“EDSA DOS Rebolusyon”, Isang Malaking Pagkakamali at Kahihiyan sa Ating Kasaysayan

PRESS STATEMENT
January 20, 2009

Sa buong mundo, anumang araw na naganap ang isang “rebolusyon” ay ginugunita at ipinagdiriwang ng buong bansa ang katagumpayan nito.

Subalit bukod tanging sa Pilipinas, sa araw na ito na sinasabing naganap ang “edsa dos revolution”. Tila nakalimutan na ng lahat ang pangyayaring ito.

Marahil hindi makuhang gunitain ng bansa ang pangyayaring ito, dahil sa halip na mapabuti ay lalo lamang nasadlak sa walang kaparis na kadiliman ang bansa sa pagtitimon ng kasalukuyang bangkaroteng rehimen.

Maging ang mismong prinsipal na nakinabang sa “rebolusyong” ito na pamilyang Arroyo, ay ayaw itong ipagdiwang! Dahil lalo lamang makikita ang pagkakahiwalay nito sa mga Pilipino. Iniwanan na si Arroyo ng mga mismong nakipagsabwatan sa kanila. Kaya’t batid nitong sa halip na magamit ang “edsa dos” para sa pagpapakita ng pag-asa, alam nitong lalo lamang masasadlak sila sa isang depensibo at walang katapusang pagpapaliwanag at KAHIHIYAN!

Marami na sa mga naging bahagi ng madilim na pangyayaring ito ay nagsisisi at humihingi ng paumanhin hindi lamang kay Pangulong Erap kundi mismo sa masang Pilipino.

Marapat lamang na itala ang araw na ito na tinawag nilang “rebolusyon” bilang isang MALAKING PAGKAKAMALI AT KAHIHIYAN sa ating kasaysayan. Patawarin sana tayo ng mga kabataan at ng susunod na henerasyon.

JOSEPH VICTOR G. EJERCITO
Mayor

10 lessons learned from the US presidential elections

By COMELEC Commissioner Rene V. Sarmiento | 01/19/2009 1:19 PM
http://www.abs-cbnNEWS.com

“Martin Luther King said he had a dream, and I feel right now at this time, this is the dream he wanted.”—Judy Brown, 56, Jacksonville bus driver

I flew to Washington, D.C. on October 31, 2008 to represent Comelec Chairman Jose A.R. Melo in the 2008 US Presidential Election Program sponsored by the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), a nonprofit, democracy development organization that works to give people a voice in the way they are governed. The election program was attended by election officials representing 41 countries.

On the second day of the program Sen. Barack Obama was elected after a historic quest for the presidency. The international program participants shared the sentiments of many that Obama’s election was “historic,” “revolutionary” and “record breaking.”

In its editorial, Chicago Tribune said: “When he [Obama] was born in 1961, African-Americans risked death merely to register to vote in some Southern states…Yet today, the nation is willing to entrust its future to a son whose father was black.” Robert Robertson, deputy sports managing editor of USA Today, wrote that with Obama’s victory “it is a great time to be alive and living in America today.”

The IFES-sponsored 2008 Presidential Election international gathering combined lectures on US politics, electoral campaigns and processes, observation tours of polling places in Washington, D.C., and several Virginia counties on election day, interviews of poll workers, interaction with election officials from other countries and a visit to the US Capitol. It was held amidst a momentous political event in the US.

On the whole, it was very insightful. It provides many lessons on ballot democracy worth pondering as the Philippines prepares for its automated presidential election in 2010. Among these many lessons are:

1. Young voters made a big difference in the elections.

Young volunteers organized, campaigned and fundraised for Barack Obama. For months, they focused not only on registering new voters but in tracking down blacks, Latinos and many other people who had been registered but never voted. True enough, after the polls closed, national exit polls showed Obama winning 66 percent of voters under 30, higher than Ronald Reagan’s 59 percent in 1984 and the highest in data available since 1976. Between ages 30-44, 53-percent voted for Obama, and according to the Associated Press, more than two-thirds of voters under 30 backed him.

2. Modern technology boosted Barack Obama’s candidacy.

Obama adeptly used interactive social technology. According to David Talbot, Obama’s Web site http://www.my.barackobama.com was created to generate fund support and to wage a successful network campaign. Besides the Web, the spirited Obama campaign team employed blogs, click-to-donate tools, phone brigade, text messaging, door to door conversations and online political updates.

