Mindanao Times » Patmei Ruivivar http://mindanaotimes.net Tue, 18 Sep 2018 01:51:15 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.25 Mothers leading peace in Paquibato http://mindanaotimes.net/mothers-leading-peace-in-paquibato/ http://mindanaotimes.net/mothers-leading-peace-in-paquibato/#comments Sun, 13 May 2018 02:36:25 +0000 http://mindanaotimes.net/?p=57670 ]]> ALICE Thomas Ellis, a prolific British essayist and author, has a famous quote about men, women, and war: “Men were made for war. Without it they wondered greyly about, getting under the feet of women, who were trying to organize the really important things of life.” This quote rings true in Davao City this Mother’s Day as women and mothers led by Davao City Mayor Sara Z. Duterte-Carpio sounded the siren call symbolizing the city government’s integrated and comprehensive response to the state of emergency that is Paquibato last Thursday, May 10, 2018. Dubbed Davao Peace 911, it will serve as the “gatekeeper” of all programs, projects and activities related to peace and development in Paquibato. It will make sure that any intervention done in the communities there are reflective of the articulated needs of the people and efforts of all agencies are integrated and effectively coordinated rather than implemented in silos. This idea is borne out of a woman’s impatience of seeing Paquibato unchanged for many years and of a mother’s exasperation with senseless violence that continues to claim innocent lives.   “What is happening in Paquibato is an emergency and it is unacceptable to me that this goes on without resolution, without an integrated response,” declares Mayor Duterte-Carpio.   Paquibato, the largest district in Davao City at 66,242 hectares representing more than 27 percent of the city’s total land area, has been a war zone for decades and its more than 40,000 residents in the13 barangays have been perennially caught in the crossfire between government troops and the Communist New People’s Army (NPA). The mayor, who was speaking from her heart as a frustrated yet determined mother of three young children, appealed to the people gathered at the Paquibato Elementary School gym last Thursday to help her stop the physical violence that turns women into widows and children into orphans. “As the city’s mayor, I am the one who takes responsibility when we fail to protect lives and properties in Davao even if it is not directly my fault. I am the one who comforts the widows and provides support to the orphaned children. It is not enough to just say sorry, I have to do something. I must solve the problem,” she explains. She has offered to talk peace, to find a mutually acceptable solution to the conflict with the communist rebels. She has offered them jobs and livelihood, even jobs that would still allow them to use their guns. She has tried to build roads and bridges and bring technology, but contractors and investors are too afraid to go into the conflict zone and risk having their equipment burned and their safety compromised. Exasperated, the mayor turns the table around and tells the people of Paquibato: “Wala sa ako ang tubag, nasa inyo.” (The answer does not lie with me, but with you.) She added that, perhaps, her perceived bias against the communists and her stubborn streak of having things done her way does not make her an effective messenger for peace in Paquibato. Thus, she created the Davao City Local Peace Committee (DC Peace) during the peace month of September last year to give it one more try. Through the DC Peace, a committee composed of government and civil society leaders appointed by the mayor to help her find creative solutions to the root cause of conflict in Paquibato, the city government now has a mechanism where people can participate in local peace and development efforts. DC Peace came up with Panag-AMBIT Paquibato or Panagsabot Alang sa Malampusong Bago-ong Inisyatibo para sa Taga-Paquibato, which is essentially an agreement and collaboration among different sectors and barangays on peace and development initiatives for the benefit of the people of Paquibato. It is peacebuilding from the grassroots that ensures people’s participation and ownership of the peace and development process. Davao City Mayor’s Peace Adviser Irene Morada Santiago helped develop the framework for Peace 911 and she laid out its three principles during her speech at last Thursday’s launch. First, it must address inequality, which Santiago considers the root cause of violence. The people of Paquibato have not had equal access and opportunities to the growth and development Davao City has achieved because of their remote location and the armed conflict. Peace 911 will make sure Paquibato residents get all the extra help they need from the government to get them to the same level as other Davaoeños in the city. Second, it must have the broadest possible participation of all the people in Paquibato from the conceptualization of plans and programs to their full implementation. Women, who are half of the population, are brought into the peace process as full and equal partners. Women’s invisibility and marginalization in the process is the voice of history talking, according to Santiago. She added that “the voice of history is not the true voice of the people.” Through Peace 911, the people of Paquibato will be able to change the narrative from women as mere victims of violence and underdevelopment to agents of change and leaders of peace. Third, Peace 911 is “big and fast, not small and slow.” It means the response needed must involve big investments and quick response. So the usual government process of piecemeal interventions and slow bureaucratic processes would not do for Paquibato, which has been in a state of emergency (although not declared officially) for a long time now. “The secret to peace is simple. It is not easy but simple. The secret to peace is us,” said Santiago, quoting William Ury, a leading expert in peace negotiation and mediation. Following the three principles of Peace 911, the DC Peace embarked on community consultations from December 2017 to February 2018 in the 13 barangays of Paquibato district. The people have identified their major concerns which include fear and insecurity, marginalization, discrimination, exploitation, lack of access to basic services, and maldevelopment. The people of Paquibato have also proposed six major solutions to address their urgent concerns:

  1. Create and implement a strategic and integrated agriculture (including agri-tourism) development plan to provide livelihood opportunities and bring inclusive economic growth in Paquibato;
  2. Establish a community-based health and wellness program to ensure a healthy human resource pool and save community resources from expensive medical costs;
  3. Build local capacities for peace including inter-cultural harmony to sustain peace in Paquibato;
  4. Enhance women’s participation for public office to ensure that half of the population are meaningfully included in the decision-making process;
  5. Implement a youth development program through sports and the arts as well as a catch-up plan for Paquibato children; and
  6. Create an Indigenous Peoples Affairs Office in Paquibato to ensure that indigenous communities are not marginalized, discriminated against and exploited in the peace and development process.

