Rethinking Society Over a Cup of Coffee

Gaza In Pictures

After the Flood

The sun has already shone here in Cagayan de Oro city. After that gloomy week, 16,104 families or 83,321 individuals jampacked in various evacuation centers in 47 barangays or more than half of the city's 80 barangays have been displaced. Cagayan de Oro Disaster Coordinating Council have placed the initial damages to crops and livestocks at P250 million.

What happened last week has never happened in the city for decades. A historian said that the last big flood in the city happened during the 1960’s, but the recent one is probably way bigger. I think this is caused by mining, quarrying and an almost depleted forest.

Mayor Constantino Jaraula suspended all quarrying and mining operations, an act which should have been done years ago. Different sectors have been calling for it to stop for a long time. But as we all know, government needs to be poked in the head in order for it to act. Farmers have to hunger strike and walk the miles and miles in order to be heard. In this case, mother nature has to have landslide and floods in order for her to be heard.

But it is not government responsibility alone. It is everyone’s responsibility to take care of the earth. It transcends boundaries political or geographical.

People are going back to what’s left of their homes, trying to rebuild their lives. Its like starting back to zero for those whose house and crops are completely destroyed. Relief goods are pouring out from individuals to organizations. I think the United Nations World Food Program is giving 600 tons of rice.

I am glad that the sun is up and the rains, floods and landslides are gone.

Undergoing MyBlogLog Verification again

Arroyo Visits Flood Victims in Cagayan de Oro

Arroyo Visited flood victims in Cagayan de Oro as part of his Mindanao Visit. She had her Photo ops, distributing relief goods to flashflood victims distributing food and medicine personally in front of the camera. At least the flood victims will have something to eat for a day or two.

She also also supported the Cagayan de Oro Flood Control Development Master Plan. In an interview, Mayor Jaraula proudly described the plan, “reforestation coupled by logging ban”, he said logging ban is useless without reforestation and vice versa. Well and good, but it concern of depleting almost zero forest cover in Cagayan de Oro has been voiced out by concerned citizens and advocates for a long time. I guess the city government needs to be nudged by mother nature in order to act. The plan is in itself good but it needs to be implemented as soon as possible and give it some teeth. The plan for now is good only in paper.

The flood victims are still in Macasandig Gym and in West City Central School. They cannot go back to their homes because obviously their homes are destroyed. It’s like starting back to zero. In these times, establishing a house is difficult. Clearly they need some assistance in rebuilding their homes. The victims also expressed that they be given a relocation site so that they will not have to go back to the flood prone areas in which they have lived. Second, they also wanted to also have some livelihood assistance.

The interventions mentioned above are good but I think they missed the most obvious and immediate concern that the flood victims needed.

The Emerging Power of Blogs

The Valley Golf brawl has once again demonstrated the potential power of blogs to correct an injustice. In this case, the Pangandamans with a direct link to the President of Philippines being one of her Cabinet secretary and on the other hand the ordinary citizen, the De la Paz Family.

GMA must have her hands full these days, Pangandaman with his Valley Golf Brawl and Gonzales with his Alabang boys bribery case. These issues are distracting her from her main focus, Charter Change and term extension.

Ducky Paredes ( has an interesting account of the incident saying that “he ignores the testimonies of the so-called victims or the alleged ruffians”. The De la Paz were the ones who started the fight. These are, he says, accounts from “caddies of parties, the marshal, the starter and other club personnel”.

But Bambee de la Paz wrote in her blog that “Right in the clubhouse. I came back after the fight was over and talked to the receptionists. They say they did not see anything. The general manager of Valley Golf would not give us the names of the men who made my brother's ear bleed. It took him an hour. Maybe even more than that. He seemed to not want to help us. Because, we were against the SECRETARY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF AGRARIAN REFORM and the MAYOR OF MASIU CITY, LANAO DEL SUR. They were all scared.”

The Pangandaman’s did not see it coming. They did not expect the power a single blog post can do. It eventually tilted the power relations to what is now even playing field, with the Pangandaman’s on the now on the defensive end, trying to block the full force of the blogosphere. Its like Manny Pacquiao, the underdog versus the much bigger De La Hoya.