USA Today editorialized that “Beyond TV, for better and worse the Internet became a larger player in presidential politics. It was the engine behind much of Obama’s success in raising record amounts of money in smaller donations. It became a viral means of speeding all manner of political messages, humor and rumor.”

3. Televised presidential and vice-presidential debates helped voters decide.

The debates informed the electorate about the candidates’ persona and stand on issues like the raging economic crisis, energy, health care, global warming, education, US war in Iraq and Afghanistan, etc. Prof. Diana Carin of the University of Kansas and one of the lecturers in the IFES-sponsored program opined that debates moved undecided voters and soft supporters turning to the other candidate and reinforced previously held positions.

She added that the debates projected Obama as “winning” and McCain as “nonwinning” because of the latter’s nonverbal communication like scowling and being rude and caustic. The body language was very apparent on TV.

4. Early voting ensured shorter voting lines on Election Day in battleground states.

According to Paul Gronke, a researcher of the Early Voting Information Center in Portland, Oregon, early voting appeared to have accounted for about one-third of the votes cast in the presidential race, compared with 14-percent eight years ago. In North Carolina, the number of early voters equaled 70 percent of the entire turnout in 2004. In Chicago, more than half the vote came early. In states where work excuses are required for voting workers or don’t allow early voting, such as Pennsylvania and Virginia, voting lines were longer.

5. Use of automated election system fast-tracked voting, counting and announcing of election results.

In the late evening of Election Day, Obama was proclaimed as the US 44th President. This speedy announcement could be attributed to the use of voting technology in the US.

There is, however, a variation in polling and voting systems in that land of opportunities. Eighteen states use paper-based voting system (primarily precinct-count optical scanner). Fourteen 14 states employ direct-recording electronic (DRE) voting systems in some or all jurisdictions and require voter-verified paper-audit trails (VVPATS). Four states utilize DREs in some or all jurisdictions both with and without VVPATS. New York employs lever machines and the District of Columbia uses DREs in some or all jurisdictions and does not require the use of VVPATS. Oregon votes entirely by mail.

Kinstall Brace, president of Election Data Services, a company that examines voting machine usage across the country, stressed that “From 2004 to 2006, electronic voting machine usage went up and 2006 was the high-water mark. Then use came down. From 2006 to 2008, every jurisdiction that has changed has gone to optical scan…and election administrators are now moving their decisions in that direction.”

In some parts of Florida and California, all of Connecticut, parts of New York and other jurisdictions around the country switched from either DRE or lever machines to optical-scan systems.

6. Sen. John McCain’s gracious and immediate concession speech is worth emulating.

In the evening of November 4, 2008, when Obama had obtained and even surpassed the electoral votes of 270, McCain graciously conceded defeat, congratulated Obama and offered to support his presidency. This fine democratic behavior demonstrates a political maturity and strongly contributes to political stability. In Delaware, a Return Day, the state’s traditional day of postelection healing took place where winners and losers participated in a parade to symbolically “bury the hatchet.”

7. The trimedia (TV, radio and print) kept the electorate informed about current issues and in projecting the potentials and capacities of the competing candidates. Their day-to-day election reports, updates and commentaries enlightened the voters and helped them make their choices. It is noteworthy that six days before the election, Obama delivered a $3-million 30-minute advertisement on seven television channels during prime time, speaking to an estimated 33 million viewers.

8. Redefined moral issues and faith dimension were evident in the electoral campaign.

Rev. Jim Wallis, president of Sojourners, a national network connecting faith and justice, said that many Evangelicals and Catholics have redefined moral issues more than abortion and gay marriage. To them moral issues include health care, education, housing, jobs, Afghanistan and Iraq, poverty and environment.

In its 2007 document on political responsibility “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” the US Conference of Catholic Bishops said any efforts to reform the health-care system must respect human dignity and protect human life; meet the needs of the poor and the 47 million uninsured Americans, including pregnant women, unborn children, immigrants and other vulnerable populations; protect the conscience rights of Catholics and Catholic institutions, and provide effective, compassionate care those with HIV and AIDS. And days before election day, the US bishops encouraged Catholics to pray a novena for life, justice and peace before the election entitled “Novena for Faithful Citizenship.”

