GMA NEWS NETWORK OPINION

FR. JUN MERCADO: MNLF UNITY--A REALITY OR A MIRAGE? 

One interesting statement that came out of the Jeddah MNLF [Moro National Liberation Front] Meeting last June 11, 2014 following the OIC Foreign Ministers Conference was the alleged unity of all MNLF factions on a common agenda and a common leadership. The representatives of Chairman Nur Misuari (Uz. Abdulbaki Abubakar, Abdul Jabbar Narra, Dr. Mashur Jundam and Yahodza Simpal), the leadership of the MNLF Council of 14 (Muslimin Sema and Hatimil Hassan), MNLF-Islamic Command Council Chair Habib Muduahab Hashim, and Jimmy Labawan, Shakiruddin Bajin and Atty. Randolph Parcasio have all signed the unity statement. No doubt, the MNLF unity statement is a concrete response to the OIC’s appeal for unity within the Bangsamoro in pursuing peace in the Southern Philippines.

It establishes the continuum in the peace process between the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) and the 1976 Tripoli Agreement, and the 1996 Jakarta Final Peace Agreement between the GPH and the MNLF. Leaders of the MNLF acknowledge that the CAB is a partial fulfillment of the requirements of both the 1976 Tripoli Agreement and the 1996 Jakarta Agreement. The united MNLF leadership expresses some reservations on the provisions of the CAB that are inconsistent with the 1976 Tripoli Agreement and the 1996 Final Peace Accord. However, it expresses openness to pursue collaborative efforts to build the communalities between and among the three peace agreements in order to strengthen and enhance self-rule in the Southern Philippines.

The MNLF unity statement shows to all and sundry that the MNLF is ONE in pursuing the MNLF-OIC-GPH Tripartite Review on the full implementation of the 1996 Final Peace Accord by resolving the three remaining issues, namely: (1) definition/sharing of revenues and strategic minerals; (2) transitory mechanism/provisional government/plebiscite; and (3) territory. The unity within all the factions of the MNLF is based on the now known Jeddah Formula referring to the OIC-recognized MNLF leadership that was present at the first MNLF-OIC-GPH Tripartite Conference in Jeddah in 2007. These same leaders, meeting in Jeddah on June 11, 2014, now commit themselves to maintain unity among all the factions and groups of the MNLF on the common agenda and position of arriving at a political, just and lasting peaceful solution to the long-standing problem of the Bangsamoro people and Muslims in the Southern Philippines. * READ MORE...

(ALSO) John Andrew G. Evangelista: This society ought to be more forgiving 

“Nora Aunor is not a good role model.” This is the bottom line of President Aquino’s defense of his decision to drop Ms. Aunor from the list of new National Artists released recently. The President is worried that Ms. Aunor would not set a good example for the Filipino people because of her alleged drug use while living in the United States. What the President did not see is the dangerous implication of his decision insofar as how we (as a society) should treat reformed drug users. Ms. Aunor’s alleged drug use In March 2005, Nora Aunor was reported to have been caught possessing 7.7 grams of shabu in her handbag while passing the security of an airport in Los Angeles. Due to this, a case was filed against her. After finishing the court’s prescribed rehabilitation program, the case was dropped. She was not formally convicted. Ms. Aunor’s action of agreeing to finish the rehabilitation program could be taken in many ways. It could be seen as a practical legal strategy to avoid the long process of a court trial. Or it could be seen as an act of remorse or admission of guilt. In whatever case, she was willing to correct whatever she has done wrong. Her willingness to admit to the charges and her willingness to enter the rehabilitation program show her motivation to change. Aquino’s failure In the hopes of looking for a good role model, President Aquino turns out to be the one setting a dangerous model for Philippine society. He decided that Ms. Aunor does not deserve to be a National Artist because she is a former drug user. By making this decision, he perpetuates the stigma attached to reformed drug users. By implication, his decision is logically consistent with the decision of every employer who refuses to employ convicted and reformed drug users. His decision perpetuates discrimination against reformed users who want to be reintegrated back to society. * READ MORE...

