Int’l mission exposes land grabbing in Isabela

June 12, 2011 in agriculture, Featured, land rights by emendator


BAGUIO CITY — On May 29, 2011, an international fact finding mission (IFFM) was launched to look into the impact of a bio-ethanol project on the small farming communities in San Mariano, Isabela.

Ethanol plant construction in San Mariano, Isabela. Photo courtesy of Nap Sangawan/Kaduami

In the process of carrying out this mission, members of the IFFM confirmed the findings of the national fact finding mission conducted earlier, from February 22 to 23, by Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), DAGAMI and Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) about a bio-ethanol project of the Japanese-Filipino corporate consortium Green Future Innovations, Inc. (GFII) and Eco-Fuel Land Development Inc.

In a statement released, the fact finding group said, that it was evident that residents in the area were gravely concerned by the widespread patterns of landgrabbing, militarization and intensive agro-industrial development in the interest of agribusiness corporations.

The concern that emanated from local farmers cultivating small plots of corn, rice, fruit and vegetables was the complete lack of agrarian reform in San Mariano, and the exacerbation of historical injustice by the large scale land acquisitions for mono-cropping of sugar cane as initiated by the GFII.

GFII is expected to be fully operational by March 2012, with the completion of the plantations, nurseries and processing plants spanning eleven thousand hectares of prime agricultural lands and even forest restoration areas.

The corporate operations is currently promoted as an environmentally responsible industry that will bring economic boom to the region; decrease the Philippines’ reliance on imported fuels; and a unique investment which will make Isabela the site of the largest bio-fuel project in the country.

According to Danilo Ramos, KMP secretary-general, a large percentage of the 11,000 hectares plantation project was previously and is currently still occupied and tilled by thousands of farmers here and in neighboring towns.

Residents and small farmers in these lands are being displaced by the sugarcane plantation. This includes beneficiaries of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), indigenous peoples with claims to ancestral domain, and land patent holders.

“We recorded first-hand cases of how unscrupulous persons in connivance with government officials took advantage of farmers and indigenous peoples who lack knowledge on land titling laws and engaged in fraudulent titling schemes,” Ramos said.

“Based on the interviews and focus group discussions held in San Mariano, it is important to underscore that the entry of the bio-ethanol project has meant that these communities have become increasingly vulnerable to land grabbing and land speculation schemes. More so, that most of the CLOAs are facing foreclosure proceedings by the Land Bank,” added Ramos.

The targeted project area of 11,000 hectares has a potential crop yield of 80-90 cavans/hectare of irrigated lands and 60 cavans/hectare for upland rice.

If the project pushes through, it will significantly reduce the food production capacity of the community and cause further encroachment into forest areas as farmers will clear new lands to farm for food,” remarked Diony Yadao, Chairperson, DAGAMI-San Mariano.

The conversion of lands that were once allotted for diverse cropping and forest cover will lead to significant carbon emissions and biodiversity loss.

It is also a threat to the declared protected areas such as the Sierra Madre Natural Park the covered forest ecosystems of San Mariano.

The forest ecosystem, specifically the watershed nourishes the river systems that provide water to the food production of the communities.

Being located in the north of Luzon, an area where typhoons typically strike on a seasonal basis, also means there would be increased vulnerability of the area to landslides and flooding.

The long term social and economic costs to the country, as enumerated above, compounded by the ecological impacts will be disastrous,” pointed out by Tanya Roberts from the Philippine Solidarity Network-Canada.

Recommendations forwarded to both Houses of Congress and concerned National Line Agencies (DENR, DA, DAR) based on the IFFM findings that needed attention are focused on the respect and recognition of the peasants, farm workers and IP human rights to own and till their land. And, putting a stop on landgrabbing and processing of anomalous land titling.

The Government should withdraw state support and endorsement of the GFII bio-fuel project, as well as de-militarize the affected barrios.

Composing the fact-finding team are Jill Richardson of Organic Consumers Association (USA), Simone Lovera of Global Forest Coalition (Paraguay), Yasuo Aonishi of Action Center for Development and Rights (Japan), Hozue Hatae of Friends of the Earth (Japan), Tanya Roberts of Philippine Solidarity Network (Canada), and from the Philippines, Feny Cosico of Agham, Edna Maguigad of Searice, Cesar Arellano of Sentra, Danilo Ramos and Wilfredo Marbella of KMP, Rhoda Gueta of APC, Cita Managuelod and Diony Yadao of DAGAMI. #

Kalinga gov explains media harassment

June 12, 2011 in Cordillera, Featured, human rights, media by emendator


BAGUIO CITY – “He had been accidentally hit when I got from behind the microphone for the purpose of stopping him for I could no longer endure his personal attacks upon my person and the Kapehan body”.

This was the explanation of governor Jocel Baac of the province of Kalinga in his statement regarding a video clip showing his alleged harassment of Jerome Tabanganay, a radio announcer in the said province.

The statement was read to the media here organized for a press briefing by Atty. Kristian Wandag, the provincial legal officer (PLO).

It can be recalled that on June 7, an incident involving the governor and Tabanganay circulated through a video footage uploaded on Youtube.

The governor denied that he intentionally hit Tabanganay.

He explained that on June 7, he went to the radio station (Radyo ng Bayan) to talk to Tabanganay regarding his irresponsible and unfair way of handling his program and to tell him to be more balanced in his reporting.

He said, there are a lot of complaints against Tabanganay with regards to his program, “Agenda ng Bayan” but it seems the station manager has not acted on this.

The statement added that the broadcaster does not verify first if the text messages sent to him for his program before reading it on-air. He does not even get the side of the text messages’ subject.

Baac said, when he rushed the radio booth where Tabanganay was still on air, the latter arrogantly said “apay?”(why) without going off air. He (Baac) then took the microphone so that their conversation will not be aired live.

However, the announcer grabbed another microphone and kept on talking. Baac then took the said microphone from behind, which he said, “accidentally hit Tabanganay’s lips.”

The statement further explained that the governor admitted that his presence in the radio station may have caused inconvenience to the people who were present during the incident. However, he stated that his intention was for the interest of the province.

Moreover, aside from a lot of complaints against Tabanganay, the governor said Tabanganay and the radio station does not serve their purpose of being a government entity.

According to him, the station should be the local government unit’s (LGU’s) partner in promoting the programs of the province specially its tourism program.

Furthermore, the governor alleges, that last month, Tabanganay on air in his program was convincing the New Peoples Army (NPA) to access the station’s cellphones so that they could talk on the apprehension of alleged ‘jueteng cobradors’.

“This acknowledges the authority of the NPA and it will mislead our people to think that the NPA are better than the elements of the government. This is inciting to sedition,”the governor said thru the read statement.

Wandag, after reading the governor’s statement confirmed to media that the governor is preparing to file legal cases, one of which is libel against Tabanganay.

On the other hand, Malou Laxamana-Pascual of RPN 9 said, “The governor should have exhausted all other efforts to talk to him rather than barging into the radio booth”. She added that there are processes to be followed if he wanted to clarify issues with the reporter.

No categorical statements were issued whether the governor’s action was a conduct unbecoming of a public servant.

Members of media informed Wandag and his companions that the National Press Club (NPC) has already filed physical injury charges against the governor.#

AFP continues harassment of MP, Ifugao folk

June 12, 2011 in Cordillera, Featured by emendator


BAGUIO CITY — Troops of the 54th Infantry Battalion-Philippine Army (IBPA) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) continue to perpetrate human rights violations in indigenous peoples’ villages in Mountain Province and Ifugao.

According to a report collated by Hustisya-Northern Luzon and Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) from a recent field documentation activity.

The findings were contrary to earlier AFP reports that the soldiers deployed in these villages were to implement civil military operations (CMO) to help alleviate communities from poverty.