Paquibato has set clear short-term and long-term goals. Immediately, they aim to build “a climate of safety and security for every child, woman and man in Paquibato.” Strategically, they aim to “change the pattern of development in Paquibato by using a human-centered approach taking into account cultural diversity and aiming for self-reliance, social justice, and participatory decision-making.” Now that an inclusive peace framework has been clearly set, an entrepreneurial aspect needs to be brought in to sustain and multiply the peace dividends. Entrepreneur and Davao City Councilor Marissa Salvador-Abella of the second congressional district, where Paquibato belongs, has initiated an innovative program that will address the practical and strategic needs of the residents there. “If Peace 911 is the emergency treatment to stabilize Paquibato, Peace, Inc. is the regimen that will nourish and sustain the people towards inclusive economic growth and lasting peace,” Salvador-Abella explains. Peace, Inc. stands for Paquibato Economic Advancement through Crops Expansion. It is a hybrid of a cooperative and a corporation, adapting the best practices of both to make it a more responsive agricultural social enterprise. It is made up of 22 cooperatives with members from indigenous communities and “millennial farmers,” meaning the new generation of young and entrepreneurial farmers in Paquibato. They incorporated themselves and invited agriculture, technology, business, and finance experts to join them on the board to run their agricultural ventures as a world-class enterprise. Peace, Inc. will assist Paquibato cooperatives to access financing and technical assistance from banks, micro-finance institutions, and government agencies. It will also serve as consolidator of agricultural products produced by Paquibato farmers and give them access to local and international markets. It will facilitate capacity building and organizational development of the member cooperatives to always make them competitive but culturally and gender sensitive in the way they do business. Councilor Salvador-Abella sees the development of a 25-hectare economic zone producing high-value crops like cacao, coffee, coconut, and abaca in Barangay Salapawan to jumpstart Paquibato’s inclusive economic growth. She said that the ecozone will have manufacturing plants for processing so farmers get more value from the products they produce. She has also identified another 25-hectare area for livestock production and tapped investors and markets for them. She has also convinced the Don Bosco Technical School to establish a 10-hectare training and technical school complex in Paquibato to develop the community’s human resources. “As a mother, food and livelihood are important components to peace for me and that is why my thrust as chair of the committee on agriculture in the City Council has been centered on food and the empowerment of small farmers to become social entrepreneurs,” Salvador-Abella shares. Integrating and coordinating peace and development efforts of Davao Peace 911 is the task of Atty. Elisa Lapina, Davao City’s Legal Officer. She is the focal person appointed by Mayor Duterte-Carpio to make sure its implementation runs according to plan and consistent with what the people of Paquibato wants. Atty. Lapina is one rare breed of lawyer who brings creativity and heart into her work. She just does not make sure everything is legal, she also cares that it is moral and just. And her infusing last Thursday’s Peace 911 launch with “hugot lines” (heartfelt quotes) as a way of introducing each barangay in Paquibato reminds all present that peace is deeply personal, too. It is the desire of each man, woman, and child. It is a dream of every family, every community. It is a deep expression of hope. And it is hope that moves people to change and to bring about change in their communities. The start of the video that introduces Peace 911 features this “hugot line”: “Ang gusto ng pangulo ay pagbabago kaya andito kaming mga tao sa distrito ng Paquibato, ayaw na ng gulo; magsimula na tayo, kaya halina kayong mga taga-gobyerno, magtulungan tayo para sa tunay na pagbabago.” (The president wants change that is why we, the people of Paquibato, reject violence and want to start new; so we invite the government to work with us to bring genuine change.) The dream of peace has always been elusive in war-torn Paquibato. But change is here now and it is the women and mothers who are leading it, proving the argument that when you add women to any equation, you change everything.

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TALKBACK THURSDAY|Duterte’s shock and awe http://mindanaotimes.net/talkback-thursdaydutertes-shock-and-awe/ http://mindanaotimes.net/talkback-thursdaydutertes-shock-and-awe/#comments Thu, 08 Sep 2016 01:31:32 +0000 http://mindanaotimes.net/?p=33105 ]]> FINALLY, we have a president who dared to publicly declare that we are no longer a colony of the United States of America and that he will only answer to the Filipino people.

But instead of recognizing this amazing and historic display of truth-telling from our head of state, President Rodrigo R. Duterte is being criticized for being “undiplomatic” and “unstatesmanlike.”

First of all, if you watched the entire video clip, President Duterte did not actually curse US President Barack Obama just like he did not also curse Pope Francis. I believe he is not a disrespectful person, just an angry one. He has explained his cursing many times before. He curses because he is mad on behalf of the millions of Filipino masses who have long endured a culture that tolerates and rationalizes their oppression.

Second of all, being diplomatic — that ability to avoid offending others or hurting their feelings — is not a trait usually associated with President Duterte. That is not to say he is not capable of being diplomatic or tactful because he is. But he does not deliberately offend everyone, just those he thinks are too callous and insensitive to the realities of life. Particularly the pretenders, the hypocrites, and the self-righteous. The Filipino people know how offensive his mouth can be and they still embraced him despite that. Maybe that is what they want from their leader — the ability to cut through the bullshit and tells it as he sees it. Besides, diplomacy is not the tool to use if you want real and immediate change.

Third, statesmanlike is defined as “a person who is experienced in the art of government and exhibits great wisdom and ability in directing the affairs of a government or in dealing with important public issues.” There is also a definition of a statesman as “a political leader regarded as a disinterested promoter of the public good.” Most Filipinos will argue that President Duterte is the most statesmanlike president we ever had using the above definitions.