(ALSO By Antonio P. Contreras) The age of ‘un-reason’: Corrupting good faith, killing brotherhood

The past week simply left a bad taste in the mouths of those whose bearings follow the compass of reason. For how can one rationally explain a brotherhood that ends up killing one of its own, or rather, killing someone who wants to become part of it? And how can a President who swore to uphold and protect the Constitution easily use good faith as the excuse for violating it? These twin events can easily throw into disarray one’s rational grounding, and can rudely awake us from a stable and comforting sleep believing the inherent goodness of constructs such as “brotherhood” and Daang Matuwid. Instead of being comforted, we are roused by the death of one so young and the arrogance of one so morally upright, if we have to believe how he projects himself. Last week, a fraternity killed brotherhood, and a President corrupted good faith. And we all woke up to a bad hair day trying to make sense of it all. A brotherhood that kills --he image of a dying son being dragged in the hallways is too painful for a father to bear, and yet this was what Aurelio Servando had to endure as a father. It left anger in me too deep, that I had no choice but to exhale through an unprintable expletive, since I am a father too, and there is no force more evil in this world than one who would reverse natural law and makes a father bury his child. A child is supposed to bury a father, and not the other way around. Watching that scene in the elevator and in the hallway almost reminded me of Juan Luna’s “Spoliarium,” where dead gladiators are being dragged to the dungeons where their rotting bodies will be offered to the vultures. It was one painful picture that pierces all of us with an accusatory question, of how we as a civilized humanity can breed this kind of evil. *READ MORE...An excuse that corrupts good faith --It is also beyond fathoming how a President riding on the white high moral horse of Daang Matuwid, would not cringe at the possibility that distributing funds during and around the time of Renato Corona’s impeachment could be seen as unethical, if not immoral, and could be misconstrued as bribery. Using good faith as an excuse in this instance totally demeans not only the term, but the President himself, for to believe it would be tantamount to accepting that the President is not well-informed, is unfamiliar, and is detached from the vital affairs of his Presidency. Worse, he is ill-advised. In all of these, what is painted is a President who is not in touch with his moralistic frame of governance. And this is a President who delayed or canceled projects of her predecessor which he suspected to be tainted with corruption. READ FULL ARTICLE...

(ALSO) By Efren N. Padilla: The One Negros Island Region proposal: Consolidation or domination  

When a friend asked me what I think of the “One Negros Island Region” proposal, I did not hesitate to express my concerns. I told him that the people concocting this scheme are putting the cart before the horse. Unfortunately, we have a penchant for doing things in the wrong order. I also told him that this is what happens when political leaders become less imaginative and less reflective when addressing the real issue of the island’s diversity and development. I say this because the main problem of Negros Island is not about political administration but infrastructural neglect. How do you tie up the two diverse provinces? How do you connect the various constituencies of the island that will have an immediate impact on their lives? Here is a starter. Has anyone thought of transforming the decrepit two-lane Kabankalan/Mabinay/Bais road into a no-nonsense eight-lane freeway? That is very doable, right? But if our leaders in Negros are overwhelmed by the magnitude of an eight-lane freeway, I am willing to settle for a no-nonsense four-lane freeway. If realized, just imagine the “multiplier effects” of that freeway to the development of the Island. Not only will it empower the people of that island corridor to be more energetic, but also, to be more productive because now they have an efficient and expeditious transportation system to move their goods and services between market areas and throughout the island. * READ MORE...

(ALSO) By Lila Ramos Shahani: In two schools, student ecosavers and multi-tasking teachers save the day

Every year, as students trek back to their classes anew, we are reminded yet again of the troubling quality of our many public schools. Balik Eskwela is a season when suggestions and criticisms of all types flood the Department of Education (DepEd) from all sides. Poverty is rightfully tagged as the main issue, but what does poverty look like from school to school, at least in the public sphere? It is the poverty of each school — not to mention each student — that must be addressed if we are to meet our goals for national education. Photos by Lawrence Joy dela Fuente This is an important question, because it is the poverty of each school—not to mention each student—that must be addressed if we are to meet our goals for national education. Poverty happens everywhere, but poor students are poor in different ways and for different reasons from place to place: The same, too, is true of individual schools and their respective districts. Ideally, education could be instantly improved by a blanket policy that can simply be funded and applied, but the truth is that both students and schools face critical issues in distinct ways. Already, DepEd has built 66,813 new classrooms since December 2013—clearing the backlog of the previous administration almost entirely—but still faces enormous challenges ahead. For now, they are all-too-keenly aware that a boost in the 2014 budget of P15 billion for classrooms would speed up the implementation of programs and projects currently in place—classrooms being built, and those that are planned and projected for the future. But DepEd’s commitment and sense of purpose, combined with the grit and tenacity of many public school communities, continues to work wonders on the case-to-case basis these individual situations require. Despite funding limits, DepEd has strengthened its position by converging with numerous stakeholders—parents, community organizations, Local Government Units (LGUs), the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), and even the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). READ MORE...


