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Monday, May 31, 2010

After the Electoral Battle, PEACE Awaits to be Defined

In a street corner in downtown Marawi city, a tattered sack used as streamer hang under a tree defiantly flies amid campaign posters of candidates for elective office.  It contained the message, painted in red letters: “Peace not war!”

Despite the ringing importance of an agenda for peace for the next set of leaders of the country, it has never been part of, if not slimly treated in, the political discourse during campaigning for the recently conducted May 10 general elections.

Although peace advocates are generally hopeful of the poll turnout, many also maintain a healthy skepticism over what would be the actual direction of the incoming administration of Benigno Aquino III on peace issues.

“We hope that the electoral victors will not ignore the issues of our Muslim brothers and sisters that were basically ignored during the campaign.  We hope that President Noynoy becomes, not just a President of the Christian majority, but also a President for Muslim Mindanao,” read a statement from non-government group Philippine Council for Islam and Democracy (PCID).

Maranao women leader Samira Gutoc, a PCID convenor, appealed to Aquino “to formally define a peace agenda within the next 100 days of your presidency, or even during the current transition phase.”

Gutoc said that by doing so, Aquino would be sending an early signal to the peace community on how to engage his administration on the subject, and hence build predictability of intentions.

“Noynoy never really have a very concrete agenda on Mindanao, let alone a peace-building track with Moro rebels, in the course of the campaign,” Gutoc noted.

“But now, he has the overwhelming mandate of the people to rule this country,” she added.

Characterizing Aquino’s victory as “phenomenal,” Gutoc said the nation, including the president-elect himself, must be wary of his administration unexpectedly going the way of Estrada’s on a direction for peace in Mindanao.
Gutoc said the “Erap peace track” may be largely founded on his confidence that “11 million people are behind him in whatever he would like to do.” 

Estrada swept the presidential race in 1998 with some 11 million votes, a margin of more than six million votes over then House Speaker Jose De Venecia.

Stay yellow

Gutoc urged Aquino to “stay yellow all throughout.”

Yellow is the color of the Aquino political campaign, copied from that of his late mother Corazon when she battled with then strongman Ferdinand Marcos in the 1986 snap elections.

In one Asian mythology, yellow represents the sun, which means birth, ray of hope, she said. “He should stand for a sustained peace process.”

Amirah Lidasan of the Moro-Christian Peoples Alliance (MCPA) said the Hacienda Luisita case hangs heavy in her perception of the conflict management direction of an Aquino presidency.

Lidasan said that in the case of the Moro conflict, it would serve the peace process well if his administration is able to meet the same standards of sincerity as shown by the negotiators of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the government panel that crafted the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD).

The controversial MOA-AD was considered by both panels then, to be the crowning glory of the 11-year peace negotiations, only to be aborted and cause renewed armed hostilities in 2008.

“Sir Noynoy, please prove that you are for peace,” appealed Gutoc.

Inner circle

Lidasan also took issue of Aquino’s “circle of influence” who can scuttle his own peace intentions.

The same apprehensions are held by the MILF leadership that is why they have declared, several days after it has become apparent Aquino is winning the presidential race, to wait and see how his administration sets out on the peace front.

Mohagher Iqbal, chair of the MILF peace negotiating panel, had noted that in announcing his presidential bid last year, Aquino has openly declared the primacy of peace negotiations as a pillar of how his administration would deal with the Moro aspiration for self-governance.

But Iqbal said they are “very cautious” with an Aquino presidency given “the people that surrounds him and their would-be influence in his leadership.”

Among others, he referred to North Cotabato vice-governor Manny Piñol, vice-presidential bet Mar Roxas, now senator-elect Franklin Drilon, and outgoing Makati Rep. Teodoro Locsin, who were the staunch opponents of the aborted MOA-AD.

In a post in its official website, the MILF describes Aquino, thus: “As a person, Noynoy is surely a good man, but as president, it remains to be seen.”

“A president has to make hard decisions; and to do that requires foresight, resoluteness, and political will… (and) to weather the pressures of… vested interest groups,” the MILF observes.