In less than 100 days, he made significant progress in bringing down the crime rate, cutting down red tape, getting all revolutionary groups to stop fighting and start talking with the government, and energizing the whole bureaucracy and inspiring Filipinos to contribute to the process of social change. Only an experienced and wise leader can do that. And many of his supporters believe that President Duterte is able to make these changes happen in just a short period of time precisely because he is not being very polite. In fact, he’s very rude about shaming corrupt government officials and terrorizing criminals to emphasize how serious he is about making significant changes in the government and the whole country.

Unprecedented and historic things happened under the two-month old Duterte administration. The MNLF, the MILF, and the CPP/NPA/NDF all expressed their appreciation and admiration for the man and his leadership. They all credit him for their faith in the peace process now. They all believe things will be different under this watch. They all share the same optimism and hope that they are dealing with a leader who understands the root causes of the armed conflict and therefore knows how to correctly respond to them. They know President Duterte is not talking peace to them just to look good. He is really determined to end the war once and for all under his administration.

We now have a president who seriously talks about historical injustice, about the oppression of colonial and imperialist powers, about the role of the oligarchs and the intellectual elite and the institutional church in perpetuating injustice and poverty in this country, about the futility of war, and, yes, about how the US is the leading terrorist with the most number of human rights violations in the world.

And people still wonder why he is a rock star in the Philippines and in other parts of the world? He is a rock star because of that. Because finally there is a Filipino who refuses to be bullied by the US, by criminal syndicates, by corrupt officials, by the Church, by big business, and by corporate media.

Called the world’s bully, the US promoted the phrase and practice of shock and awe. It is a military doctrine based on “the use of overwhelming power and spectacular displays of force to paralyze the enemy’s perception of the battlefield and destroy its will to fight.”

Princeton University professor Bernard Chazelle said that “Shock-and-Awe” was used to bomb the hell of Iraq to avenge 9/11. “The goal is to use violence to inspire fear in a way that will shut down all or part of society. The objective is the same as that of 9/11 — bring society to its knees using terror,” he explained.

And, true enough, the rest of the world was in shock and in awe of the power of the US. It reminded us what the US can do to any nation that defies their will. Yes, we get the point and we are afraid, we are very afraid.

Then here comes this foul-mouthed guy from a “remote and dusty” city in Mindanao saying all these things against the US and accusing them of human rights violations. How dare you, Digong!

And when Digong’s beloved Davao City was bombed last Friday night, his critics, who have appointed themselves as the guardians of morality and models of decency in this country, mocked him and described the terrorist attack as “karma” — payback for his alleged violation of the human rights of those killed in relation to the war against illegal drugs.

When you are being criticized by powerful forces like the US and the elites are ganging up on you, you must be doing something that is threatening their interests and tarnishing their well-preserved public image. Otherwise, these forces usually just ignore you.

Goliath, meet David. His “shock and awe” might just be more effective than yours. So be afraid, be very afraid.

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TALKBACK THURSDAY| Another Mindanao is possible http://mindanaotimes.net/talkback-thursday-another-mindanao-is-possible/ http://mindanaotimes.net/talkback-thursday-another-mindanao-is-possible/#comments Thu, 18 Aug 2016 01:03:35 +0000 http://mindanaotimes.net/?p=32053 ]]> WHEN THEY officially launched the implementing phase of the Bangsamoro peace agreements between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) last Saturday, Aug. 13, in Malaysia, it was a ceremony inspired by high-tech sci-fi movies.

Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza and MILF Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim jointly pressed a button with Malaysian Deputy Minister of Defense Dato Sri Mohd Johari bin Baharum and Malaysian Facilitator Tengku Dato Ab Ghafar Tengku Mohamed and a video launched that flashed images and clips of the war in Mindanao, the peace negotiations, the signing of the peace agreements, lobbying in Congress for the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), then a little bump in the road prior to the 2016 elections.

It was like a back to the future moment, a movie montage with a stirring soundtrack that accompanied the images of destruction and despair, then struggle and hope, only to be crushed again. But, wait, there is a surprise plot twist. The video ended with happy and hopeful faces of Bangsamoro women and young people taking selfies with the first Philippine President from Mindanao, Rodrigo R. Duterte.

And that final image right there made me cry. Because it looks like another Mindanao is possible in my lifetime.

“We expect more success stories under President Duterte’s administration,” an optimistic Mohagher Iqbal, chair of the MILF implementing panel said.

Chairman Iqbal counted the ways how he believes that this time, it will be different.

He noted that we now have a president who does not only come from Mindanao, but has Moro blood running in his veins. President Duterte not only understands the conflict in Mindanao, he is the only Philippine president who has publicly acknowledged the “historical injustices” committed against the Moros and is determined to rectify them. Iqbal said it takes “a great man” to admit that.

He also pointed out how the presidential peace adviser hails from Mindanao and is “a friend of long standing of the MILF” and almost all of the government implementing panel members are from Mindanao, too. Because of this, Iqbal believes that they will resolve the conflict without delay because they also have a personal stake in it. They live in Mindanao so they want the violent conflict to end now.

The warm friendship between the government and MILF panels was very evident during the two-day meeting in Malaysia. The talks were light and full of laughter. Everybody was excited to get down to work. They discussed an ambitious and accelerated timeline to implement everything. They are confident that because they have been at this for a very long time now and have been comfortable with one another they will be able to accomplish a lot of milestones in such a short period of time.

Things that seemed impossible before are happening now.

Like MILF agreeing to expand the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) and the possibility of having the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and other groups be included for them to collaborate and converge their proposals for a truly inclusive enabling law.

Like the MILF being open to a joint strategic planning session with its government counterparts on how they can fast-track the implementation of the peace agreements. They are even talking of having a joint communications plan!

Like having all the meetings be held in the Philippines, mostly in Mindanao, and the government panel willing to even have meetings inside MILF camps.

