Insights and opinions from our contributors on the current issues happening in the region

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When peace is an elusive victim

The internet reaction on the wrath of Santo Niño

RP government’s report to the UPR inconsequential to extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances

CCJP calls for immediate release of Ka Randy

Bias for Life vs. Demands of (National) Security?

Let us continue our march for progress

The story of Samar congressman-elect Doloy Coquilla

Economic gains do not justify strength of democracy

An Initial Statement of the UN Special Rapporteur on Extra-judicial killings

Condemnation on the brutal assassination of Prof. Jose Ma. B. Cui of COURAGE-NS




Military terrorizes residents of San Jorge, Western Samar and San Jose de Buan, Samar

September 23, 2008

September 16 and 18, 2008 the residents of Brgy. Bay-ang, San Jorge, Western Samar and Brgy. Hagbay, San Jose de Buan, Western Samar saw three (3) fighter planes flying over the boundaries of their Barangays. These three (3) planes dropped something that caused big explosions. They also saw white smokes from the place were these bombs were dropped and felt that the ground shaked as these explosions took place. Aside from the bombs dropped from these planes, they also heard more explosions, not coming from these planes, which emitted black smoke. These other explosions again caused the ground to shake.

This series of bombings were accompanied by arrests, detentions, interrogations, torture, illegal search of houses and killing a farmer from these two Barangays.

As a result of these series of atrocities, the residents of Barangay Bay-ang, San Jorge Western Samar were forced to evacuate to the town proper of San Jorge, Western Samar to seek refuge. On the other hand, the residents of Brgy. Hagbay, San Jose de Buan, Western Samar were forced not to go to their farms to work because of fear that they might get hit by the bombs being dropped by these planes. These further resulted to the disruption of the economic activities of the people in the said barangays.

We, in the Human Rights Alliance, KATUNGOD-SB-KARAPATAN, condemns in the strongest possible terms these terroristic activities perpetrated by the elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines under the command of the 8th Infantry Division.

These terroristic acts is a clear indication that the military is not considering the lives of the civilians and the people whom they are mandated to protect as stipulated in our Constitution: a clear indication that they are not as they always project in the media that they are respecting the human rights of the people.

We call on all peace-loving people of Eastern Visayas, to be vigilant and to take an active role in the promotion and protection of the people who have become victims of human rights violations. This is the right time for us to join hands in condemning the continued disrespect of the military on the sanctity of the lives and livelihood of the people of Eastern Visayas.

Reference: Atty. Kathrina R. Castillo, Secretary-General, cel no. 09272776270





On Coastal Clean Up, pollution prevention is the key

By Philippine Information Agency (PIA 8)
September 20, 2008

Today, the third Saturday of September, September 20 to be exact, thousands of people will descend on beaches, lakes, streams to remove trash and debris. Volunteers of all ages from various sectors will form the largest one-day volunteer event.

Coastal clean up isn't just about pollution clean up, it is also pollution prevention. People must be made aware that there will be no trashes to pick if people in the first place will not throw wastes especially the non-biodegradable ones any where much less on the beach where the waves will wash the wastes to the sea.

What makes any Coastal Clean Up unique is its debris collection component and sustainability. More focus is given on the non-biodegradable trash. The event focuses on educating and empowering people to become a part of the marine debris solution.

Information available must be used to educate the public, business, industry and government officials about the problem of pollution prevention. It is believed that understanding the problem is the key to finding long-lasting solutions.

People must be informed that a report on the conduct of a study of plastic marine garbage identifies plastics as the number one marine debris hazard.

Among the results of the study is that a plywood that enters the sea decomposes only after three years.

A cigarette butt that entered the ocean in 1986, starts to decompose in 1991 which is five years after.

A Styrofoam cup that enters the ocean decomposes only after eighteen years while it takes fifty years for a tin can to decompose.

If one thinks it is shocking to know that it takes 450 years for a plastic bottle that enters the sea to decompose, wait till he is informed that it takes one million years for a glass bottle that enters the ocean to decompose.

