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EDITORIALS & OPINIONS OF THE WEEK:
(Mini Reads followed by Full news commentary)

FROM THE INQUIRER

EDITORIAL: SANCTITY OF CONTRACTS


The Supreme Court’s decision on Naia 3 will hopefully put closure to a long-running legal dispute and give the government valuable lessons on how to best deal with the private sector, the foremost lesson being: Uphold the sanctity of contracts. THE DECISION last week of the Supreme Court ordering the government to pay $510 million in “just compensation” to the original owner of the controversial Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 is a boost to the Philippines’ reputation among investors. It would have been better, of course, had it come much earlier, and not after 11 years of legal wrangling that followed the government’s expropriation of the terminal. No matter how adversely others view the airport contract between the government and Piatco (Philippine International Air Terminals Co. Inc.), the point is that a legally binding contract existed, one that was agreed upon and signed by the contracting parties. The Naia 3 fiasco is not the only case of government flip-flopping on its policies or decisions. Administrations since the toppling of the Marcos dictatorship in 1986 received their share of criticism for changing rules midstream or reversing decisions to the dismay of investors. Take the privatization of the Manila Hotel during the Ramos regime. The bid was won by a Malaysian group, but a losing bidder questioned the awarding of what it labeled a national heritage to a foreigner. Sadly, the Supreme Court sided with the losing bidder. READ MORE...

ALSO EDITORIAL: Closure on Marwan?


President Aquino yesterday sought to close the lid on the Pandora’s box he had himself helped to open, by presenting a series of photographs taken in the hut of the Malaysian terrorist Marwan moments after the elusive bomb-maker was slain. The photographic evidence, Mr. Aquino said in a special news conference, proved that the Philippine National Police’s Special Action Force troopers were the ones who killed Marwan and cut off his finger.
In other words, the first and official account of the events of Jan. 25, in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, still stands. It was the President who publicly raised the possibility of an “alternative version of events” during a Meet Inquirer Multimedia forum last week, pointing in particular to the photo of a dead Marwan which ran in the Inquirer last January. “I still have quite a number of questions, and there are various agencies of government tasked to ferret out the truth of exactly what happened in its entirety. There is an alternative version of events that happened there, which is undergoing very intense scrutiny,” he said then. To be sure, rumors about the possibility of an alternative version had circulated for some time. The President offered confirmation at the Inquirer forum. “There are certain quarters who did point out certain questions that arose from viewing that picture. Does this support the so-called official version of what transpired? Now, if it doesn’t support [the official version], can it be explained or not? That is an ongoing process. There is no conclusion at this point.” Yesterday, the President presented the conclusion that government investigating agencies had reached—and it was not a surprise. Mr. Aquino: “What does the alternative narrative say? It was posited that one of Marwan’s companions killed him—the same one who cut off his finger and gave it to the SAF. But it is clear from the presentation today: The SAF were there; we can no longer doubt that it was the SAF who took Marwan’s finger. This also means: All the other accounts about the alternative narrative are baseless, and consequently have no relevance.” He made special mention of the finding of the National Bureau of Investigation’s cybercrime division that the new pictures he showed underwent forensic examination and were proven “authentic and unaltered.” We can agree that the pictures do show a continuity of action, and that they do seem to prove that a SAF trooper cut off a finger from Marwan’s left hand. But do the pictures prove that SAF men killed Marwan? READ MORE...

ALSO EDITORIAL: What went wrong?


