An Open Letter to VP Leni Robredo

Dear VP Leni Robredo,

Congratulations! With just the perfect combination of wit and sarcasm, you were able to effectively burn Bongbong Marcos up!

Of all people nga naman kasi, why would he have the audacity to talk about cheating, and to claim that he has been robbed of the vice presidency? Sino ba ang may mahabang history ng panloloko at pagnanakaw? Sino ba ang may reputation of producing fake diplomas and of instigating historical revisionism and the spread of fake news? Sino ba ang nagmula sa pamilya ng unrepentant liars, plunderers and cheaters?

We are sure na hindi ikaw ‘yun, VP Leni.

With a seemingly innocent question, you also managed to reveal for everyone to see his utter stupidity.

“Why didn’t he pick those (Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur and Basilan) for his pilot provinces, in the first place?” Apparently po, VP Leni, nobody explained to him the significance of choosing the right pilot provinces –that those are supposed to best exemplify the frauds or irregularities alleged in his petition; that the result of the recount on those pilot provinces would determine if PET would proceed with or dismiss his protest.

Otherwise, he wouldn’t have picked Camarines Sur, Iloilo and Negros Oriental.

But since he did, mas lalo niya lang napatunayan sa sambayanan ang kanyang pagkatalo when, after the recount, revision and re-appreciation proceedings, your lead even grew by as much as 15,000 votes! More importantly, he failed to ensure a significant vote recovery.

On September 9, Justice Caguioa submitted to the en banc his report on the concluded recount. More than a month has already passed but the SC has yet to act on that report.

Itong issue ng unresolved electoral protest na ito ang ginagamit ni Bongbong to further sow and propagate lies, and to cast doubt in our people’s minds about the legitimacy of your vice presidency. This is precisely the reason why the Supreme Court, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, should already resolve the issue of Bongbong’s electoral protest with finality. And, if they are to issue a decision in accordance with their own rule, specifically PET’s Rule 65, our honorable Magistrates should have already issued an outright dismissal of that said protest after they received Justice Caguioa’s report.

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Grabbed from Bong Banal’s Facebook wall

So, aside from the glaring fact that it is the right, fair and lawful thing to do, why do we need to insist to our Justices to dismiss Bongbong’s electoral protest?

First, because the dismissal is the affirmation of your constitutional mandate – the affirmation that YOU have been robbed of for more than three years now. Ikaw, VP Leni, ang ninakawan ni Bongbong Marcos with his preposterous lies, fishing expedition and grand illusion.

Second, because the dismissal would effectively put a closure to all this time-squandering nonsense, and we can all finally focus our undivided attention, time and energy to more productive and meaningful endeavors such as our fight for the West Philippine Sea and against the gross corruption in government and the fake War on Drugs.

And, third, because, once and for all, our Magistrates would be able to prove that their decision is not for sale, that their integrity remains intact, and that they continue to be the best interpreters and final arbiters of the laws.

So, if we were you, VP Leni, we won’t worry our pretty little heads if the composition of the current Supreme Court is a little, well, worrisome — that 8 of its 14 Justices are Duterte appointees; that Justice Bersamin, a Duterte-appointed Chief Justice, and Justice Peralta, a GMA appointee, have both voted for the hero’s burial for Ferdinand Marcos, the acquittal of GMA for plunder, the arrest and detention of Sen. De Lima, the constitutionality of Martial Law in Mindanao, and the ouster via quo warranto of CJ Sereno; and that Justice Carpio, one of the three remaining Justices that truly deserve the title “Honorable,” is set to retire on October 26 and will be replaced by yet another Duterte appointee.

Yes, the odds may be stacked against us but let us not lose hope.

Let us hope that our Justices will all heed Justice Leonen’s tacit challenge, “Your children and grandchildren will ask you: during the darks days that you have lived, why did you not have the courage to do the right thing?” Let us hope that they will all choose to be on the right side of history. Let us hope that they will fearlessly stand for what is right, fair and lawful.

That’s all for now, VP Leni. Goodluck to you!

Laging nananalangin at umaasa para sa iyo,

Ang Taumbayan

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OUR TEACHERS, OUR MODERN-DAY HEROES

I and another colleague went to Calbayog City in Samar last weekend ready to turn over the teacher’s kits to the 250 public school teachers that our group, Team Pilipinas, had managed to raise a sufficient fund for. (The recipients were mostly assigned in the remote and far-flung schools either in the islands or the uplands of the province.) We were ready to serve as the bridge between our generous donors and our chosen recipients. We were ready to have a personal encounter with our teachers who are largely overworked, underpaid and unappreciated. We were ready to celebrate with them the National Teachers’ Month and the upcoming International Teacher’ Day on October 5.

What we were not ready for were the stories that they generously shared with us – stories that tugged at our heartstrings and made us realize anew why our teachers should, indeed, be put on a pedestal as our country’s modern-day heroes.

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David Refuncion teaches in Mabini I Elementary School, a school situated in one of Calbayog’s farthest mountains. His first assignment, he has been teaching there for three years now.

