A Quick Visit to Bangkok and Singapore, and Life Abroad

A Boholano’s View by Jose “Pepe” Abueva

The Bohol Chronicle

October 27, 2013

In the week before the awesome, deadly earthquake that rocked Bohol and Cebu and other parts of the Visayas and Mindanao on October 15, my wife, Coring, and I made a quick visit to Bangkok and Singapore: two very different and fascinating major Southeast Asian cities. 

Much earlier, in the full year 1975, we lived with our young children in Bangkok, following a whole year in Kathmandu, Nepal. [I lived alone in Nepal in 1973-74.] The sojourn in Nepal and Thailand enabled us to visit Kuala Lumpur and Singapore as well on our return to Manila. In these places and in the United States each of us gathered impressions that enabled us to better appreciate, as well as feel sorry on some points, about dear Manila in comparison.

We  commiserated with the Nepalese on their relative deprivation but appreciated the spectacular beauty of the snow-covered Himalayas all year round. Up in the highest hotel in the world we would see Mt. Everest, the highest peak on earth. I made a quick sketch of the panorama and later painted it from memory. 

We’d gather more impressions as we lived in Tokyo before living briefly in New York. My work with the Ford Foundation in Nepal and Thailand (1973-1977) and the United Nations University center in Tokyo and New York (1977-1987) enriched our lives as all of us learned from our foreign experience and shaped our outlook as individuals and as a family. All our children were able to study in America. Our eldest, Lanelle, learned to be a potter as she apprenticed for three years with a Japanese master potter in Hachijojima.

            Revisiting Bangkok. The Bangkok International Airport, called “Suvarnabhumi,” replaced the existing Don Muang Airport in 2006 for international flights. It is about 30 kilometers east of Bangkok and accessible for the most part by a skyway. There is also a train to take passengers to central Bangkok in 20 minutes.

The airport is so spacious that it allows simultaneous arrivals and departures, unlike our NAIA airports. All these make our airline travel and land transportation in Metro Manila primitive. But then Thailand boasts of 23 million tourists in 2012. Thailand is strategically located for world travelers from West and East of mainland Asia. Indeed, we saw many big, colorful tourist buses in the major tourist sites. For the most part we found road traffic better controlled than in Metro Manila.

Moreover, we were vividly reminded that Thailand is so much more exotic than the Philippines because of its temples and huge government buildings, its being a constitutional democracy with the King as Head of State, and its nationwide use of its indigenous language. Large signs are mostly in Thai, unlike the Philippines were these are usually in English or Filipino readable script. Most foreign travelers in the Philippines would find it comfortable because English is widely spoken and understood. We had trouble communicating in our two days in Bangkok.

Sidewalk food stalls and sundry goods stalls are on many streets, and people may avail themselves  of massage and beauty treats as well.



Bangkok, or Krung Thep, which means the City of Angels, was constructed in 1782. It now has a population of about 10 million and is considered one of the biggest cities in the world. But Metro Manila has over 12 million.

In land area the Philippines has 300,000 square kilometers spread over many islands. Thailand has a solid land mass of 514,000 square kilometers. In the 1960s and the late 1970s, the Philippines and Thailand had a similar population. But then Thailand adopted modern family planning that has kept her population down to about 65 million to our 94 million. Thailand has a per capita Gross Domestic Product of US$5,480.00 to the Philippines’ US$2,587.00; and Singapore’s US$51,709.00. Thailand is richer than the Philippines. It produces a lot of food for her people and for export. I also remember that in the 1950s and 1960s many young Thais came to the Philippines for their higher education.

On our way back to Suvarnabhumi International Airport our taxi driver was severely coughing. Coring tapped his back and gave him a lot of tissue. The coughing continued and he tried to stop as he could not control the vehicle. We were very worried for him, and for us, because he had to suddenly slow down while the other vehicles were whizzing by. And what if we missed our plane to Singapore?

            Revisiting Singapore. This small but very rich, well governed, and well groomed island-nation-state always impresses us and makes us wonder about its people’s and leaders’ ingenuity. I have visited the place several times for meetings with scholars. One of our two sons, Jonas, and his family lived there for several years. And now one of our two daughters, Rossana, has just relocated there as a director at Standard Charter Bank, after some 12 years in London, working last for the Bank of New York, Mellon.

This time my wife and I visited for just a few days, but in style because Rossana lived in a luxury executive apartment for the time being. We only window shopped because the malls we went to were too upscale for our taste and pockets. At the Museum at Marina Bay Sands we managed to watch a movie and exhibit of an Egyptian mummy and an exhibit of 50 masterpiece photographs. Rossana also showed us the apartment building where she would be moving to that very weekend, and the mall across the street where we had our lunch.

On our last night Rossana decided to treat us to dinner at the restaurant on the 57th floor of the Marina Bay Sands Tower. Trouble was it rained so hard and it was so windy, and too many people were lining up for a taxi. We were worried that she’d lose her reservation. So we dared run in the rain with our umbrellas, for a distance of almost half a kilometer. At ages 85 and 81, we managed to make it to our destination with our much younger daughter; as if we were all very much younger. We were drenched but quite happy, nay triumphant, that we had made it. [May I add some trivia? I and Coring have the same age as the King and Queen of Thailand.]

Rossana was determined to make it worth our struggle, so we had a very special dinner and a bottle of red wine to celebrate the occasion. Then the rain stopped and we saw a good side of Singapore in its evening splendor. We somehow felt dry too.

Thank you, Lord, for our most enjoyable and memorable visit with Rossana.  And for our whole safe quick journey.

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Earthquake and Endearments

A Boholano’s View by Jose “Pepe” Abueva

The Bohol Chronicle

October 20, 2013

Bohol, the epicenter. Early morning on Tuesday, October 15, we got a call from my sister, Ching, in Duero, Bohol that a strong earthquake had struck the town and shaken our ancestral home. Deeply scared, they scampered out. Fortunately no one was hurt and there was no visible damage to the home. Then our daughter, Lanelle, in Antipolo City, and our son, Jobert, in New York, called to share the troubling news that Bohol had been struck by an earthquake with 7.2 intensity.

TV news reported that the epicenter was in Carmen where the Chocolate hills are located. Till then I didn’t know a major earthquake fault-line runs in our home province. The earthquake was felt in most of the Visayas and northern Mindanao. We were saddened by the news and photos of the destruction of the Loboc Church, and of the Baclayon Church, the oldest and most beautiful church on the island. I was reminded of the famous Loboc Choir and its angelic voices, and “the bridge to nowhere across the river.” Churches in Dauis, Loon, and Maribojoc also crumbled. We were saddened by the reported deaths that had risen to more than 160 on the third day and many more hurt.   

            Family reunion for Ching’s 80th birthday and the blessing of our ancestral home. Our sister, Ching Abueva Floro, had long planned a reunion of some members of our family and clan on her 80th birthday on October 22. I shall be in  Duero with our daughter, Lanelle Abueva Fernando, and three of her friends. My sister, Inday Abueva Martinez, and her daughter Jessie, would be visiting from Chicago. Other relatives and friends are joining our celebration.   

Unfortunately, our National Artist brother, Napoleon “Billy” Abueva, who is recovering from a stroke in their home in Quezon City, could not join the reunion. His wife, Cherry, a medical doctor, didn’t want him to suffer the rigors of travel. Billy’s presence would have been very special because he was most responsible for putting up our ancestral home in the early 1980s. Other kin contributed to the construction and facilities. And Ching did much of the needed renovation and the final finishing that made the structure the beautiful and livable ancestral home it is today.

In addition to Ching’s landmark birth anniversary, we shall be formally blessing our Abueva Ancestral Home, with us as the surviving ancestors. We call it “Handurawan: Balay Abueva.” I’d like to share with you our cherished thoughts on our ancestral home.


By Jose Veloso Abueva


Images in our minds, warmed in our hearts.

Our footprints in time and space. Remembrance

of our journey through life as family

and clan blessed by God’s grace.

For experiences shared, love given and received,

joys and pleasures savored, pain and sorrow

endured. Hurts forgiven, dreams fulfilled,

or broken—with smiles of acceptance.

 Hopes and wishes for a bright future for family

and nation and humankind. For keeping

Banay Abueva together, celebrating

ancestry, kinship, and heritage.

All these are our Handurawan nurtured by Balay

Abueva, the ancestral home and park in Duero,

Bohol by the sea—facing Mindanao. To share 

with our loved ones around the globe.

Forever to honor and thank our parents and

grandparents who gave us a good start in life,

loved and generously cared for us, and

served our community and country.

To hold together Banay Abueva,

in solidarity through the generations

despite the separate lives we must

lead in our wide open world.

Handurawan: Balay Abueva, our living

memorial in loving remembrance of

Papa Doro and Mama Nena, Papa

Awing and Mama Cadia, Papang

Peping and Mama Neneng, and

all aunts, uncles, cousins in our

Banay who touched our lives

with their love & generosity.