The Los Angeles Times wrote that at the Democratic National Convention in August 2008, a first-ever interfaith prayer gathering was held. During a presidential forum in August 2008 at Saddleback Church, where Obama and McCain were interviewed separately by a church leader, Obama spoke about “walking humbly with our God” and quoted from the Gospel of Matthew. His acceptance speech during the Democratic National Convention echoed the church-inspired speeches of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

9. In managing the electoral process, volunteerism among the adults and the young was impressive.

Poll workers in the different counties in most of the 50 states were not civil servants or public officials. They were volunteers, many of them in their 60s and 70s. And many of them come from poor neighborhoods. An Election Center, said William O. Field, US Electoral Specialist, is in charge of training these volunteers for poll duty. The education module consists of alphabet and number tests, video and bingo games to keep alive the attention and interest of the elderly poll workers.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia came out with a 2008 Virginia Voter Empowerment Card that contained an election-day guide on voting and avoiding voting problems.

10. The US Presidential Election was not perfect.

There were snags and glitches on election day. USA Today reported that polling places opened late or were understaffed. Voters found they were not registered or were asked for ID when it was not required. Electronic or optical-scan machines broke down in some states, causing paper ballots to pile up. Emergency backup ballots were underused in some states and overused in others. And from Virginia to New Mexico, some voters were told to vote on November 4 or later.

The Washington Post also reported that last-minute lawsuits challenging election procedures were lodged on November 3, 2008 in Philadelphia, Indianapolis, New Hampshire and Ohio. But election law specialists said potential problems at the polls had been asserted by nearly a dozen lawsuits nationwide filed in recent weeks, in which federal and state costs upheld the eligibility of hundreds of thousands of voters.

Jonah Goldman, director of the National Campaign for Fair Elections at the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said several college campus and minority communities were targeted with disinformation via fliers, text messages, automated calls and group postings on the Facebook social networking site.

Despite these, the American people did not cast in doubt the outcome of the elections. Many say that the Americans trust their electoral processes. Justice Johann Kriengler, former chairman of Independent Electoral Commission of Africa, said electoral administration efficiency alone is not enough: the people must trust the system.

The US Election Assistance Commission, a creation of the Help America Vote of 2002 Law, monitors all elections in the US, serves as an oversight body and submits recommendations to Congress to improve elections. For sure, Congress will be receiving recommendations from the Commission after this 2008 Presidential Election.

In all, the eventful 2008 US Presidential Elections provided valuable lessons to all those who want democracy to flourish in their countries, the Philippines included. Inspiring as it is, it paved the way for the election of the first African-American President, Barack Obama, whose soaring and stirring speech at the Chicago Grant Square on November 5, 2008, affirmed the worth of every voter, the value of volunteerism, the need for undying hope and the clamor for government of the people, for the people and by the people.

Learning from Barack Obama

BY Fidel V. Ramos
Newsbreak Magazine
http://www.newsbreak.com.ph

The assumption of Barack Obama as 44th President of the U.S. should be welcomed by ordinary Filipinos, given his liberal, anti-racial, pro-minority, and pro-poor tendencies developed throughout his youth, and during his immersion in a diversity of cultures and social justice advocacies.

Given the worldwide economic recession plus political instability in several regional hotspots — and their impacts on the Philippines — our elected leaders and decision-makers should seriously study and learn from the Obama phenomenon.

Leadership is what Barack prepared himself for and sacrificed for. His burning desire to excel was not just to satisfy a grand personal ambition, but to enable him to better serve the suffering and marginalized.

Obama’s first book, Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, published in 1995, was and continues to be a national bestseller. It describes Barack’s grandfather, Onyango, as a respected elder of Kenya’s Luo tribe, who had such strong qualities of caring, sharing and daring for his community that he was known for having “ants in his anus” (or “fire in his belly”).

The same was said about Onyango’s son, Barack Sr. (which means “Blessed” in Arabic), and it is presumed that their genes, fires and ants flowed into Barack II, the incoming U.S. President. And from his mother, Ann Dunham — an anthropologist — he also inherited similar virtues of compassion and empathy.

PGMA and Obama
At this late date for PGMA — which coincides with a new era dawning for America with Obama’s inauguration just two weeks away — there may no longer be enough time and space for her to get a “passing-mark” to reverse what most Filipinos consider a generally mismanaged administration that has been going one step forward and two steps backward.

But, if she is to change her declining trust ratings, she must make bold reforms for the resolution of the enormous problems facing our nation in order that she can still effectively optimize her precious remaining 17 months to return the Philippines back on the track of sustainable peace and development, and a place of respect in the community of nations.

