot just stop and wait for Congress and Senate,
we have to do something,” Aurora vice governor
Annabelle Tangson said.

Tangson heads the Local Legislators’ League of
Population, Health, Environment and Development
(3LPHED).

The group launched a signature campaign in support of
the bills together with the Philippine Legislators’
Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD).

PLCPD, co-chaired by Biazon and Acosta, describes the
bill as one “which provides for an integrated and
comprehensive national policy on responsible
parenthood, population management and human
development”.

For PLCPD, the guiding principles of the bill include
freedom of informed choice, ensured through free and
full public access to adequate and relevant
information on reproductive health; and a full range
of family planning methods and devices, excluding
abortion; protection and promotion of gender equality
and women’s rights to reproductive health; and respect
for and protection of the reproductive health rights
of children and adolescents.

A PLCPD statement said that critics of the bill claim
it will legalize abortion and promote promiscuity
among young people and that it is backed by
“imperialist funding agencies” and “beautiful ladies”.

Biazon urged critics to read the bill and go to the
communities where he said there is massive support for
the principles it espouses.

Acosta said local legislators have to help discuss,
debate and explain the need for the bill with the
people in their communities.

Suraida Mamaluba, 48, municipal councilor of Ampatuan,
Maguindanao said this is a good move to do and pledged
to help. She said they will have to see how they can
replicate the achievement of the province of Aurora.

“But I have to read the bill and see what is there,
why our national legislators could not make sure it is
approved,” she said.

In 2004, around 200 religious leaders from Mindanao
declared a national fatwah (religious edict) declaring
that family planning is in accordance with the
teachings of Islam. The group found the fatwah
necessary to generate consensus and galvanize support
for family planning in the Muslim community.

The fatwah, the Philippine Information Agency
reported, accepts all methods of contraception as long
as they are safe, in accordance with the Islamic
Shariah, and approved by a credible physician
preferably a Muslim for the benefit of both the mother
and the child.

Sen. Biazon cited the fatwah on child spacing and the
Islamic teaching that “every child has a feeding
right”.

Acosta said he respects the stand of the Catholic
Church on the issue. But he stressed that as policy
makers, legislators must have a holistic point of view
and not just look at the moral dimension.

Earlier, http://www.sunstar.com.ph reported that while the
church said there is nothing in HB 4110 (the
predecessor of HB 3773) that expressly legalizes
abortion, it questioned the term reproductive health
care because this suggests access to artificial birth
control methods using “abortifacients.”

“In opposing HB 4110, the church is not blocking
progress, but is making sure this progress will be
enjoyed too by those yet to be born, the official
newsletter of the Cebu Archdiocese said in the report.

”The church is not ignorant about statistics and
scientific findings on population, it just wouldn’t
subscribe to the belief that life has to be sacrificed
in the name of progress. The population control issue
is not about population, but about control. Here, the
church is clear: there should be no tampering with
life, from God’s will, to the mother’s womb, to the
grave,” the Bag-ong Lungsuranon newsletter said.

Acosta said that at any rate, under the Arroyo
administration and even if local legislators do their
share, it is “almost impossible” to pass the bill.

“But we have to continue winning little battles,” he
said. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)

“WHAT IS TO BE DONE?”

(Note: I attended a forum topbilled by Prof. Randy David organized by the Initiatives for International Dialogue on 19 April 2006 in Grand Men Seng Hotel, Davao City. In lieu of an article, I'm posting his prepared speech. By the way, he gave an imprumptu pesentation and did not read this, as earlier conveyed.)

by Prof. Randy David

I am pleased to be here in Davao City, the country's most dynamic and most productive city in the South. And I am happy to be invited by the Initiatives for International Dialogue to speak and engage you in a dialogue on the national situation.

In various parts of the country today, social activists are being ruthlessly murdered. The more we allow this to happen, just because we do not share the social class or ideology of the victims, the more brazen the use of the state's coercive power becomes. Some middle class marchers recently found out to their dismay that simply by wearing black shirts with “Patalsikin Na” slogans, and walking along Roxas Boulevard is a violation of the law. There will come a time when attending a forum like this would be an act of sedition.

Those who run the present government have a way of keeping track of our personal vulnerabilities – regardless of who we are. They know where to hit us where it hurts. It could be an old case, an unserved warrant of arrest from the distant past, a decade-old tax deficiency, or, if you are a government employee, an inaccurate Statement of Assets and Liabilities. It could be a pending application for a business license, or a collection case for unpaid obligations pending before a government agency.

