Rethinking Society Over a Cup of Coffee

27 February Update on Lupang Hinirang, Lupang Hinarang Farmers' Pilgrimage for Carper

by Atty. Kaka J. Bag-ao
Balaod Mindanaw

The pilgrim-farmers feasted with a variety of canned goods as their viands during their breakfast yesterday. They left Sariaya, Quezon at around 7:00 in the morning.

They walked for 4 hours and fought the sweltering heat. They rested for a while at Brgy. Palma, Sariaya and had merienda at Brgy. Masin Norte, Candelaria.

When they left Candelaria, the pilgrim-farmers had a smooth journey because the Candelaria police personnel escorted them all throughout their walk in the municipality until they reached Tiaong, Quezon.

Yesterday’s walk for the pilgrim-farmers was memorable because they witnessed the upbeat of the public support for their pilgrimage. Some by-standers would just freely approach a pilgrim-farmer and give money with words like “a humble contribution to your noble cause…” The commuters, on the other hand, particularly those who take the jeepneys and non-air conditioned buses generously threw peso bills and coins. The pilgrim-farmers consider each act of donation as priceless with far-reaching implications in their resolve to reach Manila and pressure Congress to enact the CARPER Bill.

The outpouring of the public support was reminiscent of the Sumilao Farmers “Walk for Land, Walk for Justice” Campaign. The display of the public support bolstered the pilgrim-farmers’ hope that congress will heed their call.

At 5:00 PM, they went to St. John the Baptist in Tiaong, Quezon and attended the special mass prepared for them. Father Numbrepia’s homily stressed that the sacrifices of the pilgrim-farmers will soon benefit the entire Philippines especially the farmers. After the mass, the priest offered a prayer and blessed the pilgrim-farmers.

They were warmly welcomed in Marcial M. Punzalan Memorial Sports Complex. All of them were tired after walking 24 kilometers. Usually, they go to sleep at 9:00 in the evening. But last night, the pilgrim-farmers were still awake until 11:00 PM because some high school students had their practice for a cultural presentation.

It was a sight that made the pilgrim-farmers missed their children. But their nostalgia was soothed with the thought that their pilgrimage is the best gift they can offer for their children. They tried to keep their minds away from home and just enjoyed the children’s practice.

Upon this writing, the pilgrim-farmers are on their way to San Pablo, Laguna.


by Atty. Kaka J. Bag-ao, Balaod Mindanaw

The historic journey of the Sumilao Farmers by walking from Bukidnon to Manila paved the way for their eventual victory after 12 long years of struggle. Their experience leaves prints of hope and inspired other groups to make their own pilgrimage. The same is true with the Banasi and Calatagan farmers who, inspired by the Sumilao farmers' struggle, walked for more than 444 kilometers from Camarines Norte to Manila and from Batangas to Manila, to claim their lands under agrarian reform.
Their successful campaign exposed the Achilles heel of the landed states and brought agrarian reform to the forefront of national concern. CARP had reached its 20 years of implementation on 15 June 2008, but congress seemed indifferent to the calls of peasant groups to extend and reform CARP. It even disregarded the resounding call of the 79 Bishops for the passage of CARPER. The only thing it did was to issue Joint Resolution No. 19, which only paralyzed CARP, short of killing it.
Calls for an urgent and coordinated response from peasant movements, AR advocates, the Church and Civil Society are overwhelming. The Church, through the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) is very consistent in calling for a legislation that will extend and reform CARP. Bishop Pabillo's hunger strike is a testament to this.

The primary aim then of the Farmers' Pilgrimage for CARPER is to contribute to the wider agrarian reform struggle to pressure congress to pass CARPER before June 30, 2009. The strategy is to raise the consciousness of the public to take concrete actions and as well as for the farmers to lead the cause by taking the pilgrimage for CARPER.

Considering the time element, 50 Sumilao farmers and other groups will have a caravan from Bukidnon to Visayas, and shall start their walk at the Banasi area in Bicol. The Sumilao farmers will encourage the locals that they shall pass through to join the pilgrimage. It is expected that the pilgrims will increase after every diocesan forum. The core pilgrims shall be joined by the Banasi Farmers upon reaching Banasi, Bula, Camarines Sur. They shall also be joined by the Calatagan Farmers when they reach Batangas. The increasing number of pilgrims shall continue their walk to the House of Representatives in Manila to converge with other farmer groups.