READ FULL REPORTS HERE:

MNLF unity—a reality or a mirage?


By FR. JUN MERCADO, OMI

MANILA, JULY 14, 2014 (GMA NEWS NETWORK)  By FR. JUN MERCADO, OMI - One interesting statement that came out of the Jeddah MNLF [Moro National Liberation Front] Meeting last June 11, 2014 following the OIC Foreign Ministers Conference was the alleged unity of all MNLF factions on a common agenda and a common leadership.

The representatives of Chairman Nur Misuari (Uz. Abdulbaki Abubakar, Abdul Jabbar Narra, Dr. Mashur Jundam and Yahodza Simpal), the leadership of the MNLF Council of 14 (Muslimin Sema and Hatimil Hassan), MNLF-Islamic Command Council Chair Habib Muduahab Hashim, and Jimmy Labawan, Shakiruddin Bajin and Atty. Randolph Parcasio have all signed the unity statement.

No doubt, the MNLF unity statement is a concrete response to the OIC’s appeal for unity within the Bangsamoro in pursuing peace in the Southern Philippines. It establishes the continuum in the peace process between the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) and the 1976 Tripoli Agreement, and the 1996 Jakarta Final Peace Agreement between the GPH and the MNLF.

Leaders of the MNLF acknowledge that the CAB is a partial fulfillment of the requirements of both the 1976 Tripoli Agreement and the 1996 Jakarta Agreement.

The united MNLF leadership expresses some reservations on the provisions of the CAB that are inconsistent with the 1976 Tripoli Agreement and the 1996 Final Peace Accord. However, it expresses openness to pursue collaborative efforts to build the communalities between and among the three peace agreements in order to strengthen and enhance self-rule in the Southern Philippines.

The MNLF unity statement shows to all and sundry that the MNLF is ONE in pursuing the MNLF-OIC-GPH Tripartite Review on the full implementation of the 1996 Final Peace Accord by resolving the three remaining issues, namely: (1) definition/sharing of revenues and strategic minerals; (2) transitory mechanism/provisional government/plebiscite; and (3) territory.

The unity within all the factions of the MNLF is based on the now known Jeddah Formula referring to the OIC-recognized MNLF leadership that was present at the first MNLF-OIC-GPH Tripartite Conference in Jeddah in 2007.

These same leaders, meeting in Jeddah on June 11, 2014, now commit themselves to maintain unity among all the factions and groups of the MNLF on the common agenda and position of arriving at a political, just and lasting peaceful solution to the long-standing problem of the Bangsamoro people and Muslims in the Southern Philippines.

* In the same unity statement, they all acknowledged the leadership of MNLF founding leader and central committee chairman Prof. Nur P. Misuari. And they have also resolved that all the MNLF leaders on the ground shall work toward a unified leadership.

When I got wind of the said unity statement, I thought that this is it! Finally the MNLF leadership has come back to its senses and re-establishes the much-longed for unity among the various factions and groups. I am one of the early jubilant crowds that welcomed the MNLF unity. Seeing all the signatures of the who’s who in the MNLF that have become estranged for years is a marvel in itself.

The joy remained until I was reminded that the ONE SIGNIFICANT signature is NOT in the said unity statement. My immediate answer to the observation is simply to state the fact that "he was not there at the historic meeting but definitely he was ably represented by his lieutenants." To my dismay, I was told that there were many occasions in the past when the "lieutenants," who do NOT carry full authority, could not commit the Chair to any unity agreement.

In short, the MNLF unity statement dated June 11, 2014 is the unity of all those who were present and actually signed the document. It does NOT, in any way, commit to the agreement the MNLF founding leader and central committee chair—Prof. Nur P. Misuari.

Is the MNLF unity for REAL or simply a MIRAGE?

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of this website.

 This society ought to be more forgiving By JOHN ANDREW G. EVANGELISTA July 10, 2014 12:07pm 349 31 0 429 John Andrew G. Evangelista is currently teaching in the Department of Sociology in the University of the Philippines-Diliman.


NORA AUNOR PHOTO FROM GOOGLE IMAGES

“Nora Aunor is not a good role model.” This is the bottom line of President Aquino’s defense of his decision to drop Ms. Aunor from the list of new National Artists released recently. The President is worried that Ms. Aunor would not set a good example for the Filipino people because of her alleged drug use while living in the United States. What the President did not see is the dangerous implication of his decision insofar as how we (as a society) should treat reformed drug users.