It could be anything. Of we allow the Arroyo governmental power, we will soon find ourselves terrorized into silence. There is no way we can fight power of money except by holding the face of truth before it. And there is no way we can fight coercion except by acts of solidarity with its victims. We have to tell the power-wielders who rule our country today that not everyone is for sale, and that we are ready to bear witness to the abuses of power. Does this sound like a weak response?

At the beginning, maybe yes. But bear in mind that the regime is methodically drawing us into a brawl we can only lose. If we use violent means, Ms Arroyo and her minions will feel even more justified to deploy the coercive powers of the state against us. We have to respond non-violently to the extent that we can, using what is left of the avenues prescribed by the law. But more importantly, we must begin to tap the moral resources that belong to us as a community.

We have done what is necessary and possible by appealing to the courts, challenging the legality of the calibrated pre-emptive response or CPR which Ms Arroyo's police has used to stop all demonstrations. We have petitioned the Supreme Court to declare EO 464 and Proc. 1017 unconstitutional. Our colleagues in media have gone to the courts to press their case against the police. I and other victims of 1017 and CPR have filed criminal and administrative cases against officials of the police before the Ombudsman. Various Senate committees have been conducting their own investigations of the issues against Ms Arroyo. A new airtight impeachment complaint is being prepared by the opposition in the House of Representatives. Former Sen. Loren Legarda is pursuing her petition before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal to re-open the election returns in the 2004 election. But the Arroyo administration must have realized that the best defense is offense. And so Proclamation 1017 was announced at precisely the time when the government was least capable of enforcing it. After one week, it was formally lifted before it could be challenged before the Supreme Court. And while everyone was still preoccupied with 1017, the government has launched the Charter Change Express via People's Initiative. It is now forcing everybody to engage in the great debate on charter change, whether we like it or not. What this tells us is that at every point a new game is being initiated be the government, to which the fragmented opposition cannot effectively respond. I think the opposition's disunity has prevented it from doing much to challenge the moral standing of the government. For example, it has failed to tap the moral capital that belongs to every community. A Citizens Congress to hear the complaints against Ms Arroyo led the way last year. That was the last time. There hasn't been any follow-up. We are citizens of a state. But we are also, in our daily lives, member of communities. We belong to kinship networks, to neighborhoods, to churches, to schools to civic organizations, to residential villages, to social clubs. We are consumers of goods and services. Our children attend in the same schools, and we go to the same social functions. We even live in the neighborhoods and shop in the same places. In short, we share the same social spaces. Those spaces are governed by one law alone, but by moral norms of acceptable behavior. These are the sources of our moral identities, and they are far richer and older than the wellsprings of our common citizenship. We have not consciously mobilized the power inherent in these moral identities. We continue to regard and receive those individuals who cheated massively for Ms Arroyo in the last election and who participate in the continuing plunder of our economy as if their actions were the most natural in the world and do not bother us at all. I hope you are getting the drift of what I am saying here. If we want to stop corruption in our national life, we must begin to show outrage over the loss of decency in our public life. We have underestimated Ms Arroyo. She has been more clever and more systematic – and also more brazen – on her quest to replenish her rapidly vanishing social and political capital. I am sure all of you have noticed that in the last two months alone, the newspapers have reported her every social visit to Catholic bishops and archbishops all over the country. Photographs of these visits have been published in major newspapers. In some instances, the leaders of the various churches have been inveigle into giving her the “pray over”. I am sure they are aware that this formal display of piety is part of a systematic attempt to prop up a troubled presidency. If religious leaders allow themselves to be used like this, sooner or later they will find themselves being confronted by their flocks, who, while they may accept their bishops' silence on political issues, would feel revolted by their uncritical anointment of a politically beleaguered president. Ordinary priests and nun themselves may call their bishops to account for their actions. Parishioners themselves, the laity who constitute the core of the church as a community of the faithful, may one day whisper to their parish priests their own misgivings. What may begin as misgivings could soon ripen into an explicit resolve to avoid any contact with persons who seem in mindful of the imperatives of decent behavior. Such avoidance may soon translate into open ostracism. This is the extreme form of assertion of the power of a moral community. Its intended effect is social isolation. It is the equivalent of a consumers' boycott in the realm of social relations. Any holder of public office, especially at the highest level of the state, basically relies upon three types of powers. The first is *moral power,* which draws both from the importance of the position and from the charisma and legitimacy of its occupant. The second is *remunerative power,* which is the power to dispense rewards and favors. The third is *coercive power –* the power to punish, to intimidate, and to use the exact submission and conformity. Together they roughly constitute what is sometimes called political capital” of a leader. The best type of power is moral power. The compliance it secures is normative. The leader appeals to values and to shared goals, and the people comply and cooperate as an act of duty. Where moral capital is lacking, the next preferred form of power is remunerative power. There the appeal is to personal interest. It is a less preferred form of Power because the compliance it secures is calculative. There is no commitment here. People comply or cooperate only for as long as it directly benefits them. The least preferred, of course, is coercive power. It is the last resort of leaders who have lost almost all moral standing in their community. Rulers know that when you use coercion too often, you breed alienation. No political order has been known to survive over an extended period of time solely on the basis of coercion. In this sense, the use of naked force to keep oneself in power is a demonstration of weakness rather than of strength. This is how i see the issuance of Proclamation 1017. Ms Arroyo wasn't very sure she could call upon the armed forces to enforce the harsher measures provided by the Constitution, i.e. The suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus or the declaration of martial law. She wasn't sure that the public would support any of these. Thus she chose relatively lighter measure of calling out the troops in the light of a declaration of a national state of emergency. As we now have seen, 1017 had two basic objectives, namely, to create an atmosphere of urgency to justify extreme police measures and thus produce a chilling effect on the public, and secondly, to test the public acceptability of the use even more coercive measures in the future. Hardly anyone outside of her usual supporters welcomed 1017. It had been lifted, at least in name, after one week. But extreme police action against dissenters, especially those openly identified with the legal Left, has continued. The idea is to isolate them from labeling them communist, and ultimately to crush them. We must hope that the courts will stand up to protect the rights of citizens and not allow this to happen. If the courts fail to do so, ordinary citizens will increasingly be forced to defend themselves by any means available to them. The use of coercive powers of the state by the Arroyo government should not lull into thinking that her other powers have completely run out. She continues to enjoy residual support from sections of the mass media, from the business community, as well as from church leaders. She knows this support is dwindling every day. That is why she is doing everything to preserve what remains of this presidential visits or treating them to a dinner in Malacañang. We must find ways of telling these presidential props that they cannot play the game without being accountable. If they wish to remain politically neutral, they must manifest that neutrality both in respect of Ms Arroyo as well as of her opponents. My own personal view of Ms Arroyo's political strategy is that she will be increasingly relying on her remunerative powers to remain in the presidency in the coming days. We have already seen this in the generous dispensing of awards and promotions to officials of these police and the military who have zealously carried out her orders. The latest beneficiary of this reward system is no less than the reputed “butcher of the left”, Gen. Jovito Palparan, who has distinguished himself by the number of dead dissidents he leaves behind in every place where he is assigned. Perhaps unknown to many of us, every public demonstration is welcomed by a section of the police as another opportunity to earn reward points for future promotions or to compensate for demerits incurred in the past. Of course, this system cannot be operated at will. It eventually runs over professionals, resulting disenchantment weakens the chain of command and further fragments what is already a severely divided institution. The enormous remunerative powers of the Arroyo may also explain the support she continues to get from local government officials – the mayors, governors, and congressmen – who most of all rely on the manna dispensed by Malacañang to keep their constituencies satisfied because she does not need to draw from her own pocket or family fortune to fill the feeding troughs of the patronage system, the resources virtually unlimited. They are taken from the carious public funds at the disposal of the office of the president – the president's social fund, the intelligence fund, and many other off-budget items over which the president enjoys wide discretionary powers. We saw the maximum use of this power during the impeachment proceedings last year. It is being deployed again today in the form of Cha-cha express via people's initiative. The Cha-cha plan has something for everyone. The crucial concessions are hidden in the so-called transitory provisions. They include the cancellation of elections in 2007, thus rewarding all incumbents an extra term without having to spend a single cent. All term limits will be lifted. But the biggest beneficiary would be GMA herself. She will be rid of the Senate. Impeachment will be made even more difficult under the new rules to be promulgated. If worse comes to worse, money, as in 2005, will again be deployed to ensure a favorable note. The only way to restrain the use of such power is by employing the system of checks and balances inherent in Congress. But, with EO 464, this congressional power is effectively checkmated. What options are left for us? Plenty, i believe. But all of them depend on the kind of popular support that can be enlisted to make them work. Gloria's government is bound to collapse sooner or later beneath its own weight. This may happen soon, or it may take a little longer. What is important is that we have to think beyond her. Sometimes