The field visit was in response to earlier reports of human rights violations in the area. Volunteers and staff from the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA), HUSTISYA, Ifugao Peasant Leaders Forum (IPLF), Ifugao Resource and Development Center (IRDC), Ifugao Youth Alliance (IYA), Cordillera Peoples Alliance-Mt. Province (CPA-MP) and the Movement for the Advancement of Inter-Tribal Unity and Development (MAITUD) visited these barangays from May 31 to June 2, 2011.

They went to initially document and conduct psycho-social processing therapy for the victims of human rights violations in Barangay Botiguey, Paracelis, Mt. Province, the municipalities of Alfonso Lista and Aguinaldo in Ifugao and in Paracelis, Mountain Province.

The report showed that sometime on the 4th week of May, an undetermined number of combined elements from the 54th IBPA based in Bontoc and a contingent from the 5th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army (IDPA) based in Upi, Gamu, Isabela conducted military operations in the tri-boundary of the three municipalities. Their operation was in response to alleged “sightings” of New Peoples Army (NPA).

As a result of the military operations, cases of human rights violations were committed against innocent farmers and villagers suspected by the operatives as members and supporters of the NPA in the said area.

According to Florence Nayasang, spokesperson of Hustisya-Northern Luzon, last May 27 in barangay Botigue, five heavily armed army men in uniform forced open and illegally searched the house of Pablo Naugsan, an 83 year old senior citizen, who was then asleep in.

He said the soldiers did not state their purpose, pointed their rifles at him, and ignored the old man’s questions and proceeded to ransack.

“Ama Pablo is still traumatized. He is having a hard time sleeping or eating alone,” Nasayyang disclosed.

CHRA secretary general Jude Baggo disclosed that on May 24, 2011, three farmers were allegedly arrested and detained by unidentified elements of the 5th IDPA, in their house at Nambazal, Kiling, Alfonso Lista. The houses of the victims were also illegally searched and robbed of two flashlights, one transistor radio, three bolos, three pieces garugad (metal file) and two camouflage jackets.

He added that the victims suffered physical and psychological torture in the hands of the military. One was boxed in the stomach and shot at with an unloaded airgun. Another pinned down on a chopping block and a soldier raised a bolo threatening to cut-off his head.

Baggo further narrated that on the same day, the victims were blindfolded and transported. The victims later learned from Alfonso Lista Mayor Glenn Prudenciano that they were brought to Echague, Isabela before being transferred to Sta. Maria, Alfonso Lista.

In Echague, the three were separately interrogated. In Sta. Maria, the victims were again interrogated and forced to sign several documents without being informed of the contents of the documents.

With the military taking the victims, their neighbors and barrio mates gathered and followed them to Sta. Maria. The community folks waited until the three were released from the custody of the Alfonso Lista Municipal Police and threatened not to press charges against the perpetrators.

Baggo pointed out that at present, the three victims and the community are in fear for their lives because members of the military threatened them not to inform anybody of what happened.

The team also documented cases of forcible entry, illegal search and divestment of property in Nambazal. On May 24, while the community folk were looking for the three missing barriomates, soldiers forced their way into one of the houses and stole cooking oil, a bolo and kilos of betel nut and broke off the window where they entered. Again on May 27 at around 11:00 a.m. soldiers forced entry into another house here.

As of this writing, elements of the Civilian Military Operation (CMO) continue to stay in the compound of Botigue barangay captain Narcizo Balnao while some soldiers occupy the Senior Citizens Hall of the same barangay.

Baggo reiterated that while the AFP projects an image of promoting peace and respect for human rights, they notoriously continue to violate the rights of the people and sow terror in the interior villages.

“We have not seen any substantial change in the state of human rights in the country under the Aquino administration as the killings, disappearances and human rights violations continue,” He stressed.

He also criticized the Oplan Bayanihan, the counter insurgency program of the Aquino government, saying that its only difference from the Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL) is that it is more deceptive.

“The AFP talk about respecting human rights and working for peace are mere press releases. What is happening on the ground is the exact opposite,” Baggo pointed out.

Baggo called on the Aquino government to stop the implementation of Oplan Bayanihan. He further said that the Oplan is bound to fail as it does not address the root cause of the Filipino people’s misery and poverty but instead it worsens the already sorry state of human rights in the country. #

James Balao postcards to flood Malacañang

June 12, 2011 in Featured by emendator


BAGUIO CITY — Atleast 8,000 James Balao postcards are expected to reach the office of the President after his family, friends, colleagues and supporters started mailing them on Thursday, June 9, here.

APPEAL TO PNOY. Friends and relatives of James Balao attempts to catch the attention of Pnoy by sending 8,000 postcards. Balao is one of the hundreds of victims of enforced disappearance during the term of Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Photo by Noel Godinez/

The postcards were addressed to President Benigno Aquino Jr. urging his intervention for the immediate surfacing of James and the prosecution of his abductors.

The postcard contains James’ photo and information about his abuction on the front. At the back is the appeal of his family, friends and colleagues to PNoy. “It is within your (PNoy) authority to end this agony. As Commander in Chief, you have the mandate to give orders for the immediate surfacing of James, to hold a thorough investigation and prosecute his abductors. As with the other desaparacidos, they too should be surfaced and reunited with their families and the people they serve,” the appeal read.

According to Joni Balao-Strugar, James’ youngest sister, 7,000 postcards from Metro Baguio and Metro Manila area and 1,000 from Germany are expected to reach the office of the President. She added that there are still undetermined number of postcards that will come from other parts of the country, Hong Kong, Geneva and The Netherlands. She said there are also those who will be sending postcards through email from the international community.

“We hope that the postcards or at least one postcard really reaches the hands of the President so he could read it and hopefully push for the immediate surfacing of James and punishment of his abductors,” Strugar reiterated.

Strugar disclosed that the idea of sending postcards originated from the Monday Demonstration Group in Germany who has included the case of James in their concerns. She said the group has relentlessly been sending letters of appeal and protests to the Philippine government calling for the immediate surfacing of James. She added that the group for nearly three years now had included calling for the surfacing of James in their regular Monday protests in Germany.

“We have done everything we could to search for James. We were quiet for a while but we have not stopped searching and we will not stop until we find him,” she stressed.

Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) Secretary General Jude Baggo reiterated that the sending of postcards aims to pressure the present administration to surface James and all other victims of enforced disappearance. He also called on the Aquino administration to take concrete measures to end enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings and other forms of human rights violations.

Today, June 12 marks the 1000th day since James Moy Balao, a founding member of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) who was abducted by state security forces in broad day light about 100 meters away from the regional headquarters of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Cordillera.

He was abducted on September 17, 2008. Since then his family, friends and colleagues relentlessly conttinue to search for him. #

LGUs urged to adopt measures to mitigate landslides

June 12, 2011 in Cordillera, environment by emendator


BAGUIO CITY — As this city and the whole Cordillera region are identified as landslide prone, a government agency advised people in areas identified as highly susceptible to landslides, to adopt measures that would help mitigate effects and occurence of earth movements.

Engineer Faye Apil, head of the geology division of the regional Mines and Geo-sciences Bureau (MGB), said that immediate mitigating measures that may be adopted are the assurance and clearing of drainage systems and slope protection structures. Some of the places highly susceptible to landslide are located in the present residential areas.

MGB said that “highly susceptible to landslides” is characterized by the presence of active and /or recent presence of landslides, numerous and large tension cracks, drainage areas prone to debris damming, steep slopes, and proximity to faultlines.

Recently, at least 50 barangays in the region were identified by the regional MGB landslide prone. Included in this city are: Holyghost, Aurora Hill, San Vicente, Puliwes, Quirino Hill, Dontogan, and Irisan, said Apil.

In the past typhoons, areas that have collapsed were those not suitable for residential sites but are populated. Absence of drainage systems and slope protection structures, and busy with human activities, like quarrying or excavation, building of highrise structures on slopes, contributed to the destruction of properties and loss of lives, Apil added.