• We should push Congress to perform its constitutional duty of enacting a law extending CARP with the necessary reforms especially those contained in House Bill 4077 and Senate Bill 266 at the soonest possible time.
• We must push Congress to revoke Join Rsolution No. 19 in order to give way to land acquisition and distribution through Compulsory Acquisition.
• We should resist and block anti-CARP bills like the Perfecting Amendment Bills proposed by Congressman Villafuerte
• We should continue our struggle of relentlessly upholding the rights of the farmers and farmworkers in order to promote the principles of justice and equity enshrined in our Constitution
• Strengthen our collective resolve and commitment and work to expand agrarian reform constituents to support the nationwide call to extend and reform CARP

26 february updates on lupang hinirang lupang hinarang farmers' pilgrimage for CARPER

by Atty. Kaka J. Bag-ao, Balaod Mindanaw
26 February 2009

The pilgrim-farmers started their day yesterday as early as 4:00 in the morning when they left Gumaca for Sariaya, Quezon. They had a stop over in Brgy. Talipan, Pagbilao and had hearty breakfast of dilis and hard boiled egg.

Right after breakfast, they started to walk the 5 kilometers distance going to St. Ferdinand Cathedral in Lucena City, where they joined the Ash Wednesday mass, which starts the season of lent.

After the mass, the pilgrim-farmers conducted a symbolic activity to signify their grief and send the message of their imminent death if CARPER will not be passed. They then asked the people who attended the ritual to sign the CARPER petition.

After their symbolic ritual, they proceeded with their journey and reached Lucena City Hall after walking 2 kilometers. They took a brief rest, after which they continued their walk to Brgy. Isabang, Tayabas. When they saw trees alongside the road, they all settled and feasted over the fried galunggong and ginisang gulay, while relishing the comfort of the cool breeze.

While on their way to Sariaya, Quezon, the rain fell but they did not bother to pause because they have to be on schedule. After walking for 9 kilometers, they arrived in the Sariaya Municipal Hall. There, a brief program was held to explain to the people the cause of the farmer-pilgrims. After the program, many people signed the CARPER petition, and thanked the pilgrim-farmers for carrying the cause of the other farmers across the country.

The pilgrim-farmers stayed at the Pambansang Bagsakan ng Produktong Pang-agrikultura sa Quezon in Brgy. Sampaloc, Sariaya, Quezon. While they were about to sleep, a police officer visited the farmers and shared that he previously experienced to escort the Sumilao Farmers during the “Walk for Sumilao Land, Walk for Justice” Campaign and he is happy to see them again. He said that he and other fellow police officers will from time to time conduct patrolling in the area to ensure the security of the pilgrim-farmers since the venue is an open space.

The pilgrim-farmers are now moving going to Tiaong, Quezon.

Meanwhile, the Calatagan farmers started their pilgrimage yesterday bringing with them the community’s messages of encouragement, good tidings and prayers. Upon reaching Balayan, Batangas, they held a public forum on CARPER and gathered signatures signifying the peoples’ clamor for its passage into law. Today, they are on the way to Lipa City to be joined by the Canossian community in calling for the enactment of House Bill 4077 and Senate Bill 2666. After lunch, they will head off to Malvar where they will spend the night. They are expected to join their fellow pilgrim-farmers from Sumilao and Banasi on Saturday.