The Philippines has 18,000 kilometer coastline that lies in the central tropic marine bio-diversity of the world, thus there is a need for volunteers to clean up along the coast or under sea.

Coastal Clean Ups will not only promote recognition and facilitation of volunteerism. More so, it will show that volunteerism activity when properly managed could play a vital role in addressing environmental issues, pollution prevention and human development in general.





Footnotes on Tacloban’s HUC bid

September 18, 2008

A big sign board still hangs infront of the fish market at Tacloban City’s reclaimed site in the supermarket area.  It proclaims that the “improvement of drainage system” project at the fish stall market building at Quezon boulevard, with a project cost of P448,559,52 (there’s an error here: the comma before “52” should be a dot, otherwise the figure would read 448 million or something), has a work duration of “45 calendar days”.  It also contains this message attributed to city mayor Alfred S. Romualdez (his handsome facial photo is there): “Padayon an pagpauswag Tacloban Yes to highly urbanized”.

Eyes of market-goers have not been on that signboard for the nth time that I went there to buy fish.  They were on the fish species for sale, mostly outside of the building where stalls are supposed to be the only place where fish should be displayed and sold.  Have Taclobanons cared not to notice the project, and the “highly urbanized” campaign slogan? These are important matters which they should be concerned about and give their support to.

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For the first time, last Sunday evening, as I was looking for a trip back to Basey town to deliver additional applications for agrarian titles (SP Form No. 1) which I reproduced upon reaching Tacloban from Cogon, I found out that the city now has a new look of a passenger taxi cab. It was waiting for paying passengers bound for Basey.  It had 3 young riders already seated and 5 seats were vacant.  I paid P40 for each of the vacant seats and let the vehicle go.  Its driver, who happens to dine and sometimes sleep in a house at Calbang (a community along the highway, a short distance from the Sta. Rita end of the San Juanico Bridge) - said 5 yellow-painted cute sportscar-like cabs like the one he was driving are now plying the city, and 10 more that are still painted white and to be painted yellow are soon to be registered with the Land Transportation Office.  All these new taxis, which sport the name “Jega Spider”, are owned by JEGA Corporation Inc., a transport services outfit, which is preparing a fleet for the transport units needed once Robinson’s mall opens at Marasbaras, Tacloban.  The corporate owner’s address is at Jega Bldg. in San Jose, Tacloban.  According to the driver, the corporation is proud to announce that the JEGA Spider taxis are “fast and economical, sleek and comfortable” and, with reliable drivers, they go out on the road for a 24-hour service “anywhere in Metro Tacloban”.  Ah, I see, I said.  This could be part of the “highly urbanized city” pursuit of Alfred.  These taxis emerged only at this time that Alfred is into his second year of his first term as city mayor and when he is praying hard for the approval of President Gloria Arroyo to make Tacloban a “HUC”.  A taxi going to Basey for some weeks now only suggests that Basey is part of the concept of “Metro Tacloban”.  Make no mistake about it.  I have no objections.  In fact, I heartily welcome both the taxi and the HUC drives.

