Archive for the ‘Lanao del Sur’ Category

The Valley Golf Incident Will Affect Us All Now

January 11, 2009

I did not think that that Valley Golf incident will turn out the way it is heading now. A not-so-simple incident, which might have been minor if not a Cabinet secretary is involved, it escalated into a legal and Internet battle. Charges and counter-charges have been filed, which is normal for powerful and influential people in the Philippines who can easily afford lawyers. And for being powerful the Pangandamans received a big bashing in the Internet, denting their prestige and pride the same way that the pride and prestige of the de la Pazes were dented in the golf course.

Now, what is the bad fall-out of this incident? The Pangandamans have filed criminal libel charges in a court in Lanao del Sur! Now, to those who know Lanao del Sur and the influence of powerful and influential clans there, it is a foregone conclusion that that case will be accepted in the courts there (unless Mrs. Arroyo says otherwise), the case will “prosper” and there is no way a powerful and influential clan will lose a case there unless their opponents are more powerful and influential than they are.

Cases in Morolandia normally does not end in court decisions. Courts there almost always have vacancies. Ruling one way or another is dangerous to the health of the judges. And prosecution of cases there is much more complicated than dancing the tinikling. And any Manila lawyer that will go there for the hearings will be escorted by at least two SUV-loads of armed men (not the short kind, I assure you). Lawyers are in short supply in these areas and many retire prematurely. Lack of judges, prosecutors and lawyers interminably delay the resolution of cases in these areas. Unless it is overtaken by “force majeure” with the characteristic overload of copper, lead, nitrate and thunderclap.

Now what will prevent bloggers from being haled to decrepit courts in some far-flung areas of the Philippines where the accused have no chance of winning a case? One can hire the most gwapo lawyer in Manila but I wonder if his BP won’t reach 220/110 and his balls shrink and his legs turn jelly in these areas.

This is the grim implication of this cursed Valley Golf brawl.

A Golf Course Mauling And A Star-Crossed Appointment

December 29, 2008

A Christmas season mauling in a golf club courtesy of a powerful political family. That hugged the front pages and the blogs these previous days.

I say this incident is the most famous (or infamous) mauling incident in a long time. And thanks to the internet, individuals have a new means in voicing their opinions. Hopefully this is the start of a way of checking abuses of public officials on the personal level. I am lucid enough to realize that the Net is not yet a way of checking official corruption because it has to go through the “legal process” and in the Philippines that is almost synomymous to a whitewash especially with the current Ombudsman.

If the son of DAR Secretary Nasser Pangandaman was the one who led the mauling he should be suspended from his position, if he is indeed a municipal mayor. I think the provincial governor of Lanao del Sur has the right and duty to do so because disciplining mayors is part of the job of the governor. But knowing Lanao del Sur politics and culture I say that is not a simple matter. That will probably be taken by the Pangandamans as a slap in the face and in that land confrontations emanating from this kind readily jumps above the verbal kind.

I hope the incident is resolved through the vaunted “legal process” and not settled through an “apology” or “compensation”. For how will be teach public officials that they are also accountable like ordinary citizens and not above the law?

If Secretary Pangandaman has any delicadeza he should by now tender his resignation. But I thought delicadeza is a Spanish word and concept. I have yet to see if this concept is not alien to the DAR Secretary.

A grave lapse of judgment on his part, I say. I remember that when he was appointed to the Cabinet there were gasps of disbelief in Lanao. But to the credit of the Secretary, most will probably concede that by the standards of an Arroyo cabinet he probably did a decent job and he was able to avoid controversy unlike the other cabinet secretaries.

He was recently appointed as the chief peace adviser to the President regarding the stalled peace agreement with the MILF. I say he is probably qualified for that post because he is in a position to look at both sides of the divide and he probably has a realistic assessment of the Mindanao situation.

But he should not have accepted it. It seems he didn’t realize that persons appointed to that double-crossed process are always star-crossed. And next time he should be more careful in venturing out to a gulpe club.

The Narciso Ramos Highway:A Highway Of Peace Or A Highway Of War?

August 30, 2008

Last summer I went to Zamboanga City for a vacation. Upon the advice of my brother I took the long overland route via Lanao del Sur passing by the renowned Narciso Ramos Highway, named after the former President’s father. This is the new highway connecting Cotabato City in Sultan Kudarat and Pagadian City in Zamboanga del Sur. Before the opening of this highway one has to backtrack to Bukidnon, Misamis Oriental and Lanao del Norte before one can proceed to Pagadian City. The new highway cut travel distance by more than three-fourths. The alternative was to take the non-scheduled light plane or the overnight motor boat (when the fastcraft suspended service).

An offshoot of the opening of the highway is the opening of the Cotabato City-Marawi City-Iligan City van route which before did not also exist. Several new jeepney routes also came into existence serving the small Lanao del Sur towns.

I undertook this travel also as a present to myself because I will viewing sceneries and places that were formerly closed to the outside world (meaning Christian world). It means passing through Campo 1, the gateway to fabled Camp Abubakar of the MILF which they lost in the 2000 war. The highway also passes through Malabang, Lanao del Sur and Sultan Naga Dimaporo (formerly Caromatan), Lanao del Norte, two places that heretofore needs a “visa” (an unofficial permission by some powerful person) to be visited. Christians in Lanao del Norte normally spend their whole lifetime not being able to see these places.

The van I took in Cotabato City took an eternity to fill . There were only a few Christian passengers but the Muslims, just like my experience before, were courteous and non-threatening. Upon reaching a certain point they mounted their red roof light, an indicator they paid the right “taxes” and has the “proper” authority to travel. They turn on these lights during night travel to prevent strafing. No wonder that the fare was unusually high.

Along the way we passed through the known MILF towns including the town whose former mayor employed MILF fighters as security when he ventures into Iligan City. He was the first town executive to receive the symbolic key as the government’s gesture of “returning” the town to the “fold of law” during the 2000 war. And he was teary-eyed in the local TV when this happened. But I do not think it was from joy since he is generally known as a MILF mayor.

Many in Luzon and in Visayas do not know that the completion of the highway is one of the proximate cause of the 2000 AFP-MILF war. The government rerouted the highway so that it will pass through higher ground to which the MILF opposed since it will be cutting through the entrance of their central base, the Camp Abubakar. The AFP general in charge said they do not want to be passing in the lower ground as possible sitting ducks for ambuscades. The war “settled” who was “right.” The road passed through the higher ground.

Between Cotabato and Malabang and especially after Barira, Sultan Kudarat the terrain was generally hilly and forested. After Malabang it was generally flat and the land was obviously rich and not over-utilized. Crossing over to Zamboanga del Sur we passed over the legendary tunnel built by the Japanese during World War II. Afterwards we came over to Tukuran, seat of the former Iranun (a linguistic group related to the Maranaos) sultanate but now a half-Christian, half-Muslim municipality and then to Labangan, seat of a Muslim sultanate in earlier times (Pagadian City is a former barrio of Labangan). But in Tukuran and Labangan the Muslims are already a minority. And that is the long history of Muslim Mindanao. Once opened in a few decades time the Muslims become a minority in their native land.

A month ago a van carrying passengers along the Narciso Ramos Highway was waylaid. The gunmen let the Muslim passengers off but hijacked the van along with the 5 Christian passengers. The next day the 5 were found executed in a not-so-distant place. Together with the ongoing war I suspect that possibly civilian travel along the Narciso Ramos is now stopped.

That highway will be a marker in the future if it is again “peacetime” in Muslim Mindanao.