THE PILGRIM-FARMERS WOULD LIKE TO THANK THE HUNDREDS OF FACES, GROUPS AND OTHER ORGANIZATIONS WHO JOINED THE FORUM AND SUPPORTED THE FARMERS' PILGRIMAGE FOR CARPER FROM THE START OF THE CAMPAIGN UNTIL NOW: Pambansang Bagsakan ng Produktong Pang-agrikultura sa Quezon and its administrator and staff, SANDIGAN, HAGKIMATA Paralegal Network, Ugnayan ng mga Magsasaka sa Quezon (UGMA), PAKISAMA Southern Tagalog, Pinagkaisang Tinig ng Magsasaka sa Gumaca (PINTIG), Kababaihang Magbubukid sa Kalayaan (KAMALAYAN) from Plaridel, Quezon, SAMALO of Lopez, Quezon, SAUPAN of Atimonan, Quezon, SUMPIT of Pitogo, Quezon, and SAMAKATA of Tayabas, Quezon, Monsignor Candido Umali, Bishop Buenaventura M. Famadico, PAKISAMA Bicol, Pecuaria Development Cooperative, Inc. (PDCI), DAR Region-5, SAMASAKA, AKBAYAN! ALBAY, PAKISAMA ALBAY, AR Now, LGU-DARAGA, DAR Provincial Office of Sorsogon, Bishop Isabelo Abarquez, Bishop Emmanuel Trance, Bishop Jose S. Palma, COOP-NATTCO, MAS-SPECC, DAR Provincial Office of Samar, Sto. Nino Church of Matnog, Pedro Calungsod Formation Seminary, Department of Health (DOH) Region 10, Dr. Edna Eugenio, Engr. Estudillo (PPA Port Manager), Val Galarosa, DAR Region 8, Regional Director John Maruhom, Father Toto Jaranilla of Order of Carmelites in Ormoc City, Daughters of St. Paul, Redemptorist Community, DAR Provincial Office (Tacloban City), Sto. Nino Parish Church, Philippine Port of Authority-Port of Lipata, The Management of the Super Shuttle Ferries, Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, Living the Gospel Communities (LGC), Peasant Groups who participated in Surigao Forum, DAR Provincial Office of Surigao del Sur, REACH Foundation, municipalities of Dinagat Island which issued the resolution supporting CARPER, Hon. Bernardino Alcario, Most Reverend Juan de Dios M. Pueblos, Bishop Zacarias C. Jimenez, Agusan Organic Farmers' Federation (AGOFAFED), Social Action Center (SAC) of Butuan City, St. Peter Seminary, Tubay Parishioners, Federation of Agrarian Comm. Coop. (FEDARCO), Bukidnon People Power Agrarian Reform Org. (BPPARO), Panaghiusa Alang sa Kaugalingon ug Kalingkawasan (PASAKK), Father Saturnino Urios University College of Law, KAIBAN, Hacienda Maria Farmers of Sta. Josefa, Agusan del Sur (KAMMPE), HEED Foundation, SLB, New Sibunga Farmers' Association (NESFA), DAR Region 10, Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro City, Bishop Antonio Ledesma, MISAD, Archdiocese of Malaybalay City, Bishop Honesto Pacana, Alliance of Progressive Labor, Kristohanong Katilingban sa Pagpakabana-Social Involvement Office of Xavier University, Concerned Members of XU Community ug XU Research and Social Outreach (XU RSO), Year Of Service (Xavier University), CONVERSATION, St. John Vianney Seminary, POs of El Salvador City and Alubijid,Touch Foundation, PHILDHRRA, Balay Mindanaw Foundation, Inc. (BMFI), RCED, KPMFI, BDSI, PAKISAMA, CABUSTAM, KAISAHAN, SALIGAN, and the many faceless individuals and groups, Camarines Norte DAR Regional Office, Banasi Farmers, Mayor Jessie Robredo of Naga City, Naga City personnel, KASAMA, FUERZA, PARAUMA, SMPCI, Naga City Public Safety Office, Ateneo de Naga, Ateneo de Naga Social Science Department, Mr. Ramon Bileno III, Brgy. Sta. Cruz Chairperson Albert Castaneda, Mr. Ram Samar, Naga City People’s Council, Rene Humba and Coalition for Citizen’s Constitution.

I-Shop Marketing Costumer Service

I bought 2 pcs of wall putty at I-Shop Marketing this day. We have to put a wall putty before we could do the painting of our house. We opened the first can of putty and found out that it was already dry because we tried to apply some of it and it would hardly stick on the wall. We opened another one and it was better.

I decided to have the 1st can of wall putty that we opened replaced. I went back at I-Shop marketing which is at Hi-way, Bulua, Cagayan de Oro city, just near the gate of Villa Candida Subdivision. I told if they can replace the already dry wall putty that I have purchased from them awhile ago. Their salesman said that it was not possible because we have already used some of it.

