opinion

NOT CORPORATE INTEREST BUT THAT OF THE PEOPLE

December 27, 2019

As pronounced by the highest law of the land, “In a democratic and republican State, sovereignty resides with the people and all governmental powers emanate from them.” Indeed, in a democracy, the public influences policy and then the government carries out actions determined by the public. However, this is not so regarding the existence of so-called Electric Cooperatives. “Vox Populi, Vox Dei!” (The voice of the people is the voice of God). Thus, in 2012, the MCOs (member-consumer-owners) of the Davao del Norte Electric Cooperatives (DANECO) voted YES to be a true cooperative by registering with the Cooperative Development Authority (CDA) by a vote of some 50,000 with only 1,000 voted to remain with the National Electrification Administration  (NEA). The counting in that referendum lasted until 2:00 O’clock in the morning and when this was reported to me, all those thousands of members present were rejoicing because their respective capital shares would be recognized and that DANECO would finally be true to the DNA of cooperativism which is members-owned. That is actually an undeniable truth.  Each MCO has already paid in their more than 50 years of existence capital shares which when computed will not be less than P50,000 each taken from their monthly billings under amortization of loans and reinvestment. Each MCO should by now be receiving patronage refund of not less than P10,000 every year, knowing that an electric cooperative is earning so much out of its operation of giving light to some 150,000 households in the Davao del Norte Area. Unfortunately, this did not happen as their registration with CDA has not been recognized all these years.  I found out that a very influential corporate entity is very much interested to own DANECO using its strong influence to derail any effort to have it members-owned.  All of those top political officials who before were for its registration with CDA suddenly just turned around as I heard the outpourings of support from that corporation during elections. All those passionately advocating to rectify a social wrong have stop their advocacy. And why not? As of today, nine leaders had gone to the Great Beyond, having been murdered for just fighting for what is right, what is true and what is just.  The Board of Directors of CDA-registered DANECO and its management have all resigned for fear of being killed.     For the chairman of CDA who is fighting for it to be truly a genuine cooperative is now facing a case in the Sandigan Bayan, for what? For doing his job as Chairman of an office that had been created by the Constitution “to advance the viability and growth of cooperatives as instruments of social justice, equity and economic development. It is a great social injustice to front itself as a cooperative when it is not, by not recognizing the members’ ownership of this multi-billion peso utility.  The recognition of MCOs’ ownership will be a great liberation force to liberate the poor from the bondage of poverty.  If only the ownership will be recognized of some 11 million MCOs in all the 119 electric cooperatives nation-wide with a critical mass of some 55 million Filipinos, equity will be had in a country where only 200 families control 73% of the economy. Let us go back to history.  In the late 60s, our very own Vice President Emmanuel Pelaez wanted to electrify the rural areas as during that time, electricity was just confined in the urban areas, i.e., CEPALCO in Cagayan de Oro, DAVAO LIGHT  in Davao, MERALCO in Manila. A group then of senators and congressmen went to the United States to learn on what could be the best way to electrify the rural areas. They were amazed to discover that in the United States, it is the consumers who are the owners for being cooperatives.  This is so because electricity is means to life (just like water and air) and should not be a means to enrich the capitalists. And so that was in the mindset of our legislators when they enacted the Rural Electrication Law that it should be owned and managed by the MCOs, thus, cooperativized. The USAID then provided a grant of 800 million dollars to start the Philippine rural electrification through cooperativism.  But their cooperativising technique was just a gimmick for truly, the so-called electric cooperatives are just cooperatives in name, based on a landmark 2003 decision of the Supreme Court in the case of PHILRECA Vs. Department of Finance. These so called electric cooperatives began their fake existence during the height of martial law regime when President Marcos then issued Presidential Decree 1645 (named after M-16 and Caliber 45) and provided powers to NEA under Section 357 (named after Magnum 357). Such was not surprising as NEA then was under an AFP General of the military as Secretary. After the EDSA Revolution, such social wrong was attempted to be rectified and so NEA was given 3 years to turn over all the Electric Cooperatives to CDA, as the sole registering agency on cooperatives. But such did not happen. All of those years, all the past administrations where carrying out actions that benefit corporate and financial interest. Indeed, the power in a democratic state resides with the people but how come such is being taken from them by big corporations? Under the present dispensation, the 11 million MCOs are hopeful that due attention be given to rectify a great social injustice that is victimizing a critical mass of some 55 million Filipinos who are now shouting  “let justice be done ‘till heavens fall!

