Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Mangyans now awaiting answers, solutions

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

Big thanks to Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Roy Cimatu who, upon learning of the Alangan Mangyans’ concerns related to the construction of 13 hydropower plants (one finished, no thanks to dynamite blasting, and about to operate) and their hazardous effects on their ancestral lands, promptly flew to Oriental Mindoro last Friday to hear them out.

But, first, a reminder that today, Aug. 9, is International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. Is the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) aware of this? The date and yearly observance were set by the UN General Assembly in 1994.

Excerpts from UN Secretary General António Guterres’ message: “Indigenous peoples have a profound spiritual connection to their lands and resources. Yet, increasingly, indigenous persons are migrating within their countries and across international borders. The reasons are complex and varied. Some are subject to displacement or relocation without their free, prior and informed consent. Others are escaping violence and conflict or the ravages of climate change and environmental degradation… Wherever they live, let us ensure that indigenous peoples enjoy recognition for their contributions and the opportunity to thrive and prosper in peace on a healthy planet.”

In this space last week, we aired the Alangan Mangyans’ concerns as spelled out in the detailed letter of the Holy Spirit Sisters to various government agencies, the DENR foremost among them. While I am writing this piece, communication is going on among the Mangyan leaders (some of whom I have met), persons of interest in government as well as environmental advocates. The Mangyans are now waiting to hear answers from their local government leaders as well as the province’s NCIP office and, more importantly, to be offered concrete solutions.

Cimatu’s visit brought some hope. As reported by Inquirer Southern Luzon correspondent Madonna T. Virola (“DENR hears out Mangyan gripes over 13 hydro projects,” 8/5/2018), Cimatu promised that a team from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau “would look into the people’s complaints and review the project details and safety aspects of the 12 other mini-hydro projects” in several Oriental Mindoro towns. Cimatu chairs the Cabinet cluster on climate change adaptation, mitigation and disaster risk reduction.

Among the Mangyans’ concerns are the dynamite blasting and tunneling by the Santa Clara International Corp. (SCIC), which is reportedly building the hydropower projects on environmentally sensitive areas. (SCIC’s top guy is said to be the same one on top of the ubiquitous chain of supermarkets gaining dominance in the Philippine landscape.)

Cimatu promised to bring up with the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) the case of Naujan town, which had experienced severe flooding during the last strong typhoon. But there is another issue being raised. Can SCIC simply transfer the impending operation of the finished first of 13 hydropower plants to Catuiran Power Corp.? What gives?

So, you see, the Mangyans’ concerns call for multiagency attention, that of the DENR, NCIP, DPWH and their regional agencies and bureaus as well as the local government heads, the Naujan mayor especially. The mayor and officers of SCIC did not show up at the meeting with Mangyan leaders scheduled a couple of days ago at Balite, the village closest to SCIC’s project site.

Ano ba ’yan! As soon as Secretary Cimatu turned his back, the Mangyans were again left to themselves. The Mangyans demand transparency and government dialogue with communities concerned, and not with just a select few people who were not even officially chosen to represent them. The projects have caused divisions among them. Is this a case of divide and conquer?

As I wrote last week, the Mangyans plead for help to avert a huge disaster waiting to happen, not only to them, but also to the rest of us who look upon them to be the guardians of our environment—the forests, the fields, the rivers, the wildlife, the food sources.

Today, UN Secretary General Guterres reminds: “On this annual observance, let us commit to fully realizing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, including the rights to self-determination and to traditional lands, territories and resources.”

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Sec. Cimatu, heed Mangyans' plea

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

I have been in Mangyan country in Oriental Mindoro several times and written about the Mangyan communities living there. About this time last year, I was there for the inauguration of a new training center at Tugdaan Mangyan Center in Naujan town where the Alangan Mangyans have their ancestral domain. I ended my happy piece on it with “More another time.”
Well, today is that “another time.”
On behalf of the Alangan Mangyans of Oriental Mindoro, the Holy Spirit Sisters who have lived and worked with them for decades are asking Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Roy Cimatu, Mines and Geosciences Bureau head Wilfredo Moncano and Environmental Management Bureau head Metodio Turbella to please take a very close look at what is happening in Mangyan territory and act swiftly before it is too late. We might be looking at a disaster waiting to happen—if it has not yet happened.
The appeal is for the suspension of the environmental clearance certificate (ECC) of Santa Clara International Corp., and to request an updated risk assessment of the construction of Lower Catuiran Hydropower Plant and the 12 other approved hydro projects in Oriental Mindoro.
Why? The information I got is that Santa Clara disregarded the agreement that blasting should never be used in the project, and that dynamite has been used to open a tunnel within an environmentally critical area. This, despite the fact that Santa Clara and Mangyan leaders from three barangays had signed a memorandum of agreement specifying no dynamite blasting.

