Rethinking Society Over a Cup of Coffee


We, the sovereign peoples of Mindanao, call on the Senate of the Philippines and the House of Representatives to immediately pass a joint resolution calling for a constitutional convention in 2010:

Whereas, there is a pervading sense of hopelessness and despair among the peoples of the Land of Promise arising from the unceasing armed conflict, poverty, internal displacement and political instability which perpetuate the culture of violence and intimidation;

Whereas, the situation calls for structural changes and reforms which can be made possible only through the amendment of the 1987 Constitution, as has been proposed nationwide by the Citizens' Movement for a Federal Philippines (CMFP).

Whereas, the peoples of Mindanao have traditionally viewed proposed amendments to the constitution with apathy, and even suspicion, believing them to be a Trojan horse for the perpetuation of political dynasties and their vested interests;

Whereas, the Lumad, the Bangsa Moro and Christians can realize their just desire for self-determination, for liberation from fear and want, for political stability, and autonomy through a Federal Constitution, which requires changes in the present charter;

Now, therefore, in consideration of the foregoing, we, the sovereign peoples of Mindanao now call on the Senate and the House of Representatives to pass a joint resolution calling for the holding of a constitutional convention in 2010 and for the election of delegates in the national elections scheduled for May 11, 2010;

Resolved further, to let copies of this resolution be provided to the President of the Philippines, the Senate, the House of Representatives, the Commission on Elections, and other pertinent organizations and agencies for their consideration.

Done this 24th day of July 2009 in the Islamic City of Marawi, Mindanao, Philippines.

Mindanao Congress of Development NGOs and NGIs (MINCON) • Lihok Pideral Mindanaw (LPM) • Mindanao Peace Advocates Conference (MPAC) • MASS-SPECC Cooperative Development Center • Moro Movement for Federalism (MMF) • Citizens' Movement for a Federal Philippines (CMFP)

Rey Magno Teves, Chairperson, CMFP • Cong. Mujiv S. Hataman, Cong. Ariel C. Hernandez, Anak Mindanao (AMIN) Party-List • Cong. Cresente C. Paez, Cong. Jose R. Ping-ay, NATCCO Party-List • Charlito Z. Manlupig, Secretary General, LPM • Sylvia Okinlay-Paraguya, CEO, MASSSPECC • Romeo Dahuyag, PASCRES-Caraga • Andre Atega, Lihok Federal Karaga (LFK) • Greg Hontiveros, Lihok Federal Karaga (LFK) • Isidro Madaje, Chairman, FEDARCCO • Datu Hawudon Mangguyaba / Rusty S. Porogoy, Chairman, Manobo / Mamanwa – Santiago Municipal Tribal Council • Fiscal Danny Serrano, Drafter, Caraga State Constitution • Jimmy Beray, Chairman, BCB MPC • Atty. Franklin M. Quijano, Iligan City

Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS) • Alliance of Bangsamoro for Peace and Sustainable Development (ABPSD) • Balay Mindanaw Foundation, Inc. (BMFI) • Katilingbanong Pamahandi sa Mindanaw, Inc. (KPMFI) • Bangko sa Balay Foundation, Inc. (BBFI) • Zamboanga Peninsula Rehabilitation Center (ZAPP) • Zamboanga Association of Former Priests and Seminarians (ZAFPAS) • Xavier Agriculture Extension Service (XAES) • Harakat Islamia1 • Ompia Party • Lanao Youth • Lanao Eagle’s Clans • Insan Islamic Assembly • Pailig Development Foundation, Inc. (PDFI) • Technical Assistance Center for the Development of Rural and Urban Poor (TACDRUP) • Lihok Pideral Dabaw (LPD) • Philippine Agrarian Reform Fund (PARFUND)

Contact Persons: Mr. Rey Deang (CMFP-Secretariat) 09266854561
Mr. Paul Paraguya (CMFP-Mindanao) 09209525106
Mr. Cesar Villanueva (CMFP-Visayas) 09192869470

Military operations displace 281 families in Surigao del Sur

Massive military operations have forced the evacuation of 281 families with 1,659 individuals from 14 communities in the municipalities of Lianga and San Agustin, Surigao del Sur. Students and staff from the Alternative Learning System for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV) and Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao del Sur have also been forced to evacuate. Classes have been suspended.

