Archive for the ‘MOA’ Category

What’s common in C-130 plane crash, Sulpicio Lines’ sinking & the “MOA-ancestral domain” controversy

August 31, 2008

The Philippine Air Force (PAF) symbolic coffins of people presumed dead in a C-130 cargo plane crash bring a message. Barely a week has passed that the 9 military personnel went missing. Many think it’s too soon to dismiss them as dead, much more mourn with a posthumous memorial when no exhaustive search for their bodies have been done.

The flag-draped tribute for the brave soldiers was emotionally-moving. (Photo Credit: Philstar) The same day as the Philippine Navy (PN) announced having found the site of crash, the glum spectacle of honoring those who “perished,” went on. Nobody reported having retrieved a body. No one knows from whom the pieces of human flesh found in the crash site belong to. Only a lonely badge of “Armadong Kusog ng Pilipinas,” ID cards, and an assortment of personal effects stand as evidence of death, convincing high-ranking military officers to “close” the grim case.

Declaring a quick closure on missing persons has become too common in the Philippines. When Abu Sabaya was allegedly swallowed by the sea during a bloody confrontation with the military, a pair of sun-glasses was all that was needed to tell the world, the notorious Abu Sayyaf hostage-killer of Christian missionary Martin Burnham with a hefty cash bounty on his head, was dead. Fabled money was exchanged swiftly as the news rolled in, confusing the public with embarrassing inconsistencies in government statements and media reporting.

Many passengers of the Princess of the Stars were presumed to have passed on almost immediately when the ferry ship was found grounded near Sibuyan Islands. Similarly, the Dona Paz collision with tanker Vector brought fast presumption of deaths, including those not included in the ship manifest.

It seems the military authorities rushed beyond their call of duty by presuming these people were all dead. Military bravery and “efficient” swiftness were perhaps what they wanted to project. But they ignored the medico-legal ramifications of declaring a missing person dead—-something reminiscent of the gaffe behind the bungled memorandum of agreement-ancestral domain (MOA-AD,) tossed to the Supreme Court when Philippine peace negotiators (military men involved) didn’t do enough to ascertain the applicability and legality of giving away territorial concessions to the MILF.

The distribution of cash awards to relatives of unverified dead victims of Sulpicio Lines (Princess of the Stars.) was another thing. Without waiting if the “dead” people involved were truly among the passengers in the boat which sank at the height of Typhoon Frank, there were offers to silence the victims’ relatives with cash. For sometime now, the uproar raised by the mishap had died down quickly as the lawsuits that followed.

Certainly, there are laws governing the declaration of death of a missing person. They have serious practical applications which cover diverse issues such as settling of a decedent’s estate, the awarding of inheritance, indemnity claims, insurance benefits, the exercise of a citizen’s rights to vote, accountability for a crime or contracting marriage.

Let us take contracting marriage as an example. To the best of my knowledge the Philippine Family Code stipulates in Article 41 a 4-year wait before a missing person to be declared dead for the purpose of re-marriage. The waiting time is shortened to two years for a spouse, if the missing person presumably passed on in a sea voyage—- like the sinking of the Sulpicio Lines ferry or in a the falling of an aircraft from the sky like the missing persons of the C-130 plane crash.

At a glance, one can see how often the law is brushed aside. With out following the judicial rules, empty coffins are paraded which seem to perturb the silent public. No one raises any objection— not even the grieving victims’ relatives who took P60,000 (less than $2,000) as “financial” aids for the “death” of their loved ones. =0=

UPDATE: September 2, 2008, a day after the military’s posthumous tribute was held, 7 bodies out of 9 were allegedly recovered. Though not all bodies were complete, waiting for some time was more appropriate so taht the remains of those who perished in C-130 plane crash could be included in the memorial. In keeping with the law, a premature declaraion of death could be avoided.

Land domains and the language of peace

August 31, 2008

As pretty as the sea shells that dangle in the wind along pristine shores of Gubat, Sorsogon, the sound of Bicol is as musical as Waray. It’s the language of neighbor-islands that is as wonderful as the photo of polished cowries adorning the shell décors crafted by Gubatnons in the Southern tip of Luzon.

To me, it’s not the differences in how we speak that counts, but the similarities that can help us move on as a nation. By the similar language we speak, we must be blessed in harmony the Warays.

In Apolonio Baylon’s insightful explanation why geography is important in the ultimate solution of the Mindanao strife, I find language as a plus factor for peace. Do Moslems and Christians speak the same language too? We all must seek such commonality more than our difference. We must transcend beyond ethnicity and religion to overcome the barriers of bias and hate.

Sharing a language and redefining territorial boundaries as proposed in MOA-AD may determine how much gold the earth’s bowels can give us, but in finality, the initiatives for peace between us is the way to go in coming to terms with each other— in banishing animosity in our soul. Greater than ourselves and undoubtedly more precious, we must all work for peace. =0=

Was The MILF Suckered Into War?

August 30, 2008

In 2000, I was a keen observer of Erap’s war against the MILF. I was then living in Iligan City and information was readily available because  to forestall accusation of bias the media in Northern Mindanao practiced real free press where all sides were free to ventilate their side unrestricted. Showing of “hot” videos of the fighting and destruction and free discourses became the order of the day. That happened for a week until the government can no longer take the heat and  clamped down on the media by threatening to file sedition charges against the TV and radio stations.

But comparing the 2000 war and today’s war I am amazed by the current speed and comprehensiveness of the military advance. It is as if they have been ready all along to take the offensive. In 2000 though the military has already 38 batallions in Mindanao (by Erap’s own admission) they had to wait for several more batallions before attacking headlong the MILF strongholds.

Or is this the case of the military taking advantage of advanced technology provided to them by the US like satellite imagery, GPS tracking and sigint (signal intelligence)  tracking? News reports of the recent past shows Moro fighters in Sulu and Tawi-tawi complaining about this and as a result they find themselves being outmaneuvered in their own lair. Even Ka Roger, the CPP spokesman became media-shy after his close escape where he charged it was due to his being monitored through his interviews by media through his cell phone.

The government knows knows very well the psychological profile of Commander Bravo of being a hothead and having a history of defying their central leadership. Lanao residents won’t be surprised by his show of force following the cancellation of the MOA signing. Was the government counting all along on this so that there will be a ready excuse? Is the order to capture Commanders Bravo and Kato just a ruse to attack the other bases as the MILF is now charging?

If this is true then it means the MILF was suckered into war, a war that they cannot win. Will this mean that they will again lose territory like in 2000? The irony of this is that they are now at the losing end of the propaganda war and a perfect excuse was found to raise new paramilitary units.

It seems that GMA’s government promised the MILF something that really cannot happen if the reaction of the Supreme Court and the Christian body politic will be the gauge. And what the MILF got was not a signed document of peace but war.