BRGY. GUINSAUGON, Saint
Bernard, Southern Leyte – A Holy Mass, a memorial service highlighted
by statements of lasting support, solidarity, and brotherhood, offerings of
prayers, candles, flowers in a medium-sized wooden cross, and a sprinkling
of holy water by helicopter around the vast expanse of this now-barren, now
All these activities were
held here under the scorching heat of the noonday sun, March 3, in a
collective effort to accept what had happened and to try coping with a
post-disaster life and moving forward.
But tears and a howling cry
from those who lost their loved ones pervaded the air right after the Mass
and shortly before the program started, a sign that outbursts of emotion
were still clinging to relatives and immediate families as reality starts to
One woman who was crying
endlessly collapsed in the middle of the program and had to be taken out by
“God is good and merciful
even if the world and the universe is gone,” Bishop Precioso Cantillas of
the Diocese of Maasin, who celebrated the Mass, intoned during the homily.
“There is beauty behind the ugliness in calamity – the beauty of unity,
communion, and brotherhood.”
Bishop Cantillas also put a
perspective of faith in the midst of human pain and suffering: “This is a
clear invitation from the Lord to come back to Him . . . to a heavenly
life for all of us.”
Senator Richard Gordon, the
concurrent National Chairman of the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC),
said the real tragedy would occur “if we do not learn from this. Live life
with a sense of duty. . . . Prove to the world that every help is
worthwhile with dignity . . . today is a mere beginning, we move
Other guests also shared
their thoughts and comforting words. They included Anthony Golez, the Deputy
Administrator of the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC); Gov.
Carlos Jericho Petilla of Leyte Province who was also representing the
various LGUs nationwide; Presidential Assistant for Eastern Visayas Vic
Domingo; Representatives of Indonesia and the
Major Gen. Bonifacio Ramos; and Mayor Maria Lim and Vice-Mayor Felix Lim of
Rep. Roger Mercado and Gov.
Rosette Lerias also expressed messages of inspiration and all-out support to
what lies ahead in the rebuilding of scattered lives.
Tenor Lemuel de la Cruz and
Soprano Jopie de la Cruz rendered meaningful songs.
The final tally as of
February 28, or four days after the search and rescue was officially
declared closed: dead bodies retrieved – 154 (death in hospital – 2;
identified bodies – 55; unidentified bodies – 82; unidentified body parts –
15) and the missing persons – 973.
The commemorative ceremony
was meant to put closure to the endless counting and to face the future with
courage and strength despite the heart-breaking burden of the February 17
In his talk, Rep. Mercado
stressed the need to respect nature and to plant trees. “Nature is grieving
for the loss of trees,” he said.
And Gov. Lerias capped the
day with a fearless vision: “A new life, a new community, is to rise for the
remaining residents of Guinsaugon.”
Taiwan NGO helps orphaned
survivors of Guinsaugon
By Philippine Information Agency (PIA 8)
March 4, 2006
TACLOBAN CITY, Leyte – A
Taiwanese non government organization, whose representatives were at St.
Bernard together with the representatives of Taipeh Economic and Cultural
Office in Manila are serious in helping the orphaned survivors of the
In a communication received
by PIA 8 through Mr. Henry Yaokasin, the president of the Tacloban Filipino
Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, it was learned that the Taiwanese
NGO is asking the cost of tuition fees and the monthly subsistence of the
orphans. It appears that the Taiwanese NGO will provide for those needs of
the orphans for five years.
Among the survivors are 21
high school students who survived the tragedy because they were in school at
the nearby municipality of
during the tragedy. They have lost both parents and the other members of
their family. They are now taken cared of at the
The Dharma Drum Mountain
Social Welfare Foundation through its President Howard Hao-Tso Lee has
signified its intention to help the orphans during the luncheon press
conference conducted by PIA last Sunday.
Mr. Lee was with the 35
Taiwanese Rescuers who helped at the rescue and relief operations at St.
Bernard. Leading the group were Mr. Joseph Chang, the first Secretary on
Home Assignment, Department of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Ministry of
Foreign Affairs, Republic of China and Mr. Benjamin Hong, Executive
Assistant, Political Affairs Division, Taipeh Economic and Cultural Office
Taiwan was among the
countries which first responded to the call for help at the St. Bernard
landslide tragedy. Aside from the 35 rescue team who brought with them
10,000 medical emergency kits, food, water and other things for use during
the relief and rescue operations at Southern Leyte, Taiwan also promised to
donate $100,000.00 donation to the Philippines.
The Taiwanese rescuers
brought with them three kinds of specialized equipment for use in search and
rescue operations in the disastrous area. These include specialized remote
control cameras that can burrow deep into the rubble and detect signs of
life; sonar detectors that can detect heartbeat and breathing within a
two-kilometer wide radius; and heat sensing equipment that can detect body
temperatures also within a two kilometer wide radius.
