Pope Francis: Commit to Social Justice

Pundits are saying that the President and other officials of the government was lucky when Pope Francis decided to go impromptu on his homily for the mass he celebrated in Leyte – where super typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) did the worst damage when it ravaged the country a little over a year ago – and put aside his prepared speech as it contained passages that fly into the face of the ineffective and short-sighted efforts of the government.

I couldn’t agree more. Just read the most powerful portions of the said speech and I’m certain Aquino and his horde are sh*tt*ng bricks:

Above all, I ask that the poor throughout this country be treated fairly – that their dignity be respected, that political and economic policies be just and inclusive, that opportunities for employment and education be developed, and that obstacles to the delivery of social services be removed. Our treatment of the poor is the criterion on which each of us will be judged (cf. Mt 25:40, 45). I ask all of you, and all responsible for the good of society, to renew your commitment to social justice and the betterment of the poor, both here and in the Philippines as a whole.

This plus how local media has focused its reporting on the trivial things about Pope Francis – his charisma, his signature smile and his sense of humor – instead of his words on certain issues like corruption, justice, development, morals etc.

How I wish Pope Francis himself would deliver this speech with BS Aquino and other government officials in the audience before he goes back to Rome.

Photo by Lam Yik Fei/Getty Images

Why The Naked Truth was not a fashion show

If we continue to tolerate this form of “entertainment”, before we know it, our society would be watching live porn right before their eyes and be so completely blinded and numbed by the media to see it as harmless amusement. Heck, it’s happening now—a lot of people aren’t even able to tell what can harm us as a society with the kind of sex-obsessed culture we are creating. We’re becoming more and more reckless, not considering the values we impart to the youth who will be left to run this world when the future comes.

Is this what marketing has come to? Degrading and sexually objectifying human beings for the sake of profit?

No wonder Jesus said the love for money is the root of all sorts of evil. It makes us forget that we are human beings with stories, souls, experiences, and emotions—not just mere bodies to sell underwear and jeans to through hypersexualization.

Dana and Stacy on The Naked Truth

Janet Napoles as state witness? It’s like this…

Janet Napoles as a State witness?! It’s like pardoning the Marcoses of all their crimes against the Filipino people, letting them keep their stolen wealth and even proclaiming them as the first Royal family of the Philippines. It’s like telling all the farmers to give up their rightful claims on Hacienda Luisita and adorn the Cojuancos for their benevolence. It’s like telling Editha Burgos that she should trust the AFP are telling the truth and would help them find her still missing son Jonas Burgos. It’s like telling the victims of human rights abuses, some of which are still missing today, that Gen Palparan was just doing his job as a good solider sworn to protect the Filipino people. It’s like telling our kids that Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was right in calling a Comelec Commissioner during the canvassing of votes and that God chose her to be our president.

It’s like Sec Coloma was just right in pointing out that there are alternatives to the MRT and that the commuting public is to blame for the terrible state the LRT/MRT system is in. I could go on and on but you get the picture.

If the government really plans on letting Janet Napoles off the hook by turning her into a state witness it would be the undoing of everything the Aquino administration has done so far in the fight against corruption. Although it is a valid observation that so far, those who have been prosecuted are politicians who are potential opponents of whoever the Administration’s presidential bet would be in 2016, bringing to justice those who have raided the public coffers must be done with no special favors or treatment to anyone whose hands are dirty, be it a member or friend of the administration or the opposition.

Ellen Tordesillas said it well:

Iba na raw ang kuwento ni Napoles nang binisita ni De Lima sa Ospital ng Makati. Nagdawit pa raw siya ng maraming senador at congressman. Merong may nagsabi na 19 na senador daw ang sa kanyang affidavit, meron namang nagsabing 12.

Ngunit hindi raw nila pinag-usapan ang pagiging state witness ni Napoles.

Sinong tanga ang maniniwala na kakanta si Napoles na walang kapalit? Konsyensya daw.

Ginu-goodtime lang tayo nito. Pumayag naman si De Lima sa drama. Halata namang nagta-trial balloon lang sila.

