ANA MARIE PAMINTUAN: ANOTHER OPPORTUNITY FOR PEACE

It’s not good to rain on a peace parade, as those left-wing activists who were beaten up by Muslim rally participants in Mendiola learned yesterday. On the day a peace agreement is signed, it’s better to be optimistic, to look on the bright side of a centuries-old conflict. Some encouraging signs: Al-Haj Murad of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front made all the right noises. From the MILF’s own experience, Murad knows that minor resentments can breed major armed conflict, so he does not dismiss “spoilers” of the peace process as easily as those in government do. Among the speeches yesterday, Murad made the best pitch for an inclusive peace. He said his group recognized the 1996 peace pact with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) as “a milestone” but its “inherent flaws” called for “a better political settlement” to achieve Bangsamoro aspirations. He said the MILF is not claiming “sole ownership” of the peace process and the planned Bangsamoro entity to be created “will not be a government of the MILF but a government of the Bangsamoro.” The dividends of peace, he said, would “reverberate” all over the country. While Murad’s message reached out to the MNLF, it also reflected a sentiment echoed by the government peace panel, that Nur Misuari’s group wants to have perpetual entitlement to the Muslim region. Murad must be aware that he has lost a chunk of the MILF membership, with the breakaway group, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), likely to become the MILF to Misuari’s MNLF in 1996. The MNLF itself – those who are open to giving peace a chance, anyway – must be brought into the process, with radical elements isolated. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which recognizes the MNLF and its peace agreement, can play a key role here. It was a positive sign that the international community and donor organizations showed up in full force yesterday at the signing ceremony, with top officials of Malaysia, the European Union, Germany and Spain flying in for the event. The same support, it must be said, was also manifested at the 1996 peace ceremonies. But the Aquino administration obviously thinks it’s better to forge a new deal rather than keep pressing to make the original agreement work. “Will we be held back by an untenable status quo?” P-Noy asked in his speech. He bragged that his gamble on a face-to-face meeting with Murad in Tokyo in August 2011 to jump-start stalled negotiations had paid off. Take that, you carping critics! READ MORE...

CITO BELTRAN: Streets as public toilets

Divisoria has officially turned into a squatters colony of vendors and its streets are now the equivalent of public toilets. The same goes for the Banawe commercial district in Quezon City where most of Metro Manila buy their car parts and accessories. While Mayor Joseph Estrada has been busy fighting off bus companies and truckers, illegal vendors have literally taken over the streets of the Divisoria district, occupying 60 to 70% of road space to the extent that even pedestrians no longer have sidewalks and are stuck when delivery vans unload goods because there is no space to get through. While one can tolerate the culture of congestion and street vendors, yesterday’s experience was disturbing because one could see and smell pools of urine along the gutters particularly on Tabora Street and the adjacent streets. I doubt very much if the battle for space and order against the illegal vendors can ever be won, but perhaps Mayor Estrada can adopt the pink or white line approach that was used by Bayani Fernando and Mayors of other cities in their struggle against illegal parking. READ MORE...

Editorial: ‘Killing us slowly’

A Badjao leader in Cawa-Cawa, Jalnari Hadjirul, did not mince words: “They are killing us slowly by keeping us here. I think they should send us home now, or we will all die.” At the stadium, volunteer aid worker Munib Kahal described the scene in stark terms: “This is a death zone.” Half a year after the rogue Nur Misuari faction of the Moro National Liberation Front began what is now commonly referred to as the three-week-long “siege of Zamboanga,” the list of casualties from that crisis continues to lengthen. According to the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the fighting in September 2013 claimed the lives of 23 soldiers and policemen, some 100 MNLF-Misuari combatants and nine civilians. Since then, however, at least 102 civilians have died in the evacuation centers of Zamboanga City. This is a horrifying statistic, an indictment of both the Aquino administration and the city government—and a national outrage. The siege, and especially the burning of some 10,000 houses, displaced an estimated 116,000 residents. As an Inquirer special report this week showed, about half of these internally displaced persons or IDPs have since returned home, about a third are staying with friends or relatives, and around 20,000 are housed in nine evacuation centers. The 102 deaths happened in these evacuation centers; mainly, in the words of the special report: “among the seafaring minority groups in the encampments—the Badjao at the bayfront Roseller T. Lim Boulevard in the area known as Cawa-Cawa, and the Tausug at Joaquin F. Enriquez Memorial Sports Complex.”
The Badjao in Cawa-Cawa number 4,300 persons, about 850 families in all; the Tausug at the stadium number about 13,300 persons, or some 2,300 families. The 102 dead fell victim, not to gunfire, but to disease. The conditions in the two encampments are appalling.