David, along with seven other teachers from their clustered school, has to travel for eleven hours just to get to his students – two to three hours aboard a multicab, then a habal-habal and, finally, a boat, before he would have to walk across rivers, rice fields and hills for another six to eight hours. Their travel becomes longer, riskier and more challenging when they do it under the pouring rain because the water in the river rises and its current becomes strong, and the mountains and rice fields they navigate become murky and slippery. Armed conflict between members of the NPA and the private armies also poses a serious challenge to them and the entire community.

Adrian Benecario, from Calilihan Elementary School, has to regularly contend with landslides during his 5-6 hours of travel on foot just to reach his students.

Both young teachers are witness to how their students are living in abject poverty.

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The supplies that Sir David brings with him from the city to the barrio.

They have students who walk miles barefoot and are used to attending classes on empty stomachs. There are those who can’t afford to buy something as basic as paper and pencil, and just have to rely on the generosity of their classmates. There are those who use plastic grocery bags for their school bags. (There was this one time when the teacher was cleaning up after his last class. He saw a crumpled plastic bag and, thinking that is was trash, he put it in the trash bin. A few moments later, one of his students went back and asked in their local dialect, “Sir, have you seen my bag?” to which the teacher replied, “I didn’t see any bag here. What does it look like anyway?” “A plastic bag, Sir.”) There are those who have to skip classes because their parents need an extra hand in the farm. And when someone in the village gets sick, the parents automatically turn to the teachers for medicines because the nearest health center is miles away.

There’s also no electricity in their place so the teachers have to use flashlight or kerosene lamp when they are working on their Daily Lesson Log (DLL).

However, the worst and most heartrending story that they shared is that of some of their female students, the youngest of which are in Grade 3, who have to quit school altogether because their parents are forced to marry them off. They do it for two reasons: to rid themselves of the burden of feeding another mouth, and for the “payment” that they will receive from the man who will be their daughter’s husband. For P30,000 (which is usually given to them in installments) and a small pig or goat, these little girls are given away to any man who has the capacity to pay.

As a mother myself, that is the story that really broke my heart.

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The call in the wake of Typhoon Usman that nearly wiped out the barrio where Ma’am Mary Jane and Ma’am Mariah Kim teach.

Meanwhile, Mary Jane Ebardone and Mariah Kim Oite are co-teachers in Cag-Anahaw Elementary School. Previously, they would reach their school by bamboo rafting for four hours, climbing four mountains, and crossing a treacherous river that snakes around those mountains. But since the river has gotten shallow due to landslides, they now have to walk all the way to the barrio where they teach. They have to be extremely careful, though, as paths can be steep and slippery, and one misstep can cause them to stumble down cliffs.

Cell signal is weak and unpredictable in the village so they attach a string to their mobile phones and hang them to anything that is high enough for them to get a signal.

Last December 28, 2018, the barrio was wiped out by Typhoon Usman.

Their school, that sits atop a plateau, is one of the few structures that survived the catastrophe. The floodwater, though, still managed to reach the roof of the covered court. It was only through the bayanihan of the neighboring communities that Barangay Cag-Anahaw was able to slowly rise back up.

Although it was hard for the two young teachers to accept that their students could not go to school because they had to be with their families in picking up the pieces of their shattered lives, they fully understood the situation. After all, given the choice between education and survival, any one of us will certainly choose the latter hands down.

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The church that also serves as the school for Sir Ricky’s students

Another two teachers that we talked to, Ricky Balat and Rhio Amor both teach in an island where illiteracy rate is among the highest in Calbayog. Their barangays also belong to the poorest.

Between the months of August and February, when the most intense monsoon winds blow, the islands get more isolated from the rest of the city because no boat dares to head to the open sea. During that season, there is scarcely any food. People have to make do with wild grass and any available root crops.

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Fried camote, Sir Ricky’s lunch during the habagat season when no boats dare leave the island.

Aggravating the teachers’ situation in the islands is the seeming lack of support that they get from the government. They do not have a school so they teach their students inside the church. They do not receive any books, too.

The students’ houses are a long walk from the “school” and the unpaved roads that they tread are typically rough and muddy. Sometimes, there are even snakes slithering about.

My fellow Filipinos, the monthly salary of our entry-level teachers is only Php20,000. Some of them, like Sir Ricky and Rhio, do not receive regular hazard pays or hardship allowances despite the risks that they are made to face on a daily basis just to do their job. They are even required to make cash contribution for unit meets, competitions and other events. And they buy their supplies from their own pockets.

After all the deductions for taxes, GSIS, Pagibig, and all sorts of loans that they have previously availed, the teachers are left with a meager take-home pay. Yet, they still try to help their students in any way that they can.

Asked what they would request for should there be generous souls who would be ready to grant their wish, none of them expressed a desire for themselves.

School supplies for the students.

Slippers for the students.

Playground for the students.

Classrooms for the students.

Books for the students.

Asked why they continue to do what they do, they have a ready answer. They love teaching, they love their students, they love the community.

For them, it is enough that their students greet them with happy faces and toothy grins whenever they reach the village after a very long trek. The fruits and vegetables generously given to them in exchange for the medicines and other supplies that they provide for the parents are more loaded with sincere gratitude than the automatic thank yous that they are used to receiving. But, most of all, it is the realization that, in their own ways, they are making a difference in the lives of the children and their families, that keep them going. Day after day after day.

