Only for the brave!

Are you brave enough to love?

Do you have the heart and the skills to build?

Well, here is your chance to help, to build a house, to build friendship and to build a nation.

Join the 4th Gawad Kalinga GK1MB Bayani Challenge 2009: Only for the Brave!

The event to build houses will be held in far away Sulu, where recent kidnappings led to more military actions and excitement. But this is not about the adventure, according to Ricky Villanueva of GK Davao City. He says this is “challenging ourselves to go beyond our comfort zones so we can make a difference in the lives of others.”

Go get in touch with him at or call +63823042009.

I cannot go myself but I am willing to help provide tools for those joining on April 13-17.

Now he is an expert on Mindanao!

Ha ha ha! This is interesting.

Former President Joseph Estrada revealed last Friday that Rodolfo Lozada Jr., the Senate’s star witness in the cancelled national broadband network (NBN) deal with ZTE Corp. of China, has sought his help as his relationship with the civil society group Black and White Movement (BWM) has turned sour.

Estrada, who visited The STAR office, said Lozada showed him a PowerPoint presentation of the controversial memorandum of agreement (MOA) on ancestral domain which the Supreme Court stopped from being signed by the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front early this month.

“The Americans have a hand on the MOA on ancestral domain according to Lozada. He visited me with the sisters (nuns) last week,” Estrada said. – Estrada says Lozada sought his assistance (Philippine Star, August 31, 2008)

Ha ha ha! Akbayan Mindanao must be praising high heavens that its “hero” is now also – ha ha ha – an expert on the Mindanao peace process.

Ha ha ha! I say let’s nominate this guy to the London Olympics. We can enter him in at least two events – Finals of scene stealing and Finals of biting the hands that feed him (please see my post on New Olympic events for GRP). He can handily win the gold in the latter event with his vast track record.

To name a few: First, he enjoyed all the pomp and perks while he was in the corridors of power but made an instant u-turn when about to get caught. Second, he turned snitch on his co-conspirators in “moderating their greed” to save his own skin. To him the tongpats is ok kung hindi bubukol until the scandal became too hot to  handle. And now, he is severing ties with the civil society that paraded him before altars and campuses and made him a “hero.”

Ha ha ha!

After squandering public funds, taking advantage of “sanctuary funds,” and enjoying Senate “security funds,” now this guy is turning to the man thrown out of office for gambling “slush funds!”

Ha ha ha!

This guy is not only after fortune and fame. He wants to dip his fingers in Mindanao too! And goes to the president who waged a “total war” in Mindanao.

Ha ha ha! So, this is the “hero” of Akbayan Mindanao!

Incidentally, did I mention that I resigned from Akbayan last April due to this “fake hero?” Aw, but that’s another story.

Let me just state that I simply cannot stay a minute longer in an organization that prefers fake heroes and attacks persons like me for standing up for our overseas workers whom I described as our “genuine national heroes.”

Ha ha ha!

Let me please enjoy my last laugh. Ha ha ha!

6:41 a.m.

Tits for tat

Kosovo declared its independence early this year with the backing of the EU and the US to the objection and consternation of Serbia and Russia.

Yesterday, Russia supported the independence of not one but two breakaway regions of Georgia – Abkhazia and South Ossetia – to the objection and condemnation of the EU and US.

Russia had its tits for EU’s and US’s tat.

The conflict in Georgia has strained relations between Russia and the EU and the US to a point that a new cold war has begun. And it is getting hotter.

Kosovo is now recognized by 46 countries but is not yet a member of the United Nations. Russia is certain to veto its membership in the world body.

The same can be said of Abkhazia and South Ossentia. Even if more countries, particularly allied with Russia, would give it recognition, its membership at the UN would be blocked by EU states and the US.

Hhmmm. My mind is playing tricks on me due to this issue.

What if the Bangsama Moro nation declares its independence and Abhkazia and South Ossetia recognize it? What if Taiwan calls for the formation of the United Countries (UC) to rival the UN and invites Abkhazia, South Ossetia, the Bangsa Moro, and perhaps Kosovo as its charter members?

