Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Hunger Striking Farmers and Bishops Rebuke Joint Resolution on CARP Extension

Emancipate Farmers from the Gridlock of Political Indecision:
Hunger Striking Farmers and Bishops Rebuke Joint Resolution on CARP Extension
(A Statement Issued by the Hunger Striking Farmers and Bishops)

The hunger striking farmers and bishops are united in their analysis and rejection of the joint resolution being proposed by the House of Representatives and the Senate. The farmers and bishops are not swayed by this palliative measure which contravenes the Constitution and does not respond to the call of the farmers.


The said resolution supposedly resolves to maintain "the status quo" on the implementation of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law as "its effectiveness extends until June 30, 2009". Setting an expiration date for the CARL is contrary to the constitutional mandate on the continuous implementation of the agrarian reform program until all agricultural lands in the country are covered and distributed to the landless farmers. Neither a resolution nor a law can terminate a program mandated by the Constitution. The Joint Resolution shows the pale resolve of our legislators to perform their mandate. It clearly exposes that the vested interests of the landed in government take precedence over the Constitution and the welfare of the farmers and over national accord.


While the Joint Resolution seeks to extend the implementation of land acquisition and distribution, it does not provide any funds for agrarian reform implementation aside from what is provided in the proposed 2009 National Budget. Without the Agrarian Reform Fund (ARF), the GAA budget is too limited even for a minimal acquisition and distribution of land under CARP. The farmers and bishops demand a more definite decision of extending financial support for CARP and institutionalizing needed reforms which are provided in HB 4077 and SB 2666.


It is ironic how the legislators complain about defective program implementation when the effective implementation of CARP had been historically blocked by interests of influential landowners, among who are members of Congress. The legislators cannot repeatedly ignore the command of the people and the law. They should not be allowed to feign blamelessness and claim non-accountability. Had they willed to do so, the legislators could have studied and incorporated the amendments proposed by the farmers during the past six months. They already bought time the last instance they proposed a similar resolution in June. As expected, such bogus measure resulted in the cessation of all land acquisition and distribution processes as the Department of Agrarian Reform could not boldly implement the very core of this supposed centerpiece program of the government.


What makes this second attempt different from the previous one such that it will suddenly ensure that the DAR will continue fulfilling its duty? The only difference is that this time things are worse as some legislators contemptuously insist on striking down compulsory acquisition without which the program will be at the mercy of landowner volunteerism. As such, CARP would be rendered virtually futile. The very reason for the need to reinforce CARP is the recalcitrance of owners of big landholdings—mostly families of powerful public officials- and the lack of support services to fuel agricultural production.


How could the legislators claim that they need material time to "study and generate consensus on appropriate amendments" and at the same time insist on eliminating the most critical components of the program? Do the legislators think they can convince the farmers that this resolution is being proposed to better the program and not to facilitate its termination? Do the legislators think the bishops cannot perceive that this measure is nothing but a quick fix meant to mislead? The Joint resolution is obviously being devised to merely placate the hunger strikers who demand accountability from the legislators who failed to take decisive action on the CARP extension with reforms in the last six months.


The farmers are convinced that the consensus the legislators contemplate is obviously that which will be acceptable to the landowners' bloc. The bishops discern that what is lacking in this situation is not material time but compelling resolve. And such resolve will not ferment in six months or a year. Such consensus ought not to be the consideration; it is the farmers' predicament which is of concern. In the final analysis, what is inevitable and what would surpass all this filibustering is the imperative of responding to the farmers who feed our nation, fulfilling the constitutional fiat and the policy behind agrarian reform. For the hunger strikers, the problem is not lack of material time but the acute lack of political will and resolve from the country's political leadership to ensure the compliance to the Constitutional mandate of pursuing agrarian reform until its completion.


The agrarian reform program was enshrined in the Constitution to address poverty and promote food security. It is a revolutionary and comprehensive measure which caters to the poor and will never see fulfillment unless the implementers of the law are forced to will themselves to submit to it. The legislators have been given sufficient time to respond and yet we find ourselves at this standstill yet again. It is high time to rouse them to action, to give them reason to accede to the imposition of law and national conscience.

17 December 2008

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Anti-chacha mobilization in Naga City

BUSINA LABAN SA CHACHA! BUSINA PARA SA DEMOKRASYA!
COALITION FOR A CITIZENS CONSTITUTION (C4CC-NAGA CITY)

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

SCHEDULE:

4-5pm
Assembly of participants: Social Action Center, Liboton St.

5pm
Motorcade to Plaza

5:30pm
BUSINA sa PLAZA

6pm
Motorcade to Liboton

6:30pm
Planning/dinner of C4CC core group

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

CITIZENS ACT NOW!

CITIZENS ACT NOW!
Stop the War, Stop Charter Change, Fight Martial Law and Term Extension!

WE, the Coalition for a Citizens’ Constitution(C4CC), a national coalition composed of at least 3,000 non-government and peoples organizations implementing programs for and working with the basic sectors all over the country;

DEEPLY CONCERNED about the escalation of violence and war between the government and MILF forces in Central Mindanao due to the collapse of the peace talks after the aborted signing of the Memorandum on Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) killing scores and pushing half a million innocent civilians into evacuation centers deprived of food and other basic services;

WORRIED that the current efforts in Congress to speedily convene itself into a Constituent Assembly to revise the 1987 Constitution even without the Senate’s concurrence would result to self-serving changes such as the consolidation of power of the President and existing government officials and the extension of their respective terms in office;

UNDERSTANDING that fears for a Martial Law declaration also to extend the term of Mrs. GMA may not be totally unfounded given the current strong influence of Mrs. GMA in Congress and the Supreme Court and the increasing number of possible justifications for such as the raging war in Mindanao and the potential economic recession and depression;

AWARE that these worsening political and economic crises besetting the country are happening amidst the lingering legitimacy issue and fight for political survival and relevance of Mrs. GMA;

JOINTLY AND STRONGLY CALL:

ON THE GOVERNMENT AND THE MILF FORCES
-to immediately stop the war and any act that would worsen the situation,
-go back to the negotiating table and;
-undertake broader stakeholders consultations on the content of the peace settlements to include the indigenous peoples, small farmers and fishers and the urban poor, among others;

ON BOTH HOUSES OF CONGRESS
-to stop all efforts to change the Constitution before the elections in 2010;

ON THE FILIPINO PEOPLE
-to remain vigilant, educate ourselves, organize, and mobilize in a massive active non-violent expression of people power to

STOP THE WAR IN MINDANAO!
STOP CHARTER CHANGE BEFORE 2010 ELECTIONS;
FIGHT MARTIAL LAW and TERM EXTENSION!

Coalition for a Citizens’ Constitution

Thursday, October 16, 2008

C4CC in Naga City

The Coalition for a Citizens Constitution(C4CC)partnered with
the Naga City Government and the Naga City Peoples Council to do an
orientation and update on charter change(CHACHA) for the city's youth
sector.

The YOUTH FORUM ON CHARTER CHANGE will be conducted 1-5pm on Saturday, 18
October 2008, at the Naga City Youth Center. Among the speakers are
Naga City Mayor Jesse Robredo and Mr. Renne Gumba of the ADNU
Institute of Politics. Expected to participate are around 500 youth
leaders representing the Sangguniang Kabataan, community youth
organizations, and student governments of schools and universities in
Naga City.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Mindanao Situation and Charter Change

I. Background

A.The BANGSAMORO struggle

The situation in Mindanao is a complex experience of economic, political, and demographic factors flowing into a social context of cultural and ethnic diversity. Professor Randy David aptly describe the situation when he did an article on the Mindanao situation using sociological concepts: “The Bangsamoro problem is entangled in so many historical, legal, cultural and political questions that it is irresponsible to talk about it in a simplistic way. Every attempt to capture the issues in a single frame is bound to inflame passions and exacerbate prejudices. Reason demands that we step back and attempt to sort out the issues.”

