The Children of the Disappeared

On December 25, 2010, The Philippine Daily Inquirer ran my story about the children of the disappeared. Below is the excerpt of the story of Bayan Intise and his sister, Malaya:
For Bayan Intise, 25, the best gift that he and his sister, Malaya, could get is to see their parents again.
“Four Christmases and they are still missing. Both I and Malaya really want to see them,” he said.
Bayan’s parents—Federico and Nelly—went missing on October 26, 2006. They were last seen in Purok Puting Bato in Barangay Calumpang, General Santos City. They disappeared with Gloria Canaveral. The human rights group Karapatan in General Santos City reported that the three were with a man identified as Rex Solon, a former cadre of the New People’s Army and suspected of being a military asset.
This December is like the past three Decembers for them. It would be filled with longing for their parents who taught them selflessness.
“We long to see our parents,” he said. He said he also wanted to get closure to his search, to find out whether his parents were still alive or dead.
Recently, Bayan and Bips communed with families and victims of extrajudicial executions, disappearances, torture, harassment and other forms of attacks on human rights during the Human Rights Summit initiated by human rights monitor Barug Katungod Mindanao in Davao.
Standing before other victims, a courageous Bayan said: “My father was a consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDF) … my mother was a civilian. Both of them have yet to come home … and we are waiting, painfully waiting for their homecoming.”
Bayan’s parents are among the 51 victims of enforced disappearances in Mindanao under the administration of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Since President Aquino took power, Karapatan says it has recorded two cases of enforced disappearances.

Aquino tells Sereno: Restore people’s trust in judiciary


THE CHOSEN ONE. In what is generally considered a bold, tradition-breaking choice, President Aquino appointed Maria Lourdes Sereno Chief Justice. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO
MANILA, Philippines — President Benigno Aquino III on Monday urged Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno to restore people’s trust in the judiciary, ensure a fair justice system, and stand her ground in the face of odds, assuring her of the country’s full backing.

“Umaasa akong titimbangin mo ang iyong hatol at pasya upang manumbalik ang kumpyansa ng taumbayan sa institusyong iyong pamumunuan (I expect that you weigh your judgment and decision so that people’s trust in the institution you’re heading will be restored),” Mr. Aquino said in a speech marking National Heroes’ Day at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

Aquino, who administered the oath to Sereno last Saturday in Malacañang, said the Filipino people expected nothing less than a fair dispensation of justice in the country’s courts.

“The people’s mandate to you is: let the fair system of justice prevail. It should be impartial to either the rich or poor, to ordinary Filipinos or the powerful,” he said before a crowd of diplomats, Cabinet officials and veterans under a tent behind the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Mindful of the challenges that await her in the next 18 years of her term, Mr. Aquino assured the 52-year-old Sereno that the whole country was behind her.

“To our new Chief Justice, don’t lose heart when a deluge of challenges comes your way. Be assured that the Filipino nation is your ally (kasangga mo),” he said.

Sereno has a work cut out for her, mainly restoring the image of the judiciary months after Chief Justice Renato Corona was ousted by the Senate in an impeachment trial for non-disclosure of assets in violation of the Constitution.

But first she has to address the issue of how to bring together all the 13 justices, including the more senior ones who observers said felt bypassed because of her appointment.

When she took her oath before the President, only four of her colleagues — Associate Justices Martin Villarama Jr.,  Estela Perlas-Bernabe, Mariano del Castillo and Bienvenido Reyes — were around.

Absent were the five most senior justices — Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and Associate Justices Presbitero Velasco Jr., Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, Arturo Brion and Diosdado Peralta — as well as Associate Justices Lucas Bersamin, Jose Perez and Jose Mendoza.

Aquino said Sereno’s appointment as the country’s new chief magistrate has added more meaning to the country’s commemoration of the National Heroes’ Day.


Police arrest four activists in Maa demolition try

LE JARDIN 4. Shown in this picture (from left) are Johnny Urbina, Joselito Lagon Jr., Wyrlo Enero and Michael Lim, four youth activists who were arrested by the police during last Friday's demolition attempt in Purok 13, Bugac, Maa. They are now detained at the Davao City Police Office in Camp Domingo Leonor. ( photo by Ace Morandante)
LE JARDIN 4. Shown in this picture (from left) are Johnny Urbina, Joselito Lagon Jr., Wyrlo Enero and Michael Lim, four youth activists who were arrested by the police during last Friday’s demolition attempt in Purok 13, Bugac, Maa. They are now detained at the Davao City Police Office in Camp Domingo Leonor. ( photo by Ace Morandante)
What they said they could not understand about last Friday’s incident was that aside from getting beaten up by the police, they were also electrocuted and held at gunpoint.
Davao Today
DAVAO CITY, Philippines — Police mauled and arrested four youth activists who staged a blockade with residents during a demolition attempt in Bariquit Compound, Purok 13, Bugac in Maa village, an area claimed by landed clan Villa Abrille, where some 28 families live.
On Friday morning, residents in the Bariquit compound, together with youth and urban poor activists, blocked the backhoe equipment that was about to destroy their houses and crops to begin the construction of Le Jardin, a high-end subdivision owned by the Villa Abrilles.
The residents formed a human barricade which arriving police forces from the Talomo Police Station dispersed, seizing four youth activists who were at the frontline and brought them to detention.
The four were identified as Johnny Urbina and Michael Lim of AnakBayan, Wyrlo Enero of the League of Filipino Students (LFS) and Joselito Lagon Jr., chairperson of the cultural group Kabataang Artista Para sa Tunay na Kalayaan (Karatula).
“Gidakop mi nila. Ako nagkuha kog video ganiha, gidakop ko nila.   Ingon nila gahapon pa daw ko (They took me as I was taking videos of them.  The police told me that I had been doing this since yesterday),” Lagon told Davao Today in an interview.
Lagon, who have already been staying in Bariquit compound with his fellow youth activists in support of the residents who were keeping watch of an imminent demolition, said the police have already been observing them.
What he said he could not understand about last Friday’s incident was that aside from getting beaten up by the police, they were also electrocuted and held at gunpoint.
“Gigamitan mig kuryente tapos ang uban gitutukan mig pusil M16 bisan nihangyo na si (Lily) Bariquit nga dili na ipadayon ang pagback-hoe kay naay status quo. (They used things that electrocuted us, while also pointing their M16 guns at our companions even if (Lily) Bariquit had already made an appeal to stop the backhoe as there is still a status quo order from the court,)” Lagon said.
Despite the status quo order
The Status Quo order that residents like Bariquit presented to make an appeal to stop the demolition operations stipulates that both parties must take no action on the property as the case is being heard.
Another resident, 71-year-old Marcela Camumot also tried to do this during the demolition attempt the day before but she was ran over by a backhoe that injured her leg.
Demolition attempts were conducted on the strength of a fencing permit issued by the local government.
However, the office that issued the permit, the City Engineer’s Office (CEO) cited that they had no knowledge of the status quo court order.  “We issued the fence permit after the Villa Abrille complied with the needed documents and after inspection in the area was conducted,” Engineer Grace Catubig of the CEO said in an interview.
Catubig also pointed out that the documents included the certified copy of title, which “did not include encumbrances or charges upon property usually fastened with the title if it has cases in court or claims of another party.”
But the City Legal Office through lawyer Marlisa Gallo explained that a court ruling such as a status quo order shall prevail when there is conflict with another issuance, in this case, the fencing permit.