our dislikes or hared for a particular condition can be such that we become exclusively preoccupied with getting rid of the condition, rather than thinking clearly of what might actually be done not only to get rid of the condition but also to prevent it from recurring. We lose sight of the bigger goals we should be pursuing. How we should act depends a lot on the way we view the present crisis. I think this is a crisis that did not arise overnight. It has a long history. It is a crisis that goes beyond Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. It has many sources. To go beyond this crisis, to be able to resolve it in a meaningful and enduring way, we must go beyond simply overthrowing GMA from the presidency. We have to start thinking of the options we must put in place. More importantly, it involves a re-statement of our fundamental goals as a community. At the most basic level, a solution must revolve around what is feasible – i.e., what has a good chance of being carried out in this imperfect world. It has to include a basic agenda of realizable objectives or goals, complete with an operational plan for carrying out within a reasonable time frame. Such an agenda is necessarily the product of a particular analysis – a particular way of making sense of the present situation we face. Let me elaborate. I believe that what we confront in Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is not just a ruthless and amoral person who does not mind plunging the country in a civil war if that is what it takes for her to avoid being removed from presidency and being prosecuted for crimes committed during her incumbency. What we confront in Ms Arroyo is a shrewd politician who personifies the logic and imperatives of a political system based on money, patronage, political remuneration, and the strategic use of administrative, financial and coercive powers of a pre-modern state to further vested interests. If we get rid of Arroyo but retain the system, we will surely get another one like her in no time at all. I know that many hate her so much that their idea of bliss is simply a world without Gloria. Lest we forget, that is how many of us used to think of the Marcoses. We have to start examining the system that gave birth to a Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, and begin to cut its roots and clean out the soil that has nurtured it. This is a system that traditional politicians, who alternate between being administration and being opposition, know very well, and whose vulnerabilities they are able to exploit at will of their own respective purposes. This system has basic rules, and the politicians who operate within it know these rules, and abide by them in a manner tolerated or deemed acceptable to every player. The system expects all its participants to exercise some restraint, and avoid abusing prerogatives in such a way as to endanger the whole system itself. Let us examine some aspects of our recent past. Of the nation's past politicians, I guess it was Ferdinand Marcos who had the boldness to deviate from the cycle of elite politics by taking advantage of the martial law provisions of the existing constitution to monopolize political power for an indefinite period. Instead of quietly finishing his unprecedented second term as president, Marcos embarked on an offensive program of sweeping changes that required a shift to authoritarian rule. Instead of being able to smoothly pass on political power to his anointed successor, however, as was the case in Singapore and in Malaysia, Marcos was overthrown by a middle-class-led peaceful revolt. The peculiar contingencies of this revolt thrust the non-politician Cory Aquino into the presidency. Edsa People Power, as the event came to be called, started off on a revolutionary footing but gradually found itself coming back to the mode of governance that Marcos had tried to break in 1972. This mode of governance was based on elitist patronage politics, that for the most that could only be played by the rich and moneyed families. Cory Aquino herself was far more comfortable with this form of politics than with the revolutionary impulses that thrust her into power in 1986. She came from a powerful landowning family; her husband, whose assassination put her in the political limelight, was a whiz kid in the realm of traditional politics. Without a background in reformist or revolutionary politics, Cory became the instrument for the restoration of oligarchic politics under the guise of re-democratization. The middle class that played a key role in overthrowing Marcos and putting Cory in the presidency were concerned with basically two things: (1) the return of constitutional democracy, and (2) the institutionalization of good governance, which was basically synonymous with anti-corruption. The euphoria surrounding Cory's rise to the presidency and the need to support her against the successive coups mounted against her somehow made the public less demanding and less critical of the Cory government. Filipinos became quite content to have their freedoms back. They did not pay much attention to the pair of issues that historically troubled the Filipino nation, namely, corruption and mass poverty. These two issues are actually two sides of the same coin. Mass poverty produces a large army of dependent voters whose urgent short-term needs defined the mode of exercise of their political rights. Politicians respond to these needs through a highly developed system of patronage, that can only be subsidized from the proceeds of systematic corruption. This is a system that was almost completely controlled by the country's traditional political clans until the 1980's. In the 1980's and the 1990's, the rise of mass media celebrities, as a result of the phenomenal spread of television, began to pose a challenge to the supremacy of the political clans. Money still played a crucial role in determining electoral outcomes, but now “winnability” became equally important in choosing candidates. This new