Thursday, August 30, 2018

Howard Dee, servant and steward

In this age of instant stars and dazzling upstarts, a man named Howard Dee quietly stands out as a man apart, a man for others, a flame braving the tempest.
Tomorrow, Aug. 31, Dee, along with five other Asians—from Vietnam, East Timor, Cambodia and India (two)—will receive the Ramon Magsaysay Award from the foundation named after the beloved Filipino president who died in a plane crash in 1957. August 31, 2018, is Magsaysay’s 101st birth anniversary.  This year’s conferment of “Asia’s premier and highest honor” is on its 60th year.

Dee is being recognized for “his quietly heroic half-century of service to the Filipino people, his abiding dedication to the pursuit of social justice and peace in achieving dignity and progress for the poor, and his being, by his deeds, a true servant of his Faith and an exemplary citizen of his nation.” His lecture, open to the public, is on Sept. 4, 10 a.m. to noon, at the RM Center.
What Dee said in 2006 when he received the Aurora Aragon Quezon Peace Awards he could say again now: “Today the flames of Edsa are flickering; peaceful reform is dying on the vine and our democracy is threatened again.”

Dee also said once: “My heart is filled with gratitude yet I feel no sense of triumph. I feel no pride of achievement in the face of so much injustice and widespread poverty that condemns so many of our people to a life of subhuman  existence.”
What will he say in his acceptance speech tomorrow?
Bearing witness has, in fact, been a way of life for the 87-year-old Dee, be it in the realm of his Christian faith or that of his country, family and a myriad other concerns. He talks softly but walks briskly toward a goal, especially if it involves those in the margins of society. And just as zealously, he has worked hard to address, in ways he knows how, the roots and causes of poverty and unpeace.
Born in Tondo in 1930, Dee attended San Beda College and, later, the University of the East, where he finished management and accounting. He later took graduate studies in economics and public finance. Dee is married to Betty Marie Dee, with whom he has four children.
Drawing inspiration from Italian Saint Francis of Assisi who embraced poverty and simplicity, Dee founded the Assisi Development Foundation in 1975. Social development, he believed, was a channel through which the poor could be empowered and raised from penury. A steward indeed, this former businessman divested himself of his wealth and bequeathed it, not to his children, but to poor and indigenous communities. (His children could very well fend for themselves.)

Dee had been active in Tabang Mindanao, Pagtabangan Basulta (Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi) and the Philippine Business for Social Progress, as well as church-related ones like Bahay Maria and the Family Rosary Crusade. In 2004, he helped establish ASA Philippines, in partnership with the Benigno S. Aquino Foundation, to offer microfinance services for the poor. He was a driving force behind the Hapag-asa Feeding Program of Pondo ng Pinoy in the Archdiocese of Manila.
Dee even found time to be a public servant. He served for 16 years under four presidents, and was ambassador to the Vatican and Malta from 1986 to 1990. (When his son married a daughter of President Cory Aquino who appointed him, he resigned.) He later became lead convenor of the 1990 National Peace Commission, then chair of the panel for peace talks between the government and the armed communists from 1993 to 1996. In 2002, he became presidential adviser on indigenous peoples’ affairs.

Dee also found time to write books about living the Christian faith. He likes to quote a French philosopher who said: “The important thing is not to be a success. The important thing is to be in history bearing witness. This is not the time to lose heart. Rather, it is in the darkness that our lamps should be lit and our hearts set ablaze.”
Dee’s own: “I have achieved nothing but by God’s grace. Serving is a privilege. Service is its own reward.”#

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Who killed Ninoy? (2)

Excerpts from my 2003 series on the 16 men convicted in the Aquino-Galman double-murder case.)
Was he or was he not the triggerman? Was he the one who caused the instant death of homecoming former senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino? Who ordered him to it?

CIC Rogelio Moreno has been tagged as the triggerman. The court ruled so. A member of the boarding party that went up the China Airlines plane to escort Aquino down the stairs to a waiting SWAT van, Moreno was supposed to have shot Aquino on the nape as the senator was about to step onto the tarmac. Just one shot. Moreno was found positive for powder burns, but there were other reasons he was “the one.”
Rolando Galman did it, Moreno’s fellow convicts assert to clear him. But the mysterious Galman is dead, peppered with bullets beside the prostrate Aquino, and he could not give his version.