Humbly we offer our Handurawan

to God Almighty who gave us life and

protects us. To Lord Jesus who teaches us

life’s meaning and purpose and redeems us.

To the Holy Spirit who sanctifies and guides us.


No one who believes and belongs can turn away

from our Handurawan. Every member can

do something now or sometime. No gift is 

ever too little or too much.


We urge everyone in the Banay to keep

our ancestral home bright and livable

as the memorial and heritage

of our love and kinship.

                                                                        We ask all to come to our Handurawan by the sea.                                                                                                                                      To honor and be one in spirit with our beloved.

To be together and enjoy

howsoever briefly.


For Balay Abueva enshrines our Handurawan:

the images, memories, and bonds of love

and kinship alive in our minds and

warm in our hearts.


(Originally written on my way back to New York

from Manila, March 12-14, 1985.)


TEODORO V. ABUEVA, JR. (Doring/Teddy)+

MANUEL  V. ABUEVA  (Manoling)+








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“Million People Rising” Across Our Country

A Boholano’s View by Jose “Pepe’ Abueva

The Bohol Chronicle

October 13, 2013

Where it began. It began on August 26 when more than a hundred thousand people from all walks of life gathered at Rizal Park for the first “Million People March.” They were angered by legislators and administrators, and a private operator named Janet Lim Napoles and her phony NGOs. They had reportedly connived to pocket and waste some ten billion pesos of public funds sourced from the congressional pork barrel. The rallyists chanted: Makibaka, Wag magbaboy! In Bohol, my home province, they shouted: People Power vs. Pork Barrel! Abolish pork barrel, Jail all the scammers! Similar protest rallies were held in other cities.

In a futile effort to diffuse the people’s anger, President Aquino announced on August 23 that he would abolish the congressional pork, officially and innocently named the Priority Development Assistance Fund. With him were Senate President Drilon and Speaker Belmonte. But people remain betrayed and suspicious. Publicized investigations and Senate hearings have enabled the principal whistle blowers and other witnesses to divulge the details of the pork barrel scam and the main legislators allegedly involved.  The Department of Justice has lodged plunder charges before the Sandigan Bayan against Napoles, three senators and several former and current members of the House for the P3  billion pork barrel scam.

Fifth “Million People March.” On October 5, on Ayala Avenue in Makati, the fifth “Million People” marchers called on business leaders to join the fight for the abolition of the scandalous congressional pork barrel. With a huge golden pig made up of golden pig made of papier-mâché as their mascot, the protesters staged in front of the monument of martyred Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. and urged his son, President P-Noy: “to listen to the call of the people to change a government system that allows rampant stealing of taxpayer money by corrupt public officials, leaving the country impoverished.” Our column draws heavily from the report of Nikko Dizon and co-authors who covered the Ayala protest march. (Nikko Dizon, PDI, Oct. 5, 2013).

“Taxpayers’ money is people’s money.” According to the BPO Industry Employees Network (BIEN), workers in the business process outsourcing industry supported the movement, “If the taxes we pay to the government are only being pocketed by big politicians, we might as well keep our money,” the group said in a statement issued during the rally. “Taxpayer money is people’s money,” said Ismael Cruz, a veteran stockbroker and president of IGC Securities who personally supports the movement. Although business groups are slow to respond, Cruz said many businessmen in Makati share the public’s sentiment about the pork barrel personally.

“Stealing the future.” The misuse of billions of pesos in public funds through the pork barrel “is literally taking food from our mouths, the seats from our classrooms, and the roofs over our hospitals,” said  Giovanni Tapang, national chair of the Advocates of Science and Technology for the People (Agham), in a brief speech on the stage. “They have stolen our future from us because of the pork barrel system,” he said.

“President Aquino can leave a “legacy” if he heeds the call of the people to scrap all forms of  pork barrel, including the Presidential Special Fund (PSF),” said Peachy Tan, spokesperson for the Scrap Pork Network, one of the organizers of the Million People March. Tan said “the network was calling on Mr. Aquino to direct government auditors to look into how the presidential fund has been spent in the first three years of his administration.”

Business is cautious but also concerned. In contrast to the public responses of people

and workers generally, businessmen are cautious because in their view the economy is doing very well and they see the President as honest and their principal ally. Investors watching the protests, were concerned that public anger at official corruption might be diminishing the popularity of President Aquino and his infrastructure program. However, businessmen are aware that the reported high growth rate of our economy is not inclusive of most of our workers and the many people who remain poor. Poverty, inequality, and injustice prevail as businesses prosper.

Although business groups are slow to respond, broker Izmael Cruz said, “many businessmen in Makati share the public’s sentiment about the pork barrel personally.” Richard Anthony Liboro, director and head of high net worth sales at BPI Securities, said “the mass protests had no impact on business sentiment over the short term. But if it drags on, there could potentially be a long-term impact on the economy and the market because this could constrain funding for (public-private partnership) projects and other projects.”

Appeal to President P-Noy. Outspoken leaders in the protest rally “expressed dismay at Mr. Aquino for turning a deaf ear to the call of his ‘bosses,’ the Filipino people.” Talking to the statue of Ninoy Aquino, political satirist Mae Paner, also known as “Juana Change,” said:  “Ninoy, bring Aunt Cory (Aquino) and tell your son to abolish the pork barrel.” The crowd responded in wild cheers.

National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera said: “Mr. President, it’s time for you to listen to the people’s voice. We have been repeatedly calling your attention to the corruption in your administration. How long will you keep your silence? Lumbera heads the Artista Kontra sa Corruption.

No ouster of P-Noy. The organizers of the protest made it clear that the Million People March was not for the ouster of the President. Instead, they said, “it was a call for change in the system and to make corrupt public officials accountable, whether they were from the opposition or allies of the administration.”

 “Personally, I am not calling for the ouster or resignation of P-Noy (President Aquino’s nickname).  What I want is for P-Noy to listen. That’s all we want, for him to listen [and] scrap all pork and listen to the people so that genuine change can happen for the good of all,” Juana Change Paner told the Inquirer.

In general, the continuing protests by the Million People March and other organizations is “anti-system,” Peachy Tan said, acknowledging that there were groups in the rally with complaints against the administration.

She said that “what unifies the protesters is the sentiment against the pork barrel, as well as the little-known Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) from which Budget Secretary Butch Abad released millions of pesos to senators and congressmen after the ouster of former Chief Justice Renato Corona by impeachment last year.”

“We want to clarify that this is not directed toward one person. Personally, I believe that he wants a straight path. P-Noy is a good person. He is not a thief. But the point is, we have a rotten system that will still be there after he steps down,” she said. “Mr. Aquino would be leaving “a legacy” if she removed all forms of pork barrel. “Whoever comes after him, taxpayer money will not be vulnerable anymore,” Tan said.

Renato Reyes, Bayan secretary general, said the pork barrel issue is being “addressed to the President himself because who else would craft the policy? Who will set the direction of the country? It will all fall on the President,” Reyes said, “stressing that Mr. Aquino failed to hear the voice of the people despite four earlier protests against the pork barrel.”

Abolish all pork: congressional and presidential. Some 3,000 people had signed the “Million People March” petition on the online advocacy site, Change.org, “calling on the Aquino administration to scrap all forms of pork barrel, account for all pork spent and investigate and punish all those who abused the PDAF.” At the rally, the Scrap Pork Network urged both the government and the people to live up to their responsibilities as citizens. The group called on the citizens to monitor the budget process when Congress opens and on the Senate to remove the PDAF from the budget.

The Network also urged “the opening of the Senate-House conference on the budget to the public; called for the creation of an independent commission to include the private sector to look into what laws could be amended so that discretionary funds could be abolished; and for a better government audit system that would determine if certain government projects are necessary.”

The group also pressed for the passage of the freedom of information bill in the House of Representatives and urged Mr. Aquino to certify it as urgent, and the filing of cases against the abusers of the pork barrel in the Sandiganbayan within 100 days. “We want an investigation and prosecution of all. We want speedy justice so that they can return our money. We understand the need for emergency funds for calamities but we also need a clear mechanism for oversight,” Tan explained. She added that her her group wanted local governments and government agencies to involve people’s organizations and civil society organizations in the budget process.

“The people must also participate. Our call now is Tuwid na Paraan Tungo sa Tuwid na Daan (Right Way to the Straight Path),” Peachy Tan said.

The Church’s voice. An alliance of church leaders and businessmen joined the public in demanding the abolition of the pork barrel. The Bishops-Businessmen’s Conference for Human Development (BBC) described the pork barrel as “institutionalized dissipation” of scarce government resources, and said the Filipinos could fight corruption only if given the full and correct information. “The call for the abolition of the pork barrel underlines the necessity of passing the (freedom of information) bill, because full and correct information is the lifeblood of citizen power to effect change,” the BBC statement said.