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Cogon, a big barrio of Basey with a total warm body population of 1,500 (including those at its two sitios of Cambabang [between Cogon and the next barrio of Cancaiyas, and surrounded by lowland ricefields] and Guinpongdoan [nestling on a mountain and accessible from Bulao - an agrarian reform community - and Cancaiyas] and part of the houses at sitio Macaranas of New San Agustin) is gearing to score triple successes in its Gulayan sa Barangay project.  Thanks to the initiative and efforts of kagawad Ramon J. Gad.  When he was still the village chief, Cogon bought a piece of private land which soon was converted into a barangay plaza (well, it has a cemented basketball court that is a favorite playing ground for children and adults for many years now).  A few months ago, Ramon, the barangay council agriculture committee chair, has asked the constituents to cultivate the spacious vacant lot on the “ilawod” side of the plaza.  After a series of “pintakasi”, plots emerged, one set immediately planted to upo, patola, okra and hantak by 14 members of the Lupong Tagapayapa who also built a fence around their yard and a “balayan nga pakamburan” (trellis, a latticework for plants) all from bamboo that is available in the barrio.  Another set was completed by the local barangay health workers who soon planted their assigned lot with upo, patola and hantak.  When revisited by me last Sunday to retrieve the CLOA from Guinpongoan, the third set was already completed with 3 long rows of plots which would be used for demonstration planting of Ampalaya seeds by Neil Anasarias, a technician of the municipal agriculturist’s office.  This set, prepared by 4 tanod members, has another plot reserved for eggplant and its far “ilawod” end is already planted to okra and hantak.  Ramon had been frequenting the agriculturist’s office for seeds to be planted and for technology to be imparted.  Ador Amascual had appreciated that and has not hesitated for once.  He gave Ramon a 300- or 340-gram can of “Isabel(a?)” Ampalaya seeds which are sold in Quezon City and this is what the tanod will be growing, and, harvesting after 4 or 6 months.  Ramon told all planters to own their harvests and divide among themselves the income from their harvests and then to continue planting in their assigned areas at the plaza.

Teodorico D. Porbus, an avid supporter of the vegetable production project of mayor Wilfredo O. Estorninos and president of Baktas Kabub’wason Rural Workers Association, assured Ramon of a ready market for their ampalaya.  Dioring accompanied me to Cogon to also look into the progress of the local tuba-tuba planting activities.  He had opened a new tuba-tuba nursery in his birthplace at barrio Villa Aurora, one which will soon be yielding long and healthy ampalaya vegetables.  He said, his cousin, a big marketer in Tacloban, is ready to buy all the harvests from all the ampalaya gardens in Basey.  He stressed that Tacloban seems no longer to be buying its supply of ampalaya and other vegetables outside of Leyte.  This trend will continue because many Leytenhon are now into vegetable production, and now, Basaynon will hop into the band wagon, although not conscious of the fact that they are already indirectly supporting the highly urbanized city bid of the Taclobanon.

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At past 7 p.m. last Sunday, a car with red plate SES 576, apparently with one rider apart from the driver, was moderately running Salazar street to Sen. Enage street and onward.  A cab driver commented, “bilib, an gobyerno natrabaho bis’ gab-i hit Domingo”.  I said to myself, “tuod ito, kay bis’ ako.”





Fighting former Olympic gold medalists

Pacquio and Pancho Villa have one thing in common

September 15, 2008

Manny Pacquiao will not be the first Filipino world champion to fight a former Olympic gold medalist in the person of Oscar De La Hoya, who pocketed the United States’ lone gold medal in boxing in the lightweight division in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

Francisco Guilledo, popularly known as “Pancho Villa”, was the first “brown bomber” to be pitted against an Olympic champion.

In fact, Pancho Villa (92-8, 25 KOs, 4 draws), the first Filipino and Asian world champion, never won a single fight in his trilogy with Frankie Genaro (94-26, 18 KOs, 8 draws), flyweight gold medalist in the 1920 Antwerp Olympics.

Another Filipino Jongjong Pacquing came closed to fighting 1984 Los Angeles Olympics featherweight gold medalist Meldrick Taylor (38-8, 20 KOs, 1 draw) for International Boxing Federation (IBF) light welterweight title in Las Vegas on Sept. 3, 1988 but pulled out in the eleventh hour after he injured his knee.

Pacquing (59-24, 30 KOs, 5 draws), of Cagayan De Oro City, was already in Las Vegas when the injury occurred. He was replaced by James Buddy McGirt who was knocked out in the 12th round.

In their first meeting on July 6, 1922 in Jersey City, New Jersey, the fight between Villa and Genaro ended in no contest.

In their rematch on August 22, 1992 in Ebbets Field, Brooklyn, New York, Genaro showed who’s the boss and outpointed the Ilonggo buzzsaw in 10 rounds.

After racking up nine straight wins on American shores, Villa faced Genaro anew for the American flyweight champion on March 1, 1923 at the Madison Square Garden in New York.

Genaro continued his mastery over the visitor from Ilog, Kabankalan, Negros Occidental by pounding out another points victory after 15 rounds.