If that is not heroism, I don’t know what is.

An Open Letter to senator Bato Dela Rosa (about hazing in PMA)

Dear senator Bato,

You said that the death of PMA freshman cadet Darwin Dormitorio due to hazing was “another case of shattered dreams.” In the same breath, though, you defended hazing for making you the person that you are today. Ang sabi mo pa nga, mandatory ang hazing sa military academies because the students there should be toughened up since they are being trained to be warriors. Kung sa civilian universities nga kamo, may hazing, sa military academies pa kaya?

Sir, let me get this straight.

May ipinapatupad at sinusunod po tayo ngayong anti-hazing law. In fact, just last year, pinirmahan ni pres. Duterte ang Anti-Hazing Act of 2018, an amendment to RA 8049 of 1995, “that prohibits all forms of hazing and imposes harsher penalties on hazing death.”

As a senator po na tagagawa ng mga batas, you should serve as a role model in obeying the law of the land. Ang batas ay batas — no whats, no ifs, no buts. Just because hazing is deeply embedded in the culture of the Philippine Military Academy doesn’t mean that PMA is exempted from that law.

Huwag n’yo pong tularan ang taong ito.
Capture

You also said that Dormitorio’s death is an isolated case.

Even if we believe that, Sir, which we don’t, you should also realize that one death is already one death too many. Each life is precious, at hindi dapat kinikitil through senseless deaths kagaya ng hazing. Or ng tokhang.

Hazing is an act of cowardice and is the worst form of bullying. It is a primitive practice that should have no place in the present modern and sophisticated times. It also promotes a culture and vicious cycle of violence, and is a deadly chain that should be broken.

Isa pa, hazing is a dangerous and fatal tradition that already killed many promising young people with big dreams and bright futures. Natatandaan n’yo po ba sina Lenny Villa, Marc Andre Marcos, Horacio “Atio” Castillo, at marami pang iba?

 

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Darwin Dormitorio’s case, however, should not be considered an accidental death due to hazing. It is clearly a case of torture with an intent to kill.

Imagine, his pancreas, kidneys and liver were crushed. His testicles were electrocuted. And his ribs bore signs of being stricken with a metal rod. He was even kicked in the head countless times shortly after being released from the hospital! Ano kaya ang gagawin mo, Sir, kung ikaw ang magulang ni Darwin? You brought him to PMA to be a soldier yet, after just two months, you are holding in your arms his cold, lifeless body. A self-confessed cry baby that you are, baka nagngangangawa ka na ngayon.

(PMA po yata ang mas dapat nyong pabantayan, Sir, hindi ang mga state universities na, ayon sa iyo, have students that are being brainwashed by the communists.)

Clearly, PMA is not a training ground for warrior-wannabes. It is a torture chamber that coddles animals!

Look at you. Due to the numerous hazings that you were made to endure when you were in PMA, you are now akin to a killing machine. Para sa iyo, pagpatay lang ang epektibong solusyon sa mga problema ng lipunan. Obviously, hazing also managed to loosen some screws in your brain and was able to mold you into the (moronic) senator that you are now.

Finally, if you truly believe that hazing is an effective practice in instilling discipline, why don’t you pass a bill requiring all politicians to undergo such? Initiation by hazing should do all of you some good.

That’s all for now, senator Bato. Goodluck to you!

Nagli-lecture lang po,
Ang Taumbayan

MARAWI CITY UNDER TWO MARTIAL LAWS: A RE-MEMBERING OF THE ESSENTIAL TRUTHS

Have you already experienced wailing uncontrollably in a public event? ‘Yung tipong however hard you try, you just can’t stop yourself from giving a loud, unsophisticated, and raw cry of anger, pain and grief? ‘Yung tipong your fists clench of their own volition, and you want to strike at something –anything– and scream at the top of your lungs?

That was exactly what happened to me yesterday.

During Team Pilipinas-sponsored forum called “A Re-Membering of the Essential Truths about Martial Law” held in UP Manila’s Museum of a History of Ideas yesterday, one of the guest speakers was Mr. Haroun Al-Rashid Alonto Lucman Jr., a former Regional Vice Governor of the ARMM. He is also the son of the late Sultan and Congressman Haroun al-Rashid Lucman who provided his friend, Ninoy Aquino, with a legitimate passport bearing the name Marcial Bonifacio that the latter used in his tragic flight home in 1983.

Mr. Lucman presented a lengthy, harrowing and gut-wrenching narrative of what his people in Mindanao were made to endure and suffer, first, during Marcos’ 1972 Martial Law and, second, during the Martial Law that Duterte imposed in the south in 2017.

I have already read tons of materials about the abuses, transgressions and impunity during those very dark years, but yesterday was the first time that I got to listen about this largely untold story, from the perspective of a man who is deeply entrenched in the rich and colorful yet massively brutalized history of the traumatized Bangsa Moro people in Mindanao.

