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

Insight 14

 

 

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Samar Island: Still in agony

An open letter to President Gloroa Macapagal-Arroyo

Assumption speech of MajGen Jovito S. Palparan Jr.

What was Samar doing when MacArthur waded ashore 60 years ago?

The time to return the bells is now

Delusions of Communism

The Poverty of Filipinos

Pride, Sadness and Hopes of a Samarnon in California

Counting the Cost of Corruption in the Philippines

Death Penalty: Moral or Immoral?

 
 

 

 

 

Legislature at work; What about the Executive Branch?

By CHITO DELA TORRE
July 30, 2005

"...the SP stalwarts would not anymore be giving so much time to such particulars of requests, if only the Executive Department will discharge well its mandated functions and responsibilities."

Vice-Governor Jesus B. Redaja may well be said to be achieving some great things in the name of public service, both as a legislator - he, being the presiding officer of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Western Samar - and as a public servant.  The news is fast spreading about his readiness to respond to cries for assistance, usually from the poor barangays, and the poor Samareños, and his ability and capability to do what they want him to do, or even give, even if it means spending his own salary and allowance. Good. We salute you, Sir!

Such should actually be the forefront service that the people of Samar should get, receive and enjoy from the Executive Department of the Provincial Government. Yet, probably there is hardly a palpable and sensible public service that could be delivered by the executive branch, as otherwise no demand for such service would ever reach the Capitol from the people themselves so needing such service.

Recently, the SP calendared treating, among others, the passage of budget appropriation ordinances - P1.5 million for the Office of the Governor (P1M for donation and P500,000 for travel expenses), P21,604,000 for projects, P665,073 for the increase of Representation Allowance and Travel Allowance (RATA) for provincial officials, and P1,069,000 for Educational Assistance to government personnel - all to be taken from the increase in Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) for Fiscal Year 2005. Of the projects proposed, P5M would be for the rehabilitation of the Capitol Park, Phase II (was there already a “Phase I”?), P1M for the additional repair of WESAMAR building (why additional, has it ever been repaired?), P1M for the rehabilitation of the PHO-Samar Provincial Hospital (only?!), P1.5M for acquisition of medical equipments, P2.5M for rehabilitation of Catbalogan Municipal Roads (cannot Catbalogan shoulder the cost?), P1M for the rehabilitation of airport-Estaka Buri road, and P1.5M for construction of Sunset Boulevard at Guinsorongan, Catbalogan. Had not the provincial government thought of better priorities? We ask the provincial government because we learned that these proposed ordinances emanated from the Executive Department.

Meanwhile, requests for assistance, in various forms, keep flooding the SP, notably the Office of the Vice-Governor.  Even some SP members are not spared, they, too become departments of last appeal.

Perhaps Vice-Gov. Redaja and the SP stalwarts would not anymore be giving so much time to such particulars of requests, if only the Executive Department will discharge well its mandated functions and responsibilities. Otherwise, let’s welcome the status quo. At least, the essence of good, effective, and efficient governance is significantly dispelled among the poor communities. Thanks for the good work, Vice-Gov. Redaja and honorable SP members. They are personally present in their offices, or when out, they are meeting with their constituents to sensitize their basic needs; they are not in their homes hiding from the public and they are not operating their offices by communications machines or private representatives.   (send comments)

 

 

 

 

The propriety of Courtesy Calls

By CHITO DELA TORRE
July 6, 2005

"Government soldiers marching into barangay territories are strangers. Members of the New People’s Army walking into these territories are strangers. Members of medical and spiritual missions trekking into these territories are strangers...  Therefore, they deserve to be killed."

Every stranger, every new face, all new faces, all new “guests” should pay a courtesy call on the governor, mayor, and village chief (punong barangay or what is unlawfully and wrongly addressed as “barangay chairman”). Not done, the stranger is a total alien. An alien could be “arrested”, “detained”, or even “immediately shot or hacked to death”, or “killed or butchered later”, if not just “stripped” or “robbed”. No law, divine or natural or man-crafted, protects strangers. Instead, all laws protect humans and their environment against strangers. Mark that as a perpetual warning, and remember, every warning is a precautionary guide against every move.