To further understand the emergence of this situation in Mindanao, Archbishop Orlando Quevedo, OMI of the Archdiocese of Cotabato outlined the historical developments which lead to the present realities in Mindanao: (1.)Islam arrived in the Philippines 200 years before Christianity arrived. Eventually and before the Spaniards came a regime of sultans began. From that time on the Bangsamoro people have asserted and exercised self-determination and sovereignty over their ancestral domain, until the effective political power of the sultanates faded away. The Bangsamoro people came under the control of the Americans. The ancestral domain of the Bangsamoro people became public domain. (2.) But even when the Americans gave independence to the Philippine, many of the Bangsamoro people continued government. Successive waves of migrants from the Visayas and Luzon in the 1900s, authorized by a series of public laws, gained land titles in the form of torrens titles as against the native titles of the Bangsamoro people. (3.)The population pattern in Mindanao significantly changed from the 1920s to the 1960s. In the 1930s the great majority of Mindanao people were Muslims and Indigenous Peoples (IP), with a small minority of Christians. By the time the waves of migrations ended in the 1960s, Christians constituted the great majority of Minadanao people, with a minority of Muslims and IPs. In other words the Bangsamoro bacame a minority in their own ancestral domain. Difference in concepts regarding land ownership also contributed to these major changes in the ancestral Bangsamoro ancestral domain.

It is within this historical context and contemporary social complex that the Bangsamoro people sought to regain their ancestral domain. In the proposed MOA-AD, Bangsamoro refer to “those who are natives or original inhabitants of Mindanao and its adjacent islands including Palawan and the Sulu archipelago at the time of conquest or colonization and their descendants whether mixed or full native blood.” Spouses and descendants, including the Lumads (indigenous peoples), under the agreement, are also classified as Bangsamoro “unless they choose otherwise.” They are the ‘First Nation’ with defined territory and with a system of government having entered into treaties of amity and commerce with foreign nations,”

The struggle over ownership and control of the rich terrain of Mindanao continues. Such struggle has included both armed fighting and negotiating for sustainable peace.

B. The peace process in Mindanao

The prolonged armed conflict in Mindanao has been depicted in various ways: either as ideological/political war, religious war, ethnic/clan war, or even a combination of all. As a political war, it is sometimes viewed as the struggle to attain independence from colonizers including those from “Imperial Manila”. The conflict is sometimes also viewed as a battle between the Muslims and the Christian settlers who have driven them away from their land. There are also instances when the conflict is viewed as a war among competing clans vying for political spoils or vengeance. But the different perspectives simply underlined the persistent conflict in the island.

Given the persistent armed confrontations, several initiatives to attain peace have been undertaken, both in the domestic and international arena. To cite some, the Mindanao Peace Solidarity, an advocacy network of local government units, non-government and peoples organization in Mindanao identified the following milestones in peace-building efforts: (1.) 1976 Tripoli Agreement – An agreement to create autonomous region in Mindanao, including 13 provinces and 9 cities as possible areas under the autonomous region. The creation of the Autnonomous Region will follow the Constitutional process. This agreement was signed on December 23, 1976 with the help of Libya and Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). (2.) 1996 GRP-MNLF agreement - It provided for the present Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and its coverage area. It also created the transitory mechanisms (SPCPD and Consultative Council, SZOPAD) for development. The agreement was Signed in Manila on September 2, 1996 with the help of Indonesia and OIC. (3.)The GRP-MILF Peace Talk – The formal talks with MILF was initiated by former Sec. Ruben Torres in December 1997 upon instructions from Pres. FVR; followed by the signing of a truce between MILF-GRP. In 2000, Erap launched all-out war against MILF and openly insulted Muslims by roasting pigs in Camp Abubakar. In March 24, 2001, the Tripoli Peace Agreement was signed calling for a General Framework for the Resumption of Talks between GRP-MILF. In Feb-March 2003, PGMA launched an attack in the Buliok Complex, the new HQ of the MILF resulting to renewed hostilities.Truce was again declared and both GRP-MILF established the Joint Ceasefire Monitoring committee and calling for the establishment of the International Monitoring Team led by Malaysia.

It is within the latest GRP-MILF peace talk that the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) was drafted and finalized. After almost twelve years of fighting, the document purports to recognize the aspirations of more that eight million Muslims and indigenous people of Mindanao.

C. The Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD)

The MOA-AD is an agreement of the GRP-MILF signed last 27 July 2008 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia by Mohaqher Iqbal of the MILF negotiating panel and Mr. Rodolfo Garcia, head of the government negotiating panel and Secretary Hermogenes Esperon of the Office of the presidential Adviser on the Peace Process. The signing was witnessed by the Malaysian special adviser to the Prime Minister.

In general, the document aimed to to define/recognize/undertake the following: (1)defined the Bangsamor people, (2)outlined their territory and the resources therein, guided by the Bangsamoro claim on ancestral domain;(3)provided for the government structure and sovereignty; (4)laid out timeframe and conditions for the completion of a Comprehensive Compact, including the conduct of a plebiscite and eventual referendum. Many of the provisions in the agreement are premised on the introduction of changes to the 1987 Philippine Constitution and amendments to the Organic Act of Muslim Mindanao.

After the signing by both panels in Malaysia, and when the provisions of the agreement reached the public, there was immediate public uproar over the alleged secrecy. A case challenging the constitutionality of the agreement, and a petition for Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) which was eventually granted, was filed in the Supreme Court by local government officials from Mindanao and several national leaders including Senator Mar Roxas and former Senator Frank Drilon.

The issuance of the TRO, and the GMA administrations decision to abide by it, prompted outrage by some MILF leaders. This eventually led to the attach on several towns in Minadanao, to the continuing battle between the rebels and government forces, and to the displacement of thousands of families because of the continuing armed conflict. The situation has prompted Malacanang Palace to announce that it will be reviewing its decision to sign the MOA-AD.

II.Issues Involved

A.In the Mindanao Situation:

1. Perspectives on the Bangsamoro Struggle and the MOA-AD: paradigms, nation-building, constitutionality, and the peace process

The proposed MOA-AD attempted to steer the peace process towards the recognition of a fundamental element in the prolonged armed conflict: the Bangsamoro claim over their ancestral land. Technically, the document is upholding the Bangsamoro claim, even in a limited sense, over ancestral domain. But it must be noted that Mindanao at the moment is populated by the Christians, Muslims, and the indigenous peoples known as Lumads. These phenomenon is more often called the tri-people character of Mindanao. There are distinct differences in the paradigms or world view among these people, each group having their distinctive way of looking at realities around them. A classic case would be that on land ownership. The Christians would look at it in terms of land titles and the corresponding rights it gives to the owner. Muslims and the lumads however would rather look at it from the point of view of ancestral ownership. It is not surprising then that Christians would be up in arms against the perceived taking of what is “rightfully” theirs, as shown by land titles and several generations of their families having occupied the land. Nor will it be surprising that several lumad organizations are now coming out to speak against the proposed MOA-AD. They are claiming that if the Muslims can claim ancestral domain, so can the lumads. In fact, they were in the island long before Islam came into the territory.

Even as the MOA-AD predicament is uncertain because of public pronouncement of the Philippine government to review the decision to sign it, the document still deserved closer scrutiny. The impact and implications of the issues it triggered are too grave to be ignored. Whether it is a boon or bane will depend on whose talking and what perspective is used. For the Bangsamoro, the agreement would have signified a limited advancement in their struggle to regain ancestral domain. As cited by the U.P.-based Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CENPEG): “The MILF views the MOA as step forward for the Bangsamoro goal of self-determination. Its leaders can always invoke the general concepts and principles of the MOA-AD to pursue the MILF'S political goal more so if they choose to declare unilaterally a separate state later on.” But for others, the MOA signified an arrogance and abuse of discretion by the government negotiating panel. Atty Barry Guttieres pointed out: “What is bothersome about the current situation is that apparently the negotiations was conducted without recognizing the conditional nature of certain points contained in the agreement...And perhaps this is one point where the GRP panel can be called to task – for failing to adequately delimit the actual parameters of its authority to negotiate.”

