Items filtered by date: Tuesday, 08 August 2017

Honoring a Manobo warrior

Mother and daughter play the first woman “datu.”

First time Maria Isabel Lopez saw Bai Bibyaon Ligkayan Bigkay in a “lumad” evacuation center in Haran, Davao City, the beauty queen was instantly drawn to the 92-year-old Manobo leader.
“She was in bed and was not feeling well that day,” she recalled their fateful meeting almost two years ago.
She asked around about the leader and was led to a YouTube video of a frail yet feisty Bai Bibyaon giving a lawmaker a mighty dressing-down for betraying the tribe.

“I was blown away,” owned up Maribel, as she was known in the biz.
As early as then, she already nurtured the dream of portraying the courageous chieftain in her heart.

She gets her wish fulfilled in a coming production, her collaboration with the Gender and Development Committee of the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC). The docu-drama is directed by Cenon Palomares, with Sheron Dayoc as creative consultant. As bonus, Maribel’s daughter Mara Lopez has been cast as the young Bai Bibyaon.
Since their first encounter in 2015, Maribel has been doing research on Bai Bibyaon, the only female datu (chieftain) in Manobo history.
She described Bai Bibyaon as a “pioneering feminist.” “She broke the rule that only men could join tribal wars. Her leadership qualities, bravery and will to survive had a profound impact on me.”
She related that the woman warrior had been defending her tribe’s ancestral land since 1994. “She has been protecting her community, the forest, water and mountains, from greedy corporations that are engaged in illegal logging and mining.”

Maria Isabel Lopez with daughter Mara
Every time she’s in Davao, the actress observes the datu’s life in the evacuation center. “She makes Manobo beads all day. She follows a paleo diet—no processed food. She only eats food from the earth.”
Whenever she visits, she brings Bai Bibyaon boiled kamote (sweet potatoes). “But she would share my gift with the whole clan. She has so much love for the community—so selfless.”

She sees a kindred spirit in the esteemed tribal elder.
“She’s independent and fearless, too,” Maribel enthused. “She’s not afraid to speak her mind. As a teenager, she fought a panggayaw (tribal war). She was a sharpshooter and made her own weapons.”
She admires the leader for “always fighting for the preservation of the culture and tradition of the lumad. I want the whole world to hear her voice… so our children and children’s children will recognize who she is, her contributions to our culture, the environment and the plight of Filipino women.”
She related that she and her team had started filming Bai Bibyaon narrating her story, in her own words.
“We plan to screen the movie here and abroad, in festivals and screenings for students and lumad communities,” she remarked. “Liza Maza of the NAPC got involved because it was in line with the agency’s poverty alleviation programs. This advocacy film promotes self-reliance and the sustainability of communities. Women and the lumad are in the Top 5 of the NAPC’s agenda.”
Bai Bibyaon, Maribel noted, is a UP Gawad Tandang Sora awardee this year. “She is a true Gabriela!”



PNP officers ‘too shy’ to face gov’t officials

Rogelio Casurao, vice chairman and executive director of the Napolcom. (Photo from the Facebook page of Napolcom)

A refresher course on social etiquette and political science may be in store for officials of the Philippine National Police, as many of them are “too shy” to pay courtesy calls on their congressmen.
The information, given by the head of the National Police Commission (Napolcom) on Tuesday, flabbergasted lawmakers, who had been wondering why they so rarely got to meet their regional police directors or chiefs of police.
At a hearing of the House public order and safety committee chaired by Antipolo Rep. Romeo Acop, Napolcom vice chair and executive officer Rogelio Casurao observed that many high-ranking police officials were uncomfortable in the presence of senior government officials.

Out of comfort zone
Casurao said that unlike mayors and governors, who were mandated to work closely with the police in maintaining peace and order, many police officials felt dealing with government officials and members of the House was out of their comfort zone.
He said he himself got to meet police officials only between promotions.

“I would hardly see them in that window of time from senior superintendent to one-star rank (chief superintendent),” he said.
He proposed introducing courses in social skills and political science in the police academy.
Members of the committee found it hard to believe Casurao’s statements.
Negros Oriental Rep. Juliet Marie Ferrer said it was “very disturbing to hear that our police officers are shy.”
Deputy Speaker Gwendolyn Garcia joined Ferrer, saying she was “flabbergasted” and “very bothered” by the information.
“If that is the case, they can also say they can’t maintain peace and order because they’re shy. I am really flabbergasted,” Garcia said.