Ms. Aunor’s alleged drug use

In March 2005, Nora Aunor was reported to have been caught possessing 7.7 grams of shabu in her handbag while passing the security of an airport in Los Angeles. Due to this, a case was filed against her. After finishing the court’s prescribed rehabilitation program, the case was dropped. She was not formally convicted.

Ms. Aunor’s action of agreeing to finish the rehabilitation program could be taken in many ways. It could be seen as a practical legal strategy to avoid the long process of a court trial. Or it could be seen as an act of remorse or admission of guilt. In whatever case, she was willing to correct whatever she has done wrong. Her willingness to admit to the charges and her willingness to enter the rehabilitation program show her motivation to change.

Aquino’s failure

In the hopes of looking for a good role model, President Aquino turns out to be the one setting a dangerous model for Philippine society. He decided that Ms. Aunor does not deserve to be a National Artist because she is a former drug user. By making this decision, he perpetuates the stigma attached to reformed drug users. By implication, his decision is logically consistent with the decision of every employer who refuses to employ convicted and reformed drug users. His decision perpetuates discrimination against reformed users who want to be reintegrated back to society.

* The role model

It is right for President Aquino to make sure that artists awarded with the prestigious national recognition set good models for Filipinos. What he failed to see is the power of an individual’s willingness to be reformed.

Ms. Aunor surely has a complicated history. Her life is complex, messy and edgy like any of us. She had a fair share of mistakes in the past. But Aquino failed to understand that by taking responsibility for her actions, Nora Aunor could set a good example to millions of Filipinos who feel they are trapped with the errors of their past.

Ms. Aunor’s triumphs amidst trials will provide hope for millions of Filipinos who are robbed of opportunities by an unforgiving society.

If seen as a whole and not as a trivia, the message of Ms. Aunor’s life is simple. People make mistakes but that should not rob them of the hope to move on. This is a very important message to get across in this harsh society.

Oftentimes, this society thinks it is morally justified to reject someone because of her past mistakes. This society ought to be more forgiving especially to people who own up to their mistakes and takes responsibility for them.

After all, one of the basic principles we hold most dear as a state is reformative justice.

The age of ‘un-reason’: Corrupting good faith, killing brotherhood By ANTONIO P. CONTRERASJuly 7, 2014 2:28pm 161 50 1 255 Tags: Benigno Aquino III


By ANTONIO P. CONTRERAS

The past week simply left a bad taste in the mouths of those whose bearings follow the compass of reason. For how can one rationally explain a brotherhood that ends up killing one of its own, or rather, killing someone who wants to become part of it?

And how can a President who swore to uphold and protect the Constitution easily use good faith as the excuse for violating it?

These twin events can easily throw into disarray one’s rational grounding, and can rudely awake us from a stable and comforting sleep believing the inherent goodness of constructs such as “brotherhood” and Daang Matuwid. Instead of being comforted, we are roused by the death of one so young and the arrogance of one so morally upright, if we have to believe how he projects himself.

Last week, a fraternity killed brotherhood, and a President corrupted good faith.

And we all woke up to a bad hair day trying to make sense of it all.

A brotherhood that kills


Left:Aurelio Servando, father of (right)-Guillo Cesar Servando, who passed away on June 28, 2014:
(Photos from abs-cbnnews.com and inquirer.net)

The image of a dying son being dragged in the hallways is too painful for a father to bear, and yet this was what Aurelio Servando had to endure as a father.

It left anger in me too deep, that I had no choice but to exhale through an unprintable expletive, since I am a father too, and there is no force more evil in this world than one who would reverse natural law and makes a father bury his child.

A child is supposed to bury a father, and not the other way around.

Watching that scene in the elevator and in the hallway almost reminded me of Juan Luna’s “Spoliarium,” where dead gladiators are being dragged to the dungeons where their rotting bodies will be offered to the vultures.

It was one painful picture that pierces all of us with an accusatory question, of how we as a civilized humanity can breed this kind of evil.

* And what compounds this is that it was done in pursuit of one lofty goal, of one that sets us apart as human beings. It is that desire to be part of a group, not out of instinct, but as an ethical norm consciously pursued.

Desiring to become part of a brotherhood is a celebration of what is human, of a sense of community.

Guillo Cesar Servando endeavored to have this privilege of being called a “brod” by a group that ended up killing him.

Animals are much better, since they kill out of instinct, and many of them protect their own even to the point of death.