These are signs of Hope, a beacon of light for those who seek justice in an otherwise unjust system, justice finding its way out into what ever channels it can find.

Philippine Government Should Sever Ties with Israel


Stop the War Coalition-Philippines
5 January 2008

We at Stop the War Coalition Philippines, a broad coalition of civil society organizations, social movements, labor unions, political parties, human rights, women's, students, religious and other organizations, strongly condemn Israel's war crimes against the people of Gaza and the international community.

These latest attacks are not only disproportionate, they are completely unjustifiable.

At the root of the continuing tragedy in the Middle East is the continuing illegal occupation of Palestine by Israel. That Israel is able to continue this occupation and that it is able to bomb and kill indiscriminately without restraint points to the incapacity of the international community, including the United Nations and the world's governments, to uphold peace and justice. It is this unwillingness to act that will ensure that more blood and tears will flow from this escalating war.

We in the Philippines must help stop this war not only because thousands of Filipino migrant workers are caught in the crossfire but because we have a stake in creating a world with peace and justice.

We at the Stop the War Campaign demand that Israel should immediately end its war crimes in Gaza and end the occupation of Palestine.

We demand that the United States immediately stops arming and funding Israel's war.

We call on the international community, the United Nations and all responsible international government and civil society organizations, to stop Israel from continuing its attacks and to support a just resolution to the crisis.

We demand that the Philippine government begins the process of severing all diplomatic ties with Israel until it complies with international law and ends the occupation of Palestine. At the same time, we also call for immediate relief and evacuation plans for Filipino workers in the region. We demand more jobs for Filipinos at home so that they will not be forced to seek employment in outlaw states.

As our elected representatives, our government should take a stand in favor of international law and justice, summon the Israeli ambassador to protest, and expressly condemn Israel for its actions.

We demand that Manila and other government units revoke their "sister city" ties with Israeli cities.

We call on our parliamentarians and diplomats to likewise denounce Israel's actions.

In solidarity with the Palestinian, as well as Israeli people opposed to war, we call on trade unions, universities, cultural organizations, political parties, and other social movements and civil society groups to be part of a global boycott and sanctions campaign against Israel.#

1 October 2008

Akbayan! Citizens' Action Party
Akbayan! Youth
Alab Katipunan (AK)
Alliance of Genuine Labor Organizations (AGLO)
Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL)
Alyansa ng Nagkakaisang Lakas ng Kabataan (ALYANSA)
Alyansa ng Sambayanan para sa Agarang Reporma (ASAP)
Anak Mindanao (AMIN)
ASSALAM Bangsamoro
Bagong Kamalayan Collective, Inc (BKCI)
Balay Rehabilitation Center Inc.
Bangsamoro People’s Solidarity
Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP)
Coalition Against Trafficking of Women Asia Pacific (CATW-AP)
Community Organizing and Rural Development, Inc. (Billah Islam)
Filipino Democratic Movement (FILDEM)
FOCUS on the Global South
Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC)
Gathering for Peace (GfP)
GZO Peace Institute
Institute for Popular Democracy (IPD)
International South Group Network (ISGN)
Juan Makata
Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission-AMRSP
K! Kalayaan NCR-BLC
Kilusan para sa Pambansang Demokrasya (KPD)
Kongreso ng Mamamayan Para sa Kalayaan (KOMPAK)
Laban ng Masa (LnM)
League of Urban Poor for Action (LUPA)
Liga Manggagawa (LM)
Lolas Kampanyera WW II Filipina "Comfort Women" Survivors of Japanese Military Sexual Slavery
Manggagawa para sa Kalayaan ng Bayan (MAKABAYAN)
Mindanao Peoples' Peace Movement (MPPM)
Moro Human Rights Center
Movement for the Advancement of Student Power (MASP)
Pagkakaisa ng Kababaihan para sa Inang Bayan (KAISA-KA)
Pambansang Kaisahan ng Magbubukid sa Pilipinas (PKMP)
Pambansang Katipunan ng Makabayang Magbubukid (PKMM)
Pambansang Katipunan ng mga Samahan sa Kanayunan (PKSK)
Partido Manggagawa (PM)
Peace Women Partners
People’s Task Force for Bases Clean UP Philippines
Philippine Peace and Security Council (PPSC)
Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM)
Pinay Kilos! (PINK!)
Progresibong Alyansa ng Mangingisda (PANGISDA)
Progressive Organization of Worker Advocates (PRO-WORKER)
Resource Center for People’s Development (RCPD)
Samahan ng Demokratikong Kabataan (SDK)
Solidarity of Unions and Labor Organizations for a New Government (SULONG)
Strategic Initiatives of Pinoys Abroad - Bangkok (SIPA)
Student Council Alliance of the Philippines (SCAP)
Task Force Food Sovereignty (TFFS)
Task Force Subic Rape (TFSR)
Teatrong Bayan
Third World Movement Against the Exploitation of Women (TW-MAE-W)
Tulung Lupah Sug, Inc.,
UP Alyansa ng mga Mag-aaral para sa Panlipunang Katwiran at Kaunlaran (UP ALYANSA)
UP Assabiyah
Women and Gender Commission AMRSP
Women and Gender Institute (WAGI)
Women’s Legal Bureau, Inc (WLB)
YES to Change
Young Moro Professionals Network (YMPN)
Youth for Nationalism and Democracy (YND)

