Monday, February 27, 2012

Our BCMR, Our Scapular

Maybe due to my blogger’s instinct, whenever I see new things and places, I always find a way how to connect them to people and things that I love and cherish. I, together with my wife and the other 14 couples, my sisters and brothers from Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen and Professionals (BCBP) from chapters and outreaches in San Jose and Sablayan in Occidental Mindoro and Nasugbo and Batangas City in Batangas, participated in what we call as Brotherhood Christian Marriage Retreat or BCMR. The event was held in Tagaytay City from February 24 to 26, this year.

The most unforgettable and everlasting symbol of my oneness with Vicky, my wife, a Christian, is a scapular (forgive my brothers and sisters for I cannot awkwardly call her my “Christian Wife” because it connotes that I have other wives, “Protestant Wife”, “Agnostic Wife”, “Atheist Wife”, etc. I am more comfortable in introducing her this way: “This is Vicky, my wife, a Christian.” This is more grammatically correct, isn’t it? ). That piece of cloth that I kept in my wallet for more than 20 years now was her first gift to me. Wherever I go that fine little fabric goes with me, not for its religious or spiritual purposes but to me, it is the symbol and a reminder of her love and faithfulness, then and now.

I was 30 and she was 29 when we exchanged vows officiated by Rev. Fr. Mario Veloso that beautiful morning of June 27, 1992 but before that almost silent but unhesitant utterance of our “I do’s”, that tiny scapular have been lost three times. I lost it in three distinct and environmentally-opposed places. I lost it the first time in a beer joint in Lucena City but the waiter kept it and returned it to me the next morning. For the second time, I lost it in an indignation rally in support with the victims of human rights violations in Calamba but another activist from the youth sector luckily found it and returned it to me immediately. And last time around, Vicky and I lost our scapular inside the San Jose Cathedral one afternoon but when we came back the next day, we found it on the floor of that particular spot in the building. Our brown little thing was covered by vougainvilla flowers that luckily Melchor, the Cathedral’s errand boy, hadn’t swept and threw in a trash can. Can you imagine that? Three times and still being recovered? Like problems we have encountered during our marriage life, they come but they always go. Since then I realized that not only that brown scapular really belongs to me forever but also Vicky, my wife, a Christian.

My relationship with Vicky can somehow be compared or connected to our little scapular. It is colored brown who said to be, according to a Filipino folklore, a perfect skin complexion. It has two dangling pieces, one at the back and one in front. Just like our personal characteristics, some are open and some are hidden. Our relationship is somewhat already time-tested just like scapulars worn by the old devotees in churches whose faith cannot be defeated by time.

I am not in the liberty to divulge everything we have experienced at BCMR. True enough for it would only spoil the surprises it brings like what Bro. Edward Bagatsolon constantly reminding us that chilly days and nights in Tagaytay. All I can afford to do is to echo Bro. Mannie Rosales, “Being [t]here is a blessing!”

As I have told you, whenever I see new things and places, I always find a way how to connect them to people and things that I love and cherish. Our brown scapular and the venue of our BCMR have indeed "connectivity". To let you know, we stayed at the Carmelite’s Missionaries’ Center for Spirituality.

Yes, we experienced the wonder and blessings of BCMR in a Carmelite Retreat House with a Carmelite scapular in my wallet. You call it coincidence? No, I call it faith

(Photo: BCBP- San Jose Chapter File)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Sibuyan Connection

They reminded me of my YS (youth) years when I was still a budding social activist way back in college. I was once like them for they are daring but humorous, dynamic but funny. I can see myself in them and that I must admit. They are young and full of hope, not unlike my two eldest children. I am referring to five senior accountancy students from Romblon State University (RSU) in their native Odiongan and officers of the Alliance of Students Against Mining or ASAM in said campus. They are, and this is according to height, Emilyn Arellano, Michelle Ferry, Arjay Barrios, Ryandolph Vicente and Levi Marc Mesana. They are all single and all ready to mingle (with the older ones in environmental advocacy works like ATM’s Jayvee Garganera, MACECs Myke Magalang, former Odiongan legislator Pearly Harder and myself!). Seriously, we were in Siburan to attend the Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) MIMAROPA Regional Assembly. For five days we stayed at the Sanctuary Garden Resort in Magdiwang, hometown of track queen Elma Muros-Posadas. We crossed the Pacific Ocean from Odiongan to Romblon and finally to Sibuyan. We hiked up to Dagubdob Falls in municipality of San Fernando, site of the Princess of the Stars tragedy and all the twenty five anti-mining advocates in the region had a wonderful getaway from February 15 to 20, 2012.

Of all the places, it was in Sibuyan where I met ABS-CBN's Gina Lopez and not in any of the Philippines' major cities and she was talking with Mayor Dindo M. Rios and the town's local legislators. The participants too were able to be oriented on the life of one of the anti-mining martyrs of Sibuyan, the late councilor Armin R. Marin who was gunned down by a security guard of a mining firm some years back.