“Considering all these factors, it takes not just being good to be able to be a successful leader,” the group added.

Parental legacy

But through the vein of parental legacy, the MILF appears to have a very high opinion of Aquino. Aquino himself has vowed to be true to the legacy of his parents as he takes the reins of government.

“Judging from the examples (of) his parents, especially the late Senator Benigno Aquino Jr., the son can be as close to the Moros as his father,” said the MILF.

The rebel group traced that it was Benigno Jr. who “almost single-handedly exposed the Jabidah Massacre” in Corregidor Island in 1968 “where scores of Moro trainees were mowed down in cold blood by government soldiers for refusing to obey orders to invade Sabah.”

The exposé heightened Moro discontent of government and led to the formation of a united front for the secessionist struggle.

Aquino’s mother, the late President Corazon Aquino, was not anti-Muslim either, the MILF said.

It said that Cory was the one who offered 10 provinces to Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) Chairman Nur Misuari in 1986 for the coverage of the future Moro autonomy in Mindanao. Cory even went personally to Sulu to show her government’s strong gesture of restarting the peace process.

The 10 provinces are the very same areas spelled out in the Tripoli Agreement of Peace inked in 1976 between the Marcos government and the MNLF.

However, Misuari rejected the interim autonomy offer of Cory, which was supposedly for a 10-year period, and instead went out of bounds of the Tripoli accord to demand 23 provinces.

The MILF also paid tribute to Cory for “causing the inclusion of the provision on regional autonomy for the Moros and Cordillera in the 1987 Constitution.” -Ryan D. Rosauro

A wish-list for Mindanao peace

The PCID has come up with a list of actionable agenda for Mindanao peace, which it dished out during a poorly attended presidential debate. Hence, it re-issued the agenda following the May 10 polls “for the benefit of President-in-waiting Noynoy Aquino.” The agenda, summarized below, is divided into short and medium to long-term.


1. Demilitarize ARMM and strengthen the National Police Force.
2. Review cases of Muslims arrested under the Human Security Act and free the innocents.
3. Give the Muslims significant representation and participation in government, per the 1996 Final Peace Agreement.
4. Create the Shari’ah Appellate Court.
5. Immediately put into place a catch-up budget for conflict-affected areas in Mindanao.
6. Provide reconstruction and rehabilitation assistance to the IDPs.
7. Approve the executive order setting up the Funds for Assistance to Madrasah Education (F.A.M.E.) to strengthen Madrasah education.
8. Support Islamic Studies Institutes.
9. Ensure autonomy for institutions of higher learning.

Medium-Term to Long-Term

1. Put in place a holistic and inclusive peace process.
2. Rethink government strategy in relation to the peace talks.
3. Uphold the primacy of peace, not military objectives.
4. Ensure the full implementation of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement.
5. Strengthen the rule of law.
6. Reform the electoral process.
7. Ensure genuine fiscal autonomy for ARMM.
8. Capacitate the ARMM-Regional Government.
9. Pass legislations pertaining to anti-discrimination against any cultural, religious or other groups; equality of opportunities in education, economic pursuits, and employment; certification of Halal food and other products.
10. Should there be constitutional change, support amendments to the charter that would be beneficial to Muslims and that would address issues on ancestral domains.  (Ryan D. Rosauro)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) calls more aid to Muslim Mindanao