The question of whether the agreement is constitutional or not would also have contending views. Senator Mar Roxas argued that it is unconstitutional: “This MoA initialed and sought to be formalized, in Malaysia, violates at least three major articles of our Constitution. Unang pahina pa lang, hindi na papasa ito sa ating Saligang Batas. Rather than respect our national territory, this MoA breaks it up into already smaller bits. Rather than uphold the ideal that all government authority emanates from the people, the government had the gall to enter into an agreement that would partition our country, and create a state within a state, all without prior consultation with the people of Mindanao, or with the people in the rest of the country. It had the gall to shroud this agreement in secrecy. Rather than uphold one sovereign people enjoying the equal protection of law, the MOA effectively splits the citizenry in two, each clothed with differing political and economic standards.” But Atty. Soliman Santos, a Bicolano human rights lawyer countered: 'To seek constitutional change and reform has not usually been treated as unconstitutional, except it seems when it has to do with the Moro question.” And Fr. Joaquin Bernas, S.J., a prominent constitutional expert clarified: “MOA is not a done deal: elaborate collection of “wish list” of those who want to revise the Organic Act of Muslim Mindanao and event the Constitution...But amendment proposals cannot be illegal and much less unconstitutional”

2. On the Peace Process

Thus the main issue now is what will bring lasting peace in Mindanao. Cotabato Archbishop Quevedo is convinced that the MOA-AD can lead to lasting peace: “But the MOA-AD, no matter how one looks at it, is a remarkable document. It is a very serious attempt to balance national sovereignty and Bangsamoro aspirations for self-determination and freedom. For this reason, I believe that the MOA-AD can bring lasting peace.” Unfortunately, Macanang Palace is now rethinking the decision to sign it because of the recent atrocities committed by renegade MILF troops.

Allegations of abuse and indiscretion against the government panel is starting to surface. Mr. Mon Casiple of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reforms observed:“Where did the President and her negotiators got their authority to promise what they cannot give?...If what they are thinking of doing is to change the 1987 Constitution in order to shift the Philippine state from its current unitary system to a federal state system with local states, then they are putting the cart before the horse. They should do this before negotiating on a federal framework for the peace process”.

With the current peace process being haunted by difficulties in the national political landscape, particularly the spectre of its being used to compel charter change and extend Arroyo's term, the tendency to rely on the military solution is expected from the government side. But several organizations have spoken openly against military solutions, and called for a broader dialogue. They argue that the other stakeholders must be involved in the peace process, going beyond the emphasis of peace process on the armed groups. Special attention must be given to the marginalized sectors, such as women and children who suffered most in the present situation.

Unfortunately, while no effective strategy is being adopted and no decisive action is undertaken, the number of civilians displaced by the on-going battle in several areas of Mindanao will continue to increase. The situation in Lanao del Norte, Maguindanao, Shariff Kabunsuan, North Cotabato , Sarangani, Basilan and other areas of conflict may turn out to be extremely serious humanitarian problem.

B. Charter Change

1. Federalism will bring lasting peace in Mindanao?

Many of the provisions in the MOA-AD will require changes in the 1987 Philippine Consitution to be viable and do-able. For example, the establishment of the BJE will entail a set up akin to federalism, wherein the Bangsamoro will be one state in a federal system. Thus, with the MO-AD being peddled as the blueprint for peace in Mindanao and charter change as the tool to implement that blueprint, the government was quick to play it up and push for federalism and charter change.

Unfortunately, many sectors felt that the situation is not right and the process is so hurried. Thus, instead of focusing on intelligent discourse on the impact of a political set up such as federalism to the persistent armed conflict in Mindanao, critical awareness, inherent caution and even paranoia prompted strong opposition to any discussion of charter change. Such public reaction effective exclude significant discussion on the viability of federalism as a solution to the persistent armed conflict in Mindanao.

It is thus unfortunate that intelligent discourse on alternatives and proposed structural changes in Mindanao is effectively hampered by political considerations.

2. When do we introduce changes in the 1987 Philippine Constitution?

Several provisions in the present Constitution have been identified for possible changes. Among these are the form of government and economic provisions. But as important as the substantial changes being proposed is the debate on the timing for initiating these changes.

There are several options being floated among those who seek structural reforms through charter change. Majority of the legislators seem to have attained consensus on the matter of transforming themselves into a constituent assembly to work immediately on the changes to be proposed in the 1987 Philippine Constitution, allegedly taking into consideration the urgency of the situation in Mindanao. In fact, there are pending bills in the Senate and in the House of Representatives proposing the immediate constitution of a constituent assembly.

But civil society organizations, religious groups, and even the business sector seem to agree on the position that charter change may be undertaken only after GMA is out of Malacanang Palace. From their point of view, it is imperative that discussions about changes in the Philippine Constitution be undertaken only at the right time and in the right situation. It must neither be used for political gains or for entrenching local elites. Charter change must be a tool for broader citizen participation and empowerment of the basic sectors of society.

3. If changes will be made, how will it be done?

Another persistent issue related to charter change is the mode of introducing change. Although the Constitution provides for three options, the more prominent options being considered are Constituent Assembly and Constitutional Convention. This is probably because of the difficulties encountered by those who previously attempted to initiate charter change through peoples initiative.

Constitutional Convention, though admittedly more costly, is more popular among the citizens because people get to elect their delegates to the body that will deliberate on the proposed changes. The other option, Constituent Assembly (which converts the Senate and House of Representatives into deliberative body for charter change), is less attractive because of the perceived political and partisan interests already displayed by congressmen and senators during their term.

III.Challenges

The situation in Mindanao and the resurgent move to introduce changes in the 1987 Philippine Constitution are two significant developments that must be understood, analyzed, and acted upon by the Filipinos. The predicament of our brothers and sisters in Mindanao (the lumads, Muslims, and Christians) must be understood from the informed perspective so that solutions and actions may be guided accordingly. It should also heighten the sense of solidarity with our fellow Filipinos in that island. The charter change initiative must be taken on and exposed for whatever it is: a sincere initiative for structural change and reform or an instrument for manipulation and political interest. Thus, the following challenges are posed to the university community:

1. The education we experience in the university is supposed to enlighten us with the truth and inform us of the actual social conditions. What do we know about the situation in Mindanao? How do we distinguish factual information from biases and stereotypes? Do we understand the charter change issues? What is our take on these issues? Do we have an appreciation of the impact of these issues to our lives as Bicolanos, as Catholics, as Filipinos?

2. Our knowledge and awareness is expected to condition our convictions and principles. Including our notion of what is right and what is wrong; what must be done and what must be discouraged. But most important is the shaping of our social conscience, when we go beyond vague generalizations and learn to train our sight on actual and empirical circumstances. Our paradigms and framework significantly affect how we perceive reality.

3. Most importantly, knowledge/awareness and convictions/principles should inform our action. It triggers a certain response from us. It leads us to ask: What have I done? or What will I do? The question increases in difficulty and complexity when elevated to the societal level. But the impetus to act will not go away. The need to actualize and live out or become witnesses of our principles and convictions will demand a certain response, whether as individuals, as a group, or as an institution.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Waging peace!

What makes peace so attractive? It is because everybody yearns for a condition of relative tranquility, wherein one is free to express oneself, and to pursue one's interest. What makes peace so elusive? It is because many would look for peace from the outside, without realizing that peace comes from within.

Anyway, I attended the 1st Naga City Peace and Order Summit today and the perspectives presented were as varied as the participants gathered in the said event. But what struck me most is the interest manifested by people who are not in the formal structures of the government.

It never cease to inspire me whenever I witness such enthusiasm for citizens participation in governance. It may not always cause miracles, but for me, the phenomenon of active citizenship by itself is extraordinary.

I only hope that the government, including all of its units/sub-units, would continue to sharpen their tools for openess to citizen participation. It will not take a single act to perfect the art, but with patience and perseverance, good things usually come out.

Thus waging peace is not only about catching criminals or silencing the guns. It is also about our growing up, as a people, in the respect for diversity and in the understanding of complexities.

May peace thrive in the heart of Naguenos.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Go for it!

Several reasons why I am supporting the bid of Msgr. Nono Sanado to become a member of the CASURECO 2 Board of Directors:

1. as a consumer, I feel the need for more significant participation of the member-consumers in the affairs of the cooperative. at the same time,it is so frustrating when I feel that the cooperative is not intent on opening itself up to significnt consumer intervention. thus, there is a need to install more leaders who are willing to open up the cooperative and engage the consumers as partners!