Visayas media condemn raid
on Daily Tribune
Some journalists in the Visayas who were
participants to the First Visayas-Wide Media Summit sponsored by the Center
for Community Journalism and Development (CCJD) that was held on February
24-25, 2006 at the University of San Agustin in Iloilo City strongly
criticized the action of the police in raiding the publication office of the
Daily Tribune newspaper in the early dawn of Saturday (February 25, 2006).
The participants issued this statement:
Statement on media
25 February 06,
We, participants to the
First Visayas-Wide Media Summit strongly denounce the police raid on the
Daily Tribune early dawn February 25, 2006 and the confiscation of copies of
We demand that the Arroyo
government end all other acts and threats to curtail the exercise of Press
Freedom and the People’s Right to Know.
Ironically, it happened on
the daybreak marking the very historic event – EDSA 1 – when we have toppled
a dictator and ended his long years of repressive rule.
Nobody, not even Pres.
Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has the right to stifle the basic rights to freedom
of expression and access to information, especially not in these trying
We remind her of the
provisions of the Philippine Constitution and the Universal Declaration of
Human Rights that categorically guarantee the freedom of speech, of
expression and of the press.
“Everyone has the right to
freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes the freedom to hold
opinions without interference, and to seek, receive and impart information
and ideas through any media, regardless of frontiers.” – Article 19 of the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
“No law shall be passed
abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the
right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for
redress of grievances.” – Philippine Constitution, Bill of Rights, Sec. 4,
We call on our colleagues
and all who cherish freedom and democracy to oppose all moves by this
administration and any other government agencies to curtail the rights and
liberties we have struggled so hard for.
SAGUPA-SB condemns killing
of Florencio Agunos
February 23, 2006
TACLOBAN CITY, Leyte – Samahan han Gudti nga Parag-uma ha Sinirangan Bisayas (SAGUPA-SB), the
regionwide alliance of farmers in
strongly condemns the kiling of farmer- engineer Florencio ”Ka Puring”
Agunos, 66, of Bry. Rizal, Kananga, Leyte. Ka Puring was shot dead last
February 17, 2006 and was declared dead on the spot after sustaining 19
gunshot wounds from .45 caliber pistols.
Agunos along with his wife,
Irenea and two grandchildren, 10 year-old Karen and 13-year-old Leo, were
watching television at around eight o’ clock in the evening when they heard
people calling out their names.
“They asked for water.
Puring was the one who nudged me to give them water. One of them, the one
who asked for water, was sporting a flat- topped haircut and was wearing
green and yellow-striped shirt,” Irenea said.
According to Irenea, when
she handed them the glasses, the men asked for her husband. Upon hearing his
name being called, Puring went to entertain the visitors. But before he
could reach the first step of the flight of stairs leading to where their
visitors were waiting, bullets rained upon him and their granddaughter,
10-year-old Karen (not her real name).
Lito Gacusana, Secretary
General of SAGUPA- SB could not think of other people who would plot of
silencing Ka Puring but landlords and elements of the Armed Forces of the
Philippines, particularly those belonging to the 19th IB, who have long
opposed and criticized Ka Puring’s pro- farmer stance.
“Ka Puring was behind many
collective actions like ‘tiklos’ and ‘balik-uma’---all for the benefit of
farmers who have longed for lands to till. He spearheaded the construction
of irrigation systems in farm lands were services of the National Irrigation
Systems (NIA) are nil,” said Gacusana.
“Ka Puring has no known
enemy but the landlords and the military men they employ either as
triggermen or as goons. Ka Puring’s efforts extended from organizing farmers
to heading campaigns for higher wages of farm workers in ‘tubuhan’ or
sugarcane plantations in Kananga and Ormoc, lower land rent in haciendas in
Ormoc, San Isidro
and Kananga, scrapping of usury, among others. We think of nobody but the
despotic landlords and the mercenary members of the AFP who would oppose
these efforts,” added Gacusana.
“We will forever remember Ka
Puring because he has never turned down anybody who needed his expertise,
especially in the field of irrigation and indigenous health services.
Despite his age, he has shown dedication to extend help, even to farmers in
Samar. The perpetrators of his brutal murder will not take that away from
those who knew Ka Puring’s contribution to our hopes for genuine reforms,”
SAGUPA- SB, along with
Alyansa sa Mag-uuma Alang sa Tunay na Reporma sa Yuta (ALMARYU) and Alyansa
sa Mag-uuma at Mamumuo sa Kananga, Leyte (AMAMU) where Ka Puring sit as
council member, demand justice for the latest victim of state terrorism.
Leyteños calls for rescue: AFP, LGU’s, NGO’s,
media and international rescue teams responds!
By LtC. MANUEL FELINO V. RAMOS, GSC (INF) PA
February 22, 2006
CAMP LUKBAN, Catbalogan,
Samar – The national government declares Barangay Guinsaugon, Saint
Bernard, Southern Leyte under state of calamity after it has been stricken
with a massive landslide on February 17, 2006 at about 10:00 am which buried
the whole barangay with mud causing numbers of deaths, injured and many are
Notwithstanding the dangers,
the army’s 43rd Infantry Battalion was the first to respond to assist the
victims of the disaster which struck said barangay. Said efforts were
personally commended by Southern Leyte Governor Rosette Y. Lerias. Along
with it, the province immediately organized massive rescue, relief and
recovery operations to augment with the 8th Infantry Division troops.