The consolidated report of Task Force Iwas-Baha (a study directed by the provincial government of Oriental Mindoro) came up with serious findings, among them, that the tunneling that was done through blasting and shotcreting might “have affected the integrity of the rock structure of the site which is a critical area owing to its slope category and proximity to the Central Mindoro Fault, for which reason it is deemed necessary that constant monitoring of the tunnel site must be undertaken using a deep penetrating radar.” The report also said that the geo-physical characteristic of the site must be viewed vis-à-vis its “natural vulnerability to landslides and mass slip.”
The religious sisters who have served the Alangan Mangyans in villages in Naujan, Baco and Victoria towns wrote: “We know the mountains and the rivers, especially the Dulangan, Bagto (Catuiran), Bucayao ang Mag-asawang Tubig. Even in the mid-1980s, the rising level of siltation was clearly seen under bridges on the national highway from Baco. We have noted, since 1983, the growing siltation of the Dulangan River and the creeks branching out from it.”
They further noted that blasting and heavy equipment were used in 1983 to construct the mini-hydroelectric plant along the Dulangan River in Paitan, Naujan. Affected was the Mangkatoc River, a tributary to the Dulangan River. A decade later in 1993, when Mindoro was hit by three successive typhoons, the mountain slopes by the Mangkatoc River gave way. Mangyan workers helped excavate the building and revive the plant. Fast-forward to 2015, Typhoon Nona triggered landslides. The whole mini-hydroelectric plant was swept away!
What do all these say? That Mindoro, with all its mountains and the frequent typhoon visits, is a fragile island. AND YET, the sisters emphasize and bring up to the DENR’s attention, 13 hydroelectric projects have been approved for Oriental Mindoro. Photos of the aftermath of Typhoon Nona’s fury have shown wide devastation—homes buried in mud, farms heavily silted. Task Force Iwas-Baha lamented: “Such destructive flooding was beyond the expectations of Mindoreños … This project is perceived to have brought detrimental effects to the environment.”
The Mines and Geosciences Bureau of Mimaropa region had done a study (“Natural Hazards Affecting the Paitan Mangyan Reservation Re: The Construction of the Mini Hydroelectric Dam on the Headwaters of Dulangan River, Naujan, Oriental Mindoro”) that shows the risks and the need for an updated geohazard map and risk assessment.
These all sound very technical, but those who live and have livelihoods in the danger areas—the Mangyans especially who are on the ground—are pleading for help to avert a huge disaster waiting to happen.

Read more: http://opinion.inquirer.net/115058/sec-cimatu-heed-mangyans-plea#ixzz5NjdY29Jf 
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Thursday, July 26, 2018

Human rights vs human lives?

In 1998, I was among those invited to the 50th anniversary celebration of the UN Declaration of Human Rights, held in Paris. The huge gathering was in the same venue, Palais de Chaillot, where The Declaration was drafted and adopted on a chilly December Day in 1948. Sometimes The Declaration was called “Best-Kept Secret,” because decades after it was adopted by nations, human rights continued to be violated all over the world by those who either were not in on the “secret,” or chose to pretend they knew nothing about it.
Whoever they are, the ghostwriters who prepared President Duterte’s July 23 third State of the Nation Address created a lightning rod when they made him read the line that pitted human rights against human lives—as if, to borrow Kipling’s words, “never the twain shall meet.”
The President, looking somewhat under the weather and minus his rude and crude ad libs, dutifully read from a teleprompter. Out flew a tirade against human rights advocates: “Your concern is human rights. Mine is human lives.” An OMG! moment there.
He continued: “The lives of our youth are being wasted and families are destroyed, and all because of the chemicals called ‘shabu,’ cocaine, cannabis and heroine.” “Unrelenting” and “chilling,” he warned, would be his war on drugs, like it was on his Day One in 2016.

Paraphrased: To hell with the human rights of drug pushers and users, because what about the lives of those they waste and destroy (their own included)? Sorry na lang for the collateral damage? He was again peddling the fallacious idea that human rights advocates protect only the rights of drug suspects and not the rights of drug victims.