2. as a citizen/Nagueno, i believe that transparency and accountability is an imperative every elected leader must uphold. unfortunately, this is not always the case. citizens are then compelled to learn the art of lobying and social movements. groups and organizations are manifestations of collective sentiments. it is extremely important that agenda and interest can be articulated, not only by institutions and leaders, but by the citizens themselves.

3. as a Catholic, i am so proud of a clergyman who identifies with and works for the laity. the seed of solidarity that is sown, when social stratification and differentiation is partly obliterated by common aspirations, actually strengthens the church! the inspiration that is generated when a priest becomes a servant-leader goes beyond this generation. and it makes me proud to be a catholic!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

"An Tama, Tama! An Sala, Sala!"

Mons. Nono Sanado is running unopposed. It seems he will be riding high into CASURECO 2 Board of Directors fuelled by the clamor for change and passion for involvement among consumers.

This early, the prelate intends to visit each barangay for a hectic consultation schedule with electric consumers. Such process will not only be campaign sorties but also the initial organizing work for barangad-based consumer groups. It is hoped that upon assumption to office, the prelate will maintain tight working collaboration with the consumer groups in his area of responsibility.

Thus the general call of Mons. Sanado: "An Tama, Tama! An Sala, Sala!" becomes a rallying point for improving the management and service-delivery of CASURECO 2 via greater participation and involvement of the member-consumers.

Consumers are then confronted by a three-pronged challenge: 1. organize themselves and get their acts together; 2. establish working relations with Mons. Sanado, particularly on policy directions to be pursued via the Board; and 3. go out and vote on August 30 as Mons. Sanado calls for more voter turn-out in the elections.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Im Back!

Its been a while since my last entry in this blog. A lot has happened since then. And a lot more is bound to happen soon.

At the moment, we have several interseting phenomenon in the socio-political arena. Mons. Nono Sanado, the parish priest of the Metropolitan Cathedral, is running for a slot in the CASURECO 2 Board of Directors, to represent the North District (at least 15 barangays in Naga City, including the Naga City Public Market).

The Metro Naga Consumer Group has engaged the prelate in their advocacy for wider consumer participation, more transparency and accountability, as well as meaningful reforms in the cooperative.

In the national scene, the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) is turning out to be the GMA administrations latest justification for charter change. CHACHA and the MOA-AD is now being peddled as the solution to the peace problems in Minadanao.

In response, the Coalition for a Citizens Consititution (C4CC) has launched a capaign premised on the following: (1)affirm the struggle for self-determination of Moros as crucial element in the attainment of PEACE , (2)TANGO before CHACHA; GMA must be out of the picture before we talk about changes in the Philippine Constitution; (3)PEACE and CHACHA must be a truthful, transparent, and participatory process; (4)elections of CONCON delegates may be undertaken simultanoeously with the 2010 elections; (5)FEDERALISM must ensure greater resources and power to the citizens, not to local warlords.

The Camarines Sur NGO-PO Formation has also started consolidating its ranks. Several engagements are underway, particularly its membership to the Coalition for Bicol Development (CBD). CBD is a regional network affiliated with the CAUCUS OF DEVELOPMENT NGOS (CODE-NGO).

Of course, we cannot ignore the coming 2010 national elections. Presidentiables have been shuttling back and forth to Naga City. Aspirants for various positions in the local and national level are starting to make their presence felt in various ways. I even heard that campaign funds are strating to circulate this early.

I will discuss these concerns in my coming blog postings. For the moment, I just want to mention those highlights cited above. My blogspot is back.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

7th Annual KDC Conference

"Strengthening KDC parnerships for transformational leadership and good governance" is the theme of this year's conference. Some snapshots from Tuguegarao City (Thanks to Moira):


Welcome Dinner at the St. Paul University Philippines




Opening of the KDC Exhibits at SPUP



Formal Session/Discussions


The RED TEAM invades Patio Enrico, Tuguegarao City


Socials and dinner at Patio Enrico

Visit to SPUP partner community, Bgy. Tagga:


(From L-R: myself, Edcel of GPPB, Mark of SPUP, and Mel of AIM)





The Star KDC, University of San Carlos led by the Star KDC Member and USC President, Fr. Rod (3rd from the Left)


Closing Dinner at Hotel Roma, Tuguegarao City

Monday, April 28, 2008

Visiting Tuguegarao City

I was in Tuguegarao City last 21-25 April 2008 for the Annual Conference of the World Bank-Knowldge for Development Center(KDC). Aside from the substance and proceedings of the conference itself, I was pleased to discover the warm reception by the people of Tuguegarao City specially that of the St. Paul University Philippines community led by its President, Sister Remy.

It was a truly revealing visit and an inspiring experience in hospitality for visitors. Thank you Sister Remy, Mam Jo, Mark, Joan, and all the people of St. Paul University Philippines and Tuguegarao City! We hope to reciprocate when Ateneo de Naga University and Naga City hosts the annual conference next year.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Jesuit Guidelines for Communal Discernment and Action

Guidelines for Communal Discernment and Action
to Address the National Crisis

The Context

1. The ZTE-NBN controversy has once again raised questions about abuse of power and systemic corruption in the government of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo(GMA). This is just the most recent in a series of events that indicates a worrisome pattern of behavior in government, particularly of anomaly and cover-up, leading to the weakening of Philippine democratic institutions. Among these are the “Hello Garci” scandal, the fertilizer scam, the promulgation of calibrated preemptive response (CPR), EO 464 and PP 1017, the unresolved extrajudicial killings and disappearances of activists and media practitioners, the undermining of impeachment proceedings, the pursuit of self-serving charter change, and the lack of a decisive response by the government to the farmers of Sumilao, Bukidnon due to political compromises in the implementation of agrarian reform. Good governance and longterm reform are being sacrificed for short-term political survival.

2. Many Filipinos are outraged by this situation because of what appears to be a deliberate suppression of truth, and the refusal of the government to be made accountable. Many also feel confused and powerless, leading to a sense of hopelessness and deepening distrust of political leaders and institutions. There is a real danger that citizens will become disempowered and disengage themselves from politics. At the same time, there are also those whose frustrations have led them to join armed insurgent groups or are seriously considering insurrectionary and other unconstitutional options because of the inability of government to effectively address the issues of the poor and respond to the call for truth and accountability. Then there are some members of the economic and political elite, who out of pragmatic considerations, have adopted a “wait-and-see” position and have therefore not helped in providing clear leadership in terms of clarifying the issues and options.

These include the politicians who are potential presidential candidates in the 2010 elections.

3. While there is anger and despair because of what is happening to the country, there are also possibilities that have opened up with the recent events, for bringing about serious and much-needed changes in the political and governance institutions and culture of the country. How we respond as a people to this crisis will determine whether we can make the most of this opportunity for a renewal of Philippine democracy.

Diversity of Responses

4. Part of the reality of the present crisis is the diversity of views and even division among people, across and within sectors, in their analyses of and reactions to the situation. Therefore, it is important to note the range of political positions and options among those who have responded. This range represents a continuum, that allows a capture of the essential differences across groups, while at the same time recognizing that there are real overlaps among the positions and those who represent them.

a. “The economy is good. Let’s move on.” The Arroyo government and its
allies insist on projecting a picture of a growing economy, on the one hand,
which is undermined by unnecessary and debilitating “political noise,” on the
other hand, created by “partisan” groups whose only agenda is to unseat the
President. This type of politics is seen as bad, not just for economic growth,
but also for addressing the poverty problem because it is the poor who are
most affected by political instability. Therefore in this view, the country must
move on, since it argues that the administration has a mandate to rule until
2010. Likewise, there are those who may not explicitly support GMA, but
believe that given the alternatives, the President represents the lesser evil.
Effectively, they do not support any moves to hold the government
accountable.

b. “All politicians are corrupt. Let’s focus on jobs, services and the poor.”
Some business associations, socio-civic organizations and faith-based groups
are highly cynical of national politics or have given up on it altogether, and
thus do not see it as the avenue for meaningful change. They concentrate on
what they see as the more important tasks of job-creation and servicedelivery
(e.g., housing, health, education). They believe that what they are
doing has more long-term impact because they address the more basic issues
of poverty and hopelessness, which breed corruption and a culture of
dependence.

