Rethinking Society Over a Cup of Coffee

A Paralyzed CARP

Congress has passed a Joint Resolution No. 19 which extends the life of CARP for another six months. The extension excluded the compulsory mode of acquisition which is the “the life and soul of carp” . Prospero Nograles said the resolution saved the life of CARP which ends this month. It saved (kuno) but paralyzed it.

There are still 1.3 million hectares of land waiting to be distributed, more than 60% of these or 640,000 hectares are under the compulsory acquisition mode. Joint Resolution No. 19 is obviously protecting these 640, 000 hectares of land. Congress is dominated by landlords, this bill is “their bill” and not for the people which they are supposed to represent. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is really leading by example not only in corruption but also in pushing for Agrarian Reform. The Arroyo family is reported to own roughly 500 hectares of sugar lands in Negros Occidental, including the 150-ha Hacienda Bacan, which has evaded CARP coverage.

The extension is supposed to give congress more time to come-up with an “acceptable legislation”, acceptable to whom? I just hope that they will not extend and extend CARP until it is dismantled and lifeless. Agrarian reform advocates are already fearful of a slow kill of the program.

There are several bills in the House of Representatives which are waiting for more debates and discussion, bills which have been put in the background in their efforts to extend the term of their boss.

In the next post, I will try to write about the four options among the many bills in Congress on CARP Extension.

1. Simple Extension
2. CARP-ER (CARP Extension with Reforms)
3. Major Changes to CARP
4. GARA (Genuine Agrarian Reform Act)

CARP Reform and Extend

The Comprehensive Agrarian Reform was supposed to be completed in ten years since the start of its implementation. After a decade it was extended for 8 years which ended last june 2008. Under the program, the Department of Agrarian Reform is tasked to distribute public agricultural lands while the Department of Environment and Natural Resources is tasked to distribute public lands.

DAR Claims that it has accomplished 85% (most are public lands) of the total targeted lands for distribution, with 2.129 million farmer beneficiaries at a total cost of 103.9 billion pesos. But these figures are highly disputed.

It is believe that only 40% of the targeted lands were distributed (this according to UNORKA, PEACE AND PAARDS). DAR also decreased its scope from 10.3 to 8.064 million hectares. In 1996, DAR also made change in CARP scope. There are also many exemptions including the so-called cattle ranches, an example is the 3000 hectare Sutton estate in Masbate in which the supreme court affirmed that lands devoted to raising livestock, poultry and swine have been classified as industrial. As a result, 150 tenants and 147 landless laborers have been denied the opportunity to acquire land. The reduction in target is also attributed to Land Conversion like in the case of the Sumilao Farmers.

Despite the many weaknesses of the program which includes weaknesses in the law, poor administrative capacity, institutional weaknesses, corruption and the use of political influence, CARP also made some gains. That is why there is a push for reforming and extending it.

(Note: this is based on a paper, "Agrarian Reform and Rural Development - Mapping the Terrain" by Arthur Neame)

"Walang Gloria sa Cha-Cha"

In a Democracy, elections should be held sacred.

There are a lot of political movements going on lately, the ouster of many villar as senate president, talks of charter change, term extension, impeachment, to name a few.
The timing for charter change is already very suspicious. As the term of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo ends, there is a move of charter change and term extension. As I remember in 2004 presidential election, Federalist here in Cagayan de Oro supported Gloria because she promised that when she is elected she will move for a Federal System of Government. When she got elected she was silent on the issue and never talked about it. The point is she just said she supported a move for charter change only for political gains. Now, as her term ends, Cha-cha resumes.

Any talk of Charter Change should only be done when Gloria is already out of office.

“Walang Gloria sa Cha-Cha”

Human Rights Day

Today, December 10, 2008, is Human Rights day, the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of which the Philippines is a signatory. It is supposed to be a celebration but I think it should be a time for mourning.

Over the last eight years of Arroyo administration, Karapatan, a human rights group, documented 977 victims of extrajudicial killings, 1,010 victims of torture, 1,464 were illegally arrested and no single conviction. NO SINGLE CONVICTION.

As Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s term ends, pro-administration lawmakers are busy pushing for charter change. Behind all these are four human rights bill which desperately needs attention from the lawmakers. There is a bill seeking to compensate victims of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, the bills against torture and forced disappearances, and the bill on internally displaced people.

I guess extending the term of a President who was elected through “hello Garci” is more important than giving justice to the victims of extra-judicial killings.

Note: Please sign the online petition to stop Extra-Judicial Killings in the Philippines at

Manny Pacquaio vs Oscar de La Hoya

“It’s a mismatch, De la Hoya is way too big for Pacquaio”. “De la Hoya will knock-down Pacquiao”.

These are some of the comments before the fight. Six inches reach advantage, 4 inches height advantage, their comments is not without basis. Pacquiao was a 2-1 underdog, De la Hoya fought in the super welterweight or middle weight in the last seven years, Pacquiao fought 75% of his fights at super bantamweight or lower. But when moment the bell rang, Pacquaio wrote another story, a story of hard work, speed and punching power.

It is not the first time that Manny Pacquaio was the underdog in a fight. I remember his first fight with Marco Antonio Barrera. The crowd was almost filled by Barrera fans, Manny was not famous yet and no senator or congressmen was there to watch his fight. Barrera was known to be a skilled and better fighter than pacquiao but as what happened with his fight against De La Hoya, Manny wrote another story.

