Thursday, May 31, 2012

OMECO as Punching Bag

His office absorbs all our criticisms and hatred especially during brownouts or power outage. But I will not blame the member-consumers for such reactions because not many of us, unlike those in a boxing gym, was able to realize that a punching bag is always attached to something over it. In the forthcoming issue of Kidlat-Tamaraw, the official newsletter of Occidental Mindoro Electric Cooperative or OMECO, Engr. Alfred A. Dantis has this to impart: “Inch by inch our untiring flesh will take us where development is; where the hearts of our people will walk us through, until we have tendered our rents to the Most Powerful Owner.”

Carrying the theme, “Ang Susi ng Pagbabago Tungo sa Kaunlaran : Matatag at Maayos na supply ng Kuryente, Mabuting Pamamahala at Lakas ng Kamay-Ari!”, OMECO’s 33rd Annual General Membership Assembly or AGMA was held in Abra de Ilog, Occidental Mindoro last Sunday, May 27, 2012. Two major issues were settled that would construct major amendments to the EC’s by-laws, specifically on these three areas: the collection of P75.00 membership fee from P 4.00 collected since 1974, the re-districting of District VII (Mamburao, Sta. Cruz and Abra de Ilog) areas (The election dates for each district and other little but relevant details skipped my memory but rest assured that I will keep you all posted.). Another highlight of the recently-concluded AGMA is the oath taking of 3 new and in-coming BOD members namely, Dir. Rodolfo A. Plopinio of Mamburao; Dir. Edelmar P. Ulay of Calintaan and Dir. Ma. Theresa R. Poblador of Sablayan. Two of the former directors, Myrna G. Magno of Magsaysay and Melito C. Pasol of Rizal, were re-elected and they likewise took their oath administered by Abra de Ilog Vice Mayor Floro Castillo. The outgoing directors, Chairman Samuel A. Villar, Vice Chairman Francisco T. Servando and Secretary Arsenio C. Samson were likewise acknowledged. I do not know why Poblador and Ulay did not show up for the event.

In OMECO Annual Report 2011 distributed in Abra AGMA, former chair Samuel A. Villar said; “Ang taong ito ay nagbabadya ng bagong pag-asa at pakikibaka sa mga hamon at katatagan ng ating kooperatiba. Bagong pag-asa dahil sa mahusay na pamunuan at sa napipintong pagsasakatuparan ng Competitive Selection Process (CSP) o ang pagbubukas ng pagkakataon sa mga gustong mamuhunan sa pagsusuplay ng enerhiya sa ating kooperatiba…” Villar is talking about the CSP formally launched in San Jose last January 18, this year and started through conference with potential bidders at Bayview Park Hotel in Manila on April 16, 2012. The previous year, 2011, also marked the framing and approval of Occidental Mindoro Power Supply Plan or the Energy Development Plan 2013-2043 drafted by the EDAG or the Energy Development Advisory Group composed of people coming from different sectors of society. Key EDAG members and Prof. Ronwaldo R. del Mundo of the National Electrical Engineering Center of the University of the Philippines (UP), OMECO’s transactional adviser laid all the schedules from invitation of potential bidders or new power provider (NPP) up to consequent issuance of Notice of Awards.

The CSP was launched by OMECO despite of the fact that there is still a case before a local RTC concerning the so-called “judicial determination” of the Energy Conversion Agreement (ECA) between Island Power Corporation (IPC) and OMECO filed early this year. As expected, IPC filed a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) against the CSP.

The legal speedball is still swinging so I’ll stop.

Looking from a distance, I think what OMECO needs, aside from those technical and financial accomplishments, is its membership information and development programs. Along this line, the creation of another office that would deal on social responsibility or community relations is imperative. An office that would also mind the everyday social needs of the member consumers. A bagful of humanitarian community service both material and financial. A bagful of charity and relief, empowerment and advocacy. A bag that is more contained with lights than shadows.

And who would dare to punch that bag?...

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Mangyan Educational System (Crossing Mountains and Fingers)

It started with a noble legislation from an equally noble public figure slowly getting prominence not only among those who belong to indigenous cultural communities of Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro but even in the town’s lowland areas. The Indigenous People’s Open High School Education System started when Hon. Ruben P. Dangupon, a true-blooded Mangyan Alangan and IP/ICC representative to the local legislative board or the Sangguniang Bayan (SB), tackled the need for a “Mangyan-friendly” high school education for the people in Sitio Kulasisi of Brgy. Batong Buhay and Malatungtong in Brgy. Burgos. These schools are going to open the moment the AY 2012-2013 starts this June and all the preparation are now on the way. It is going to be the first ever Mangyan high school in the whole country initiated by the first ever Mangyan legislator in the Philippines.