The BBC opposed the pork barrel “because it gave the President a means to control the legislature and bend it to his will by releasing or withholding funds. The pork barrel is an abuse of the congressional power of the purse. It is institutionalized corruption that uses the people’s money in order to serve not their interests but the personal interests of individuals,” the BBC said.

            Overhaul our Political System!  We should realize that the misuse, abuse, and stealing of funds in the congressional and presidential pork barrel are inherent in our Presidential Government and highly centralized Unitary System. This political system must be overhauled by amending our 1987 Constitution!   pepevabueva@gmail.com

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A Federal Republic: An Old Idea Whose Time Has Come

A Boholano’s View by Jose “Pepe” Abueva

The Bohol Chronicle

October 6, 2013

Federal Republic of the Visayas, 1898-1901. Unknown to most Filipinos today is that federalism is an old idea in our history. We should realize “That the Spanish authorities in the archipelago had already lost control of the Visayan islands before General Emilio Aguinaldo was proclaimed President of the Republica de Filipinas at Malolos, Bulacan on January 23, 1899. That “a Tagalog military expedition sent by Malolos to Panay to assert its presence was met with hostility. That the Luzon force led by Generals Ananias Diocno and Leandro Fullon was regarded by the Visayan revolutionaries, led by the Visayan supremo, Gen. Martin Delgado, as an ”invasion” force….” (Amando Doronila, Inquirer, June 13, 1999) General Aguinaldo did try to persuade the Moro leaders to join the Malolos Republc but failed.    

Dr. Luis C. Dery explains that the Moro people’s in Mindanao, Sulu, and Palawan, and the people in the Visayan islands never fell under Aguinaldo’s politico-military control and sovereignty. “That the 1898 Treaty of Paris should not have included territories of the sovereign Visayan Nation”—the confederation of Panay (including Romblon), Negros, Cebu, and Bohol cantonal governments, because Spain had no more legal right to sell what she did not control.

The Federalist Party and the Lanao Sultanates opted to be part of the United States. Very early under U.S. colonial rule the Federalista Party wanted for the Philippine Islands to be made part of the United States but the U.S. government disapproved the idea. “Then in 1920, 120 Sultans and 80 Datus belonging to the Pat Pangampong Ranao (the Confederation of Sultanates of Lanao) wrote the United States President requesting that should the U.S. government eventually make the Philippines a Commonwealth and then a Republic, Lanao as a Province  chose not to be part of it. 

“They still would like to be part of the U.S.—perhaps as a State or a Protectorate. The reason behind this strange request was very simple: the Pat Pangampong Ranao is fully aware that the eventual Philippine Republic to be formed at that time would be a Unitary set-up, something which the Confederation did not like, since the Confederation was a Federal set-up; and only a Federal Government like the United State of America could understand another Federal government, hence the request.”  As history … show[ed] such a request was denied.  Much to the frustration of the Lanao Confederation.” (Email of Arnold A. Garbanzos, CDP-Lanao).

            In 1935 Delegate Tomas L. Cabili opted for a Federal Republic of the Philippines.

He was the only one among the 222 delegates to the 1935 Constitution who refused to sign the 1935 Constitution because it provided for a Unitary Republic while he wanted a Federal Republic of the Philippines. He believed that a Unitary set-up would dissipate the economic advantages of Iligan and the Lanao provinces—the source of abundant water and power; and that the 1935 Constitution would protect only the rights of the Christian majority but not of the Muslims and the Lumads; showing no respect for their culture and values as a people.

He argued passionately for almost half a day for a Federal republic and other concerns but was turned down by the overwhelming majority. He opposed the proposed constitution and a Unitary Republic on several grounds, namely: (1) that it carried no provision to promote the progress of the non-Christians  as provided  in Article XII, Section 5 of the proposed draft; (2) that it placed too much power in the Executive Department, which might inspire the establishment of a dictatorial government; (3) that it carried no provision for municipal and provincial autonomy; (4) that it might encourage communism because of the allowance given to the government to appropriate and substitute landed estates; (5) that the safeguards provided against the acquisition of agricultural lands by the foreigners were not sufficient; (6) that there was no provision made for the nationalization of the retail trade; and (7) that there was too much intervention from outside, especially from President Quezon in the drafting of the Constitution.

Indeed, Tomas L. Cabili was right and prophetic in his fears of a highly centralized Unitary Republic. He had warned against the disregard of the legitimate rights of the Moro people that could lead to their unrest and rebellion.

In his Filipinas Dientro de Cien Años (The Philippines a Century Hence) Jose P. Rizal predicted that Filipinas might become a federal state. 

            “Bangsamoro” as a model of genuine regional autonomy in a future Federal Republic.  After four decades of Moro unrest and rebellions, causing incalculable loss of lives and treasure and painful displacements of peoples, the government is forging with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front a new political entity called “Bangsamoro.”  The painstaking effort has now been challenged by Nur Misuari’s secessionist “Bangsamoro Republic” and the crisis in Zamboanga City fomented by rebels of Misuari’s MNLF faction.    

The emerging “Bangsamoro” has all the marks of a very carefully and sensitively crafted peace-making endeavor and political reinvention of regional autonomy. It seeks to fully assert, respect and protect the legitimate and historic rights of our largest ethnic and cultural minority, the Moros, as well as the lumads and other people in the proposed “Bangsamoro” geographic area.

We look forward to the completion of the draft basic law by the Transition Commission and its passage by Congress by 2014 with the full endorsement of the President. A vigorous nationwide campaign is in order to fully explain the great advantages to be gained by the establishment of the “Bangsamoro” political entity.

            But what is good for the people in “Bangsamoro” is good for all other Filipinos.  So President Aquino and our other leaders and the people should realize that genuine regional and local autonomy proposed for the people in Bangsamoro in the new basic law should also be granted to all other Filipinos. This calls for an amendment of our 1987 Constitution!

In fact, amending the Constitution would better ensure the adoption of the proposed Bangsamoro political entity in place of the existing Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao or ARRM.

Otherwise, there could be widespread opposition to favoring only the people in Bangsamoro and discriminating against the great majority of Filipino citizens in all the other  ethno-cultural and political-administrative regions in Luzon, the Visayas, and Mindanao. And for sure, some critics are bound to challenge the constitutionality of the proposed “Bangsamoro” political entity before the Supreme Court.

Liberate our people from corrupt and unaccountable leaders and dysfunctional institutions. It is also high time that we seriously consider replacing our corrupt, ineffective and unaccountable Presidential Government that we have had since 1946, with a superior Parliamentary Government that we have never tried—because of the vested interests of our political leaders in the old political system. In fact most parliamentary governments have proved to be superior to presidential governments, as shown in the United Kingdom, The Federal Republic of Germany, Canada, Australia, Japan, India, Malaysia, and other countries.

Let’s avoid nation-wide civil unrest. Given the nationwide political crisis being created by the large-scale corruption of congressional pork barrel and the perceived abuse of the president’s discretionary funding, we might very well have civil unrest and a political upheaval sooner than we realize.

The President’s bosses in ever larger numbers, and in various parts of the country, are demanding basic reforms in politics and governance from their tarnished and now distrusted leaders. The people want more than the abolition of the massive congressional pork barrel and the curtailment of the even larger presidential discretionary funds that have been gravely abused and corrupted.

Let’s not provoke our enraged citizens into launching our largest “people power revolt” ever, this time —against  President Aquino himself and the Congress—for betraying the people’s trust.  




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Misuari’s “Bangsamoro Republic” vs the Bangsamoro to Replace the ARRM in RP

A Boholano’s View by Jose “Pepe” Abueva

The Bohol Chronicle

September 29, 2013

It’s now close to three weeks since armed members of Nur Misuari’s faction of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) attacked Zamboanga City on September 9. While the fighting has subsided, with tragic consequences in deaths, people wounded and dislocated, homes destroyed, and livelihood disrupted, hostilities between the rebels and the military-police forces have not ended.  

Early on, Mindanao’s civil society called for a humanitarian ceasefire and dialogue. In their own words: “Declare a Zamboanga City-wide ceasefire now! Spare the civilians from armed hostilities! No to armed action and militarization in Zamboanga City! However, the government is determined to end the hostilities.  It is not forgiving the combatants of the Misuari faction of the MNLF and giving them “safe passage” as in earlier attacks of MNLF forces in Mindanao. Indeed, charges of rebellion, murder, arson and human rights violation under Republic Act 9851 or the Philippine Humanitarian Law have been filed  against 114 MNLF rebels.