Manny Pacquaio is really phenomenal not only in boxing but also for the whole country as well. Once again during his fight, zero crime rate, no armed encounter between government troops and the rebel groups, no traffic jam. For and hour or two, the whole country stands still and is united, rich and poor, young and old, administration and opposition, criminals and policemen/women, rebels and government troops are all watching Manny Pacquiao fight, cheering everytime Manny lands a punch.

I wish the Philippines will have a story like Manny Pacquiao who literally fought his way out of poverty. At the young age of 15, worked in a tailoring shop during the day and trained at 5pm. He has also worked in a construction as a painter and welder and sold flowers in front of the church during Sundays.

As a Nation maybe we can fight our way out of poverty and corruption.

Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Revisited (Part 1)

The Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program or CARP, was implemented on June 10, 1988 under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law or Republic Act 6657. It withstood an intense and furious debate in and outside of Congress. CARP is backed by provisions in Article XIII of the 1987 Philippine constitution which states that;

The State shall, by law, undertake an agrarian reform program founded on the right of farmers and regular farmworkers who are landless, to own directly or collectively the lands they till or, in the case of other farmworkers, to receive a just share of the fruits thereof. To this end,the State shall encourage and undertake the just distribution of all agricultural lands, subject to such priorities and reasonable retention limits as the Congress may prescribe, taking into account ecological, developmental, or equity considerations, and subject to the payment of just compensation. In determining retention limits, the State shall respect the right of small landowners. The State shall further provide incentives for voluntary land-sharing.

Section 5. The State shall recognize the right of farmers, farmworkers, and landowners, as well as cooperatives, and other independent farmers' organizations to participate in the planning,organization, and management of the program, and shall provide support to agriculture through appropriate technology and research, and adequate financial, production, marketing, and other support services.

Section 6. The State shall apply the principles of agrarian reform or stewardship, whenever applicable in accordance with law, in the disposition or utilization of other natural resources, including lands of the public domain under lease or concession suitable to agriculture, subject to prior rights, homestead rights of small settlers, and the rights of indigenous communities to their ancestral lands.

These are beautifully worded paragraphs from our constitution. At first glance, it seems that social justice is at hand. But it is not what it seems, “the devil is in the details” so this say. There are loopholes and the farmers already know about this. I have attended one of the Mindanao Rural Congress and farmers from different places experience the same things. A simple legal technicality can turn the tables against them. Landlords can escape coverage in their lands in crevices in the implementation of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program.

The implementation of the Program ended last June 2008, its fate yet to be decided and farmers and civil society seems to be divided. Some support the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (HB 3059), while the others support a CARP Reform and Extension.

Ka Vic Paglinawan, Vice-President for PAKISAMA- Mindanao Shot Dead

Dear colleagues,

At 5:45 p.m. today (November 22, 2008), Vicente "Roger" Paglinawan, 51, PAKISAMA's Vice-President for Mindanao, was shot dead by two motor-cycle riding men in Malabog, Davao City. Three bullets were pumped into his head ensuring his death.

We in PAKISAMA(Pambansang Kilusan ng mga Samahang Magsasaka or the National Confederation and Movement of Peasant Organizations) condemn in strongest possible terms this dastardly and cowardly act of his murderers. If they thought that killing him will sow fear and stop PAKISAMA and the broad peasant movement from pursuing their planned activities in the coming days, they were mistaken.

Ka "Vic" has been over the past few weeks groundworking in Mindanao for the planned December 3 National Mobilization of farmers and various support groups to press Congress to pass the extension of funding of CARP and introduce necessary reforms to ensure its meaningful implementation.

Ka Vic has been a recognized leader of a successful 6- million peso agri-cooperative, MIEDECO, a member of PAKISAMA. He rose to the leadership of PAKISAMA, a national confederation of peasant federations, becoming one of its Presidents and Executive Committee member.

He is also one of the leaders of PANDAYAN and AKBAYAN in Mindanao. A model of integrity, dedication, and industry, Ka Vic is undoubtedly a big loss to the peasantry and the broad social movement.

He is survived by his wife, Aida, and his 4 children aged 22, 19, 16, and 14.

Cynical as we are, we demand, nevertheless, from this government a speedy investigation and pursuit of his murderers.

We ask our colleagues to pray for his soul and strength to his family. Please contact us (02-4342079) for any contribution you wish to share to his family. They would surely appreciate any act of support.

Sincerely yours,

Soc Banzuela
National Coordinator, PAKISAMA

Erap for President 2010?

I don’t know what to make of this but it seems that Erap Estrada still is an influence in the Philippine political landscape. In the recent surveys, He belongs to the top five.

Whenever I think of Erap, I think of EDSA 2. I was college student then and people were filled with outrage over Erap’s corruption, at the same time filled with hope at the possibility of a brighter future for the Philippines.

Well, EDSA 2 did succeed, Erap was ousted, resigned (or whatever the term) from his office. I thought the Philippines was given a second chance at progress. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, effortlessly succeeded into office at the expense of the peoples effort. She took part of the movement only after it was clear that the Estrada administration is going down. She waited, politically calculating, knowing that under the constitution she is the constitutional successor.

Civil Society was reluctant and hesitant but people had no choice. She became the President without effort and then cling to the office of the President with all the executive power she could muster.

We should never forget about “hello garci”, ZTE-NBN Scandal, fertilizer scam. All these things are connected. Out of a total disrespect for the spirit of EDSA 2, she pardoned Erap. In public she says, its for Healing the country because it has become polarized. But of course at the back of our minds we know it is a political move for political gains.

ERAP still tallies in the surveys because the current administration stinks of corruption and we are no better than before. This article is supposed to be about ERAP but I guess I could not tell the difference between an ERAP administration and an Arroyo administration.