OZAMIZ CITY—The Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) have asked its member-states to intensify aid efforts in the Muslim communities of Mindanao while also urging Moro rebels to seriously pursue peace negotiations with government.
In a resolution adopted during its recent session in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) “urges OIC member-states, subsidiary organs, and specialized and affiliated institutions as well as benevolent Islamic organizations… to increase their medical, humanitarian, economic, financial, and technical assistance for the development of Southern Philippines.”
The OIC-CFM said that this call for greater aid efforts is “with a view to accelerating the pace of social and economic development” in the Moro communities which are largely mired in underdevelopment.
In this regard, the OIC has asked government to grant its request to deploy a “joint delegation of the OIC, Islamic Development Bank, and other Islamic non-government organizations willing to offer assistance in order to assess the needs.”
It also called for the “cessation of all ongoing military operations in Southern Philippines to enable relief agencies to assess the quantity of assistance required by those in need.”
The foreign ministers of OIC countries met in Dushanbe, Tajikistan from May 18-20 and discussed matters relating to its theme of “Shared Vision of a More Secure and Prosperous Islamic World.”
Top Moro leaders Murad Ebrahim of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) chair Nur Misuari attended as guests.
The MNLF enjoys an observer status in the OIC although during the Dushanbe summit, Ebrahim was the one officially accorded the honor to represent the Moro people, said MILF peace panel member Maulana Alonto who was part of the four-man MILF contingent.
The Inquirer obtained a copy of the OIC-CFM Resolution No. 2/37 titled “On (The) Question of Muslims in Southern Philippines.”
Continue talks
During the OIC meeting in Dushanbe, the Muslim diplomats throughout the world renewed their call on both the government and the rebel group MILF to continue negotiations for a political solution to the separatist conflict in Mindanao.
In the same resolution, the OIC foreign ministers “urge the two sides to continue negotiating until they reach a peace agreement that would cover all issues with a view to achieving stability and peace in Southern Philippines.”
Although it noted with regret “the failure to sign the already initialed Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD),” it was hopeful at the resumption of negotiation between government and the MILF, especially with the establishment of an International Contact Group (ICG).
Started in January 1997, peace talks bogged down August 2008 following the aborted homeland deal enshrined in the controversial MOA-AD. Negotiations resumed December 2009 with the MILF already asking for an international guarantee mechanism.
The ICG is composed of diplomats from foreign governments and leaders of international organizations.
Implement FPA
Noting the snag in the full implementation of the pact between government and the MNLF, the OIC reminded both parties “to preserve the gains achieved since the signing of the (Final) Peace Agreement.”
It also told them “to continue their efforts in finding further solution for their differences to ensure the full implementation of the 1996 Peace Agreement.”
The Muslim diplomats were pleased at the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding by the MNLF and government in Tripoli, Libya last April aimed to thresh out “the difficulties impeding the full implementation” of the FPA.
The OIC expects that its General Secretariat will convene soonest “another round of the tripartite meeting” between government, the MNLF, and the OIC “in order to review the progress of the work…”
The CFM noted that the gains achieved by the FPA and the existing cooperation between government and the MNLF “need to be generalized and maximized in order to achieve comprehensive peace and development” that benefits the Moro people.
Inked on September 1996, the FPA was formulated under the auspices of the Indonesian government which brokered the negotiations.
The pact sought to provide flesh and bones to the 1976 Tripoli accord which was crafted under the aegis of the OIC. This became the principal basis for seeking a permanent, just, and comprehensive political solution to the Moro question, even as it sought to address secession “within the framework of the national sovereignty and territorial unity of the Republic of the Philippines.”
In the Dushanbe resolution, the OIC also appealed to government to resolve the environmental problems reportedly arising from the failure of the National Power Corporation “to observe environmental standards” when exploiting the Lake Lanao for power generation.
The Muslim diplomats said the problem “has had a serious and adverse impact on the environment, which affected the local population’s health and economic and social conditions.” Ryan D. Rosauro

Monday, May 24, 2010

MILF asks UN to put to task gov't for child rights violations,too

ILIGAN CITY—The rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has asked the United Nations (UN) to put to task government for violations against international conventions on protecting children.

Mohagher Iqbal, chair of the MILF peace negotiating panel, observed that the UN seem to be “treating government with kid’s gloves given their own violations.”

Iqbal said that government forces have been employing children in various aspects of its military operations against insurgents, especially through its civilian militias CVOs and CAFGUS.

“Mahina ang sinabi ng Report on the violations of government forces,” he noted.

Iqbal was referring to the ‘Annual Report of the Secretary-General to the Security Council on Children and Armed Conflict’ which was submitted last week. It was prepared by Radhika Coomaraswamy, the special envoy of the UN secretary-general for children and armed conflict.