“However, if the fence permit was issued prior to the issuance of the Status Quo order the execution of the permit is legal,” Gallo said.

The 20-hectare lot being claimed by the Villa Abrilles is home to 28 families, some of them have lived for decades now.
Camumot, who have lived in the area for 65 years now, said the Villa Abrilles do not have the right to drive them away because the latter use a certificate of title which, when they checked with the Land Registration Authority, does not exist.
Youth activists like Lagon, stayed by the side of the residents as they resisted attempts of eviction because they believe it was unjust for the residents to be driven away just because “an influential family can show a land title which is questionable in the first place.”
They did not however saw this kind of police action coming that day.
Police brutality
Lagon’s companion Michael Lim narrated how the police manhandled him.
“Ginudnod ko nila sa lupa, didto na ko nila gikulata, gi-aksyon nilag bali akong kamot para maposasan lang, kanang balion jud, unya gisikadan ko tapos akong paa gisikadan pud nila, sa mga pulis (They pinned me to the ground and beat me up, they even tried to break my arm so they can handcuffed me.  They kicked me, and hit me hard in the leg),” Lim told

Lim said some of the police men who attacked him did not wear nameplates.
Gitabangan jud ko nila kay naa man ko sa ilalom sa ilaha.  Wala nako kabalo pila kabuok sila (They ganged up on me.  I could not tell how many they were),” he continued.
Lagon said the police also hit him even if he was already inside the police vehicle.
Gisumbag-sumbag mi unya ganiha naa mi sa mobile gisumbag ko diri sa wala nga bahin sa akong lawas tapos ang uban, namalikas sa amoa, nagpakita lang gyud sa ilang pagka-arogante  (They continued hitting me even when I was already inside the mobile.  They shouted profanities at me, which only shows their arrogance),” Lagon said.

But the designated ground commander at the site, Talomo Police Station Deputy Commander Chief Inspector Aldrin Juaneza, belied the allegations on his men.  “There was no brutal arrest by our men.  What happened was that we arrested them because they were preventing the backhoe from continuing its fencing.”
Juaneza pointed out that they were only “enforcing the law and restoring order.”

But Lily Bariquit, a resident, said Juaneza himself ordered the assault on them.  “Ilaha gyud ming ginaharass, pareha ganiha si Juaneza na ang nagmando sa mga kauban niya nga pangharason mi (They really harassed us.  Even Juaneza himself gave orders to inflict force on us).”
Also, residents complained of men whose faces were covered and who were taking photos of them.
Davao Today tried to inquire from Inspector Juaneza about these men, but he just quipped, “Perhaps they are paparazzis.”

When prodded further, Inspector Juaneza admitted that the men were intelligence operatives as they were “notified of New People’s Army infiltrating the area.”
“Naa man guy mga report nga duna nay mga sparrow unit nga armado, so amoang gipamonitor ang area tungod kay nasakyan na man gyud ni siya sa mga amigo nato sa pikas (We have received report that there are armed sparrow units [a term used for hit squads by the NPA], that’s why we are monitoring if the area is infiltrated by them because of this tension),” he told Davao Today in an interview.
Juaneza’s allegation angered Camumot.  “Grabe na man sad na sila, murag wala gyud mi kabalo og unsaon pagbarog sa among kaugalingon (That’s the worse reason, as if we do not know how to defend ourselves).”
Meanwhile, the four youths who sustained injuries and wounds during the dispersal are still detained as police have filed charges of “physical injury, malicious mischief, disobedience to persons in authority, physical injury, direct assault and obstruction of justice” against them.
The four were first detained at the Talomo Police Station on Friday.  They have been transferred to the Davao City Police Office in Camp Domingo Leonor since Saturday.
Reverend Jurie Jayme of the Alliance of human rights advocates, Karapatan, said the incident last Friday only shows the brutality of state security agents against the deprived.
What the police did, he said, were clearly, violations of human rights.  He said they will make sure that charges will be filed against the authorities.
“The four activist youths should be freed,” Jayme said, as he urged citizens to rally behind the call for the immediate release of the four.  (Ron C. Clarion & Ma. Luz M. Geldore /

Militants hit PNP for ‘illegal’ arrestsSha

Sunday, August 26, 2012
A PROGRESSIVE youth group condemned what they call an illegal arrest and detention by Talomo police of some of its members who tried to stop the demolition of houses at the disputed Bariquit compound in Bugac, Maa on Friday.
The contested property is part of Le Jardin Subdivision owned by the Villa Abrilles.