c. “Let the 2010 elections resolve the crisis.” Strict rule-of-law advocates hold that President Arroyo legitimately won the 2004 elections, even if there are serious and impeachable questions of cheating. They believe in accountability through constitutional mechanisms like an independent factfinding commission, impeachment and ultimately elections. In this perspective, there is no doubt that the search for truth must be pursued, even as they believe that the crisis can only be eventually and truly resolved through the electoral exercise scheduled for 2010.

d. “Bring out the truth, hold GMA accountable, and work for reform.”
There are faith-based and civil society organizations that call for “truth,
accountability and reform,” emphasizing concrete measures like resolving the
issue of executive privilege, calling for an independent counsel (with
investigative and prosecutorial powers), pushing for possible impeachment,
and advocating long-term reforms pertaining to freedom of information and
transparency, electoral and civil service reform, and social justice (especially
agrarian reform). These initiatives are meant to provide constructive ways for
people to participate in meaningful democratic governance and institutionbuilding.

e. “No real reform is possible under GMA.” There are prominent concerned
individuals and groups who also adopt a truth-accountability-and-reform framework, but are more emphatic that a precondition for genuine long-term
reform is holding President Arroyo directly accountable for the undermining
of institutions. Thus, they would tend to be more explicit in taking a
principled position that the government should step down, and that a
succession should hew as much as possible to the Constitution.

f. “Oust GMA.” Various groups from both the Left and the Right of the
political spectrum, many of them not sharing a long-term agenda, are
tactically coming together on the objective of ousting the Arroyo
government, even through extra-constitutional means. This may take the
form of an EDSA-like people power, military withdrawal of support, a
Cabinet coup, or some combination thereof. They are not in agreement on
who or what should assume power in the aftermath of an Arroyo ouster.
Some may accept Vice President Noli de Castro taking over, while others
prefer special elections (on the premise that the Vice President will also step
down or be made to do so) or “snap elections” or an interim civilian-military
junta that will put key reforms in place and oversee a return to constitutional
government. It is important to note that groups on the Left recognize the
need for bringing in more long-term structural reform, beyond merely
replacing the President.

Non-negotiable Principles

5. Given these and other options that may be taken, it is important to identify some non-negotiables, for more thoughtful and responsible communal discernment and action:

a. Uphold the truth. Truth, especially regarding cases of graft and corruption,
cannot be sacrificed in the name of stability. Stability that is the product of
unresolved issues tends to be shallow and short-lived, as the credibility and
capacity of institutions designated to pursue the truth are weakened, and
other cases of corruption surface again and again. Moreover, this situation
contributes to the reinforcement of a culture of impunity.

b. Exact accountability. Government must be held accountable by the
people, for all its actions and decisions, in all policy areas, and at every point
of its stay in power. This means that the exacting of accountability should
not take place only at the time of elections because democracy cannot be
confined to the single act of casting a vote, but is a continuing process of
citizen participation. Nevertheless, elections are also a core mechanism of
accountability, especially since the present political crisis is linked to
unresolved questions of electoral cheating. Part of the response necessary at
this time involves the rebuilding of public trust and confidence in
institutional mechanisms of accountability.

c. Pursue meaningful reforms. Even in situations of crisis, efforts at electoral,
bureaucratic, and social reform should not cease because many of the country’s problems are really of a structural and institutional nature, needing
continuing transformation. There is a need to recognize the problems and
propose concrete solutions.

d. Build and strengthen democratic institutions. The country needs to
establish and fortify democratic institutions, which provide consistent,
organized and self-regulating procedures, applied to all citizens equally.
Among these institutions are due process, civilian supremacy, rule of law,
checks and balances. While Philippine democracy is still flawed, the genuine
gains that came with the dismantling of the Marcos dictatorship and the
restoration of democratic institutions should not be lost. The alternatives
(e.g. a military junta, a civilian-military authoritarian regime, a communist
government) are even more unstable, unpredictable, unsustainable, and
potentially harmful. A second democratic breakdown, moreover, will be
much more difficult to undo. Strong democratic institutions can likewise help
address the present conditions of real divisions among Filipinos. By
providing agreed-upon rules and mechanisms which are accepted as credible
and fair, institutions facilitate the peaceful resolution of conflicts among
dissenting positions and approaches.

e. Promote responsible and engaged citizenship. Moral outrage in the
present moment is called for, and is critical for a committed response; but it
must also lead to a serious and responsible consideration of consequences
for the medium and long term. Hopefully, such a responsible and engaged
citizenship will lead to the transformation of the present culture of one-sided
dependency on leaders. The country’s problems have been reinforced by
generations of patronage that have led Filipinos to depend disproportionately
on those who have more resources and more power, in politics and society at
large, in the Church, and even in the ordinary barrio or baranggay.

f. Champion active nonviolence and protect human rights. Action is to be
guided by principles of active nonviolence. “Violence is evil… violence is
unacceptable as a solution to problems…. Violence destroys what it claims to
defend: the dignity, the life, the freedom of human beings” (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 496). Human and civil rights must always be respected and promoted (Centesimus Annus, 22). Any coercive means is unacceptable, including forms of harassment, detention without due process, and policies that seriously undermine the freedom of the press and the right to self-expression and organization.

g. Prioritize the poor. The real and urgent concerns of the poor should be
given highest priority amidst all efforts to search for the truth and promote
accountability. If many Filipinos seem to be uninvolved or uninterested, it is
primarily because of an overriding concern for economic survival during very
hard times. Indeed, the search for the truth is integrally linked to the fate of
the poor. Corruption and dishonesty have made the lot of the poor worse.
Programs and initiatives from both government and the private sector to
address poverty and inequality, and to respond to the urgent needs of the poor, in fields such as education, health, housing, livelihood and the
environment should continue to be supported, and indeed intensified.

h. Engage and involve the youth. It is important that all activities should seek
to involve the youth, and harness their energies, especially for truly
sustainable reforms and institution-building. Significantly, recent events have
awakened many young Filipinos and stirred them to become more politically
involved. Today, there is an opportunity to do political education and
mobilization of the youth on a scale not seen for many years.

Analysis of Options

6. Given these guiding non-negotiable principles,the different positions and options presented above can now be reviewed, in order to help build common ground and move towards a consensus on how best to respond to the ZTE-NBN scandal and the broader political crisis:

“There is no problem with GMA.”
a. Business as usual, status quo. Not holding government accountable in any
way is unacceptable. “Political authority is accountable to the people….
Those who govern have the obligation to answer to the governed”
(Compendium, 408, 409). The nature of the allegations of corruption in this
particular case is so serious, that any government with some sense of
responsibility to its citizens cannot but respond, to work towards establishing
the truth beyond any major question or doubt, and so confirm its legitimacy.
“Political corruption… betrays both moral principles and the norms of social
justice.” (Compendium, 411) Moreover, there is much truth to the view that
fighting corruption is not against the economy. Indeed, corruption is antidevelopment
and anti-poor.