The Report gives an overview of the situation of children affected by conflict and action taken for their protection from January to December 2009. It is expected to be discussed by members of the Security Council in mid-June.

In the Report, the MILF was among the 16 groups throughout the world listed as “most persistent violators of children in conflict” at least for the last five years.

Other Philippine-based groups in the list are the Al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf and the communist New People’s Army (NPA).

The Report urged the Security Council “to weigh more vigorous measures against persistent violators who have been listed… for at least five years for grave violations against children.”

AFP violations

Although admitting to the difficulties of monitoring child rights violations in the conflict-affected areas of Mindanao, the Report itself mentioned some six cases of children “used by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to carry supplies, for intelligence purposes, or who had been illegally detained for their alleged association with MILF recalcitrant commands or NPA…”

“In one case, three children were blindfolded and mistreated by elements of the 7th and 40th Infantry Battalions of the Philippine Army in an attempt to obtain confessions regarding their membership in MILF,” the Report said.

The Report also mentioned that “mortar shelling by AFP during clashes with MILF has also caused serious injuries to some children.”

Ongoing clashes

The sporadic outbursts of skirmishes between government forces and rebel groups are blamed on the continuing incidents of deaths and injuries of children in conflict-affected areas.

The Report particularly noted “10 incidents of attacks on schools and hospitals… where in several instances children were injured as a result.”

From January to December 2009, the Report showed 12 children killed and 40 injured in the conflict-prone areas.

The Abu Sayyaf is also attributed for “a considerable increase in incidents involving the use of improvised explosive devices in populated areas” that is “causing more casualties among the civilian population, including children.”

“Furthermore, accounts of schoolteachers abducted in Zamboanga and Sulu provinces by members of the Abu Sayyaf caused fear among the civilian population and disrupted the learning activities of children in conflict-affected areas,” said the Report.
The UN noted that “reports on recruitment and use of children by the MILF and the NPA were received consistently” by its local partner organizations even as these await verification.

“We do not dispute the Report. We do not claim to have 100 percent success in eliminating child soldiers,” said Iqbal.

But he stressed that the necessary policies have already been hammered down into the group’s various units to set into motion an action plan to end the recruitment and use of child soldiers signed between the United Nations and the MILF on November 20, 2009.

Iqbal said that based on a Central Committee directive, the MILF’s armed wing, the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF), has a revised military code of conduct that prohibits the recruitment of children.

The UN Report took note of this as a positive development for advancing protection of children in armed conflict in the country although a similar action was not done with the communist rebels because “the Government has not given its endorsement for the United Nations to directly engage the New People’s Army (NPA) for the purposes of an action plan.”

In the Report, the UN said it is looking forward to seeing a programme being formulated for the demobilization, rehabilitation and reintegration of children who may be found in the ranks of MILF-BIAF within the year as committed.
The UN is also optimistic over the October 2009 agreement between government and the MILF on the Civilian Protection Component of the International Monitoring Team that binds both parties to an observance of their obligations under international humanitarian law and human rights law.

Iqbal explained that the MILF “is not bringing children to war” but rather they are caught in “compelling situations” when they have to take up arms like defending against an attack on the rebel’s stronghold community.

He also said the UN’s parameter or definition of who the children are may need to be reexamined when dealing with rebel groups with members who are Islam believers.

“One’s ability to understand what is right and wrong plus some basic physical attributes constitutes maturity. And this may not necessarily wait before one turns 18 years old,” said Iqbal.

“Too often children become collateral damage during military operations. Every year the release of this report should give us pause (and) … remember that we must protect the most innocent and most vulnerable,” said a message from Coomaraswamy.

The UN Report notes a bright spot in the United States Child Soldier Prevention Act which came into force on June 23, 2009. 

The law “restricts the provision of US military training, financing and other defense-related assistance to countries identified as recruiting or using child soldiers in Government armed forces or Government-supported paramilitary organizations or militias.” -Ryan D. Rosauro

Friday, May 21, 2010

Mis Occ Capitol on Transition Mode

OZAMIZ CITY—With less than two months before newly elected officials assume their respective posts come June 30, the Misamis Occidental provincial bureaucracy is on transition mode.