A fourth meeting did not materialize after Villa died of tooth infection 10 days after losing on points to Jimmy McLarnin  at the Oaks Ballpark, Emeryville, California on July 4, 1925.

Villa’s title was not at stake when he lost to McLarnin thus the New York State Athletic Commission (NYSAC) declared Villa’s title vacant after his death and proclaimed Genaro the new champion.

Always seeking the best competition, Genaro lost his American title to Fidel LaBarba in 1925 and dropped a decision to former world champ Newsboy Brown in his next outing.

Genaro was a quick-footed fighter who combined agility and aggression to become a world champion. His day finally came in 1928 when he defeated Frenchy Belanger to win the NBA flyweight crown. Although he lost the title in his first defense against Emile Pladner, he took it right back by defeating Pladner one month later.

Genaro made successful defenses of the NBA title against Ernie Jarvis, Yvon Trevidic and Belanger before meeting Midget Wolgast, who was recognized as world flyweight champ by the New York State Athletic Commission. The unification bout ended in a draw and each champion went their separate ways. Genaro made successful defenses against Victor Ferrand, Jackie Harmon and Valentin Angelmann until being knocked out by Victor "Young" Perez in 1931.

Genaro never fought for another title but did manage to beat future featherweight champion Joey Archibald in 1933 before retiring in 1934. In all, Genaro met 10 world champions. Among those not already listed are Bushy Graham and Willie LaMorte. He also met three Hall of Famers.





Basey losing 2,000 hectares to Sta. Rita?

September 9, 2008

Approximately 2,000 hectares of land could be breaking away from Basey, Samar where the original government land classification map drew it.  That is, if this vast tract and mountain of land had not already been sliced effectively and arrogated as part of the adjoining town of Sta. Rita.  The occurrence is not a natural phenomenon.  It is a mere result of “human intervention”.

This has come about during the administration of Sta. Rita mayor Atty. Silverio “Silver” Macariola.  The mayor at the time in Basey was Atty. Wilfredo “Didi” Estorninos (today serving the first term of his next three-term opportunity to serve as mayor, a position to which he was reelected unopposed for his last term of office in an election that placed his vice-mayor Engr. Vicente “Vic” Labuac as his successor until June 30, 2007 when he Didi defeated Vic).  Didi suspected years ago that Silver’s administration was already extending its authority across Basey.

There allegedly were reports from the field that taxes were demanded by Sta. Rita from owners of lands that belonged to Basey.  The lands affected were said to be lying east of the boundary of Basey and Sta. Rita starting somewhere at Cantaba (the sitio village that meets the eye when descending the last height of the asphalted highway from San Juanico Bridge and turning left for the end of the asphalted road at Calbiga, Samar) which kisses the imaginary boundary line of Dolongan, a barrio of Basey, and ending somewhere north-northeast ahead of Magsaysay (the barrio next to sitio Cantaba) and further ahead.

A feeling went up that on account of the undue arrogation of the 2,000 hectares, Sta. Rita benefited from it in terms of an increase in its income, or via the internal revenue allotment.

There was some amount of push that the matter be brought to the sangguniang panlalawigan of Samar for a remedy.  Of course, to Basey, the remedy was for Sta. Rita to stop owning the 2,000 hectares.  The latest suggestions – between August, 2006 and early this month of September, 2008 – included the conduct of government surveys that would firmly establish the exact boundary between Basey and Sta. Rita, including the boundaries on the peripheral south of Pinabacdao town in Samar which kisses the northern and northern-eastern lines of Basey and Sta. Rita, on the map, that is.

For Didi, the full exercise of taxation and political and administrative authority by the municipal government of Basey will enable the town planners of Basey to complete their comprehensive and integrative development plans.  This is especially true now that mayor Estorninos is giving much attention to his goal of increased food production in support of the promised “food basket” program of Samar governor Milagrosa Tee Tan and the dream of President Gloria Arroyo to make the Philippines truly self-sufficient in food.  Didi is convinced that the more than 10,000 hectares of land beyond 8 kilometers from the poblacion towards the north, and up to the town’s western boundary with Sta. Rita, when fully developed thru the opening of viable roads and massive infusion of farm machineries and technology, could yield a volume and supply of food more than what the townspeople would need year-round.