“Bagong Bahay, Lumang Pako”

Smartbro Problems

I have been out for a while now, I had a problem with my smartbro billing As a person who is doing an online job, I have always made sure that I pay my monthly bills because that is where your work depends on.

Last two weeks I got disconnected. My younger brother, who I ask to pay, said the customer service representative said I was lagging two months on my bills. I got shocked, two months is impossible because I’ve been diligent with my payments.

One lesson I learned was the importance of keeping receipts because that is the only weapon we can use against computer records. I did not keep my receipts well, I only found a few of them. I went to smart wireless center at Limketkai. I asked again how many months I failed to pay my bills; they said it was only one month. At the back of head, I was thinking how inconsistent they were.

Then I asked what month? The customer service representative said September 2008, I looked at my receipts and I found my September receipt, gave it to her and said, I paid for that month. She looked at her computer again and said that she was wrong, not September but July. I looked on my receipts again but did not found one. I lost. Lesson, KEEP YOUR RECEIPTS.

I just wondered if I found my July receipts, would they again say I did not pay for the month of june. What if I found June?

I reflected on it and I realized how consumer rights are barely protected in this country. This is not only with smartbro but also with other services. But that is I think understandable, in a country that barely values human rights, evidenced by the hundreds of extra-judicial killings, political killings and other sorts of killings, how much more our consumer rights?

But maybe I was wrong, maybe I really did forget paying my bills for the month of july, very unlikely but still possible. Again KEEP YOUR RECEIPTS.

I hope I am the only one who has experienced this kind of situation.

Sexual Harassment and Acts of Lasciviousness

What is the difference between sexual harassment and acts of lasciviousness?

Sexual harassment is done by a person who has authority over another person.

Acts of lasciviousness is done by a co-worker.

Example of Acts of Lasciviousness:

Morky was a trusted friend of sherrie, she even recommend him to the office where she worked. All went well for a while but one day, morky touched/grasps sherry’s breast saying he had a sex urge.

Still in these modern times, women are still viewed as sex objects and even a trusted friend could become a sexual predator.

Obama: First African-American President

Obama has just won the 2008 US presidential elections. I bet that not only the United States is overwhelmed but also the world. Television News, newspapers, radios, the internet and especially the blogging community will all be telling something about the historic event.

After long long years, a black American has become the president of the United States. It tells a lot about the struggle of black Americans from slavery. I bet Martin Luther King and all those who died in the civil liberties movement is smiling down on earth and rejoicing, wherever they are.

I just hope that one day the Philippines will have a moment of this proportion, of a nation so thrilled about the prospects of the future. The Philippines also needs change especially structural change.

While Philippine Politics has become a boring subject of vote buying, smearing, vote rigging, hello garci, “dagdag bawas”, I still believe that the Filipino people can still rise above it. Definitely, change will not come from the top, nor from most of the politicians, who time and again have promised change and promised a lot but still delivered that same old social cancer of corruption, greed and the status quo.

As Obama faces enormous tasks and expectations ahead, we also face an equally enormous task. The struggle to make ends meet, the struggle against poverty and bringing food on the table, the struggle for peace especially in Mindanao, the struggle of everyday life.

The Philippines has been needing change for a long time.

The Fate of IPRA

I was just wondering what happened to the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act or the IPRA.

IPRA is one of the Progressive laws we have. It basically recognizes and upholds the rights of the Indigenous peoples in terms of their ancestral domain, self-governance social justice and cultural integrity.

However, we barely hear what has happened to the implementation of the law since then, We barely here it in the news. The IP’s are obviously sidelined by government. In the senate and the house of representatives, I wonder how many are bringing their voices and advancing their rights.

The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples has been rendered almost useless because of lack of resources. In Misamis oriental alone, there are about 50 ancestral domain claims and only 1 has been given a certificate of ancestral domain title or the CADT. I heard that they have a target to issue one CADT per year. At this rate all the Claims will be finished in 50 years, at this rate the claimants are already dead before they are given the title.

One of the major obstacles in the Implementation is the mining act which President Gloria Arroyo authored. Through the mining act of 1995 which allows for 100% foreign ownership of mineral lands and the eviction of indigenous communities, hundreds if not thousands of lumads were displaced, their sacred lands plundered and turned upside down by mining companies.

Discriminated and marginalized these people are going through a lot. Barely represented in a supposed to be democratic government and basic social services hardly reach their communities.

Most of the Politicians use them, and after winning, forget them. I am hoping for the party-list system to work for the Lumads.I hope the next election will be kinder to them

2010 Philippine Election Campaign Has Started

It's still 2008, yet the 2010 presidential election campaign has already begun.

Manny Villar

Manny Villar has this ad concerning OFW’s. The ad says he paid the fare of the abused Overseas Filipino Workers, saying “tulungan natin sila”. It is already Public knowledge that he will be running for President this coming 2010 elections. He probably paid more for the television ad than the fare of those OFW’s. This ad says that when he becomes president he will look after the plight of the working Filipinos abroad.

Noli De Castro

His ad has been running for a while through PAG-IBIG or the other way around. Maybe it is really a PAG-IBIG advertisement and he is there because he is the chairman of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) who happens to be running for President in the 2010 elections. This ad basically says that when becomes president, he will have housing as a priority. Noli has come a long way from Newscaster, senator and then vice president.

Loren Legarda

I have just noticed this ad wherein she is surrounded by poor people and then she says “panahon na ng pagbabago”. Change being the theme of the ad. She will probably pattern her campaign with that of Barack Obama. The problem is I could not relate Loren with that of Change.