factor paved the way for Joseph Estrada's bid for presidency in 1998. Estrada won by a landslide, and his victory taught the country's traditional politicians the important lesson that left to themselves, the masses would henceforth vote for media celebrities rather that any one of their own. The decisive victory of Erap at the polls shocked the country's elite and educated middle class. While he clearly enjoyed the mandate of a relatively honest election, the fun-loving movie actor seemed to mock the expectations of the educated population. The elite and the middle class could not wait for Estrada to finish his term. Edsa !!, mounted on a platform a good governance, exploded and triggered a military defection or a passive withdrawal of support. The traditional politicians who brokered and made this even possible had actively courted the military and succeeded in replicating the romance of People Power 1. The Supreme Court ignored the extra-constitutional route taken by the removal of Estrada and tried to constitutionalize it by alluding to the novel concept of a “constructive resignation”. In short, the SC eventually legitimized Gloria Arroyo's succession to the presidency. But the damage is done. Military withdrawal of support, which, in normal times would be punishable as an act of mutiny, was passed off as an acceptable prerogative of the military. Some of the SC justices had critical words for the civilian face of people power (calling it a hooting throng”), but they remained silent about its military component – the withdrawal of support. Edsa 3, largely composed of the urban poor, which exploded in May 2001 tried to take back power from Arroyo. It did not succeed because it failed to trigger a military defection. What is clear from this is that since 1986,the Armed Forces of the Philippines has become a decisive fulcrum in the survival of any administration. Much as we wish for contingencies that have shaped the AFP. It is a reality we must take into account, whether we like it or not. Ms Arroyo has shown how much she factors in the military imperative in every move she takes. She has succeeded in turning the internal weakness of the institution into her own advantage. Thus, when she asks that we insulate the AFP from politics, she means that the rule applies only to the rest of us, not to her. How should we respond to this dilemma? I think we should bear in mind that whether we, ordinary citizens, choose to act or remain uninvolved, enough damage had been done to the professional ethos of the military and the police that could trigger dire consequences. The AFP and the police are living institutions; they have their own corrective and self-healing mechanisms. When these fail, the outcome could take the for, on an unending cycle of mutinies and coups. The activation of these options does not really depend on the extent of popular mobilization against an existing regime. It is easier to restore professionalism in the military and the police when the government of the day is strong and enjoys popular support. It is almost impossible to repair the damage in these institutions if the government of the day itself is the main source of institutional fragmentation. Therefore, the solution of the political crisis takes precedence over the solution of military fragmentation. So as not to exacerbate the institutional damage that has already been wrought, we must exhaust all popular and legitimate means to effect a transition to a new government. Ultimately, we must rebuild our institutions on the basis of the outcomes of a democratic and honest election. The Arroyo government is sidestepping all these urgent issues by offering charter change as a cure-all for our problems. It is a clever ruse that attempts to bolster Ms Arroyo's political legitimacy without risking anything. If she succeeds. She remains president till 2010, and possibly beyond. This is to me is not a viable option. It keeps the trapos in place, starting with the queen of trapos herself, GMA, while promoting the illusion of system change. If charter change through people's initiative becomes a reality, then we will have a government without an effective opposition. This situation is not sustainable. Sooner or later, the government will be engulfed by an even more radical crisis. This may hopefully pave the way to a new political era of modernist governance led by an awakened middle class. Or it may spawn fresh demands for revolutionary transformation. Whatever happens, we need to prepare ourselves by nurturing even now a new breed of leaders, in addition to the handful of existing ones who have not been corrupted by the system. More importantly, we must begin to examine all facets of public policy which have so far governed the routines of our everyday lives. Some groups have already begun this process, and the products of their work are now available in different websites. If we must rebuild this country, we must start by rebuilding the nation in ourselves. We must get organized, we must prepare ourselves for a long fight, a fight beyond Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, a fight that will take us to some election, and beyond, to a future we can all be proud of, to a nation we can proudly bequeath to our children. That nation has to be free, prosperous, just, decent and competently governed. We can start building that future here and now. Thank you. (Prof. Randy David is a veteran street parliamentarian since the Marcos dictatorship days. He is a University of the Philippines sociology professor and columnist of the Philippine Daily Inquirer. He also co-hosts with Atty. Katrina Legarda a tv talk show called "Off the Record". Prof. David was among one of the first ones arrested after the issuance of Presidential Proclamation 1017 on Feb. 24, 2006) FOR REFERENCE: Jan Lozano Databank Staff Information and Communication Unit Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID) Phone: (63)(82) 299-2574 & 75 Fax: (63)(82) 299-2052 http://www.iidnet.org email: jan@iidnet.org