Today, though, Basey is craving for funds from all sectors, especially from the Office of the President, with which to build good roads into the more than 10,000 hectares which, incidentally is entirely part of the 19,893-hectare Samar resettlement (as established by Proclamation 2292 of then President Ferdinand Marcos), and introduce support services that would attract socio-economic investments and ultimately pave the way for better modernization and globally responsive innovations.

At the moment, mayor Estorninos and his constituents must not be left to themselves.  They need every push and help.  Even mayor Kim Adolfo of Sta. Rita and his constituents can significantly help.

Gov. Tan and vice-governor Jesus B. Redaja and his members of the sangguniang panlalawigan could be of special help.  Representative Sharee Ann Tan could give a very big help, but the biggest help will come from President Arroyo, particularly now that she has started giving Samar her various serious attention (her latest itinerary will even include a visit to Eastern Samar to look into the other international tourism needs of Calicoan island and to attend the Balangiga massacre commemorative events).  In the meantime, the lands bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources can contribute with technical maps and advice.  No, I’m not saying they should come to me.  I’m nobody on this matter, just a plain Filipino citizen.  If they want to take action now and at once, they need to contact Didi.

And, just a by the way: Sta. Rita has a Year 2000 population of 30,118 and is made up of 30 barangays.  For year 2008, during which every barangay in the Philippines is entitled to an IRA share of P80,000 for every 100 or more population, Sta. Rita has P3,040,000 on that basis, but its share based on population is P7,621,978.91.  Based on equal sharing, Sta. Rita has an IRA of P11,666,748.47.

On the other hand, Basey has a population of 43,809 as of Year 2000, and since it has 51 barangays, its P80,000-per-barangay share sums up to P4,080,000, while its share based on population is pegged at P11,086,767.85 and its total share from the equal sharing (of P307,019.70 per barangay) is P15,658,004.52.  The computed total IRA of Basey for Year 2008 is rounded to P30,824,770. (Sta. Rita’s is only P22,328,727.)





Military elements terrorized residents of Matuguinao

August 26, 2008

July has been a terrible month this year for residents of some interior barangays in Matuguinao, Samar because of military operations in their area causing several human rights violations.

On July 7, 2008 military elements belonging to the 63rd Infantry Batallion (IB), Philippine Army (PA), picked up two children, brothers Gino dela Cruz, 12 years old, and Lino dela Cruz, 10 years old, who were on their way home to Brgy. Carolina, Matuguinao from their farm and brought them to their operations in search for camps of the New Peoples Army (NPA) in the area. The soldiers flicked the boys ears and hands and threatened to kill them if the soldiers get ambushed by NPAs after they release the boys. The same day while tagging the boys along, they illegally searched Elveria dela Cruzs house in Brgy. Rizal, Matuguinao while no one was home. They also took some belongings and dumped the old clothes outside the house.

In Brgy. Carolina, Matuiguinao, elements of the same military unit arrived at the barrio on July 16, 2008 and fired several shots at Alvin Tenedero, a resident of the said barangay. Fortunately, he was able to run to avoid the shots. Then they threatened the residents and accused the men of being members of the NPA. Some of the residents were forced to do chores for the soldiers. The same day, three (3) houses including the personal belongings inside were burned down by the same military unit in Brgy. Inubod, Matuguinao.

On July 22, 2008, Bernabe dela Cruz was fired at by soldiers and his house located at a farm at Brgy. Carolina was bombed. Fortunately, he was able to escape. The same day, elements of the same military unit went back to the barrio proper of Brgy. Inubod and threatened the residents and illegally searched almost all the houses in the barrio to look for fire arms but failed to find one.