Super typhoon Pepeng in 2009 caused the death of a number of residents and destroyed 313 houses here in landslides.

As it is already the rainy season when typhoons usually hit the country, Apil shared that they are on an information and education campaign to inform the local government units of their findings and the measures that should be adopted. She pointed out the importance of LGU programs on mitigation of landslides.

Apil shared that the natural steepness and the presence of faultlines in the region make it a natural landslide prone area.

According to the MGB national office, about 90 % of the region is characterized by steep to very steep slopes. The steeper the slope is, the more liable it is to instability and more prone to earth movements, it says.

The MGB national office identified the provinces of the Cordillera as among the top ten landslide prone areas: 1. Benguet, 2. Mtn. Province, 3. Nueva Vizcaya, 4. Kalinga-Apayao, 5. Southern Leyte, 6. Abra, 7. Marinduque, 8. Cebu, 9. Catanduanes, and 10. Ifugao. #

Kapangan folk hit FPIC, oppose hydro project

June 12, 2011 in Cordillera, energy, land rights by emendator


LA TRINIDAD, Benguet — Kapangan folk trooped to the provincial capitol on June 6 to reiterate their opposition to a 50 megawatt hydro electric power project of the Cordillera Hydroelectric Power Corporation (CoheCo) and air sentiments related to the free prior and informed consent (FPIC) process conducted last April.

Firm opposition

“Kayat mi met ti progreso idiay ayan mi ngem diyay longterm koma ken sustainable nga development,” (We also want progress in our town but it should be a longterm and sustainable development) Benny Conde, former barangay captain of barangay Cuba, Kapangan said during the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) session.

Barangay Cuba he said is the center of the proposed Coheco project. In 2008, Conde said, the company started talking to them regarding the project. At first, they allowed the company to present their program however, there was no definite program presented and there were no clear answers to the community’s varied questions. Thus, their barangay, he said, did not allow the said project.

Conde added that the underground tunneling was not even mentioned during the presentation of the project. Having known about it, Cuba and other barangays to be traversed by the proposed tunnel, outrightly opposed it. He added that underground tunneling will surely cause the depletion of water in the near future.

Moreover, the resolution expressing non-consent of sitio Tadayan of barangay Pudong, one of the areas to be traversed by the tunnel states, “we voted against the proposed project because we do not want to suffer the long-time ill effects of the underground tunnel.” It also stated that it has been an experience in the province that underground tunnels cause the depletion of water sources.

“We firmly believe that the benefits promised by Coheco cannot equal the unlimited benefits that we derive from our existing water sources, considering that water, among land and air, is the source of life,” the resolution further reads.

Another fear shared by Conde for barangay Cuba is the construction of the dam at the upper part of the water impounding area (tepec). He said, during several roadshows of the project, the proponent explained that the dam to be constructed is multinational, meaning a huge mega hydro dam. He added that it has been an experience in the province that construction of huge dams have displaced many of the Benguet people. “Madi mi nga ma-erase ti ili mi ken madi mi nga ma-displace kas iti napasamak kadagiti dadduma nga kailyan tayo,” (We do not want our barangay to be erased and we do not want to be displaced as to what happened with other Benguet people) he further said.

Moreover, Conde said 80% of barangay Cuba’s livelihood will be endangered if the project pushes through. He explained that almost all of their source of living are located along the Amburayan River banks. The said river he added passes through the heart of their barangay.

He iterated that they will only allow a development project that will benefit both the host communities and the proponent and not solely for the proponent’s benefit while the community suffers.

FPIC process hit

Also, during the SP session, Atty. Cruzaldo Bacduyan, the spokesperson of the group questioned the Council of Leaders (COL) inclusion of several barangays in the consensus building. He and the elders allege that the inclusion was purposedly done so that the “yes” votes in the referendum will overrule the “no” votes. Accordingly, the population of the barangays included are higher than that of the directly affected barangays. The only barangays according to him that should participate in the consensus building are Cuba, Pudong, Sagubo and Sitio Lao-angan of barangay Gadang. Cuba in the referendum voted 84 for No and 37 for Yes; Pudong had 343 No votes and 23 Yes votes; Sagubo voted 200 for Yes and 60 for No; and sitio Lao-angan voted 102 for No and only one vote for Yes.

On the other hand, barangays unaffected by the project that were included are Balacbac which resulted to 111 Yes votes and 58 No votes; Gadang Proper with 300+ Yes votes and 68 No votes; and Beling-belis with 50+ Yes votes and 133 No votes.

The Yes votes won over the No votes by a mere 20-40. Thus, the Kapangan folks appealed before the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) for the exclusion of the said barangays which are not really affected by the project.

Bacduyan also revealed some irregularities in the FPIC process. Accordingly, on February 1, 2010, two service contracts were given to Coheco by the Department of Energy (DOE) for the project. That time he said, there was no FPIC process conducted yet. “Baliktad met ti proseso ta inmuna ti permit sakbay nga alaen da ti consent ti umili,” he added.

SP action

Vice Governor Crescencio Pacalso said there is really a problem in the FPIC guidelines regarding the identification of who really are the host communities of a development project. He said there was a verbal agreement made before by the province and NCIP to suspend all FPIC processes being conducted while the agency is still formulating said guidelines.

Meanwhile, he said they will be endorsing the COL resolutions to concerned agencies for their appropriate action.

“If the FPIC team will come out with their decision and the petition of the people will not be considered, then that’s the time nga mabalin tayo nga agsao,” Pacalso said. #

Itogon dads urge MGB to correct Philex MPSA

June 12, 2011 in Cordillera, mining by emendator


LA TRINIDAD, Benguet — The Sangguniang Bayan (SB) of Itogon forwarded to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) a resolution dated May 10 strongly urging the Mines and Geosciences Bureau – Cordillera Administrative Region (MGB-CAR) to rectify its certification on one of Philex Mining Corporation’s Mineral Production Sharing Agreements (MPSAs).

On January 10, 2007, Neoman Dela Cruz, MGB regional director sent a letter to Itogon SB certifying that the area covered by APSA 102 also known as MPSA 276 falls within the contested area of the municipalities of Itogon and Tuba.

Last April 25this year, Mayor Oscar Camantiles of the said town wrote a letter request to MGB-CAR regarding the territorial boundary over the area where Philex Mines’ MPSA numbered 156, 157 and 276 are located. It’s purpose was for the guidance of the Special Working Team created to protect and pursue the rights and interest of the Municipality in challenging the legalities of the said MPSAs.

Camantiles believe that they should have been consulted prior to the issuance of the MPSA because it lies within their contested area with Tuba. Also, according to him, it has been the position of Itogon that the areas covered by MPSA 156 and 157 fall entirely within their jurisdiction and yet the said mine firm was able to secure MPSAs without prior consultation with their municipality.

On May 4 this year however, Orlando Pineda Sr., OIC, regional director of the MGB stated in his letter/certification that MPSA 276 is totally within the municipality of Tuba which is contrary to Dela Cruz’ certification in 2007.

With this, the SB strongly urges Pineda to rectify his letter/certification as to where MPSA 276’s location is and to concur with the earlier certification of Dela Cruz.

Earlier reports tackled issues related to MPSA 276 where communities in its outlying impact areas in Itogon and Tuba were asking to be consulted because they are adversely affected by the operation.

It can be recalled that late last year, a letter of Julie Panawan, President of The Indigenous Host Communities Association, Philex Outlying Sitios Inc. (TIHCAPOSI) identified communities along the Albian and Kidit creeks affected by the operation of the said MPSA. It identified 23 communities affected in the side of Itogon and six communities in the side of Tuba.

The Itogon SB and the SP already came out with a resolution asking the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) to conduct the necessary free prior and informed consent (FPIC).