The one that did this to him welcomed his desire to belong by deliberately hitting him over a hundred times. No animal species in this planet can inflict such to those of its own kind seeking to be part of its brood, its flock, its herd or its colony, except us. And we call ourselves human.

Hence, I disagree with those who believe that those who killed the young Guillo Cesar and many more like him in many places and instances in the history of fraternities in this country are animals. They are not. They are human beings who lost their humanity.

I was once part of this ritual myself, in my younger years, when I joined a group which is not even a fraternity, but simply a group that offered young students like me from the provinces a home, a new family.

It is not true that only fraternities, and their female counterparts in sororities, require their potential members to undergo a ritual of passage from a neophyte to a full member. Even organizations do so too.

Many would wonder how someone can be irrational to willingly go through a process where you will be subjected to public humiliation, where you will be tormented to swallow your pride, and in the final ritual before you can truly be given the privilege of being called a “brod” or a “sis,” be subjected to psychological and physical violence even as you are forced to shout your love for your brotherhood. It is easy to blame it on peer pressure.

But one should not discount the honest desire to become part of a group that would not only offer you a brotherhood or sisterhood for convenience, but also a sense of having a genuine family. I should know, for this is what I got from the honor organization that I joined in College. It is a lifetime sense of belonging, a badge of honor to be called by its name.

But it is also a sense of affinity that is founded on violence.

The way we justified our use of physical contact then was to assure unfailing loyalty to a group for which you had to suffer before you can be called one of its own, and to mimic the difficulties that we need to endure as we reach for our stars and dream our impossible dreams.

But now, as I reflect using a phenomenological insight of someone who went through the process of being both a neophyte and later a master, I am now cognizant not only of the enormous physical risks we exposed ourselves and our neophytes to (that we could have died, or we could have killed).

I am also now horrified at the psychological risks we exposed ourselves to, of how the experience of holding that paddle and using it to hit a neophyte could in fact be a moment of inhumanity, where reason could have easily yielded to the brutally violent streak that all of us could have, hiding deep within us.

It is this violent streak, where reason takes a back seat over the pleasure of holding at your hands brute force as power, something which I actually felt too as a master, that becomes the dangerous key that could have, and as events now show, could in fact lead to the death of a son, and the pain of a father now denied the right to be buried by him in the twilight of his life.

The many senseless deaths that result from hazing has now come back to haunt me. I still love my organization. But 36 years ago, when I shouted that I love it when I was being violated is one episode in my life that now will haunt me, and puzzle me. When I saw the young Guillo Cesar Servando being dragged in the hallways, I had to search for answers as I look at the possibility that that could have been me, or anyone of my batchmates, or any of the neophytes that I paddled in the distant past.

Indeed, there is every reason to die for a brother. We call it brotherly sacrifice, the ultimate manifestation of brotherly love. But it is beyond reason that a father has to bury a son who died in the hands of those whom he wanted to call as his brothers.

An excuse that corrupts good faith


NOYNOY AQUINO

When he marched into our political consciousness, he was just a son of two political icons who have been considered as heroes.

With a lackluster political record, he nevertheless captured the imagination of the morally righteous. On hindsight, it would have been easy for someone of his pedigree to thrive in a political landscape built on a house of cards that subsisted on a dynastic conception of virtue as something in the genes and could be inherited.

After all, it was a post-Gloria political landscape, where the fight was simplified between good and evil, which made it easy for this son of heroes to emerge triumphant.

And he took on the mantle of the presidency along this simplistic moral narrative. It was simply about rescuing the Philippine political landscape from the sorry state that it had descended into in the hands of Gloria and her minions.

He foisted the metaphor of Daang Matuwid as the representation of his moralistic form of governance, and turned it into becoming the ethical rubric of his administration.

And it is a very successful narrative to a point that his high popularity ratings remain deep and wide. He is seen as sincere. And despite his flaws, people are willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

The crises and scandals that involved people around him seem to have failed to draw him in, and corruption charges made against his people did not stick on him, as if he is a Teflon-coated frying pan.

His was a mythology woven around sincerity and good faith.

Yes, as the myth makers would drumbeat, there are corrupt men and women around him. But the President is firmly grounded in his mission, and is himself incorruptible. He is sincere not only about banishing corruption, but also among other things, like that of fostering enduring peace in Mindanao. And the people believed.

But you can’t fault the people for believing. After all, this is what a post-Gloria political landscape has become.