Like having Bangsamoro women meaningfully participate in the peace process and playing key roles, not just supporting ones.

Even the government of Malaysia and many international partners have been very impressed with the significant changes taking place in the peace process. They could not believe they are happening and at such an accelerated pace. They used to note the slow and bumpy process before. Now they are having a challenging time catching up with the Duterte administration.

The media coverage of the peace process has also changed with more voices from Mindanao being heard. Now stories from Mindanao are being told by people from Mindanao. The faces representing Mindanao are truly that of people born and raised in Mindanao.

Change is, indeed, here. And I believe a peaceful Mindanao is now possible.

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TALKBACK THURSDAY| To be human is to communicate peacefully http://mindanaotimes.net/talkback-thursday-to-be-human-is-to-communicate-peacefully/ http://mindanaotimes.net/talkback-thursday-to-be-human-is-to-communicate-peacefully/#comments Thu, 11 Aug 2016 00:31:34 +0000 http://mindanaotimes.net/?p=31688 ]]> AS I listen to the words being exchanged between the government and the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) and the comments and reactions they inspire from different people, I cannot help but notice how we as a people have been conditioned to use the language of war.

Language is very important. Applied peace linguist professor Francisco Gomes de Matos defines language as “a mental marvel used for meaning-making.” He said that language is used to communicate and learning to communicate is an inherent part of our being and becoming human. He argued that much of education has to do with “how to communicate effectively or successfully.”

So if communication makes us human, then all of us should strive to communicate in a humanizing way, that is, inspired by the ideals of dignity, human rights, justice, equality, cooperation, goodness, kindness, mutual understanding, and peace.

There is language for war and language for peace. Language is not neutral as it shapes perception and behavior. It can be used to highlight differences and incite violence or it can be used to celebrate diversity and promote peace.

In a paper written by William C. Gay of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte entitled “The Language of War and Peace,” he explained the power of language to influence people’s thinking and behavior.

He wrote: “Because the vocabulary of a language provides charged terms, it serves as a means of interpretation. Individuals think about their world in the terms provided by their language. As a result of socialization individuals have a predisposition to select those terms which coincide with the existing values in their societies.”

He cited the difference between referring to armed troops as “freedom fighters” and as “guerrilla terrorists.” Another example is government referring to a military campaign as a “just war” while critics will counter that it is “just another war.”

He added that behavior is closely connected with the way language shapes consciousness. As Friedrich Nietzsche said, the right of bestowing names is a fundamental expression of political power. So “linguistic violence” or using words that can hurt or harm individuals can exacerbate divisions in society, exclude groups of people, and further oppress marginalized groups.

If we are serious about peace, we must learn how to communicate peacefully. Building peace requires the use of language of inclusion and nonviolence.

According to Gay, the language of peace is democratic rather than authoritarian, dialogical rather than monological, receptive rather than aggressive, meditative rather than calculative.

Professor Gomes de Matos has creative techniques for communicating peacefully, which I really like so I am sharing here:

Don’t denigrate; appreciate.

Don’t detract; attract.

Don’t suspect; respect.

Don’t manipulate; cooperate.

Don’t discard; regard.

Don’t offend; commend.

Don’t indoctrinate; illuminate.

Don’t impose; propose.

Don’t mortify; dignify.

Don’t humiliate; humanize.

Don’t resist; assist.

Don’t verbally attack; question.

I believe humans are meant to promote peace rather than war. Love is our default mode. It is hate that is learned so therefore it can be unlearned. So to be truly human is to communicate peacefully.

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TALKBACK THURSDAY| 911 and Bato http://mindanaotimes.net/talkback-thursday-911-and-bato/ http://mindanaotimes.net/talkback-thursday-911-and-bato/#comments Thu, 04 Aug 2016 01:05:31 +0000 http://mindanaotimes.net/?p=31418 ]]> EVERYBODY knows President Duterte wants 911 for the entire country just like what he started in Davao City when he was mayor, but they do not know that it was Police Director-General Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa who pushed its nationwide implementation and launching in mere 30 days.

Before General Bato even assumed command as chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP), he expressed his desire to use 911 as the police hotline. He said that “the 911 system in Davao was a big factor in helping the police effectively suppress crime and illegal drugs in the city.” He added that 911 enables the citizens to help the police fight crime. “Nobody really uses or remembers 117,” he said, referring to the existing national emergency hotline managed by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).

On the 911 launch last Monday, Aug. 1, during the 24th anniversary of the Police Community Relations Group (PCRG) at Camp Crame, Quezon City, General Bato narrated how his wish was granted in just one month.

He said that when he said he wanted to change the existing 117 to 911 as the national emergency response number, PLDT told the police that “it will be difficult and will take a very long time.” They said that the number 911 is the prefix for the delivery number of Pizza Hut so it might be complicated and making the shift might take at least a year. But the police said that time frame is unacceptable given that President Duterte has only given them three to six months to make the Philippines drug-free and significantly reduce crime. Without 911, the people will not be able to effectively report crime to the police so they can immediately respond.

To explore the possibility of making 911 happen nationwide, PLDT convened a meeting on June 29, the day before President Duterte’s inauguration, and invited Atty. Rodolfo Salalima, the incoming Secretary of the newly-created Department of Communication and Information Technology (DCIT), who was represented by former National Telecommunications Commissioner, Gen Eliseo Rio, and key officials of the PNP led by Gen. Archie Gamboa.

During that meeting, it was stressed that the guidelines that everyone should follow when it comes to taking Davao-style 911 nationwide are: (1) the calls should be free of charge to the caller like in Davao, where the cost is subsidized by the government; (2) police must take the lead in responding since their communications infrastructure is already in place nationwide; and (3) the goal must be to integrate all kinds of emergency response into one system and the infrastructure to do this must be built and sustained by the local government units.