Commander’s presence
Acop lamented that the new breed of police officers seemed to lack what he called “commander’s presence.”
He said he last saw this during the stint as PNP chief of Sen. Panfilo Lacson “who commanded such respect every time he entered a room that everybody would quiet down.”
“How can you have commander’s presence if you are shy?” Acop said.
But Casurao stood by his observation.
“It was just my euphemistic way of saying why these regional directors and PNP officers could hardly visit their congressmen. These senior officers are not adelantado (assertive),” he said.
“This is just my observation. Unless you engage them, they won’t enter into another area or domain on their own,” Casurao said.



‘Bakwit’ schools need more teachers

CLASS OPENING “Lumad” students attend the flag-raising ceremony during Monday’s opening of classes at their “bakwit” school at the University of the Philippines’ International Center in Diliman, Quezon City. —NIÑO JESUS ORBETA

“I want to be an engineer to build a school for ‘lumad,’” Dwayne Colas said.
“I want to build something we can call our own so they will stop calling us ‘school for the NPA,’” he said, referring to the communist New People’s Army.
“If I become an engineer, I can put a mark on the blueprint, and tell them I built the school for the tribal community, not for rebels,” he added.
Colas, 17, is one of 109 Grade 6 to 12 students who temporarily live and study at “bakwit” school—school for evacuees—that opened at the University of the Philippines’ International Center (IC) in Diliman, Quezon City, on Monday.
Like his classmates, his eyes sparkled, he spoke with conviction as he sat on the floor of the school, certain his dream would come true.

First in Metro Manila
UP is the first school in Metro Manila that has given space to lumad (indigenous people), about 200 of them, who fled martial law and “militarization” in the Caraga and Davao regions in Mindanao.
Most of the lumad communities have been in UP since June, staying in the IC dormitory.
Chancellor Mike Tan, who chairs the Save Our Schools Network, supports the communities and their right to continued education.
Ruis Valle, Save Our Schools Network spokesperson, said the students would continue normal schooling, using the Department of Education’s regular curriculum in an alternative setting in Metro Manila.
“Most of the students chose to remain in Manila, as they fear being attacked, bombed or harassed in their previous schools,” he added.
Other schools, such as the University of Santo Tomas and De La Salle University, have expressed their intention of accommodating lumad students.

The children will be given indigenous people education and grounding on defending their right to self-determination, ancestral land and education, Valle said.
The same alternative setup has been used in past evacuations, such as in the UCCP Haran Center in Davao City and at the Tandag Sports Complex in Surigao del Sur province, where students were displaced by attacks on lumad communities, including the Manobo of Agusan del Sur, Mansaka of Compostela Valley and B’laan of Mt. Matutom.
During the flag-raising ceremony, the students at the UP International Center sang the national anthem with anticipation and depth, probably drawn from their experience in Mindanao.
“We urge you to lend your ears for the lumad children, Mr. President. Please ask them and not your war-mongering military advisers,” Valle said in a statement.
He cited Mr. Duterte’s recent threat to bomb lumad schools, and the statement of Gen. Eduardo Año, the military chief of staff, that he would bomb the lumad schools “so NPA could no longer use the structures.”
More teachers
Valle said the school was looking for more volunteer teachers who had the heart to teach the displaced children.
“The students are just 20 percent of all the lumad students left in the province. There are more left who have stopped schooling,” one of the teachers at the school said.
Currently, there are 22 volunteer teachers who left Mindanao to teach the students who were evacuated to Metro Manila.
Colas left his mother and sibling “to sacrifice and study” in Manila for his family’s future.
Wearing his traditional costume, teacher Ramil Miguel asked his 30 students about their dreams, as if to set an atmosphere of hope and anticipation in the classroom.
Most of the students wanted to be teachers, a few wanted to be agriculturists, while two wanted to become engineers. Only one wanted to be a doctor.
Miguel, who hails from Soccsksargen, was wounded in one of the attacks against the lumad.
“I was shot while teaching a class. They wanted the school operations to stop and the best way to do that was to stop the teacher,” he said.
Another volunteer teacher, Arjay Perez, 24, secretary general of the Association of Community Educators, had the same dedication and passion for teaching lumad children.
“Their tears and cries and their desire to learn move me. Education is the only thing they want, yet they are being deprived of it. I want to help the poorest of the poor,” he said.
The teachers—some are fresh graduates, some have experience of four years at most—passed up the minimum P20,000 that they could get as teachers at regular schools.
Instead of a salary, they get only a P4,000 allowance to cover their most basic needs.
“I can feel that my vocation is really in helping the most vulnerable. Teaching is a profession and I can feel I’m living out my calling by helping the lumad,” Perez said.
The school needs more donations, such as blankets, food, school supplies and more clothes, as most of the students had at most two sets of clothing when they left their hometowns.
The classrooms have no electric fans, chairs and tables. The students have no uniforms and textbooks.
In one classroom, the teacher uses manila paper pasted on the wall as blackboard.
The walls are empty, save for some streamers and posters about martial law.
Hanging outside one classroom were recently washed laundry.
The students’ food came from private and church groups in the provinces.
Unlike the majority of the students, “John” sat quietly beside his mother, Babelyn Sanong, who monitored him in the classroom.
John, 11, remained traumatized after witnessing how his father, Kama, a pastor with the Association of the Dulangan Manobo Evangelical Church, was dragged by soldiers from their house in Sultan Kudarat.
Kama is still in jail for illegal possession of firearms. The evidence against him was planted, according to Sanong.
John’s teacher Luisito Penaloza, an Ilonggo, said he would teach John using a more careful approach.
“We will not force him to catch up with his other classmates. We will take it easy. We will subject him to more counseling,” he said.
Save Our Schools is a network of child rights advocates and organizations, including Salinlahi, Children’s Rehabilitation Center, Gabriela, Alliance of Concerned Teachers, Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas, Karapatan, Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, and Student Christian Movement of the Philippines.