People were simply dying to give hope a chance to prevail, and it is in this President that they placed much of it. After all, he appeared sincere. And he was projected to be always acting in good faith. In having parents like Ninoy and Cory and having a predecessor like Gloria, there was no other way for the people but to place their hopes on this President.

But there is danger when too much hope and trust is given to a leader. While it could be an inspiration to lead, it could also be an opportunity to overstep the boundaries.

And now that the Supreme Court has unanimously ruled that the DAP is unconstitutional, the President came out swinging and combative, if not arrogant, by refusing to bow to the majesty of the judgment and apologize, and by standing firmly by its chief architect, his trusted Budget Secretary.

As his spokesperson, and his apologists, would argue, he stands by his decision, for he sincerely believes that it was the right thing to do. After all, he did it in good faith. As Fr. Joaquin Bernas would say, you can only fault the President for being ignorant.

But to believe that the President is ignorant is too harsh in its kindness, and too kind to give him an excuse. And to argue that he acted in good faith simply corrupts the term.

How can the President use ignorance and good faith as excuses if, contrary to reports of him being lazy and too preoccupied with other less presidential things, he in fact reportedly pores over documents to closely scrutinize these, which sometimes frustrate many of the functionaries around him since this usually causes delay.

It is in this context, therefore, that it is beyond reason for him not to have closely scrutinized the constitutionality of the DAP.

Surely, in those moments where he was being briefed by Secretary Abad about it, that he must have noticed that it is patently unconstitutional. He should know this, since when Gloria was still president, he filed in the Senate a bill to protect the integrity of the budget process from too much Executive meddling.

* It is also beyond fathoming how a President riding on the white high moral horse of Daang Matuwid, would not cringe at the possibility that distributing funds during and around the time of Renato Corona’s impeachment could be seen as unethical, if not immoral, and could be misconstrued as bribery.

Using good faith as an excuse in this instance totally demeans not only the term, but the President himself, for to believe it would be tantamount to accepting that the President is not well-informed, is unfamiliar, and is detached from the vital affairs of his Presidency. Worse, he is ill-advised.

In all of these, what is painted is a President who is not in touch with his moralistic frame of governance. And this is a President who delayed or canceled projects of her predecessor which he suspected to be tainted with corruption.

It is just simply too inconsistent that he suddenly turned disinterested not to scrutinize the use of funds sourced from a blatant disregard of the principle of the separation of powers, an abusive stance which he himself would have cringed at, as he did when Gloria was doing it in her time.

Using good faith as an excuse is in fact a corruption of the term itself. It makes what is otherwise an honest mistake, or a sincere act, or a noble excuse, each of which does not have an a-priori awareness of the dire consequences of the act itself, into an opportunistic tool to get away.

After all, while good faith may be an excuse or a mitigating circumstance, ignorance of the law is not an excuse. Feigning ignorance is not good faith. Arrogance after the fact is not keeping faith with good faith.

In the final analysis, there is reason to believe that it is hubris that made the President believe that he can get away with violating the Constitution, since he enjoys the trust of the people anyway.

Hubris, which is manifested in the feeling that he can get away with murdering the Constitution, is what seeds impunity.

And it may have been close to the same feeling felt by those who murdered Guillo Cesar Servando, who wanted to become their brother, simply because they had power over him.

The One Negros Island Region proposal: Consolidation or domination By EFREN N. PADILLAJuly 4, 2014 8:01am 21 26 2 129 Tags: Negros Occidental , Negros Oriental


EFREN N. PADILLA

When a friend asked me what I think of the “One Negros Island Region” proposal, I did not hesitate to express my concerns. I told him that the people concocting this scheme are putting the cart before the horse. Unfortunately, we have a penchant for doing things in the wrong order.

I also told him that this is what happens when political leaders become less imaginative and less reflective when addressing the real issue of the island’s diversity and development. I say this because the main problem of Negros Island is not about political administration but infrastructural neglect.

How do you tie up the two diverse provinces? How do you connect the various constituencies of the island that will have an immediate impact on their lives?

Here is a starter. Has anyone thought of transforming the decrepit two-lane Kabankalan/Mabinay/Bais road into a no-nonsense eight-lane freeway? That is very doable, right? But if our leaders in Negros are overwhelmed by the magnitude of an eight-lane freeway, I am willing to settle for a no-nonsense four-lane freeway.

If realized, just imagine the “multiplier effects” of that freeway to the development of the Island. Not only will it empower the people of that island corridor to be more energetic, but also, to be more productive because now they have an efficient and expeditious transportation system to move their goods and services between market areas and throughout the island.