Lean, lanky Moreno, now 47, was a member of the Philippine Constabulary and assigned to the Aviation Security Command (Avsecom). Moreno hails from San Carlos City in Pangasinan. Moreno says: “Dapat

itinuro na nila ako.” The other members of the boarding party would have pointed at him by now, he says wryly. There is no tension in his voice, no hint of rancor.
The pressure was not on Moreno but on Sgt. Pablo Martinez. The man under the stairs with Galman, Martinez gave his account on what transpired a few days before Aug. 21 (serialized in the Inquirer in 1995), but whose revelations no group or individuals have taken up.
All Moreno could say about his incarceration is that it has had a great effect on his immediate family.
Moreno’s wife Alice dwells on the events of 1983 as if it happened only yesterday. They were living in Tondo at that time, she recalls, and she was working in Rubberworld in Novaliches. Their only child, a daughter, was 1 year old.
Moreno came home after having been away for three days and told Alice to help him prepare his clothes because “may misyon daw (they had a mission).” He didn’t know in what airport, maybe Cebu. That was Aug. 20.

Alice went back to the factory for the night shift feeling ill at ease. She went home and left again for work in the afternoon of Aug. 21. Someone told her: “Hoy, pinatay si Ninoy. (Hey, Ninoy was killed.)”
It must have been a day or two after Ninoy was killed that Moreno came home and told her: “Ma, there was a problem. We don’t know what will happen.” He had just come from the National Bureau of Investigation. Alice remembers: “He said they could not prevent what happened. He was always crying. I told him, Pang, you were not the only one there.”

Shortly after, all kinds of people visited their house. The landlady, though sympathetic to the Morenos, advised them to transfer. They moved to Novaliches where she was working.
Alice was not in the courthouse when the Sandiganbayan gave its verdict in September 1990. She expected things to turn out well. Her supervisor advised her to take the day off so she could watch the proceedings on TV. When the verdict was read, Alice became hysterical. “I was rolling on the floor, from the living room to the kitchen.”
It took some time for Alice to recover from the shock and to accept that she would have to go through life without Roger. Alice left her daughter in the care of her sister and worked abroad as domestic helper for four years.

One time her daughter, in fifth grade then, wrote her to ask why her father was behind bars. Alice answered: “Nasa preso si Papa dahil sa hanapbuhay. (Papa is in prison because of his job.)”
Her daughter had kept this information from her classmates, Alice recounts. “I was going to her school once and she said I shouldn’t because she had told her classmates that I was working in Hong Kong and her father was in Saudi Arabia.” When her daughter entered high school, Alice came home to be with her.
Alice now lives in a low-cost subdivision in Novaliches. It is on a lot she and her brother co-own. Alice has a tiny sari-sari store which gives her some income.
Life has been hard, she says. “Buhol-buhol sa utang. (Tied up in debts.)” There were times when there was no rice. But thanks to the Jesuit Prison Service Program, her daughter graduated last March. She started working in a bank two months ago. Her close friends now know about her father’s case.
Alice wishes she could have an audience with “Madam Cory.” She hopes President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo would look kindly on her husband’s case. She says in Filipino: “I hope it crosses her mind that we too have families, that we want families that are whole. I never had the chance to enjoy my married life.”
Meanwhile, Moreno prepares for the day when he could walk free. He studied refrigeration in prison. His skill, he hopes, would help him take on the world outside.#

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Who killed Ninoy? (1)

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

In 2003, 20 years since Aug. 21, 1983, when Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” S. Aquino Jr. was shot and killed upon arrival from US exile, I interviewed the men who were tried, found guilty for the death of Ninoy and Rolando Galman (the alleged gunman) and sentenced to life imprisonment.
Most of the convicts were then serving their 13th year at the New Bilibid Prison. To get to them several times, I sought permission from the Department of Justice. (Three or four declined to be interviewed.) I interviewed each of those willing to speak, but always in the presence of other convicts involved in the case. I thought then that I might draw out from them something startlingly new.