On July 14, the 70th birthday of PLDT Chair and CEO Manny V. Pangilinan, a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) was signed by all the telecommunications companies and the DCIT and the DILG and private sector leaders led by the Foundation for Crime Prevention (FCP) during the closing ceremony of the national conference of the Employees Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP). The MOA essentially binds all parties to convert the existing 117 to 911 as the national emergency number, following the Davao model. This paved the way for the fast tracking of the implementation of 911 as requested by Gen. Bato.

Today, our first responders are the police. They will be the ones to answer first. And they are ready to serve and protect 24/7 the Filipino people wherever they are in the country by just calling 911. Responses for other emergencies like fire, medical, disaster, etc. will be integrated once the local governments have established their coordinated system.

Change is, indeed, here. An innovative system that worked so well in Davao is now being implemented nationwide, thanks to the strong leadership of President Duterte, who really insisted on having 911 as our emergency response number. And thanks to General Bato for being the first to ask that they take it nationwide in just 30 days.

They said before it cannot be done in Davao, but it was done. Then they said it cannot be done in the whole Philippines, but it has happened in just 30 days. With this 911 nationwide project, we have once again proven that with a strong leader who has the support of the people, we can make change happen immediately.

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TALKBACK THURSDAY| Duterte’s Destiny http://mindanaotimes.net/talkback-thursday-dutertes-destiny/ http://mindanaotimes.net/talkback-thursday-dutertes-destiny/#comments Thu, 28 Jul 2016 02:19:30 +0000 http://mindanaotimes.net/?p=31152 ]]> SO MUCH has been said about President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s all out war against illegal drugs, crime, and corruption. But I believe his real mission, the reason why he was destined to become president, is to provide the strong leadership to finally end the war that has divided many Filipinos for many decades.

Addressing the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for the first time as President, during the AFP Change of Command last July 1, Duterte’s message was very clear: “The first job of a president is not to go to war, but rather, to bring peace to his land…My job is to bring peace. My job is to talk to the enemies of the state…And see if I can make a difference in our lives.”

“We cannot fight forever. We can only take so much,” he added later. He said that what he will spend on bombs and weapons, he would rather spend on what our people really need — housing, food, healthcare, education.

During his first state of the nation address (Sona), the first Mindanawon President was passionate and heartfelt as he reached out to both the Moro and the communist rebels: “Let us end the centuries of mistrust and war…let us end these decades of ambuscades and skirmishes. We are going nowhere and it is getting bloodier by the day.”

He talked about “our willingness and readiness to go to the negotiating table and yet we load our guns, fix our sights, pull the trigger.” He talked about the widows and the orphans and about feeling their pain and grief. He talked about how no amount of medals or money can compensate the loss of human lives.

These words were spoken by a man who, as a young prosecutor, tried cases involving both sides — the soldiers and the rebels — at the time when Davao City was dubbed as the “Nicaragua of Asia” or “killing fields.” This message comes from a mayor who had to govern a diverse city and balance the various interests of people with different identities, political and religious beliefs. This is a leader who forged a delicate truce with the Moro and communist rebels in his city and at the same time convinced the military and police to see things from a wider, more strategic perspective of peace and development.

Duterte understands the cost of violence and sees how pointless it is. He has responded to terrorist attacks, negotiated release of prisoners from opposing camps, provided and cared for the victims of violence from both sides, opened his city to evacuees from conflict-affected areas in Mindanao.

He never gets tired of explaining the difference between a common criminal and a true revolutionary. He is tough on the former and sympathetic on the latter. Because he claims to be “a leftist,” saying that he identifies with the poor and marginalized and recognizes the validity of their struggle for genuine liberation.

For a government official, he is comfortable talking about colonialism and imperialism. He understands the root causes of conflict and bravely declares that historical injustices were committed and they must be addressed. He is a rare politician who is not afraid to start his speeches, even while campaigning, with a lesson in history pointing out our people’s oppression and colonization even in front of diplomats of our former colonizers.

Because he knows our history, he recognizes the need to have constitutional and legal reforms to resolve our conflicts. His creative solutions are not bound within the limits of our current constitution and laws. He is aware of the structural injustices and the inherent bias of the current system in favor of the rich and powerful and against the poor and marginalized. So he thinks it is absurd to preserve the status quo that caused the conflict in the first place.

During the campaign, Duterte was always seen kissing the Philippine flag and stating proudly that he is a Filipino and he loves his country. He cannot bear to see fellow Filipinos suffering, especially in their own country. Ending that suffering is what motivates him to get up and work hard even at 71.

In Davao City, acceptance of diverse identities is a cherished cultural value. Duterte, when he was mayor, insisted that we all must live together harmoniously and learn to celebrate our diversity. Davao is a melting pot of various cultures. We all came from different places and belonged to different ethnolinguistic groups. But when we chose Davao as our home, we started embracing a new identity as Davaoeños and working collectively to develop and care for our shared community.

Duterte hopes to bring peace in the Philippines the way he did in Davao City. Instead of looking at diversity as a cause of conflict, he views it as a source of our strength. We may have different backgrounds, beliefs, and identities, but we have a shared identity as Filipinos and one country we all call our home. We all have a stake in it and a common desire for it to succeed. Our survival as a nation and as a people depends on our ability to resolve our differences without killing each other. After all, we do not have to like each other to creatively and nonviolently solve our problems together. As President Duterte said, “If we cannot, as of yet, love one another, then, in God’s name, let us not hate each other too much.”

If President Duterte is able to end the war once and for all during his term, then I believe that not only was he destined to be our president, he may also be destined to get a Nobel Peace Prize.