Mar Roxas

Well he has no ad yet but I expect Mr. Palengke will be back on TV soon. Mar Roxas was popular back then when he was still the DTI secretary but when we he became a senator, I rarely hear his name in the news. He was declared by the Liberal party to be their standard bearer in the upcoming 2010 movement.There is already the Mar Roxas for President in 2010 movement. He has also been featured in entertainment News because of his relationship with Korina. The presence of Korina will definitely boost his campaign.

Wait a minute, Does the omnibus election code provides for a specific campaign period and prohibits early campaigning?

Beyond Politics and Power: A New Peace in Mindanao

Here is a video documentary of the GRP-RPMM Peace Process produced by the German Development Service (DED)

GRP-RPMM Peace Process: The Beginning

(Below is an article by Kaloy Manlupig titled "The “Other” Peace Process: Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Revolutionary Workers’ Party of Mindanao (RPMM)". This article best describes the beginnings of the Peace Process)

There has been an unexpected breakthrough in the search for peace in Mindanao. While much attention is given to the two major peace processes: with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and with the Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army (CPP/NPA), a third process quietly began in 2003.

Towards the later part of 2002, Iligan City Mayor Franklin M. Quijano received feelers from the Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Manggagawa sa Mindanao (RPM-M) that they wanted to explore possibilities of entering into a Peace Process with the Philippine Government to finally put a just end to a three-decade old struggle. Both Mayor Quijano and Ike delos Reyes of RPM-M agreed to approach Kaloy Manlupig of Balay Mindanaw to seek his help. A series of serious informal meetings followed.

RPM-M used to be the Mindanao "component" of CPP/NPA/NDF until they decided to break away from the Communist Party. They eventually became known as the CMR (Central Mindanao Region) rejectionist group. They later joined other rejectionist factions from Luzon and Visayas to form the RPM-P with Ike delos Reyes as the Secretary-General. RPM-P started peace negotiations with the Estrada government but failed to reach a national agreement as Ike's Mindanao group decided to split from RPM-P. They eventually formed RPM-M.

Serious efforts were then exerted to bring this matter to the attention of the government. Secretary Teresita Quintos-Deles (then of NAPC and now OPAPP) responded enthusiastically to the information. After a series of informal dialogues and consultations, Secretary Deles wrote a Joint Memorandum with the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Eduardo Ermita addressed to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo recommending the creation of a panel to conduct formal peace negotiations with RPM-M.

Consequently, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, through Presidential Memorandum Order No. 108 dated July 19, 2003, has created the Government of the Philippines (GRP) Panel for Negotiations with the Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Manggagawa ng Mindanao (RPMM). The said Government Peace Panel, which is under the supervision of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), is composed of Mayor Franklin M. Quijano as Chairperson with NAPC Secretary Teresita Quintos-Deles and Philippine Councilors’ League Chairperson Frolian Melendres as members.

Through the said Memorandum Order, the GRP Peace Panel has been mandated to undertake negotiations with the RPPM in accordance with the Government’s policy framework for peace and the national agenda on poverty alleviation. Similarly, RPMM has also formed its own counterpart panel.

The process that is used for this peace negotiation does not involve complex political negotiations. Rather, a local peace and development agenda that will have an immediate impact on the ground will be pursued. As part of this peace process, a series of Barangay and community-based consultations in areas where the RPMM has presence will be conducted to determine community problems as well as to identify the projects that can be undertaken as a response to these problems. The projects are expected to be mainstreamed and incorporated in all the levels of local development planning.

On September 22, 2003, the first round of formal talks and the signing of a document entitled Joint Commitment to Pursue Peace and Development in Mindanao signaled the formal process start of the peace process between RPMM and the Government. Two other documents, namely Rules for the Conduct of the Peace Talks and Rules for the Conduct of Local Consultations, were also signed.

Balay Mindanaw acts as the Independent Secretariat of this Peace Process.


2008 US Presidential Elections and the Fate of the World

Whoever wins the elections in the united states will definitely send ripples all over the world. As each candidates have their own ways and principles on how to relate to the world, in short foreign policy. In their campaigns and debates, Obama and Mccain, are already discussing and debating the fate of countries like, Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan (to name a few). In these countries, the US have waged war in the name of anti-terrorism (or oil), greatly affected middle eastern countries, raised the prices of middle eastern oil and caused ripple effects all over the world.

The economic crisis in the US have caused a chain reaction all over the world, with governments bailing out corporations. With the weakening of the dollar, the export industries have been hurt and so do the families whose income depends on it. The economic policies of whoever wins the US election will definitely determine how it relates economically with countries like the Philippines.

Much is also at stake for the Filipinos in the US elections. There are many Overseas Filipino Workers in the United States, both legal and illegal (TNT or Tago Ng Tago), who are sending money home and practically giving life to their families and to the Philippine Economy. Are they going to accept more OFWs i.e. Nurses, Teachers? As the Philippine economy continues to dwindle, more and more Filipinos will opt to go abroad.

So which US Presidential candidate is good for the Philippines, is it Obama or Mccain?

Supreme Court: GRP-MILF MOA-AD Unconstitutional

The Supreme Court of the Philippines has recently held the GRP-MILF MOA-AD as unconstitutional. The MOA, the Supreme Court said, has violated the people’s right to information and for not consulting the local government units that will be affected by the memorandum of agreement.

But aside from that there are substantive issues, notably the “CONCEPT OF ASSOCIATION” which is referred in paragraph 3 on TERRITORY, Paragraph 11 on Resources, and paragraph 4 on Governance of the MOA-AD

What is this concept of association or what is this associative relationship between Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity?