While Obama can look forward to as long as eight years of being at the helm, PGMA and her drumbeaters must not delude themselves into staying on beyond 30 June 2010.

In his The Audacity of Hope, Obama back in 2006 precisely identified America ‘s dilemma. He said: “What’s troubling is the gap between the magnitude of our challenges and the smallness of our politics — the ease with which we are distracted by the petty and trivial, our chronic avoidance of tough decisions, our seeming inability to build a working consensus to tackle any big problem.”

Note Obama’s sarcastic comment on the “smallness of politics” against the “magnitude of challenges.” Do Obama’s analysis and prescriptions ring a bell here at home? Yes, they do, because of “our seeming inability to build a working consensus to tackle any big problem.” And, if PGMA bites the bullet of reform and takes decisive actions now, she could still bow out with an acceptable legacy and her head still held high.

Like a meteor
Notwithstanding that Barack’s writings are not easy reading, it is certainly worthwhile and rewarding to plow through the 900 pages of both his bestsellers that describe his life story and advocacies. Today’s leaders who have cast longing eyes on the Philippine Presidency come 2010 would find it enlightening, even advantageous, to study carefully what made Obama the way he is, what he thinks, and how he gets things done.

For he is not just a rare multi-colored phenomenon who burst upon the world scene at the right time like a meteor, but much more than that, he is a mobile gladiator with sharp intellectual skills, charming political savvy and a cool, unflappable character. Moreover, he is a tough competitor with the admirable physical fitness and endurance of a champion Kenyan marathoner — born of an austere life style and stability under pressure.

The phrase “The Audacity of Hope” came early into Barack’s consciousness during his meetings with Reverend Jeremiah Wright, pastor of the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, and a Ph.D in religious history. In 1988, towards the end of his 3 years as a community organizer in the slums, and before he entered Harvard on a scholarship, Barack recalls:

“The title of Reverend Wright’s sermon that morning was ‘The Audacity of Hope.’ It is about this world, a world where cruise ships throw away more food in a day than most residents of Port-au-Prince see in a year, where white folks’ greed runs a world in need, apartheid in one hemisphere, apathy in another hemisphere… That’s the world! And so it went, a meditation on a fallen world… Reverend Wright spoke of Sharpsville and Hiroshima , the callousness of policy makers in the White House and in the State House… The Reverend spoke of the hardship that the congregation would face tomorrow, the pain of those far from the mountain-top, worrying about paying the light bill.”

Lessons
There are valuable lessons for “wannabe” Presidents of the Philippines to be acquired from a comprehensive understanding of Barack Obama. Among them: his humility, grit, honesty, industry, and sincere concern for the powerless and endangered masses.

What could be his most precious legacy to the American people — as well as for others around the world — is a new, reformist paradigm for public service and leadership in the interdependent world of the 21st century, which is based on the audacity of hope for a better future, the advocacy of change we need, and the faith that “Yes, We Can (Kaya Natin Ito!)”.

Real change, real people

By Karla Angelica Pastores
http://www.inq7.net blog

THE first time I met Jesse Robredo, Grace Padaca, and Among Ed Panlilio, I wasn’t star struck. They did not have an air of superiority around them, and they certainly did not walk around waving to everyone and shaking hands with people whose arms are not even extended. To me, they did not look like politicians, let alone award-winning ones.

No, I wasn’t star struck when I met them. I was awestruck.

Over dinner at Club Filipino one June evening last year, I was listening to these three government officials talk about their problems in their provinces and offer solutions and support to each other. They were seated across from each other, engaging themselves in a lively conversation. As I sat there, a young, somewhat inexperienced fresh graduate, I felt very privileged to have met these leaders and be privy to their thoughts and ideas.

Several months and two more exceptional public servants later, my respect and admiration for Mayor Jesse of Naga City, Gov. Grace of Isabela, Among Ed of Pampanga, Gov. Teddy Baguilat of Ifugao and Mayor Sonia Lorenzo of San Isidro, Nueva Ecija have only grown. In my work for Kaya Natin!, I interact with these five people on a regular basis, and like that evening in Club Filipino when they first met, I have the chance to know them as people, not as politicians.

As people, these leaders are as real as they get. They have more right to say that they’re just regular people than television and movie stars have –just regular people who have problems and issues albeit scrutinized by the public eye. At least with celebrities, they’re compensated with more than enough; with government officials like Mayor Jesse and Gov. Grace, it’s only their heart for the people and the country that keeps them in public service despite the difficulties.

