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Sunday, 11 January 2015 06:19



I was glued to TV's CNN over the past few days, a far cry from my usual. I have to admit this: I  sparingly watch TV these days. Why? It's just to be free from the negativities of the day. No, it's not about TV per se. It's because of the content of broadcasts, reflecting life's foibles and woes -- which is what journalism is really all about. Indeed, there are facts that are happening all around us but which  I refuse to agonize over.  I prefer to choose what I want to relish: the pleasant  ( and there are so many out there I tell you ). I refuse be at the mercy of these sad and woeful  events that are plentiful.

But not over the last few days. I followed closely CNN's running coverage of the developing episode in Paris, France that started with the massacre by alleged  Al Qaeda terrorists of the editor, reporters and columnists of a news weekly  magazine "CHARLIE HEBDO", which is known for its satire, including against Islam's  Prophet Muhammad. The terrorists, after barging into the editorial offices and massacred 12 news-workers, escaped to the suburbs  but they were cornered and eventually, after 3 days of a stand-off  were all killed, except for one woman suspect who is still subject of a massive manhunt.

What really strikes me is the fact that out there, they get the bastards. Terrorists are eventually cornered and get to pay for their crimes. Whatever the crime or act committed, the criminals MUST be made to  pay for their crimes. In some cases, the recompense is swift and quick just like this Paris incident. Other cases may take some time. But nonetheless, the crime is solved.

I hate to make a comparison but I have no choice. We can't escape this reality that here,  in our own small corner of the world, this does NOT  happen. Here, our  criminals are not made to pay.  Worse, they merrily prepare for their next crimes. I get angry just thinking about this. When improvised bombs are exploded or when someone is "salvaged", the authorities usually come out swinging with bold angry , challenging words, only to eventually just whimper. This is not to totally blame our law enforcers for this. For one, we are still "primitive" in our crime solving methods and equipment. Two, our own citizens refuse to help. And we can't blame them too because they cannot be protected from any backlash. Three, our feeling of revulsion has been lost, if not numbed, due to the combination of the three above and the recurrence of violent incidents that have become commonplace.

Well, maybe there is no basis for comparison between a crime committed in Paris and one committed here. It's like comparing apples with  "singkamas". But seeing what happened in  far-away France, we are compelled to  face the reality that we  here are a long, long way off. Am I sad?  Nah, not sad but a-n-g-r-y!  As in!



BACKLASH --- The more worrisome, if you ask me, is the serious backlash the Paris incident may have on Islam as a religion and Muslims as a people. There is no doubt that the attack on CHARLIE HEBDO was provoked by the blasphemous portrayal of Prophet Muhammad by the satirical news magazine. The suspects were quoted as shouting that this was to avenge Prophet Muhammad. This is problematic obviously because those who will condemn the massacre will have the tendency to equate the terrorism to Islam and attribute this to Muslims as a whole.  Of course, we know Islam and mainstream Muslims  do not countenance this. But there are initial signs that the unwanted backlash is starting to happen. This must be addressed immediately: “Muslims must join in , if not dominate the chorus of condemnation.” And it will not help any if some  Muslims will also justify the attack. So let's all be sensitive to this and all help.


"JORGE BERGOLIO" --- I watched the Sunday episode of ABS CBN that featured the life of once priest, then bishop and cardinal Jorge Bergolio and now, Pope Francis. His life is truly astounding! His love for the poor will explain  His papacy. How he grappled with "liberation theology" that saw how his other Jesuit priests in Argentina worked for --and with -- the poor victims of martial law was another defining moment of his life. To some, he did not do enough to counter the Martial Law. But unknown to many, he maintained a respectable relationship with the repressive regime to protect his priests. He allowed the use of his identity to  smuggle  a priest out  of the country to escape the regime. His ways are unconventional. He is compassionate, he listens, he consults, but beware: if he decides on something, he insists and sticks to it; he is frugal and  strict. See how he proceeds in reforming the reclusive,  allegedly problematic Curia in the Vatican.

His coming visit will be full of visuals and messages that will reflect his persona and the present-day Catholic Church under His papacy.



SMARTMATIC, AGAIN? --- Wow, they have not cleared up what happened with the "bolilyaso" of Smartmatic in the last elections and now, another magic made by Comelec to hire it again for 2016 WITHOUT BIDDING!  What I cannot understand is that even a former Comelec insider is casting grave doubts about its reliability and credibility.  And now this!

A warning: If they plan on pulling something large-scale and unbelievable on the Filipino people in the 2016 elections, they are courting an upheaval! Mark my word!



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Tuesday, 06 January 2015 03:02


By Jesus "Jess" Dureza

As I sat  on my favorite siesta lounging chair on lush green bermuda grass by the beach looking out blankly at the blue waters in front of me on a lazy Saturday two days after New Year's day,  random thoughts, mostly from the year that just passed, came.


GETTING SICK --First,  there's this thing  about getting sick. For one, I don't have the explanation  but for several years now, I always get sick with fever and physical weariness and fatigue  starting  New Year's day. No, it's not because of over indulgence  during the holidays. Or of "senior moments". It comes like clock work for several years now. It could be psychologically self- induced or whatever. It's akin to  a regular "pit stop" like some racecar driver  who makes quick stops to check his car to  win the race. My only consolation is that I don't get seriously sick, as far as I can recall,  the whole year round. (Knock on wood!!) It's like getting my  dose of physical ailments at this time -- in exchange for a whole year of good health. I could not ask for more.


PRESIDENTIABLES --- As I sat there musing, my thoughts were on the coming presidential elections. Mayor Rody "Digong" Duterte and his possible run for the presidency momentarily came to mind.