Nur Misuari’s situation in perspective. The former U.P. assistant professor is the founding leader of the Moro National Liberation Front that rebelled against President Marcos and the Republic in the late 1960s. It was he mainly and Conrado Balweg of the Cordillera People’s Liberation Army who influenced the framers of the 1987 Constitution to authorize the forming of autonomous regions for Muslim Mindanao and the Cordilleras.

It was Misuari with whom the government under President Fidel V. Ramos signed a Final Peace Agreement in 1996 as mediated by the Indonesian government.  About 7,000 original MNLF members have been integrated into the Armed Forces and the Philippine National Police from 1998 to 2005, under the now 17-year peace agreement, an integration scheme aimed at assimilating former Moro rebels  into the mainstream. And they remain loyal to the Republic.

With the government’s full support, Misuari became the original elected governor of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao. However, his leadership was not known for its honest and effective governance. In time other factions and leaders supplanted Misuari in the MNLF.  He would then be involved in a rebellion that caused him to be tried, convicted, and imprisoned but then pardoned.

Still the government has been reviewing the outcome of the Final Peace Agreement with Misuari for some seven years, also with the mediation of the Indonesian Government. As a result Misuari and the government had agreed on 42 “consensus points” and they were to conclude the review on September 16 in a tripartite meeting in Jogjakarta. But the meeting did not take place because Misuari would not participate. He must have felt that the conclusion of the review would leave him in limbo, with no more political stature or influence.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front had displaced Misuari. For some years the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) under Hashim Salamat and his successors had resumed the Moro rebellion against the government. So the government has been engaging the MILF in peace negotiations with the support of Malaysia that finally resulted in the historic signing of the Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro (FAB) in October 2012. After several meetings in Malaysia the government peace panel and the MILF panel have fleshed out most of the details of the FAB. A Transition Commission with members from the MILF, the government, and other groups have been drafting the basic law to be sponsored by the President and enacted by Congress, hopefully in 2014. In time to be implemented before 2016 when his term ends. .

Meanwhile, as I reported in this column last week, on August 12 Misuari declared the establishment of “the Bangsamoro Republic” consisting of Mindanao, Basilan, Jolo, and Tawi, and Sabah and Sarawak to boot, both parts of Malaysia. He also appointed himself as its commander in chief. The secession is reportedly being submitted to the United Nations for recognition as an act of self-determination and decolonization. His representatives are saying that Misuari is asking the mediation of international parties to end the MNLF’s conflict with the government in Zamboanga.

Other MNLF leaders, like Muslimin Sema, chairman of the largest faction in the MNLF, have declared their support for the government and the peace talks with the MILF. Some of them have been consulted in the process. Reportedly, “key officials of the MNLF opposing the hostile actions of Nur Misuari and his men have reaffirmed their recognition of the 1996 Government-MNLF final peace accord and to renounce the MNLF founding chairman for good.”

            Where is Maas? This question is asked of Nur Misuari by Amina Rasul, president of the Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy. Misuari is called “Maas” which is Tausug for “elder” or “old man.” She is not asking where Misuari is physically but strategically and psychologically. She is asking him: “Do you truly believe that the infiltration of Zamboanga City is an effective means to address the demands of your MNLF that the 1996 FPA be implemented and the MNLF reunite behind you? xxx Or is this siege (of Zamboanga City) to attract national and international attention to the fact that Chair Nur, the father of autonomy, is not a spent force? If this crisis is your strategy to seize center stage as the government enters the final stage of the peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, then haven’t you succeeded? Isn’t it time to let the peace process work, as it did in 1996?

Meanwhile, President Aquino III has not set a deadline for ending the political crisis in Zamboanga and is addressing the humanitarian crisis instead. But according to Amina Rasul, religious leaders in Mindanao “believe while a military solution may quell this rebellion, it will aggravate an already volatile situation. The leaders we have consulted all call for a strategic political solution to address the cause of the ongoing siege and address the claims of the MNLF Chair Misuari, vis-à-vis the implementation of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement.”

Rasul says further: “Many of the leaders are pleading that PNoy address the situation by drawing a roadmap for a more comprehensive and inclusive formula to address the issues in Mindanao.” And that the government must not underestimate Misuari’s capacity for causing more trouble. Like it or not, she may be saying, how do you make Maas reassured and happy that he is not really irrelevant.

Mindanao is rich but most of its inhabitants remain poor. U.P. Professor Ed Tadem has called attention to the strategic importance and the basic problems of Mindanao that have not been fully understood and addressed by the government and our leaders. Many of the poorest regions in the country are in Mindanao. Yet our second largest island is very rich in natural resources and producing a lot of products for local consumption and for export. The problem is that much of the wealth generated in Mindanao is enjoyed mainly by big business, local and foreign. Most of the people in Mindanao remain underserved and marginalized.

The time has come to overhaul our political system and governance. Among the other root causes is that the state and our political system are captives of corrupt leaders, most of whom belong to entrenched family dynasties who exploit governmental power, public funds, and natural resources for their selfish interest. Corrupt and ineffective governance keeps the people poor and dependent on political patronage.  

The raging scandals regarding the abuse of billions of pesos of congressional pork barrel and presidential discretionary funds tell our citizens that they must persevere in their protests and demands for basic reforms in our political system and institutions, not only the abolition of the pork barrel.

It is high time that our citizens, civic and religious leaders, and also the media, understand the strategic importance and urgency of the basic reforms advocated by scholars and political activists.

“Charter change” is not the bad word that has been demonized as “Cha Cha” just because it was advocated by certain leaders who had lost their credibility and legitimacy.

Charter change is imperative when we must replace our obsolete Presidential Government with a functional Parliamentary Government. And our highly centralized Unitary System with a devolved and beneficial Federal System. Our judiciary has long needed basic reforms as well.

More than ever we need sustained and well informed people power to transform our political system. Let our citizens lead where our leaders fail. 

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Lessons from the Marcos’ Dictatorship: 1972-1986

A Boholano’s View by Jose “Pepe” Abueva

The Bohol Chronicle

September  23, 2012

40th anniversary of martial law. This week, September 21 and 23, we recall the declaration of martial law by President Ferdinand Marcos 40 years ago in 1972. The declaration marked the start of his authoritarian regime that lasted more than 13 years until Marcos was deposed in February 1986 in the EDSA “people power” revolt that drove the dictator and his family to exile in Hawaii with the help of the U.S. government that had supported him for 20 years. This enabled Corazon Aquino to succeed as President and restore our democracy under the 1987 Constitution.

It is important and necessary to recall what happened during the Marcos dictatorship so as not repeat them. As a people we tend easily to forget and forgive the abuses and injustices of the past, and not learn from them. Two generations of Filipinos know little or nothing about what happened from 1972 to 1986, so we have to remind them. 

Marcos proclaimed martial law pur­portedly “to protect the Republic of the Philippines and our democracy” that were “imperiled by the danger of a violent overthrow, insurrection and rebellion” and “criminality and lawlessness…[and] anarchy” that had paralyzed the functions of the national and local governments.” (Procla­mation No. 1081) He also said that he wanted to reform our society, to build the “New Society.”

Destroyed democracy and plundered our wealth. In fact, by imposing martial law and one-man rule, Marcos destroyed our democratic institutions of constitutional governance and the rule of law established for the public welfare and the common good — Congress, the judiciary, the free press and media, and the citizens’ political rights and civil liberties.  He then indulged his un­bridled dual passion for unlimited power and wealth. The imperiled state of the nation that he depicted rationalized his inner motives and overt actions.

 As unraveled by Senator Jovito Salonga and the PCGG, Marcos’ schemes and techniques of presidential plunder included creating monopolies in vital industries and placing them in the control of his cro­nies; awarding huge behest loans to his favorites; outright takeover of pub­lic or private enterprises for a minimal payment; direct raiding of the pub­lic treasury and government financial institutions; issuance of presidential decrees to enable his cronies to amass wealth for his joint benefit; kick­backs and commissions from businesses dealing with the government; use of shell corporations and dummy companies to launder money and invest them; skimming of foreign aid and other forms of assistance; and deposit­ing money with the use of pseudonyms and numbered accounts in domes­tic and foreign banks to conceal its real ownership.

Other outcomes of the Marcos dictatorship. The cumulative outcome and costs of the Marcos dictatorship that added over 13 years to his seven years as a constitutional president are incalculable. However enormous, his plunder of the nation’s wealth is only one of the  consequences of his evil rule. During his two decades in power the Philippines fell far behind several neighboring countries in East and Southeast Asia in the pursuit of development, and became “the basket case” in the region. Democracy was destroyed, the economy was in ruins, and the cul­ture of corruption, violence and cynicism aggravated.