It was only a little amount and how else are we supposed to know that it does not stick on the wall. Again, consumers in the Philippines are often vulnerable to inconsiderate sellers, who sell defective products and then will not replace it. There are of course sellers and companies whose customer service are above excellent. There are also others whose customer service does not give service to its customers.

I am writing about this incident so that other potential buyers will know how I-Shop Marketing (a hardware store) operates.

Baselines 101

The Baselines Bill is currently causing a stir.But what exactly are baselines?

Baselines define our territorial sea. The Territorial sea, as distinct from inland and internal waters consists of a marginal belt of maritime waters adjacent to the baselines extending twelve outward.

The 1982 convention on the Law of the sea defines baselines as the low-water line along the coast as marked on large scale charts officially recognized by the coastal state. The width of the territorial sea is measured from the baselines.

Archipelagic states like the Philippines, draw straight baselines instead of the normal baselines. The normal baselines follows the sinousities of the coast while straight baselines are straight lines drawn connecting the selected points on the coast without appreciable departure from the general shape of the coast.

These specific points are enumerated in the baselines bill.

Statement of Support to the Human Baricade by Mamanwa Community

February 5, 2009

Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Central Office: Visayas Avenue,
Diliman, 1100 Quezon City, Philippines

Through: Honorable Secretary Jose “Lito” L. Atienza, Jr

Greetings in the name of justice and peace!

Today is the eighth day of the human barricade of the 400 tribesmen of the Mamanwa community along the highway of Taganito, Claver, Surigao del Norte.

With them, we appeal to your good office for the fulfillment of their right to the one percent royalty of the gross output of the mining operations of the 3 companies (Taganito Mining Corporation (TMC), Oriental Synergy Mining Corporation (OSMC), Case Mining Company and Platinum Group Mining Company (PGMC)) operating in their 48,678 hectares ancestral lands.

We support them in their peaceful effort to fight for their rights as a people whose lives were very much affected by the operations of these mining firms, one even as early as 1960’s. We grieve that these people had to resort to this difficult means of protest which they consider their last resort in making their voices heard.

We condemn the fact that they were allegedly not properly informed of their rights based on the IPRA Law when they signed the Memorandum of Agreement with TMC entitling them to only P500,000 a year as “financial assistance”, when the one percent provision under the law is the minimum benefit that they should get.

We express our concern about the 5 members who were reported missing after they voluntarily returned to their camote farms to look for food for their fellow protesters. We feel for the community especially for their respective families.

We quote from the words of the tribe’s chieftain, “….we know how the justice system here favor the rich and the mighty.” May this be a challenge for us to prove that “justice for all” still reigns in our country.

We trust in the power of our liberating God that through your help, the long awaited justice be given to this people.

On behalf of the Social Action Center of Tandag Diocese,

Sr. Lydia L. Lascano, ICM
Social Action Directress
Diocese of Tandag
Surigao del Sure

A Communal Action to Protect the Environment

I have just attended the Bishops – Legislators Forum on Environment Concerns. The Forum was convened by the archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro led by Archbishop Antonio Ledesma. This is a response to recent floods which left three people dead and affected 16,104 families or 83,321 individuals in 47 barangays or more than half of the city's 80 barangays.

The legislators were represented by Rep. Rufus Rodriguez of the second district of Cagayan de Oro City, Rep. Teofisto Guingona Jr. of the 2nd district of Bukidnon and Rep. Jose Ping-ay of NATCCO.

The bishops side were represented by Bishop Antonio Ledesma, Bishop Juan de dios Pueblos of Butuan and Bishop Edwin de la Pena of Marawi. Also present were Father Falcon representing the diocese of Tandag and Father Danilo Paciente of the Diocese of Malaybalay.The forum was attended by various civil society groups, media, farmers and people’s organization.

The two main issues that surfaced in the forum were mining and logging. Bishop Pueblos said that CARAGA has become the mining capital of the Philippines. He recalled that before the Philippine mining of 1995 was implemented, it was hard for mining companies to secure a permit but now there are 143 applications in CARAGA alone, 83 of which are already approved.

The mining act fully allows foreigners to the ownership and operation of mining companies here in the Philippines and gives mining companies tax holidays for 10 years. The Arroyo government said it is responsible mining but again “there is no responsible mining in a graft-ridden government”.