* There has been a lot of talk of making Negros Island a mini-Singapore. But has anyone thought of constructing a rapid rail system around the island? Has anyone thought of a highland four-lane freeway system traversing Bayawan and Mabinay in the South up to Sagay to the North and connected to towns along the coastline by secondary feeder roads? Has anyone thought of creating selected growth centers around the island connected to a transportation network system?

This type of infrastructural development alone is adequate to spontaneously spur the economic growth of Negros Island that so many are longing for. If this is done, who needs the political schemers and reorganizers of the island? Besides, the one region proposal will end up being redundant, if not, irrelevant. And why is that? Well, by de facto, Negros Island will naturally move to a more progressive and economically integrated region by itself if we have a laser focus on its infrastructural development.

How about that, my fellow Negrenses? If you think this is a good plan, I tell you, if we challenge and push our creative powers a little bit further, there are more and better plans to be had. Here’s my commitment: I do not mind giving pro bono service during my quarter breaks in conceptualizing, developing, and writing of the Negros Island Regional Plan if asked to help.

I know this is a highly volatile political issue and I am not privy to what is happening in Negros Island politically. One thing I am sure though, we don’t run out of unthinking schemers and shallow players bent on pursuing their unexamined vested interests. In Hiligaynon, “Damo guid na sila dira” or in Cebuano, “Daghan dyud na sila dinha.”

Of course, the proponents talk a lot about the proposal’s advantages to the development of the island. That, I quickly grasp because those justifications are easy to invent especially if they serve an objective. For me, it’s a no-brainer. However, no one really talks about the One Negros Island Region proposal in a deeper sense. Somehow, it is buried and hidden from the onslaught of political maneuverings and the excitement of the prospect of an almost “done deal” involving national figures. That is, talks about the unspoken disadvantages inherent in the nature of a consolidated power.

For example, no one seriously pays attention to what I call the “latent polarizing effect” embedded in the One Negros Island Region scheme. That is, there is already that extant apprehension among the geographically and economically less-endowed constituents of the island ending up being dominated by one group.

As it is, Negros Oriental lags behind Negros Occidental populationally and economically. Thus, it is not unrealistic to assume that the latter has the competitive edge over the former in terms of power and influence. The reality is, our island’s political system, just like any other political system in the country, is rigged in favor of those who have more population and economic resources. Particularly, money is so powerful a force in politics and media that it defines who will likely prevail in the political contest.

To be blunt about it, given the diverse geographic, economic, social, and linguistic characteristics of Negros Island, why should one group dominate another group? Or, if one group has a dream of domination, who will end up dominating the island politically?

In short, it is a serious latent divisive problem that the proposal cannot mitigate or make it go away.

The author finished his Ph.D. in Urban and Regional Planning from Michigan State University as a Fulbright Scholar. Currently he teaches at California State University, East Bay and serves as an urban planning consultant to some LGUs in the Philippines.

In two schools, student ecosavers and multi-tasking teachers save the day By LILA RAMOS SHAHANIJuly 8, 2014 10:37am 77 153 0 271 Tags: Department of Education (Updated 1:56 p.m., July 9)


LILA RAMOS SHAHANI

Every year, as students trek back to their classes anew, we are reminded yet again of the troubling quality of our many public schools. Balik Eskwela is a season when suggestions and criticisms of all types flood the Department of Education (DepEd) from all sides.

Poverty is rightfully tagged as the main issue, but what does poverty look like from school to school, at least in the public sphere?


It is the poverty of each school — not to mention each student — that must be addressed if we are to meet our goals for national education. Photos by Lawrence Joy dela Fuente

This is an important question, because it is the poverty of each school—not to mention each student—that must be addressed if we are to meet our goals for national education.

Poverty happens everywhere, but poor students are poor in different ways and for different reasons from place to place: The same, too, is true of individual schools and their respective districts. Ideally, education could be instantly improved by a blanket policy that can simply be funded and applied, but the truth is that both students and schools face critical issues in distinct ways.

Already, DepEd has built 66,813 new classrooms since December 2013—clearing the backlog of the previous administration almost entirely—but still faces enormous challenges ahead.

For now, they are all-too-keenly aware that a boost in the 2014 budget of P15 billion for classrooms would speed up the implementation of programs and projects currently in place—classrooms being built, and those that are planned and projected for the future. But DepEd’s commitment and sense of purpose, combined with the grit and tenacity of many public school communities, continues to work wonders on the case-to-case basis these individual situations require.