READ FULL REPORTS HERE:

Another opportunity for peace


By Ana Marie Pamintuan

MANILA, MARCH 31, 2014 (PHILSTAR) SKETCHES By Ana Marie Pamintuan- It’s not good to rain on a peace parade, as those left-wing activists who were beaten up by Muslim rally participants in Mendiola learned yesterday.

On the day a peace agreement is signed, it’s better to be optimistic, to look on the bright side of a centuries-old conflict.

Some encouraging signs: Al-Haj Murad of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front made all the right noises. From the MILF’s own experience, Murad knows that minor resentments can breed major armed conflict, so he does not dismiss “spoilers” of the peace process as easily as those in government do.

Among the speeches yesterday, Murad made the best pitch for an inclusive peace. He said his group recognized the 1996 peace pact with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) as “a milestone” but its “inherent flaws” called for “a better political settlement” to achieve Bangsamoro aspirations.

He said the MILF is not claiming “sole ownership” of the peace process and the planned Bangsamoro entity to be created “will not be a government of the MILF but a government of the Bangsamoro.” The dividends of peace, he said, would “reverberate” all over the country.

While Murad’s message reached out to the MNLF, it also reflected a sentiment echoed by the government peace panel, that Nur Misuari’s group wants to have perpetual entitlement to the Muslim region.

Murad must be aware that he has lost a chunk of the MILF membership, with the breakaway group, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), likely to become the MILF to Misuari’s MNLF in 1996.

The MNLF itself – those who are open to giving peace a chance, anyway – must be brought into the process, with radical elements isolated. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which recognizes the MNLF and its peace agreement, can play a key role here.

It was a positive sign that the international community and donor organizations showed up in full force yesterday at the signing ceremony, with top officials of Malaysia, the European Union, Germany and Spain flying in for the event.

The same support, it must be said, was also manifested at the 1996 peace ceremonies. But the Aquino administration obviously thinks it’s better to forge a new deal rather than keep pressing to make the original agreement work.

“Will we be held back by an untenable status quo?” P-Noy asked in his speech. He bragged that his gamble on a face-to-face meeting with Murad in Tokyo in August 2011 to jump-start stalled negotiations had paid off. Take that, you carping critics!

The negotiations for a framework agreement triggered the three-week siege of Zamboanga City by the MNLF in September last year, from which the city has not yet recovered.

Several months earlier, MNLF fighters also assisted members of the sultanate of Sulu in staking a claim on Sabah. The incursion led to deadly armed encounters with Malaysian forces.

Misuari is claiming direct ownership of parts of Sabah, so Malaysia is only too happy to get him out of the picture in the proposed Bangsamoro entity.

There was no mention of the Philippines’ Sabah claim yesterday. With Malaysia’s prime minister a special guest at the ceremonies, giving him a much-needed break from Chinese rage over the lost flight MH370, we can surmise that the Philippine claim to Sabah is as good as dropped under P-Noy’s watch. If possession is nine-tenths of the law, we’ve lost the island to Malaysia anyway.

Since only Misuari and his men are complaining while the Sulu sultanate, whose leadership is not definitively established, is bellyaching mainly about measly compensation from Kuala Lumpur, most everybody must be happy and the claim can be laid to rest.

* * *

Over in MILF communities in Mindanao, live TV coverage yesterday showed the group’s fighters raising not just their fists but also their rifles as the peace agreement was signed at Malacañang.

We will take the word of the MILF and government peace panel that those guns will eventually be decommissioned, unlike in the deal with the MNLF.

As long as a group other than the military or police is allowed to carry guns in the conflict zones of Mindanao, others will hold on to their weapons if only for self-defense. And where there are guns, violence is always possible.

The government may also want to speed up the rehabilitation of Zamboanga City, where businessmen have complained that economic activity has been seriously affected. If the rehabilitation of Zamboanga keeps moving as slowly as the rebuilding of the areas devastated by Super Typhoon Yolanda despite the availability of massive amounts of foreign aid, it does not bode well for the promised development of the Muslim region. And development, as everyone will agree, is indispensable in making a peace deal work.

We have to be realistic with our expectations of lasting peace in Mindanao. The MILF has no control over the BIFF, which can team up with disgruntled members of the MNLF as well as what’s left of the bandit group Abu Sayyaf and even elements of the extremist Jemaah Islamiyah to sabotage the peace process.

P-Noy, in his speech, warned that he would not “let peace be snatched” from the people. He must make sure his security forces get the message, and effectively neutralize troublemakers. The BIFF is sure to stir up trouble, and the government must prevent the bandits from presenting themselves as a new separatist group deserving of yet another peace initiative.