The presence of a stranger creates a minus effect, an unwanted change, in an environment.

An environment that notices that change - the presence alone of a single stranger is one such change - MUST naturally react to such change, to such presence of a stranger.

Every stranger, every alien, will always be subjected to all forms of suspicion, watching, questioning, tracking, documenting, and prohibition. Suspicion is the first natural instinct that every human or animal is prompted to get onto as a reaction to a strange change in an environment. To not react is abnormal.

Even a non-stranger - a frequent house caller or guest - must make a courtesy call. This is done by courteously (not harshly or savagely) knocking on one’s door (not just anywhere) and identifying oneself. In the Philippines, Tagalogs say:  “Tao po!” or “Magandang araw (umaga, tanghali, hapon o gabi) po!”  Waray-Warays say: “Maupay!” or “Maupay nga oras (aga, udto, kulop o gab-i!)"  After this panhumalatag (greetings of introduction and RESPECT), the “guest” MAY or MAY NOT be allowed entry. In fact and in point of custom, tradition and practice, the house tenant, without yet opening a door, may ask the “guest” who has just knocked, “Sino po sila?” and “Bakit po?” or “Ano’ng sadya (o pakay) nila?” - Tagalog; “Hin-o ka?”, “Ano kuno?” or, “Hin-o (or ano) an imo tuyo?” - Waray-Waray; or “Kinsa ka?”, “Ngano man?”, or “Kinsa’ng (or unsa’ng) imong gipangita?” - Cebuano.

Before the Philippines became a government, strangers were called invaders, threats to the security of one’s territory. During the wars (against the Spaniards, against the British, against the Chinese, against the Japanese, against the Americans, against fellow Filipinos), and until today, every territory’s security was always sacred. An invader, intruder, unwanted promenaders was always an enemy.

In early times, it was always peace of mind to prohibit entry of a stranger notwithstanding the strangers’ good tidings or the gifts or presents that he brought with him for a territory not his own. Every person who allowed entry of a stranger was considered a traitor. Both the stranger and the traitor were killed. Both were considered threats to the territory’s security.

Some tribes or indigenous communities like the migrating Manobos abhor strangers, except that in modern times since 1970, at least in Samar, they started developing a new culture, that of treating non-members of their community as strangers and of treating them further as providers of sorts for members of their tribe. They disliked inter-marriage and would never allow non-members of their tribe to step into their homes even if every now and then the home is deserted for long, long times.

Today, barangays are territorial units still. Non-residents are strangers.

Government soldiers marching into barangay territories are strangers. Members of the New People’s Army walking into these territories are strangers. Members of medical and spiritual missions trekking into these territories are strangers. Even in provinces, cities and towns which are not their own or of which they are non-residents, they are strangers. Therefore, they deserve to be killed. If they desire to be treated well, they should observe the simple protocol of panhumalatag. They should first knock on the doors of the local authorities, identify themselves properly, make known their intentions, and answer searching questions before they proceed with anything in their minds. That is the call of courtesy required in every respectable, decent and orderly society. Those who do not observe such courtesy are irreverent and do not deserve to be honored.

This should enlighten all to avoid unpleasant and untoward incidents today and every tomorrow hereafter.     (send comments)

 

 

 

 

Witness protection key to addressing unrestrained killings in Philippines

A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)
July 2, 2005

It is becoming increasingly obvious that getting away with murder in the Philippines is made easy by the absence of any functioning witness protection scheme. The lack of witnesses also becomes a convenient excuse for investigators to say that they have done their jobs but have no further avenues for action.