For the second time in two years, the Department of Social Welfare and Development is the subject of an adverse report by the Commission on Audit on the mismanagement of relief goods and funds. In its 2014 report released last Sept. 10, the COA said P382.072 million in local and foreign cash donations for the victims of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” was kept idle and locked in DSWD bank accounts. The amount, according to the state auditor, is one-third of the P1.151 billion that the DSWD received during the period November 2013-December 2014—unused funds that could have been maximized to cover the survivors’ immediate needs. The COA noted as well that the DSWD had as much as P141.084 million worth of undistributed, expired, or about-to-expire family food packs consisting of rice, canned goods, instant noodles and coffee. The audit report posed questions: How could the DSWD continue to procure and accept relief goods without taking into consideration the capacity and condition of its warehousing facilities and personnel? How could it not take into account the shelf life or expiry dates of donated food? In the case of Bicol residents displaced by Mayon Volcano’s eruptions, the lack of warehousing facilities and the failure to repack and distribute relief packages resulted in half a million noodle packs shipped out a mere two months before their expiry date. And some of the canned goods had expired, were mislabeled, or were dented or rusting, while the careless stockpiling of rice and other perishable goods resulted in spoilage. In its report released in September 2014, the COA also called out the DSWD for wasting a total of 7,527 family food packs worth P2.7 million for Yolanda relief operations, including 95,472 assorted canned goods and rice that spoiled due to improper handling. READ MORE...

ALSO EDITORIAL: PH’s own refugees


Who wouldn’t be moved at the sight of women, children and the elderly in the stream of refugees taking the ultimate risk, defying death itself in rickety boats or in enclosed, steaming chicken lorries, making a desperate dash for survival with a blank future in sight and the faintest hope to cling to? As we write, hundreds of thousands of international refugees continue to scatter out of the Middle East into Europe and elsewhere in the world—more than four million from Syria alone, as of latest estimates. Despite deep-seated reservations among certain governments about giving them shelter (mostly based on the fact that the refugees are Muslim), a wave of compassion has swept entire nations. European Union members are seeking an agreement to a quota system under which they will host specific numbers of refugees. Volunteers are donating and offering the refugees food and clothing. And no less than Pope Francis has appealed to the 120,000 Catholic parishes and every religious community in Europe to take in at least one refugee family; to show the way, he said, the Vatican will host two. Filipinos must have felt a sense of vindication when President Aquino announced that the Philippines would give shelter to a limited number of refugees. (“The history is there, the culture is there,” he said, harking back to how the Philippines opened its doors to persecuted Jews in the 1940s and to Vietnamese refugees in the 1970s.) And also a sense of faith, brought to life among Christians by the parable of the “Good Samaritan.” A man had been left by robbers almost dead on the road to Jerusalem. A rabbi and a Levite passed his way, but they ignored him. The third to come by, a Samaritan woman descended from a tribe despised by pure-blooded Jews as “half-breeds,” took pity on him and brought him to an inn to be cared for. After narrating the parable, Jesus asked: Which of the three was the neighbor? (His question was in response to a lawyer’s earlier query, “Who is my neighbor?”) READ MORE...

ALSO by Solita Monsod: Who is exploiting the ‘lumad’?


By: Solita Collas-Monsod
There seems to be confusion on the number of indigenous peoples (IPs), or lumad, in the Philippines. According to the International Labor Organization, we have anywhere from 15 million to 20 million IPs. It got this number from the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, from whom we also get the information that 61 percent (9-12 million) of these people live in Mindanao, with 33 percent in Luzon and 6 percent in the Visayas.
However, the census conducted in 1993 shows a different picture: 6.5 million IPs, 2.1 million of whom are in Mindanao (that’s about 33 percent). This means, if we are to reconcile these two sets of figures, that in the 20 years from then to now, the lumad in Mindanao must have bred like rabbits if their number rose from 2.1 million to 9-12 million. And the IPs in Luzon and the Visayas must have practiced responsible parenthood, or were disease-ridden, as their number rose from 4.4 million in 1993 to only 6-8 million in 20 years. There is another potential source of confusion: Apparently, the terms “lumad” and “IP” are not synonymous. “Lumad” is used only for those IPs in Mindanao. Thus, all lumad are IPs, but not all IPs are lumad. The foregoing introduction is important, because we want to know how many are affected by the current lumad crisis. So we must have an idea of how many they are in the first place, don’t you agree? Who are the protagonists in this controversy? Well, on one side, the way I see it, are the leftist groups—not just left-wing, but hard Left: Bayan Muna, the Makabayan bloc (in Congress), Karapatan. If there is any on this side who is not of the persuasion, please don’t hesitate to correct me. Since they are hard Left, they are pro-NPA (New People’s Army), and anti-military. And obviously, on the other side of this controversy, we have the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). And let me announce that in this instance, I am definitely pro-army. Now the army of today is a whole different kettle of fish than the army of martial law days. The last remnants of the martial law days have either retired or are dead, and today’s army cut its teeth on human rights, on people-centered and whole-of-nation approaches to internal peace and security. It has multisectoral advisory groups that it consults regularly (I have been a member since 2010), not only at the national level, but also at the regional, and even provincial, levels. It has an Army Transformation Roadmap, which it takes very seriously. And I think most of the Filipino people who have met up with this new army are also on its side. Except the members of the hard Left, who seem to be frozen in time and are still living in the 1970s, and still see any member of the military as the “enemy of the people.” The times, they are a-changing, folks. I am not saying that members of the military are all saints, but they are trying their best, and if they slip up, there are ways to seek redress. What is the issue in this controversy? The spate of extrajudicial killings of the lumad. Here are the numbers thrown. The Left says that in P-Noy’s term, there have been at least 50 lumad who were killed, by paramilitary forces. Other estimates bring that up to 90. And “massive” evacuation has taken place—at least 3,000 evacuees (or 0.03 percent of the lumad). READ MORE...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