Those arrested were identified as Joselito Lagon Jr., regional spokesperson of Kabataang Artista para sa Tunay na Kalayaan (Karatula); Wyrlo Enero, a member of the League of Filipino Students (LFS); Johnny Boy Urbina and John Michale Lim, both members of Anakbayan.
Anakbayan appealed for the immediate release of the four.
"We are outraged by the demonstration of fascism by the Talomo police who arrested, beat up and electrocuted our youth leaders," says Cherry Orendain, regional spokesperson for Anakbayan.
She said Lagon, Urbina and Lim were seized at the demolition site while Enero was arrested at the police station.
She said Lagon, Urbina and Lim are sued for direct assault and disobedience, resistance to an agent of person in authority.
Lim, on the other hand, is charged with physical injuries and Enero with destruction of government property and resisting arrest of person in authority.
Orendain claimed the four accused were beaten by members of the Talomo police while inside the detention cell.
She said Rodolfo Silawan, student and also a member of Anakbayan, was punched by an unidentified policeman while leaving the demolition site.
"Since 2011, the Villa Abrilles attempted to get rid of the residents of the compound in order to develop the area into a subdivision, claiming that it was legally theirs," Orendain said.
Anakbayan will hold a series of vigil and protest actions to demand for the release of the four.
Meanwhile, Superintendent Dionisio Abude, chief of Talomo police, denied accusation he owns the security agency that provides private guards to Le Jardin Subdivision.
He admitted his wife owns the Makabayan Security Agency since 1998, but that none of the Villa Abrille's security guards is their personnel.
Protesters from the Bayan Muna, Karapatan, and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, among others, believe the masked armed men seen during the commotion with residents at Bariquit Compound were personnel of Abude's security agency.
Abude also said that based on their initial investigation, the four activists were arrested after they threw stones during the demolition of houses.
"Sa dihang gina-aresto na sila sa atong mga kaubanan... mipalag sila mao tong na samad sa ilong si PO3 Marcelo Cubeta unya na gisi pa jud iyang uniporme (the suspects resisted the arrest the reason PO3 Cubeta was injured)," Abude said.
The police on Friday afternoon immediately filed charges of direct assault, disobedience and resistance to the agent or person in authority, malicious mischief, and physical injuries before the City Prosecution Office.
In a videotape of Lagon's account of their arrest, he said, he was in a human barricade trying to stop the backhoe when they were arrested.
"Ako naga-video lang ko, giingnan ko nga ikaw, gahapon pa ka naga-video-video diha, dakpa pud na (I was documenting the even when someone from the police's ranks said, 'This one has been taking videos since yesterday, arrest him,'" he said.
"Mao tong gipadakop ko nila, gikuryentehan ko nila mao tong gitamak-tamakan ko (That was when I was electrocuted with a stun gun and throttled on the ground)," he added.
He accused a "goon" from the Villa Abrille side of hitting him while he was being accompanied to the police car. He was boxed by a policeman as they reached the police vehicle, he said.
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on August 27, 2012.

School brings hope to Ata Manobo children

These lumad children long for knowledge.  Not even their parents can stop them from going to school, even if it means they have to contend with their empty stomachs.
Davao Today

Asenad Bago, a DavaoToday feature

TALAINGOD, Davao del Norte, Philippines — 15-year-old Asenad Bago, an Ata-Manobo, has made his school his home.
This is because Asenad’s sub-village (sitio) is three hours away by foot from the Salugpungan Ta ‘Tanu Igkanugon (Unity in Defense of Ancestral Land) Community Learning Center, located in Sitio Dulyan, Palma Gil Village.  He asked his teachers that he could stay with the school staff.  In return to their kindness, he wakes up early “to clean around the school grounds and do other errands for the teachers.”
For the Ata Manobo youth and children like Asenad, the school has been a great help for them in learning basic literacy.  Without such school, youths like him would have to travel greater distance to public schools in town proper.
Another reason why Asenad prefers this school is that “the teachers provide me with what I need for school like my bag, notebooks and pencil and most especially, food.”
This Salugpungan Community Learning Center is running for nine years and taught 558 Ata Manobo students.
The school started nine years ago in 2003, as a non-formal school of the religious organization Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) in Southern Mindanao.
The tribal leaders of Salugpungan thought that education is key for the future generation, especially in learning how to defend their culture and their land against the encroachment of mining and other industries.
Their hopes were supported by the RMP especially through the efforts of the slain Italian missionary Father Fausto ‘Pops’ Tentorio, PIME (Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions), who was then the chair of the RMP Board of Directors.
Fr. Tentorio, who runs literacy programs in North Cotabato province, extended support to Talaingod.
Later in 2007, the Salugpungan Council and RMP established a primary school.  Now there are 10 Ata-Manobo schools.  Fr. Tentorio had supported the schools through donations and financial support from his friends in Italy.
Now, the Salugpungan Community Learning Center has become a full-fledged elementary school, offering primary education — for free — up to Grade Six.
But, the religious and the lumads’ initiative to gain access to basic education had been undermined with lack of government support.
Even if the Salugpungan school offers free education, the Department of Education (DepEd) has continuously denied its accreditation.
“That’s because we were not able to meet all the department’s requisites; requirements which we think are not practical for a school situated in the mountains,” laments Ronnie Garcia, the school’s first teacher.
He added, they were only given a permit to operate which they have to renew every year.
Garcia, a Mansaka lumad from Mabini, Compostela Valley province, was an RMP scholar himself who took up education course in college.  After his graduation, he volunteered to teach the Ata-Manobos here in Talaingod.
He shared that this year has been more difficult for the school as DepEd required them to submit electrical, building and Bureau of Fire Protection permits, among others.
Garcia also noted that they have modified the school’s curriculum so that it will fit the community’s needs, especially on their culture and tradition.  He added, the school has yet to discuss how to effectively implement DepEd’s new program, the K to 12.
As a teacher and a student once, Garcia said that requiring them to comply with the numerous requirements is tantamount to denying the indigenous peoples’ right to education, an added burden in the midst of their suffering from severe poverty.
Bago himself has witnessed how some of his classmates come to school with an empty stomach.
“Because of hunger, some of them cannot concentrate on the day’s lesson and many just fall asleep,” he said.
Students here bring with them root crops and yams, whenever it’s possible.  They also look for food very early in the morning, which most of the time, stretches until school time.  “That’s why some of them come to school late,” Bago said.
These lumad children long for knowledge.  Not even their parents can stop them from going to school, even if it means they have to contend with their empty stomachs.
“I’m really happy because since he goes to school, he has learned how to speak Bisaya, and to read and count,” said Bago’s father, Dolfo.
But for Bago, he hungers for more knowledge, not only for him but for his fellow lumad children, as well.
“I hope a Salugpungan High School will be established.  We want to reach high school, also, and eventually graduate” Bago said with full of hope.  (John Rizle L. Saligumba/