“GMA is not the main problem.”
b. Give up on politics. Among those who hold this position include a range
that spans from the exhausted, to the cynical, to the apathetic. All of them
move towards a position that views all politicians as being equally selfinterested.
Effectively, none of them focuses on GMA as the problem. Such
a view that disengages from all politics and does not identify concrete points
of action and reform only contributes to the sense of hopelessness and
paralysis. At all times, participation in the social and political realms, either as
individuals or as members of organizations, is a duty to be fulfilled with
responsibility and with a view to the common good (Compendium, 189).

c. Focus on the delivery of services to the grassroots. The preferential
option for the poor necessitates a long-term perspective on development beyond mere regime change. It also makes the delivery of services to the
grassroots essential, regardless of who is in power. Thus, those who have
opted to concentrate on this course of action are to be commended.
However, while citizen-involvement in particular areas of social development
and local politics is a form of participation, they will always be constrained by
large-scale anomalies and abuse of power on the national political level. All
citizens must work towards the eradication of the evils of patronage politics
and national political corruption, in order to promote the common good.
“How does one address the GMA problem?”

d. Call on GMA to resign. There are individuals and groups who have been
calling for President Arroyo’s resignation since 2005 and continue to hold
that position as a matter of principle. At that time, the CBCP itself
recognized the call for the President’s resignation, as well as for a “Truth
Commission” and impeachment, as legitimate options under the guiding
principles of accountability, constitutionality, non-violence and effective
governance. While the bishops did not call on President Arroyo to step
down, they asked her to discern “to what extent she might have contributed
to the erosion of effective governance and whether the erosion is so severe
as to be irreversible.” Therefore, those who in conscience have made a
decision that the President should not remain in office deserve respect. Their
call for her to resign voluntarily is one of the options provided for in the
Constitution. However, it also needs to be pointed out that while this
position is one of principled moral conviction, it ceases to be a real political
option if GMA remains resolute that she will not resign voluntarily.

e. Cabinet declaration of incapacity of the President. The Constitution
provides that a majority of Cabinet members can declare in writing to the
Senate President and the House Speaker that “the President is unable to
discharge the powers and duties of his [her] office” (Article VII, Section 11).
This is a constitutional way of removing a President who is seen to be
physically or mentally incapacitated, but the meaning of this provision may
be interpreted more broadly. This is one scenario for an “internal or Palace
coup” within the GMA regime. But such decisions on regime change tend to
be elitist, as they are dependent on so few people. This declaration can be
challenged, however, by the President, in which case Congress may confirm
the Cabinet decision by a two-thirds vote of the two houses of Congress
voting separately. Note that this requirement is even more stringent than the
one-third percentage required for the House of Representatives to send an
impeachment complaint to the Senate for trial.

f. Oust GMA. When faced with the President’s refusal to resign voluntarily,
those who are willing to push the demand for her to step down to the point
of employing even extra-constitutional means must be reminded that
democratic institutions may be harmed in the long-term, especially if a political vacuum is created for groups with an anti-democratic, adventurist or
power-grabbing agenda to try to seize power and hold on to it indefinitely.

g. People Power. People power is a precious legacy from the struggle against
the dictatorship and the restoration of democracy in the Philippines. EDSA I
was the culmination of a long process of political education, organization and
mobilization throughout the martial law years and especially during the nearly
three years after the assassination of former Senator Benigno Aquino. Active
nonviolence was a defining characteristic of EDSA People Power. It is
enshrined in the Constitution, which values initiatives from below as a way of
harnessing the direct participation of the people in politics and governance.
In its current usage, however, it is problematic because it is often equated
with popular insurrection and takeover as a method of regime change. This
creates a dynamic where crisis situations continue to be resolved through
extra-constitutional means which are not predictable, weaken democratic
institutions and install leaders with questionable mandates. Thus an endless
series of EDSA’s spells serious instability.

h. Snap elections. Any call for “snap elections” would be extra-constitutional,
since there is no such provision in the present charter. What the Constitution
provides for is the holding of “special elections,” should vacancies arise in
the offices of both the President and the Vice President. Therefore, those
who are advocating this option presume that both the President and Vice
President will step down or will be made to do so. Moreover, special
elections before 2010 without meaningful preparation and electoral reforms
will only lead to a contest between those already entrenched in power and
thus will not produce genuine change.

i. Military intervention. Some have called for an interventionist role of the
military to effect regime change. While recognizing that there are reformminded
members of the military who have a genuine concern for the good of
the country, military intervention in whatever form must be eschewed,
especially in the present context of a weak Philippine democracy. Allowing
the military to become the arbiter to resolve political conflicts and stalemates
undermines civilian supremacy, long-term democratization and political
stability.

j. An Independent Counsel. Some have called for an independent institution
with the credibility and capacity for investigating and prosecuting
government corruption at the highest levels. This proposal has been made
because some see the Senate investigations as partisan, while the
Ombudsman is overloaded with corruption cases and is perceived as partial
to the government in power, given its recent track record. For this option to
prosper, however, three difficult issues need to be addressed: (i) creating such
a body through a law approved by Congress, (ii) defining the scope of its
power and responsibilities, especially in relation to the Ombudsman, and (iii)
giving it real autonomy, particularly from the President, who would be the
appointing official.

k. Impeachment. This mechanism is provided for by the Constitution to exact
accountability from the President. It is also a way by which allegations can be
verified, thus giving the President a fair hearing and an opportunity to defend
herself. However, impeachment will only work if people are willing to
participate actively in pushing for and making sure that this process is
effective (e.g. sustained lobbying, pressuring their representatives in Congress
to prioritize the search for truth and accountability). Thus, it can provide
excellent opportunities for active political participation, especially for citizens
outside Metro Manila.

“How does one go beyond GMA?”

l. Elections. The forthcoming elections in 2010 will be critical. Not only will a
new president be chosen, but this national exercise will also be crucial in the
restoration of trust in the democratic system and the emergence of a new
alternative leadership. It is imperative that they are conducted freely, honestly
and credibly. Furthermore, there is a need for responsible citizens to organize
around candidates, leaders and parties who are upright and capable, and who
can contribute positively to the strengthening of weak institutions.

Action Points

7. It is precisely during times of great upheavals and crises that the call to hope becomes more urgent. Desperation and cynicism cannot be allowed to eat up people’s inner resources. To move forward from this crisis means identifying and pursuing specific forms of action, such as: (a) joining circles of ongoing reflection and discernment, and efforts at political education and organization, including training in anti-corruption advocacy (Ehem) and active nonviolence; (b) supporting institutional efforts to get to the truth and creating a broader climate of truth-telling which encourages and protects whistleblowers; (c) joining activities that promote accountability; (d) articulating long-term ideals and policies for national political reform; and (e) establishing sectoral and multi-sectoral organizations and networks to promote dialogue and concerted action.

Concretely, eight action areas fall within the range of options which are consistent with the principles identified above, especially the need to build strong democratic institutions and promote engaged citizenship for socio-political reform:
a. Support for the ongoing Senate investigation of the ZTE-NBN case not only to bring out the whole truth on matters of public interest but also to strengthen the institutional system of checks and balances that seek to prevent the abuse of power.

b. Creation of a credible Independent Counsel , in order to ferret out the veracity of various allegations and promote accountability within the judicial system, in which unfortunately many of the official institutions are seen as severely compromised politically. Thus there is a need for an institutional venue and mechanism that will be viewed as autonomous of the government currently in power and free of the antics of traditional politicians.

c. Initiation of a genuine impeachment process, particularly by pressuring Representatives in the House to hold the President accountable for serious violations of public trust if there are sufficient bases for doing so.

d. Pursuit of reforms towards government transparency in all its transactions, especially in processes like procurement, decisions on loans, development projects, social reforms, and on issues such as mining, energy and land use that have a profound impact on poor communities and the environment. There is a need to ensure rigorous implementation of laws and policies, the institutionalization of a culture of social accountability, free access to information, and the enhanced participation of civil society in governance decisions at all levels.

e. Promotion of electoral reforms to ensure the conduct of clean, honest, and credible elections in 2010, including the revamp of the Comelec, beginning with the appointment and confirmation of commissioners of unquestioned integrity and competence; the modernization of the electoral system; the eradication of warlordism; the monitoring of campaign finance and expenditure; and the continuing political education of voters.

f. Search for worthy candidates and potential leaders, parties/coalitions and platforms for 2010, through positive preparations, planning and strategizing. This would mean clarifying political values and development priorities, candidate selection and recruitment, resource mobilization, and political organizing.

g. Organization of and support for basic sectors, to enable them to have a real say in democratic processes and to address the urgent needs of economic development and social justice.

h. Engagement of the youth in current issues, through political education, organization and mobilization for democratic institution-building, lobbying for transparency and accountability, policy reform, and involvement in electoral politics.

8. These specific and concrete calls for action are not isolated and discrete but are precisely interconnected in a framework that seeks to promote truth, accountability and reform. They address gross injustices in the country through active citizen participation that will support and be supported by efforts at political education, organization, mobilization and network-building in order to strengthen and transform democratic political institutions under the Constitution. Responding to the Call for Communal Discernment, Conversion and Action

9. We offer these guidelines as a response to the call of our bishops for “circles of discernment” to “pray together, reason together, decide together, act together.” We trust that these reflections help clarify the context, principles and options for people – especially the youth – who seek to respond in action to the current crisis rather than succumb to the temptations of despair. For as Pope Benedict XVI has said, “All serious and upright human conduct is hope in action” (Spe Salvi 35).