As of press time, there is no action from the concerned entity and agency as to the requests to conduct the said process. #

Mt. Province elders hit road widening

June 12, 2011 in Cordillera, public works by emendator


BAGUIO CITY — An elders organization of Mountain Province (MP) criticized the road widening of an alternative road particularly in the stretch of Balawa to Tuel road in Tadian saying that it is unnecessary and dangerous.

Father Eduardo Solang Sr., chairperson of the Movement for the Advancement of Inter-tribal Unity and Development (MAITUD) said in an interview the ongoing road widening in the aforementioned alternative road is dangerous and a waste of tax payers’ money.

“If it is a national road then by all means let us widen it,” he said adding that national roads are normally busy of traffic therefore there is really a need to widen it. However, in the case of a provincial, municipal, barangay and specially alternative roads, he said it should be environment friendly and case specific so as not to waste millions of the peoples money.

“Dagidiyay koma awan pay ti kalsada da piman ket isu a ti iyaramidan da,” (Let the areas where there is no roads yet be given such) he said.

The road Solang further said is an ancient road that has never been widened. “It has been a one-lane road since the Spanish period and nobody in the said barangay asked for it to be widened up until now since it is dangerous and expensive to do so,” he iterated.

He explained that the area has a very steep slope. Widening it would invite perrenial erosion which will leave the road unpassable thus compounding the unnecessary expense for maintenance and repair. He further said, if they continue the widening, they have to get rid of the large rock formations within the area. “Bungbung ti usaren da nga mangikkat kadagidiyay,” he said adding that it would mean another unnecessary expense.

The people in Balawa he said were convinced on the positive impact of the road development because of the promise made by the district engineering office that they will immediately build ripraps after widening. This he said will avoid erosion. “However, the main concern of MAITUD is the unnecessariness of it,” he stressed.

The elders, he said are also tax payers themselves thus, it is their concern to see where their money is being spent. “The peoples money, of any amount should be spent wisely,” he iterated.

Thus, MAITUD calls for the amendment of the plan. Instead of a two-lane road, he said it is better that it remains one-lane but they have to upragde it to concrete. Solang even suggested that the road via Kayan which is the main road now is more feasible for widening than that in the Balawa area.

He cited a seven kilometer road traversing six barangays in Sagada. “One lane met diyay ngem mayat ta concrete,” he said. #

NL youth says educ woes persist under PNoy

June 12, 2011 in education, Ilocos by emendator

VIGAN CITY — National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) Northern Luzon and Kabataan Partylist Ilocos Sur reiterated that there has been no substantial changes poor state of the education sector under the current administration of President Benigno Aquino, Jr.

Annual local and national media reports show that students, parents and teachers encounter the same problem every opening of the school year that include increasing shortage of classrooms, books, chairs, and teachers as well as ballooning number of drop-outs.

NUSP pointed out that this scenario has shown an alarming condition not only to urban centers but even worse in rural areas. This school year and the coming years will not be different from the previous years, since Pres. Noynoy Aquino does not seriously address the basic problems on education.

The Department of Education (DepEd) recognizes this problem and said that the country still needs over 152,000 classrooms to follow the international 1:45 ratio to motivate convenient classroom learning.

“As opposed to DepEd Sec. Armin Luistro’s statement, the situation of public schools in the far-flung rural areas, like those in Ilocos region, is even worse as they do not get much attention from the government. His statement lacks basis and that requires his feet on the ground to see the worsening situation.” says Finela Mejia, NUSP coordinator for Northern Luzon. 

Mejia disclosed that in rural areas, parents are even forced not to send their children to school because they cannot afford to maintain the extra expenses of schooling; thus, the increasing dropout rate.

“As the classes open this year, students in the region will again enter into a lot of trouble of having obsolete facilities, insufficient buildings, and lack of professional teachers as a consequence of budget cut,” says Mejia.

She also said the concept of education as a basic human right is slowly taken from us by virtue of forced acceptance that the responsibility lies with the students and parents.

“For almost a year in the palace, the worsening crisis of education sector should bring shame to a president who claims to be an education president. Over again, there is a need for the collective strength of the youth and students to reclaim our right,” Mejia said.

Kabataan Partylist’s data shows that since 2009, government expenditure for education falls short with P2, 502 a year or P6.85 per student per day while a student needs an average of P20, 000 per school year to cover transportation costs, food, school supplies and other operational expenses. 

“This is contradictory to the supposed free education in basic education as everyone’s constitutional right,” said Lee Biscarra, Kabataan Partylist coordinator for Ilocos Sur. 

“We have long been pointing out to PNoy that the most practical solution to the perennial problems in basic education is to prioritize education in terms of budget allocation more than implementing programs such as K12,” added Biscarra.

Biscarra further said the worsening crisis in education manifests even in tertiary level. He added that the massive budget cut of State Universities and Colleges last year and the Commission on Higher Education’s (CHEd) toothless implementation of its policies to stop tuition hikes in private schools are clear manifestations of the government’s lack of political will to solve the crisis. # NUSP Release

Ilocos mayor suspended for defending town

June 12, 2011 in Ilocos, politics by emendator


While trying to defend the interest of her constituents, Pagudpud town mayor Matilde “Maja” Sales  has been suspended for 60-days over allegations that she is denying the removal of the Nam Yang vessel that ran aground off the shores of Balaoi bay.

Ilocos Norte Governor Imee R. Marcos ordered the suspension of Sales for 60 days on charges that she harassed the owners’ effort to remove the vessel.

On Thursday afternoon, the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) led by provincial director Elpidio Ratuita and the Ilocos Norte Police provincial director Marlou Chan with his men in full battle gear served the suspension order of Sales in her office at the Pagudpud municipal hall.

Sales’ staff however was hesitant to receive the order as they have yet to wait for the mayor who was in Manila on Thursday.

Provincial lawmaker Juan Conrado Respicio, in his capacity as chairperson of the committee on laws said the Sangguniang Panlalawigan believes that there is an urgent need to remove the vessel from the shores of Pagudpud in order to avert any further damages from the oil spill.

But the suspension, according to Respicio was just a preventive measure so as not to preempt an  administrative charge filed against her at the SP by Nam Yang vessel’s authorized representative.

The Philippine Coastguard likewise ordered a stop to the salvage operation of Pen Con salvage Corp., the third salvor permitted by the PCG when it found out that the latter lacked standard equipments to conduct salvage operation.

A task force, earlier formed when the vessel ran aground for more than a year now has recommended in a public hearing held at the provincial board, where all parties agreed to cut the upper portion of the vessel and the lower half shall be repaired and be taken out from the area by towing or hauling it by a barge to the shipyard of the salvor where it will be cut/salvaged but unfortunately, it was never followed.

In an earlier interview, Sales said she was just trying to protect the interest of her constituents when she filed for a temporary restraining order, the court granted for 20 days. 

Sales legal counsel, Juanito Antonio said his client only wanted a piece of “clear and convincing evidence” as to who really owns the vessel and be assured that damages, the stranded vessel caused to Pagudpud residents’ livelihood and marine resources will be properly settled. #

Progay opens Pride month with free haircut

June 12, 2011 in Baguio City by emendator


BAGUIO CITY — Proving that they are productive, responsible and concerned citizens, gays and lesbians under the banner of Progay-Metro Baguio kicked off their 2011 month long Pride activities with free haircut services.

Progay Free Haircut at People’s Park. Photo by Brenda S. Dacpano/

Last June 6, about 150 individuals benefitted from the free haircut services rendered by 20 gays working in various parlors here and in La Trinidad, Benguet at the People’s Park. The said activity started at 10:00AM until 3:00PM on the said date. Earlier, on June 4, Progay serviced pupils of Cabuyao Elementary School in lieu of the opening of classes.