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Commander Bravo: A Transformative Warrior

December 23, 2019

The all-out war against the moro rebellion in Mindanao launched by then President Joseph Estrada during the onset of the 21st century  which saw the mobilization of some 75,000 soldiers to fight some 10,000 critical mass of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) North Western Mindanao Front headed by a young brave warrior then by the name of  Abdullah Macapaar alias Commander Bravo had brought to the fore the noble cause of the Muslims in the land of the brave and the free in a war described as the second longest war in the world.    Shouting “AllahuAkbar” (Allah is Great) as the war raged then in the hinterlands of sitio Korakora, Baragay Tamparan, Munai, Lanao del Norte, the outpourings of bullets had no match against determined warriors when Commander Bravo narrated to me those battles he led to counter what he described as a matter of self-defense against the many massacres suffered by his people at the start of the 70s when his father Sultan Macapaar led a  countervailing force to stop those massacres. He joined the Moro National Liberation Front in 1973 and when his father died in a battle in 1978, he became the top  commander  of the MILF, leading the North Western Mindanao Front with some 5 division commanders and hundreds of front commanders under his command.   Narrating to me his tactical and strategical moves during my recent visit in his turf, he exemplified the amazing mastery of the art of war that embraces three main criteria in winning battles: know thyself, know thy enemy and know the terrain, and you will never lose in any war.  Thus, despite the attacks against them by some 75,000 soldiers using high powered weapons and even war planes, he miraculously survived all the rages of battles, firmly believing that if Allah is with you, who can be against you. What was even more amazing was his decision which got the all out support of his division and front commanders to elevate their struggle to a higher level, this time, not anymore using arms but cooperativism as their liberating force to uproot the causes of war: poverty, gross social inequities and social injustice. I asked him: Commander Bravo, did you surrender? The answer is “NO, we did not.”  Indeed, they still have high powered guns and are still as passionate as ever.  But they told me that they respected the wish of our beloved President Rodrigo Duterte to cease armed struggle and to convert their force to become a transformative cooperative for people, planet, prosperity and peace. Wow! So wonderful. Such wonderful transformation is the offshoot of the organization of the Bangsa Moro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao where Commander Bravo is now an Honorable Member of the Parliament, the famous MP Abdullah  Macapaar. Thus, based on such strong decision, we together with Asec Penny Disimban, Admin Paisal Cali, Dir. Glen Garcia, Registration Chief Glo Barrido, and staff Maria Lovella Velasco, OIC for Project Development Betty Balaba, CDS II in charge of the area, Alvin Castro  and staff braved the terrain and went there, organized the former MILF combatants into cooperative, the Sultan Macapaar Agri-Producers Cooperative. Thanks to MP Diamila Disimban Ramos for co-organizing the convergence so that the former combatants will now front the essence of cooperativism. Munai is a very rich agricultural land where hundreds of hectares are oozing with vast coconut plantation.  Indeed, coconut industry is a billion dollar industry but why are our muslim coconut farmers poor? Because they are just selling “copra” and these are processed by capitalists into coco oil, coco water and coco sugar and sell back to us at a high price.  Enough of that exploitative economic set-up.  Now as cooperative, the farmer members will now go into value chain, in so doing, generate jobs and income. From a brave passionate warrior to liberate the oppressed people through armed struggle, Commander Bravo’s transformation into a new breed of freedom fighter should now reverberate through-out the land!  Commander Bravo, welcome to the Cooperative Family composed of some 18,700 cooperatives nation-wide with some 11 million members. We are honored to have you – kapamilya at kapuso.  Maraming salamat mahal naming Presidente Mayor Rodrigo Duterte,  for the trail-blazing move of solving the war in Mindanao not anymore by launching an all-out war but through love, passionate service and care which is what cooperativism is all about in the land of the brave and the free – Mindanao.