Sanctity of contracts

MANILA, SEPTEMBER 21, 2015 (INQUIRER) EDITORIAL -THE DECISION last week of the Supreme Court ordering the government to pay $510 million in “just compensation” to the original owner of the controversial Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 is a boost to the Philippines’ reputation among investors. It would have been better, of course, had it come much earlier, and not after 11 years of legal wrangling that followed the government’s expropriation of the terminal.

No matter how adversely others view the airport contract between the government and Piatco (Philippine International Air Terminals Co. Inc.), the point is that a legally binding contract existed, one that was agreed upon and signed by the contracting parties.

The Naia 3 fiasco is not the only case of government flip-flopping on its policies or decisions. Administrations since the toppling of the Marcos dictatorship in 1986 received their share of criticism for changing rules midstream or reversing decisions to the dismay of investors. Take the privatization of the Manila Hotel during the Ramos regime.

The bid was won by a Malaysian group, but a losing bidder questioned the awarding of what it labeled a national heritage to a foreigner. Sadly, the Supreme Court sided with the losing bidder.

READ MORE...

Another controversy involving the contract with the Argentine firm Impsa to rehabilitate and operate old hydro power plants lingered through three administrations.

Impsa was offered the project to rehabilitate the Kalayaan hydro plant in Laguna, and its unsolicited proposal was cleared by the government in December 1994. Impsa was later allowed to amend its proposal to include the Caliraya and Botocan plants, all in Laguna. It was endorsed by the Ramos administration to President Joseph Estrada, under whose term a contract was signed to rehabilitate the Caliraya-Botocan-Kalayaan (CBK) plants, with Estrada himself as witness.

Records later showed that the government had “bent over backwards” to accommodate Impsa. The Arroyo administration, which succeeded the short-lived Estrada regime, even granted its request for a government guarantee to assure Impsa’s lenders.

Then there is the more recent case involving the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) and the two private concessionaires in Metro Manila.

Ayala-led Manila Water Co. Inc. lost in its arbitration proceedings against the MWSS after the appeals panel ordered Manila Water to cut its basic water charge.

In September 2013, the MWSS reduced Manila Water’s basic charge for the rate rebasing period 2013-2017, prompting the East Zone water concessionaire to dispute the rate reduction with the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC).

However, the arbitration panel agreed with a rate reduction and ruled that Manila Water was a public utility and therefore could not pass on its corporate income tax to consumers.

West Zone concessionaire Maynilad Water Services Inc., on the other hand, secured a favorable ruling from the appeals panel, which upheld its rate rebasing adjustment that would result in an increase in the 2013 average basic water charge. Maynilad was also allowed to recover its corporate income tax. Due to the conflicting decisions, the MWSS did not follow the ICC rulings and chose to bring the case to court.