When I got the chance yesterday, I approached him, held his hands and, in a pitifully choked and halting voice, asked for his forgiveness.

I told him that, on behalf of a nation that has seemingly forgotten or, worse, has gotten desensitized and callous over the Martial Law atrocities, I would like to say that I was deeply and regrettably sorry. I promised him that, in my own little way, I will make sure that their story will be shared and heard, told and re-told over and over again until it reverberates in our national consciousness and gets to be passed on to the future generations of Filipinos.

At least that much, we owe to our Muslim brothers and sisters.

This is the full transcript of his speech that will surely keep you up at nights for many nights to come and give you nightmares when sleep eventually overcomes you.

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from Mindanews.com

Martial Law in Mindanao

When I was invited to this gathering, I immediately said yes, but when I was asked to talk about Martial Law in Mindanao, I said to myself; ‘that’s a lot of trouble and decades to account for.’

I hope you can bear with me because I have a story to tell.

In Mindanao, it is difficult to separate the twin evils – the Marcos ML and the present ML, if we should understand their debilitating effects.

In its simplest explanation, Martial Law has separated Mindanao from the rest of the country in terms of social, political, and economic development.

There are many factors that pulled down Mindanao to the lowest rung of these development indices. But militarization, and the abuses that followed its path, is the biggest factor.

The incessant wars in Muslim Mindanao have created a diaspora that continues to marginalize the Bangsamoro, not to mention that its over-all implication has cost the country much more than the cost of these wars.

Whenever there is war in Mindanao, the country and our people always end up the real losers. No amount of development is sustainable when war intervenes. Everything goes back to zero level, according to the World Bank.

I would like to start with the earlier Martial Law, from September 21, 1972 to its lifting in January 17, 1981. But just the same, Marcos ruled ruthlessly with or without ML till his ouster in 1986.

When Marcos declared Martial Law, there were questions from the international communities as to its legitimacy.

Despite the widespread conflicts already happening in Mindanao long before the declaration, the Marcos Regime had to instigate a major violent incident where it appears, or at least made to appear, that government establishments were attacked by rebels, in order to justify his ML declaration, for reason of rebellion.

And so the Marawi Uprising happened in October 21, 1972.

You may now be wondering; what is this Marawi Uprising? Is this different from the Marawi Seige that happened recently? The answer is, yes.

Are both incidents related to or in connection with the declaration of Martial Law?  Another yes.

Then you will certainly think; this is a strange coincidence.

Marawi erupted twice in the two instances Martial Law was declared in the country.

They say lightning never strikes twice in the same place, but it did in Marawi City. It is most unfortunate that Marawi City has become the favourite whipping boy of the powers that be.

As one US President has said; ‘fool me once shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.’ 

I am from Marawi City. Many of our ancestors lived, died, and were buried in that city. Our ancestral homes were totally destroyed during the 2017 Marawi Siege. Technically, I am still an Internally Displaced Person (IDP) like those more than a hundred thousand others.

On the day of the Marawi Siege, I was in my office in the ARMM compound in Cotabato City. I immediately rushed to Marawi which is a 3 hour and a half ride by land travel.

I remember there was no military presence in any of the checkpoints that we used to pass through all the way from Cotabato city to Marawi City.

Later on, there were stories circulating that a number of ISIS and Abu Sayyaf militants passed through that highway on that same day.

But this merely confirms what we already know or, at least, suspect a long time ago.  For instance, the Magdalo group admitted during the Oakwood Mutiny that the military was involved in the bombing of Davao Airport and a mosque in that city following the Mindanao War by President Erap Estrada in 2000.

This, and many more, tend to give us something to think about. How far does the government know about these incidents?

Going back to the Marawi Uprising of 1972. This was about a supposed group of Moro rebels who attacked Camp Keithley, a Philippine Constabulary camp located in the town center. PC is the precursor of the PNP.

It was a perfect battle scene. The rebels, numbering initially around 200, attacked the camp at the break of dawn. The actual fire-fight lasted for several weeks.

The only glitch is that, prelude to this incident, a group of Maranao leaders close to President Marcos, met several times to plan this attack.

The real insurgent groups had nothing to do with this uprising. But they were lured into joining the fray although they withdrew their forces when they sensed political collusion in this uprising.

Marawi is a small town where people get to know each other so that stories are told. We know who planned and executed the 1972 Marawi Uprising.

I speak with 1st hand knowledge because I was there. I was a sixth grader at the time.

I remember well when this incident happened. It was around 6:00 am when we are roused from sleep by a deafening burst of gun fires. We were barely able to bring anything with us when we rode away from the city.

We took refuge in a nearby municipality. Thousands of people were on the road trying to evacuate from Marawi. Some were riding vehicles, but, mostly on foot, but all in panic and caught by surprise by the incident. It took more than 8 months to be able to get back to Marawi.

The reason for the delay in the residents’ return is not much of the physical devastation of the city, as we see in the Marawi Siege. It is the fear of being victimized by the Army troopers occupying the city after the conflict subsided.

They were literally on a rampage, randomly arresting innocent civilians and, in several cases, shooting them for no reason at all.