Outgoing Misamis Occidental Governor Loreto Leo Ocampos said he has directed the heads of various offices under the provincial government to prepare the necessary turn-key measures to pave for a smooth transition of leadership.

The preparations involve an audit of activities, programs and projects undertaken by the provincial government so that the incoming governor, outgoing Rep. Herminia Ramiro, is apprised of the status of these, Ocampos said.

“After all these are done, I would personally brief Ramiro, especially to explain to her the development direction we have earlier set,” Ocampos added.

Since assuming the gubernatorial post in 2001, Ocampos has treaded on his CHAMPS program as a principal governance battlecry.

These stands for improving and setting breakthroughs in the areas of competence of the bureaucracy and the general public, health and related services, agriculture, maintenance of peace and order, preservation of the environment, and delivery of social services.

Towards the end of his third term, Ocampos also oversaw the completion of an agricultural development masterplan dubbed Misamis Occidental Provincial Unified Goals for Agricultural Sustainability (MOPUGAS).

I have even told Capitol employees to “give your all-out support to the incoming governor,” said Ocampos who was elected congressional representative for the province’s second district.

On June 30, Misamis Occidental will also have a new vice-governor, lawyer and businessman Henry Oaminal who is also a one-term board member.

For members of the provincial board, five of the 10 elected are neophytes. In the first district, the elected board member are outgoing Oroquieta city councilor Zaldy Daminar, reelectionist Inocencio Pagalaran, reelectionist Edilma Bulawin, Lovely Leizl Yape, and former Jimenez town vice-mayor Jim delos Santos.

In the second district, the elected board members are reelectionist Ricardo Parojinog, Gerard Olegario, Edwin Florida, come-backing Morpheus Agot, and reelectionist Tito Decina. Ryan D. Rosauro

Peace Advocates, Rebel Leaders Welcome EU Participation in IMT

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY — Peace advocates and leaders of the rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) welcomed the nod of the European Union (EU) to play a more direct role in the Mindanao peace process through the International Monitoring Team (IMT).

Pastor Reu Montecillo, co-chair of non-government group Mindanao Peoples Caucus (MPC), said the more elaborate EU participation signals an expanding international support base for the peace process.

“I am hopeful this will boost the environment for a fruitful negotiation between government and the MILF towards a political solution to the Bangsamoro problem,” said Montecillo.

Earlier, the EU Delegation in the Philippines has announced its willingness to lead the Humanitarian, Rehabilitation and Development Component of the IMT.

Montecillo notes that prior to embarking on a more direct role in the peace process, the EU has been a major source of humanitarian and development assistance funds for conflict-affected areas of Mindanao.

He further said that the EU has been bankrolling the activities of an independent ceasefire monitoring through the Bantay Ceasefire which has volunteers in localities of eight provinces where there is presence of MILF troops.

From solely overseeing implementation by government and the MILF of their agreed upon terms for a ceasefire regime, the IMT’s mandate was revised in December 2009 to also cover civilian protection, security, socio-economic assistance, and humanitarian aid, rehabilitation and development.

Such mandate is the product of the Malaysia-brokered peace negotiations between the two parties.

The first IMT team was deployed in 2004.  By 2008, it has included personnel from Malaysia, Brunei, Japan and Libya.  Recently, Norway has also indicated willingness to participate in the IMT, subject to an agreed Terms of Reference.

Ghadzali Jaafar, MILF vice-chair for political affairs, said the EU decision is “a landmark development” that can “hasten the resolution of the Bangsamoro issue through negotiation and diplomacy as well as confidence-building on the ground.”

Mohagher Iqbal, MILF peace panel chair, stressed that EU participation in the IMT indicates the “strong commitment and support of the international community to the continuity and conclusion of the peace process.”

“We hope that this will stimulate the decision of the governments of Indonesia and Qatar to accept the invitation to join the IMT sooner than later,” Iqbal said.