The military was politicized and corrupted. Consequently, thousands of Filipinos were killed, imprisoned, tortured, displaced from their homes and communities, or simply disappeared without a trace. Also with impunity, women were raped and degraded by the military, po­lice, and other criminal elements. The Communist rebellion spread almost nationwide from just parts of Luzon. And secessionist Moro rebels fought the government in Mindanao. In the garrison state and its war zones hu­man rights were thus regularly violated by the combatants on all sides of the conflict. Marcos’ promise of a Bagong Lipunan (“New Society”) of peace and development with freedom and equity could never happen.

In addition to the suffering and misery of so many, the nation lost a lot of time, priceless years, ultimately its scarcest, irretrievable resource. The hopes for the future of innumerable young men and women were crushed forever. The careers of some of the finest political leaders were aborted, while a number of unworthy politicians flourished as minions of the dicta­tor and unrepentant officials and loyalists in the post-EDSA era.

By usurping governmental powers and abusing them, Marcos betrayed his public trust to defend the Constitution of the Repub­lic. In fact, to reiterate, he destroyed the Republic of the Philippines as a representative democracy and replaced it with his dictatorial regime. This was backed by the military, his personal Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (New Society Party), and a pseudo, rubber-stamp national assembly (Interim Batasang Pambansa, then Batasang Pambansa). In a word, Marcos be­trayed our country and the nation gravely suffered.

Defying this manifest historical truth, his family wants him to be buried as a national hero in the Libingan ng mga Bayam. And his loyal partisans support the idea.

The nation’s challenges. As long as Filipinos as a nation, and especially their highest leaders, avoid resolving public issues in favor of basic moral principles, the long term national interest and the common good, and get away with it, no clear national standards of right and wrong can and will be established, consistently enforced and prevail.

This is evident in regard to the issues of loyalty to the nation and collaboration with the enemy, whether Filipino or foreign; graft and corruption vs. honesty and integrity in public office; the inviolability of human rights and their violation and abuse by officials and functionaries; public accountability and non-accountability of government officials; civilian supremacy over the military; mutual accommodation, protection among members of the political elite; Charter change, and so on.

Without public discernment and virtue in these aspects that would epitomize the community’s high-minded sense of right and wrong, the Fili­pino nation cannot command honor, self-respect and credibility among its own citizens, much less in the international community.

For this, Filipino leaders are much more to blame than the citizens, for it is the challenge and responsibility of leaders to lead and uplift the people toward the national vision in our 1987 Constitution: to “build a just and humane society” and “a democracy under the rule of law and a regime of truth, justice, freedom, love, equality, and peace….”

Failure of Filipino political leadership is one of the best explanations for the country’s persistent problems of poverty, injustice, ineffective gov­ernance, and corruption — and its continuing underdevelopment, when compared to other countries since the end of World War II.

What to do. This is why our people must learn continually from study and reflec­tion on our recent history and national development, from the research and discoveries of our scholars; from the teaching and guidance of our religious and lay leaders; and by our involve­ment in the work of our various organizations in civil society.

Manny V. Pangilinan, the highly respected business leader said, in breaking his ties with his alma mater, the Ateneo de Manila University: “Failure to manage one’s affairs, such as weak institutions, failed regulatory agencies, corrupt enforcements, do not mean a particularly business is per se evil…. It is …Filipino frailty…. Indeed, the Filipino’s failure to manage well is shown in almost all facets of our lives—poor airports, poor sewerage , unclean air, mediocre economic growth. The list is long. Our preponderant task as a people is simply to do better, to strive for excellence.” (Philippine Daily Inquirer, Sept. 22, 2012)  

We should learn from the example of more advanced and progressive nations. Our political leaders should not mistake their power for the needed knowledge and wisdom to make decisions affecting the nation. Much of that knowl­edge and wisdom can come from the people’s practical experience and in­sights, and from their various roles, specialization and professional exper­tise. Good governance in a democracy requires the involvement and en­lightened participation of all citizens, as much as the skills and probity of the leaders.

We should remember the deeds and wisdom of our earlier and more recent heroes and martyrs. For example, more than a hundred contempo­rary heroes and martyrs are memorialized in the Bantayog ng mga Bayani (Heroes’ Memorial) for resisting the tyranny and corruption of Marcos and his authoritarian regime. Books have been written on the Marcos years.

We should raise our standards of political leadership and citizen participation in governance, as the Kilosbayan (People’s Action) seeks to do, and foster the pursuit of justice and the pro­tection of our human rights as the Bantay Katarungan (Justice Watch) aims for. It is no accident that these three organizations in civil society are the initiatives of Jovito R. Salonga. He started Bantayog shortly after the EDSA Revolution in 1986, Kilosbayan after retiring from the government in 1992, and Bantay in 2000.

Again, I never cease to remind ourselves that we need to reform our basic political institutions and this requires Charter Change.

Finally, in thinking of our challenges and responsibilities as citizens and leaders, we might ponder these few words of two sages from the civi­lizations of India and China: “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but earth can­not provide enough for every man’s greed.” Mahatma Gandhi. “Men should beware of coveting riches, for when riches come due to covetousness, heaven’s calamities follow. — Chinese proverb.

And these words of Jesus Christ as he called on the people and his disciples to “take up your cross: “What good is it to gain the whole world but destroy yourself? There is nothing you can give to recover your life. [For what shall it profit a man, if he gains the whole world, and lose his own soul?]- Mark 8:36-37.


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Let’s Change Our Slow, Corrupt, Ineffective, and Unaccountable Political System, Now!

A Boholano’s View by Jose “Pepe” Abueva

The Bohol Chronicle

September 15, 2013

Our citizens are assuming leadership in reforming our political system. As never before they are demanding the accountability and the immediate punishment of our corrupt leaders in and out of the government. Because many more citizens now know that our corrupt and wasteful legislators, administrators, and some NGO operators have been enriching themselves with billions of pesos of presidential and congressional pork barrel and discretionary funds otherwise intended for legitimate public projects and the people as beneficiaries.

 In rallies around the country and in the traditional and social media more and more people are pressing their demands to abolish the congressional and presidential pork barrel, and to prosecute and punish the guilty leaders whoever they may be. As soon as possible, in order to end the political culture and practice of corruption with impunity.

For in our traditional political system—of family dynasties, and so-called separation of powers and checks and balance among the executive, the legislative, and judicial branches—more and more citizens realize that it pays to steal public funds because the guilty ones usually get away with it. As leaders and people usually forgive and forget.

In response, President Aquino III has pledged to abolish the congressional pork barrel with the support of the Senate President and the Speaker and some legislators. Senate hearings are ongoing, as are investigations by the NBI and the Department of Justice, and charges before the Ombudsman and the courts. The Supreme Court is responding to a demand to declare the pork barrel unconstitutional. The media are doing a good job of focusing on the pork barrel scam, the alleged culprits, and other revelations. In turn people are keeping their vigil and their agitation for concrete action now by the President, Congress, and the Judiciary.  

Our political oligarchy, family dynasties, and patronage politics. Unfortunately, most people have long believed that the mere election of good and honest leaders, and now the abolition of congressional and presidential pork barrel, are all that are needed to reform our corrupt and ineffective politics and governance. This is because in our transitional society caught between political tradition and modernity we are still used to focus on personalities and personal relations, and not on the institutions of politics and governance. Unlike in our more progressive neighbors in the rest of Asia.

Our 1987 Constitution merely restored our obsolete and dysfunctional “Presidential Government” and our “Centralized Unitary System.” Most of our political leaders have been favored by our old and obsolete institutions that sustain their family dynasties and their patronage of their mostly poor, insecure, and dependent supporters nationwide. The congressional and presidential pork barrel sustains the politics of patronage and the family dynasties in our Presidential Government and centralized Unitary System.

Unfortunately, after the EDSA “People Power” Revolt in 1986 that promised “justice, freedom, and democracy,” our political leaders and constitutional framers simply restored in the 1987 Constitution our old and familiar institutions of Presidential Government with its paralyzing “separation of powers” and “checks and balance” among the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government. They also restored our highly centralized Unitary System where the National Government controls most governmental powers, authority, funding, and resources at the expense of our local governments and communities, despite the promise of local autonomy and the passage of Local Government Code of 1991.

The 1987 Constitution calls for the abolition of political dynasties and other reforms but leaves it to Congress and the President to enact the implementing laws, which they have mostly refused to do.

Until now President Aquino III and other leaders are resisting Charter change to reform our obsolete and corrupt political institutions. Since the 1990s Charter change advocates and some legislators have been advocating changing our Presidential Government with a Parliamentary Government as in Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, India, the UK, Germany, and Australia among many other progressive countries.

And they have also been advocating the change from our highly centralized Unitary System to a system of genuine regional and local autonomy in transition to a Federal Republic. Fortunately,  in pursuance of his “daang matuwid,” President Aquino III is strongly supporting the creation of a genuinely autonomous Bangsamoro in the Framework Agreement Bangsamoro—for a just and lasting peace in Mindanao. The new rebellion of the Misuari faction of the MNLF underscores the validity and urgency of the reform towards the Bangsamoro, to replace the failed ARRM. 