Jihad al Akbar
Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA)
Ranaw Disaster Response & Rehabilitation Assistance Center
SALAM, Incorporated
Sumpay Mindanao
TRIPOD Foundation, Inc
WomanHealth Philippines


As the year ended, congress gave the people a gift in the form of a paralyzed CARP. Representatives passed a resolution extending the life of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program for another six months. This time they cut its claws by excluding the compulsory mode of acquisition.

The resolution is said to give the House of Representatives more time to discuss and debate an “acceptable” form of the Program. They did not have time because they were busy crafting ways of extending the term of their boss. Of course there are several good people in Congress who genuinely bring the peoples voices in its halls but sadly, they are outnumbered by Gloria Arroyo’s followers imposing her whims and voice in the House.

What are these options then?

Option 1: Simple Extension

This is captured by a number of proposed bills, including the CUA bill. This position proposes a simple extension of funding for DAR, for between five and ten years. Most of these bills propose a level of funding similar to current levels. One, the CUA bill also contains a vague, but contentious clause on the use of DAR papers as collateral for bank loans; this provision is in response to the wishes of Malacanang but is one that is deeply opposed by many AR advocates and farmers groups.

Simple extension is the position favoured by DAR. A number of these bills contain clauses mandating specific allocations for support services rather than mere land acquisition. As well as being reflective of the DAR position, a number of AR advocates also take this position because of their view that it is the most politically feasible one within the current conjuncture of political forces. A number of advocates for extension with reforms also privately admit that “simple extension may be the best we can hope for”.

Option 2: Major Changes to CARP

A third position is advanced by Kilusan para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo (KTRA, or Movement for Genuine Agrarian Reform) On November 11, KTRA announced that it is filing a bill in Congress to be sponsored by Rep. Edno Joson of Nueva Ecija that aims to strengthen the land reform law by plugging all its loopholes that allow landowners to evade land distribution.

The draft bill contains the coalition’s 5-point demands that include among others the immediate distribution of large private estates within two years, the abolition of non-redistributive land reform schemes such as leaseback, voluntary land transfer and voluntary-offer-to-sell, the review and revocation of anomalous exemption and land conversion permits, the strengthening of support services for agrarian reform beneficiaries, and the re-inclusion of fishponds and pasture lands in the coverage of CARP.

This position would appear to hold much in common with the RCM position except it more explicitly prioritizes the distribution of large estates, and ensures coverage of fishponds and livestock areas; and, rather than permitting Voluntary Offers of Sale to DAR and permitting direct Voluntary Land Transfer to beneficiaries, it proposes to abolish such processes on the grounds that they are subject to frequent anomalies in terms of beneficiaries and corruption.

The KTRA position reflect the positions of some of the more militant members of RCM, which is hardly surprising since there is some overlap in membership; however KTRA also includes others that chose to remain outside RCM for a variety of reasons, including some who have only recently chosen to engage in the legislative arena or with legally mandated forms of agrarian reform.