Robredo’s Body Found

State Funeral For DILG Chief Readied
August 21, 2012, 8:35pm
The body of Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo was recovered yesterday after divers found it in the wreckage of the ill-fated Piper Seneca plane 180 feet below sea level in the waters off Masbate at about 7:45 a.m. yesterday.
This was confirmed by Transportation Secretary Mar Roxas who said Robredo's body was found by technical drivers in the cabin of the plane, which was lying upside down.
As this developed, Malacañang started preparations for the official honors and state funeral for Robredo, as retired Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz, a close friend of Robredo, and Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo called for a hero’s burial for the DILG Secretary.
In Memorandum Circular No. 36, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., whom President Benigno S. Aquino III designated as DILG officer-in-charge, created an inter-agency committee to organize the funeral arrangements and interment of Robredo, whose tragic death caused “deep sorrow” for the nation.
The chartered Piper Seneca plane crashed Saturday in Masbate City while en route to Naga City from Cebu.
National Days Of Mourning
President Aquino, upon arrival from Naga City last night, signed Proclamation No. 460 declaring August 21 until the day of Robredo’s interment “National Days of Mourning.”
The proclamation also directed that flags in all government buildings will be at half-mast “from sunrise to sunset” in the country and posts abroad for the next six days.
Philippine National Police Director General Nicanor Bartolome had earlier ordered all flags in all police camps and stations at half-mast.
Cut In 3 Big Chunks
Roxas said Matt Reed, a volunteer British technical diver, was the one who saw Robredo's body underwater. The diver said the plane was broken into three big chunks.
A military diver said Robredo's body was floating inside the plane wreck when found.
Divers also found one other body in the cockpit of the ill-fated plane, but they could not ascertain the identity as of press time.
However, search and retrieval operations were temporarily halted after German diver Danny Brumbach suffered decompression sickness. His mouth was frothing as he resurfaced after the search and retrieval operation but is now in stable condition.
Maj. Gen. Eduardo del Rosario, Southern Luzon Command (Solcom) chief and head of Task Force Kalihim, said personnel involved in the retrieval operations will attempt to bring to surface the aircraft’s wreckage today. He said it will now be a purely military operation when the recovery mission resumes today following the accident involving Brumbach.
Del Rosario described the wreckage as rested upside down on the seabed.
“Nakataob yung eroplano and then yung nose nagkaroon ng indention kaya maaring naipit yung mga piloto. Si Secretary Robredo nandun siya sa likuran, natanggal yung pintuan kaya open yun nung puntahan ng ating mga divers at siguro masasabi ko na lucky tayo because kahit na hindi naka-seatbelt si Sec. Robredo hindi siya napalabas ng eroplano,” said Del Rosario.
Roxas had earlier reported that divers also found the bodies of Capt. Jessup Bahinting and his co-pilot Kshitiz Chand in the cockpit. But he later clarified the report that only one other body was found.
The wreckage was found about 800 meters from the shoreline.
The body of Robredo reached the surface at about 8:15 a.m. and was immediately loaded on a rubber boat and then taken directly to the La Funeraria Eternas in Masbate City.
After confirming the body as that of Robredo, Roxas immediately informed President Aquino.
Hope Turned To Heartbreak
Hope turned to heartbreak when President Aquino learned about the passing of Robredo.
Already commemorating the death anniversary of his father, the President grieved over the loss of Robredo, his close friend, and personally brought his remains to his hometown in Naga City.
The grief-stricken leader flew back to Masbate upon learning of the retrieval of Robredo’s body. Aquino then personally saw the return of Robredo, whose body was placed in a metal casket, to his family in Naga City via a Philippine Air Force C-130 plane. Robredo’s body arrived in Naga at 12:55 p.m.
Because of this development, the President was unable to attend a mass commemorating the 29th death anniversary of his father, the late Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr., at the Manila Memorial Park. It was Aquino who contacted the DILG chief’s wife, lawyer Lenie Robredo, and informed her about the retrieval of her husband’s body, three days after his plane crash off the coast of Masbate.
Aquino was joined by Roxas, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, and Presidential Communications Development Secretary Ramon Carandang in the sad flight to Naga.
Pain Of Blessing A Friend
Before leaving Masbate, Robredo’s friend for 10 years, Father Leo Casas, gave his final blessings for the DILG Secretary.
“Here we are, a friend blessing a friend,” Father Casas, who was among the few allowed to open the casket, was quoted as saying as he blessed Robredo’s body at the La Funeraria Eternas in Masbate City.
Upon seeing Robredo’s casket, Cabinet officials present and residents touched and hugged it with affection.
From Naga airport, Robredo’s body was taken directly to the Imperial Homes funeral house accompanied by President Aquino, who met with the DILG Secretary’s widow, and their children Aika, 24; Patricia, 18; and Jillian, 12.
Family spokesman Jun Lavadia said the wake for Robredo will be held at the Naga Archbishop's Palace.
In Malacañang, grief and gratitude enveloped Malacañang following the passing of Robredo, whose integrity and diligence were well known in the Aquino Cabinet.