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Long overdue justice for Ampatuan massacre victims

December 21, 2019

AMID all the socializing and catching up I did with family and friends in Cagayan de Oro City, I did learn about the ruling on the Ampatuan case last Thursday, Dec. 19. There were no words to describe it at first but I felt no small sense of relief that not only was the case over but that the masterminds behind the massacre, the Ampatuans were convicted beyond reasonable doubt. As a past chairperson of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) I join my former media colleagues in welcoming the court ruling that convicted the Ampatuan brothers Datu Andal Ampatuan Jr and Zaldy Ampatuan as well as 43 others for the gruesome murder of 58 persons that shook and shocked the world. Sadly there are those still at large who could possibly harm the families of the victims in retaliation for the ruling and I pray that they also be rounded up and jailed, to rot behind bars for their heinous crime.  The Ampatuan massacre that occured on Nov. 23, 2009 was one of the reasons why I migrated to the US on May 2010. That said, as a former media practitioner I do share the sentiment of the local media community that the conviction of the Ampatuan massacre masterminds and their accomplices in no way diminishes the threat to safety and security of mainstream media posed by political warlods, a hostile government and their paid for social media troll army. If it’s not major media institutions like ABS-CBN or the Philippine Daily Inquirer who are being pressured to close shop, it’s media practitioners who are red-tagged by authorities for publishing stories critical of the incumbent administration even with the absence of concrete evidence. These are dangerous times indeed not only for media practitioners but those who dare speak out against the powers that be.  But we are not deprived of the means to speak out and for those ‘in the resistance’,  the fight goes on and hopefully, things will get better even before 2022 rolls out.                           *************************** As someone pointed out, the Ampatuan massacre ruling was largely overshadowed on the global stage with the US Congress impeachment of US President Donald Trump and I must say, those in Washington should not ignore public sentiment over this political development. While there are a large, maybe even growing number of Americans who despise the billionaire mogul turned leader of the Free World, there is also a large number of Americans, including a substantial number in the Filipino-American community who are supportive of and strongly against Trump’s ouster. Let us be clear on this: Trump may be impeached but he is not yet unseated as President. Far as I can research on Google, three US presidents were impeached—Andrew Jackson, Bill Clinton and now Trump.  The late US president Richard Nixon resigned to avoid impeachment, the first to do so in US history. As Filipinos have seen in their three impeachment proceedings in Congress—one, an aborted Senate trial of former president Joseph Estrada that led to People Power 2 and two successful ousters of two former chief justices namely the late Renato Corona and Maria Lourdes Sereno—impeachment is basically a three-step process with the first step successfully taken by the Democrats. With the US election just a year away, it remains to be seen if Trump will be ousted from office and if such ouster will bolster the chances of the Democrats, who are supposedly being influenced by hardcore socialist/communist wingers, to capture both the White House and Congress in 2020. That said, I doubt if Trump would be ousted from office once the impeachment proceedings reach the Senate which is dominated by the Republican lawmakers. If anything, Trump’s impeachment is a morale boosting victory for the Democrats and their allies, a number of whom are in the mainstream media and in Hollywood. Impeachment is a political process, a numbers game and if Trump survives this, he may come out even stronger and emerge victorious in the November 2020 elections, depending of course on American public sentiment towards this blatantly politically motivated initiative of the left-leaning Democrats.

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Christmas and vacation

December 21, 2019

DURING the Christmas holidays, we tend to be caught up in the hustle and bustle of the season, that we sometimes forget the essence of Christmas. We even remove Christ from the word Christmas reducing it to X'mas or substituting it with a name of a product or a shopping center." Yes, guys, honestly, that's it... I really don't enjoy received "XMAS GREETINGS"... . Somehow, I am glad looking forward to a two weeks vacation "between the years" - meaning to say between December 21 and January 7. No German consulate office, no teaching at University of Southeastern Philippines, although most students wish to be prepared for their January exam in Manila. I might spend only a very office hours in my agency office. A rest from some occupation, business and other stressful activities is waiting for me. Strictly speaking, vacation concerns those who are in school or studying in colleges and universities. "Furlough" would be the appropriate term... Christmas and vacation: Speaking about myself - I want to bring back Christ to the holiday season and indeed wish to share my blessings with the less fortunate. One of the best-known religious poems is "The Hound of Heaven" written by Francis Thompson, who tried to run away from God. He wanted to have a vacation from God. In reality it is Thompson's own life. His poem shows clearly the fact in this world that we can have a vacation from physical and mental activities, but never from God. As I stated in one of my previous columns here : according to the book of Genesis, after God created the universe in six days, he rested on the seventh day. In other words, he took a vacation. So if God rested after working for some period of time, there is no reason why man, who is finite and limited in his physical strength, should not take a vacation. Vacation is freedom or release from tension or pressure of work. And, believe me, I learned already from my students, that they will enjoy Christmas and vacation. Many of us feel tired and weak. We are stressed, overwhelmed, depressed and worried about the future - the enumeration, in any order whatever, could be incessant. Relaxation, meditation, and reinvigoration are badly needed for most of us nowadays. Life, affected by the "burnout syndrome" needs to be animated with energy and strengths. Yes, Christmas has always been equated with all these worldly ways. Sure, there is indeed nothing wrong with this. I might sound like an old and broken record - but: let's don't only focus on non-stop merrymaking and countless gifts. Let's take a break, and let's try to imagine and enjoy the real meaning of Christmas. Merry Christmas again to everyone - also from this corner... . +++ Email: doringklaus@gmail.com or follow me in Facebook, Linkedin or Twitter or visit www.germanexpatinthephilippines.blogspot.com or www.klausdoringsclassicalmusic.blogspot.com .