What if the likes of Iran and North Korea which are pestered by a UN atomic agency or Palestine which is fed up with UN Resolutions that Israel does not respect suddenly bolt the UN and join the UC?

What if liberation fronts all over the world seeking their own homelands are given observer status at the UC?

The possibilities playing tricks on me are endless. Thank God they are only in my mind.

Tit-for-tat, the cold war is indeed getting hotter!

5:20 a.m.

Heroes day

I just came from the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier beside the City Council building where we held the commemoration of today’s National Heroes Day.

I represented Vice Mayor Sara Duterte and delivered the welcome remarks. Our guests include the consuls from Japan and Malaysia, government and police officials, war veterans and representatives from many civil society groups.

Our keynote speaker was my colleague 6-term city councilor Nilo Abellera. He paid tribute to our heroes and extolled their virtues that we should emulate like courage, patriotism and sacrifice.

As I sat beside the Malaysian consul-general Nik Mustafa Kamal Nik Ahmad, we had a quiet conversation while the flower offering was going on. We covered quite a lot in the short span of time. Foremost on my mind was the stalled peace process where Malaysia plays a crucial role as both a mediator and a member of the ceasefire monitoring group.

The consul expressed concern that their mandate of being in the monitoring body would lapse at the end of this month. He said both parties, the GRP and MILF, must come to terms asap with regards this international monitoring mechanism.

He thanked Mayor Rody Duterte for lending a voice of moderation in the on-going conflict in Mindanao. He was also elated that the Kadayawan festival last week went without a hitch.

We likewise touched on the current political situation in Malaysia where former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim is seeking a parliamentary seat in tomorrow’s by-elections in Penang. We talked about the wind of change sweeping Malaysia akin to the Obama mania in the US.

I also had the chance to congratulate the consul on Malaysia’s silver medal in badminton at the Beijing Olympics where our own local sports heroes brought home none.

My hero today is war veteran Sotero Palabyab who noticed the list of “distinguished national heroes” printed in the program. He remarked that most of those in the list were heroes of the Spanish era.

He said we should pay attention too to contemporary heroes. His suggestions: Manuel Quezon, father of the Wikang Pilipino and president during the Commonwealth period, who once said he would rather have a government run like hell by Filipinos than one run like heaven by the Americans; and Ninoy Aquino martyred for freedom and democracy 25 years ago who said the Filipino is worth dying for.

9:07 a.m.

US silent on MILF terrorism

US Ambassador Kristie Kenney is one of the most active enyoys in the Philippines and a favorite of the media. She openly expresses her ten-cents’ worth on almost all major issues in the country not just the bilateral relations between Washington and Manila.

In the on-going strife in Mindanao, she has a mouthful of things to say. Almost all major Manila papers carried her statements made yesterday.

Curiosly, none of it condemns the recent armed attacks of the MILF rebels in several provinces in Mindanao including killing of hapless civilians, burning houses and vehicles, toppling power lines, and taking hostages among them six Catholic priests.

From where I sit, these atrocities are no different from those committed by Russia in Georgia. And yet in the case of the conflict in the Caucasus, the US has a barrage of condemnation. Yesterday, the US State Department also “strongly condemned” terror attacks in Algeria.

Why the US is not condemning the MILF abuses and terrorist action is truly intriguing.

Incidentally, the MILF is not in the list of “terrorist organizations” of the US unlike these totally innocent Americans who are unfortunately on a terror watch list.

5:02 a.m.

Monday blues

My post on swimmer Michael Phelps was inadvertently deleted yesterday morning. Arrgghh! I really did not know what happened except that I was in a hurry to leave after posting and closed my laptop.

Anyway, I wrote about the greatest Olympian of our lifetime having more medals in two Olympics than the Philippines (population over 90 million) which has participated since the 1924 Games.

The Philippines is one of the major producers of gold in the world with mines stretching from Benguet in the north to Diwalwal in the south. It is unlucky, however, in the gold medal quest in the Summer Olympics. It has thus far produced only nine medals – 2 silvers and 7 bronzes. Michael Phelps on the other hand has 16 medals – 14 golds and 2 bronzes in the last two Olympics.

If he were a county, he would be at the top 50 in all time medal tally, better than more than 150 other nations.