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TALKBACK THURSDAY| Transitioning and embracing change http://mindanaotimes.net/talkback-thursday-transitioning-and-embracing-change/ http://mindanaotimes.net/talkback-thursday-transitioning-and-embracing-change/#comments Thu, 07 Jul 2016 03:49:45 +0000 http://mindanaotimes.net/?p=30198 ]]> I HAD the fortune of interacting with Bataan first district Representative Geraldine Roman during the National Women’s Summit 2016 held last June 24 in Davao City. The summit’s theme, “What Women Want: Change!” was really fitting as we celebrate the election of the first Philippine President from Mindanao and the first transgender legislator in Philippine Congress. Change is, indeed, here.

The women leaders from all over the country warmly embraced Rep. Roman as one of them. In her message of solidarity, she said: “I was elected to represent only my hometown of Bataan but I have now also become a de facto representative of the LGBT community in Congress, which I am proud and happy to do.”

Yes, President Rodrigo R. Duterte is not the only superstar in the country now. Rep. Roman has her own legions of fans and supporters wishing her well. 

People are making a big deal out of Roman’s election as the first transgender person elected to Congress and rightly so because it is a Congress that has still failed to pass the anti-discrimination bill.  So, perhaps, Roman’s gender has nothing to do with her election; it was her family name that helped her win.

But even if Roman got elected to Congress despite her being a transgender woman and not because of it, she now has an opportunity to raise awareness among her fellow legislators the kind of discrimination being experienced by transgender people and why it is important that we as a nation committed to promoting human rights must pass the anti-discrimination bill sooner rather than later.

In one of her interviews, Roman said: “The world and nature are not perfect. Gender is technically what is between our legs, but it is actually what is in our brain. It’s our identity and our consciousness. Life is complicated. I didn’t choose to be like this.”

Actually, sex is what is between our legs and the reproductive system we’re born with. Gender is our learned notion of what is masculine and feminine or how someone who is born male or female should act according to social norms.

Gender, like life, is complicated. There is gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation.  These are three different concepts. Gender identity is someone’s personal identification as a man, woman, or a gender outside of societal norms. Gender expression refers to characteristics and behaviors a person identifies with that can be viewed as masculine, feminine, a mix of both, or neither. Sexual orientation is who someone is sexually attracted to.

Gender identity is who you really are (your consciousness, how you see yourself). Gender expression is what you show others and the world (how you act and behave). Sexual orientation is who you are sexually attracted to. Oftentimes, the three are neatly aligned based on social norms. But sometimes, they are not.

So a transgender person can identity as a woman, even though her assigned sex was male at birth, and may be straight (attracted to men), gay (attracted to other women), bisexual (attracted to both men and women), asexual (sexually attracted to no one).

Transitioning is a long, complicated process that involves more than simple surgery. Transpeople also have to go through personal, legal, and social changes. In fact, some may not even go through medical procedures at all. It is not simple for a lot of people.

When Rep. Roman said that she “did not choose to be like this” we better believe her. Because who would choose to go through all that trouble just for the heck of it?

People undergo a long and painful transition when the gender they were assigned at birth conflicts with their gender identity because not doing so can lead to “distress, dysfunction, debilitating depression, and, for some people without access to appropriate medical care and treatment, suicide and death,” according to the American Medical Association.

Being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) is not an illness or mental disorder. On the contrary, not being able to express your true gender identity is the one that can lead you to illness.

Gender dysphoria — a state of emotional distress caused by how someone’s body or the gender they were assigned at birth conflicts with their gender identity — is a widely recognized medical condition. If untreated, it can lead to severe mental health issues.

If the gender you were assigned at birth corresponds to your gender identity, then you are one of the lucky ones because you do not need to transition to be who you really are. For some people, they need to transition to live healthy, happy, authentic lives. And it is their human right to do so and we must do everything we can to support them.

President Duterte is committed to providing strong leadership to effect genuine change in Philippine society. That includes making our society more inclusive and eliminating all forms of discrimination. Under his leadership, Davao City passed an anti-discrimination ordinance, making it one of the first local government units in the country to do so. We are hopeful that now that he is the leader of the entire nation, the LGBT community will be embraced as an integral part of the whole country.

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TALKBACK THURSDAY|PeaceTOC through PeaceBOC http://mindanaotimes.net/talkback-thursdaypeacetoc-through-peaceboc/ http://mindanaotimes.net/talkback-thursdaypeacetoc-through-peaceboc/#comments Thu, 23 Jun 2016 01:24:07 +0000 http://mindanaotimes.net/?p=29518 ]]> I AM so inspired by the positive response of the National Democratic Front (NDF), the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to the incoming administration and their faith that the decades-long peace process can be accelerated under the leadership of President Rodrigo R. Duterte.

Suddenly talking about peace is exciting again and ending war once and for all in this country is no longer that remote a possibility.

We need to sustain this renewed interest in talking peace by engaging the new generation of Filipinos and building their capacities to become effective peacebuilders. We have spent too much time, money, energy and lives already on waging war. We have trained countless of young men and women through the years to do battle and to resolve conflicts through violence. It is time that we shift our investments as a nation from waging war to building peace.

As part of the Board of Directors of the Kahayag Foundation for Development Support Communications, Inc., a Davao-based non-government organization established in 1976, I helped develop an innovative peace project engaging young people, ages 15 to 35 — PeaceTOC and PeaceBOC. I am very proud to be part of a board that include two of the most influential people in our country’s peace process – Ms. Irene M. Santiago, who is one of only eight percent of women in the world who have been formal peace negotiators, and incoming Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process and my Mindanao Times publisher, Atty. Jesus Dureza.

So what is PeaceTOC and PeaceBOC?

PeaceTOC – inspired by “peace talk,” referring to formal peace negotiations – is an acronym that stands for the three components of the strategy for engaging young peacebuilders: Teach, Organize, and Connect.