Mabuti naman at umalma ang publiko. Kasi naman kung gawing state witness si Napoles kapalit ng kanyang pagsabi ng katotohanan kuno tungkol sa raket ng PDAF (Priority development Assistance Fund), idi-dimis na lahat na kaso laban sa kanya.

Ang swerte naman niya kung mangyayari yan. Limpak na limpak na salapi na ang kanyang nakuha sa taumbayan. Nakabili na ng maraming ari-arian kasama pa ang isang hotel sa Amerika. Hindi lang siya, pati na rin ang kanyang mga galamay kasama na doon si Ruby Tuason at si Dennis Cunanan, na kumita na rin ng husto.

With this trial balloon shot down, the Aquino administration should take notice that it continue the same path it started on with resolve and expediency. With only 2 years left in its term, there’s no assurance that next administration might continue with the prosecution of Janet Napoles and all of her cohorts nor will it be as receptive to public sentiment so as to allow for more responsive governance.

Enough with the charades, file the cases and prosecute.

Will the reforms of Pope Francis last beyond his term?

Pope Francis continues to make waves in the Catholic world all from the center of it all in Vatican. This piece on Yahoo! News by Jean-Louis de la Vaissiere gives a glimpse of how the current leader of the Catholic church has made important changes on how Curia runs by his recent appointment of non-Italians to significant church positions.

Foreign cardinals have been awarded prestigious posts, from the Australian George Pell — head of the new economy ministry — to Germany’s Reinhard Marx, who leads up a council tasked with overseeing the Vatican’s economic management.

Marx is assisted by Britain’s Brian Ferme and Alfred Xuereb of Malta — who doubles as the pope’s very influential private secretary.

Aside from non-Italian clergy being appointed to key positions in the Vatican, lay people and women have also been included in important organizations:

A body tasked with carrying out a detailed inquiry into the Vatican’s administration is made up of seven lay people, including a woman, while the new committee on paedophilia includes five lay people — four of whom are women — and just one cardinal.

Perhaps the most eye-opening appointment to that panel was that of Marie Collins, an Irish survivor of sexual abuse by a chaplain and an outspoken campaigner for victims’ rights.

Such reforms are welcome, they may not make up for the mistakes of the Catholic church but it still are steps in the right direction. The biggest question now is, will these reforms live on after Pope Francis’ term is over?

2G or 3G Globe Mobile Internet Sucks

Globe has been actively defending their Fair Use Policy which slows down mobile internet users who exceed the daily 1GB or 3GB monthly cap to 2G speeds.

Globe-fair-use-policy

They say that those who do exceed the data caps are less than 3% of their subscribers and are put on the slow 2GB speeds in order to maintain the “quality of the entire mobile internet service” so that the rest of the subscribers are still able to fully enjoy it.

That claim is not entirely true. Last week, my postpaid account with unlimited data subscription has been limited to 2G speeds more than twice. And here’s my observation:

On the times that I wasn’t limited to 2G speeds, I would get a good 3G/HSDPA reception BUT any website would take at least 30 seconds to load IF I AM LUCKY. 80% of the time, I have to hit the refresh button on my browser just to load Google, Gmail, Facebook, my own blog, any website.

Twitter? Forget it! Even on my Android phone, the app would fail to refresh 7 out of 10 attempts. And that’s on 3G/HSDPA already!

When my account was limited to 2G speeds, we just spent our time watching movies or TV. No website could be loaded.

And again, I’m on the UNLIMITED Data plan!

Complained about this way back in November 2013, the only time Globe got in touch with me was last January 2014! And all the rep asked me was this: Was there any improvement in the service? My straight answer: None.

Tell me first, if this is fair or not, then we’ll talk about the Fair Use Policy.

Life life without limits.” Bullsh*t!!

Media is biased. Everyone is biased. So be critical.

When my wife started to remind me each day that I should get back to blogging/writing, she told me that staying off current events and social issues as a topic would be welcome change. However, because the idea of telling the world the mundane things I do every day makes me feel insignificant, I just can’t resist writing about what’s happening out there. (To my wife, my apologies for this social commentary. The next post will be a different one. No promises though.)