The notorious Tabak Division of the AFP, brought to the city for peacekeeping, was the most ruthless, oppressive, and wild bunch of uniformed men you can imagine.

It is as if they were brought to Marawi precisely to terrorize the civilian population. Many persons are still missing to this day.

As to those civilians shot and killed by the soldiers, no justice was given to them at all.

In 1975, a grenade exploded right in the middle of a crowded gym during a musical concert in Mindanao State University, killing four and wounding more than twenty. All the victims are MSU students – some are Muslims, some are Christians.

I was there and I have seen what the army soldiers did. Instead of letting us out, they closed down the only gate of the gym and rounded up the building from outside.

Their weapons were pointed towards us as if we are their target. It took almost half an hour before we were able to get out and bring the dead and wounded to the hospital.

It was the University security forces who opened the gate. There are many witnesses to this incident. A 6th grader was one of the dead. He is the son of my sister.

Those were the times when many young men joined the insurgency movements.

One top MNLF commander told his story of how he became a rebel. He was riding a passenger jeep as a college freshman in MSU when they were flogged down by army troopers.

The male passengers were ordered to alight from the jeep and then and there, manhandled by the soldiers with their rifle butts.

He went straight to an MNLF training camp and never looked back. This happened in 1972.

Another case is that of a well-known MILF leader. His family, including his mother, was massacred by army soldiers and the notorious para-military force organized by the government called ILAGA. Their house was burned down and their ancestral land was taken away from them. It all happened in Lanao Del Norte during Martial Law.

I met him recently and told me that the images of his mother’s mutilated body traumatizes him to this day and continues to ignite rage in him.

At the time, we have no idea of what was happening in other areas of Mindanao especially the Muslim areas. The government maintained total news blackout on incidents happening in Mindanao.

But according to the Organization of Islamic Conference, around 300 incidents of massacres and other atrocities were committed against the Muslim population in Mindanao by the AFP and the ILAGA.

I can mention a few of the massacres;

  • Malisbong Massacre.

It happened in September 24, 1974 in Palimbang, now part of South Cotabato. 1,500 Muslim civilians including women and children, were slaughtered by the AFP. The entire Muslim village was burned to the ground.

A number of Muslim women were abducted and brought to naval ships anchored nearby where soldiers took turns in raping them.

  • Tacub Massacre, October 24, 1971.

This was prelude to Martial Law. Close to 100 Muslim civilians were ambushed by the military with the help of the ILAGA para-military force in Kauswagan, Lanao Del Norte.

I have seen the mutilated bodies of the victims when they were brought to Marawi.

  • Jolo Massacre, 1974.

During the recapture of Jolo, Sulu, by the AFP from the MNLF, scores of women were raped and mutilated by soldiers and their corpses were lined up on the roadside.

  • Manili Massacre, June 19, 1971, Carmen, North Cotabato
  • Zamboanga City Massacre, September 5, 1974, Zamboanga City
  • Buluan Massacre, July 16, 1978, Buluan, Maguindanao
  • Bongao Island Massacre, April 1980, Bongao, TawiTawi.

And the list goes on and on. In sum, the Martial Law of the late President Ferdinand Marcos was genocidal as far as the Muslims in Mindanao are concerned. It was the sum of all evils and injustices.

The Muslims did not fight the government in order to be different. We fought because we are treated differently.     

Please allow me to read a part of the report of MILF Chairman Alhaj Murad, now Chief Minister of Barmm, to the OIC in 2003;

‘In the ensuing war between the MNLF and the GRP following the imposition of Martial Law, more than 120,000 Bangsamoro have been killed, over 300,000 had to flee to the neighbouring Malaysia as refugees, and about 1 million in the homeland were uprooted, displaced, and rendered destitute by the conflict.

More than three hundred mosques were burned and desecrated while farms by the thousands of hectares (were abandoned by the Muslim owners fearing for their lives) were seized by the military, para-military forces, settlers, and their landlord patrons.

About 82% of the Bangsamoro ancestral lands fell into the hands of these land grabbers. Only 15% remained in the possession of the Bangsamoro people.

Were it not for the determined resistance put up by the Bangsamoro, all Muslim lands would have been forcibly taken by the government.’

We now proceed to the Martial Law of President Duterte.

As you know, Duterte’s Martial Law was declared in May 23, 2017 on the same day the Marawi Siege erupted. The declaration was hastily done while he was on a state visit to Russia.

Compared to the Marcos Martial Law, the security forces are more disciplined and more professional this time.

But this is not to say no abuses were committed during the Siege. There are still a few rogues in the military and PNP. Too much power demonizes men, it seems.

Aside from the destruction of houses and other buildings through indiscriminate carpet bombing and burning, the widespread looting of personal belongings or properties of the Marawi residents equally did terrible damage.

Money, jewelries, family heirlooms, furnitures, appliances, and other valuables were spirited away from Marawi in truckloads, right before our eyes. Nobody dared to complain because it is Martial Law. But we know who did it.

More than a thousand civilians are still missing to this day. Many are believed to have perished in the carpet bombings but some are victims of summary executions.

We even asked for a congressional investigation on the Marawi Siege.