Progay MB Secretary General William Villacampa pointed out that due to the chronic economic crisis gripping the country many could no longer afford to have regular haircuts and other related services like pedicure, manicure and the like.

He added that the meager wages and income of the majority of Filipinos do not allow them to have budget for good grooming.

“Lahat naman tayo kailangan nating mag-ayos ng sarili. Pero sa hirap ng buhay, karamihan sa ating mga kaba-bayan ay hindi na kaya ng kakarampot nilang sweldo o kita ang mga serbisyong ito. Kaya naglunsad kami ng libreng gupit upang makatulong naman kahit paano sa ating mga kababayan,” (We all need to make ourselves presentable. But most of us could no longer afford these services due to very low wages. This is why we staged free haircut to be of service to our fellow men) he explained.

Villacampa shared that most of those who went to the free haircut at People’s Park were mothers with their children. He mentioned that there was a mother who brought four of her elementary kids for a haircut.

“Kaming mga bakla at tomboy ay may halaga at may pagpapahalaga din sa lipunan. Hindi kami dapat katakutan o pandirihan,” (We, gays and lesbians can contribute and care for the betterment of our society. We should not be feared or discriminated upon) Villacampa reiterated.

Other activities of the group for their Pride month include revisiting of the trees they planted in 2010 at the Busol watershed on June 11; a retro night party at the Ayuyang Bar on June 18; a forum on Homophobia and House Bill (HB) 1438 on June 20; a forum on transgenders on June 24 and the grand Pride parade on June 26.

HB 1483 is also known as An Act Defining Discrimination on the Basis of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Providing Penalties Therefor filed by Bayan Muna Representative Teddy Casiño.

The various salons and parlors that participated in the free haircut include Salon de Paulino, Shalimar Beauty Center and Place Lagman Salon in Maharlika; Janice Denaga Beauty Parlor, Leila Beauty Parlor and Jorne’s Petit Beauty Salon in Shopper’s Lane; Jocelyn Beauty Parlor at Pinespark and Lucky 7 Salon at Km 5 in La Trinidad, Benguet. #

Editorial: Human Rights awareness

June 12, 2011 in columns, Featured, opinion by emendator

There is a barangay captain in a corporate-mine threatened area and far-flung barrio near Kalinga who told his constituents that it was not a violation of the barrio peoples’ rights for military elements who enter the civilian community and set camp in public facilities and private homes of the civilians.

There too is one town in these mountains where most barangay captains host a military unit in their private households.

The people of these barrios did not complain when military units entered because they did not know better, and besides it is a Filipino trait to be hospitable to weary travelers as it is also a Filipino trait to be gracious, respectful and humble in a host community where one is a stranger. But this is not the scenario.

In simple parlance, the police and the armed forces of a nation are organized from the ranks of civilians who commit to protect and defend life, abode and property of the nation’s people from threat of “the enemies”. By the law of the land the enemy is identified as one who commits crimes against its citizens, or the enemy can be an army whose sole purpose is to invade, conquer and take away the resources of the targeted nation.

It was also then defined by this logic that civilian life and civilian life-support production activities are foremost of what is to be protected and therefore must not be exposed to “enemy threat.” This simple line of reason is why the protectors of the people do not live or set camp in civilian homes because they are the protectors – the combatants against the enemies of the people. Their being identified targets of the enemy make the civilian homes and facilities they happen to be in, also targets.

It is irresponsible, shameless and without conscience to expose civilians specially women and children, the innocent to the war or combat exchange. Yet it is becoming a common sight in the Cordillera communities for armed military elements in combat uniform quartered in daycare centers, school grounds, under the households, with their pots and pans and laundry.

Besides being unarticulated burdens to the civilian households, they prey on the farm animals, produce, crops, and the women. Their presence exposes the children to fear, trauma and anti-social activities. One report from Abra, tells of a soldier who climbed the window of the host’s house and violently took advantage of the woman.

Though settled, the men meekly say, through the village elders, this crime against the woman, her children, family and community has left a lifetime scar and the military man goes scott free. For how can unarmed civilians negotiate freely for defense, for fairness or justice before an armed unit and command mouthing the mandate from the nation?

It is difficult, honorable and very brave to simply be true to the calling of a Filipino peoples’ soldier as against being a cursed mercenary brag in the Philippine military cowering behind the civilian community for safety where human rights awareness, the Commission on Human Rights or human rights defenders can not reach. #

Advocate’s Overview: Attack vs press freedom in Kalinga

June 12, 2011 in columns, Featured, opinion by emendator


I had an encounter on Thursday with the controversial governor of Kalinga Province, the Honorable Jocel Baac. It was an encounter where I was being interviewed at a TV station on our position on the incident where the governor was pointed to the alleged hitting of an announcer of a radio station in Tabuk.

The governor was also interviewed through phone during that same program. After that encounter, I came to realize again the truthfulness that law enforcement in the provinces is weak, or there is none at all. My belief was concretized by the statements made by the governor. Like in other parts of the country, these local politicians seem to rule their jurisdictions like little kingdoms where their word is the law and must be observed.

Just a brief overview of the incident. It happened five minutes to 1 PM on June 7 inside the Radio ng Bayan in Tabuk City, Kalinga. While Jerome Tabanganay was running his program Agenda, Gov. Baac entered the booth. Allegedly, he grabbed a microphone and hit Tabanganay which caused an injury on the announcer’s mouth, our sources said. Cooler heads intervened and pacified the governor. The incident was recorded on video.

Briefly, in the interview, I condemned the incident and urged Pres. Noynoy to order an investigation as the authority supervising local executives. The act is not only criminal in nature, we consider it a brutal attack on press freedom. The governor reacted by denying that he did not hit Tabanganay. He claimed he went there to pacify him. Pacify was the word he used repeatedly, though he explained that he wanted to talk to Jerome to stop attacking him on air.

Regardless of the noble intention of the Honorable Governor, his act of barging in the booth is condemnable. If he really wanted to talk to the announcer, why didn’t he (governor) wait for him to come out from the booth and sit down to iron out his issues. If he really thinks that his concern is that of being a father of the province. Here it was not. He displayed not only arrogance but clearly he abused his authority. It must be noted that he entered the booth five minutes before the program signs off at 1 PM, and confronted Jerome. This is an attack on the freedom of the press.

The governor has been urging, on the interview, that media should not condone the alleged abuses by Jerome, like the continuous attacks on his person. This governor should know better. As a local executive whose function is to faithfully execute the laws, the governor should follow the appropriate processes.

If he believes that Jerome, or any media practitioner for that matter, has committed excesses in the exercise of his profession, then he could have filed appropriate complaints.

Aside from criminal or civil, there are other processes that he could have exhausted. As the radio station is governed by the KBPs Code of Ethics for Journalists, he could have filed a compliant with the KBP as such is provided for by the processes for arbitration mechanisms. But the governor took the law into his hands, which is a manifestation that law enforcement there is weak or maybe even none at all.

I must tell the governor that these processes (or appropriate bodies) would determine whether Jerome had committed abuses or determine whether his way of reporting is objective or not. While I appreciate his mastery in the field of local governance, if there really is, he has no business determining any excesses committed by a journalist without passing thru those processes.

As a practicing journalist and member of a journalists organization, I (and our organization) do not condone any media malpractice. In fact, we are working to professionalizing our ranks by conducting training and seminars on the Code of Ethics for Journalists. And we encourage any complaints against media practitioners go by the appropriate processes. That is our rule as a member of the Fourth Estate. Should I say more?! #

Crossroads: Food security vs ethanol vs mining vs climate change

June 12, 2011 in columns, Featured, opinion by emendator


Food security and food sovereignty had always been related to the land problem. It is a pitiful state of affairs that those who till the land and provide food for our table have for the longest time been deprived of the right to own the land they till. Blood, sweat, tears, hunger, dispossession and ejection are the sorrowful realities they face.