VhongNavarroJokerMeme

By now, everyone is aware of why comedian-host Vhong Navarro has been absent from Showtime these past few days. I didn’t watch the episode where his co-hosts broke the news in all teary-have-mercy-on-Vhong fashion but somehow something was off. There was something, Anne and the other Showtime hosts were not saying. There was something that ABS-CBN was not telling to the public.

True enough, rival network through its GMA News website carried articles about Vhong being the subject of a complaint in a police blotter. This, apparently, explains why he was attacked and mauled by six persons in a condominium in the posh Bonifacio Global City in Taguig. I’m no fan of Vhong Navarro, and don’t get me wrong, no one deserves to be beaten up senseless but there has to be a logical explanation to it. And this is the other side of the story. That Vhong, allegedly attacked a girl with lewd intentions. The girl’s brothers and friends ganged up on the actor to avenge her honor and teach him a lesson.

You’ve never heard any shred of this information from anyone in ABS-CBN. They keep on framing the whole story as Vhong being a victim of violent crime. Which is not totally surprising since ABS-CBN and the whole Showtime outfit are expected to be biased in favor of their ka-pamilya.

The same could be said of rival network GMA. So no one could fault them for carrying the ‘other side’ of the story. You may not believe all of this, you may hate me or GMA for what has been said or done on their part, for you have your own biases as well.

And that’s the whole point, everyone has a bias. In the Philippines, we have a very biased media. The challenge to the public, that’s me and you, is to be critical about everything we see, hear, and read on the news. Hopefully, the authorities will do a fair and quick investigation on this case and for both ABS-CBN and GMA networks to be more balanced in their reporting. (How I wish!)

Photo by PUP Meme

Making sense of the Conflict in Mindanao

Where did it all begin?

To those who are watching it on the news, reading about it on the Internet, hearing it on the radio while on your way to work or school, or a combination of all, one cannot help but ask the following questions:

Who is the MNLF? Who is Nur Misuari?
Why did they attacked Zamboanga?

These are just two of the most common yet profound questions one could ask ever since the crisis erupted more than seven days ago. This is by no means an authoritative resource on the matter, rather an attempt to bring into the discussion useful resources to help the casual reader or Googler, to make sense of it all.

Who is the MNLF?

The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) was founded by Prof Nur Misuari in 1969 with the objective of gaining independence of the Bangsamoro Land (Bangsamoro Nation or Mindanao Nation) from the Government of the Republic of the Philippines.

It has waged an armed struggle for independence until the signing of the the 1996 Final Peace Agreement which was brokered by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, between the MNLF as led by Nur Misuari and the GRP led by then President Fidel V. Ramos.

Why did they fight for an independent Bangsamoro Land?

As part of the Homestead program, from 1903 to the 1970s, during the American colonization of the Philippines, Filipinos who were looking for a new start migrated to Mindanao where the government gave away tracts of land virtually for free. However, these lands seemed to be for free because there were no existing land titling system at the time. So the natives of Mindanao, both Muslim and indigenous tribes felt that they were being systematically robbed of the lands they have long tilled and utilized.

President Marcos then formed the ILAGA, a Christian militia which claimed to be defending Christian homes from purported attacks by Muslims. The MNLF has waged an armed struggle since then, to regain what they have lost and to uplift the lives of the Moro people.

Timelines of the MNLF-GRP, MILF-GRP Peace Process

The major agreements that marked the long and winding peace process between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the MNLF are as follows:

1976 Tripoli Agreement

The Organisation of Islamic Conference interceded and helped broker a peace agreement between the MNLF and the GRP. The result was the first peace deal that partially ended the hostilities in Mindanao. It recognized the MNLF and its leader Nur Misuari as the representative of the Moro people and further provided that autonomy be given the certain provinces to allow Muslims to put up their own schools, system of government and justice system. More importantly to allow them to exploit the resources of the rich lands within the said domain.

1989 – Republic Act 6734 enacted into law

In pursuant to the Tripoli Agreement, RA 6734 was enacted into law which created the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao.