In today’s political arena where corruption seems to be the norm, government officials like the Kaya Natin! champions are a refreshing twist to the story. Here we have leaders who, while far from being perfect, have put it upon themselves to serve the public with integrity. Not only are they challenging the rules of the game of traditional politics, going against big names, but they do so with a genuine commitment to changing how politics works in the Philippines. They are the faces of effective and ethical leadership in government.

The reality is that these champions of good governance are not that much different from the rest of us. Before taking on the challenge of public service, they were ordinary citizens who only wanted to do something and be someone for others. It was a sacrifice they were ready and willing to make, and it was a sacrifice that was worth every pain and disappointment if only to see their fellow Filipinos leading better lives. They are still ordinary citizens; only now they hold jobs aimed at serving the public.

Ordinary people? Quite probably. Extraordinary characters? Most definitely. The best part is, they’re all real people.

EU monitoring progress of 2010 poll automation

By Carmela Fonbuena
http://www.newsbreak.com.ph
Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Representatives of the European Union on Tuesday met with Commission on Elections (Comelec) chair Jose Melo to monitor the progress of the automation of the 2010 polls.

“We met a team of about 13 commissioners. They were in full force. They are showing very great interest in the coming 2010 poll elections. They are asking a lot of questions,” Melo told abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak.

The EU team was led by the head of the delegation Ambassador Alistair MacDonald and Czech Republic Ambassador Jaroslav Ludva. Melo was joined by National Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) chair Henrietta De Villa.

Barely a year before the May 2010 presidential polls, the Comelec is in the thick of preparing for the automation. Melo said he reported to the EU members that the Advisory Council—which is tasked to oversee the technical aspect of the poll automation—is set to finalize on Friday the terms of reference for the project bidders.

Melo said he is happy with the interest shown by foreign institutions like the EU. “They might send foreign observers. We welcome them,” he said.

Melo believes that the presence of foreign observers helps in ensuring a cleaner election.

Asked if there are other international groups who have shown interest in the 2010 poll automation, Melo said he is also counting on the Asian Network for Free Elections to come again in 2010. The Asian group has been regularly sending delegates in the Philippines to observe elections.

Melo earlier said he was pleased that a bill allotting a supplemental budget of P11.3 billion for the 2010 poll automation is finally filed in Congress.

After months of sitting on the budget allocation, Malañang on January 9 finally submitted to Congress supplemental budget. Appropriations committee chair Quirino Rep. Junie Cua immediately the necessary bill, which House Speaker Prospero Nograles said will be fast tracked for approval as soon as Congress resumes session next week, June 19. (abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak)

Desperate hope

Editorial
Philippine Daily Inquirer
january 13, 2009
http://www.inq7.net

1984 is once again upon us. We refer to the novel by that title by George Orwell, a prophetic, nightmarish vision of a “negative utopia.” In Orwell’s generation, and even up to now, no other novel has stimulated so much loathing for tyranny and so much desire for freedom.

In “1984” the slogans of the Party are the following:

WAR IS PEACE

FREEDOM IS SLAVERY

IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH

Under the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration, the following might be the slogans of the times:

FALSEHOOD IS TRUTH

CORRUPTION IS SAINTLINESS

BLACK IS WHITE, AND EVIL IS GOOD

At no time in the history of the current administration has the truth of these supposed “slogans” been more strongly demonstrated than the present. Consider the following:

An upright, incorruptible, right-thinking Chief Justice is proposed to be impeached, whereas a President who has been charged with corruption, violation of many provisions of the Constitution, and other serious crimes, has always gotten away scot-free every time articles of impeachment are filed against her.

Whistleblowers like Acsa Ramirez, Rodolfo Lozada and Maj. Ferdinand Marcelino are either wrongfully prosecuted, kidnapped and muzzled, or criticized, while Benjamin Abalos and Virgilio Garcillano are allowed to resign without first being made to answer the charges against them.

A reformist provincial governor like Ed Panlilio is constantly being subjected to all forms of political harassment, while congressmen and local government officials who have been wasting the people’s money are given even more money in brown paper bags to support a president whose legitimacy is constantly being questioned.

Generals who are accused of killing unarmed militants are praised in a joint session of Congress while other generals and officers who dare to criticize high officials for their questionable acts are arrested and detained.