– – – – –

I sat for more than six hours yesterday listening to the dialogue between the government peace panel and businessmen at the Marco Polo Hotel on the controversy over the ancestral domain issue.

While we were listening to the conversation, reports were filtering in from the field about rebel attacks in Sarangani and Lanao del Norte.

Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro noticeably changed his prepared remarks regarding the peace talks to strong assurances to the business community that the government would deal with the attacks more forcefully.

He was cheered by the participants unlike the other members of the peace panel who were jeered – at least in my table – over repeated answer that the peace agreement is still a work in progress.

– – – – –

After the dialogue, I rushed to the People’s Park for the opening of the Kadayawan festival.

At about 7 p.m., I excused myself after 3 hours through the elaborate ceremony. The program was simply too long. What was scheduled to be finished by 6 p.m. was still halfway by the time my stomach started to grumble.

6:41 a.m.

US hand in Mindanao

You might say I am stretching the issue of US involvement in Mindanao too far. But here are interesting views from respected columnists in Manila:

The untold realities of the MILF Pact by veteran media executive Billy Esposo; and

MILF proxy to international oil powers by nationalist economist Ding Lichauco.

And here are my previous posts:

A new kind of US military base – August 16, 2007;

GIs no fair game in Mindanao – September 2, 2007;

Defiant diplomat – February 22, 2008

The latter is about the visit of the US Ambassador Kristie Kenney to the “lion’s den” in the heartland of the Bangsamoro rebels in Mindanao in open defiance to the US State Department’s advisory against travel to troubled Mindanao. She was seen in Kuala Lumpur last Tuesday where the signing of the peace accord on ancestral domain was supposed to take place.

I received this email yesterday from a Davaoeno in Las Vegas – who is the US supporting in the Mindanao War? He was not actually asking me a question. He was emailing me a copy of a previous article written by Billy Esposo of the same title – Who is the US supporting in the Mindanao War?

A letter of MILF founder Hashim Salamat to President George W. Bush was featured in this column piece. Esposo asked particularly “promoters of all-out war in Mindanao” to read it and “see the hidden dimensions of the current conflict.”

6:15 a.m.

Balkanization of Mindanao

I am not a war monger and not about to fan one.

Yet, the government’s deal with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front to seek peace is ironically causing the drum beatings for war.

War is coming.

Military, MILF rebels trade mortar fires in North Cotabato.

AFP prepared for untoward incidents in the south.

That’s what this unpopular government reaped for sowing the seeds of secrecy. In keeping major stakeholders in Mindanao out of the loop on the peace negotiations, the government has no one to blame but itself.

It created for all of us a huge problem in solving another. I refer to the long feared Balkanization of Mindanao as the indigenous peoples of Mindanao want no part in the Bangsamoro deal. That’s in addition to the opposition already expressed by a number of local governments. Balkanization refers to the division of a territory into often hostile units.

Will the government appease the lumads too with their own juridical entity in their ancestral lands? From where I sit and understanding fairness, the lumads have actually the prior rights to ancestral domains in Mindanao as its pioneer inhabitants.

6:37 a.m.

Dark clouds over Mindanao

No, this is not about the bad weather. Yet the disturbance is as compelling.

The dark clouds hovering in Mindanao is ironically about peace.

The agreement on the contentious ancestral domain issue between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) set to be signed in Kuala Lumpur tomorrow is causing serious concerns in several key areas of the island, notably in North Cotabato, Iligan and Zamboanga.

The inclusion of parts of their territory – without prior consultation – is among the gusty winds heaping up various protests. The other stormy blows are the continuing armed clashes in certain areas of North Cotabato and Maguindanao, and attempts to move the elections in the Muslim autonomous region scheduled for next week.

The recent armed attacks appears to have three-sided aims. One, to expand MILF controlled territory, two, to disrupt the elections, and three, to force the hand of both parties to sign or not to sign the pact.

I favor the peace agreement yet I worry how these new developments are unfolding.

For instance, we have seen how voters rejected the inclusion of many territories in the previous peace accords. I see the futility of including them again in this new agreement. Both panels are raising false hopes in this attempt to expand the areas to be covered under the envisioned Bangsamoro Juridical Entity. I am certain that this would be voted down in a plebiscite.