We hope the realization of the Bangsamoro by 2016 will also lead to genuine regional and local autonomy in the rest of the country through Charter change to reform our highly centralized Unitary System.

Our citizens as political leaders should seize the momentum by pushing for fundamental and lasting changes in our corrupt and dysfunctional political system. The goals are to establish a new “Parliamentary Government” to replace our corrupt, ineffective, and unaccountable “Presidential Government”; and to establish new autonomous regions and local governments in transition to a future Federal Republic.

Our Charter change advocates in the Congress and civil society should lead the way for sustained good governance that will lead us to the often forgotten vision in the 1987 Constitution : “to build a just and humane society” and “a democracy under the rule of law and a regime of truth, justice and freedom, love, equality and peace.”

 Meanwhile, let our people as leaders learn the importance and urgency in reforming our political institutions “from our traditional Presidential Government towards a new Parliamentary Government,” and from our failed centralized “Unitary Government” to the new “autonomous regions and local governments” in transition to “a future Federal Republic.” We have so much to learn and learn fast.

According to David L. Balangue: We ordinary citizens can do our part in fighting corruption by not forgetting and not forgiving corrupt officials and not stopping until they are put behind bars, not after 5, 10 or 20 years, but in mere months! The Rules of Court have timelines on the expedient resolution of these cases. We the people should insist that these rules be strictly observed for justice to be served and be truly an effective deterrent to corruption.” [Philippine Daily Inquirer, September 14, 2013]

Representative Rufus Rodriguez (Cagayan de Oro), the President of our Centrist Democratic Party—Partido ng Tunay na Demokrasya has filed a resolution in the House of Representatives calling for a constitutional convention and proposing the urgent shift to a parliamentary government and a federal republic.

We need the leadership of our citizens and civic leaders to persuade the House of Representatives and the Senate to approve the resolution and appropriate the needed funds.

Let’s Change Our Slow, Corrupt, Ineffective,

and Unaccountable Political System, Now!


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Nur Misuari’s Challenge to the Bangsamoro Peace Process

A Boholano’s View by Jose “Pepe” Abueva

The Bohol Chronicle

September 22, 2012

Misuari-MNLF declares Moro secession from RP.  The review of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement between the MNLF and the Government of the Philippines (GOP) was to be concluded on September 16 in Jogjakarta, as brokered by Indonesia. But on August 12 Nur Misuari proclaimed the establishment of the “Bangsamoro Republic.” According to him, the Bangsamoro Republic comprises all of Mindanao and Palawan, plus Sulu, Tawi Tawi, and Basilan, and including Sabah and Sarawak. He declared himself the commander-in-Chief of the Bangsamoro Republic. He said he was asking the United Nations to recognize the secession as an act of self-determination and decolonization.

                MNLF-Misuari rebels attack Zamboanga City on September 9. So far, the 12 days of fighting between the MNLF rebels and government forces have been devastating, as reported:  Deaths: 92 rebels, 12 soldiers, 3 policemen, and 7 civilians. Wounded: 110 soldiers, 13 policemen, and 9 rebels. The rebels seized about 200 civilians as they stormed five coastal barangays in Zamboanga City: of which 178 have either escaped or were rescued, but 20 remained with the rebels.

A humanitarian crisis has resulted by the displacement of 118,819 civilians or 23,794 families. Many homes have been burned or destroyed. Many of those displaced are staying in 57 evacuation centers or with their relatives. Hundreds of children show signs of trauma and stress. The government and private donors have been providing food, medicine, and relief to the victims of the uprising and fighting to end it. President Aquino III, who has been in Zamboanga City to personally oversee the military and government response to the rebel attacks, has pledged that government aid will be given to those who lost their homes.

                Government refutes Misuari’s claims that the government terminated the 1996 Final Peace Agreement (FPA).  According to Secretary Teresita Quintos Deles, the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), the Indonesian Government and even the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) Peace Committee on Southern Philippines supported the completion of the review of the 1996 FPA. It was Misuari who precluded the conclusion of the review of the Final Peace Agreement of 1996 in Jogjakarta on September 16. As reported, Misuari had declared the secession of his Bangsamoro Republic on August 9, and the rebels of his MNLF faction attacked Zamboanga City on September 9. The fighting goes on.

Even as Secretary Deles has been making contacts with international and local partners in the peace process in Mindanao, OPAPP Under-Secretary Jose Lorena has been meeting with other MNLF leaders to help resolve the fighting in Zamboanga City and prevent the reinforcement of the rebels there.

                The GPH-MILF peace negotiations go on. Secretary Deles made the assurance that the attack by the Misuari-MNLF faction in Zamboanga “will not in any way hamper the efforts  of the government and the MILF to complete the remaining annexes on power sharing and normalization and forge a Comprehensive Agreement within the year. The 40th Formal GPH-MILF Exploratory Talks continue in Kuala Lumpur.”

The Government panel and the MILF panel condemned the violence in Zamboanga City and affirmed their commitment “to pursuing the peace process to its just and rightful conclusion, in the belief that it is through partnership that institutions reflective of the true needs and aspirations of the Bangsamoro and other peoples of Mindanao shall be installed.”

More and more people are committed to the peaceful quest for a  just and enduring peace in Mindanao. Caring and peace-loving Filipinos committed to finally resolving the issues and problems that have prevented a just and enduring peace in Mindanao are committed to persevere in their efforts.  

The Bangsamoro political entity envisioned in the Framework Bangsamoro Agreement, whose details in the appendices have been worked on, and whose draft basic law is being framed by the multilateral Transition Council are crucial to the hoped for success. The basic law will be enacted in 2014. If a constitutional amendment should become necessary, it should take place before President Aquino ends his term in 2016.

The Crisis of Our Political Leadership and Institutions. Nur Misuari’s challenge of secession and derailment of the promising Bangsamoro autonomous region comes at a very critical juncture in our history as a weak nation-state with an unconsolidated democracy threatened by lawlessness and rebellion.  Our legislative, executive, and judicial departments, and our military and police and bureaucracy, and local governments  are weakened  by endemic corruption, waste, inefficiency, the lack of accountability, and the impunity of their erring officials and employees.  

The national pork barrel scandal has triggered mounting public protests against the massive dishonesty, corruption, delays, and waste of our government leaders.  More and more citizens see the connection between these evils in our leadership and governance and the widespread poverty, inequality and  injustice that plague our people. Especially the poor and vulnerable among us. 

Our  leaders should lead.  Our citizens  expect President Aquino III, and our  Senate and House leaders and administrators not involved in the pork barrel scandals and thievery, to bring the nation out of its chaos of  corruption and waste with impunity. We want the crooks and scoundrels to be prosecuted and brought to justice without the usual delays that mark our judicial process.    

Moreover, President Aquino III should strengthen the State through Charter change and reform legislation if he is to leave a memorable and beneficial legacy before his term ends in 2016. In particular here are the urgent fundamental reforms to be initiated by our national leaders and then approved by our people in a plebiscite.  

1.Reform our Electoral System and Political Party System. Abolish all national elections because they are very expensive and unnecessary in the proposed unicameral Parliamentary Government to replace our Presidential Govenment. Elect members of the unicameral Parliament (MPs) in single-member parliamentary districts like our present congressional districts. Therefore, let’s abolish the Senate which is very costly and will become unnecessary. 

2.Replace our Presidential Government with a Parliamentary Government. Unlike our Presidential Government with its separation of powers and checks and paralysis, Parliamentary Government will strengthen our political parties. It will ensure effective and accountable governance by the fusion of executive and legislative powers in the Government of the day formed by the Prime Minister and Cabinet. The Government will be responsible to the Parliament and accountable to the people, unlike our President and members of Congress. It will make possible continuity of good governance as long as the party or coalition in power enjoys the confidence of the Parliament as a whole.

3.Restructure our highly centralized Unitary System by using “Bangsamoro” as the national model autonomous region for all our ethno-cultural regions in Luzon, the Visayas, and Mindanao.

As I have often said, the Philippines is a country of many ethno-linguistic-cultural bansas. What is good for Bangsamoro is good for all the other bangsa in our country: Bangsa Iloko, Bangsa Cordillera, Bangsa Cagayan-Isabela, Bangsa Tagalog, Bangsa Bikol, Bangsa Bisaya, Bangsa Ilongo, Bangsa Waray, Bangsa Davao, Bangsa Bukidnon, etc. The autonomous regions and their local governments will remove the concentration of  governmental powers, functions, and resources in our National Government in the National Capital Region (Metro Manila), at the expense of our local governments and local communities across the country. Our citizens in our local communities deserve to be empowered and freed from the debilitating grip of “Imperial Manila.”