I came up with a three-part feature plus a sidebar for the Inquirer. Rerunning them here will use up more than eight-column spaces. Let me just share excerpts good for today and next week, my way of raising again the unsolved mystery about Ninoy’s assassination. Who shot him dead and, more importantly, who ordered his killing?
“I had nothing to do with it. I knew nothing.” This was the oft-repeated line from convicts in the Aquino-Galman murder case. They mean the elaborate plot that ended in the deaths on Aug. 21, 1983, of two men — homecoming former senator Benigno Aquino Jr. as he was being led down the stairs of the China Airlines aircraft, and Rolando Galman, the man under the stairs, who was immediately tagged as the triggerman.

“Galman did it,” the interviewees maintained, and not one of them as the court had ruled.
The 16 convicts in the Aquino-Galman murder case were:
Aviation Security Command (Avsecom) chief, Brig. Gen. Luther Custodio (who died of cancer in prison); Capt. Romeo Bautista, Avsecom intelligence director; Sgt. Pablo Martinez, from special operation squadron;
Second Lt. Jesus Castro, leader of the boarding party composed of Sgt. Claro Lat, Sgt. Filomeno Miranda, Sgt. Arnulfo de Mesa, CIC Mario Lazaga, CIC Rogelio Moreno that led Ninoy down the plane; one of them, not Galman, shot Ninoy;
Sgt. Rodolfo Desolong leader of the SWAT Team Alpha that included Sgt. Ernesto Mateo, Sgt. Rolando de Guzman, AIC Cordova Estelo, Sgt. Ruben Aquino, Sgt. Arnulfo Artates and Sgt. Felizardo Taran. They gunned down Galman and loaded the fallen Ninoy into the van and brought him to Fort Bonifacio.

Except for Custodio, Bautista and Martinez, all came from the lowest ranks of the Armed Forces. The 20 other accused — high-ranking officials in the Marcos government, the military, private individuals and John Does — walked free.
From each of the Aquino-Galman convicts, one did not hear a blanket declaration of innocence that covered every one. Only, “Ako, walang kinalaman, walang alam. (I had nothing to do with it, I knew nothing.)” Each one spoke for himself only when the conspiracy angle was brought up. It was not all for one, one for all.

The double murder case had been investigated by the Fernando Commission, then the Agrava Commission. The accused had been tried in the Sandiganbayan under Justice Manuel Pamaran and acquitted in 1985, during the time of President Ferdinand Marcos.
After Marcos was deposed and Ninoy’s widow, Corazon Aquino, became president, citizens petitioned the Supreme Court to reopen the case. The case was again tried in a Special Division of the Sandiganbayan.
On Sept. 28, 1990, after a three-year trial, the Sandiganbayan found the 16 men guilty and sentenced them on two counts of life imprisonment. Twenty were acquitted for lack of evidence.
The decision was penned by Associate Justice Regino Hermosisima. Justices Jose S. Balajadia and Cipriano A. del Rosario concurred.
But who were the brains? They could only have been persons with massive power and resources. The convicts were mostly underlings who could only have acted in obedience, in an elaborate plot they knew little about.
In 1995, the Inquirer ran a series by Raymund Burgos on the “soldiers’ version.” Martinez, the sergeant with Galman under the airplane stairs, revealed what he knew. That, Martinez’s fellow convicts thought, was a big lead, but no one wanted to take it up.
When Burgos’ series came out, the Aquino-Galman convicts were separated from each other and put in isolation for six months.
Team Alpha’s Sgt. Cordova Estelo, one of those who shot Galman, rode in the van that brought Ninoy’s body to Fort Bonifacio. He sat beside the bloodied Ninoy. It pained him when reminded of the theory that Ninoy, while inside the van, might have been hit on the head to make sure he was dead.
Estelo asserted he had nothing new to reveal. “Nothing, until I die. Or even if they have me here for 100 years.”
(Estelo was killed while in prison. In 2007, President Gloria Arroyo pardoned Martinez on humanitarian grounds. More convicts were released in 2010. Martinez was killed in a hit-and-run incident in 2014.) #

Read more: https://opinion.inquirer.net/115405/killed-ninoy-1#ixzz5jRtaV35o 
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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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