Monday, August 25, 2008

Credibility problem not xenophobia hounding Bangsamoro struggle

Credibility problem not xenophobia hounding Bangsamoro struggle
By Alberto Vicente/ Aug. 25, 2008

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY -- While there is wisdom in recognizing the right of the Bangsamoro people to self-determination, the urgent call of the time if for Mindanao to move on to the future and not get mired in the past.

To a common Mindanaoan, gone are the days of the saying “a good moro is a dead moro.” Only the ignorants and bigots still cling to that ridiculous idea.

You make a survey on the heads of office or regional directors of National Government regional offices in Northern Mindanao for example and you would realize that majority of these offices are headed by a Muslim director, be they Maranao, Maguindanao, Tausug. I don’t care.

You go to the public markets and you see our traditionally enterprising Maranao brothers and sisters doing business selling anything from malong to cheap pirated DVDs. You go to any university or college in the city and our Muslim brothers are as free to learn modern education as anyone else.

There is opportunity for them.

Perhaps if seen in this context, peace and harmony in Mindanao is attainable.

You go to Lanao del Sur for example and you see blighted communities, ravaged by armed conflict after another armed conflict, but not all due to the revolution for self-determination, many by family or clan wars called rido.

Yes, in the last 100 years, land laws were implemented that disenfranchised our Bangsamoro brothers from their ancestral domain. We blame Manila, we blame the colonial US government, the Spaniards for it. But has anybody questioned why some of the rich Bangsamoro clans or families acceded to these laws and gave away their ancestral domain to transnational and multinational corporations and other rich settlers from the Visayas and Luzon?

All the miseries of Bangsamoro brothers and sisters are blamed on imperial Manila, but have anybody, especially the so called vanguards of Bangsamorolandia like the MILF questioned the backward feudal system that pervades in their society? I would be accused of cultural insensitivity to question their other backward if not archaic practices.

Have any gun-bearing Bangsamoro revolutionary questioned where the billions of pesos of Filipino taxpayers money, official development aid – both grants and loans, have gone? Have anyone of them questioned why supposedly free and modern elections in their areas, like the infamous Shariff Kabunsuan elections in 2007 where their politicians made idiots of everyone by having the result of an entire province disappear, making the democratic exercise in their area not just a joke but a national shame?

There are many well-meaning Bangsamoros, especially the young, affluent and well-educated Moro youths. I know a number of them. But there seems to be a problem, even among ranks. Take the case of Adel Tamano who was one of the first to go to the Supreme Court to question the MOA AD. Isn’t he of you?

A local journalist questioned who the MILF are representing? I would say they have arrogated in themselves the fight of the Bangsamoro people to self-determination based on past facts and conjectures, and are very far-out from present realities.

I would venture to ask, who are the MILF fighting against? Imperial Manila? Maybe, but when you make a detailed scrutiny of the present miseries of our Bangsamoro brothers and sisters, many are self inflicted by their backward and even archaic socio-cultural system, and their very feudal socio-economic system -- systems that breed class exploitation and treats the concept of rule of law as something coming from Mars. I am not saying their political leaders are more corrupt than anyone, but see for yourself, as they say res ipsa loquitor.

I am an advocate of dialog. I think genuine dialog should start in the grassroots, with the Bangsamoro members of the community talking to other Mindanaoans. Educating most of us about their cultural traits and distinction as a people. Demonstrating to us their talents and leadership, instead of sulkingon one side and taking up arms on the other side..

Over-all the problem with the MOA-AD which would recognize our Bangsamoro people’s right to self determination can be summed up into three things, namely:

1) Our Bangsamoro brothers and sisters have a credibility problem and majority Mindanaoans cannot imagine themselves being ruled by them, not because they are minority but because of what they have shown in their communities where the rule of law is a joke, democratic exercises like election is a shame, exploitation by rich families over the poor unimaginable, ad nauseam;

2) Manila government ignored the real sentiments of Mindanaoans, even those of their own elected representatives in congress and the local government units. If there were consultations made, it was a discussion of a few intellectuals and pretenders to represent the sentiment of the Mindanaoan. The Manila government sent a negotiating team headed by seasoned Mindanao war fighters against intellectuals from the MILF. Since it is negotiation, meaning table battles, syempre ang mga bobong retired generals natalo sa debate and our national territory and sovereignty now greatly compromised.