President says he was not meddling in marital spat

Leave me out of it.
President Duterte on Monday night said that he did not want to be linked to any case filed against Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chair Andres Bautista, who was accused by his estranged wife of amassing P1 billion in unexplained wealth.
Mr. Duterte confirmed that he met with Patricia Bautista, the Comelec chair’s estranged wife, in Malacañang and that she wanted to “file a case, impeachment or whatever” about the alleged hidden wealth of her husband.
“I said, look, you heard me when I said I am not into the habit of prosecuting people, especially from the other side of the fence, political fence,” the President said.
He said this was particularly true with Bautista, because he was an appointee of then President Benigno Aquino III.
‘You got it all wrong’
“I do not want to be misconstrued. I said ‘I don’t want it. Leave me out’ because I don’t go after foes, especially officials of the past administration,” Mr. Duterte said.

He noted that when the Office of the Ombudsman decided to pursue charges against Mr. Aquino for the Mamasapano tragedy, he told actress Kris Aquino, the former President’s sister, that he was not behind it.
“I told Kris, ‘You got it all wrong.’ I said, “I’m not in the habit of chasing people with prosecution,” the President said.
Mr. Duterte denied that he was “meddling” in the marital problem of the Bautistas.
“I was not meddling. I asked him to fix his quarrel with the wife. That’s the thing that I could do as a lawyer,” he said, adding that he was used to mediating between quarreling couples when he was mayor of Davao City.
The President also denied ordering National Bureau of Investigation Director Dante Gierran to investigate the allegations against Bautista.
“No, I did not. I said, ‘Give it to somebody else.’ I am not into the habit of investigating or prosecuting people from the other side of the fence,” he said.
“I’m hands-off on that. There will always be a case filed so I do not want to preempt what will happen either by the Ombudsman or by Congress because I do not have jurisdiction over the case. Might as well just shut up,” he added.
Not a congressman
The President said the Ombudsman might investigate the graft allegations against the Comelec chief.
“I’m not the one who will investigate. I’m not a congressman or a senator when a case of impeachment is [filed] … so why should I bother?” he said.
But Mr. Duterte said he offered to help Patricia find lawyers if she would proceed with filing charges against her husband.
“I can provide her with a lawyer if you want to file a case,” the President said.



COUNTERING WIFE’S CHARGES Bautista claims his LDB accounts fewer than 35

Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chair Andres Bautista claims he has accounts with Luzon Development Bank (LDB) but fewer than the 35 disclosed by his estranged wife.

Bautista also claims that the amount in his LDB accounts is not as huge as the total balance of more than P300 million that Patricia Paz “Tish” Bautista alleges.
Patricia based her accusation on the passbooks that she found in their conjugal home, an upscale condominium unit in Taguig City.
Thirty passbooks were with LDB’s Taguig branch while the other five were with the bank’s Makati branch.
Parents, brother, sister

The Comelec chief also said that the money in the accounts “[does] not all belong to me.”
“Most of [it] belong[s] to my parents, my brother and my sister,” Bautista told the Inquirer. He was referring to his brother, Martin, and sister, Susan Bautista-Afan.
Most of the passbooks were in the name of Bautista and his parents. At least one showed the name of Susan and another was a joint account with Patricia. Martin’s name was not on any of the passbooks in Patricia’s possession.
Designated treasurer
Bautista said Martin was doing well as a doctor in the United States, while Susan also earned substantially when she lived in United States. Susan, a dual citizen, is now with ABS-CBN Foundation.
Bautista said he was the designated family treasurer.
Patricia alleged that in all, the 35 passbooks had a total balance of P329,220,962.