The gullible and brainwashed believe this, not comprehending that the human rights violations by agents of the state against civilians are the issue, because these agents of the state are supposed to be the protectors, not violators, of civilians’ human rights. To put it bluntly, who will protect us from our protectors?
“The lives of our youth are being wasted.” Yes, in the Duterte drug war, it is mostly the youth whose lives are indeed wasted, because they are ended by bullets from law enforcers whose mandate is to kill, kill, kill. Because “nanlaban,” meaning “the victims fought back.”
Take the case of Kian delos Santos, all of 17, whose life ended in a dark alley because “nanlaban.” (You can read online the illustrated storybook “Si Kian,” produced in 2017 by Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism’s Story Project. Last week it won a National Children’s Book Award. Written in English and Filipino by Weng Cahiles and illustrated by Aldy Aguirre, “Si Kian” was judged 1 of the 9 best books for kids in 2016 and 2017.)
“Your concern is human rights, mine is human lives” is something for Du-trolls to add to their Dutertisms notebook. But as I said earlier, it was a lightning rod that attracted fire and brimstone from the sky.
From Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of Caloocan Diocese: “Such a statement implies that the victims of drug-related killings are not human lives! Is not the right to life the most basic human right? Yes, use the full force of the law, file charges against violators, jail the pushers and the suppliers, but save the users; do not kill them! Besides, we cannot rehabilitate dead people anymore, can we?”
From Lan Mercado, international development worker and human rights advocate: “In making the false dichotomy between human rights and human lives, Duterte was being facile about the killings he instigates. He is misleading the public to think that human rights are not important compared to the human lives he says he protects through the war against drugs… This one line is the most manipulative in Duterte’s State of the Nation Address, making people who approve the killings feel they are just and righteous because they stand for human lives, and if they have been having doubts or guilt pangs over 20,000-plus murders, or the violated rights of mostly poor people victimized by extrajudicial killings, they should feel vindicated. This one line fuels the ignorance about how human rights are integral to the protection of human life.”#

Thursday, July 19, 2018

"Rock Solid": Ph's maritime win vs China

Decades and even centuries from now, Filipinos, it is hoped, would take pride in the fact that their forebears did not merely loll leisurely on the shores facing the West Philippine Sea, let go of their claim to territory and surrendered it to China without a fight.
There was a fight! And it took place at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague. But, first, it happened in the hearts and minds of those who dared, with former president Benigno Aquino III among the bravehearts.
Thursday last week, July 12, 2018, marked the second anniversary of the ruling on the Philippines’ case against China that was decided at The Hague tribunal in 2016. The tribunal ruled that the Philippines has exclusive sovereign rights over the West Philippine Sea, that China’s “nine-dash line” was invalid, and that China has violated Philippine sovereign rights.

“Rock Solid: How the Philippines Won its Maritime Case Against China,” by multiawarded journalist Marites Dañguilan Vitug, tells the story of the arduous task to defend Philippine sovereignty that ended in victory. Published by Ateneo de Manila University Press, “Rock Solid” was to be launched yesterday, but because of flooding in Metro Manila, the launch had to be postponed. Special invitees were Vice President Leni Robredo, Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio and former foreign secretary Albert del Rosario. The two men were among what Vitug called in the book “the actors.”

The book is a must-read for the average Filipino with (or without) claims to patriotism, and more importantly for historians, lawyers, academics, politicians, diplomats, educators, journalists. And, yes, the Filipino fishermen whose witness accounts reached The Hague. The book should be read by persons whose hands are on the helm of the ship named Country.
“Rock Solid” is a meticulously researched, magnificent piece of work, like Vitug’s other best-selling books. The book is not difficult to read, because the author, a journalist, knows how to tell a good story that is perked up by true-to-life characters whose thoughts, feelings, strategies and plans of action are laid bare for the reader to appreciate.
In a way, “Rock Solid” is one suspenseful thriller, and it even begins that way. I won’t say how.
The book is divided into four main parts (“The Present and the Past,” “Factors that Matter,” “The Main Actors” and “The Case”) that consist of 22 chapters. Vitug’s comprehensive account traces the recent history of the Philippines’ maritime claims, delves into the various issues that affected the dispute, and presents the main actors and key arguments that culminated in the epic legal victory of a David against a Goliath. The Philippines’ territorial claim prevailed over that of China.
Good backgrounders are the chapters “American Conundrum” and “The Asean Dance with China.”
Interesting for me is Chapter 19, “A ‘Constitution for the Oceans,’” which was how the oft-heard Unclos or UN Convention on the Law of the Sea began as a speck in the ocean in 1967. For its signing in 1982, the Philippines even sent a delegation. Fast forward to 2016, Unclos would be at the center of the arbitration case—“this small country’s anchor” and “weapon” when it haled China to court. (China refused to participate and called the Philippines the “real troublemaker.”)
But the action—legally, that is—is in the latter chapters. These, too, are page-turners. “The Itu Aba Twist” chapter, for example, can set off some chuckles, if not laughter. (Vitug has a signature laugh, by the way, that can crack up a room.)