They said they were aided by lawyers and even by NGOs and the civil society. Nah, lawyers and NGOs/ civil society organization have one thing in common, you give them their fat retainers or consultancy fees, they will work based on the terms of reference you give them.

Even with the so called referendum on the coverage and contents of the final peace pact within the framework of the MOA AD, send shivers to the bone of the Mindanaoans because surely, as demonstrated by the deadly tantrum of barbaric MILF Commanders like Bravo and Kato, and the hair-splitting excuses cum rhetorics of Murad and Kabalu, the referendum would most likely be held under the barrel of the gun. Unlike the 1996 Peace Accord with the MNLF, there will be no demobilization and integration of MILF armed fighters.

Referendum to start with is a silly idea, there is no way that in a free and honest election the MILF or what they are fighting for will win. Unless of course if they have very dirty tricks up their sleeves. Just like how they do elections in provinces like Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao and Shariff Kabunsuan. Take the case of the ARMM referendum, they cannot even win in Cotabato City how much more in a free, peaceful and honest election in the area of jurisdiction of the so called Bangsamoro Juridical Entity.

It was reported that young Moro professionals and other sectors in the society are appealing to give the MOA AD a chance. It would be very hard to accede to that. What should be given a chance to succeed is profound, socio-cultural and socio-political dialog among the tri peoples of Mindanao.

The MOA AD should not have been there at all. It is void ab initio as far as the majority Mindanaoans are concerned. Forcing it, not rejecting it, would mean more trouble to the land we call our homeland.

Innocence broken by gunfire

Innocence broken
By Alberto Vicente/ Aug. 20, 2008

Two weeks ago, we were conducting Participatory Resource Appraisal workshop in one upland barangay of Linamon town in Lanao del Norte.

I would be away for a week so I decided to bring my wife and 4-month old baby with me. We were in a hurry for the first day of workshop, we have to drive directly to the workshop venue, with my research staff and family in tow.

We were welcomed by the barangay Captain with a hand shake, but I cannot but miss the barrel of his chromed .45 caliber pistol protruding from his shirt. I also noticed that sandbags have been placed in the terrace of the second floor of the barangay hall.

I pointed to it, and the barangay captain just smiled and said “red alert.”

In earlier visits to their barangay, I noticed that their barangay hall had thick concrete walls. I was told by the habal-habal driver who was also a CAFGU that the barangay hall was designed that way to withstand the firepower of the MILF. He then recounted to me how they held their line against MILF fighters who tried to come to Linamon and takeover the munisipyo at the same time as the MILF occupied the Kauswagan townhall less than 10 kilometers away from the municipality. They were successful in repulsing that attack, in nearby Kauswagan town, the MILF occupied their townhall for more than 24 hours then.

I was told, armed civilians kept the MILF at bay for more than 4 hours, “Hapit na gud mi mahutdan og bala” said the habal-habal driver, when reinforcement came at around 10 am. He could have been bragging but when I verified his story with our landlord who was municipal councilor that time, and I got more stories of how the civilian populace repulsed incursions by the rebel group.

I was in Davao City to attend to some meetings last Thursday when I called our research teams conducting mangrove assessment in Linamon how they were faring. Our head marine biologist said “we are okay, the barangay captain had made sure we are okay, naa mi duha ka full battle gear nga CAFGU as escorts.” I gave an instruction to take photo documentation, including that of their CAFGU escorts, just in case trouble breaks out, and we can have documentation that armed conflict is not good for development project.”

I told them to wrap up their activity on Friday and arranged for transportation to fetch them and our equipments early Saturday morning.