In our hunger for clean energy and more production to feed a hungry world, our farmers have been the least of the concern of state planners and investors, especially foreign investors who have to keep their deep pockets full and their economies rolling. Poor Filipino farmers at the receiving end.

This is the problem faced by the farmers of San Mariano town in Isabela who are facing a rich giant conglomerate of Japanese investors and local sugarlords that needs the energy and the clean environment “pogi points” to turn sugarcane to bio-ethanol for electricity and transport fuel. Theoretically, the bio-ethanol enterprise will provide the necessary shift from fossil fuels to renewable resources for energy and transport that was mandated into law through the BioFuels Act.

However, what is hidden in the equation is the gargantuan shift from farming for food to farming for energy. To use the analogy of Ka Daning Ramos of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, the farmer who produces the chicken for the market will now be reduced to buying chicken cubes if he wants to eat chicken. The farmers who will be contracting with the bioethanol company will now be reduced to buying all their needs including rice since they will be forced to plant only “ethanol” to meet the company’s quota. Even their language has changed. The farmers of San Mariano no longer say they will plant sugarcane, no, they will plant “ethanol”.

The International Fact-finding Mission to San Mariano, Isabela last week of May was conducted by several experts on food security and land rights on the national and international level. This is a follow-up activity to an earlier national Fact-finding mission last February to probe into land grabbing vis a vis the biofuels project.

The IFFM documented cases already brought as early as 2005 to the municipal, provincial and national levels of the government and heard new cases of landgrabbing with the open knowledge of government agencies like the DENR, DAR, Land Bank and the like. The land problem is so massive and deep but the tillers of the soil stood their ground – “Laban kung laban” as they said it so eloquently. They had to confront a bureaucracy that was clearly washing its hands off the problem or outright sitting on the complaints while they “study the matter further” until the next fact-finding mission maybe. They gritted their teeth when a legal officer accused them of “nagpapaloko” even when they presented evidences of the scam and fraud in several barrios of San Mariano.

San Mariano has a history of land struggle that started when the logging of the forest region started. The first to be affected are the Agtas. They have been displaced by migrants who have heard of the land frontiers and the richness of the Isabela soil. The vast expanse of logged over areas that had water resources and roads however bad became home to communities of Ifugaos, Ilokanos and Ibanags and the Agtas who later realized they have to claim some piece of land with “paper” ownership and stay in one place if they have to show proof of their claim to these paper documents.

In one barangay, an Ifugao settler who has been a local official has been “resourceful” to title his ownership over hundreds of hectares. In Ilocos, he would have been a big landlord but in San Mariano, he is just one of the big guys. San Mariano is so big that a lot of people can easily settle and make the land productive. And therein lies the problem. The land in San Mariano is up for grabs even if it is knowledge that these lands have been occupied since the tillers can remember or were themselves born there.

In the midst of these land problems, a Japanese funded consortium is planning to lease/rent lands for sugarcane plantations for bio-ethanol. What will be left of the farmers then? Only the knowledge that once upon a morning they “own” a piece of land and in the afternoon, another has claimed it by paper documents? What will they put on their tables if all they will be planting are “ethanol”? After all, 11,000 hectares is not a small number. And would 11,000 hectares suffice if there is crop failure due to weather and pests? Where will the farmers now get their food (and it is knowledge also that most of the rice fields have been converted to yellow or animal corn fields)?

And yet another specter is looming in San Mariano – mining companies have applied for permit to mine the areas for minerals. Where will the farmers of San Mariano get their food? #

Daang Tuw’d: Share the water

June 12, 2011 in columns, Featured, opinion by emendator


(Layad Ekid is indisposed. Michael Umaming will take over the column for this week. — Editors)

Sagada, Mountain Province: With Barangay Tanulong’s reservation to share the water coming from Buasao, this town should look to other sources for a waterworks project with P18 million funds from Senator Teofisto Guingona III. The Water Summit done here in May 26-27, 2011 revealed that this resort town surrounded with mountains and trees has plenty of scattered water sources.

One facilitator said: Adyak maawatan, apay nga ado gayam nan balaan ngem dan menkulang tako kayet is danom (I do not understand why we have plenty of water sources, yet we still lack water in our households)?

Poblacion (Barangays Dagdag and Patay), where most business establishments are located and where people are most interested of the Buasao water to solve its domestic water supply, should look at themselves. Poblacion’s water sharing is actually a powerful argument for the i-Tanulong (i is a prefix meaning people from) not to share the water of Buasao.

With its combined total population of 1,994 or a total household of 407, Poblacion is getting water from several sources including the Mission Water, Pitak Baka, Pilaw, Lasig, Namsong and others that were individually tapped for a clan or one family.

Umanay man nan danom isnan Poblacion or the whole central zone no madevelop ay usto dat macentralized (The water is enough for Poblacion or for the the whole central zone if fully developed and centralized), said Robert Pangod, the Executive Assistant of Mayor Edwardo Latawan.

This view is shared by many people of Sagada.

One participant who would express himself more freely on a one-on-one discussion said: Isna Poblacion, wada nan maid danom na dat wada nan menluslusoy nan tangki na; wada es nakaconnect isnan kaatna ay sources kega kedengda is makasapol is danum dapy wada is nan maiwed pulos nakikonektana (Here in Poblacion, there are people with no water in their houses, while there are those who’s water tanks are overflowing; there are also those who have connections in not just one but two or three water sources while there are houses with no water connection at all), he said.

Masda-awak ay tatatangaden tako nan Buasao dapay wada isnan naliwes tako nan mabalin ay madevelop (I am surprised that we always look-up to Buasao for water as if we do not have our own sources to develop),” said another resident. Families hosing water sources from their private land and into their houses, at the expense of rice fields and vegetable gardens, reveal a chaotic situation in the way this town shares this basic human need, he said.

Another problem is the watershed. Private et nan dati ay Saguday, isunga nammid nan sigud ay ikkan di ili ay no wada segeb et bumala nan ipogaw ay mangdepdep (What used to be commonly owned pine lots are now privately owned so that the old practice of members of the community naturally getting mobilized to put-off a forest fire is gone), said Councilor Dennis Lopez.

Nan nasisikap ay member di sinpangapo dadat ideclare nan okan nan komon isunga no wada segeb et makagnge ka is kali ay nan akindeklarasyon nan bumala ta enda depdepen (Scheming individuals declare a clan property for themselves so that in cases of forest fires people would say that it should be those with declaration who will go out to put off the fire), he said.

Lopez said that the government says that a declaration is not a proof of ownership but those with declarations were the ones favored by the court in instances that cases reach its sala.

Participants to the summit confirmed that Mt. Ampakaw, a rich watershed, had been declared by individuals, some as wide as forty hectares. They suggested that the municipality look into these wide declarations, tay ayke wada kakwa is dadakkel ay lote id kasin (nobody in old Sagada owns big tracks of land).

Mt. Ampakaw is the host of many water sources supplying four barangays of Sagada central. Mt. Ampakaw’s other ridge is the source of water for the municipality of Besao. One resident said it is a blessing in disguise that the mountain is a boundary conflict area, otherwise its landscape could change because there were attempts by some i-Sagada to build structures there but were prevented by the i-Besao,” he said.

Jane Likigan, municipal planning and development officer said the municipality should impose that the area is a watershed.

Domestic water and water for the rice fields and vegetable farms are now competing for water supply. Gardener and businessman Francis Inso said a water catch-basin for the rice fields and vegetable farms during the dry season could also be an option.

This way our natural springs would be fully dedicated for domestic purposes, he said.

Councilor Francis Kilongan said the people of Sagada are now amenable to metered water for as long as it is not managed by private entities for profit. Ado et gedan nan madanagan ay aped kanya-kanya nan danom (many people are worried that water is now each to his own), he said.