Buti pa yung nangyari sa Resorts World na halos kasabay ng siege napagusapan sa kongreso.

It has been more than two years since the siege ended and yet congress continues to look the other way and the government likewise continues to renege on the rehabilitation of Marawi.

Imagine yourself living in temporary shelters for more than two years. It is very unsettling, not mention humiliating and dehumanizing.

I know many people who had comfortable lives doing profitable businesses in Marawi but now struggling to simply survive.

Everything they built or established through their sweat and capital were gone in an instant.

I recently ran for congress partly for this purpose but I lost because the political lords are against me. I was a Liberal Party candidate standing against the establishment.

I was invited to join the party administration, but I refused to join them on principle. My father died abroad, in 1984, fighting Marcos and his Martial Law regime alongside Sen. Ninoy Aquino and other opposition leaders on exile at the time.

Martial Law has been extended several times already. During its first extension, I was a lone oppositor among the elected Muslim officials. My main reason is economy.

I argued that based on government records, Marawi city has a population of more than 200,000 persons. The number of IDPs has reached more than 500,000, far exceeding the Marawi population.

The reason is that people in other towns of Lanao Del Sur also ran away because they fear Martial Law. The Martial Law of Marcos was still fresh in their minds. It was repressive, abusive, inhumane, and violent.

In addition, the security forces imposed 6pm to 6am curfew hours, and a lockdown, which means no entry, no exit policy in the coastal towns of the province. Their economic lives were literally shut down by the government.

Those are farming communities relying on agriculture for their livelihood. They were forced to abandon their way of life and take refuge elsewhere for several months with literally nothing to live by.

Later on, the government realized its adverse effects, but it was too late. People already took refuge in other provinces.

Government had to feed more than 500,000 IDPs at the height of the siege. It was a costly mistake, yet gov’t decided to carry on with Martial Law.

Today, there is relative peace in Muslim Mindanao especially with the recent peace deal of the government and MILF, leading to the creation of BARMM. But Martial Law remains an economic burden.

Economy is now the main concern of the people of Mindanao because poverty is their biggest enemy.

Investments are slow to come in because investors naturally have security issues with places under Martial Law.

Martial Law obviously means there is trouble with law and order in areas covered by it.

Everybody believes this, which makes us realize that this ML is not truly intended for the purposes mentioned or those provided by law.

President Duterte mentioned in a press briefing sometime in 2016 that he is contemplating a copycat Marcos Martial Law if he should make a declaration. It looks like it is, indeed, a copycat.

Martial Law has put so much disadvantage to the people of Mindanao. To us Muslims, the abuses suffered by our people are too painful to forget, especially during the Marcos regime.

The challenges of unity in this country hinges mainly on how this historical suffering can be healed by the government.

The first time I heard about Local Autonomy is when Sen. Ninoy Aquino spoke about it when he visited my father in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in 1982.

His idea was to provide self-governance to the Muslims as well as winning their trust on the government as key to national unity and healing because, according to him, the Muslims suffered so much deprivations and injustices in the hands of the government that, if not sincerely addressed, it will eventually cause the dis-integration of the country.

Despite all the peace efforts, there is still this deep-seated mistrust between the government and the Bangsamoro. And this is historical. Time and again, our people are made to feel it through government actions and policies in Muslim Mindanao.

On the other hand, Ninoy’s offer may have just been a gesture of goodwill. But the gist of that offer is the recognition of the need to rectify the historical injustices committed against the Muslims.

And much of these injustices happened during Martial Law, both the past and the present.

In reflection, the conflict in Mindanao will not end through military means. And no matter how many peace agreements are signed, insurgency will persist. New groups will emerge with renewed motivation, vigor, aggressiveness, and with different faces. We now see the face of radicalism. It is frightening to all of us, Muslim and Christian alike.

Military solution is never enough. Equal parity as well as sincere and meaningful effort to ensure peace and progress to our people will do better.

This is the aspiration of our people. Autonomy is just a measure of self-government to give us, most importantly, a sense of security from government abuses.

Come to think of it. Despite the conflicts, 60 % of the raw material production of the country comes from Mindanao. This is according to NEDA.

We can just imagine Mindanao’s economic potentials if given a more stable peace and development environment.

May the Almighty God give us the strength to overcome the challenges of our times and heal the wounds that continue to divide this nation.

Amen.

My profound gratitude to the organizers of this forum. Thank you for this opportunity to speak before you.

Have a good day. Assalamu Alaikum.

An Open Letter to Bongbong Marcos

Dear Bongbong Marcos,

Grabeng pagnanakaw na ang ginawa ng pamilya ninyo nang kayo pa ang mga diktador na nakaupo sa Malacañang. Nang bumalik kayo mula sa Hawaii, grabeng pagnanakaw na naman ang ginawa ninyo sa Ilocos. Nang naging senador ka, grabeng pagnanakaw pa rin ang ginawa mo sa iyong pork barrel.

Ngayon, pati ang Vice Presidency, gusto mong nakawin?!!!

Kahit gaano man karami ang pera ninyo, na kasama pa rin sa kayamanang nakulimbat ng inyong pamilya sa kaban ng bayan, dapat mo nang itigil ang kahibangang ito!