The tragedy has caused so
much damage and casualties that the 8th Infantry Division has to add and
request more troops including other units of the Armed Forces of the
Philippines while other NGOs and Civilian Organizations are under its
operational control, with MGen. Bonifacio Ramos as over-all ground
commander, like: MEDICAL TEAMS from 8RCDG/PAARU and NAVFORCEN, RELIEF TEAMS
from 804/805CDC, 8RCDG, 8TH PRMG, NAVAL ASSETS - RPS 71, 38, 141, 339, 334,
AIR ASSETS – TOG8, OTHER VOLUNTEERS from Scan International, RATSS/PAF/ARUF,
Sogod Rescue, Red Cross, RDCC7/PDCC, PEO, PNOC, EVRC. Total number of
personnel on rescue is 214 and more volunteers were arriving in the scene to
include the national media and international rescue teams from foreign
countries like the US Naval Vessel and the Malaysian Humanitarian Mission
with their respective personnel, equipments, relief goods and medicines.
As of February 18, 2006
(8:12 pm), the total recovered dead bodies – 56, injured – 20, missing –
1,408, survivors – 410. In CY 2006 municipal survey, total population of
Brgy Guinsaugon is 1,857 with 321 households. It was also found out that
during the tragedy, there were on-going classes of the elementary school
located within the vicinity of the said barangay which has a total
population of 246 students that were likewise buried. Evacuation centers
have registered a total of 1,448 evacuees in Catholic Church Convent with
121, St Bernard Central School with 1048 and Cristo Rey Regional High School
with 279. Said evacuation centers hold other evacuees from the barangays
near Barangay Guinsaugon who were advised to leave the area for possible
On the other hand, on
February 17, 2006 at about 2:45 pm, troops under 20th Infantry Battalion who
conducted KALAHI project evaluation for the barangays under the Municipality
of Bobon, Northern Samar and were supposed to be pulled-out same day to
augment the rescue operations in Leyte, encountered undetermined number of
Communist Terrorists (CTs) at the vicinity of Brgy Santander, Bobon,
Northern Samar. Fire fight lasted for about 25 minutes after which the CTs
withdrew in northwest direction of said barangay leaving one (1) soldier
killed in action – PFC. Gleann G. Soteo while wounding undetermined number
from the enemy side as per confirmation from the civilians in the area. Hot
pursuit operation is still on-going.
With the big task at hand
confronted by the 8th Infantry Division, it has still performed well its
mandated mission in combat and non-combat activities as manifested by the
successive events of the same day. Clearly, with these people-oriented
activities, no single support was seen from any legal front organizations
like the Bayan Muna, Gabriella, SB-Katungod, etc to extend help or
assistance to the landslide victims when they are needed most. Likewise, the
New Peoples Army being anti-people and anti-development took advantage on
the re-directed attention of the Philippine Army who was focusing their
efforts on community development and the rescue operations to possibly save
This is a clear indication
that the CPP/NPA/NDF clear motives were the total destruction of human lives
as they can only be heard when their own comrades and supporters claims
allegations of Human Rights Violations.
Cong. Figueroa aiming for
the establishment of Samar Cultural Center
By RICKY J. BAUTISTA
February 22, 2006
– A House
Bill that will provide for the establishment of a Historical and Cultural
Center in the province of Samar, recently passed the final reading in the
lower house of congress thru the efforts of Samar 2nd District Congressman Catalino V. Figueroa.
The said bill, which was
originally tagged as House Bill 2823, has been transmitted to the Senate for
appropriate action, and by this time marked as House Bill 4554 after
amendments were put in place based on the recommendation of the House
Committee on Basic Education and Culture.
"This is an important step
towards recognizing the artistic talents of Samareños", Congressman Figueroa
informed, and likewise added that if the senate would positively act on it,
"Samar will finally have a venue wherein all its artists will be able to
converge and hone, not only their own artistic skills but even those who are
striving to be recognized in their respective fields", he explained.
The establishment of a Samar
Historical and Cultural
is being eyed as an avenue that will pave way for the roots and history of
the province to fully known and recognized.
"It has been a long dream of
the people of Samar to have its own historical and cultural venue. This, I
hope, shall be the fruition of their long-cherished aspirations," Cong.
Figueroa added, and further explained that the said move will serve as
fitting tribute to the men and women of Samar who have made waves not only
in the province but in other places as well, "and for them to have achieved
many things without the appropriate support from the government is highly
gratifying, and this is basically the reason why this measure was drafted,
filed and subsequently approved in the 13th Congress."
At present, the solon is now
coordinating with several groups in the Samar, seeking for their suggestions
as to the best place to put up the center. Congressman Figueroa is eyeing
for the center to be constructed in the province capital town.