In his privilege speech sometime last April, Dagupon emphasized the need for such educational project and program not only for the Alangans but for Tao-buids as well. He even consulted people from Department of Education (DepEd) in the locality through the facilitation of key people from the office of Hon. Mayor Eduardo B. Gadiano specifically his Senior Executive Secretary Bong B. Marquez and with all modesty, this representation as the LGU’s indigenous peoples’ affairs in-charge. Our local chief executive supports the project 101% .

By the way, barely just four months in office, Dangupon have already sponsored more or less six resolutions forwarded to concerned national agencies and government officials. Those legislations consist of the immediate awarding of the Certificate of Ancestral Domain Titles (CADTs) of the two IP sub-tribes of Sablayan, the appeal to stop the application of JCET Mining, the proposed socialized housing in specific IP areas, among others. In fact, our IP/ICC representative has already surpassed some of his colleagues in terms of quantity and quality of legislations sponsored in their august body. They are ahead of him in experience and in tenure (And to protect their identity (?), I would not mention their names here!).

Another distinguished and noble gentleman whom worthy to recognize for this endeavor is Mr. Arnaldo G. Ventura, Principal IV of the Sablayan National Comprehensive High School or SABNAHIS including his teachers who are willing to teach, live, immerse and learn from the Mangyans. Mr. Ventura lobbied exhaustively in the past two weeks to the DepEd division office in Mamburao. The two learning centers are extension campuses of the SABNAHIS. The multi-awarded educator, like Mayor Ed Gadiano, is 101% supportive of the project.

Last May 17 and 18, we employees from different offices of LGU-Sablayan headed by Fernando B. Dalangin and Alfredo R. Ventura, our environment and natural resources and administrative officers respectively, along with other partner agencies like DepEd conducted a community consultation cum ocular inspection and data gathering, went up to said far-flung highland communities. Mr. Ventura discussed thoroughly to the community dwellers the DepEds Open High School policy and other details. He said that this academic program is tailor-made for the Mangyans. No amount is to be collected to the enrollees or students, their curriculum will be different from those taking regular studies in other schools, the books and other education materials including uniforms will be provided free of charge by the department and support groups. Ventura further stressed that the curriculum is more heavy on customary learning and culturally based economic and entrepreneurship and would not concentrate that much on subjects that has little to do with their way of life and goals. All of the residents, regardless of age and sex, who have finished their elementary studies are also allowed. Of course, they will also be dwelling on reading, writing and arithmetic. This education system is also open to counterparts from the municipal government and the IP leaders themselves. All systems go for this project.

Crossing by foot the stiff hills, makeshift bridges and creeks going to Malatungtong, we have heard the tribal leaders and elders belonging to Fakasadian Manga-nguyang Tao-buid Daga Incorporated of FAMATODI, stating that the IP High School is a welcome development in terms of basic education for the Mangyans. FAMATODI chair Peping Poyngon and sitio leader Temio Tikwanade promised to sustain the project through things agreed upon by the tribes.

Since the 1920’s in the whole Mindoro, the Mangyan education system remained inadequate due to various socio-political reasons. Major policies have not been truly adapted to the Mangyan culture and aspirations and racism played important role for this crisis. Our IP sisters and brothers suffer exploitation from influenced political leaders and business elites, then and in the recent past. The system became completely futile, if I may reiterate, because it was not according to the way the Mangyans want it to be and not adapted to their needs. Educational systems must be dynamic and ultimately serve even the most vulnerable and marginalized sectors of society like the Alangan and Tao-buids of Sablayan.

Let us keep our fingers crossed like how we crossed the hanging bridge in Burgos under the extreme heat of the sun that day…

Saturday, May 12, 2012

My First Lessons in Ermita

Filipino music icon Freddie Aguilar mentioned the name of this street in his famous song “Magdalena”. Here’s the line of the song: “Kaya ika'y namasukan, doon sa Mabini napadpad/Mula noon, binansagang kalapating mababa ang lipad.” Indeed, Mabini Street in this particular district of Metro Manila called Ermita was once notorious being the red light capital of the country. Today, everything’s been different they say. Commercial buildings are all over sans the old pub houses and flesh trade workers roaming around old Mabini at night, once destination of their usual customers - dirty old men, philandering husbands including sexually adventurous male teenagers. But still, elegant and expensive bars and watering holes can still be found there. Ermita’s image been changed in recent decade, said one of our hosts.