The people are fed half-truths by government spokespersons. The President will not answer “political questions” from reporters, for fear, possibly, of giving away her real plans for 2010. The truth, which is the oxygen of democracy, is kept hidden from the people. Sometimes it is exposed only at a critical time, as what happened when the treasonous Memorandum of Agreement on the Ancestral Domain became known only on the eve of its signing.

We could go on and on, but the idea is this: In this administration,

FALSEHOOD IS TRUTH

CORRUPTION IS SAINTLINESS

BLACK IS WHITE, AND EVIL IS GOOD.

Social critic Erich Fromm, commenting on “1984,” said: “Orwell, like the authors of the other negative utopias [Yevgeni Zamyatin, ‘We,’ Aldous Huxley, ‘Brave New World’] is not a prophet of disaster. He wants to warn and to awaken us. He still hopes—but in contrast to the other writers of the utopias in the earlier phases of Western society, his hope is a desperate one. The hope can be realized only by recognizing, so ‘1984’ teaches us, the danger with which all men are confronted today, the danger of a society of automatons who will have lost every trace of individuality, of love, of critical thought, and yet who will not be aware of it because of ‘doublethink.’”

We hope we Filipinos have not been reduced to automatons who have lost their individuality and their critical thought, and who have lost the capacity to rage against falsehood, dishonesty and corruption. Perhaps they are not protesting too much because the great majority of them are more immediately concerned with earning a living, putting food on the table and providing for the other basic needs of their families. Perhaps it is because they are so caught up in the daily rat race that they do not have time to engage in political action. Perhaps they are just waiting for the tipping point.

Many commentators have said that Filipinos seem to have lost their capacity to express their moral outrage at what is happening around them. Let us hope that this is not true, and that in time they will become engaged citizens of their country who value truth, integrity, honesty and freedom.

Schools and communities for peace

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BY Professor Danton Remoto
Lodestar column
Arts and culture section
Philippine Star
http://www.philstar.net

The Schools for Peace is a project under the Act for Peace Programme of the United Nations Development Programme Philippines. A School of Peace (SoP) is an elementary or secondary school in conflicted areas in Mindanao. It is a school that seeks to strengthen capacities on integration and mainstreaming of the Culture of Peace principles, concepts, and values through Peace Education and Teacher Education.

Mainstreaming process involves integrating peace principles, concepts and values in all subject areas, both in formal and nonformal education through the use of Enriched Lesson Plans and Peace Exemplars, or role models.

As defined by the United Nations, a Culture of Peace consists of values, attitudes, and forms of behavior that reject violence and prevent conflicts by going to their root causes. The endpoint is solving the problems of conflict through dialogue and negotiation among people, groups, and nations.

Actor Robin Padilla – the former Bad Boy of Philippine cinema – is now among the Peace Exemplars of the Act for Peace Programme of the UNDP. Early this month, he and UNDP Country Director Renaud Meyer went to Datu Odin Sinsuat, Shariff Kabungsuan province, to visit the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) staying in the evacuation centers. They also launched ACT projects in Mindanao.

Meyer and Padilla led the launching of the Early Recovery Project implemented by the UNDP-Act for Peace Programme for the IDPs. They were joined by Act for Peace Programme manager Diosita Andot and Governor Ibrahim Ibay of Shariff Kabungsuan. Among the projects were a children’s health and daycare center, as well as bio-intensive gardening for the evacuees. Food and non-food items were given as direct assistance, and a rubber-tree nursery was also set up.