In Cagayan de Oro, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) data shows that the bureau already approved three Exploration Permits (EP) covering a total of 7,123 hectares for gold and other minerals. The permittees are Eagle Crest Mining and Development Corporation, Cypress Mining and Development Corporation and Glendale Mining and Development Corporation.

In response, Rep Rufus Rodriguez said that he has filed House Bill 5888 in congress which seeks to make Cagayan de Oro a mining free zone. The bill intends to criminalize metallic ore mining or gold mining and regulate non-metallic mining or sand gravel operations in the city. The bill proposes bill proposes an imprisonment of at least six to 12 years for violators, including fines ranging from P100,000 to P500,000. If the offense is committed by a corporation or association, “the president and the manager/s of said corporation or association, or its agent or representative in the Philippines, in case of a foreign corporation or association, shall be held liable.” Rodriguez has also filed House Bill No. 5887 to declare Cagayan de Oro a logging-free zone.

Bishop Ledesma said in his synthesis that community awareness on environmental issues has prompted a call to action which is a concerted effort from all sectors of society to protect the environment. Alternative livelihood should also be available for workers who depend on mining as a source of income. He connected it to the advocacy to reform and extend the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program saying that farming can be an alternative livelihood. Farming and the environment are very much interrelated.

This is already a step towards protecting our environment.

Bishops-Legislators Forum on Environmental Concerns

I have recently received an email inviting me to a Bishops-Legislators Forum on Environmental Concerns. This forum, organized by the office of the Archbishop of Cagayan de Oro, is in response to the recent flash floods that affected various parts of Northern Mindanao. The forum will include environmental partners from the executive and legislative branch of government, NGO’s and Church leaders.

The Forum aims to understand the general environmental situation of Northern Mindanao through presentations of case studies. It also aims to identify and discuss key environmental issues, concerns and their possible solutions and get commitments from the Legislators to support strategic policy solutions.

The forum will be held on February 12th, Thursday, at 2:00 – 6:00 p.m., at the Archbishop Cronin Hall, Cathedral Compound, Cagayan de Oro City.

2010 Philippine Elections: What's In It For Us?

2010 Philippine Presidential elections is fast approaching

Political ads are already shown in our television sets. Politicians are gearing up for the electoral contest, big political parties are merging in order to be stronger in the hope of capturing a big portion of the political pie.

But what’s in it for the ordinary folks. Elections after elections s/he listens to the same old promises, the same thing over and over again. There are a growing number of people, the youth especially, who are already apathetic about elections, saying whoever wins nothing will change, so why vote?

Elections after elections, recycled politicians addicted to power and corruption, run for office in the hope of holding on to it. When their term ends, this just run for another position for a term and then run back again to the position they so desire. While Political dynasty is forbidden in the constitution, it is practiced anyway with no enabling law to back it up and give it some teeth. It is not surprising to see a municipality or province which is run by a family or clan.

For the “Trapos” (Traditional Politicians) the criteria for a candidate are popularity, money, and machinery. It does not matter whether the person has integrity or not. He or she just need those three. When the name of Chief Justice Puno came up as a possible presidential candidate, these trapos said that he has a dim chance of winning because he has no money and machinery.

While there are really good and progressive politicians there are only a handful of them. These few are constantly harassed for being good and honest with their job. Take for example Governor Ed Panlilio, as a result of his expose that a palace staff distributed envelopes containing Php 200,000.00 Php 500,000.00 after the meeting of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo with 200 officers of the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines, he now faces a recall of elections on the ground of loss of confidence. The recall makes no sense at all. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo cheated in 2007 election, and yet she got away with it.

The House of Representatives showed its true colors when they passed a resolution extending the life of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) for the second time and without compulsory mode of land acquisition which is the life and soul of CARP. These landlords get elected because they have the money to win it and when they get elected, they bring hell just to protect their own interest.

However inspite of all these, Elections is also a time to hope. A hope that somehow things will change and new, progressive, honest politicians and with integrity will somehow get elected and be thorn among the traditional corrupt and recycled politicians. A hope that gives a man the passion to volunteer for a clean and honest elections and that somehow our democracy will work. Though that hope have been frustrated many times before, it still persist. A light amidst the encroaching darkness.