In a May 31 letter to the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) Police Director of the Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management at the national police headquarters Marcelo Ele Jr admits that the main obstacle to solving two recent killings in Camarines Norte, Luzon is the lack of witnesses. In the case of Ernesto Bang, an organizer in a peasant organisation who was shot dead at the door of his house on May 10, "Relatives of the victim. are no longer interested in filing the case due to the absence of a witness", Ele states. As for Joel Reyes, a political party organiser who was shot dead by a gunman posing as a passenger in his tricycle, "no witnesses had come out in the open for fear of reprisal".

In a May 30 letter, Paquito Nacino, regional director of the Commission on Human Rights in Tacloban City, Visayas, revealed that it had set aside its investigations into three murders there for the same reason. According to the Commission, a witness to the March 14 killing of human rights lawyer Felidito Dacut "is nowhere to be found". Meanwhile, the relatives of peasant movement leaders Fr. Edison Lapuz and Alfredo Malinao, who were killed in a May 12 shooting in Leyte have been "uncooperative and shown unwillingness to make any written statements". The wife of Fr. Lapuz, who witnessed his killing, "requested to give her more time to decide [about complaining] as the assailants are still unknown to [the family]".

A wife hesitates to complain about the killing of her husband in cold blood; a person runs for his life after the murder of his colleague and friend; a man is shot dead in a public street and no one can be found to identify the murderer. What is going on? Although provisions exist for witness protection in the Philippines, clearly they are not working. Republic Act 6981 guarantees that witnesses will be given the necessary protection, security and benefits. The Department of Justice is the agency responsible for arranging witness protection. So why isn't it doing its job? Despite the numerous reports of victims' families refusing to press complaints or witnesses going into hiding out of fear after the unrestrained killings of human rights defenders, peasant leaders, lawyers and others, there doesn't seem to be any serious effort by the Philippine authorities to address this issue. Unrestrained vigilante killings occurring in cities like Davao and Cebu suggest the same failure. In these cases most victims have been ordinary poor civilians: however, as in other targeted killings, no witnesses have come forward.

With the alarming incidence of extrajudicial killings and unresolved murders in the Philippines it is essential that a swift and effective programme for witness protection be established. Where witnesses and family members of victims are left exposed and unattended, they become easy targets for threats and coercion by the perpetrators. This is particularly so in cases like the killing of Lapuz and Malinao, where the military is suspected of having had involvement. Without witness cooperation, cases are left unsolved and very often cannot even be lodged in court. For their part, the investigators shelve their files and have the easy excuses that "we couldn't find witnesses" or "the relatives wouldn't cooperate" with which to absolve themselves of responsibility. In so doing, the whole issue of why no witnesses are available or no relatives would cooperate is avoided.

The government of the Philippines has given assurances at the highest levels that the perpetrators of these killings will not go unpunished, but without a proper scheme for witness protection such assurances are meaningless. The government should immediately review the management and handling of witness protection by the Department of Justice with a view to greatly enhancing and expanding the scheme so that security can be given immediately and for as long as necessary to those who need it. This requires a sense of urgency: the unrestrained killings occurring in the Philippines at present will be neither solved nor abated until the government recognises that immediate and effective witness protection is the missing element. Ironically, while investigators place such strong emphasis on witness testimony to obtain convictions, they have little interest in the wellbeing of the witnesses themselves. Until witness protection is taken seriously, the prospects for protection of human rights, criminal justice and the rule of law in the Philippines remain dim.

***About AHRC The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organization monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

 

 

 

 

Passing the SINP Bill in the context of the government’s promotion of responsible mining

A position paper submitted to the Committee on Natural Resources of the House of Representatives during the committee hearing on May 25, 2005 in congress

By JOSE A. MABULAY JR., President, Samar Island Biodiversity Foundation

First of all I would like to thank this Committee, and especially you Mr. Chairman, for inviting me to this hearing and giving me the opportunity to submit a Position Paper on the SINP Bill.  The best way of showing my gratitude, I think, is to go straight to the meat of the matter.  I will try to show that it is in the national interest to pass the Bill as it stands, hence  this Position Paper contains the following:

A few words on Responsible Mining, and two of its indispensable requirements.
How the Chamber of Mines is projecting itself in recommending the exclusion of 54,000 has. from the SINP.
How the Government would be projecting itself,  if Congress follows the recommendations of the Chamber of Mines.
Our appeal to the Chamber of Mines and to this Committee.