Also a controversy under the Aquino administration is the case of the Metro Pacific group of businessman Manuel V. Pangilinan. Concerns were raised after the government decided to subject the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway to a Swiss challenge, effectively setting aside the Arroyo administration’s award of the project to the Metro Pacific group.

Manila North Tollways Corp. (MNTC), a unit of Metro Pacific, even offered to raise the government’s revenue share and a longer period within which it would subsidize payment of the Bases Conversion and Development Authority’s debt to a Japanese lender. MNTC was eventually awarded the project in the middle of this year, or after a delay of nearly five years.

At the end of the day, the government should remember that attracting investors requires certainty and predictability in its policies. Changing rules midstream will send the wrong signal about the business climate in the Philippines.

The Supreme Court’s decision on Naia 3 will hopefully put closure to a long-running legal dispute and give the government valuable lessons on how to best deal with the private sector, the foremost lesson being: Uphold the sanctity of contracts.


EDITORIAL: Closure on Marwan? @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 01:57 AM September 18th, 2015

President Aquino yesterday sought to close the lid on the Pandora’s box he had himself helped to open, by presenting a series of photographs taken in the hut of the Malaysian terrorist Marwan moments after the elusive bomb-maker was slain. The photographic evidence, Mr. Aquino said in a special news conference, proved that the Philippine National Police’s Special Action Force troopers were the ones who killed Marwan and cut off his finger.

In other words, the first and official account of the events of Jan. 25, in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, still stands.

It was the President who publicly raised the possibility of an “alternative version of events” during a Meet Inquirer Multimedia forum last week, pointing in particular to the photo of a dead Marwan which ran in the Inquirer last January. “I still have quite a number of questions, and there are various agencies of government tasked to ferret out the truth of exactly what happened in its entirety. There is an alternative version of events that happened there, which is undergoing very intense scrutiny,” he said then.

To be sure, rumors about the possibility of an alternative version had circulated for some time. The President offered confirmation at the Inquirer forum. “There are certain quarters who did point out certain questions that arose from viewing that picture. Does this support the so-called official version of what transpired? Now, if it doesn’t support [the official version], can it be explained or not? That is an ongoing process. There is no conclusion at this point.”

Yesterday, the President presented the conclusion that government investigating agencies had reached—and it was not a surprise.

Mr. Aquino: “What does the alternative narrative say? It was posited that one of Marwan’s companions killed him—the same one who cut off his finger and gave it to the SAF. But it is clear from the presentation today: The SAF were there; we can no longer doubt that it was the SAF who took Marwan’s finger. This also means: All the other accounts about the alternative narrative are baseless, and consequently have no relevance.”

He made special mention of the finding of the National Bureau of Investigation’s cybercrime division that the new pictures he showed underwent forensic examination and were proven “authentic and unaltered.”

We can agree that the pictures do show a continuity of action, and that they do seem to prove that a SAF trooper cut off a finger from Marwan’s left hand. But do the pictures prove that SAF men killed Marwan?

READ MORE...

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s investigation into the Mamasapano incident (which claimed the lives not only of 44 SAF troopers and three civilians but also of 17 MILF regulars) concluded that Marwan was killed by a person or persons close to him, citing the lack of telltale signs of a sustained firefight in the hut. Unfortunately, the hut was torched before the PNP Board of Inquiry could inspect it. But all the available testimony from members of the raiding party agree overwhelmingly on the details, and have withstood the scrutiny of three sets of investigators.

Do the pictures prove that SAF men killed Marwan? The President answered the inevitable follow-up question by saying that the alternative version making the rounds involved both the killing of Marwan and the cutting off of his finger. If the photos disprove the second part, he said, then in the absence of contrary evidence, the photos must disprove the first part, too. (He even used the term “presumption of regularity,” in what must count as a novel use of that familiar phrase.)

His answer would have been more convincing if he had referenced the account of the SAF’s 84th Seaborne, which carried out the raid on Marwan’s location.