Meyer said that the UNDP will continue to assist the Peace and Development Communities and the Schools for Peace so that the communities and schools can be transformed and provide better lives for their constituents and students. Moreover, the Act for Peace Programme approaches the conflict-affected areas in two ways. It helps in capacity-building by giving assistance to the communities and their leaders. It also makes sure that those areas affected, but not involved in the conflict, can live as normally as the other communities in the country.
Meyer adds: “After we acknowledge the situation, we make sure that the population suffers the least possible impact due to the ongoing conflict. Another important aspect of our role in dealing with the internally displaced persons is not to let them get addicted or dependent on assistance. We help them build and sustain their hope to go back to their homes and assist them towards recovery.”
For his part, Padilla – who is a Muslim convert – appealed to his brother Muslims and Christians to work hand in hand. Lines of communication should always be open, he added. “Lapit-kamay po tayo. At sana, ballpen at papel ang hawak natin at hindi baril. [We should join hands. And I hope, we should have ballpen and paper, not guns.]” Padilla’s daughter, Queenie, also visited conflict-affected areas in Mindanao last Sept. And Padilla himself has set up the Liwanag ng Kapayapaan [Light of Peace] Foundation, a preparatory school that gives free education to mostly Moro children in Quezon City.
Padilla added: “Hanggang may eskuwelahan at daycare centers na ginagamit bilang evacuation centers, hindi uunlad ang karunungan ng mga bata. Ang pinag-uusapan natin dito’y ang kinabukasan ng mga tao – lalo na ng mga bata. Lahat na po ng kailangan natin para magsimula muli ay narito na. Wala na tayong maidadahilan pa para hindi natin makamtan ang kapayapaan. Ipakita natin ating buong suporta sa pag-asang dala ng UNDP at ng Act for Peace Programme. [As long as there are schools and daycare centers that are used as evacuation centers, the children’s knowledge will not improve. We’re talking here about a people’s future – especially that of the children. Everything we need to start anew is already here. We have no more reason not to achieve peace. Let us show our full support for the hope that UNDP and the Act for Peace Programme bring.]”

Act Programme Manager Diosita Andot said that the assistance has no deadline and does not end after the evacuees have already returned to their homes. “We do not treat them as victims. We deal with them as people who have the right to plan for themselves and who can do something for themselves. We also see to it that our recovery and livelihood programs will be vehicles for social cohesion, where everyone from different cultures, religions, and beliefs can work as one and in harmony.”

The Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) government led by Governor Datu Zaldy Uy Ampatuan is the lead implementing agency of the programs and projects implemented in the region. The UNDP serves as the managing agency for the programme and MEDCO serves as the overall implementing agency. The Act for Peace Programme supports 250 Peace and Development Communities all over Mindanao.

Afterward, Meyer and Padilla joined a storytelling activity among Muslim and Christian students at the Broce Elementary School of Peace in Barangay Tamontaka, Datu Odin Sinsuat. Broce is one of 31 Schools of Peace supported by the Act for Peace Programme to promote quality, basic education grounded on the values of non-violence. Padilla read a story of tolerance, goodwill, and friendship among Muslim and Ilocano children. The children listened with rapt attention – and applauded heartily after Padilla’s inspired reading. The story was developed under the Big Books project of the Kids for Peace Foundation, Inc., of Cotabato City, which is supported by the UNDP and the British Council. The stories are written by core groups of children from Mindanao themselves, who interviewed their parents and elders, and then wrote the stories themselves. In the true tradition of communal ownership, young and old weave stories that spring from their culture and community.

Among the stories are Bagong Golis [New Golis] of Dalingaoen, Pikit, North Cotabato; Pangadapen: Ang Kuwento ni Kandutan {Pangadapen: The Story of Kandutan] of Barira, Carmen, Cotabato; and Ang Balon [The Well] of Ranzo, Carmen, Cotabato. Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) helped in the writing of two more stories. In addition to the five stories, the young people have banded together and are now working on the following storybooks: the centuries-old Moro Watch Tower in Guinsiliban, Camiguin; the musical instruments of the Aromanen-Manobo, Matigsalug, and B’laan tribes; and on the Sheikh Makhdum mosque in Simunul, Tawi-tawi.

These kids’ stories introduce them to the glories of their past and made them take a peek at their culture and history. Moreover, it also asked that if peace reigned before, why can we not have peace again – at present?

And when you start with the young – in their houses and their schools – you can never go wrong.

***
Photos by AKP Images / Ruby Thursday More

Arroyo’s peace adviser watches son’s mauling spree

BY Ellen Tordesillas
http://www.malaya.com.ph
Ang Pahayagang Malaya

TWO days after Gloria Arroyo announced the appointment of Nasser Pangandaman as member of the reconstituted government peace panel to negotiate with Muslim rebels, the agrarian reform secretary watched as his mayor-son mauled a 56-year-old golfer and his 14-year-old son at the Valley Country Golf and Country Club in Antipolo City.

While mainstream media was taking a holiday break, the blogging community was in a furious state over the brutality of Arroyo’s adviser as recounted by Bambee de la Paz in her blog (http://vicissitude-decidido.blogspot.com/2008/12/world-is-fucked-up.html) last Dec. 26.