As part of their campaign for the bill KTRA have vowed to “name and shame” the country’s largest landowners who have managed to retain their landownings over 20 years of CARP.

Option 3: CARP Extension with Reforms

This bill is the result of widely held and prolonged conversations among Peoples Organisations and NGOs engaged in AR work. The bill is proposed by Rep. Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel, Akbayan party-list representative and backed by a broad range of groups known as the Reform CARP Movement (RCM) for which Centro-Saka is the secretariat and with which Kaisahan and Saligan worked on drafting of the bill.

This bill seeks the extension of CARP with a minimum funding of 3.8% of the total government budget, or 38 billion pesos, and the completion of land acquisition over a period of seven years. Thirty per cent of the funds would be used for support services with a third of those funds for the provision of agricultural credit, as opposed to current legislation which does not specify the proportion of funds allocated for this purpose.

The bill also proposes that land covered under agrarian reform may not be sold for a period of thirty years except back to the DAR. In addition the bill closes various loopholes in the current law by making Certificates of Land Ownership Agreements (CLOAS) noncontestable after a period of one year and also by allowing proposed beneficiaries to claim their rights as interested parties in court and adjudication hearings. The bill also proposes to prevent stock distribution and leaseback schemes and declares that installation as agrarian reform beneficiaries that mean the “direct and physical distribution of land” to beneficiaries.

The bill also tries to overcome some of the delaying tactics of landowners by insisting on a one-time valuation of standing crops and by attempting to prevent harassment cases for fraud or non-payment of rent where these are related to completion of land distribution. A further provision also strengthens existing laws against land conversion from agricultural to other uses as a means of avoiding coverage by agrarian reform and provides for much harsher penalties for landlords who try to evade coverage.

The bill does not address the issuance of collective versus individual titles (collective titles having provided a convenient but often untidy short-cut for DAR). While the bill has provides for inter-agency coordination with other line agencies responsible for items such as roads, irrigation, marketing support etc. it makes no specific provisions for the responsibilities of those agencies, just as it makes no specific provisions for the collection of amortization payments by the land bank. This bill appears to address a number of the criticisms concerning implementation of the current agrarian reform program but for a number does not go far enough…

Option 4: Genuine Agrarian Reform Act (HB 3059)

Anakpawis (toiling masses), Bayan Muna (people first) and Gabriela Women’s Party (GWP) filed House Bill 3059 or the Genuine Agrarian Reform Act of 2007 on Nov. 13 2007. The declared intent of the bill is to break up land monopoly and distribute lands for free.

At first glance the coverage proposed by the bill is considerably larger than the proposals of others. The modes of acquisition, the bill proposes that the state shall expropriate all private agricultural lands exceeding five hectares and that all land and non-land assets of transnational corporations shall be nationalized. Not only does it propose to cover all military reservations, lands owned by educational establishments and areas of community-based forestry, and all undeveloped or idle lands including in such areas as export processing zones but it also covers all lands that have already been covered by the
Department of Agrarian Reform but have since passed into the hands of those not classified as beneficiaries.

The bill also proposes that the lands are made available to beneficiaries for free. Compensation is proposed to be the average of the tax valuations for the last three years with negotiated sums for “benevolent landowners”. The bill proposes an annual budget of 18 billion pesos in the first year and an annual increment of 2 billion pesos thereafter.

The proposals in the draft act will substantially change the current definition of “just compensation” and along with the provisions for nationalization of TNC assets and the proposals to broaden coverage they are most unlikely to gain much consideration by a Congress which remains dominated by landed interests and their allies. Even the bill’s own proponents recognize this saying “for the proposed land reform law to be approved by a landlord-dominated Congress requires something short of a miracle.”

In addition to the above bills there are various resolutions in the house seeking a review of CARP stating the view that agrarian reform has failed to address rural productivity and poverty. For the most part these bills are supported by landlords within the house and led by President Arroyo’s brother-in-law from Negros. However, Bayan Muna has also submitted a similar resolution before it moved on with its GARA bill.

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