Tapos na ang recount sa tatlong pilot provinces na ikaw mismo ang namili. At matapos ang nasabing recount, mas tumaas pa ang bilang ng mga boto para kay VP Leni. Mas lumaki pa ang lamang n’ya sa iyo.

Ayon po sa rules ng Presidential Electoral Tribunal, sa ganung pagkakataon na walang nakuhang substantial recovery ang nagrereklamo, marapat na ipag-utos na nito ang dismissal o pagbasura sa nasabing electoral protest.

Pero, knowing you and your family, you won’t let that happen without a fight, di po ba? Or, to put it more bluntly, you won’t let that happen without pulling some strings using your considerable wealth.

Hindi ko talaga alam kung saan ninyo nakukuha ang kakapalan ng mukha ninyo!

Dapat ka nang mag-move on, Sir.
Dapat mo nang tanggapin ang iyong pagkatalo.
Dapat mo nang pakinggan ang boses at hatol ng taumbayan.

Si Leni Robredo ang aming –ang ating!– totoong VP!

Si Leni Robredo ang tinig ng mamamayan, lalo na ng mga nasa laylayan!

Si Leni Robredo ang nag-iisa at lihitimong Bise Presidente ng Pilipinas, at wala nang iba pa!

That’s all for now, Bongbong. Goodluck to you!

Nanggigigil sa pamilya nyo,
Ang Taumbayan

An Open Letter to senator Cynthia Villar

Dear senator Cynthia Villar,

Meet Aling Elvira.

Kagaya mo, isa rin siyang maybahay.

Kagaya mo, may mga anak din siya.

Kagaya mo, mahal niya rin ang lupa.

Magkapareho kayo, pero magkaiba rin sa maraming bagay.

Siya, asawa ng isang hamak na magsasaka; Ikaw, ng isang business tycoon na, ayon sa Forbes Magazine, ay ang pinakamayamang tao sa Pilipinas ngayon.

Siya, pinuproblema pa ang araw-araw na pagpasok ng mga anak sa eskwela. Ikaw, graduate na sa mga prestigious universities ang mga anak mo at ngayon ay may marangya nang pamumuhay (si Mark bilang DSWD Secretary, si Paolo bilang Chairman, Pres. o CEO ng iba’t-iba ninyong kumpanya at asawa ng isang partylist representative, at si Camille bilang Congresswoman ng Las Pinas).

Siya, sapat na suporta sa local farmers ang hinihingi; Ikaw, bilang second biggest importer of rice sa bansa ang pamilya mo, unimpeded importation of rice naman ang isinusulong.

Siya, ang nais lang ay huwag nang masadlak pa sa mas malalim na kumunoy ng kahirapan; Ikaw, ang mas mapalago pa ang inyong multi-billion business empire.

Siya, umaasa sa mga lingkod-bayan na inihalal nila para matulungan sila sa kanilang payak na pamumuhay; Ikaw, nasa iyong mga kamay ang kapalaran nila.

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Oo, senator Villar. Dahil sa RA 11203 o Rice Tariffication Law na isinulong mo sa Senado bilang Chairman ng Committee on Agriculture, mas lalong nawalan ng kasiguraduhan ang kinabukasan ng kanyang pamilya. Plano niya nang mamasukan bilang kasambahay, habang ang asawa niya ay iiwan na ang pagsasaka para humanap ng mas “stable” na trabaho.

Dahil po sa Rice Tariffication Law, dumagsa ang imported rice sa bansa na naging dahilan ng pagsadsad ng farmgate price ng palay. Ang average cost of producing palay ay P12 kada kilo. Ngayon, napipilitan ang mga magsasaka natin na ibenta ang kanilang ani sa presyong bumababa sa P7 kada kilo. Kung hindi nila ibibenta sa ganun kababang presyo ang kanilang ani, hindi ito mabibili. Mamamatay sila sa gutom.

Nasa tinatayang 200,000 magsasaka na ang tumigil sa pagbubungkal ng lupa dahil sa takot ng pagkalugi.

4,000 rice millers na rin ang nagsara.

Before RA 11203 was passed into law, ang binitawang pangako sa mga pangkaraniwang consumers na kagaya namin ay ang pagbaba ng presyo ng bigas sa merkado from P7-P10 per kilo. Noong July 2016, nasa P41.68 ang kada kilo ng bigas. Noong July 2017, nasa P41.89. Noong July 2018, nasa P44.69. Ngayong July 2019, nasa P42.86. Ang presyo pong ‘yan is lower by just P1.83 compared to the previous pro-RA 11203 price. Hindi lubusang bumaba ang presyo ng imported rice dahil mga rice cartels at traders lang ang kumikita nang malaki.

Sabagay, kung tutuusin, mas maganda pa ang kalagayan ng mga magsasakang hirap sa buhay kumpara sa mga magsasaka sa Negros na tinatakot, ginigipit at pinapatay –kung hindi man ng mga may-ari ng lupa, ay ng mga militar.