The concept of association is an instrument of international law characterized by shared responsibility and authority. Association is formed when two unequal power voluntarily establish durable links. The Supreme Court cites, as an example, the relationship between the United States and the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), which were formerly part of U.S. administered Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands.

According to their compacts of free association, the Marshall Islands and the FSM generally have the capacity to conduct foreign affairs in their own name and right, such capacity extending to matters such as the law of the sea, marine resources, trade, banking, postal, civil aviation, and cultural relations. The U.S. government, when conducting its foreign affairs, is obligated to consult with the governments of the Marshall Islands or the FSM on matters which it (U.S. government) regards as relating to or affecting either government.

In the event of attacks or threats against the Marshall Islands or the FSM, the U.S. government has the authority and obligation to defend them as if they were part of U.S. territory. The U.S. government, moreover, has the option of establishing and using military areas and facilities within these associated states and has the right to bar the military personnel of any third country from having access to these territories for military purposes.

In the United States Constitutional and International practice, free association is understood as an international association between sovereigns. It has been said that, with the admission of the U.S.-associated states to the UN in 1990, the UN recognized that the American model of free association is actually based on an underlying status of independence.

In international practice, the “associated state” arrangement has usually been used as a transitional device of former colonies on their way to full independence. Examples of states that have passed through the status of associated states as a transitional phase are Antigua, St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla, Dominica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and Grenada. All have since become independent states.

The MOA-AD contains many provisions which are consistent with the international legal concept of association. These provisions of the MOA indicate, among other things, that the Parties aimed to vest in the BJE the status of an associated state or, at any rate, a status closely approximating it.

The concept of association is not recognized under the present Constitution.
The powers of the BJE goes beyond those of the Autonomous Regions of Muslim Mindanao and the Cordillera. These autonomous regions were created within the framework of the Constitution and the national sovereignty as well as the territorial integrity of the Republic of the Philippines. Meaning, their creation is bound within the limits of the present constitution.

As a Mindawan who desires Peace in this troubled island, I cannot help but ask: Can Peace in Mindanao be achieved under the present constitution? What is the true meaning of the People’s Right to Self-Determination and how can it be realized?

(Source:Original text of the SC Ruling on the Constitutionality of the MOA-AD)

The Road to Barangay Carupay

Barangay Carupay is reached through a 42 kilometer ride going to barangay dabiak and from there, it is a 12 kilometer walk going to the center of the barangay. If one is lucky and brave motorcycle drivers are available, you can be spared of the 12 kilometer walk. Going there is an exciting ride maneuvering above mountain tops, dilapidated almost unpassable steep roads. It is a breathtaking ride.
It is a remote barangay of the Municipality of Katipunan, Zamboanga del Norte with 274 households and with 1,792 population. It has a land area of 1,600 hectares with farming as the people’s major source of income. Barangay Carupay is a subanen community.

The barangay has a history of armed conflict between communist rebels. Esmeraldo Tomas, the PO Chairperson, still remembers vividly their horrific experience, of their houses being burned down in 1986, of human rights abuses and of how they left their farmlands and homes as they evacuated in a safe place.

He confesses that when the livelihood project funded by TAF came, they were very suspicious about it that they did not attend the project orientation. The livelihood project is facilitated by a local NGO, CONZARRD. Their community organizers admit that aside from the distance which they have to conquer they also encountered resistance from the communities. Athough they have gone through the proper protocols of having a courtesy call to the mayor and barangay captain, they still were hesitant to accept the project. This is the extent of their being suspicious brought about by a painful experience of armed conflict.

With persistence, they finally cooperated and have undergone a series of capability building seminars on handling or managing the project well. The livelihood project is not only anchored in the PO’s but the barangay local government also has its strong support.

As the Chairperson, Esmeraldo Tomas was impressed by the local consultations where they were the ones who identified their problems and proposed programs and projects to address it. In his words “Kay mas kabalo gyud mi sa among sitwasyon” (we know our situation better). The livelihood project really helped as most of the beneficiaries purchased horses and used them for transportation especially of farm products. Barangay Carupay is 12 kilometer walk from Barangay dabiak where they could transport their products through PUJ’s.

He said that it increased the income of the beneficiaries and were now able to buy clothes for themselves and their family. The high cost of transportation has been bothering them for years. Now, instead of paying for their transportation, they now have their own horse to carry them and their farm products to market.

Mr. Esmeraldo says that the people are very enthusiastic as to the prospects of the project. In the future, they are planning to extend it beyond livestock acquisition and extend it to crop loans which they say they also need. Slowly they are taking the reigns of development in their own hands, becoming the empowered sustainable communities they envision themselves to be.

What is Personal is Political

I have first heard of this phrase from a colleague during my volunteer year under the year of service program. She said it as a person who has been in the development work for 13 years (more or less). She said it to me straight in the eye, jong you should remember this “what is personal is political” and went on to explain what it means. At that time, I have given it a little thought and thought of it as more on a theoretical level.

What is Personal is Political.

The phrase they say originated from the underground teachings or learnings during the period of martial law and trickled down through word of mouth. It basically says that the personal problems we have right now are part and is affected by the larger societal problems that we have.

The economic problems we face individually are part of the economic problems we face as a country. We might not directly feel it though and immediately deduce it to conclusions like, the company does not pay me enough, or I have not reached the level of education with a higher pay, I am only an elementary or high school graduate. But these are not the causes but the effects of a social cancer that has been plaguing us for decades.