What peace agreements offer are periods of calm, which must be grabbed as opportunities for bringing development to the affected areas. Even while the Bangsamoro Law is being crafted, and even before the plebiscite, the government must begin pouring resources into the affected areas so people will experience the dividends of peace and work to sustain them.

Poverty, social injustice, lawlessness and bad government feed insurgencies. Confronting these problems in the Muslim region is easier at this time when everyone is singing the popular song of giving peace a chance.

FROM MANILA TIMES

Streets as public toilets CTALK By Cito Beltran (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 28, 2014 - 12:00am 4 24 googleplus0 1


By Cito Beltran

Divisoria has officially turned into a squatters colony of vendors and its streets are now the equivalent of public toilets. The same goes for the Banawe commercial district in Quezon City where most of Metro Manila buy their car parts and accessories.

While Mayor Joseph Estrada has been busy fighting off bus companies and truckers, illegal vendors have literally taken over the streets of the Divisoria district, occupying 60 to 70% of road space to the extent that even pedestrians no longer have sidewalks and are stuck when delivery vans unload goods because there is no space to get through.

While one can tolerate the culture of congestion and street vendors, yesterday’s experience was disturbing because one could see and smell pools of urine along the gutters particularly on Tabora Street and the adjacent streets. I doubt very much if the battle for space and order against the illegal vendors can ever be won, but perhaps Mayor Estrada can adopt the pink or white line approach that was used by Bayani Fernando and Mayors of other cities in their struggle against illegal parking.

Estrada’s people can simply draw a line or box-lines along all the streets in Divisoria that no vendor can go beyond. At the same time vendors should not be allowed to block the sidewalks in front of the tax-and-rent-paying stores. If Erap wants to add to the city’s income they should charge a hassle free fee. That would limit the volume of goods being displayed, which is one of the reasons for the congestion. In the mean time Erap should find out who’s been sleeping on the job or giving him false reports about Divisoria!

* * *

Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista may not realize it but the strip of Banawe street between E. Rodriguez and Quezon Avenue has turned into complete chaos where drivers do TRIPLE parking and causing grid lock. Just like Divisoria the area is also the equivalent of a public toilet since people simply piss anywhere they want. The Barangay Captains of Divisoria and Banawe should both be punished for allowing their areas to turn into toilets or be required to set up portalets and charge for maintenance.

* * *

After being turned off by the DOTC last year, San Miguel Corp. president and COO Ramon Ang has revived the SMC-PAL proposal to build a modern four runway international gateway that was initially proposed one year ago but was shelved after DOTC Secretary Jun Abaya and his officials declared that airline companies should not have a major share in the construction or operations of airports and terminals because it would be a conflict of interest.

It seems that SMC has decided to bring their proposal and presentation to the cabinet if not the President directly because that would be the only way to getting a straight answer and a clear policy concerning investments in aviation infrastructure. I can’t blame SMC for going to the President with their $10 billion proposal since Secretary Jun Abaya and his lawyer-Undersecretaries seem to be consistently “contrapelo” or against the grain.

Abaya has been quoted in an article of Lawrence Agcaoili in the Philippine STAR as stating that: “the SMC proposal is an “unsolicited proposal” and there is a bias of government against it. We tend toward more open and transparent bids. Abaya however, clarified that the DOTC would study the proposal of SMC.”

I don’t know if Secretary Abaya has something against Ramon Ang, San Miguel Corp., or if because of his military background Abaya is simply a stickler for policy to the point of paralysis. What I can say is that he reminds me of what an advertising man named Charles Rosner once wrote: You’re either part of the solution or you’re part of the problem.” Secretary Abaya’s statement regarding government bias against “unsolicited proposals” is reflective of the paranoia and resulting paralysis of government in terms of its anti-corruption campaign that critics and supporters have pointed out.

Lumping proposals with bias is a serious error in judgment. Even in law there is a presumption of innocence and regularity. The DOTC declaring bias against “unsolicited bids” because of its presumption that “unsolicited bids” can be tainted with irregularity is unfair and judgmental of SMC’s integrity. Such a policy in government is operationally myopic and paranoid not to mention a disservice to the would be benefactors from such proposals.

Given the constant pre-judgment from the DOTC, it was a wise move on SMC’s part to go to Malacañang because submitting their proposal to the Secretary and Undersecretaries at the DOTC would be tantamount to waiting for the next administration to study their proposal. If it takes the DOTC one year to bid out design works on the NAIA 1 renovations, can you imagine how many decades it would take them to understand the complex plan of a real international airport beyond their imagination!