Bike for Peace around Mindanao starting April 17

AYO everyone.............

Below is a note from Father Amado "Picx" Picardal, the cycling priest
who biked all the way to the tip of northern Luzon from Davao City in 2000.
He's cycling around Mindanao starting April 17 and will start from
the Archbishop's residence, Davao City.
Bishop Romulo Valles will join him to Tagum that same morning.
Presscon at 8:30 a.m. at Archbishop's Residence, Davao City

Salamat po and please pass on.
-------------------------------

Greetings of Peace!

On April 17 I will be starting my  Bike  Tour for Life and Peace
around Mindanao. This will last for 21 days covering over 2000 km,
starting in Davao and passing through  the areas of armed conflict in
Compostela Valley, Surigao, Misamis Oriental, Zamboanga peninsula,
Cotabato, and back to Davao. I will be saying  a Mass for Life and
Peace in every parish where I will be staying for the night. Although
I will be the only one cycling the entire distance, I will not be
alone. I will be accompanied by some priests and a bishop who will be
cycling part of the way.  On the first day Bishop Romulo Valles and
the cycling priests of Davao and Tagum will be cycling with me. An
Irish Redemptorist Priest will be joining on the first week. Two
priests will be joining on the second week. On May 5, Bishop Valles
and the cycling priests of Kidapawan will meet me in Cotabato City
and we will bike back to Davao.

I wish to invite you to a press conference and to witness our
departure on April 17 at 8.30 am  at the Archbishop's Residence in F.
Torres St.

Moratorium on terminator seed technology stays

By Walter I. Balane / MindaNews / 9 April 2006

(Published on April 10, 2006 at http://www.mindanews.com)

DAVAO CITY — An agricultural research group called the decision of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (UN-CBD) to maintain the moratorium imposed on the Genetic Use Restriction Technologies (GURTS) terminator technology a victory to the small farmers.

“It landmarks the victory of small farmers,” the Southeast Asia Regional Initiative for Community Empowerment (Searice) said in a press statement to MindaNews.

The Conference of the Parties of the CBD, in its 8th Meeting in Curitiba, Brazil from March 20 – 31, reaffirmed the moratorium on GURTS as contained in an earlier decision of the same body.

CBD rejected the proposal for a “case-by-case” risk assessment clause proposed by Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Indigenous groups, peasant and farmers movements, and civil society groups who staged protests during the 2-week CBD meeting criticized the proposal as a move to weaken the de facto moratorium.

Searice believed that the clause will lead to field testing and eventual commercialization of the terminator technology.

“Even though the moratorium was reaffirmed, we must not stop campaigning against this technology. The battle has not ended. The companies, backed by the US government and biotech corporations that own the patent of this technology will not stop in finding ways to lobby and commercialize the terminator technology. Let us remain vigilant and observant”, said Vincent Malasador, Searice technical officer.

In December 2005, during the “Go Organic Mindanao” forum in Davao City, around 200 Mindanawons from different sectors sought a total phaseout of synthetic agricultural inputs in the country by 2015 and a ban on field releases of all genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food and agriculture.

Mindanao has become a haven for high value export crops with the spread of banana, pineapple and other mono-crop plantations.

After the government approved the release of GMOs in the country in 2003, the anti-GMO movement has “changed strategy.”

Roberto Verzola, sustainable agriculture campaigner of Philippine Greens, told participants to the forum that promoting sustainable organic agriculture is the new strategy in campaigning against GMOs.

“The promotion of sustainable organic agriculture is a positive step towards attaining environmental sustainability,” according to a covenant signed in the forum.

Also, the Philippine Senate has to ratify immediately the Cartagena Protocol, a protective instrument against the damaging effects of genetic engineering and GMOs which has been signed by 120 countries as of 2003.

The forum, which discussed GURTS, likewise called for the implementation of the precautionary principle in dealing with synthetic technology.

The forum was organized to help revitalize debates on genetic engineering and at the same time strengthen and promote organic agriculture as an alternative.

Farmers who attended the forum considered the technology unfair, selfish and beneficial only to the interests of hybrid seed companies.(MindaNews)