I could go on for pages and pages identifying and specifying the social ills that we have, how our government is suffering from an almost incurable diseases. I had enough of that. During my College years, I have been doing that. Telling it to friends, relatives and shouting in the streets. It has it uses, collective, as a nation, it could oust corrupt presidents. The parliament of the streets or the politics of the streets, some people call it.

The people from which the phrase come from will probably explain it on the kind of system we have, the bureaucratic capitalism, feudalism and neo-colonialism (are these three things right?). To the layman on the street, this is much more recognized as Poverty because people could easily relate to the word poverty.
There are a lot of popular theories and models that have been applied to combat poverty. Hundreds if not thousands of livelihood projects, small loans, sponsorship programs in educations, land reform, relief and many others. Some even do it by giving a peso or leftover food to a beggar on the street.

Economics has played an important part to the individual and collective lives of the Filipinos, if not even controlled it to some extent. We are part of the ill and part of the solution at the same time. Corporations are starting to realize that with all the different corporate social responsibility programs that they have. I think it is a good start and would compliment very well to what has been started.

People should go to business not only to enrich themselves but also to help others live decent lives. Imagine if business establishment give 20% of their earnings directly back to the people. It could be through livelihood, infrastructures, loans to farmers and small business, and so on. Honest rich people will say, well we are giving it to government and government then gives services to the people.

There is not much research on what percentage of the taxes really goes to basic social services and not to the pockets of corrupt politicians excluding some few the few good men and women. But I think its safe to say only 50% goes back to the community.

I am starting to complain when I should be explaining. Again as they say, What is Personal is Political.

Undergoing MyBlogLog Verification

Who Killed the Electric Car?

One of the crises that the world faces today, is the oil crisis. With prices of fuel rising, prices of food commodities also rose up. In the philippines this could be felt by daily commuters with fares of public utility vehicles increasing almost weekly. It seems that in every 10 increases there is only one rollback of the prices.

Inside the jeepney, a drama is happening, a struggle, a conflict of interest. On the one hand, there is the passenger eagerly trying to save his/her earnings and fights for a peso. On the other hand, the jeepney driver and his assistant, trying to make enough money to have food on the table also fights for a peso. Everyday these events happen inside the jeepney. But this is one only one side of the equation.

The other aspect is the environment. We are already feeling the effects of Global Warming, with unpredictable weather, storms coming out suddenly in one place while on the other end there are droughts. One of the causes, are the carbon fuel emissions produced by transport vehicles.

I remember one time, a news aired nationally about an electric powered car. Now this car would have a lot of impact socially. It would free us from dependence of fossil fuels and have positive impact on the economy especially for the middle class and below. Most importantly it would totally eliminate carbon emissions.

I have stumbled upon this video from google and wondered, yeah, what happened to the electric car? It could have free us from dependence of fossil fuels and help save our world?

Check out this video and find out Who killed the Electric Car?

Stories From Barangay Miatan, Zamboanga del Norte

Like most of the hinterland barangays of Mindanao, barangay miatan was once a haven of violent armed conflicts. Stories of communities sandwiched between forces of the Military and the rebels, stories of abuse and fear. This is what Mr. Bonifacio Cabasag, the barangay Captain of Miatan told us. He is glad those horrific times were over and have become nothing more than grim memories.
Miatan is a 1,000 hectare barangay of the Municipality of Katipunan which is part of the province of Zamboanga del Norte. Located deep into the mountains, a river welcomes you as you enter the place with a hanging bridge suspended over it. It is passable only by people and with motorcycle, any four wheeled vehicle has to pass right through the river.

In 2003, the GRP-RPM-M Peace process begun and one of its unique features is the local peace consultations. Barangay Miatan was one of those identified to go through the process. The local peace consultations are where communities identify problems and the same time identify solutions. The main objective of the process is to have empowered sustainable communities. In these consultations most if not all of the barangays always identify livelihood projects in addressing the need to increase income of the families. These livestocks are an added income and security of families in times of need.

Barangay Captain Bonifacio Cabasag said that one of the problems in their barangay is the lack of access to capital. There are loan sharks however who charge high interest to those that avail them, resulting to people drowning in debt. He said that the livelihood project which is funded by The Asia Foundaiton was well received by the community and there were very happy about it. Through the project, people were able to avail of livestock like chicken, goats and pigs which if not for the project, they would have difficulty availing.

What is more advantageous to them, he says, is that a local Peoples Organization is the one that manages the livelihood project and the small earnings from the 2% interest goes back to the community. These processes have given people the confidence that they could manage and implement projects arising from their initiatives. This confidence is necessary for empowerment.

The people’s organization, Barangay Miatan Livelihood Association, has been eager to learn all that is needed in project management, attending seminars and capability building activities. They are also represented in their Barangay Development Council and has established good relations with the barangay local government unit.

These are but bits and pieces of the thousands of stories from the GRP-RPMM peace process. Stories of communities struggling for development, families struggling everyday to have food on the table, farmers attending to their farms, children walking kilometers to go through school, horses carrying farm products to the market. The GRP-RPM-M Story has gone beyond the story of the two panels agreeing and disagreeing, it has become also a story of the people’s struggle, expectations, gratitude and hope. Some good things have come into their abrnagay because of the process but more is still being expected. The livelihood project is one of those small victories unseen by the public eye.

Small Victories

People empowerment starts with people believing and gaining confidence in themselves.

One of the unique features of the Peace process between the GRP and the RPMM is its inclusive and consultative nature. While the formal peace talks between the panels are being done, local peace consultations are conducted with the communities.

The local peace consultations are where communities identify problems and at the same time identify solutions. The main objective in the process are empowered sustainable communities. In these consultations most if not all of the barangays always identify livelihood projects in addressing the need to increase income of the families.