Ochoa and several other Cabinet members mourned the death of Robredo and praised him as a “dedicated public servant and a champion of good governance.”
Dedicated Public Servant
“I join my colleagues in the Cabinet and the whole nation in mourning the passing of Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo,” Ochoa said in a statement.
“Secretary Robredo was a  dedicated public servant and a champion of good governance whose track record in public service has been an inspiration to all those who believe in government as an instrument for positive change,” he added.
Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda and Presidential Communications Operations Secretary Herminio Coloma also expressed grief over the death of Robredo.
“Jesse has passed. The nation has lost one of her finest servant-leaders,” Lacierda said on his Twitter account, a few minutes after Robredo’s body was found.
The public was encouraged to use hashtag #salamatjesse for memories and messages of sympathy via Twitter.
Coloma hailed Robredo for serving the people selflessly and honorably, saying he was “an exemplary public servant, a pathfinder in implementing innovations in governance.”
Budget Secretary Abad also praised Robredo’s integrity and diligence that served as example to many officials in government. Abad said these were the qualities that made Robredo “a most valuable and highly regarded member of President Aquino’s cabinet.”
Vice President Jejomar C. Binay asked Filipinos to pray for the family of Robredo that they may be given the strength during this difficult time.
Iloilo Representative Jerry Treñas, chairman of the House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability, remembered Robredo as one of the “most decent” members of President Aquino’s Cabinet team. Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone, chairman of the House Committee on Public Information, agreed with Treñas, saying the DILG Secretary was “a great loss to our country and our people.”
Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) caretaker-Governor Mujiv Hataman and Governors Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu of Maguindanao, Mamintal “Bombit” Adiong Jr. of Lanao del Sur, Sakur Tan of Sulu, Sadikul Sahali of Tawi-Tawi, and Jum Akbar of Basilan described as “great loss” the demise of Robredo.
The Canadian and British governments also issued messages of condolence to the Philippine government, the Filipino people, and to the family of Secretary Robredo.
“The government of Canada would like to extend its deepest sympathy to the family of Secretary Robredo, the Government of the Philippines and the Filipino people,” Canadian Ambassador to Manila Christopher Thornley said in a statement. “He will be remembered as a leader who ushered in a new era of political reform in the Philippines, and inspired government workers to selfless devotion in public service.”
 “The British embassy is saddened by the death of Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo. We extend our heartfelt condolences to the Government of the Philippines and the family of Secretary Robredo,” said British Ambassador Stephen Lillie in a statement.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima was in disbelief upon learning yesterday of the confirmation of the death of Robredo.
De Lima and Robredo, both natives of Camarines Sur in Bicol region, were known close buddies in the Cabinet of President Aquino.
Education Secretary Armin Luistro said the Department of Education joins the nation in mourning the passing of the untiring public servant which he called “an icon of good governance and faithful stewardship.”
Bulacan Governor Wilhelmino M. Sy-Alvarado requested all government units of the province as well as his constituents to pray for the eternal reposed of Secretary Robredo who always supportive and gave help to the Bulakenyos whenever there is a need from his office.
Former Senate President Aquilino Q. Pimentel Jr. said yesterday Robredo “was an exceptional public servant, able, and faithful to his oath of office.”
Senators Manuel Villar, Loren Legarda, and Ramon Revilla Jr. extended yesterday their “deepest condolences” to the family Robredo.
Cotabato Governor Lala Taliño-Mendoza was grateful of having worked with a public official like Robredo whose main goal is to reach out to LGUs, even in far-flung areas. (With reports from Elena L. Aben, JC Bello Ruiz, Charissa M. Luci, Freddie C. Velez, Ali G. Macabalang, Ina Hernando Malipot, Roy C. Mabasa, Mario B. Casuyuran, Leslie Ann G. Aquino, Malu Cadelina Manar, Leonard D. Postrado, and Edd K. Usman)

Fr. Pops inspires Fil-Am church volunteers

The missioners have come this far, but being with the people that the late priest served is worth all the long and difficult travel.  After all, to them, it is a way of paying tribute to the man and the work he did as Christ’s follower, which is to fulfill Christ’s teachings of helping the poor and the underserved.
Davao Today

TALAINGOD, Davao del Norte, Philippines — The mission of slain Italian missionary Father Fausto ‘Pops’ Tentorio to work among the marginalized peasants and indigenous peoples in Southern Mindanao, continue to inspire many, locals and foreigners alike.
Tentorio, a missionary based in Arakan Valley, Cotabato Province for nearly thirty years, was killed last October 17 inside the compound of his parish by a gunman believed to be connected with government military forces.
The missionary is a known advocate of the environment and the struggles of indigenous peoples in the hinterlands of Davao City and the provinces of Cotabato, Bukidnon and Davao del Norte.
On August 12, they found themselves on the road that Father Pops himself once took: the path to Talaingod, a highland municipality in Davao del Norte which is home to Ata-Manobos who are still struggling from being robbed off of their ancestral land.