Here are excerpts from De la Paz’s blog entry on Dec. 26, 2008:

“At around 1:30 PM today, at Valley Golf and Country Club, Antipolo City, Mayor Nasser Pangandaman, Jr., Mayor of Masiu City, Lanao del Sur, his father, Secretary Nasser Pangandaman of the Department of Agrarian Reform, and company, beat my defenseless 56-year-old dad and my 14-year-old brother to a pulp because of some stupid misunderstanding on the golf course.

“My brother and I were playing golf at the South Course of Valley. We were on the 3rd hole, and we see two golf carts going past us, overtaking our flight, and setting up to tee off on the next hole. My dad goes up to them and asks them why they would do that, why they would overtake us without even asking for our permission. Golf etiquette 101.

“The mayor of Masiu City, Lanao del Sur talks with my dad. Things get heated up. Voices were raised. But never, in my wildest dreams, did I ever imagine that someone would pull out a punch. Apparently not. He attacks my father. His flight mates, maybe 2 or 3 of them, rush to his aid and beat up my father. My 56-year-old father. My younger brother and I could not just watch. We rushed to break the fight. My younger brother pleads to the mayor to please stop it. To not hurt my dad. To just stop. His words still ring through my head…”Sorry na po, sorry na po…tama na…tama na po…” With his hands in front of his chest in a praying position. PLEADING. The mayor socks him in the face. My brother defended himself. My dad is still on the ground getting clobbered. My brother is the same way. I try to stop the fight, but all I can do is stop one person. There were 4 or 5 of them attacking now.

“Someone breaks up the fight. I thought it was all over. The mayor shouts to his caddy: “Hindi nila kami kilala! Sabihin mo nga sa kanila kung sino ako!”

“I lash out, but my dad held me back. I was screaming my lungs out, shouting to this mayor, telling him about what he had done. I said: “Nakakahiya kayo. Singkwenta’y sais anyos ang tatay ko. And kapatid ko kakatorse anyos. Anong ilalaban nila sayo?”

“The mayor looks at my brother, point to his face, and says, “Tatandaan kita!” And he tells me that my brother has a bad attitude and that I need to watch him.

“We leave. We walk to the clubhouse to file a complaint. My brother asks for a doctor. My dad could barely walk. Their group comes to the clubhouse, sees my brother. Once again my brother pleads, says sorry, and is crying. The relentless mayor still punches him in the face, and then sees my dad and goes after my dad again. Him and his friend pull my dad to the ground, pulls at his feet, and steps on him like he’s dirt. I run to him and try to hold him back, holding him back by his shirt, while this other guy and this girl tries to stop me. She tells me to just stop it. I scream in her face “they’re beating my father up and you want me to stop?!” I pull at his shirt–I don’t let go. All I can see was my dad being trampled on. I didn’t even see my brother getting beat up.

“People pull them away. I get my dad, and I saw my brother. His right ear was bleeding. I freaked out. I told the receptionists to bring my brother to the clinic. I pull my Dad away. People were separating us.

“My Mom and my older brother come. I tell her Bino’s right ear is bleeding. They both look like they could kill. My Dad holds my brother off, I hold off my Mom. When I finally got my Mom under control, my older brother gets away and I hold him off. Two of the mayor’s bodyguards pull out guns. I embraced my brother from the back, just holding him back, crying. The receptionists came to us, crying, hugging me, my Dad, and my Mom, whispering to us to just leave. “Maam, umalis na po kayo, may mga baril sila…Maam…umalis na po kayo please…”

“I am pretty sure the Secretary of DAR did not take part in the fight, but he just watched all this happen. He watched two of his sons, as we figured out, the other guy was his son, too, beat up my father and my 14-year-old brother. He didn’t do anything to stop it. And this person is what now? A cabinet member. A politician.

“The people at Valley Golf did not seem to want to help us. None of the security guards even tried to stop the fight. Right in the clubhouse. I came back after the fight was over and talked to the receptionists. They say they did not see anything. The general manager of Valley Golf would not give us the names of the men who made my brother’s ear bleed. It took him an hour. Maybe even more than that. He seemed to not want to help us.

“Please pray for my Dad, my brother and for my whole family. Please pray that we get justice. Oh God, please, give these people what they deserve.”

Since I don’t have the contact number of Pangandaman, I have been calling Press Secretary Jesus Dureza to get Malacañang’s comment on the issue. No reply to my messages.