Despite funding limits, DepEd has strengthened its position by converging with numerous stakeholders—parents, community organizations, Local Government Units (LGUs), the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), and even the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

* To see how this works in real terms, we need look no further than at two public schools in Metro Manila—at stories that demonstrate the creativity of teachers, students and entire communities to offer the next generation the best education and future possible.



Potrero National High School, with only 13 classrooms, caters to 1,800 students by doing classes in two shifts.

Potrero

Tucked inside a posh subdivision, surrounded by trees and sumptuous residential homes, Potrero National High School is practically a community eyesore. To many homeowners in University Hills, Malabon, the high school is an obstruction at best, an annoyance at worst.

A public school inside a subdivision certainly poses many challenges: the noise and endless stream of children running around, not to mention issues of space and security. On the other hand, the students are very socially aware, since most Potrero students don’t live in subdivisions as affluent as University Hills.

With only 13 classrooms for an entire population of 1,800 students, Potrero High has already split its hours into early morning and afternoon shifts in an effort to accommodate everyone.

Rooms often appear in the most enterprising, if unlikely, spaces: Some teachers work under a school staircase because the faculty room is too small to house them. Elsewhere, makeshift rooms have been fashioned out of two laboratories and a comfort room area.


Renato Lacon has to juggle being a registrar and a Technology and Livelihood Education (TLE) teacher due to lack of administrative staff in Potrero National High School.

As if these spatial challenges were not enough, some students never get to use the school’s computer laboratory in all their high school years. Rica Doron, 4th year student at Potrero High, says that this is due to a lack of facilities that can cater to such a huge student population.

In spite of all this, some teachers are known for exerting herculean efforts to bridge these gaps, often performing more than one function at any one time. Renato Lacon, a bespectacled and unassuming Technology and Livelihood Education (TLE) teacher, doubles up as the school registrar. His days are fully consumed with classroom duties and administrative work so that, on difficult days like today, he doesn’t always know which tasks to prioritize first.

Marikina

This gritty sense of determination can be observed elsewhere, in the distant Marikina Elementary School.

Last year, the parents’ association augmented the meager feeding program budget of the school with enthusiastic efforts at solicitation.

Because of inadequate funding for the school’s malnourished kids, they took it upon themselves to help shoulder some of the necessary expenses.

The government hand

In the face of these many initiatives, the government has responded by providing badly-needed resources wherever possible. DepEd has also creatively tried to address the perennial problem of overcrowding: Students are sometimes transported to less crowded schools during the day, and marginalized students are provided with alternative modes of learning.

They have also collaborated with the local government, private sector, and other stakeholders to reduce the number of highly congested schools in the National Capital Region—from 120 schools at the start of 2011 to just 20 schools today. As a result, they were able to reduce schools that implement 3-shift classes from 192 in 2011 to just, impressively enough, one school this year.

In Potrero High, nine new classrooms are being built this year alone.

In Marikina Elementary, both the DSWD and LGU launched a targeted feeding program for students. This was part of nationwide campaign with a P1 billion budget.


The National Ecosavers Program passbook

An even more exciting development: At Marikina Elementary, teachers, students and parents have been able to convert waste materials to cash. The National Ecosavers Program (NEP), led by DepEd and DENR, has helped this community profit from, of all things, recyclable materials. Students bring recyclable goods to school and they are sold to junkshops for a fee. All transactions are meticulously recorded in a passbook to account for every centavo.

Eight-year-old Samantha Getican was able to earn P1,000 from the biodegradable materials she brought to school. The money she earned financed her school field trip last year, while the remaining amount is for her school supplies this year.

Speaking in a tiny voice, there was pride in her words as she recalled how she had become one of the top “recyclers” in her entire school, and how her parents felt about her achievement.

All told, 5,313 kilos of recyclable material have been generated by the Ecosavers program alone. In terms of funding, this has translated to as much as P50,000-P60,000.

But the challenges ahead remain formidable. This year alone, DepEd has yet to construct at least 10,000 more classrooms throughout the country in preparation for senior high school.

In the meantime, these impressive individuals—and the vibrant communities around them—are determined to push for change in all our public schools, even if these changes mean beginning little by little, often one school at a time.


Assistant Secretary Lila Ramos Shahani is Head of Communications of the Human Development and Poverty Reduction Cabinet Cluster, which covers 26 government agencies dealing with poverty and development. She would like to thank Sarah G. Crespo for her assistance with this piece. The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of GMA News Online.

The opinions in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of GMA News.


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