Delegates from various churches in the United States, 22 of them Filipino-Americans and Americans, travelled halfway from across the world to Sitio Dulyan in Palma Gil village of Talaingod where a school that Fr. Tentorio helped established is located.
The school, the venue of the mission, saw the gathering of foreign missioners, and delegates from various local organizations that provided medical services to more than a thousand Ata-Manobos who walked for days from their communities just to avail of them.

Jolo Buktaw, a missioner from a California-based Advocacy Ministry of the Rosewood United Methodist Church, saw for himself how needy the lumads have become.
“They walked for almost a week just to get here in time for the mission, just to get proper treatment and medicine,” he said.
The Ata-Manobos who were served by the mission belong to the Salugpungan Ta ‘Tanu Igkanugon, an organization borne of the unity of  lumad communities in Talaingod who fought the wood company, Alcantara and Sons (Alsons) when it tried to enter their areas.  (See Related Story: The Fugitive of Talaingod)
In the 1990s, Alsons claimed thousands of hectares of lumad ancestral land in Talaingod under the Integrated Forest Management Agreement (IFMA), but this was thwarted by the Ata-Manobos led by Datu Guibang Apoga who fought the company guards with their spears and arrows.
While Guibang and fellow datus believed that they only acted in defense of their land, charges of common crimes were filed against them.  As a consequence, their communities suffered further.

Seeing beyond government neglect
The missioners who came saw this for themselves.  They understood that there is more beyond the lumads’ suffering in terms of government’s negligence of providing basic social services.
Up to this day, the lumads under Salugpungan have continued to parry countless other forms of disenfranchisement of the right to their ancestral domain.
After Alson’s IFMA, other private business-led projects came, including a hydro-powered dam project and a mining application.
With the country’s mining laws, such as the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, and recently, President Aquino’s latest promulgation on mining, Executive Order 79, the communities of Salugpungan face more threats of land usurpation by private businesses, particularly, of foreign multinational companies.

In the course of resisting the entry of such projects that would only mean dispossession of their ancestral lands, they have also been put at the receiving end of human rights abuses, 
For Buktaw, what the lumad communities they visited experienced was injustice.  And for this, he and his fellows, believe that they could do something more.

Spreading the word
“Our mission does not end after we leave Davao.  It will just begin as we share the stories and bring back what we have learned here,” Buktaw said.
The missioners vowed they were going to make sure they will come back and provide more of the lumads’ material needs.  But more than this, they pledged advocacy.

For Bert Mendoza, President of Filipino Caucus, an organization which covers 28 Fil-Am Methodist churches in Southern California, they can start by calling the attention of their government to cancel its aid for a country that neglects the rights of its people, particularly the indigenous peoples.
“Our (US) government will listen only if the international community calls its attention,” Mendoza said.
Furthermore, Mendoza said they can also lobby that their government’s budget for aid to the Philippines be cut in the face of the human rights abuses committed by state security agents against Filipinos.

For Reverend Sandie Richards of the United Methodist Church of Los Angeles, California the condition of the lumads of Talaingod only mirrors the continuing plunder of the interests of multinational companies.
“It’s an outrage that the resources of this beautiful land are being consumed and destroyed by multinational and US interests,” she said, adding that it is supposed to be the interest of the Philippines that the Filipino people use the resources for their own nation instead of enriching other nations, particularly the wealthy ones, especially,
their country, the United States.
She further lamented over the situation of most Filipinos who are forced to go abroad even if it means leaving their families behind.

“The women, for instance, who care for other children overseas should be home, caring for their own children, they should be able to make living wages and take care of their own families,” Richards said.
Buktaw summed up the things they could do into four urgent tasks:
First, to know the human rights situation in the Philippines, particularly in Mindanao; second, to assert environmental justice; third, to advocate for the health and welfare of the indigenous peoples; and lastly would be to muster support so they can provide more of the social needs, especially, on medical care.

The missioners have come this far, but being with the people that the late priest served is worth all the long and difficult travel.  After all, to them, it is a way of paying tribute to the man and the work he did as Christ’s follower, which is to fulfill Christ’s teachings of helping the poor and the underserved.  (John Rizle L. Saligumba/

VIDEO PROFILE | Saturnino Fabros:Assaulted MMDA officer, single dad of 6, surviving on P8K a month
The online news portal of TV5
MANILA, Philippines - Robert Blair Carabuena, tobacco firm executive caught on video mauling an MMDA traffic enforcer, could not have picked a more pitiful underdog to assault on national television.
A News5 team on Wednesday visited the hovel in Payatas, Quezon City, where Saturnino Fabros, 47, is singlehandedly raising six children. They spoke with a lowly public servant trying to raise a family all alone, and on a salary of P8,000 a month.
His eldest child broke down while trying to rationalize her father’s decision to stoically absorb the blows and the curses that Carabuena rained on him after he accosted the executive for insisting on driving while Fabros was manning traffic at the corner of Tandang Sora and Capitol Hills in Quezon City.
She said her father had been forced to show restraint (“nagtimpi”) apparently because he was thinking of his family, and she wept at the thought of the humiliation he suffered for that.
Fabros is a 20-year veteran at the MMDA, and the agency’s management bared plans Wednesday to promote him to Traffic Enforcer 2. 
His peers at the MMDA took turns holding him up as a kind, meek man. 
His daughter called him a hero (“bayani”), as she recalled their shock at seeing their father being manhandled on television.

Watch the Video at

Areas in ‘Helen’s’ path stock up on supplies

Pupils armed with umbrellas resume classes to school on Monday after almost a week of suspended classes as Pagasa announces another Tropical Storm named Helen entering the country’s area of responsibility. INQUIRER PHOTO/ MARIANNE BERMUDEZ
Manila, Philippines – Philippine authorities rushed relief supplies to the country’s remote north Tuesday in preparation for a new storm, which was also expected to dump heavy rain on other areas struggling with deadly floods.