Philippine Province of the Society of Jesus Commission on the Social Apostolate Easter Sunday, 23 March 2008
Albert E. Alejo, S.J.
Xavier C. Alpasa, S.J.
Anna Marie A. Karaos
Antonio M. La Viña
Jose Cecilio J. Magadia, S.J.
Antonio F. Moreno, S.J.
Ermin B. Pimentel
Karel S. San Juan, S.J.
Benjamin T. Tolosa, Jr.
Primitivo E. Viray, Jr., S.J.
Peter W. Walpole, S.J.
Roberto C. Yap, S.J.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Feb. 29 in Naga City

More photos of the Feb. 29 mobilization in Naga City
(Thanks very much, Pines!)
























Sunday, March 9, 2008

The Center cannot hold

I got this from the post of Al A. in our PSP egroup. I agree with
him that Patricia is very good! -R



The Center cannot hold
By Patricia Evangelista
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 19:33:00 03/01/2008


AS I TYPE THIS, there are others who write their own manifestos,
compelled by chance and conscience and circumstance to plug away on keyboards
across the country. Every few minutes a new entry flashes across cyberspace:
Lozada, ZTE, indignation in its varying forms, pleas for caution,
calls to action, justifications for inaction, the long narratives of
disillusionment seconded by the angry and frustrated.


I can't pretend to represent my generation. All of us are faced with
a choice, and the fact of my youth does not mean that my choices
reflect those made by my contemporaries. And yet there is something very wrong
with CBCP president Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo's claim that "Our youth
seem to be very satisfied about what is going on in their lives." I cannot
believe that anyone would be satisfied with this sort of life, with the rape of
the Filipino nation occurring with daily regularity, and lie after
moronic lie echoing from the gates of the Palace. Satisfied? I doubt if non-
presence in an indignation rally is the only manifestation of public
satisfaction. The millions of people scrabbling for a meal a day in this country do
not go to rallies either, and yet I would hesitate to call them satisfied.


On Saturday, an article in Young Blood condemned all those who
trooped to indignation rallies as essentially "blind and selfish clowns," who
were either "misguided idealists" or "hypocrites to the bone." And while
the writer spoke with righteous rage, he accused those "misguided
idealists" of believing they have a monopoly on righteousness. What I find more
astounding than his hasty generalizations on the motivations of all who protest
the current corruption is his argument that all this rage against Gloria
Macapagal-Arroyo is a waste of time, money and energy; as if the
billions in public funds lost to corruption is not a waste, as if corruption has
not deprived people of the housing and education the writer believes they
deserve. I respect his choice to stay away, but perhaps it would be
best for him to understand why others choose to go.


Many have said that all the confetti, all the rallies, all the
thousands of people who have crowded in Ayala last Friday can do little more than
derail traffic. Perhaps they are right. But I will join the next rally
anyway, because I believe that it is wrong, appallingly, incredibly,
brutally wrong, to allow those in power to believe they have the right to mortgage
my future because they are wily enough to claw their way to power. To be
silent is to tell every future Filipino leader that there is no limit to power.


Everyone is dirty in government, a pro-Arroyo rallyist told me. And
perhaps that is true, but it is no reason to condone corruption and rank
dishonesty when we see it, especially when it implicates the country's chief
executive.


And this is where I'll tell you where I stand. I do not wish to oust
Arroyo, although I support calls for her resignation or due process by
impeachment. I wish I could say that I believe in the rule of law and end there.
But I live in the Philippines where the rule of law is applied
selectively, in very strange ways. How do we impeach, if Congress refuses to allow
it? How do we prosecute, if the Ombudsman sits on the case? And so it's the
streets for me, because I see no other way to say no.


Once upon a time, the voice of a white-haired dragon thundered over
radios and television sets, raging that a nation cannot be run by a thief.
It was a voice that galvanized a watching country into the streets, and
reminded people of what they deserved. Now the dragon is a senator, and Joker
Arroyo sits behind a microphone and helps along the current cadre of
thieves. I believe the administration has lost all mandate, I believe the
President must be held accountable, and I will go out and rally to add one
pair of feet to the thousands who want the truth.


I'll tell you about a friend of mine. His flip-flops and jeans have
been traded in for slacks and button-downs, there is a ring on his finger
and a giggling, laughing one-year-old boy perched at the crook of his arm.
He pays his taxes, he calculates his family's weekly spending; he has worked
nights in call centers before clawing his way up the corporate ladder. He
believes, very firmly, in the rule of law, and the birth of his son made him
even more determined to create as stable an environment as possible. And yet,
he says, while a small hand curled around his sleeve, that he is slowly
believing that the way out is the way of the street. He cannot stomach knowing
that the taxes the government bleeds from his paycheck, money that can be
spent on bringing up his small boy, is being tossed into the pockets of the
undeserving.


Yeats once wrote of what he thought was the inevitable end of
humanity, when "the best lack all conviction, and the worst are full of passionate
intensity."

I am not very certain where all this is going. All I know is that so
much has gone wrong, and has gone on long enough.

Call to action!

The broad social movement born in Naga City due to the NBN-ZTE
controversy and Lozada testimony has sustained mobilizations! Its
membership now include people from the academe, business, religious,
government, and civil society organizations.

Among the activities it had initiated are the following: (1)
motorcade/noise barrage last Feb. 25; (2)candle-lighting/noise
barrage last Feb. 29 which turned out to be among the biggest civil society-initiated political mobilization ever done in the city; (3)motorcade/noise
barrage last March 7; (4)tshirt printing; (5)signature campaign; (6)
campus fora.

There are plans to do a bigger mobilization on Friday, 14 March.
Arrangements are also being made to bring to Naga City the NBN-ZTE
witness Jun Lozada.

For those intested to take part in these initiatives, you may either
post your mesage here or send email to me.

Stop corruption! Uphold the truth! Strengthen democratic institutions!
Think, Reflect, Pray, Decide, Act Now!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

HUMAN CHAIN, CANDLE LIGHTING, AND NOISE BARRAGE FOR TRUTH AND ACCOUNTABILITY!!!

STOP CORRUPTION! UPHOLD THE TRUTH!
STRENGTHEN DEMOCRATIC INSTITUTIONS!

JOIN THE HUMAN CHAIN, CANDLE LIGHTING, AND NOISE BARRAGE FOR TRUTH AND ACCOUNTABILITY!!!


WHEN: FRIDAY, 29 February 2008

WHAT TIME: 5:00pm

WHERE: Assembly in front of the Four Pillars, 4:30pm

We will march as a group to the ADNU convergence site in
front of Ramaida Centrum/Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas
(convergence area for Ateneo group)

WHAT TO DO/BRING:
• Please wear white or black shirt with your ID for easy identification
• Bring your own candle
• Bring any noise-making equipment (e.g. bottles of mineral water with small
stones inside).
• You may also bring your food, water, a towel and extra clothing.

THINK! REFLECT! PRAY! DECIDE! ACT NOW!

For other details, pls. coordinate with Institute of Politics, Office of Student Affairs, Center for Community Development, or the Office of Administrative Services

Saturday, February 23, 2008

A statement from economists of the Ateneo de Manila University

To a fellow economist and former colleague, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo

A statement from economists of the Ateneo de Manila University



We are outraged by the revelations made by Engr. Rodolfo Noel Lozada
Jr. at the Philippine Senate Blue Ribbon hearings last 8 February
2008 about the overpriced Zhong Xing Telecommunication Equipment
Company-National Broadband Network (ZTE-NBN) project. The project
has no clear public rationale in the first place. We are dismayed by
the revelations of Mr. Lozada that former Commission on Election
Chairman Benjamin Abalos Sr., with the alleged involvement of First
Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo, ordered the inclusion in the proposed
project a large amount of kickbacks, amounting to as much as 130
million US dollars (or more than 5.2 billion pesos), enough money to
remove the yearly public school classroom backlog, or purchase 5.8
million sacks of NFA rice, or alternatively secure the basic needs
of about 29,000 poor families for a year. Simply put, a lot is being
sacrificed for the greed of the few.