1996 Final Peace Agreement

After years and three rounds of Exploratory Peace Talks brokered by the OIC, the Final Peace Agreement was signed on September 2, 1996 between the GRP and the MNLF. It was a comprehensive agreement which provided for the further realization of autonomy for the ARMM.

Since the signing of the FPA in 1996, numerous rounds of talks and meetings were held in order to flesh out and complete the terms of agreement set forth to achieve lasting peace in Mindanao.

However, in between, skirmishes and clashes between government forces and the MNLF and its splinter groups like the MILF, Abu Sayyaf and others have continued.

A more detailed timeline of the peace processes between the GRP and MNLF and MILF respectively can be found here and here.

What happened since the 1996 Final Peace Agreement?

Here’s an analysis of the Final Peace Agreement signed between the GRP and the MNLF back in 1996 by Ms Amina Rasul of Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy (sourced from the PCIJ website):

Why did the MNLF attacked Zamboanga?

With the historical background set, we come now the issue at hand, why all of a sudden, the people of Zamboanga and the entire nation was greeted with gunfire and hostilities from MNLF forces?

Recall that back in August this year, MNLF Chair Nur Misuari declared for independence of Mindanao which the government downplayed as ‘for MNLF in Jolo only’. Other MNLF commanders loyal to Misuari followed suit and began to move accordingly. The reason for Misuari’s declaration of independence which according to some news reports included Palawan, Basilan and the Zamboanga peninsula, is the Philippine Government’s purported termination of the tripartite review of the 1996 peace talks he signed with then President Fidel Ramos.

Which makes sense, because from the time the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro between the MILF and the GRP was unveiled to the public back in 2012, little was heard of from the MNLF which as per the 1996 Final Peace Agreement, was the recognized representative of the Bangsamoro when it comes to negotiating peace with the central government in Manila.

Ignoring Misuari, the MNLF and the 1996 FPA with all of its subsequent negotiations and talks and fast-tracking the peace deal with the MILF may have finally blown up in President Aquino’s face and has threatened the success of the FAB with the MILF, as Rigoberto Tiglao puts it:

The storming of Zamboanga City by forces of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) that started Monday marks the unraveling of President Aquino’s injudicious, even reckless roadmap to end the Islamic insurgency in Mindanao.

Those were heady days for Aquino in 2011, that he thought he could win the Nobel Peace Prize in the following year by dramatically flying secretly to Tokyo to meet with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front(MILF) chairman Jaafar Gazali for the unveiling of his peace plan for the Islamic insurgency in Mindanao.

He promised to turn over to the MILF their own state in Mindanao, and he thought that his popularity was high that he could have the Constitution amended to allow this. He would buy off Congress to pass the necessary law – the Bangsamoro Organic Law—by tripling the level of lawmakers’ pork-barrel from the P7.8 billion of his predecessor to P24.8 billion.

He forgot, or refused to see the implications though. There was such an organization as the MNLF, which the Organization of Islamic Conference in 1976 as well as the Cory Aquino and Fidel Ramos regimes had recognized as the legitimate representative of the Muslim insurgents.
The MNLF: Ignored in Aquino’s peace plan, now a problem.

How to move forward?

The latest MNLF attack in Zamboanga is but a reminder to all of us, especially the government that if there were to be lasting peace in Mindanao, all stakeholders must be involved in the peace process. What appears to be a ‘divide-and-conquer’ plan of the Aquino Administration in having separate peace processes with the MILF and MNLF will simply not work.

As Soliman M. Santos,Jr ((SOLIMAN M. SANTOS, JR., A.B. History cum laude (UP), LL.B. (UNC), LL.M. (Melb); Filipino human rights and IHL lawyer; legislative consultant and legal scholar; peace advocate, researcher and writer esp. for and on the Mindanao peace process, with several books on this, inc. those cited in this article. He is presently Presiding Judge of the 9th Municipal Circuit Trial Court (MCTC) of Nabua-Bato, and Acting Presiding Judge of the Municipal Trial Court (MTC) of Balatan, both in Camarines Sur province of the Bicol region southeast of Manila.)) wrote back in March 2013 cautions:

The next substantive step in that road map is the drafting of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) by the Transition Commission (TC), its members already in place. But it has been noted that there is “_no MNLF member_” in the TC, as “_the MNLF chose not to endorse a member_” ((See TJ Burgonio, “Bangsamoro Transition Panel Formed,” Philippine Daily Inquirer, February 26, 2013, p. A2. There is, however, a TC member Fatmawati Salapuddin who is an MNLF member but does not represent it in the TC. Surprisingly, not even a representative from the MILF-friendly, Cotabato-based Sema faction of the MNLF was designated either by the GPH or the MILF for TC membership.”)) designation either by the GPH or the MILF. This should be a matter of major concern, sounding alarm bells, because an antagonistically divided Bangsamoro stakeholdership in the BBL will simply not do for its viability and sustainability.

Things are already at the stage of drafting the organic law for a new autonomous political entity for the Bangsamoro based on a peace agreement, yet a significant Bangsamoro stakeholder, the MNLF (with a constituency in the South-western archipelagic half of the entity’s core territory) is currently “not in the same boat,” and even currently opposing it. This has to be sorted out before Bangsamoro autonomous arrangements are “entrenched” into law. But the definitive sorting out of the two tracks represented by the MILF/FAB and the MNLF/1996 FPA is _not clearly indicated in the FAB road map_ now being followed. And yet it has become increasingly clear that Bangsamoro unity, with MILF-MNLF unity as the litmus test, should already be treated as a goal in itself of the peace process ((To draw from the title of the article of Ryan D. Rosauro, “New peace goal: Bangsamoro unity,” Philippine Daily Inquirer, January 13, 2013, p. A13.”)) and no less than part of solving the Bangsamoro problem.

This would be not only a matter of sorting out two peace agreements (the FAB / comprehensive agreement and the 1996 FPA) but also the relations between the MILF and the MNLF. The newly appointed TC would not be able to do this, not only because there is no MNLF member there, but also because the said sorting out is not in its mandate, even if there may be TC members who know the MNLF perspectives. The said sorting out can only be done by a GPH-MILF-MNLF mechanism mainly to sort out the two peace agreements and a MNLF-MILF unity mechanism to sort out the intra-Moro (some might say “Moro-Moro”) relations. In both mechanisms, it would appear that any necessary mediation (and it appears to be necessary) would have to be by the OIC. It cannot be by Malaysia anymore because of the MNLF’s aversion to Malaysia, exacerbated by the current Sabah stand-off. This is where Indonesia, as an OIC member (its PCSP chair at that) mediator that appears to be the most commonly acceptable to the GPH, MILF and MNLF, could come in. Indonesia would be more commonly acceptable than the OIC-OSG because of the MNLF’s perceived hold there. The OIC has, of course, already proposed the Bangsamoro Coordination Forum (BCF), which the MILF has accepted but the MNLF not yet. Aside from this, the two Moro liberation fronts should be able to hold a dialogue and negotiate even just between themselves, without an OIC mediator. There is also the just as important domestic intra-Moro effort of Bangsamoro civil society to work for MNLF-MILF unity. ((“See, for example, Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society, “A Proposal to Enhance Bangsamoro Solidarity,” [adopted April 26, 2009 during the Bangsamoro Solidarity Summit and Validation Workshop, Hotel Camila, Pagadian City.]”))

Actually, as early as 2000, a Filipino political scientist once wrote about the need for a three-cornered “GRP-MNLF/MILF peace process” leading to “a new peace agreement involving the GRP, MNLF and MILF.” ((“Nathan Gilbert Quimpo, “Three-cornered Diplomatic Battle in Kuala Lumpur,” Philippine Daily Inquirer, June 25, 2000.”)) Filipino-American academic’s proposal in 2004 was to establish a GRP-MNLF-MILF Commission on Bangsamoro self-determination with an MNLF-MILF working group within it, to review the existing ARMM and determine what key changes may be necessary. ((Dr. Astrid S. Tuminez, “Ancestral Domain: Territory, Governance, Culture and the Quest for Bangsamoro Self- Determination” (Paper prepared for the Philippine Facilitation Project, U.S. Institute of Peace, Washington, D.C., November 2004).”)) So the OIC’s 2012 call to “develop a mechanism between MNLF, MILF and GPH to oversee the implementation of these two agreements” is not really a new idea. The unofficial or semi-official MILF comment against this, “as [an] unnecessary mechanism that will only complicate the gains of the GPH-MILF Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro” is understandable, given those gains and the limited time frame of its road map.But these gains could also come to naught if the MNLF problem (to put it bluntly as that) is not solved. Better to address this problem now early in the transition rather than as a bigger problem later down the road. This urgent task should have its own road map, which of course should interlink with the FAB road map, and thus contribute thereto. Even road maps can be works in progress. If there are to be institutions and mechanisms of Bangsamoro self-governance, there too should be institutions and mechanisms of Bangsamoro unity.