Tropical Storm “Helen” (international codename: Kai-tak) was forecast to hit the east coast of Luzon, the country’s main island, on Wednesday morning, then pass over mountainous regions before heading towards Taiwan, the state weather bureau said.

“We are rushing to pre-position relief items to the northern areas ahead of this storm,” Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman told AFP.

“We wanted to make sure that we have enough supplies there just in case areas get cut off by landslides or floods.”

“Helen” was also forecast to bring heavy rains across the central and southern areas of Luzon, where 334,000 people remain in evacuation centres following flooding last week that in some farming areas remains waist-deep
The floods, which submerged 80 percent of Manila, killed 95 people, according to the government.

The government had initially said “Helen” would start dumping up to 35 millimeters (1.3 inches) of rain an hour over large areas of Luzon beginning Monday night, triggering warnings of more mass evacuations from officials.

But as of noon Tuesday parts of Luzon were only experiencing scattered, light rain showers.

Ramos said authorities had begun releasing water from five dams in the mountain regions of Luzon that were near overflowing in anticipation of more rains.

But the “controlled release” was not expected to swamp already swollen river systems and cause more flooding, he said.

Read More....

‘Helen’ now a storm; 7 areas in Luzon under storm signal

August 13, 2012
MANILA (3rd Update, 1:31 p.m.) -- Seven areas in Northern Luzon have been placed under public storm warning as Tropical Depression Helen intensified into a storm, the state weather bureau said Monday.
In its latest weather update Monday noon, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) said public storm signal no. 1 was raised in the provinces of Batanes, Isabela, Kalinga, Apayao, Cagayan, Calayan Group of Islands and Babuyan Group of Islands.

Those areas are expected to experience winds of 30 to 60 kilometers per hour (kph) within the next 36 hours.
In its latest weather update Monday noon, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) said public storm signal no. 1 was raised in the provinces of Batanes, Isabela, Kalinga, Apayao, Cagayan, Calayan Group of Islands and Babuyan Group of Islands.
Residents living in low-lying and mountainous areas under public storm warning signals are alerted against possible flash floods and landslides, while those residing in coastal areas under public storm warning signal no. 1 are alerted against big waves or storm surges generated, Pagasa said.
As of 10 a.m. Monday, the center of Tropical Storm Helen (international name: Kai-Tak) was located based on satellite and surface data at 550 kilometers (km) east northeast of Casiguran, Aurora.
It packed maximum sustained winds of 65 kph near the center and gustiness of up to 80 kph.
Pagasa said “Helen” carries about 15-35 millimeters (mm) per hour (heavy-torrential) of rainfall within its 400-km diameter coverage.
“Helen” is expected to enhance the southwest monsoon that will bring rains over Luzon and the Visayas especially over the western section. The storm might leave the country by Thursday.
“Locally heavy downpours are possible across Luzon in the northern Philippines from Monday through Wednesday. This area has already seen flooding rain over the past week, and additional rainfall will result in the potential for more significant flooding and mudslides to occur,” meteorologist Eric Leister of said.
By the middle of the week, Leister said “Helen” could also impact Taiwan, another area which has been affected by Typhoon Saola (“Gener” in the Philippines) less than two weeks ago. “Helen” may develop into a typhoon on its way to Southern China on Thursday.
Pagasa said intermittent light to moderate rains (2.5-7.5 mm/hr) are now affecting Central and Southern Luzon becoming more frequent moderate to heavy rains (7.5-10 mm/hr) during the latter part of the day towards the evening over Camarines provinces, Quezon province, Rizal, Bulacan, Pampanga, Laguna, Cavite, Batangas, Mindoro, Bataan, Zambales and Metro Manila.
Pagasa said “Helen” is forecast to move west northwest at 13 kph. It is expected to be 330 km east northeast of Tuguegarao City on Tuesday morning.
By Wednesday morning, it is expected to be 80 km north northeast of Aparri, Cagayan; and 220 km west of Basco, Batanes on Thursday morning. (PNA/Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)

Read More From

Pagasa forecast: Expect more monsoon rains


MTSAT ENHANCED-IR Satellite Image 4:32 a.m., 11 August 2012
Though weakened, the southwest monsoon, locally known as hanging habagat, will continue to bring rainshowers and thunderstorms over Northern Luzon and Central Luzon, posing the threat of flash floods and landslides as people in the two regions, and those in the capital, struggle to restore normality to their lives after this week’s floods.

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) on Friday said provinces in the two regions, particularly Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union, Pangasinan, Zambales, Pampanga, Bataan, Tarlac and Bulacan, will continue to experience mostly cloudy skies with scattered rainshowers and thunderstorms. The weather will become cloudy with widespread rains in the western part of the region, the state weather service said.

Pagasa warned residents of those provinces about flash floods in low-lying areas and landslides in mountainous areas.

Low pressure area

Weather forecaster Raymond Ordinario reported that a low pressure area (LPA) had been seen east of the country, still very far but moving toward the Philippine area of responsibility (PAR).

“We expect it to form and enter the PAR by Monday or Tuesday,” Ordinario said. “But we only expect it to pass through the PAR so we do not think it would affect any part of the country.”

Cloudy skies

The skies in the rest of the country will be partly cloudy to cloudy with isolated rainshowers and thunderstorms, Pagasa said.

Moderate to strong winds blowing from the southwest will prevail over Luzon and coastal waters will be moderate to rough. Elsewhere, winds will be light to moderate coming from the south to southwest with slight to moderate seas.