He ended his prepared speech with a word about moving on: “Now that the conversation about this alternative matter is done, the process of justice, especially for the fallen, can continue. At present, there are 90 individuals who will face fair and thorough procedures for the murder of the 35 commandos of the 55th Special Action Company …” That process is the true index by which the death of an international terrorist can be measured.


EDITORIAL: What went wrong?@inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 02:14 AM September 17th, 2015

For the second time in two years, the Department of Social Welfare and Development is the subject of an adverse report by the Commission on Audit on the mismanagement of relief goods and funds.

In its 2014 report released last Sept. 10, the COA said P382.072 million in local and foreign cash donations for the victims of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” was kept idle and locked in DSWD bank accounts. The amount, according to the state auditor, is one-third of the P1.151 billion that the DSWD received during the period November 2013-December 2014—unused funds that could have been maximized to cover the survivors’ immediate needs.

The COA noted as well that the DSWD had as much as P141.084 million worth of undistributed, expired, or about-to-expire family food packs consisting of rice, canned goods, instant noodles and coffee.

The audit report posed questions: How could the DSWD continue to procure and accept relief goods without taking into consideration the capacity and condition of its warehousing facilities and personnel? How could it not take into account the shelf life or expiry dates of donated food?

In the case of Bicol residents displaced by Mayon Volcano’s eruptions, the lack of warehousing facilities and the failure to repack and distribute relief packages resulted in half a million noodle packs shipped out a mere two months before their expiry date. And some of the canned goods had expired, were mislabeled, or were dented or rusting, while the careless stockpiling of rice and other perishable goods resulted in spoilage.

In its report released in September 2014, the COA also called out the DSWD for wasting a total of 7,527 family food packs worth P2.7 million for Yolanda relief operations, including 95,472 assorted canned goods and rice that spoiled due to improper handling.

READ MORE...

Responding to the latest COA report in a radio interview, Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman said the food packs had gotten wet while in transit from Cebu City to Tacloban City. The lack of transport facilities, the nonexistent road system in the wake of Yolanda, the lack of personnel on the ground who were themselves affected by the typhoon, and the absent infrastructure for distribution were also cited as factors in the spoilage of relief goods.

These unfortunate circumstances might be excusable in the aftermath of Yolanda in 2013, the first time a typhoon of such destructive proportions ever hit land. But making the same mistakes in 2014, as reflected in the COA 2015 report? What went wrong this time?

According to Soliman, the COA report was just part of government routine meant to enhance operations, and no actual irregularities occurred. But that is not the point. Damage control after the fact is hardly acceptable. How could the oversight have happened a second time? Given the unpredictable situation and the limited options after Yolanda, the DSWD could have gleaned practical lessons from that disaster and applied these to subsequent catastrophes.

The lessons include making arrangements with parishes so they can serve as drop-off points for relief goods until local government units become functional again. Other viable options are ongoing registration of families in each barangay to help identify supply needs and make for more orderly distribution, instead of having helter-skelter queues that favor the strong over the weak, and tapping reputable private groups and agencies (Caritas and the Philippine Red Cross come to mind), to ensure that local officials do not make political hay of disasters.

A memorandum of agreement can also be signed with the Air Force and the Navy for transport priority given to DSWD goods and supplies in order to do away with bureaucratic red tape that leads to delays and spoilage of relief goods.

And, instead of unspent donations being reverted to the national treasury, can procedural arrangements be made with the COA so that the funds can be used to identify, build and retrofit warehousing facilities with the necessary equipment for the proper storage of food packs? Aside from barangay officials and social workers, volunteers and paramedical teams can be identified and registered this early as well, so they can be trained in helping people cope with disasters—including responding to emergency medical needs, helping victims cope with posttraumatic stress disorder, weeding out spoiled relief goods and managing donations, and maintaining order in evacuation centers.

With at least 20 typhoons pummeling the country in a year, on top of quakes and volcanic eruptions, there is just no reason to be caught off-guard and ready only with excuses.