Bautista said he did not know if the passbooks that Patricia had in her possession were authentic. He reiterated that Patricia had stolen all the documents she was now using against him.
Appointed chair
“I don’t think it’s that many … Even the amount, I don’t know where she got this P320 million,” Bautista said, referring to LDB passbooks that Patricia showed to reporters and included in the affidavit she submitted to the National Bureau of Investigation.
Bautista, a lawyer who worked with several private companies and was a law dean, was appointed chair of the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) in 2010 and later as Comelec chief in 2015.
13 passbooks
A check of the LDB passbooks that Patricia showed to journalists indicated that there were 13 passbooks for accounts opened in September 2014, 10 in 2015 and four in 2016.
The earliest passbook was opened in July 2013. It was a joint account with Patricia. As of Dec. 6, 2013, there was a P37,055.17 balance.
The amounts in the passbooks ranged from as little as P400,000 to as high as P29.4 million.
The Anti-Money Laundering Council can open accounts and determine the source of the deposits if it has doubts about their legitimacy.



Napoles lawyer in trouble for keeping mum on Sandigan guard solicitation case

Atty. Stephen David MORCOSO

Lawyer Stephen David, the counsel of alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles, is in hot water for refusing to cooperate with the investigation of an alleged solicitation done by a Sandiganbayan security guard, who was dismissed for asking money from the lawyer for a Christmas party in 2014.
The Supreme Court (SC) has tasked the Office of the Bar Confidant to look into David’s “apparent obstinacy and refusal… to cooperate in the investigation” in the disciplinary case against security guard Ronald Allan Gole Cruz.
READ: Security officials testify vs suspended guard who asked P20K from Napoles lawyer

At the same time, the SC, sitting in full court, voted 11-0 to dismiss Cruz and perpetually ban him from government employment after finding him guilty of “improper solicitation.”
In a recently released eight-page en banc decision dated July 11, the SC gave weight to the testimonies of security personnel who complained Cruz allegedly received P10,000 from David in December 2014 to spend for their Christmas party.

But, the decision, penned by Chief Justice Maria Lourdes P.A. Sereno, pointed out David should have been the one “in the best position” to confirm whether Cruz received any money or not.
However, the lawyer chose to remain silent and refused to give his statement. This did not sit well with the SC.
Cooperation is a must
The decision stated that lawyers are officers of the court who have the duty to uphold its dignity and not promote distrust in the justice system.
“He is, therefore, under obligation to shed light on the truth or falsity of the issue, considering that he is at the center of the controversy,” Sereno wrote.

While David was not named a respondent in the complaint filed against Cruz by the Security and Sheriff Division of the Sandiganbayan, the SC said David’s participation should still be scrutinized by the judicial disciplinary body.
“Although Atty. David is not a respondent, his involvement in the controversy is nonetheless a matter of concern for this Court,” the decision read.
To drive home the point, the SC even recalled its October 2009 decision finding David and his wife Lanee Cui-David guilty of indirect contempt for hurling unfounded accusations against a judge to “conceal their inadequacies in the handling of their client’s case,” referring to House Deputy Majority Leader Juan Pablo Bondoc.
‘I already gave you the money’
The case arose from the accusation that Cruz asked TV5 cameraman Dave Gonzales to deliver a solicitation letter to David, whose client Napoles frequently goes to the court over several criminal cases in relation to the pork barrel scam. Gonzales claimed not to know what the envelope was for, but he gave it to the lawyer’s aide anyway.
On Dec. 1, 2014, David allegedly told guard Armando Astor at the back door entrance that “I already gave your Christmas [budget]. It’s with Gole, your fellow security [personnel].” Another guard Rosita Domingo overheard David and tried to ask about it, but the lawyer allegedly replied, “why are you asking?”
In the complaint, acting Chief Judicial Staff Officer Albert de la Cruz alleged that Cruz told him that he would sponsor the catering for the Christmas party before admitting that he received P10,000 from a pork barrel scam defense lawyer. When de la Cruz told the guard to produce the money, he supposedly refused out of fear of being implicated.
The SC said Cruz merely denied the allegations. It said this could not prevail over the testimonies of 10 security personnel and cameraman Gonzales, because these have “withstood the scrutiny of the Sandiganbayan’s Investigating Officer and the [Office of the Court Administrator].”
Even without direct evidence that he received anything, the SC said the mere fact that he demanded the money was sufficient to establish the offense.
The case was also forwarded to the Office of the Ombudsman for criminal action.
David’s wife Cui-David is now a deputy commissioner at the Bureau of Internal Revenue under the Duterte administration. He has been reportedly seen at Palace events, and the government has floated the possibility of using Napoles as witness to go after politicians allegedly spared from being implicated during the previous pork barrel scam investigations under the Aquino administration. JPV


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