* * *

The latest wild idea from the DOE is reportedly the proposal for large consumers of electricity such as malls and similar commercial establishments to prepare and utilize their own power generators as much as possible during the summer months. The idea assumes that if commercial establishments generate and use their own electricity that would help reduce the possibility of power shortages and the resulting blackouts this summer.

That would seem to be simple as common sense until you learn that for their sacrifice, the large volume of consumers will be rewarded with rebates or will be paid for generating electricity that they themselves will use. In order not to belabor the point, I’d like to know if the DOE will also pay me a rebate if I buy a generator, go off grid, and use my own generated power? Of course they’ll say NO because I’m not a commercial large-scale consumer. Then the next question would be: Who will pay the malls, hotels and factories for their selfless sacrifice of producing and consuming their own power? Of course it would be the taxpayers!

Whoever came up with the bright idea and pushes for its implementation may be inviting a lawsuit in the form of graft and corruption charges.

FROM THE INQUIRER

Editorial: ‘Killing us slowly’ Philippine Daily Inquirer 2:35 am | Friday, March 28th, 2014


PHOTO COURTESY OF PHILSTAR SEPT 2013

Half a year after the rogue Nur Misuari faction of the Moro National Liberation Front began what is now commonly referred to as the three-week-long “siege of Zamboanga,” the list of casualties from that crisis continues to lengthen. According to the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the fighting in September 2013 claimed the lives of 23 soldiers and policemen, some 100 MNLF-Misuari combatants and nine civilians.

Since then, however, at least 102 civilians have died in the evacuation centers of Zamboanga City. This is a horrifying statistic, an indictment of both the Aquino administration and the city government—and a national outrage.

The siege, and especially the burning of some 10,000 houses, displaced an estimated 116,000 residents. As an Inquirer special report this week showed, about half of these internally displaced persons or IDPs have since returned home, about a third are staying with friends or relatives, and around 20,000 are housed in nine evacuation centers. The 102 deaths happened in these evacuation centers; mainly, in the words of the special report: “among the seafaring minority groups in the encampments—the Badjao at the bayfront Roseller T. Lim Boulevard in the area known as Cawa-Cawa, and the Tausug at Joaquin F. Enriquez Memorial Sports Complex.”

The Badjao in Cawa-Cawa number 4,300 persons, about 850 families in all; the Tausug at the stadium number about 13,300 persons, or some 2,300 families. The 102 dead fell victim, not to gunfire, but to disease. The conditions in the two encampments are appalling.

A Badjao leader in Cawa-Cawa, Jalnari Hadjirul, did not mince words: “They are killing us slowly by keeping us here. I think they should send us home now, or we will all die.” At the stadium, volunteer aid worker Munib Kahal described the scene in stark terms: “This is a death zone.”

Dr. Rodel M. Agbulos, the city’s health officer, agrees with the consensus that the evacuation centers should be immediately decongested, but offers a different perspective on the death toll: “There are some weeks and days when we don’t have any mortalities. The 102 deaths reported are a cumulative number, meaning counted since September. This did not happen in one day, but over a long period.” He is right, but only up to a point.

The reality is that, over the six-month period, two evacuees died every three days. And in February, the mortality rate reached an alarming high: two deaths for every 10,000 evacuees.

Bagian-Aleyesa Abdulkarim, a sociology professor, suggested that religious prejudice may have played a role in the unwitting brutalization of the evacuees: “Maybe it’s because they’re Muslims. If they’re Christians, they would probably be out of the evacuation centers now. That’s the feeling of the IDPs.” But Kahal, himself a Tausug, said that was overstating the case: “Zamboanga as a whole is not prepared for this kind of tragedy.”

The city mayor certainly knows whom to blame. “I hold the MNLF accountable not only for the deaths during the siege, but also for the deaths that will happen,” Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco-Salazar said.

“They have displaced their own kind, Muslims, Christians and lumads. The ones that caused the problems were not Christians. They were privileged Muslim intellectuals and leaders.”

She is right, but also up to a point. But it has been six months since the siege. When the controversial decision was made to prevent the return of displaced families to territory considered as environmentally protected areas, the city government should not have merely waited for the national government’s housing relocation program to materialize.

Even a cash-strapped government can still use its considerable suasive powers to generate contributions from the larger community: more latrines, more medicine, more food.

The worst thing that Misuari’s latest outrageous caper can lead to is a general feeling of acquired helplessness, a sense of victimhood.

Zamboanga hermosa can do much better.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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