Through PeaceTOC, a new generation of peacebuilders will challenge the traditional concepts of masculinities exhibited through violent or dominating relations with others, and provide alternative narratives, definitions, and scripts that promote non-violence and empathy.

Under “Teach,” young people will learn new strategies, conflict resolution skills and practical tools for building peace that they can use personally and politically. Going to war and being a combatant needs a lot of training. If we are serious about peace, we must also train people how to become effective peacebuilders.

Under “Organize,” young people will create peace circles in schools, workplaces, churches, and communities as well as in existing organizations, social clubs, and political parties. These peace circles will serve as a more attractive alternative to violent extremism (street gangs, terrorist cells, and the like) for young people who feel disengaged, marginalized, and angry. These peace circles will implement creative activities that promote nonviolence and a culture of peace and make the youth feel that they are connected and they belong to something meaningful and bigger than themselves.

Under “Connect,” young peace advocates and activists will be connected to one another via social media through PeaceBOC (sounds like “Facebook”), a hip app for young peacebuilders. This will link all the peace circles as well as their individual members to one another.

Capitalizing on the popularity of Facebook among Filipino youth, PeaceBOC is also an acronym that stands for Peace Buddies Organizing for Change. Inspired by the traditional “barkadahan” or buddy culture, members of the social network (online or offline) will call themselves “peace buddies” or “peace bok” (“bok” is a Filipino slang for “buddy” or “dude” which originated from the Philippine Military Academy’s term for one’s bunkmate or “mistah.”

PeaceBOC will provide a readily accessible platform for showcasing and developing youth involvement in peacebuilding through various multimedia content (short films, music videos, podcasts, toolkits, computer games, online store, e-books, etc.). It will provide a vehicle for youth participation and a safe space for them to exchange ideas, thoughts and feelings as well as launch initiatives, projects, and activities, and even blogs. It will create an online community of young Filipino peacebuilders within the country as well as overseas who can be harnessed for collective action, which could lead to the formation of a social movement that can be a powerful lobby group to promote youth engagement in peace and governance.

As the slogan of the first and original RODY (Recognizing Outstanding Davao Youth) Project, President Duterte’s flagship youth development program, which I developed and created when he was mayor of Davao, goes: “No more waiting, the youth must lead now!”

So it is my honor to humbly propose to Secretary Dureza and Secretary Silvestre “Bebot” Bello III, that we upscale and mainstream PeaceTOC and PeaceBOC nationwide. It is another innovative project that was created and piloted in Davao City that could be adopted in the entire country in support of the peace process.

An investment in young people ensures sustainable peace. After all, they are not just a sector, they are already the majority.

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TALKBACK THURSDAY|No to toxic masculinity http://mindanaotimes.net/talkback-thursdayno-to-toxic-masculinity/ http://mindanaotimes.net/talkback-thursdayno-to-toxic-masculinity/#comments Thu, 16 Jun 2016 01:31:32 +0000 http://mindanaotimes.net/?p=29132 ]]> THE RECENT mass shooting in Orlando, Florida that killed at least 50 people is another example of how domestic violence is a predictor of community violence.

The shooter, Omar Mateen, has a history of domestic violence and disrespecting women, according to reports.

Using Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) data and media reports, Everytown for Gun Safety developed an analysis of mass shootings that took place between January 2009 and July 2015. FBI defines “mass shooting” as any incident where at least four people were murdered with a gun.

It was revealed that for that seven-year period, there were 133 mass shootings or almost two per month. In at least 76 of the cases, the shooter killed a current or former spouse or intimate partner or other family member, and in at least 21 incidents the shooter had a prior domestic violence charge.

At 57 percent, there was a noteworthy connection between mass shooting incidents and domestic or family violence. It means that men who are eventually arrested for violent acts often began with attacks against their girlfriends and wives. They rehearse and perfect their violent crimes against their families first.

Not only that, about 70 percent of mass shootings occur in homes with women and children as victims. Media rarely cover these incidents because it is treated as “domestic disputes.”

The Orlando mass shooting is being labeled as violence induced by homophobia, racism, and religion. Not much is being said about gender issues, especially toxic masculinity.

Amanda Marcotte, a politics writer for Salon, in her article about how toxic masculinity drives gun violence, wrote: “Toxic masculinity is a specific model of manhood, geared towards dominance and control. It is a manhood that views women and LGBT people as inferior, sees sex as an act not of affection but domination, and which valorizes violence as the way to prove one’s self to the world.”

She added that toxic masculinity aspires to toughness but is, in fact, an ideology of living in fear — the fear of ever appearing soft, tender, weak, or somehow “less manly.”

Stanford University anthropologist Tanya Luhrmann said that violence is learned and it is gendered. She explained that women in distress turn their anger against themselves while men in distress turn to violence.

Our general cultural ideas tend to think of emotion as “more feminine.” So it is much more difficult for men to seek help or to recognize that they need help. Needing help is viewed as a sign of weakness. And when men experience confusing emotions such as anger or shame, they express themselves through violence. Because violence, in a patriarchal society, is used as a measure of a man’s strength and proof of his manhood.

Related to that, using harassment, coercion, and violence against women has long been considered “normal” way for men to behave in romantic relationships. Deeply ingrained gender norms teach men that they are entitled to women’s bodies.

Toxic masculinity encourages violence in many ways. By dictating that men must be strong, have no feelings, and dominate women, it leads to a lot of problematic attitudes and behavior. For one, suppressing emotions can lead to aggression. Second, it teaches that violence is the best way for men to prove their strength and power and discourages them from expressing their feelings in other, nonviolent ways.

Toxic masculinity also promotes rape culture as it teaches men that their identity depends on their ability to exert control and dominance over women. And one common way to assert their dominance is through sexual assault and harassment. That is why rape is not about sex, it is about power and control.