(Not quite trivia: My name is mentioned on page 24.)
The Epilogue is a letdown because of how The Hague tribunal’s positive ruling that was hailed by nations was limply received by the 2-week-old Duterte government in 2016. No drumrolls and trumpet blasts. The new leader would rather dance with the Yonder Peril, the territory-eating dragon across the sea. He is now two years into the dance.
But remember this: The rock-solid victory is for all time.
For now, the book is sold at the Ateneo Press, Fully Booked, Ayala Museum, Solidaridad and Popular Bookstores.#

Thursday, July 12, 2018


Almost all of the so-called extrajudicial killings in the past bloody couple of years were carried out by motorcycle-riding gunmen wielding short firearms. A common scenario: One of two men riding in tandem would come within a few feet of his prey and shoot. With the target felled, both men would then speed away and vanish without a trace. A car could also be used as a getaway vehicle.
That was how it was carried out in the murder of the three priests in the past six months—the swift, almost fail-safe modus operandi of hired killers whose principals are too cowardly to do the killing themselves.
The murder last Monday morning of Tanauan City Mayor Antonio Halili (the fourth mayor to be killed) was unlike the countless ones in the past. He was felled by a sniper armed with a long firearm and hiding behind tall grass during morning flag-raising in front of the city hall. It looked like a well-planned, well-rehearsed kind of operation, one that needed nerves, practice and precision.

Shooting to kill someone at close range needs only enough nerves, motivation (money) and the right handgun or automatic weapon for the hired killer’s use—that is, after he finds his target at the right place at the right time. And, of course, how to get away fast. That is all there is. Sniping is different.

A sniper is a different beast of prey, a different breed. A sniper is one who shoots accurately from a hiding place and at a distance. There is a psychology if not method in becoming a sniper.
Just reading about a sniper can make you shiver, like in the novel “The Cellist of Sarajevo” by Steven Galloway, where a sniper with the nom de guerre Arrow carries out her everyday task to shoot in order to protect. And there is the autobiographical “American Sniper” by former Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, “the most lethal sniper in American history,” who saw action in Iraq. At 38, he died in a hail of bullets from a war veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
In the 1990s, I interviewed for the Sunday Inquirer magazine a retired gun-for-hire (but not a sniper) who had so many kills in his resume. He happened to be a close blood relative of two top guns in the Armed Forces.
Police profilers must be, by now, busy finding out about recent target practice and related activities by gun enthusiasts, tracking down sharpshooters among civilians, the police and the military. It was not an ordinary Juan with a gun who put Halili in the crosshairs. Sure, the mayor had conducted “shame walks” for suspected drug pushers while he was a drug suspect himself, but who killed him, and why? And why in this manner?
If I may digress, shocking to me was how TV reporters were allowed by investigators to get into the grassy scene of the crime (where the sniper crawled, watched and waited) and do some reenactment themselves. All the traces of the sniper’s DNA (if he spit, dropped a tear, urinated) and other material evidence (footprints, etc.) were trampled upon and destroyed. Elementary, my dear Watson!
I was surprised to read a lot on snipers and sniping on the internet. A good read is “What goes on in the mind of a sniper?” by Stephanie Hegarty for BBC World Service. She interviewed snipers, Kyle among them, as well as behavioral experts who have studied snipers in war zones. Police snipers, Hegarty wrote, are of a different makeup and are more prone to PTSD than those in the military. And, yes, there is an American association that supports traumatized snipers.
“It’s killing that is very distant but also very personal,” anthropologist Neta Bar told Hegarty. “I would even say intimate.” She focused on snipers who, unlike soldiers who aim at big targets, pick individuals.

It would be interesting to know the profile of the sniper who killed Halili—
how and where he trained. Was he a lone wolf, a vigilante, a hired gun? If a hired gun, who hired him and why? For how much?
A new modus operandi in the drug war (presuming that the killing was drug-related) has begun.#