EDITORIAL: PH’s own refugees SHARES: 73 VIEW COMMENTS @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:40 AM September 16th, 2015

Who wouldn’t be moved at the sight of women, children and the elderly in the stream of refugees taking the ultimate risk, defying death itself in rickety boats or in enclosed, steaming chicken lorries, making a desperate dash for survival with a blank future in sight and the faintest hope to cling to?

As we write, hundreds of thousands of international refugees continue to scatter out of the Middle East into Europe and elsewhere in the world—more than four million from Syria alone, as of latest estimates. Despite deep-seated reservations among certain governments about giving them shelter (mostly based on the fact that the refugees are Muslim), a wave of compassion has swept entire nations.

European Union members are seeking an agreement to a quota system under which they will host specific numbers of refugees. Volunteers are donating and offering the refugees food and clothing. And no less than Pope Francis has appealed to the 120,000 Catholic parishes and every religious community in Europe to take in at least one refugee family; to show the way, he said, the Vatican will host two.

Filipinos must have felt a sense of vindication when President Aquino announced that the Philippines would give shelter to a limited number of refugees. (“The history is there, the culture is there,” he said, harking back to how the Philippines opened its doors to persecuted Jews in the 1940s and to Vietnamese refugees in the 1970s.) And also a sense of faith, brought to life among Christians by the parable of the “Good Samaritan.” A man had been left by robbers almost dead on the road to Jerusalem. A rabbi and a Levite passed his way, but they ignored him. The third to come by, a Samaritan woman descended from a tribe despised by pure-blooded Jews as “half-breeds,” took pity on him and brought him to an inn to be cared for. After narrating the parable, Jesus asked: Which of the three was the neighbor? (His question was in response to a lawyer’s earlier query, “Who is my neighbor?”)

READ MORE...

But most of all, there is the essential humanity that binds all of humankind. It is not in the mind; it is found only in the heart. And it is that part of the heart that drives one to tears of compassion at the sight of defiant people refusing—in the face of the harshest and most cruel tribulations—to give up on their loved ones and their dreams.

But where is this humanity when it comes to the Philippines’ own refugees? They are called internally displaced persons (IDPs), having been driven from their homes by terror and the violence of war. Only this month, about 2,000 Manobo fled their homes in Lianga, Surigao del Sur, after the killing of three of their own, allegedly by paramilitary forces. Sometime in July, hundreds of lumad families left their communities in Davao del Norte and Bukidnon, reportedly fearful of the military presence in their villages.

How many thousands of other families were displaced before them in the 46 years that the insurgency and separatist wars raged? We’re talking not only of the IDPs in Mindanao but also of those in other parts of the country. Their number will likely continue to grow if the armed conflicts that have displaced them will go on.

Concern for them and their conditions has been raised, of their being manipulated, harassed, abused and exploited, even derided for stinking, but only by certain groups who also back their words with concrete assistance.

But what about those who can really do more? On the Lianga incident, the government called for an investigation, but this was to look into the killings that triggered the Manobo’s “exodus.” The Catholic bishops assailed the government, but only for its swift “exoneration” of the militia suspected to be behind the murders. There was hardly a peep about the refugees themselves, and their continuing misery.

The IDPs may be few compared to those from Syria and other countries in crisis. But their plight is no less heartrending: lost homes, lost livelihood, and, most likely, loved ones, too, lost forever.

To the Philippines’ leaders, to those who insist on the battlefield as the most practical approach to a lasting peace, to those who would rather derail the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, and to those who have expressed sympathy for the refugees from other shores, where is your heart for our own?


Who is exploiting the ‘lumad’? By: Solita Collas-Monsod @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 01:08 AM September 19th, 2015


By: Solita Collas-Monsod

There seems to be confusion on the number of indigenous peoples (IPs), or lumad, in the Philippines. According to the International Labor Organization, we have anywhere from 15 million to 20 million IPs. It got this number from the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, from whom we also get the information that 61 percent (9-12 million) of these people live in Mindanao, with 33 percent in Luzon and 6 percent in the Visayas.