Sneaky Umaming, a resident, said metered water will equalize distribution.

Those who use more would pay more and perhaps there should be a policy of no charges to users with minimal consumption in order to encourage water conservation, he said.

It will also be an opportunity for employment and with a barangay or municipal management system, there would be more concerns to enhancing the watershed. #

From Under This Hat: Repression of the press

June 12, 2011 in columns, Featured, opinion by emendator


Thank you for Junjun’s concern for a friend and colleagues in media. He took the initiative to draw the support of the best of peoples’ lawyers here in the city, and brought to urgent attention the newest in the continued harassment of radio newscaster and commentator, Jerome Tabanganay of DzRK program “Agenda”, on the government Radyo ng Bayan-Kalinga. This is also the newest assault on the peoples’ freedom of the press and the freedom of expression, and particularly against the practicing journalists in the Cordillera Region.

Not so long ago, in La Trinidad, politicians used the council’s power to legislate against a member of the press because of his reports. The resolution is viewed as an assault on the freedom of the press and expression too.

The assault against Jerome was brazen, affront and immature that more than members of the fourth estate, civil society personalities believe Kalinga should be declared the most dangerous place for a journalist.

Though warned so many times, by both colleagues and concerned citizens, against his being so passionate, vocal and generously frank against anomalies in the province, corruption and jueteng; to a point that tirades over the radio are smattered with invectives; Jerome, may have to put more effort at roping-in his passion and the language (whether it is his or those who send texts). For sometimes, the real story or the actual issue can be drowned away by the style of delivery. So that both newscaster and listeners will lose because they missed the point that was obscured by bad delivery. But still that is no reason to receive a beating from anyone, especially a member of the government.

Truly described in a quote from Wilson Mizner, a playwright in 1876-1933: “The worst-tempered people I’ve ever met were the people who knew they were wrong.”

This top honcho in the province is expected to be a gentleman and to conduct himself with humility and propriety expected of any citizen and especially from those in position, like the governor.

It is now on the worldwide news network that on the 7th of June, and we quote, “Five minutes before Tabanganay signed out of his program Agenda over dzRK Radyo ng Bayan-Kalinga, Governor Jocel Baac barged into the announcer’s booth and hit him on the lip with a microphone,” according to Regie Wacas, president of Kalinga Media Club. Tabanganay said Baac entered the booth with several men carrying M-16 rifles. Before leaving, Baac threatened Tabanganay, saying, “Ituloy mo. Magsalita ka pa. Papatayin kita.” (from NUJP release)

Immediately the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) issued a statement and called Malacanang to act on this erring officer. They also made inquiries on the situation of Jerome. By the 8th, NUJP has organized a group of journalists to verify circumstances of the case. On the 9th, national government has responded with the order to investigate the governor, while organized sectors of the press continued to condemn and call for sanctions against the governor.

Friday, June 10 through his lawyer, the governor, in a meeting with the press issues a statement defending his actions and announcing legal actions planned against Jerome.

All of that still does not change the fact that Tabanganay was hit by the governor while he was doing his job as a journalist. #

Labor Watch: The proper time will come

June 12, 2011 in columns, Featured, opinion by emendator


“If, in the present chaotic and shameful struggle for existence, when organized society offers a premium on greed, cruelty, and deceit, men can be found who stand aloof and almost alone in their determination to work for good rather than gold, who suffer want and persecution rather than desert principle, who can bravely walk to the scaffold for the good they can do humanity, what may we expect from men when freed from the grinding necessity of selling the better part of themselves for bread?” — Anonymous

Last week, the Regional Tripartite and Wage Productivity Board (RTWPB) of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) of this region once again showed its disregard for minimum wage earners. This body has again set aside the petition of a labor group for a small increase on the legislated minimum wage. Their reason, there are no conditions to warrant any increase this year. So the continuous rising of the prices of oil and petroleum products, basic commodities, social services and of course the cost of the much commercialized yet backward education are not enough reason for a decent wage hike?

If ever the petition for an P80 increase will be approved, then the P272 minimum wage for non-agricultural workers will be P352 which is still miles away from the P794 daily cost of living for a family of six to eat three times a day. But then, it seems it will never be.

How much more then for the demand of the much larger and militant central labor organization and the rest of the Filipino people for a P125 increase? The RTWPB as usual will conduct public consultations with selected small labor groups and labor representatives and business owners and managers. And it will end up only with a measly addition to the “cost of living allowance” or COLA that is not even enough to pay the jeepney fare of a worker to and from his house to the workplace. Worse is a no increase decision.

For more than a decade, the workers together with the rest of the Filipino people have been calling for a legislated wage increase and that is nationwide across the board, meaning there will be no regional boards determining how much increase the workers get based on the living standard of the region.

For many years since the demand for P125 started until they were included in the word “boss” of the present president of the yellow crowd, the workers cannot remember getting any wage increase based on their actual living conditions. By the way, the P125 demand was rallied first more than a decade ago by the much larger labor organization waving the red flag which symbolizes progressiveness in thinking and in action and militancy compared to yellow which is said by many to be a symbol of collaborationism and a little bit of cowardliness. (Remember the song “Coward of the County” where the word yellow simply means coward).

A meaningful wage increase for the workers in the private sector as well as a reasonable salary hike for the government employees, together with the many democratic demands of the Filipinos is still to be realized. The “daang matuwid” of the president will not give hallelujiah to the people. The real “daang matuwid” can only be achieved if the people will make it happen, and it will ensure that the true interests of the Filipino masses will be addressed under a “lipunang matuwid” with a ”sistemang matuwid”. That will not be hard if and only if, the people will be one in running a real “pagbabago para matuwid” in the society. #

Weekly Reflections: Genuine freedom

June 12, 2011 in columns, Featured, opinion by emendator


“As for you, my friends, you were called to be free. But do not let this freedom become an excuse for letting your physical desires control you. Instead, let love make you serve one another. For the whole Law is summed up in one commandment: Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” But if you act like wild animals, hurting and harming each other, then watch out, or you will completely destroy one another.” — Galatians 5:13-15

Kalinga Governor

Kalinga Governor Jocel Baac exhibited a behavior unbecoming of a public servant when last Tuesday (June 7, 2011) he rushed to the radio station of DZRK, Radyo ng Bayan, a government-owned radio station in Tabuk, Kalinga, barged into the announcer’s booth together with his five armed bodyguards, grabbed a microphone and slammed it on a table, took a second microphone and hit on the face of the anchorman, Jerome Tabanganay, who was hosting at that time the program, “Agenda Part 2”.

According to the broadcaster, Governor Baac also threatened to kill him if he would continue to talk. The incident was caught on video by a computer camera that was streaming the radio broadcast online. Ironically, what the Governor would like to put into silence using brute force has been broadcast all the more to the whole world through the internet.

Prior to this incident, Tabanganay was also shot by unknown suspects but fortunately he was able to survive. Then, this was followed by the burning of the same radio station DZRK by still unknown suspects. Again, fortunately the radio station was not completely burned down. Tabanganay has been giving commentaries on local issues of graft and corruption, illegal gambling and illegal logging that obviously caught the ire of the Governor. This is one lesson we should learn from life: we cannot silence truth even with brute force. The best thing to do is to face the truth and live by it.

It is important for us to reflect on this incident given the fact that we are celebrating on June 12, 2011 the 113th anniversary of Philippine Independence.

Meaning of Freedom

What is deeply involved in this whole incident is the basic issue of freedom: the freedom of speech on one hand and the freedom to redress grievances on the other hand. Tabanganay believed that it is his moral responsibility as a media person to tell the truth about what is happening in Kalinga whoever is involved. He believed in the words of Jesus saying: “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (Jn. 8:23). Genuine freedom comes from knowing the truth. As long as the people of Kalinga are kept in the dark about graft and corruption, illegal gambling and illegal logging in the province, they continue to be enslaved by these social evils.