In the more than 60 years since our independence in 1946 our population has grown from some 40 million to 100 million. The great majority of our people live in scattered islands and local communities mostly far from Metro Manila, the political and business capital. Our people expect public services and assistance from their government through their local government leaders. But they don’t have the needed power and resources to respond, in spite of the Local Autonomy Code of 1991.

Our local governments have no control in the development of the natural resources in their own localities: the sea, water, forests, minerals, oil, and other forms of energy. They also lack the authority to mobilize the resources to invest in their local development. They should be given this authority. They should be entitled to a greater share of taxes or revenues collected in their jurisdiction. We should reallocate the tax bases of the National Government, the new Autonomous Regions to be established, and their local government units.

  1. 3.      At the opportune time, after demonstrating the capability and effectiveness of our  autonomous regions and empowered local governments, we can decide to change our present Unitary System into a viable and progressive federal republic. We may call it Nagkakaisang Bansang Pilipino (NBP) or the United States of Pilipinas (USP).
  1. 4.      Let us liberalize our constitutional provisions on the participation of foreign investors in our development and in the operation of public utilities. We can then compete more effectively with our more liberal countries in the rest of Asia.

It is inspiring and hopeful that our citizens are finally demanding good governance and that more government leaders realize they should regain the people’s trust. Our citizens must be empowered vis-à-vis their political leaders to make real the constitutional myth that “Sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them” in our “democratic and republican State. (Art. II. Sec. 1) Citizens are empowered by enabling them to be educated and trained, to be gainfully employed and provided social security, to be well informed, to be involved in public affairs by joining private organizations and political parties.  All of these conditions presuppose good democratic governance.

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Seeking Unity in Diversity: Sustaining Our Multilingual and Pluralistic Culture

A Boholano’s View by Jose “Pepe” Abueva

The Bohol Chronicle

September 8, 2013

Many Filipinos make the mistake that the only languages spoken in the country are Tagalog-based “Filipino, the expectedly evolving National Language, and English, our other official language and international lingua franca. Our English-based public education during American colonial rule from 2001 to 1946 and beyond made most Filipinos assume that we had no languages of our own but only dialects!

But our 1987 Constitution recognizes our many indigenous languages. It recognizes Filipino and English as our two official languages [Art. XIV. Sec. 6 and 7]. It also says that “regional languages as the auxiliary official languages in the regions xxx shall serve as auxiliary media of instruction therein.” In fact, we have some 181 languages, 17 of which are qualified for our new Mother Language-Based Education and are being used in kindergarten and the first three years of primary education nationwide.

Languages and Dialects. In Linguistics, the scientific study of the nature of languages, when two Filipinos speaking their mother tongue cannot understand each other, they are speaking different languages. Thus if someone speaking Sugbuanon (Cebuano) and another speaking Ilocano do not understand each other, each of them is speaking a distinctive language. In other words, Cebuano and Ilocano are languages.

On the other hand, Cebuano has several dialects or variations which are spoken and understood by the people in Bohol, Southern Leyte, Negros Oriental, Siquijor, and many provinces in Mindanao. These are also known as Sugbuanong Binisaya. In Western Visayas provinces people speak Ilongo, Hiligaynon, or Hiligaynong Binisaya and still other languages and dialects.

Speakers of various languages in the Philippines. Columnist Michael L. Tan of the Philippine Daily Inquirer [August 30, 2013] notes that, according to the Ethnologue of the Summer Institute of Linguistics: “two languages in the Philippines [are] classified as ‘national’: English and Tagalog (with 21.5 million speakers). The second category is ‘wider communications,’ and includes Cebuano (15.8 million), Ilocano (6.9 million), Bikol (4.5 million), Hiligaynon (5.7 million), Waray (2.5 million), Pampangan (1.9 million), Pangasinan (1.1 million), Maguindanao (1.1 million), Tausug (1.06 million), and Masbateño (700,000). [2000 National Census].

“Tagalog Imperialism” and “Imperial Manila.” Before Tagalog was propagated as the national language and used as the major language of the mass media and cinema, centered in Metro Manila, there were more Filipinos who spoke Cebuano and its dialects. This is why some Cebuanos speak of “Tagalog imperialism.” Many more Filipinos rile against “Imperial Manila” in our highly centralized unitary system of governance that concentrates political power and authority and financial resources in the national government. This works to the disadvantage of most local governments and the people nationwide that are made dependent on the patronage of national government leaders and agencies.  

My promotion of Filipino as our national language. As president of the University of the Philippines (1987-93), I instituted the Sentro ng Wikang Filipino to promote the use of our national language at par with English, as well as the advancement of our other regional languages. The impressive research and promotion of the Sentro has boosted the development and use of Filipino in U.P. For this I would receive recognition and awards in succeeding years. But there were Cebuano-speaking legislators who regarded me as a traitor to Binisaya, and I had to explain to them our language policy in U.P. As it turned out, it has fallen on our other U.P. campuses (in Cebu, Iloilo, and Baguio) to promote the development and use of Cebuano, Ilongo, and Ilocano, respectively.

I would later help initiate the Kadugong Bisaya to promote Cebuano and other Visayan languages and culture, particularly music. I strongly believe we should have powerful television and radio stations that can broadcast programs nationwide in Cebuano, Ilongo, Waray, and other regional languages, like Bicol and Ilocano. This is one way to nurture our regional languages and promote national unity in cultural diversity.


“One nation, many languages and cultures.” In his Commentary in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Representative Magtanggol T. Gunigundo I. [2nd district of Valenzuela City] underscored the fundamental reality that we Filipinos are “One nation, [with] many languages and cultures” [August 19, 2013]. Indeed, our Constitution recognizes the need for promoting “unity in diversity” as a pluralistic nation. At the same time, we should also pursue our modernization and development to “build a just and humane society xxx and a democracy under the rule of law and a regime of truth, justice, freedom, love, equality and peace [Preamble].

Representative Gunigundo then makes very appropriate critical comments about the way Filipino is being propagated. So I wish to quote him at length.

“The designation of Tagalog/Pilipino/Filipino as wikang pambansa has led to a dangerous misconception that any work written in a language other than the national language is not considered part of the national literature.

“This ‘over-privileging’ of one region’s language and literary imagination also affects the writing of our nation’s history. The struggles in the various regions for freedom and democracy have been ignored in favor of the political center’s narrative of the making of the nation.

“Hence, the pantheon of heroism in the national struggle marginalizes the roles of Dagohoy

of Bohol, Leon Quilat of Cebu and Sultan Kudarat of Mindanao, among many others in successive generations of Philippine heroes.

“To correct these historical and cultural inequities, a kambyo sa pananaw—as some Bisayan friends call it—is very much in order, especially on how we value our linguistic and cultural diversity.

“By this diversity, we shall be able to evolve an emancipatory education that teaches our people 

the collective virtue of a Philippine nation built upon the variety of the memories, experiences, dreams, aspirations and ambitions of our different ethno-linguistic communities. Out of this ‘many-ness,’ we are committed to be one national community.

Mother language-based multilingual instruction. Rep. Gunigundo continues: “The country’s native languages, including the Filipino Sign Language, have been given official status through the institutionalization of mother tongue-based multilingual instruction in our education system. Under Republic Act No. 10533 signed by President Aquino on May 15, basic education shall be conducted in the learner’s native language throughout kindergarten and the elementary grades. English and Filipino shall be gradually introduced beginning Grade 4 until such time that these can become the primary languages of instruction in the secondary level.

“Muddling by the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino.” “However,” according to Rep. Gunigundo, “these goals have been muddled by the very institution we have entrusted to take care of our languages. Recently, the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF) announced that it was changing the official name of our country from ‘Pilipinas’ to ‘Filipinas.’ The KWF obviously is not aware that there are two official versions of the 1987 Constitution, one in English and one in the national language. Each version was approved and signed by the members of the Constitutional Commission. In the national language version, we read that our country is officially referred to as Republika ng Pilipinas.”

Representative Gunigundo concludes. “I think it is time to reinvent the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino into a Komisyon ng mga Wika sa Pilipinas, or a Commission on Philippine Languages. xxx One nation, one language, one culture” is out. “One nation, many languages, many cultures” is in.” He also strongly recommends that our schools refrain from enforcing the rule that only English or Filipino should be spoken in our various schools and colleges. To him this is prejudicial to our other indigenous languages; it even violates our human right of free expression.

Failure to evolve Filipino as our national language.  I should add that a common and valid criticism of the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino is its failure to effectively evolve our national language as mandated by our Constitution. Being largely Tagalog, “Filipino” should  consciously incorporate  and adapt words from our various regional languages as well as foreign languages such as Spanish, English, Bahasa, and Arabic. The Komisyon has not learned the lesson why English has become the most popular and accepted international language or lingua franca. This is because English continually borrows and incorporates foreign and technical words into its usage and dictionary.