However, the census conducted in 1993 shows a different picture: 6.5 million IPs, 2.1 million of whom are in Mindanao (that’s about 33 percent). This means, if we are to reconcile these two sets of figures, that in the 20 years from then to now, the lumad in Mindanao must have bred like rabbits if their number rose from 2.1 million to 9-12 million. And the IPs in Luzon and the Visayas must have practiced responsible parenthood, or were disease-ridden, as their number rose from 4.4 million in 1993 to only 6-8 million in 20 years.

There is another potential source of confusion: Apparently, the terms “lumad” and “IP” are not synonymous. “Lumad” is used only for those IPs in Mindanao. Thus, all lumad are IPs, but not all IPs are lumad.

The foregoing introduction is important, because we want to know how many are affected by the current lumad crisis. So we must have an idea of how many they are in the first place, don’t you agree?

Who are the protagonists in this controversy? Well, on one side, the way I see it, are the leftist groups—not just left-wing, but hard Left: Bayan Muna, the Makabayan bloc (in Congress), Karapatan. If there is any on this side who is not of the persuasion, please don’t hesitate to correct me. Since they are hard Left, they are pro-NPA (New People’s Army), and anti-military. And obviously, on the other side of this controversy, we have the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

And let me announce that in this instance, I am definitely pro-army. Now the army of today is a whole different kettle of fish than the army of martial law days. The last remnants of the martial law days have either retired or are dead, and today’s army cut its teeth on human rights, on people-centered and whole-of-nation approaches to internal peace and security. It has multisectoral advisory groups that it consults regularly (I have been a member since 2010), not only at the national level, but also at the regional, and even provincial, levels. It has an Army Transformation Roadmap, which it takes very seriously.

And I think most of the Filipino people who have met up with this new army are also on its side. Except the members of the hard Left, who seem to be frozen in time and are still living in the 1970s, and still see any member of the military as the “enemy of the people.” The times, they are a-changing, folks. I am not saying that members of the military are all saints, but they are trying their best, and if they slip up, there are ways to seek redress.

What is the issue in this controversy? The spate of extrajudicial killings of the lumad. Here are the numbers thrown. The Left says that in P-Noy’s term, there have been at least 50 lumad who were killed, by paramilitary forces. Other estimates bring that up to 90. And “massive” evacuation has taken place—at least 3,000 evacuees (or 0.03 percent of the lumad).

READ MORE...

And who are the paramilitary forces? Well, they could be the forces organized by major corporations operating in the areas, or private armies, or NPA members, or Cafgu (Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit). It’s anybody’s guess. But since it is the Left that is accusing, only one suspect fills the bill: The army must have trained and armed these paramilitary forces.

The Left builds up its case by talking about the arms and weapons used by these forces which could only be military-supplied because they are so expensive. Good heavens! What about captured weapons? (These, apparently, can be easily checked, because the AFP systems account for every single weapon.) What about the mining and logging companies, which can easily afford expensive weaponry? What about the NPA and the private armies? But no, only the military is to blame.

Our military denies the charges in no uncertain terms. The AFP chief of staff, Gen. Hernando Iriberri, who is from Surigao del Sur, says that the 36th Infantry Battalion has no paramilitary group attached to it. But he is figuratively shouted down.

What is the military version? That it is not the military, but the NPA, that is exploiting the lumad. It has divided the lumad into pro-NPA (remember, the NPA offers alternative livelihoods) and anti-NPA. If the military has killed lumad, it is not because they are lumad, but because they are NPA. How does the military know the lumad are NPA? Simple. If they have guns, they must be NPA.

Iriberri tells me (watch my TV show on Monday night) that the military also has intelligence supplied by rebel returnees (three out every four NPA in the area are lumad) or surrenderees.

And some of the so-called lumad “evacuees” that have made headlines recently were actually brought there and kept there under false pretenses.

The military throws in its own numbers: In the period 1998-2008, the NPA killed 357 lumad. Where did this information come from? The lumad themselves, at a conference held by the lumad datus sometime in 2008.

It looks to me, folks, like the lumad are being taken advantage of, and not by the army. They have an age-old culture, and style of governance. Their datus can certainly hold their own. They can speak for themselves. So why do these leftist groups insist on talking for them?


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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