The Asia Foundation is one of those organizations who answered the call to journey with the process. TAF provides start up capital to People’s organizations in the barangays, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. CONZARRD the implementing NGO for the TAF projects says that beside the distance that they have to conquer, they also had some resistance from the communities of the project.

Like most of the communities who have experienced violent conflicts before, they are already suspicious. Barangay’s like Miatan and Carupay are one such barangays. Though the Community organizers of CONZARD have already done the protocol of doing courtesy calls to the mayor, the communities were hesitant at first, memories of conflict between the military and the NPA in the 80’s and 90’s come to their mind.

With persistence, they finally cooperated and have undergone a series of capability building seminars on handling or managing the project well. The livelihood project is not only anchored in the PO’s but the barangay local government also has its strong support. Barangay Captain Bonifacio Cabasag of Miatan said that it really helped his constituents in having access to capital and acquire livestocks such as goats chicken and sows. What is also important he says is that the PO’s are the one managing the project, giving people the confidence to stand on their own.

Esmeraldo Tomas, PO chairperson of Barangay Carupay, said they are very enthusiastic about the prospects of their project. Barangay Carupay is a subanen community and is about 40 kilometers from the national highway going up to the hinterlands. Most of the beneficiaries preferred to have horses which esmeraldo says helped them a lot in transporting their farm products. The road going to the barangay is really dilapidated and is inaccessible to Public utility vehicles.

The barangay is also under threat to mining companies. TVI or Toronto ventures incorporated have been visiting barangays, since these areas are positive with gold. One such barangay they have visited is barangay Miatan, luring barangay officials with money but the barangay captain resisted knowing the effects and what mining can do to the barangay. Farming being the major source of income would be gone. These are but some signs of empowerment.

With the peace process, they said that their barangay have become peaceful, no more military operations and armed encounters. While the journey towards peace is but long and arduous, communities are beginning that journey.

The livelihood project of TAF complements projects from other stakeholders, like the Kalahi-cidds of DSWD which implemented a hanging bridge and road gravelling of barangays miatan and carupay respectively. The building blocks of peace are there, we just have to continue building.

Dumalondong: A Higaunon Celebration

FOR US WHO were schooled and products of the logical and scientific thinking, we could hardly comprehend anything related to the spirits. It is out of the realm of science and logic. However, there is a growing movement towards the recognition of their presence. While mainstream society has just begun to realize it, for the Higaonons, it has already been part of their everyday lives for centuries.

We were invited to attend a Dumalondong ritual last August 21-24, 2006. It was a high ritual and a big cultural event for the Higaonons. The Dumalondong is the spirit that oversees all things. I have reasons for going there. First, travelling deep into the mountains has always been an adventure; there is more life in the forest than in the buildings and structures in the city. Second is to learn to live another lifestyle, away from the consumerism and into a more collective one, the Higaonon way of life. As much as I was excited, the community was also delighted because it was the first time that a Dumalondong was to be held at Barangay Minalwang in Claveria, Misamis Oriental. Specifically, at Sitio Impadiding.

Going there, via Impasug-ong, is a ride atop the mountains. Most of the time it is an uphill ride. The rocky and bumpy road just could not discourage me from going because of the breathtaking view. It is fascinating to see the beautiful mountain curves, realizing how many centuries it took Mother Earth to shape them.

While you feel exalted up there, you will also see how much man has done to destroy the forest, which seems to continually move uphill as man encroaches its nest. Almost bald, the mountains try to heal itself from the wounds that man has inflicted. As you go deeper and deeper into the mountains, the forest gets thicker, too, as if finally able to find its refuge.

The motorcycle we were riding on was going through footpaths, as if it’s a horse, amidst the thick forest with old mossy trees. The Higaonon community is also thick there. As the forest moves uphill, so do the Higaonons. As we got closer and closer to Impadiding, we passed by Higaonons with big smiles on their faces, which show their excitement over the event. They were also going to the Dumalondong.

It felt strange when we arrived. I was not used to the calm in the place. It was like time was frozen there, it was profoundly simple. Before you could enter the tribal hall, there are instructions that you have to follow. It was for the visitors. For us not to dilute the solemnity of the ceremony. We brought with us betel nut, the favorite chewing substance among the Higaonons, especially among the elders.

Before guests like us are admitted, there is a Pangagda ritual that took away the bad luck we were carrying. The Datu performs it himself as he asks permission from the spirits present for us to be accepted in the community. Everything seems connected to the spirits. Our minds trained in the secular view of the world may question the Higaonon view, but at the same time wonder. Our education is almost purely science and logic. The experience challenges it, and I realized it was time to unlearn our view of the world.

The ritual started with the killing of pigs and chickens as offering. Their prayer was simultaneous, every Datu praying spontaneously and simultaneously with the others. It was more like a chant that created a religious symphony, a music with lyrics you do not understand but touches you in a way that could only be interpreted spiritually. When the offerings were killed, their spleens or “kondilas” were taken, then the Higaonons read the message of the spirits that they called. It said something about the wrongs done before, that there is something lacking in the ritual, there was also good news. The messages were then taken up in the high ritual of Dumalondong. It seemed and felt like the spirits and men and women were all there at the ritual. Everything seemed connected to the spirits.