No, no, no. We were not there for such mundane enjoyment or tour. I was with the company of respected ladies and gentlemen in my second hometown. My “we” here pertains to the eight Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) members of LGU-Sablayan. They are all department heads of the municipality. This lowly blogger joined them apparently because they want me in the BAC Secretariat the moment I have already an official appointment from the mayor.

We are sent to Ermita by our local chief executive for a four-day seminar on the Government Procurement Act, otherwise known as Republic Act 9184. He made sure that concerned department heads participate in the regional training-workshop to be armed with knowledge and information that would guide us in our job. I believe that every local chief executive must have a firm information and hand on the Act and I am sure Mayor Ed Gadiano is aware of it. For four days, from May 8, to 11, we are bombarded with letters and intents and details of said legal instruments including its Internal Rules and Regulation or IRR and other matters regarding the execution of duties and functions of the BAC. I nearly collapsed to the ground like the Ruby Tower of old for everything and everyone inside the hall are all Greek to me. Speaking of tower, the activity was held at Citystate Tower Hotel proudly calling itself “A New Landmark in Sunshine Manila”. It was sponsored by the Local Budget Officers Association LBOA-MIMAROPA and Department of Budget and Management (DBM) IV-B. The participants are composed of selected government employees from the provinces of Romblon and the two Mindoros. Majority of them have background either in engineering, law, accountancy and commerce. So, I asked myself what I am doing here. As a consolation, I just convinced myself that the advocacy for good governance and public accountability knows no academic boundaries so I have nothing to be afraid of. Anyway, a pundit was once a neophyte. Besides, DepEd once has this slogan: “Be proud to be a teacher. The Future Depends on You”. I am a teacher by profession, but worked as social communicator and community development in various NGOs in the last 30 years, in case you are interested to know.

Being new to civil service, I have personally learned that in all government procurements shall be in all cases must be governed by the following five major principles: 1.) Transparency in the procurement process and in the implementation of procurement contracts. 2.) Competitiveness by extending equal opportunity to enable private contracting parties who are eligible and qualified to participate in public bidding. 3.) Streamlined procurement process that will uniformly apply to all government procurement. The procurement process shall be simple and made adaptable to advances in modern technology in order to ensure an effective and efficient method. 4.) System of accountability where both the public officials directly or indirectly involved in the procurement process as well as in the implementation of procurement contracts and the private parties that deal with government are, when warranted by circumstances, investigated and held liable for their actions relative thereto. 5.) Public monitoring of the procurement process and the implementation of awarded contracts with the end in view of guaranteeing that these contracts are awarded pursuant to the provisions of the Procurement Law and its implementing rules and regulations, and that all these contracts are performed strictly according to specifications. We have terrific and well-versed resource speakers headed by Dir. Renato M. de Vera of DBM Region IV-B.

To reiterate, RA 9184 was designed to cover everything government needs to buy, construct or provide. It set down that procurement along with the rules and regulations around it covered acquisition of goods, consulting services, infrastructure projects. But to tell you, like any other law, this Act is good but the evil is in its true-to-life realization. In the real situation nation-wide, conspiracy, gross negligence of duty, splitting of contracts and other anomalies are experienced. Indeed, representation from the private sector is needed in every BAC and we must all be cultural sensitive to corruption.

That’s what I have learned from present-day Ermita aside from knowing that there is such thing as Pre-bed, err, bid Conference in every bidding transaction. To inject a little Pinoy movie trivia, if I were not mistaken, way back in the 1990s there is also a Filipino film entitled “Mga Birhen ng Ermita” starring then bold starlet Marixi Luna and Philippines’ first Miss Universe Ms. Gloria Diaz ( But Dante Varona’s “Ermitanyo” has nothing to do with Ermita!).

And since Ms. Luna’s flick was sexually oriented, I didn’t watch it but all I can say is it’s surely about that famous night time trade in Ermita then. A predicament I did not dare to experience for I do not belong to any of the category of men I have mentioned in the first paragraph of this blog entry.

A fact that some of my male companions are not aware of…