Started in 1997, peace negotiations between government and the MILF broke down in August 2008 following the botched signing of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) that outlined a proposed homeland and self-governance arrangement.

Since the restart of exploratory talks in December 2009, foreign governments and institutions, and peace advocacy groups still see “a great need to build confidence” among the parties hence their call for continuing international support to the process. Ryan D. Rosauro

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Maranao leaders oppose May 28 special polls sked

ILIGAN CITY — Maranao leaders in Lanao del Sur are opposing the May 28 schedule for holding special elections in seven towns because it falls on a Friday, an Islamic holy day.

“We are appealing that it be moved to another date. We hope the Comelec would recognize our religious sensibilities,” said Abul Alibasa of the Ranaw Youth for Peace and Sustainable Development.

Alibasa notes that the seven towns “are predominantly, if not entirely, Muslim communities.”

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) en banc has declared a failure of election and subsequently ordered that special polls be held in the towns of Lumba-Bayabao, Lumbaca-Unayan, Marogong, Sultan Dumalondong, Tubaran, Masiu and Bayang where balloting failed to push through last May 10 largely because of security concerns and some administrative hitches.

Accounting for over 70,000 registered voters, the elections in the seven towns will no longer affect the outcome of votes for national positions but would be significant in the contests for the provincial and congressional seats.

Apart from the seven Lanao del Sur towns, special polls will also be held in several villages of Western Samar, Iloilo and Basilan on May 28.

“We are filing a protest to have another schedule,” said Abdullah Dalidig of the Islamic Movement for Electoral Reform and Good Government (IMERGG).

Alibasa, a voter in Bayang town, said poll turnout could be affected if the May 28 schedule pushes through, or it could be that the people choose braving the voter lines to claim their ballots to vote and forego the time for prayers.

“We should not be brought into a situation that these are the only options and we have to choose which we value most. We care for both our religion and our right of suffrage,” Alibasa stressed.  Ryan D. Rosauro

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

"City Hall not a recruitment firm!" - Ozamiz City Dad

OZAMIZ CITY—Please don’t treat City Hall like a recruitment firm.

This was the call of councilor-elect Roberto Cantago to supporters and friends of newly elected city officials following the recent May 10 polls.

Cantago dispelled popular notions of them distributing the spoils of the electoral battle through job placements of their supporters in various posts in the local government.

“Please don’t expect that, and please don’t bother us with that,” appealed Cantago.

In fact, City Hall needs to streamline its personnel horde to cut expenditure for salaries and improve its financial capacity to expand social service delivery, he further said.

Cantago related that a quick visit at City Hall would give one the idea there is an excess of people in the local bureaucracy.

This is a challenge facing the incoming administration, he said.

Cantago, a lawyer, explained that streamlining the local bureaucracy will also come with the effort to strengthen the capacity of its personnel capacity so that they are able to efficiently handle the demands of public service.

At present, City Hall has about 700 casual, contractual, and regular employees.
A number of social and economic services allocations also contain personnel inputs, which adds to actual personal services cost of the local government.

During the transition period for the assumption into office of newly elected officials, councilor-elect Michael Tagal urged the public to share their insights to them so that “we are guided by your actual expectations of how we will govern the city.”

Tagal, currently barangay chair of Tinago, also said that apart from expectations, he would like to hear later “feedbacks from the people regarding how we performed our roles.”

“That is very important in the process of improving public service,” Tagal said.  Ryan D. Rosauro

DA Exec Urges ZamPen Youth to Take Up Aggie

PAGADIAN CITY — A top regional executive of the Department of Agriculture (DA) has urged recent high school graduates to pursue agriculture as a field of study in college and help boost the region’s vast farming potential amid a graying population of farmers.

“It’s about time the youth rally around the effort of propping up farming, crop growing, gardening or any soil cultivation endeavor since the agriculture sector is aging,” said Oscar Parawan, DA’s regional director in the Zamboanga Peninsula.

“For now, the average age of a farmer is 60 years old. We need young blood to toil the land and make policies for the sector,” Parawan pointed out.