Among other things, we participants of the assembly re-echoed and put flesh to our calls: Scrap Philippine Mining Act and enact the Alternative Mining Bill and revoke EO 0270-A and reject the Mineral Action Plan. As representatives of Sablayan-LGU, Arcris Canillo and I ventilated that the new national policy on mining must guarantee that LGU have venues and spaces to genuinely participate in decision-making regarding mining applications and operations. We are firm in saying that the LGUs and its officials decide if the benefits of mining overweight the costs they bring to our localities and our natural resources. Prior to our Sibuyan trip, Occidental Mindoro Governor Josephine Ramirez-Sato and Rev. Fr. Gerardo F. Causapin initiated the signing of a manifesto on these calls.

Concerted endeavors are imperative to protect the environment. Pro environmental alliances are formed when we, social actors, are building bridges or filling the physical gaps between us. Generation and age gaps included.

I may soon forget the names and faces of the ASAM kids who were with us but not the reason why we joined hands for this event. That is the very reason why we connected with each other that wonderful rainy days.

Both in being funny, being in love and being an activist we forget about ourselves. So, keep our aspirations intact wherever you go, guys.

Por favor….

(Photo from Arjay Barrios' FB account)

Monday, February 13, 2012

Mangyans and Mandatory Representation

If we are to examine Table 42 of the Community-Based Management System (CBMS) Survey in 2009 conducted by no less than our Municipal Planning and Development Office (MPDO) of LGU-Sablayan, we can see that the total number of household members who belong to IP groups in Sablayan is at 5,890. This is in proportion to the total number of household members pegged at 8.31 percent. Same Table shows that the Mangyans have the highest number of population at 4,541. Other IP groups in the municipality include Bago tribe (359); Ibanag (42); Kankanay (28); Aeta (20); Ibaloi (19); T’boli (7); Manobo (5); Mandaya (2); B’laan (1); Tagbanuas (1); Tao’t Bato (1); and Palawano (1). Moreover, there were 869 individuals other than the Taobuid and Alangan Mangyans.

Across barangays, five have proportions higher than that of the municipal statistics while the rest is lower. Those with higher proportions are Pag-Asa (62.66%); San Agustin (49.40%); Burgos (22.48%) Batong Buhay (16.97%); and Ligaya (10.06%) Pag-Asa had the most number of IPs with total number of 2,895, followed by Ligaya with 684, and San Agustin 578. On the other hand, only Tagumpay and Victoria recorded no IP residents. As we could notice, practically almost ALL of our barangays have IP residents.

This statistics can of course be contested. We all know for a fact that we cannot have exact data of the total number or population of Mangyans living in Sablayan. This is due to the fact that the greater number of Taobuid and Alangan Mangyans live in the inaccessible mountain areas thus getting the exact figure of their number is extremely difficult. We believe that the number in actuality is much higher. So, it is but proper that one from their ranks must represent them to local legislative councils.

Furthermore, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Memorandum Circular No. 2011-119, dated October 20, 2011 that requires mandatory representation of the IPs in local legislative councils, is specifically for IPs and in Sablayan’s case it’s the Taobuid and Alangan Mangyans, including other migrant IPs enumerated in the CBMS survey. I just do not know if there exist similar memoranda for other sectors- i.e. women, farmers, fisher folks, youth etc.- issued by said department. In various local legislative bodies nation-wide, we can find regularly-elected officials coming from said sectors. We can find women legislators, farmer legislators, youth legislators, etc. but we can hardly find IP representatives especially in a non-IP dominated (population wise) areas or region such as ours.

No doubt that the IP is the most marginalized sector in our society. They are the poorest of the poor in Mindoro. Consequently, because they lack resources and they are oftentimes considered by us lowlanders as uncivilized and uneducated, this hinders the IPs involvement in the non-customary or legal electoral processes. Suffice to say that our election laws and electoral processes are not “IP-friendly”, so to speak, thus the DILG Memorandum Circular No. 2011-119, dated October 20, 2011 came into existence. I am not a lawyer but this is how I see it from a social communicators' lay spectacle.

Do we need the concurrence of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) for the IP representation? The answer is in the negative.

The Indigenous People’s Rights Act (IPRA or RA 8371) and the Local Government Code (RA 7160) were “harmonized” via a MOA between NCIP and DILG that paved the way for the Memorandum Circular No. 2011-119. The NCIP, not the COMELEC, being the primary government body tasked on IP matters would take care of all the needed requirements, including the confirmation of the chosen IP representative, consonant with Section 6, Paragraph 1, Rule IV of Implementing Rules and Regulations of NCIP Administrative Order No. 001, series of 2009.

By the way, the term “representation” here refers to representation in legislative and oversight functions of being a member of an august body and not functions represented by actions pertaining to delivery of basic services, i.e. health, education, infrastructure, livelihood, relief and rehabilitation services, etc., including acts of charity extended to the IPs.