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On Moreno’s Capitol run

December 19, 2019

AFTER confirming his support to Rep. Rolando Uy of Cagayan de Oro City’s 1st district for the city mayoral race, I guess it was only a matter of time before incumbent Mayor Oscar Moreno made public his desire to return to the Capitol’s top seat in 2020.   The mayor’s confirmation came fittingly enough during a visit by Southeast Asian Games gold medalist Carlo Paalam to City Hall specifically at the Christmas party of barangay (village) leaders at the City Tourism Hall.   It was no surprise to anyone who keeps tabs on the local political landscape and even to those like me who may live in another part of the world but still tries to keep up to date on the latest political developments in Cagayan de Oro City and Misamis Oriental province.   And I say it’s a welcome announcement if only to give the province something to look forward to after nearly a decade of dominance by the Padayon Pilipino party which had lost its founder prior to the May elections.   To be clear, Moreno said he is thinking about a gubernatorial run and that it’s still too early to declare his candidacy eight months after the last elections when he won a third and final term at City Hall.   But knowing the other incumbent officials of the province who cast their eyes towards the City of Golden Friendship, I say it’s never too early for them to already map out their strategies for 2020, barring of course any last minute run for Charter change instigated by—surprise, surprise—Rep. Rufus Rodriguez of Cagayan de Oro City’s second district, who chairs the congressional committee on Constitutional Amendments.   I admit to welcoming a Moreno 2020 run for the Capitol seat on a purely personal note.  If Moreno runs and wins as governor, I hope that one of his projects would be to fix that dusty, craggy, crater dotted road at zone 20, sitio El Mundo in Barangay Natumolan, Tagoloan town.   That road is privately owned but considering that it is used by motorists and public utility vehicle (PUV) drivers alike for the past 50 years, it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to say it’s high time the government steps in, expropriates that road and repair it for their use and convenience.   Whenever my husband Ronnie would drive through that road, he would mutter cuss words and keep complaining about how he hated passing through that road since it would make him pee.  And I share his sentiment as I hated passing through that road in my youth at Tagoloan.   The Emano clan ruled over both Tagoloan and Misamis Oriental like their own personal fiefdoms for decades and I can barely count with my fingers any notable, enduring projects that they set up and built for either town and province.  And they did squat with that zone 20 road in El Mundo.   Let’s just say Moreno is my last hope, ang akong ‘huling baraha (my last card) so to speak when it comes to finally fixing not only that God forsaken road but also most, if not all, of what’s wrong in Misamis Oriental right now.   The incumbent Emano administration at the Capitol, which had been bragging about its canceled Misor Cares health program,  has yet to publicly list all of the programs and projects it had implemented in the past six to seven years other than through their praise releases and radio programs which are badly written and produced even by high school standards (yes I do monitor the programs at Facebook).   Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, the thought of another decade of an Emano dynasty in the province, let alone a return to the City of Golden Friendship, is enough to cause nightmares to both Kagay-anons and Misamisnons alike.   Enough of their rule and their allies/minions, it’s time for Cagayan de Oro and Misamis Oriental to have leaders with a shared vision and strong political will to elevate them to metropolitan status and become the next growth center in the country.   PS: I met Atty. Irish Vertudes, who represented Gov. Yevgeny ‘Bambi’ Emano, at the wedding of Mark and Glorilie Vosotros the other day and here’s hoping I can interview him someday.  To be fair, Governor Bambi is still courteous and smiles at me even when I criticized his late father during his tenure in both the province and city.   Maybe, just maybe, he can leave a more enduring legacy to the Capitol in his final two years in office if he stops listening to his allies/minions and start making the right, even if unpopular decisions.