DA’s priority is not only to boost farm yields, but also make agriculture and fisheries more profitable to attract more investors into the sector, he explained.

Parawan said the career path choices of the Zamboanga Peninsula’s youth is regrettable as they are more inclined to enroll in non-agriculture courses despite the potentials offered by the region’s farm and fisheries sectors.

For one, 70 percent of the country's rubber production is located in the region, majority of which is in Zamboanga Sibugay.

Zamboanga Peninsula's coastline stretch of some 700 kilometers is a rich ground for fisheries.  Its major sea products include tuna, herring sardines, anchovies and mackerel; shrimps, prawns, lobsters, crabs, squid and cuttlefish also abound.

To entice the youth into agriculture, Parawan said DA is offering scholarships under the Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (ACEF).  In the region, this is for Agriculture courses offered at the Western Mindanao State University in Zamboanga City.

The most recent Regional Development Report (RDR) noted that in predominantly agricultural Zamboanga Peninsula, youngsters are rooting for a Nursing degree to be eligible for employment in the paramedical service industry of Western countries.

For the school year 2008-2009, medical and allied disciplines—primarily consisting of Nursing—have 17,378 enrollees, or 22 percent of the total enrolment of 77,662, the RDR said.

A perceived rosy career path in this profession owing to the much publicized rising demand for health workers abroad explains the significant enrolment in the course, the Report noted.

Apart from medical science, the other courses belonging to the top five preferred professional paths are Trade, Craft and Industrial courses, Business Administration, Information Technology, and Education and Teacher Training.

The Zamboanga Peninsula region consists of the provinces of Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur and Zamboanga Sibugay, and the cities of Dipolog, Dapitan, Pagadian, and Isabela in Basilan. Ryan D. Rosauro

Sunday, May 16, 2010

A Cacophony of Families

MARAWI CITY—It’s a cacophony of families.

In many localities of northwestern Mindanao, politics still proves to be a family affair. The seats up for grabs during the May 10 polls were appropriated among members of dominant clans.

For some localities, the rise of new breed of leaders replaced old ones, but only to follow the same old pattern of holding power. In others, the contests for elective seats are a continuing tussle for decades.

And in still others, the election is just a formal reaffirmation of their continuing hold on power.

The Balindong family of Malabang, Lanao del Sur was only waiting for one ballot to be cast for each member of its slate to formalize its hold on power as they are all running unopposed.

As the balloting closed, Omensalam Balindong took the town’s mayoral seat while Berua Anwar Balindong took the vice-mayoralty.

Raizoli Balindong topped the councilor vote. Three more Balindongs are also members of the municipal council.

In all, the family holds six of the 10 elective posts in Malabang, and virtually controlling the legislative body where lies the local government’s power of the purse.

Another family member, Pangalian Balindong, is leading the race for congressional representative in the province’s second district.

In Bumbaran, the Manabilang family tandem won their seats sans a contest.  Mastura is mayor while Jamal is vice-mayor.

Eight allies also won unopposed for seats in the municipal council.

In Balabagan, Amer Sampiano is on the way to taking the mayoralty against two rivals, one of which is a relative, Ogka Sampiano Jr.

Another relative of theirs, Quirino Sampiano earned the vice-mayoralty unopposed.

During the May 10 polls, eight of 34 bets for various elective posts in the town are Sampianos.

Dimaporos rule

In Lanao del Norte, three Dimaporos dominated their respective races, as expected, including long-time ally Irma Umpa-Ali who garnered the overwhelming votes for vice-governor.

Former governor Imelda Quibranza Dimaporo, wife of outgoing Rep. Abdullah Dimaporo, was declared Tuesday as congressional representative of the first district. Her victory was made easier by the dropping of Iligan city as part of the first district.

Their son, Khalid, is only waiting to be proclaimed reelected governor, while political neophyte daughter, Fatima Aliah, is on her way to taking over Abdullah’s congressional seat representing the second district.

Imelda’s older sister Nenita Quibranza Noval is headed for victory as mayor of Tubod town.