 

 

 

1. On Responsible Mining, and two of its indispensable requirements

Last February 3, I had the privilege of being invited to a national consultation on “Responsible Mining for Sustainable Development”.  If venue and attendance is an indication of how important to the Government  this affair was, then this must be important because this was held at the Heroes Hall of Malacanang Palace and was attended by Sec. Mike Defensor, Sec. Dinky Soliman, and Sec. Bobi Tiglao. Most significantly, it was President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who gave the Keynote Address.  This was also attended by representatives from the Government, the Mining Industry, the Religious Sector, and Civil Society.  At one point in his talk, Sec. Mike Defensor asked who among the audience was in favor of a “really responsible mining”.  Like me, most, if not all, raised their hands.  There was no definition given on what a “really Responsible Mining” is, but I remember Sec. Dinky Soliman, saying to the effect that this affair was the start of the second round of consultations on Responsible Mining for Sustainable Development.  So, it can be assumed that the consultation process will come up with this definition.

While the full definition may not be available yet, this early we can already say that any definition will have two indispensable components to wit -

Responsible mining companies.  Everything boils down to who does the mining, hence the mining companies must have a strong sense of responsibility towards its  host communities and the environment, and operate in a responsible manner.

Effective government regulatory mechanisms.  The Government must put in place the necessary mechanisms  that are effective enough to keep the companies in line, and credible enough to assure the local people that their interests and the environment will be protected and advanced.

I have dared to call these indispensable requirements, because without any of these two, Responsible Mining is simply impossible.

2. How the Chamber of Mines is projecting itself in recommending the exclusion of 54,000 has. from the SINP

This intervention of the Chamber of Mines in this Bill should be viewed with the Samarnon’s endeavors and advocacy to conserve their forests, as backdrop.  These endeavors have been there for sometime already. In the early 90s there was an islandwide outcry against logging operations, and the Aquino Administration responded by declaring a logging moratorium throughout the island. Incidentally, this outcry was in the wake of the flashfloods that ravaged Samar in 1989.  This happened because the  Marcos-Romualdez Conjugal Dictatorship cut up Samar’s forests into logging concessions and distributed these to its cronies.  Later,  an islandwide appeal to Pres. Fidel V. Ramos led to his promulgation of Presidential Proclamation 744 declaring Samar’s forests as a Forest Reserve.  In 2003 the people clamored again for stronger protection of their forests.  This culminated in an islandwide caravan shouting “Yes to SINP, No to Mining”. Let us be clear about this.  It was not just “Yes to SINP”  ---  it was “Yes to SINP, No to Mining”.  Pres. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo responded by establishing the SINP.

With this backdrop, what do we make of the Chamber of Mines, incidentally now led by another Romualdez, if it continues  --- let me repeat, if it continues  ---  in its efforts to acquire the right to mine the middle of the SINP?  Is this a good sign that these are the guys we can trust to do their mining responsibly?  Here are a few observations.

If it continues in this unilateral intervention, this Chamber is clearly trying to muscle its way into Samar, using Congress as its instrument, even against the expressed wishes of its would-be host communities.  That cannot be an action of a responsible company or Chamber.  If the mining industry has the means and the mindset to get in even against our will ---  once inside, what else will it have the means and the mindset to do even against our will?   This question can and will be a specter in the minds of the communities wherever there are mining operations.

It now says, that mining is good for Samar and its people  ---  and it is already saying this even if it is not yet operating in our midst.  Well then ---  again, if it so continues  ---  is it the Chamber’s policy to force-feed people with what it thinks is good for them, despite their expressed sentiment to the contrary? Parenthetically, here it beats the Marcos-Romualdez Conjugal Dictatorship in presumptuousness,  because while it also force-fed us that logging was good for us, at least during its time there was no opposition to logging, that is as strongly expressed today against mining.