Two battalions from the 36th and 58th brigades of the Philippine Army arrived in Lianga and San Agustin on July 13 and have been living inside the communities of Kilometer 16 and Han-ayan. In Kilometer 9, they are even staying inside people’s houses.

ALCADEV teacher Jerume Loquite was prevented from bringing four sacks of rice to the ALCADEV students. The commanding officer at the Sammilia checkpoint, Col. Pedralves, told him that he did not believe that there were any students at the school.

People of the community called for a dialogue with the military in order to appeal for peace and to ask the military to leave the area. But the military refused to leave. They said that they were part of a research team for peace and development that had come to evaluate communities for possible projects.

As a result, the community decided to leave their villages if the military insisted on staying. They did not want to get caught in military operations. Together with ALCADEV and TRIFPSS students and staff, they walked for seven hours from Han-ayan to the municipal gym in Lianga. They joined 48 families from the community of Logdeck, who have been displaced for a month as a result of military operations in their area.

This is the third time in five years that an evacuation has occurred. There were previous evacuations in 2005 and 2007. Militarization is a perennial problem in the area. When soldiers enter a community and visit people’s houses, the people become too scared to farm. There is also forced recruitment of the lumads into bagani force as part of the province-wide Task Force Gantangan.

The evacuees say that they need food, and eventually, medicine, if the evacuation continues to last. Water supplies are low and there is a lack of latrines. There are no beds and some people do not even have mats to lie on.

“The military should respect our culture and recognize our efforts at building a sustainable and secure economy,” says Jose* a member of the organization Malahutayong Pagkibisog Alang sa Sumusunod (MAPASU).

After every evacuation, the people must start their livelihoods again. As a result, there is little development.

MAPASU member Jean* says that if the military insists on working in the mountain communities, they should not operate in the communities but in the mountains. Community members add that the military should stop forcing lumads to join the bagani force.

All of the evacuees hope to return home soon.

*Names have been changed to protect the people’s identities

Prepared by:
Research and Documentation Desk
Social Action Center, Diocese of Tandag

Snatching Victory from the Jaws of Death

by J. E. Gonzales / AKBAYAN

It has been almost forty days since our subdued sense of victory over the passage of the CARP Extension with Reforms (CARPER) bills in both the Senate and the House of Representative was overcome by the shock, grief and anger over the meaningless murder of Ka Rene Peñas. It was a victory that Ka Rene was waiting to celebrate after a protracted and uphill struggle within and outside the halls of Congress. It was a victory that was almost stolen from those who have labored and sacrifice for CARPER by the bullets that riddled Nong Rene’s body,

Nong Rene’s journey towards this victory was long and full of hardships and frustrations. The land titles to the 144-hectares land in San Vicente, Sumilao, Bukidnon was supposed to give Nong Rene and the Sumilao farmers new hope of a better life. The case of the Sumilao farmers was a simple one but because justice was caught in the claws of the rich, the titles that were awarded to them became the key of over twelve years of struggle for the land that they reclaimed.

It would have been easy for them to give up and live the life that they were accustomed to all their as landless farmers scratching a living out of the shoulders of the highway in San Vicente. But they chose to cling on to hope and fight for what is just and what is right. Hence their case was transformed from one that is simple into an epic struggle that led to 28 days of hunger strike, countless days and nights of sleeping in the streets of Manila knocking at the hearts of the Supreme Court justices, countless tears falling from the frustration and despair over a justice system biased against the poor.