Abdullah’s maternal cousin Maminta Dimakuta is also leading the mayoral race in Tagoloan town.

Still another cousin but who belongs to another political stable, Eleanor Dimaporo Lantud, swept through the mayoral race in Pantao-Ragat town. Her husband Lacson also achieved a landslide victory as vice-mayor.

Lantud’s nephew, Ulwan Dimaporo, takes the mayoralty of Sultan Naga Dimaporo town that is named after their father. Ulwan’s father, Motalib, is vice-mayor.

Eight allies won municipal council seats without a contest.

Cerilles country

The Zamboanga Peninsula also has a fair share of a similar political landscape in several of its localities.

In Zamboanga del Sur, the May 10 polls provided the Cerilleses with the opportunity to further solidify their hold on power.

Outgoing governor Aurora Enerio Cerilles swapped positions with husband Antonio, a two-term congressman.  Their son, Ace William, was unopposed as mayor of Dumalinao town.

Aurora’s younger brother, Canuto Jr., is leading with a wide margin in the mayoral race of Lakewood town where their family has a rubber planting and processing operation.

Antonio’s relative, Carlos Madarang, also won a seat in the city council of Pagadian which reelected mayor, Samuel Co, is a relative by affinity.

In Dimataling town, Haniel Baya is set to take the mayoral seat as son Edmund claims the vice-mayoralty. The Bayas have been in power for close to two decades now.

In Tambulig, Caridad Balaod was reelected mayor, sister-in-law Leonilyn takes the vice-mayoralty, and brother-in-law Allan earns a berth in the 8-seat municipal council.

In the other towns, Cerilles allies dominate the races, at least in the mayoral and vice-mayoral seats.

Emerging dynasties sprout

In Baliangao, Misamis Occidental, the tandem of Agne Yap Sr. and daughter Haneya Theresa Yap-Chiong is leading the race.  The Yap family, which held power since 1947, is fighting for political survival amid the challenge posed by Svetlana Jalosjos, daughter of convicted child rapist Romeo Sr., who tapped other Yaps into their fold.

Two more Yaps are expected to earn seats in the municipal council. Seven of 22 bets in the town are Yaps.

But in nearby Sapang Dalaga town, another Yap family tandem is on the verge of losing to the Animas family’s son-and-father tandem. Donjie Animas is leading the mayoral race by a wide margin against Pacita Yap; his father, Manuel has edged away Pacita’s son Ruel for the vice-mayoralty. Another Animas, Emilou, topped the councilor vote.

The Yaps have been fighting to regain power in Sapang Dalaga since 2004.

Oroquieta city mayor Jorge Almonte hands over the mayoral seat to son Jason; he leads in the race for congressional representative of Misamis Occidental’s first district.  Almonte took power from the Bandalas in 2004 who has been challenging that grip until now.

Don Victoriano town mayor Anabelle Hamoy takes the vice-mayoral seat unopposed as she gave up the mayoral post to long-time partner, vice-mayor Rodolfo Luna.

In Clarin town, David Navarro is reelected mayor while also shepherding the victory of wife Elsa as municipal councilor.  The unopposed reelectionist vice-mayor Emeterio Roa Sr. also shepherded the victory of son Emeterio Jr. into a municipal council seat.

In Bonifacio town, reelectionist mayor Samson Dumanjug wins a fresh mandate as wife Evelyn takes on the vice-mayoral seat.

In Aloran town, reelectionist mayor Jimmy Regalado leads the race along with nephew Lenard who seeks the vice-mayoralty. The hold over the local top posts is a back-and-forth game for the Regalados since elections were restored in 1987.

In Panaon, Meriam Paylaga breezed the mayoral race as daughter Roseanne Marie takes the vice-mayoralty unopposed. The Paylagas have ruled the town since 1988.

Meriam’s husband Francisco Jr. is trailing behind in the gubernatorial race dominated by outgoing first district Rep. Herminia Ramiro whose family held the post since 1988, starting with her husband, the late Hilarion Ramiro. -Ryan D. Rosauro





from 24 mar 2009