In the case of the 1996 peace agreement with the Moro National Liberal Front (MNLF), attempts were likewise made to include, for example, Davao del Sur under the autonomous region and Davao City under the Special Zone of Peace and Development in Southern Philippines. The former was rejected by the people of Davao del Sur in a plebiscite; the latter rejected by the government panel in the final negotiations.

I was in Jakarta to represent Mayor Rody Duterte in the final rounds of the 1996 peace talks and I witnessed the discussions on the inclusion of Davao City in the SZOPAD. The government panel stuck firm on its position that Davao City was not among the areas covered in the Tripoli Agreement, which was the basis of the GRP-MNLF pact.

Well, even if Davao City were included, it would have seen defeat in the plebiscite.

The government should consider seriously the objections being raised by local officials in North Cotabato, Iligan and Zamboanga. Otherwise, it would fan the fire of protests that can lead to more “unpeace” in Mindanao. The peace agreement should be an instrument not just to appease certain sectors, it should bring genuine understanding and cooperation among all the stakeholders in Mindanao.

5:34 a.m.

Update – The Supreme Court issued a stop order for the signing  of the MOA on ancestral domain during its en banc meeting yesterday afternoon. – 6:40 a.m. August 5

President-elect Obama

Israel must be the luckiest country in the world.

One of the richest and undoubtedly the mightiest in the Middle East, Israel is getting further windfall.

US President-elect Barack Obama has just committed to Israeli security once he sits at the Oval Office. Last Monday, I heard the same assurance from British PM Gordon Brown when he became the first British leader to address the Knesset.

What a lucky nation!

I pity dozens of countries around the world particularly in Africa and Asia which are suffering from abject poverty, hunger, disease, calamities and strifes. They are not getting the same singular attention Israel is having from the world’s most powerful nations.

I could not believe the world is being fooled once again. The mass deception is sickening. Before, it was Taliban fundamentalism in Afghanistan, then WMD against Iraq, now they have raised the same bogey against Iran.

Israel is indeed the luckiest of nations. I wonder how American and British citizens, now suffering from credit crunch and rising prices, feel in putting the bill for the security of another country.

It has also become crystal clear to me that there is no divide between the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee and that of the Republicans. Obama and John McCain are of the same mold when it comes to America’s self-styled role as “policeman of the world.” In Germay, Obama sounded like George W. Bush drumbeating a “war on terror.” To many aggrieved peoples in the world, the “policeman” is the “terrorist.”

Both Obama or McCain would continue to wear imperialist cap and intervene in other countries as they did brutally in the Philippines a century ago, or in Vietnam four decades ago, and impose their brand of “democracy” on other nations.

5:12 p.m.

Say no!

Click image to take action now and prevent another war.

4:45 a.m.

More awards

After our executive director at Unlad Kabayan Migrant Services Foundation – Mayan Villalba – was named as the Philippines Social Entrepreneur of the Year last month, we reaped two more awards recently.

Association of Young Linamon Producers (ALYP) of Linamon, Lanao del Norte which produces Virgin Coconut Oil for the 2008 Hatag Kalinaw Project of the British Council; and

New Lives for Old – Peace, Growth and Governance Through Social Enterprise for the Panibagong Paraan 2008. This project helps former Moro rebels undertake community livelihood programs.

Keep up the good work Mayan!

Paul replies to NPA threat

From my inbox, here’s Paul Dominguez’s reply to the New People’s Army death sentence issued on the anniversary of the revolutionary group last March 29:

“I was surprised to receive information that the Valentin Palamine Command of the New People’s Army has issued a threat against my person and accused me of being involved in “deceit, coercion and murder” due to my involvement in the exploration phase of the Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI) project in Tampakan, South Cotabato.

The allegations being made against me are all the more disconcerting since I resigned from SMI as president on April 1, 2007 when Xstrata exercised its option to acquire a majority stake of SMI and took over the management of the company.

For the record, the accusations being made against me are totally unfounded and without basis in truth and in fact.