Monday morning was a lazy morning, we agreed to meet in our office in Cagayan de Oro to collate the data we have gathered and start working on our research report. I decided to goof off some more after texting my staff to enjoy instead the holiday when my wife told me, you have 8 messages in your phone.

One message asked me to listen to a radio station which “was having a blow-by-blow account” of the war in Lanao del Norte. I decided to text sources in Linamon. I replied, “let us asked our contacts their, basin butbot na pod na.”

Another message came “situation in Lanao, critical.” Another said that “unconfirmed reports, casualty si kapitan … sa bakbakan sa boundary sa Kauswagan.” (Fortunately this was not true). From one of our LGU partners came “namakwit na mi, kulba na kayo.” One text from another LGU employee told me “safety na naku mga bata, pero balik pa ko trabaho, gisugo ko ni mayor nga motabang pag-areglar sa mga bakwit didto sa central school.”

Two messages caught my attention most. One came from the barangay captain who had his barangay hall reinforced with sandbags and was tucking a .45 pistol when we had a participatory workshop two weeks ago. “hold the line mi dire, kami kami ra, walay sundalo dire,” The other said, “red alert gihapon mi kay basin mo atake na pod sila, wala may sundalo dire, pero makaya ra namo ni, wala man gani sila kalahos ganina kadlawon tabok sa Larapan bridge.” Larapan bridge is what separates Linamon from Kauswagan town. Brgy. Lapayan where most of the MILF atrocities happened is the Kauswagan side of the Larapan Bridge.

These messages are worrisome. Whether we like it or not, peaceloving Mindanawons will fight back in self-defense if rebel atrocities continue. The same way our Bangsamoro brothers took up arms after state atrocities like the Jabbidah Massacre of the 1960s and 1970s. The same reason why we still have armed Bangsamoro revolutionaries like the MILF now.

Going back to the workshop we had in one upland barangay in Linamon town, I remembered the happy school children who climbed up mango trees to take their lunch with the branches, twigs and leaves. I remembered the faces of the school children who milled around my 4-month old daughter who was sleeping in her stroller parked under the mango tree and debating whether “ma flat ba ang ligid” of the stroller. One comment from a child who was in her 3rd grade and had to walk about 2 kilometers everyday to attend school almost had my tears rolling “ay mao diay ni kanang pampers ba,” pointing to the diapers of my baby. Another one said “hayahaya oi, mao diay lami iya katulog kay kutson man iyang panty.”

During the workshop we had made community generated resource maps, community issues maps and planned on what projects to propose to harness their resources.

We went home after two days of participatory workshop hopeful that official development aid would fund their community projects. As a researcher and consultant of an Official Development Aid project, I had made a strong resolve to make very convincing recommendations on the projects they have aspired for like community water system, inland fisheries and many more.

I went out of that workshop hopeful, the faces and stories of the community members I had worked and befriended with very vivid in my mind.

Now, I am worried. The innocence of children once again shattered by gunfire. The aspiration for community development by their parents and community leaders again thrown out in limbo.

(The writer, a development worker is using his pen name as he still has unfinished engagements in Lanao del Norte for an Official Development Aid project where he serves as one of the consultants. Comments can be sent to

Friday, November 2, 2007


Sag-ob (v.) - (Cebuano) to fetch water.

Access to water is a problem in rural areas. Shortage of potable water has also become a problem due to deforestation and pollution. Photo taken in Sitio Balungkot, Dansolihon, Cagayan de Oro City.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Panglantaw sa baybayon

In archepelagic Philippines, it is an irony that its municipal fisherfolk of about 10-million are among the poorest of the poor. Photo taken in brgy. Tup-on, Medina, Misamis Oriental

Monday, September 17, 2007


Photo taken in brgy. Manapa, Buenavista, Agusan del Norte.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

You wouldn't understand

The picture says it all. Taken in downtown Butuan City the capital of the CARAGA Region.