Governor Baac, on the other hand, felt that his person and his administration was being destroyed and placed in a very bad light by criticisms and commentaries coming from the media, and therefore he believed that he had the right to defend himself and his administration. Unfortunately, he lost his temper and did what was not expected from a respectable public servant.

Genuine freedom is not doing anything we want. Doing anything we want is license! One of our country’s heroes, Apolinario Mabini, had these to say, “There are many who talk of freedom without knowing what it means. Many believe that once they have gained freedom they may do what they please, good or bad. This is a great error. One is free only to do good never to do evil.” Adam and Eve lost their freedom and were expelled from the Garden of Eden because they used their freedom to disobey God, rather than to obey Him (cf. Gen. 3)

Relevant reminder

Apostle Paul’s letter to the Galatians is a relevant reminder for us. He said, “As for you, my friends, you were called to be free. But do not let this freedom become an excuse for letting your physical desires control you. Instead, let love make you serve one another. For the whole Law is summed up in one commandment: “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” But if you act like wild animals, hurting and harming each other, then watch out, or you will completely destroy one another” (Gal. 5:13-15).

For Apostle Paul, genuine freedom is always coupled with responsibility. It should always be understood in the context of loving our fellow human beings as ourselves. This is what an old hymn trying to say: “Make me a captive, Lord, and then I shall be free.” For a Christian, it is only by being captive of the love of Christ that we shall be truly free. #

The long search for justice for a Kalinga pangat

June 12, 2011 in Cordillera, Featured, human rights, people by emendator


BAGUIO CITY — “Until our right to self-determination is not recognized, the struggle will not end. Even if it means the sacrifice of our lives to achieve freedom, then so be it.”

MARKUS BANGIT. Photo courtesy of Cordillera Peoples Alliance.

True to his words, Rafael Markus Bangit or Makoy to most of those who knew him, a Kalinga pangat (peacepact holder) of the Malbong Tribe and staunch defender of indigenous peoples rights was murdered by suspected state security forces at a bus stop in Echague, Isabela on June 8, 2006.

That fateful day, he was enroute to Baguio with his eldest son who was going to enroll in one of the universities here. Another passenger who screamed when Makoy was shot, Gloria Casuga was also killed by the hooded gunman.

Makoy was the coordinator of the Elders’ desk of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) and Bayan Muna-Kalinga vice chairperson at the time of his death. More than a month after on July 31, 2006 Bayan Muna Kalinga Chairperson Chandu Claver and his wife Alyce Omengan-Claver were ambushed on there way to send their children to school in Tabuk, Kalinga. Chandu survived the incident but Alyce died.

Five years after, the long search for justice continues as there has been no concrete steps taken by the government justice system to resolve Makoy’s murder and the over 1,000 other human rights defenders who became victims of extrajudicial killings for defending their territories from development aggression and their people from rights violations.

Bangit is survived by his wife Agustina Bangit and their four children.

In an interview Agustina shared that their lives drastically changed when Makoy was murdered. She had to take on the responsibility of raising their children alone.

“It has been very hard for us since he was killed. I cannot help but cry when I talk about him and his death. But with the moral and financial support we get from his officemates and other supporters we were able to get by,” Agustina said in Iloco.

She said, their eldest son has already graduated from a two year Computer Programming course. The second is in third year college, the third is in third year high school and the youngest grade six. She added that their eldest wanted to finish a four year course but they could not afford it.

Agustina also disclosed that last Thursday, on the fifth year anniversary of Makoy’s death she went to visit the former officemates of Makoy and with them reminisced the days they spent with him.

“There was no protest action staged that day. We just gathered in the CPA-Kalinga office and shared stories and memories of Makoy and our continuing fight for justice,” she reiterated.

Earlier, Hustisya Northern Luzon came out with a statement urging President Benigno Aquino, Jr. to exhaust all means to help victims of human rights violations and their families in their search for justice.

Agustina is among the council of leaders of Hustisya. #

Philippine crocodile, something to be proud of

June 12, 2011 in Featured by emendator


SAN MARIANO, Isabela — Thus goes the tagline of the Mabuwaya Foundation, Inc, an organization that has been pioneering in breeding Philippine crocodiles (crocodylus mindorensis) and reintroducing them back in their habitat in the rivers of San Mariano.

one of the ponds. In the upper right on the rocks is a crocodile enjoying the sun.

In San Mariano, two conservationists, former Sangguniang Bayan official of the town Jerome Miranda and Dr Bert Araño, veterinarian established a crocodile breeding farm in Minanga, San Mariano where they breed Philippine crocodiles until they are old and able enough to survive in the rivers and lakes of San Mariano or in Isabela.

In the breeding farm, the crocodiles live in ponds that approximate the natural conditions of their habitats – meaning fish, river shrimps, water plants are placed in the pond so the crocodiles can feed themselves by doing their own “fishing”. In their primer they stated that the Philippine crocodile is a critically endangered species and their habitat is getting destroyed by human activity like logging, irresponsible fishing like dynamite fishing, pollution of their waters and the like.

“People often see the Philippine crocodile as a dangerous pest. Or they think it is a delicious snack, or associate it with a corrupt official… How unfair for this beautiful animal,” their primer declares. San Mariano adopted an ordinance to protect the crocodiles in their municipality. Community meetings discussed the best ways to safeguard the animals.

In 2002, Disulap river in San Mariano became the first crocodile sanctuary in the Philippines. Divilacan, Isabela also declared Dicatian lake a Philippine crocodile sanctuary in 2009 and reintroduced fifty crocodiles bred in captivity from the Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center. The last population estimate put the total number of surviving non-hatchling Philippine crocodiles at 100.

Thus, Mabuwaya Foundation declares that establishing crocodile sanctuaries is an effective method to protect crocodiles and fish stocks. “If we protect our crocodiles, we protect our fish stocks. We protect our future. It is only in the Philippines where we find these crocodylus mindorensis and as such are our material, ecological heritage and national treasure.”

The crocodiles can now only be found in Isabela, Negros and Palawan. In protecting the crocodiles and their habitat, we also protect the wetlands thus we preserve our rivers and lakes and provide clean water for household needs. The cycle of life continues because we protect and preserve the crocodiles’ environment.

The crocodiles eat small fishes, frogs, snails, crabs and insects. Adult crocodiles feed on bigger fish species, water birds and mammals. It can reach a maximum of three meters but it should not be feared since they are shy and will not attack unless provoked.

“Forget Hollywood’s depiction of them as voracious beasts! They only eat what they can consume (which is small) and once fed, will bask in the sun to warm their bodies,” the foundation urged. In the crocodile sanctuary, they are kept for up to 18 months and as soon as they are fit will be released in the river sanctuaries.

In the ponds, big fishes coexist with the crocodiles and are undisturbed by their presence. It was a sight to see the crocodiles sunning themselves on rocks while the fishes and shrimps just swam around the waters. Water lilies and kangkong help filter the ponds and trap food for the animals.

According to SB Miranda, the hatchery is the only place where they feed small fishes to the baby crocodiles. Once they are big enough, they are transferred to the ponds where they live with live feed so they could learn to find food and fend for themselves. The ponds are surrounded by trees, flowering plants and fruit bearing plants so the animals would not be “lost” when it is time for them to be reintroduced to the rivers. Tours are allowed without entrance fees yet, but a donation is greatly appreciated. You can also visit the large pig pen that does not smell (but that is another story!)

Mabuwaya Foundation also got the support of the Cagayan Valley Programme on Environment and Development, the Isabela State University, the National Committee of the Netherlands – the World Conservation Union, WWF-Netherlands, British Petroleum Conservation Program and a lot more. You can write to them at and visit their Crocodile Rehabilitation Observance Conservation (CROC) farm in San Mariano. #