It is not true that I caused the militarization of Tampakan during my tenure as SMI president or that the exploration activities conducted by SMI dispossessed communities of their land and livelihood. On the contrary, the investments being made by SMI have created opportunities for the Tampakan residents and have the full support of all the lumad tribal councils, the barangay councils and the municipalities presently involved with the project. These facts are easily verifiable.

The principal focus of the management team during my tenure as SMI President was to undertake social development and environmental programs to precisely ensure that the host communities would be the first to benefit from the investments being undertaken in Tampakan. These programs were well received by the community and enabled the company to carry out its exploration activities without any major security-related incidents.

In fact, several of these community-based programs received awards and accolades from both local and foreign entities. The Philippine Mine Safety and Environment Association (PMSEA) honored SMI as the recipient of its highest award – the Presidential Mining Industry Environmental Award (PMIEA) in December, 2006 in recognition of the company’s programs and projects for environmental protection and development of the host and neighboring communities. PMSEA also honored the company with a Special Award for the Best Mining Forest Program.

Under my watch, SMI initiated community development activities in education, capacity building and health, with special focus on the indigenous communities in whose lands the mine may eventually operate. As a result of these education initiatives, over 8000 school children in Tampakan, Colombio and Kiblawan continue to receive scholarship grants and financial assistance. In addition, several of these innovative development programs were recognized as model projects by our national officials as well as visiting international dignitaries.

In a visit to Tampakan in 2006, Tanzanian Mining Minister Lau Masha lauded the project, saying that he would encourage mining investors in Tanzania to “learn from Tampakan” and would push for the adoption of SMI’s best practices in Tanzania ’s mining projects. Among the innovative programs that Minister Masha wanted to replicate in Tanzania was the SMI Competence Center which undertakes skills development and adult literacy programs for the host communities to enable them to be the first to be gainfully employed by the project. This unique program was given the National Kabalikat Award for Industry by Tesda in 2007.

During my tenure, SMI also encouraged the three municipalities presently involved in the project to form an alliance to accelerate growth and development and jointly address whatever issues that may emerge in the course of development of the mining project. This initiative referred to as the KITACO Growth Area ensures that all sectors within the three municipalities of Kiblawan, Tampakan and Columbio which are in three separate provinces are consulted at all times thus assuring full project transparency.

Over the last four decades, I have been involved in both government and private sector initiatives to bring about peace and development in Mindanao . My term as presidential assistant for Mindanao during the Ramos administration was characterized by significant economic growth and infrastructure development in the island as well as more cooperation with our neighbors in ASEAN.

Today, I continue to be involved in several private sector and civic organizations whose objectives are to promote peace and development, poverty alleviation and sustainable development particularly in Mindanao . I remain steadfast in my commitment to help accelerate the development of Mindanao .”

Back as battleground

Top honchos of the economic team of the government are in Davao City today to present the state of the economy to local officials and business sector.

Last week, controversial Joey de Venecia was here too as guest of local lawyers campaigning for truth.

This week, Jun Lozada is expected here for his provincial campus tour.

Davao City is back as a battleground for the hearts and minds of the people.

We recall that during the late 1970s and into the 1980s, this city was the laboratory of the urban war between NPA partisans and government-backed vigilante groups fighting for the loyalty of the people. It was a nasty experience that left the city with scars.

Would I expect this new game to be any different.

Nah, the visits of Joey de Venecia, Jun Lozada and the economic team would be as unproductive.

(6:15 a.m.)

Defiant diplomat

The ink on the most recent US travel warning to the country’s troubled south had hardly dried up when no less than its top official here defied it.

Ambassador Kristie Kenney went last weekend into the “lion’s den.” Thus, she became the first US top official to ever visit Moro separatists at its stronghold in Shariff Kabunsuan in Mindanao.

The visit was “private” yet the diplomat urged leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, blamed for many violent incidents in the south, to resume peace talks with the Manila government.

Her visit proves that it is safe to travel to even the most “feared areas” in the Moro heartland.

I say those officials at the US State Department issuing travel advisories should go back to their drawing boards. Their envoy here is one of the frequent travelers to Mindanao.

Incidentally, this Indonesian consul feels safer in Davao and Mindanao than in Jakarta, Los Angeles or New York.