Strong to gale force wind is anticipated to affect the northern and western seaboards of Northern Luzon and the western seaboard of Central Luzon.

Very rough seas

The seas off the western seaboards of Northern Luzon and Central Luzon, particularly Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union, Pangasinan, Zambales and Bataan, as well as the northern seaboard of Northern Luzon in Cagayan are expected to be rough to very rough, Pagasa said.

Pagasa advised fishermen and operators of small seacraft not to venture out to sea. Larger vessels must watch out for big waves.


Aquino forced to land

President on 4-province swing in Central Luzon

CLOSE CALL. President Aquino and the presidential party walk in the rain after poor visibility forced the presidential chopper to make an emergency landing at Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway near the exit of Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac on Friday. MALACAÑANG PHOTO
TARLAC CITY—President Benigno Aquino III on Friday inspected the flooded plains of four provinces in Central Luzon, revisiting decades-old plans to build a multipurpose dam after observing that 25 percent of the villages in Tarlac, his home province, was flooded because of this week’s torrential monsoon rains.

In Dinalupihan, Bataan, his second stop on a four-province swing in Central Luzon, Mr. Aquino promised flood victims that experts from the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) would study the source of flooding and plug this.

“After the rains stop, the experts from the DPWH will come here to study where the water is coming from, and what can be done to mitigate this. We will come back to present the plan, when we can start it, and when you can expect the results. We’ll fix this, that’s our commitment,” Mr. Aquino said.

But the President, visiting thousands of people huddled in evacuation centers in Central Luzon, surprised local folks on his way to Tarlac when his convoy of helicopters made an unscheduled landing near the freeway.

Heavy rain and poor visibility forced the group of three military and two civilian helicopters ferrying the President and Cabinet officials to make an emergency landing at the Luisita exit of the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway in Paniqui town  around 9 a.m. Mr. Aquino was on his way to an evacuation center in Paniqui at the time.

“I came in a little late,” the President said to flood victims sheltering at the Apulid evacuation center in Paniqui. “When the helicopter was about to land, the thing they call ceiling [cloud ceiling] went down.”

“The President is fine. Everyone is fine. No one was injured,” Communication Secretary Ricky Carandang said by phone. “While we were in Tarlac, it started to rain and the visibility became poor. The pilots made a decision to land.”

Brig. Gen. Ramon Dizon, commander of the Presidential Security Group, said the cloud ceiling went down as the party was nearing Tarlac. “So to be on the safe side, we landed the choppers before it started to rain,” he said.

With the President on the helicopter were Joel Villanueva of the Technical Education Skills and Development Authority, and Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara, according to Carandang.

Carandang said he was on another chopper with Energy Secretary Jose Almendras, Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson, Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo, Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman and Akbayan spokesperson Risa Hontiveros.

From the edge of the freeway, the presidential party motored to the evacuation center in Paniqui.

Evacuees’ needs

Mr. Aquino told the evacuees that he brought along Cabinet officials, mentioning Soliman and Singson, to see how they were doing, and look into their short-term and long-term needs.

“I’m very glad to see you so alive and smiling, at that, despite the disaster,” Mr. Aquino said. “Rest assured that the government is ready to help you along.”

From Paniqui, the presidential party proceeded to Sta. Lucia High School in Capas, Tarlac, to visit the evacuees there.

Mr. Aquino thanked the local officials and the private companies that extended aid to the flood victims.

The President said he expected more international aid to pour in for the evacuees.

“Our government is ready. We still have funds for calamities as well as the quick response funds to take care of all of you,” Mr. Aquino said.

The President also visited evacuation centers in Dinalupihan, Bataan; San Fernando, Pampanga, and Bulacan.

The government would attend to the needs of flood victims in evacuation centers in many parts of Luzon, Mr. Aquino said.

Twenty-eight of the 48 barangays in Dinalupihan were submerged in floodwaters.

Malacañang said Dinalupihan Mayor Joel Jaime Payumo asked for budget allocation from the President to finance repairs on dams and schools damaged by the flooding.

Help for Pampanga

Mr. Aquino next motored to San Fernando, Pampanga, home province of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, to assure flood victims there of continued government assistance.

In Malolos, Bulacan, the President told flood victims that the government would undertake projects that would mitigate, if not stop, flooding.

“We’re not talking of months here. This is an extensive project and it has many components. This will probably take years to complete. Just the same, we’ll try to mitigate the floods,” Mr. Aquino said.

The President helped to distribute relief goods at the evacuation centers he visited.

110 villages flooded

In its latest report, the provincial disaster risk reduction and management council of Tarlac said 110 of the 500 villages in 10 of 17 towns and Tarlac City are flooded. The floods affected 65,680 people (15,633 families).

Discussing the Balog-Balog Multipurpose Dam with officials in Capas, Mr. Aquino said he wanted to see new plans for the project, which would improve the dam’s water containment capacity.

Mr. Aquino reassured the people of his home province that the government was looking for permanent solutions for the perennial floods.

Permanent shelters

He made the same assurance in Paniqui earlier, focusing on the construction of permanent evacuation centers for Barangays Salomangui, Apulid and San Isidro.

Paniqui Mayor Miguel Rivilla said his town had been at the receiving end of silted river systems that should otherwise flow to Lingayen Gulf.

In the afternoon, the President motored to the City of San Fernando in Pampanga to assure residents that funds are available to help them recover and to rehabilitate disaster-stricken areas.

“We have funds for our quick response. The government is ready to help,” Mr. Aquino told some 1,000 evacuees at Sto. Niño Elementary School in San Fernando.

Manny Pangilinan in Pampanga

Businessman Manuel V. Pangilinan traveled to Pampanga on Friday and distributed 2,000 food packs to flood victims in San Fernando and the towns of Sto. Tomas, Minalin and his hometown of Apalit.