Islamic diplomacy, or more precisely Muslim entity mediators led by the OIC, has a key role to play in helping achieve the necessary Bangsamoro unity for the peace process. But they themselves need all the help (or push) they can get for this. Among others, the non-Muslim entities in the ICG, like Japan and the international NGOs, should consider what they might contribute to a particularly urgent task of addressing the MILF-MNLF unity problem in the transition. There is Islamic diplomacy, but there is also the usual international diplomacy that can address this problem. The mediators and the parties themselves in the GPH-MILF peace negotiations need now more than ever to augment their peace efforts of mediation and negotiation with diplomatic efforts mainly in the arena of the OIC and its key members for the Mindanao peace process.

As of this writing, the government has rejected Nur Misuari’s offer of a ceasefire, which could lead to a return to the negotiating table now that they have gotten the attention of the government and the public, and instead opted to pursue military actions against the remaining MNLF forces in Zamboanga.

Enough has been said that there can be no lasting peace in Mindanao as long not all stakeholders are gathered around the negotiating table. For now, peace remains an elusive dream for all.

Plastic ban puts heavy toll on forests

While the cashier was going through my grocery, I overheard her make the following remark:

With the switch to paper grocery bags because plastic bags are now banned in Makati city, there might still be flooding because the demand for paper bags will denude our forests.

The opposing argument may be that paper is easier to recycle and companies can use recycled paper in the production of shopping bags. However, the same argument is valid for plastic as well. Many supermarkets already use degradable and recycled plastic bags. Previously plastic bags could have survived for years and become eye sour in the nature and cause injuries to wildlife. With the degradable bags they would be dissolved in six months.

Furthermore, plastic bags have a better chance of being used again for carrying and keeping household items. Also, they can be used as rubbish bins and many households use their plastic shopping bags for this purpose. Paper bags are less durable and therefore are more likely to be thrown away quickly with no further use.

The problem is that we have limited number of trees and limited land that we can plant trees. If we were to use paper more exclusively we have to cut more trees. In modern world there may be control over how many trees can be cut in a year and governments can require plantation of new trees for every tree cut. But the control of deforestation may be more relaxed in developing countries. People and organisations can start clearing of forests in alarming numbers.

One of the best solutions is that consumers should be encouraged to go for reusable bags. They should bring their reusable bags each time they go to shopping and keep using it for years. This way, we wouldn’t need plastic or paper bags. In many western countries supermarkets are charging for bags in an attempt to force customers to go for reusable bags. In addition, they sell these reusable bags at the counter at a reasonable price that consumers cannot really complain. They do this because they want to help reduce environmental effects and they are forced by governments to reduce the use of shopping bags of any form.

If everyone is a bit more aware of their actions we can reduce unnecessary waste of our resources. For example, we can reduce waste by avoiding printing paper. We can save the documents on our computers instead of printing them. Looking at the internet, we can see that many companies are advocating printing less. For example, cheapautoinsurance.net says “You can save paper by choosing to receive your auto insurance documents electronically. Today, you can even download your proof of car insurance to your mobile devices and it will be accepted by police in many states”.

It is easy to blame company and government policies. However, every individual should do their best to leave a better world for our children. If you don’t like paper bags you can choose to not use them. It is not difficult to carry your own bags each time you go to shopping. This will be a habit in no time when you keep doing it. Be a model citizen and hopefully others will see and follow the good practices.