Any elected IP representative cannot be held in abeyance by any Sangguniang Bayan because it is beyond the authority of the latter acting that way because the ICC/IP representation in local legislative bodies, as we all know, is mandatory under IPRA. To emphasize, mandatory representation is not subject to availability of funds, because when all legal things have been done,- selection, confirmation and oath-taking - it is already a statutory obligation of the LGU to prepare and approve a budget for such undertaking.

So, we have no other choice but to have a heart for our IP representative. Whether we like it or not....

(Photo from LGU Sablayan File)

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Political Neutrality of Mayor Ed Gadiano

My principal, Mayor Eduardo B. Gadiano, is often accused by some quarters here in Occidental Mindoro of “extreme neutrality” but he doesn’t seem annoyed by such uncalled for labeling. Despite of the fact that he ran under the so-called Performance Team last in 2010, stalwarts of the rival Dream Team can go inside and out any time in his office. Another great achievement of LGU-Sablayan was when it bagged the most-coveted 2011 Seal of Good Housekeeping given by the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) in MIMAROPA Region. The plaque of recognition was awarded September 26 last year by Atty. Rolando B. Calabazaron, the department’s regional director.

Only last Saturday, February 4, 2012, Governor Josephine Y. Ramirez Sato and Vice Governor Gene J. Mendiola, along with representatives of almost all municipalities in the province attended a luncheon meeting on good governance with Vice President Jejomar C. Binay at Sablayan Convention Center. Prior to this, Gadiano and Sato both served as witnesses when Calumpit MPCI received the most coveted Gawad Saka Award at Malacañan Palace handed by no less than President Benigno Simeon S. Aquino III late last year. On the other hand, in the third issue of “Tugon”, the LGU’s newsletter, there was an almost full page news item on the projects and accomplishments of Congresswoman Ma. Amelita C. Villarosa, spouse of Sato’s arch political rival and the opposite team's head figure. Prior to this, Mayor Gadiano and Rep. Villarosa joined hands in meeting with Department of Energy (DoE) Secretary Jose Rene Almendras after the latter formed the Task Force Power Crisis (TFPC). Fair, isn’t it?

But is there really such thing as objective political neutrality? My answer is in the affirmative but it is not practiced here in our country. Allow me first to say something wonderful about the “politics” of Mayor Ed Gadiano. The second issue of “Tugon” bannered a headline which reads: “Serbisyo Muna, Hindi Pulitika”. In said issue, he appealed to various political blocks to join hands for development. He said, “Ngayon ang panahon ng serbisyo, hindi ang pamumulitika. Dapat tayong maglingkod sa mamamayan batay sa ating katungkulan at kakayanan. Ang taong bayan ang apektado ng pamumulitika sa serbisyo…” (“Now is the high time for service and not for politicking. We must serve the people based on our authority and capacity. The people are the most affected when politicking comes before service”) The speech was delivered on the occasion of 111th Anniversary of Civil Service in a little ceremony held in Sablayan also carrying its national theme, “Championing R.A.C.E. in Public Service Excellence at Full Speed.”

He’s never been neutral in situations of injustice and environmental destruction for he stood firm against the Mindoro Nickel Project (MNP). He sided with dignity of labor when he ordered the long overdue promotion of six (6) department heads and elevated to permanent status some four (4) casual municipal employees just last year.

To my mind, a model of political neutrality in government can be summed up with these words: Politics and policy are separated from administration. (This is what the good mayor, perhaps, had in mind when he rendered his above speech.) Public servants are to be judged on the basis of merit, rather than on the basis of party affiliation or contributions or the whims of their party leaders. Public servants do not engage in partisan political activities while not yet election time. Public servants provide forthright and objective advice to their political patrons in private and in confidence and the latter is expected to listen to them in return and do not get mad. Public servants execute policy decisions loyally and zealously, irrespective of the philosophy and programs of his political patron or allies. As a result, public servants enjoy security of tenure during good behavior and satisfactory performance. This is how I differentiate politicians from genuine public servants.

To this humble blogger, in what I call "Politics of Friendship", friendship is possible and can be maintained without surrendering your principles or sacrificing your personal judgment. In "Politics of Friendship", being polite is the utmost rule so it's big no-no for its practitioner to badmouth his opponents specially in public.

Human as he is, Mayor Ed also has shortcomings but he assured everyone that he’s open to constructive criticisms. But what can he do? Some people tend to look at weaknesses of an individual seedling rather the grandeur of a forest.

In reality, this model of political neutrality is never been truly practiced in its "pure" form. Here in the Philippines, people cannot separate politicians from public servants like the way we cannot rightfully define “conflict of interest” and to majority of Filipinos, there is no such animal as “political neutrality”. Theory and practice, as usual, often diverge anywhere in the land.

Knowing Mayor Ed for a very long time as a human rights advocate and an environmental activist, he would never use his authority for personal gains. Like a good housekeeper, Mayor Ed keeps everything in proper order and trying to be so friendly to everyone.

He doesn’t care if his visitor is a political friend or foe…

(File photo from Mayor's Office)