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Ampatuan massacre verdict: Partial justice against impunity

December 19, 2019

Editor's Note: Below is the unedited statement of Barug Katungod Mindanao on the recent Ampatuan massacre verdict IN a country labeled as one of the deadliest for journalists, human rights advocates, and farmers, today’s verdict on the Ampatuan massacre is a momentary respite from reigning injustice.  It gives precedent for all victims of human rights abuses to never waver in seeking accountability and justice in a country where impunity and corruption is deeply embedded in the justice system. But the quest for justice is not over. The political machinery of the Ampatuan warlord clan remains robust with at least 36 local government positions won in the last 2016 elections – 19 carrying the Ampatuan names while the rest their relatives – making them the “fattest” political dynasty in the country.[https://mail.yahoo.com/d/folders/1/messages/104146#_ftn1] Their economic power should also not be underestimated as they own “597 bank accounts, 500 hectares of real property assets, 130 motor vehicles, 420 firearms, and a private army of many hundreds”[https://mail.yahoo.com/d/folders/1/messages/104146#_ftn2] according to a recent investigative report by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism. The Ampatuans continue to be of value to the system of patronage politics in the country where politicians eyeing national posts have kept communities under the control of warlords to deliver electoral votes. We must remember that the Maguindanao massacre had been enabled by this symbiotic relationship between national politicians and local warlords. Most of all, the essence of Executive Order 546 which employs the use of paramilitaries as ‘multiplier forces’ as an adjunct to the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ counter-insurgency campaign continues to reign under President Duterte. EO 546 was President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s decree that allowed the unhampered build-up of the Ampatuan private army abetted by the military and police. Thus, while we breathe a sigh of brief relief brought about by the conviction of a partial number of suspects as 80 more are at large, we must remain vigilant as the Ampatuans appeal to the higher courts to ensure that there is no reversal of the verdict. We are also apprehensive that other relatives like Sajid Islam Ampatuan, Datu Akmad Tato Ampatuan, Jimmy Ampatuan, and some police officers were acquitted.  The acquittal does not curb the Ampatuan machinery from perpetrating more criminal acts and threatening families of victims and the courageous witnesses in the trial, an ordeal we have seen in the last 10 years. But we celebrate this momentous ruling by Quezon City RTC Judge Jocelyn Solis-Solis as a victory for people’s vigilance throughout the 10 years since the massacre was perpetrated on November 23, 2009 in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao. The court found former Datu Unsay Ampatuan mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr, former ARMM governor Zandy Ampatuan, and 25 of their ilk “guilty beyond reasonable doubt” and meted the penalty of reclusion perpetua without parole. Several others were also sentenced to imprisonment as accessories to the crime. We commend the relentless efforts of the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines who kept the flame in the quest for justice for 32 media persons, the Union of Peoples’ Lawyers in Mindanao who kept the memory of Attorneys Concepcion Brizuela and Cynthia Oquendo, and the Justice Now Movement as the most steadfast organization of the kin of all the victims. The people’s movement has led to today’s victory. Our vigilance was expressed through an unwavering campaign for justice and accountability against the perpetrators of the massacre, mobilization of volunteers and networks in the conduct of fact finding missions, assistance to the families of victims, forums, lobbying to policy makers, and protests in the streets. Barug Katungod Mindanao stands with the families of the victims of one of the deadliest massacre in recent Philippine history where the Ampatuans and their goons murdered and inhumanely buried 58 persons that include 32 journalists and media workers, 2 lawyers, and the wife of Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu who was at that time the vice-mayor of Buluan town in Maguindanao, along with other Mangudadatu relatives, and 6 motorists who were just passing by the vicinity. We must also remain militant since the system that fuels this impunity still reigns supreme. Extra-judicial killings in Mindanao is still going on, a total to 162 victims fell since Duterte came to power. Hundreds of journalists, lawyers, community leaders, and even churchpeople are still victims of vilification, illegal arrests, and other forms of state repression. Executive Order 546 is still in effect. Now, President Duterte’s Martial Law in Mindanao and Executive Order 70 is reinforcing this vicious system. Today, justice is served. Tomorrow, we continue the fight. Bishop Redeemer Yañez Spokesperson, Barug Katungod

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