 

If it persists on this path, what else will it be force-feeding ­Samarnons with, as good for them  ---  especially if or when it is already operating in our island?  After the Samarnons, who will it force-feed next, about what is good for them?  By presuming to know better than the people of three provinces about what is good for them, and using its resources to force its will on them ---  the Chamber would be showing nothing less than gross irresponsibility. 

If it continues projecting this image of  gross irresponsibility,  is it not sabotaging the government’s promotion of Responsible Mining?  Who would be doing the greater damage, the most virulent critics of mining or the Chamber of Mines?

3. How the Government would be projecting itself,  if Congress follows the recommendations of the Mining Industry.

Presently, the fears and concerns about the safety of mining operations are answered with the mantra that the new law, the Philippine Mining Act provides adequate safeguards.  Somehow, that can be reassuring to many.  But if Congress acts favorably on the recommendation of the Chamber of Mines, then it will fundamentally change the picture.

It would be bad enough to have a mining industry showing itself to be grossly irresponsible  ---  that is, if it continues in its present course. It would be far worse, if it can be shown that this irresponsible industry has the power and resources to unilaterally influence no less than Congress, despite clear environmental considerations and the demonstrated wide and strong opposition of the people directly concerned. 

Once that point is reached,  any notion of the government regulating the mining industry to safeguard the people and the environment will vanish. For starters, who can then say that the safeguards contained in the Philippine Mining Act cannot be amended by Congress, again at the  bidding  of the mining industry. How many regulatory body or procedures can one believe to be beyond the power and influence of the mining industry?   Under such conditions, where goes Responsible Mining?

The long and short of all these is that if Congress favorably acts on the recommendations of the Chamber of Mines, then this becomes a clear case in point of the power and irresponsibility of the mining industry, and the insincerity or inadequacy of the government, to undertake a “really Responsible Mining”.  “Responsible Mining” will thus be just an empty slogan, instead of a vehicle or framework for forging a national consensus on mining.

4. Our appeal to the Chamber of Mines and to this Committee.

So much has been said about national interest and the importance of mining to the national economy.  If both the Chamber of Mines and Congress really believe this, then both should work in ensuring that mining operations are done the right way.   In these days of people power and rising environmental awareness, mining the wrong way will inevitably breed a hostile business environment for the mining industry, in its areas of operation and eventually the whole country.  The people power here need not be of the magnitude that can stop mining operations in a day or week, but it could also be also be just doing a thousand and one ways in months and years, to increase operating costs, reduce profits, and dishearten investors.  This is what the people of Manicani Island in Eastern Samar, were forced to do, and has started to do.

The “right way” however cannot be defined nor determined by just the industry and the government but together with other stakeholders.  This may take a longer time, but the benefits will also be long term.  That is why we believe that the government effort to forge a national unity on “Responsible Mining for Sustainable Development” is a step in the right direction.

We therefore believe that the next step for the Chamber of Mines in support of this government effort is to stop its effort to exclude 54,000 hectares from the SINP.  This effort of the Chamber of Mines is sure to create a public perception of gross and arrogant irresponsibility by not just one mining company but by the whole mining industry.  With that perception, only the naïve can seriously believe that “Responsible Mining” is possible.   We therefore suggest, not force-feed, that its best interest lies in supporting Responsible Mining through action, and not through actions that send the worst signals.  That will be its real and long-term contribution to national interest.

We respectfully submit to this Committee that the next step for Congress is to pass the SINP Bill without excluding the 54,000 hectares as proposed by the Chamber of Mines.  Now and in this case, more than ever is the time to assure the country, that the Government is capable of regulating the mining industry, and not the other way around. 

Thank you.

 

   

Last updated: 04/25/2016

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