We are angered by the continuing attempt to cover up the anomalous
circumstances surrounding the project, including the supposed
kidnapping of Mr. Lozada to keep him from testifying in the Senate.
We demand that government remove the cloak of Executive Order 464
and the invocation of executive privilege to allow public officials
that have knowledge on the transaction to publicly testify on the
circumstances of the deal. We demand the National Economic and
Development Authority (NEDA) to release records of the meetings that
allowed the contract to be processed. Because of the nature of the
work of the NEDA in national economic planning to promote national
development and public welfare (and not for private or individual
interests), these minutes are public records. We want Secretary
Romulo Neri, an Ateneo high school alumnus and supposed staunch
advocate of reforms to eradicate transactional politics and
oligarchic dominance in the country, to reveal all that he knows
about the matter. Efficiency and equity demand no less.


We abhor the habit of this administration of forging secret deals
and engaging in non-transparent processes in developing and
contracting large infrastructure projects, especially foreign donor-
funded programs, contrary to the tenets of good governance. We call
on friends and colleagues in the government, especially the alumni
of our university, and other sectors to help ferret out the truth
about other alleged irregular deals entered into by corrupt public
officials, including the fertilizer scam, the Technical Education
and Skills Development Authority book scam and the North Rail
project.



We urge our fellow economist, alumna, and former Ateneo colleague,
Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, to fully explain and account for all the
anomalies under her administration to prevent our country from
plunging into another political and economic crisis. Indeed, we are
dismayed that Mrs. Arroyo has not exercised the vast powers and
resources available to the Presidency to ensure that large-scale
corruption in the government is not only blocked but also punished,
and that these irregularities have only increased political
instability and uncertainty in the country. We are also offended
that the Presidency has instead utilized these vast powers and
resources to turn its back from servicing the public and contribute
to the advancement of private greed, including the Machiavellian
buying of congressmen, governors, and everybody else that get its
way. And sadly, these abuses have eroded the meaning and legitimacy
of the Presidency. If she fails to fully account and explain the
anomalies and corrupt practices in her administration, the most
honorable thing she can do is to resign from the Presidency.



Finally, we publicly pledge to heed the Catholic Bishops' call to
communal action by supporting the activities that would promote
transparency, accountability, and good governance, and we call on
our fellow social scientists and academics to support this advocacy.
We pledge to make our voices heard by committing to various ways of
peaceful and non-violent political mobilization.



– Signatures –



Fernando T. Aldaba

Cristina M. Bautista

Germelino M. Bautista

Edsel L. Beja, Jr.

Diana U. del Rosario

Luis F. Dumlao

Cielito F. Habito

Leonardo A. Lanzona

Joseph Anthony Y. Lim

Romelia I. Neri

Ellen H. Palanca

Malou A. Perez

Joselito T. Sescon

Tara Sia-Go

Patrick Gerard C. Simon-King

Rosalina P. Tan

Philip Arnold P. Tuaño

Friday, February 22, 2008

CEAP Statement

May I share with you an inspiring statement from the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP):


Speaking Truth, Seeking Justice
Setting Things Right
CEAP on the Events of our Time
February 14, 2008


“No lie can live forever,” said Carlyle. “Truth, crushed to earth, will rise again,” added William Cullen Bryant. And forty years ago, Martin Luther King cried:


On some positions,
Cowardice asks the question, “Is it safe?”
Expediency asks the question, “Is it politic?”
Vanity asks the question, “Is it popular?”
But Conscience asks the question, “Is it right?”



There comes a time when one must take a position
that is neither safe nor politic nor popular;
but one must take it
because Conscience says, “It is right.”



Following his conscience, Rodolfo Lozada Jr. these days has revealed possible corruption in the handling of government contracts. His confession has stirred memories of other allegations by other people of graft and greed in government, and is shaking the souls of many to speak and act in response.



What of us, the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP), an association of 1,252 schools, colleges, and universities with at least 2 million students and around 120,000 school personnel and faculty?

We too must speak, we too must act. For, as the same Martin Luther King continued, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent on things that matter.”

Silent then we must not be or must no longer be, if once we were. May not our lives end but rather begin in a special way this Valentine’s Day. Beyond the love we are expected to declare for the persons of our hearts, is the love for the people of our country that we are invited to express in this time of crisis in our land. Mere bystanders we cannot just be but active participants in the continuous task of shaping our nation’s life. In the words of Vaclav Havel, “By perceiving ourselves as part of the river, we take responsibility for the river as a whole.”



For those of us who know the truth, we pray for the courage to speak it. For those who seek justice, we pray for humility in the pursuit, personal integrity in the quest, respect for others involved in the search. For those of us who must judge and act on what we see and hear, we pray for fairness and the will to make the good triumph over evil in a way that removes the bad, without the act leading to what is even worse.



In tandem with the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) we invite our member schools and their constituents, our alumni and friends individually and communally to pray for guidance on what to do in these times of tension and difficulty. We ask our administrators, faculty, and students to bring to the fore the issues of the day, discuss in humility and decide in fortitude and love what we must do together as a people in the different parts of the country where we are.



We must seek to discover the educative moment and the lesson for life in the investigation sessions and in the rallies and other mass actions we may join. To our country and the world we must show and say that we will not allow dishonesty, corruption, indifference or neglect to rule our lives. We must look into ourselves and ensure that what we decry in others we do not do ourselves.
We should pledge to continue to teach and live truth, honesty and integrity in our own schools so that when our graduates leave us they bring with them not just skills and knowledge but wisdom and love to inspire and change the world.



To this end, we link up with other groups sincerely searching for truth and justice. We encourage the establishment of truth centers in our schools so that our students, teachers, and staff are led to continuing awareness, reflection, and formation toward social-political engagement. We invite our members to support the sanctuary fund set up by the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines (AMRSP). We support the signature campaign demanding the implementation of the Supreme Court's decision junking Executive Order 464 so that the search for truth is not hindered or compromised.



Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life we shall continue to ask to lead us, accompany and comfort us in all we need to do. It is He, after all, who will truly set us free. The Holy Spirit we ask to enlighten us so that our external actions flow from inner harmony of heart. We remember the words of Will Durant: “A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within.” So we ask our Heavenly Father for the grace that we never neglect but ever firm up the moral fiber of our souls.



Our anger at the wrong and sinful things in and around us may we not allow to make of ourselves men and women of violence. We take to heart the thought of Martin Luther King: “The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence, you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. So it goes. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”



May our light dispel our darkness, may our love melt whatever hatred may lurk within. But in this Kairos moment, this time of grace, we, the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines, with all men and women of good will, in our nation and in the world, in the name of the Lord, by the grace of His Spirit, in concert and in communion call on ourselves and one another to -- speak the truth, seek justice and work to set things right.

Mobillization moved to February 29

Due to heavy rains, more than 100 barangays in the Province of Camarines Sur are flooded today. Classes in the publc schools, including elementary and HS classes in some private schools, were suspended in Naga City. In this context, the planned mobilization(human chain, candle lighting, and noise barrage) 5:00 pm today has been moved to 29 February 2008.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Collective Action!

Concerned students/faculty/personnel of schools and universities (Ateneo de Naga
University, Unibersidad de Santa Isabel, University of Nueva Caceres, Mariners Polytechnic Colleges Foundation,Naga College Foundation), civil society groups (Naga City Peoples Council,Coalition for Bicol Development, Akbayan, KRUSADA, Bayan-Muna,
Gabriela), business leaders of the Metro Naga Chamber of Commerce and Industry), several religious congregations, and the LGU of Naga City will launch
the "HUMAN CHAIN, CANDLE LIGHTING, AND NOISE BARRAGE FOR TRUTH AND JUN
LOZADA" 5pm Friday, 22 February 2008.

Media outlets that will cover the mobilization:Radio Mindanao Network (RMN-Naga), ABS-CBN Naga City, Bombo Radyo Philippines, and DZGE. The brother of Jun Lozada will be speaking in the short program.This is being undertaken simultaneous with mobilizations in the provinces of Albay/Sorsogon and Camarines Norte.