Aside from witnessing the ritual, we also wanted to explore the place. A colleague called it “resource scanning.” Four of us planned to go to the dam which they say is almost non-functional. As we thought we got nearer the supposed location, we realized we were lost. As thick grasses and bushes surrounded us, we planned to go back using route. But it seemed we were just circling and circling. We can’t see no footpaths anymore, so we had to make our new route. Finally, we decided to follow the river which led us back to the track we have taken. We thought we were okay, but later that night our legs seemed heavy. One with weak legs had difficulty bending them, and could hardly climb up the stairs. People suggested that we be given a ritual abiding with their cultural practices. We obliged. The ritual asked the spirits to forgive us for disturbing their place. The morning after, our legs felt fine, their strength back. You could conjure up many scientific and logical explanations, or you could call it coincidence. But only one fact remains -- our legs were healed after the ritual. Again, I reminded myself it was time for us to unlearn.

The event was also a time for the proclamation of new datus, which was as solemn as the ordination of new Catholic priests. The Molin-olin spirit was the one tasked to choose the new datus. You could see how meaningful it is for the proclaimed ones through their teary eyes and bowed heads. It was also very significant for the people in the community. I wish I could be in their shoes and feel what they felt at that moment so I could describe it fully in words. In that dumalondong, it was the first time that three women went up the bangkaso. The bangkaso is the altar. It was the recognition of the role of the women in the tribe. One of them -- Nita Pinaandil, wife of the tribal chieftain of minalwang, Datu Maagsob, and who is the entrusted head of the women weavers of Kamuyot in Minalwang-- was proclaimed “bae” at that time.

The Higaonons have a distinct culture. They have their own way of spiritual expression, administration of justice (which is restorative justice) and their own way of life. It is still debatable whether being isolated from mainstream society is an advantage or a disadvantage. Their isolation has allowed them to preserve their cultural ways and practices, untarnished by western culture. But this is only true in that part of the area. Most of the Higaonons are already assimilated in mainstream society, their cultural values diluted with western ones. Some say that culture must also adjust to the development of the times in order for it to survive. Isolation versus assimilation. But ultimately, it is the Higaonon community, with the guidance of the datus, who will decide what form of development to take. They will have to find it out by themselves, and not be dictated by outsiders.

Remembering My Volunteer Year

Ultimately we choose our own path, or else, others will choose it for us.

Choosing to become a social development worker has not been an easy one. There were a lot of realities, both personal and social, that I had to confront, face and settle. About a year ago, I decided to join the Year of Service Volunteer Program with much enthusiasm and a thirst to learn things outside the sheltered environment of the university. After almost a year, I got more than I expected and was never disappointed.

I was assigned at Balay Mindanaw Foundation, Inc. and was given the opportunity to explore different communities and also to explore myself in terms of my character and the determination to pursue development work. It was not clear to me at first what the task of a SIADO is, but as events unfolded, things began to crystallize as I moved along throughout the whole experience. I realized that while I was engaging social realities, I was also engaging myself. Facing the realities in the communities I work with also meant facing the realities of the self.

I was amazed at seeing and witnessing how the Barangay Development Council works. How it gave people the venue, the mechanism to discuss, debate and decide on things that matter and affect their barangay. It is through this venue that you see ordinary people articulate and expound ideas in order to lobby and engage local government units. Personally, it was an eye opener. I realized that there are still unexplored democratic spaces that need to be maximized and taken before we think of other means of effecting change in society.

During my first month, I was brought to the municipality of Siayan, Zamboanga del Norte for a local peace consultation. I had only a very little idea what a local peace consultation was. Not until I saw how it was being done did I realize its majesty and how it gives hope to the current peace talks. It is popularly known as the "the other peace process." This entirely unique peace process between the GRP and RPMM, which is mediated by BMFI, has at its core community participation and involvement as integral part the peace talks. Through the local peace consultations, I have come face to face with people who are longing to be heard, who have been waiting all the time for a long time, for basic services to reach their barangays. These are things that are unaccounted for when economists, technocrats and bureaucrats are saying the economy has grown to this and this percent because the GDP and GNP has increased to this percent therefore everything is going well.

These are but some of the highlights that have given me profound realizations and reflections throughout the year. Parallel with my external experience with the community is internal experience with the self. Both goes hand in hand. Personally as a volunteer, right at the very start, people were asking where is the wisdom behind my choice. Having just graduated and passed the board exams, people, especially relatives and family, expected "more" out of me. More meaning a high paying job. When I decided to be a volunteer and live on "modest allowance," expectations were overturned and disappointments over my decision poured in.

Then again, it has always been good to follow your heart's desire. They say it's where your treasure is. For me, it has been a source of joy and satisfaction seeing people win their own fight. Be it in accomplishing bit by bit their priority projects in their Barangay Development Plans, or be it in the efforts of the indigenous peoples' efforts to secure their ancestral domain. There is no debate whether or not to help the family; it is on the how of it. I believe that as long as I am contributing in the efforts to build a better society, I am in the long run helping my family. The experience has also taught me the value of financial management. Being a volunteer, I have always made it sure that I set aside a portion of my allowance as contribution to the family income. They say it's not the amount that matters; it is how it is given.

There would be times when the internal conflict would be so overwhelming that you would think it would tear you apart. Throughout the latter part of my volunteer year, the pressure of whether to continue in this line of work constantly hammered me, creating confusions. Those were the times when it seemed everything is stagnant and devoid of movement. The doubts cloud up the reason why I have chosen to be a volunteer in the first place. It's like forgetting the forest for the tree.

Looking back to those gloomy and confusing moments, I realized that those were just the deep breaths before the plunge. The plunge towards a deeper journey of the self, a journey towards creating a more meaningful and peaceful society. Those were the moments wherein you get wounded and broken so that more of you can be shared. The times when your intentions are purified and you will begin to see more clearly the reasons and directions of where you are heading.