Katungod Sinirangan Bisayas, the Regional Alliance for the Advancement of Peoples Rights, condemns in the strongest possible terms these state-sponsored terrorist acts by elements of the 63rd IB, PA. These incidents are manifestations of the implementation of the governments anti-insurgency campaign, Oplan Bantay Laya II (OBL II). State elements who are supposed to protect the lives of civilians are the number one violator of human rights. The findings of the UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston is further proved that the Armed Forces of the Philippines is in the state of total denial of being responsible for these human rights violations even with clear statements of the victims themselves.

We call on all concerned agencies and institutions to conduct an investigation regarding the incident and take necessary actions to protect the lives of innocent civilians against atrocities of state agents. Let us break the culture of impunity.

We also call on the peace loving people of Eastern Visayas to be vigilant and to expose any violations of human rights done by state agents. With the united stand and effort of our communities, we can defeat OBL II.





Remembering the seldom-remembered heroes

By Philippine Information Agency (PIA 8)
August 26, 2008

TACLOBAN CITY, Leyte  –  The country abounds with heroes, from the folk heroes recorded in the country's ancient epics through the centuries of foreign rule in the country up to the present.

The long list of men and women who gave up their lives in defense of the Filipino people's rights and liberties testify to the heroism of the people. It is a good thing that the government has allotted one day as National Heroes Day because many heroes have been forgotten.

By their deeds and sacrifices, the country's heroes wrote the pages of the country's annals not only with their blood but by their deeds that raised the dignity of the Filipino as a people. It is important to study the life and works of these heroes for posterity to see and emulate their noble lives and deeds.

In Eastern Visayas, seldom remembered is the Waray hero Juan Ponce Sumuroy who led the Sumuroy Rebellion of 1649-1650 first began in Northern Samar. His trusted co conspirator David Dula sustained the quest for freedom with greater vigor but he was wounded, captured and later executed in Palapag, Northern Samar by the Spaniards together with his seven key lieutenants, one of who was the great great grandfather of current Northern Samar Governor Raul Daza.

There is Valeriano Abello, the Boy Scout hero of the Leyte Landing, among the honorees. Abello was the courageous solitary figure who appeared on the beach of Tolosa, Leyte, and signaled using semaphore flags to the U.S. forces aboard the ships offshore that civilian lives were endangered by their impending bombardment. After reaching the ships on an outrigger banca paddled by two local friends, Abello pointed out the Japanese artillery emplacements and defensive positions and helped spare many civilian settlements and populations from destruction by American carpet bombing.

Another is Jaime C. de Veyra of Tanauan, Leyte who through his pen, as editorial writer of El Renacimiento advocated liberty and freedom. Later, he became the first Filipino governor of Leyte and was appointed Resident Commissioner for the Philippines at the United States Congress in Washington, D.C. and chairman of the Institute of National Language which recommended to Congress the adoption of Tagalog as the basis of developing a national language in 1937.

And there were the 400 brave men from Balangiga who dared to stop the abuses by the American soldiers during the American occupation. It said that while all 74 American soldiers were eating their breakfast, they were suddenly attacked by the townsfolk, resulting in 54 deaths and 18 wounded. So grisly were the deaths that it was prominently played up in the news. Survivors recounted how the night before there was a procession of women followed by baby coffins. The women turned out to be men and the coffins contained rifles. At 6:30 a.m., the bells of Balangiga were rung, signaling the attack of 400 men led by the highest town official.

The country's heroes also include those who selflessly worked for the welfare and progress of Philippine life through honest and dedicated public service – the Overseas Filipino Workers, the cab driver who returned huge amounts of money left behind by a passenger, the teachers who sacrificed their lives and  who died protecting the sanctity of the ballots, the government forces who died and those still living who continue to do their task of protecting the people and upholding the rule of law , the farmers who toil the soil so that Filipinos will have rice to eat, the students who by their achievements announced to the whole world the existence of their respective hinterland homes, the government workers who continue to serve with commitment despite the meager pay. These are the unsung heroes of the country.

These are the seldom remembered heroes of the nation, men and women who lived and died for freedom and liberty, men and women who work for peace, unity, integrity and truth.




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