It led to the epic 1,700-kilometer walk of the Sumilao farmers that won the hearts of even ordinary people, the religious and the young. It has put tremendous pressure on those in power and the corporate giant San Miguel Corporation. The story of the struggle of the Sumilao farmers made it to the history books and is carved in the hearts of those, like us, who witnessed their courage, perseverance and their faith in active non-violence. This epic struggle did not only end in reclaiming of the land of the Sumilao farmers, it made farmer leaders like Nong Rene look beyond the barbed fences of the 144-hectare land that they are reclaiming and see the struggles of other farmers beyond the confines of their claim. Their hardships and sacrifices made Nong Rene realize that the cause of agrarian reform is far larger than their own struggle and did not end when they eventually broke down the fences and when he held the soil in the palm of his hands. It deepened Nong Rene’s understanding of agrarian reform and steeled his conviction to fight on not only for their own land but to join the struggles of others.

Hence, Nong Rene led the 444-kilometer march of the Banasi farmers of Bula, Camarines Sur in December 2008. It also led the Sumilao farmers to support the struggles of other farmers like the Calatagan farmers of Batangas. It brought Sumilao leaders like Nong Rene and Yo-yoing Mirada into the center of the struggle for the reform and extension of CARP together with other farmers groups and agrarian reform advocates. Ka Rene and the Sumilao farmers, together with other farmers from the Pambansang Kilusan ng mga Samahang Magsasaka (PAKISAMA) and the Pambansang Katipunan ng mga Samahan sa Kanayunan (PKSK) and agrarian reform advocates from the Reform CARP Movement (RCM) launched the Lupang Hinirang, Lupang Hinarang Farmers’ Pilgrimage for CARPER which began in Sumilao and retraced the steps of the Sumilao farmers’ walk to Manila. They stayed on to campaign for CARPER even through the sine die recess of Congress, moving from school to school, walking to different parishes and urban communities in Metro Manila. They spoke to mayors and councilors, barangay officials, student leaders, parish priests and parish councils. They met with leaders of different religious groups to bishops and ordinary church-goers alike.

When Congress resumes its sessions, they were constantly present in the gallery pr outside the gates urging legislators to resume the debates on CARPER. When Congress delayed the deliberation on CARPER, together with other farmers from RCM, they held a sit-down strike in the House of Representatives. When the House refused them entry they held vigils outside its gate. They never wavered; they never let the pressure slacken despite being driven away by water cannons and riot police. They prayed and they chanted and they never gave up. Nong Rene was in the midst of all these. Encouraging and inspiring others, reassuring those who shake in fear at the sight of the helmeted policemen armed with riot shields and truncheons. Nong Rene was a constant presence in the frontlines. One of his final acts in Congress was to attempt to set up a camp outside the South Gate. Despite being warned that dispersal was a certainty, he did not budge. The camp he led to build was immediately dismantled by riot police using truncheons and water cannon. He did not give up, the farmers held vigil at the gate without the tents armed with just prayers and rosaries and their strong faith.

Nong Rene learned about the passage of HB 4077 in the House of Representatives in Sumilao. He had to return home on May 30 to attend the session of the Barangay Council as a caraway. Upon hearing the news he triumphantly announced to his family and fellow farmers: Nidaug na ta! (We have won!). Two days later, he was shot to death.

On July 14, 2009 we will commemorate the 40th day of Nong Rene’s death. Join us in remembering Ka Rene and in celebrating his life and our victory in the struggle to pass the CARP Extension with Reforms. Be one with us in a tribute and celebration:

Buhay, Paglalakbay at Tagumpay: Isang Pagdiriwang at Pagpupugay na
Alay para kay Nong Rene Peñas
July 14, 2009 / 9:00 – 11am
Ateneo de Manila College Chapel, Gonzaga Building
Ateneo de Manila University, Loyola Hts., Quezon City

To this day, the murder of Nong Rene remains an unsolved mystery. As in other murders of peasant leaders, perhaps we may never get to know the truth. The cowards responsible for his death may never be uncovered. As we push on in search of the truth and justice one thing is certain: In life Nong Rene was a valiant, brilliant and courageous peasant leader who struggled for the land of the Sumilao farmers and other farmers, an imposing figure in the struggle for the reform and extension of CARP; in death Ka Rene has become an icon of the continuing struggle for agrarian reform.

As we have snatched CARPER from the claws of defeat, let us snatch victory from the jaws of death. Let us mourn his death but celebrate his life and our victories.