Sen. Villar, kapag tuluyan nang iniwan ng ating mga magsasaka ang pagsasaka, we will have a bigger problem as far as our food security is concerned. Magiging mas malala ang ating insurgency problem dahil mas mabilis na sila ngayong maeengganyo na mamundok na lang out of hopelessness. More children will drop out of school, baka tumaas ang incidence of prostitution, at there will surely be a rise in conversions of agricultural lands to subdivisions and commercial buildings.

Mga negosyong kagaya lang ng Vista Land, Camella Homes, Golden Bria, Golden Haven Memorial Park, Starmalls, at iba pa ang makikinabang sa lupa.

That’s what I was referring to when I mentioned na mahal mo rin ang lupa, senator Villar.

Sa lupa kasi nakaangkla ang majority ng mga negosyo ng pamilya mo. Mula sa housing, condo at commercial buildings, shopping malls, memorial parks at mining, may heavy investments kayo. When the farmers decide to sell their lands, lagi kayong handang “tumulong.”

Malaking bagay talaga na ikaw ang chairman ng Senate Committee on Agriculture, habang ang panganay mo naman ang Secretary ng DPWH. Mas madali para sa inyo ngayon na i-duplicate ang ginawa dati ng asawa mo with the C-5 Road project, ‘di po ba?

We used to wonder why a family like yours with a successful and legitimate business would want to venture and eventually be submerged in the murky waters of politics. Now, we know why.

Hinay-hinay lang po, senator Villar. Ayon nga kay Romulo Neri, “Moderate your greed.”

That’s all for now, senator Villar. Goodluck to you!

Nagpapaalala lang po,

Ang Taumbayan

An Open Letter To Usec. Nicanor Faeldon

Dear Usec. Nicanor Faeldon,

I’m sure, you’ve been asking yourself, “Bakit naman ganun si Sen. Hontiveros? Why would she think that I will resign from my post as the BuCor chief?”

It’s not as if you committed serious blunders and grave sins naman, right?

Or that you’ve been incompetent in the performance of your job.

You attended the Senate committee hearing seemingly unprepared, so you had to constantly depend on your staff to answer the Senators’ queries.

On your watch, pinakawalan ang tatlo sa mga nang-rape at pumatay sa Chiong sisters noong 1997. Pati na rin ang ilang big-time Chinese drug traffickers. And, if not because of the massive public outrage –both online and in the streets, malamang nagpapa-party na rin ngayon sa labas ng kulungan si dating Calauan Mayor Antonio Sanchez who was sentenced to 7 counts of reclusion perpetua for masterminding in 1993 the abduction, rape and murder of Eileen Sarmenta and her companion, Allan Gomez.

All these, sa kabila ng nakasaad sa GCTA Law na exempted sa mga makikinabang sa batas ang mga convicts who have been “recidivists, habitual delinquents, escapees and those charged with heinous crimes.”

Huwag na po nating banggitin ang mga bintang that you accepted bribes from those convicts who were released early dahil sa nasabing batas, or ang pagpatay recently sa isang jail official who was in charge of safekeeping the documents in the bureau kasama ang mga release papers nina Sanchez at ng mga drug traffickers that you signed.

Before you were transferred to the Bureau of Corrections in November 2018, you were appointed to two other government positions.

At, doon, your service was also tainted by controversies of corruption and incompetence.

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As the chief of the Bureau of Customs, you allegedly received a welcome gift of P107 million when you assumed the meaty position. May mga allegations din na nakinabang ka nang malaki sa controversial na “tara” system sa bureau. Ang anomalya na kinasangkutan mo that really thrust you into the limelight, however, ay ang bilyun-bilyong halaga ng shabu from China na nakapuslit sa Customs right under your nose.

Lumabas na there was clearly conspiracy in bringing that 6.4 billion worth of shabu shipment into the country. Ang sabi pa nga ni Sen. Gordon, dalawang bagay lang ‘yun. As the BoC chief, you were either grossly incompetent or corrupt.

I was inclined to say, “Both.”

Hindi pa man natatapos ang mga imbestigasyon sa nasabing shabu shipment, you were reappointed by Malacañang as deputy administrator in the Office of Civil Defense.

When asked about the seeming haste to reappoint you to another government post, Andanar said that it was to give you the chance to prove your critics wrong.

Wow, napakalakas mo talaga sa presidente, Sir!

Ang iba nating mga kababayan, mapaghinalaan lang na drug user, natu-tokhang na. Maisabit lang sa katiwalian, nasisipa na sa serbisyo.

Pero, ikaw, binigyan pa ng chance na linisin ang iyong pangalan.

Pangalang pati ang iyong anak na si Nicanor Faeldon, Jr. ay walang patumanggang sinira when he was nabbed in Bicol last December and charged with “maintaining a drug den.”

Sana, Sir, ire-consider mo ang naging sagot mo sa tanong ni Sen. Hontiveros because, quite frankly, isa ka sa mga patuloy na nagpapatunay that, under this administration, pawang rhetorics lang ang mga statements na “I hate drugs!” at “I have zero tolerance for corruption!”

That’s all for now, Usec. Faeldon. Goodluck to you!

 

Nagpapayo lang po,

Ang Taumbayan