Toxic masculinity essentially teaches us that men are in charge, women are not; that men lead and women should just follow and do what men say; that men are superior and women are inferior; that men are strong and women are weak.

Guns are favorite symbols of masculinity in our patriarchal society and that is why most men are obsessed with them. Guns are almost treated as extensions of their penises. The longer and more powerful it is, the better.

So much of violence in the world — from wars to mass shootings to violent street crimes to violence committed in our homes and intimate relationships — are mostly perpetuated by men. These are rooted in conflicts that could have been resolved in nonviolent ways, if only our men were taught differently.

There is something very wrong about our society if a man would rather kill his family than lose control. That a man’s ultimate demonstration of his power and dominance over others is by killing them. That is how toxic the kind of masculinity our society is promoting and it has to stop.

We need to start thinking about manhood and masculinity differently. Violence is a logical outcome of relationships of dominance and inequality. So if we are to stop violence, we must begin to challenge the patriarchy and work to build a more just and equal society.

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TALKBACK THURSDAY| Taxing “junk food” as part of the food revolution http://mindanaotimes.net/talkback-thursday-taxing-junk-food-as-part-of-the-food-revolution/ http://mindanaotimes.net/talkback-thursday-taxing-junk-food-as-part-of-the-food-revolution/#comments Thu, 09 Jun 2016 03:18:13 +0000 http://mindanaotimes.net/?p=28802 ]]> ONE of the innovative programs initiated by the people of Davao City and supported by the City Government of Davao is the Davao Food Revolution. It is a revolution that believes access to affordable healthy food is a human rights and social justice issue.

This food revolution is being led by women, who usually make the decisions about food in the family. They are the women who belong to the Mothers for Peace movement. And the revolution officially started in 2012 with the partnership of Mothers for Peace, the City Government of Davao, and the Department of Education (DepEd). 

The Davao Food Revolution’s goal is to help achieve the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) on holistic and empowering health practices as a means to reduce poverty. Breaking the cycle of poverty requires investments by governments and civil society in children’s wellbeing, as well as women’s rights. It is a sound economic investment with high rates of return.

It is primarily an advocacy campaign for access to affordable healthy food in public schools. Its central message is “access to healthy food is a basic right” starting with school children. Malnourished children are less likely to grow and develop their full potential. Basic education may be free but school snacks and meals are not. Without proper nutrition, school children will suffer micronutrient deficiencies and frequent illnesses that lead to poor school performance and high dropout rates.

The food that our school children eat is an important public health issue. Although DepEd has already banned “junk food” in all public and elementary and secondary schools, principals and teachers have difficulty complying with this directive as most of the food readily available in supermarkets and local grocery stores that are offered in school cafeterias are processed and with little nutritional value. The food being sold to school children by vendors outside the school are even worse. Aside from dubious nutritional content, the food may have not been prepared in a safe and sanitary manner.

The Davao Food Revolution provides a model where schools can tap the women in the different barangays near schools to grow organic vegetables and fruits, prepare them using creative kid-friendly recipes, and supply affordable healthy food made of fresh, local, and organic ingredients to school children.

Not only does the revolution promote the health and nutrition of public school children, it also provides opportunities for women’s livelihood. It is an innovative solution that not only addresses women’s practical needs (access to affordable healthy food), but also women’s strategic needs (control and power over decisions on how their food is produced, prepared, sold, and consumed). It is investing in women micro-entrepreneurs engaged in healthy food production and processing, and promoting healthy food carts as a vehicle to increase access of school children to affordable healthy food.

Davao City is nationally and internationally recognized for its track record in conducting successful public health campaigns such as the ban on smoking, firecrackers, and aerial spraying of harmful chemical agricultural inputs. The Davao City Council has introduced an ordinance banning “junk food” in schools and outside the schools’ immediate vicinity as part of the city’s healthy lifestyle campaign. It has not been implemented yet because they could not get a consensus on what “junk food” is.

Ironically, it was reported that the proposed ordinance was criticized by the Department of Health (DOH) because defining what constitutes “junk food” is tricky. For DOH, if you fortify a processed food with a drop of vitamins and nutrients of some sort, it is no longer considered “junk.” So technically, since sugar, salt and fat are nutrients, what we may consider “junk food” can still have nutritional value.

Of course, that argument is also tricky, not to mention lame, in so many levels. Some food are better than others. We should not consume too much of any particular nutrient, with historically heightened concerns about fat, salt, and sugar. Consumption of fat is associated with obesity and heart disease; consumption of salt with hypertension and cardiovascular disease; and sugar with obesity and diabetes. So maybe DOH can rethink their definition of what “junk food” is and take their cue from the healthy food advocates of the Davao Food Revolution.

The news that incoming President Rodrigo R. Duterte is planning on taxing “junk food” is a proposal being supported by the mothers who want healthy food for their children. This move will help discourage the production and consumption of unhealthy food because studies have shown that people respond to prices when deciding what to eat and drink. Taxes discourage consumption of targeted food and drinks and increase consumption of alternatives.

But taxing “junk food” is just one part of a comprehensive healthy food policy. There must also be increased investments in production of healthy alternatives like government support to small organic farmers, urban community gardens, and micro-enterprises producing healthy food. Tax incentives can also be given to businesses engaged in healthy food production and distribution, including restaurants and grocery stores. As you make “junk food” less affordable, you must also make healthy food more affordable and accessible.

Everybody eats and how we eat impacts on the health of our families and communities. Having a pool of healthy human resource is important to peace and development. Changing the way we eat can lead to other changes in our individual and communal lives. That is why access to affordable healthy food is an economic, health, and social justice issue. Let us bring the Davao Food Revolution to the rest of the Philippines.

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