In the Visayas (Bohol and Cebu) where I grew up, we count in Spanish and adopt various  Spanish words. Counting in Tagalog is awkward and difficult as you go to the larger numbers and dates. Unibersidad ng Pilipinas retains “U.P.” while Pamantasan ng Pilipinas makes “U.P.” “PP.” Kalinaw in Binisaya is shorter and sounds better than Kapayapaan.” Indonesians and Malaysians are more practical in adapting English words as in konfrontasi (confrontation), komisi (commission), korupsi (corruption) burukrasi (bureaucracy).   

Let us consciously sustain our multilingual and pluralistic culture as we seek national unity, modernize, democratize, and develop!


Comments are welcome at pepevabueva@gmail.com

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Inspiring Ramon Magsaysay Awardees for 2013

A Boholano’s View by Jose “Pepe” Abueva

The Bohol Chronicle

September 1, 2013

We are enduring the tragedy and stench of massive corruption involving political patronage and the pork barrel scam implicating many legislators and other officials, and a few private persons and NGOs. In this sordid atmosphere the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation’s annual award ceremonies on August 31 bring us refreshing and inspiring relief.

Asia’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize. Established in 1957, the Ramon Magsaysay Award is an annual celebration to perpetuate President Ramon Magsaysay‘s example of honesty and integrity in government, humble and courageous “servant leadership” to the people, and pragmatic idealism in a democratizing society. The Foundation has named 281 people and 20 organizations as laureates. The prize was instituted by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund in New York City with the concurrence of our government.  It is given to Asian individuals or organizations achieving excellence in their respective fields and helping change and inspire their communities. Each awardee receives a certificate, a medal, and a cash prize of US$50,000.

The 2013 Awardees. In the words of the RM Award Foundation, commentators, and the awardees themselves, here are brief portraits of the awardees.

1. Habiba Sarabi. First and only female Governor of Afghanistan. Fifty-five years old, she is a member of the minority Hazara group. She was chosen for helping build a functioning local government and pushing for education and women’s rights in Afghanistan’s Bamyan province despite working in a violent and impoverished environment in which discrimination is pervasive, the Foundation said. Public education and the ratio of female students have increased in her province, where more women are taking up careers that were forbidden under the 1996-2001 Taliban regime.

“In the face of widespread hostilities toward women assuming public roles, her courage and determination are outstanding,” the Foundation said of Sarabi, a member of an ethnic and religious minority in Afghanistan.

Sarabi gets her motivation to serve from the people she is able to help. : “I love the people. I love my country. My people deserve that I help them, that I work for them.”

2. Lahpai Seng Raw. A 64-year-old widow and Advocate for Peace and Reconciliation in Myanmar, she is honored for helping the rehabilitation work in damaged communities amid ethnic and armed conflict. The emergency relief, health care and sanitation projects of the civil society group that she helped found in 1997 in then-military-ruled Myanmar has today reached over 600,000 people across the country.

She has never considered her gender to be an impediment to her endeavors, especially in spurring development in the marginalized borderlands of her country, which is still reeling from decades of military dictatorship. Her being a woman was actually something of an advantage in her work for Metta Development Foundation, a nongovernment organization (NGO) she formed in 1997 that sought to provide emergency relief to people displaced from conflict zones, including the Kachin ethnic minority to which she belonged. Under her leadership, Metta has established more than 600 farmer field schools and trained more than 50,000 farmers in effective farm and forest management, according to the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation. The NGO has established schools and training centers in early childhood education, and introduced community-managed water, health and sanitation systems, and other health-care projects, the foundation said. Metta has also provided funding and technical support for a wide range of livelihood projects, it added.

The group has since become the largest NGO in Burma (also known as Myanmar), with a staff of 600, branches outside Rangoon, and three research and training centers, implementing programs that have reached more than 600,000 people in 2,352 communities.

In electing Seng Raw to receive the 2013 Ramon Magsaysay Award, the board of trustees recognizes “her quietly inspiring and inclusive leadership … to regenerate and empower damaged communities and to strengthen local NGOs in promoting a nonviolent culture of participation and dialogue as the foundation for Burma’s peaceful future.”

3. Ernesto Domingo, Filipino Advocate of Universal Health Care. A 76-year-old physician, U.P. professor of medicine, and former chancellor of U.P. Manila, is honored for dedicating his career to pushing for the poor’s access to health services and for groundbreaking and successful advocacy of neonatal Hepatitis vaccination that has saved millions of lives in the Philippines. To him: “Medicine is caring, not just curing illness!”

The RMAF trustees “recognizes his exemplary embrace of the social mission of his medical science and profession, his steadfast leadership in pursuing ‘health for all’ as a shared moral responsibility of all sectors, and his ground-breaking and successful advocacy for neonatal hepatitis vaccination, thereby saving millions of lives in the Philippines.”

He says: “My career was spent in a public hospital [Philippine General Hospital]. Aside from  being reminded at every turn that you have a responsibility to society, you actually see real examples of the life of the poor.” Recognized as National Scientist for his research, he has dedicated his career to pushing for the poor’s access to health services and for groundbreaking and successful advocacy of neonatal hepatitis vaccination that has saved millions of lives in the Philippines, the Foundation said. “The practice of medicine,” he says, is “about empathy, feeling like your patient…. Once you lose that, I think you lose an aspect of your being a physician.”

“His research has saved millions of people from the danger of life-threatening illness, and reduced health-care costs,” according to the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation. He has also pushed for hepatitis vaccination to be mandatory and available to all, and worked closely with legislators and successfully lobbied for a law that ensures annual budgetary support for neonatal hepatitis immunization. “From ground-breaking scientific discovery to policy advocacy and securing implementation resources, he has painstakingly demonstrated how medical science can truly protect and promote the quality of life of everyone, especially the poor,” it said.

4. The Komisi Pemberantasan Korupsi (Corruption Eradication Commission). Since the 1950s, the Indonesian government formed different anti-corruption bodies, but these were mostly short-lived showcase pieces, sabotaged by the lack of serious political will. Then, amid the collapse of the 32-year  Soeharto regime, Indonesians decided they had had enough, and resolved to take the problem by the horns. With the initiative of civil society and pressure from international organizations, the Indonesian government passed a law in 2002 creating Komisi Pemberantasan Korupsi (KPK). Its accomplishments have been impressive. From 2003 to 2012, KPK has handled 332 high-profile cases involving top government officials; of these, 169 cases have been processed in court, and KPK has chalked up an amazing one-hundred percent conviction rate.

From 2004 to 2010, KPK has returned to the state treasury recovered assets worth Rp. 805.6 billion, or more than US$80 million. Less spectacular but exceedingly important are KPK’s preventive programs. It has undertaken civil service reforms for greater accountability and transparency, tightening rules on wealth reporting by public officials, closing opportunities for corruption through changes in management and operational systems, and setting up “integrity zones” in the bureaucracy as a way of monitoring and grading government agencies.  For the Indonesian public, anti-corruption education has been introduced at all educational levels, and innovative campaigns have been undertaken, such as the “honesty shops”—where customers pay for what they get by simply depositing the appropriate amount in a box.

When the parliament refused to allocate money for a much-needed KPK building, Indonesian citizens voluntarily donated money for the building construction. Now on its tenth year, KPK has become a symbol of reform and hope for Indonesians, and is hailed as one of the few effective anti-corruption agencies in the world.

In electing Komisi Pemberantasan Korupsi to receive the 2013 Ramon Magsaysay Award, the board of trustees recognizes its fiercely independent and successful campaign against corruption in Indonesia, combining the uncompromising prosecution of erring powerful officials with farsighted reforms in governance systems, and the educative promotion of vigilance, honesty and active citizenship among all Indonesians.

5. Shakti Samuha (Power Group) is the Nepalese NGO formed by heroic Nepalese survivors of human trafficking in India. It is recognized for helping fellow victims by setting up halfway homes and emergency shelters. It is the world’s first NGO created and run by human trafficking victims. The group’s founders are being recognized for working to root out human trafficking and transforming their lives to serve other trafficking survivors. The group has established a halfway home that provides shelter and assistance to survivors and emergency shelters for women and girls at risk of trafficking. Its leaders say: “Whatever we saw in brothels make us strongly fight against human trafficking. It is our personal history.”

Now working in eleven districts, Shakti Samuha has reached fifteen thousand people in its awareness-raising activities; rehabilitated and reintegrated 678 victims of trafficking and domestic violence; and provided financial support for livelihood and education to 670 women.

In electing Shakti Samuha to receive the 2013 Ramon Magsaysay Award, the board of trustees recognizes its founders and members for transforming their lives in service to other human trafficking survivors, for their passionate dedication towards rooting out a pernicious social evil in Nepal, and for the radiant example they have shown the world in reclaiming the human dignity that is the birthright of all abused women and children everywhere.

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