Knowing a bit about him, my sixth sense tells me he will go for it if there's a good chance he will make it. His political genes will compel  him to. This is not to mention some clear clarion call to duty that public servants like him cannot just totally ignore.

In the meantime, Vice President Jojo Binay is still the front-runner by a mile, inspite of his travails. Sen. Grace Poe is being groomed while Secretary Mar Roxas is still the candidate-in-waiting of the formidable administration machine. Senator "Bongbong" Marcos, meanwhile, is starting to make waves with the much touted "solid north" that is no longer just limited in the "north" but already penetrating all over the country.

I  know Digong charts his political course through the time-tested political compass: surveys. So he will look at the survey numbers by mid 2015. If  the  numbers will  be viable by then, he will go. Otherwise, he will "pass".  

For sure, there are no limits to possibilities and scenarios given that  May 2016 is just about 18 months away


POWER -- I looked across the gulf waters and from where I sat, I spotted the glistening COAL DOME of Aboitiz' Therma South Inc. that I visited the previous week. My thoughts felt relieved that in the near term, Mindanao will be able to address its critical power deficiency. There are other big coal -fired plants being built now like Ayala's GN Power plant in Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte and Mr. Ramon Ang's power plant now rising in Malita,  Davao Occidental. There are other projects elsewhere.  Power self-sufficiency is a MUST for Mindanao's sustained growth. For the environmentalist, it may ease their angst knowing the government's  stringent regulations will have to be strictly observed and they can devote their time and advocacy in monitoring strict observance of these internationally accepted standards. Unlike the "dirty coal" of the past, modern technologies are now seeing to it that the "cost benefit ratio" is on the side of clean environment and healthy living.


FISH CAGES -- Looking across the gulf towards the coal dome, my eyesight got entangled with the fish cages dotting the coastline. I once listened to the "p----ng i---a's" of Mayor Duterte over his TV Sunday program wishing those fish cages to disappear immediately. I recall our Seagull resort had a fish cage before for tourism  and resort use but when former Mayor Sara Duterte ordered removals, we complied forthwith. Some operators sent word they would also comply but asked to let one harvest season to pass due to new stocks dropped in the cages. That was more than 2 years and many harvest seasons ago. Unfortunately, the other operators, mostly big names, lent deaf ears. In fact, more cages sprouted in clear defiance. There are reports that some operate without permits and without clearances from the agencies concerned. I recall the Punta Dumalag area was classified as a tourism, environment protected area and not a big  septic  tank for the pollution-prone commercially grown millions of bangus. I was told that in order not to disrupt the business livelihood of those who invested already, the cages be transferred or towed somewhere else. It has not happened yet. Mayor Duterte had said his piece  and bothering him to follow through   is unnecessary. It may be advisable for the operators themselves to just comply and move somewhere else as directed.   How  could some be so openly and boldly defiant? In my case, I will patiently wait!

In the meantime, I got word that Aboitiz' Davao Light Co. which owns the tip portion of the "punta" has started area development to upgrade and transform the turtle sanctuary into a wholesome environment-friendly nature's  park for city residents, especially students. Boardwalks and other amenities will be built to preserve the sanctuary ambience of the area. So, how can pollution-prone bangus production mesh gears with this planned nature's park next door?  Don’t ask me! Don’t also ask Mayor Duterte for that matter!


BLOODY CARNAGE --  Then something flashed in my
mind. I suddenly remembered the bloody carnage of innocent civilians hours before midnight  struck for the New Year in Mlang town in North Cotabato. Some questions raced in my mind. How were the victims and their relatives in the 3 bomb explosions in north Cotabato and Bukidnon over the last few weeks coping and managing their sufferings in the midst of this merriment? Their being noncombatants and just innocent victims totally detached from the conflict that impelled the terrorism was something we  could not comprehend nor accept.  I had a brief chat  exchange with Gov. LALA TALINIO MENDOZA of North Cotabato. She was devastated by the incident that hit her constituents who were making last-minute buys for the medya noche.


BANGSAMORO --- Then my attention turned to the Bangsamoro agreement. I read a recent article by former North Cotabato Governor Manny Pinol asking pointed questions and worrying that such bloody incidents not being prevented or solved put a big question mark on the success and viability of the agreement with the MILF. He asked: "how can MILF bring their promised  peace to their troubled land if they cannot even deal with its own breakaway groups?" Or words to that effect. Former Gov. Manny, by the way, has his roots and holds sway politically in Mlang town where 2 recent bombs killed and wounded his own people. Before he made his mark nationally and before his debut into politics,  he was a bright, young reporter at the Mindanao Times. One day he walked into my editor's office and bade me goodbye saying he would sully into the bigger world out there in Manila to try his luck. He never looked back. The rest, as we always say, is history.


GOVT MUST ACT -- Laying  the onus of the problem on MILF's doorsteps may not be on target. It is primarily the duty of the government to enforce the law and prevent lawlessness with or without a peace agreement. It should not lose by default. If the government and the AFP cannot effectively punish the bad guys, don't expect the MILF to do it for us.


MILF CAN HELP--- As I see things today, the AFP is holding its punches perhaps fearing that an all-out offensive against BIFF, including the MILF bad guys, will endanger the peace process. As a matter of fact, that was what we felt too during our watch in the Arroyo administration. But mark this: the AFP at that time went ahead and attacked MILF's Buliok Complex and sent fleeing for his life MILF Chairman Hashim Salamat when things turned intolerable. Our peace panel that I headed was meeting with Speaker Jose de Venecia in Manila  when the late Defense Secretary Angie Reyes marched his troops into combat in Central Mindanao.  Today, with a peace agreement already signed and sealed, MILF can voluntarily cooperate and  step aside to help the AFP deal with the BIFF and other anti-peace elements. It may be good to deal with those peace disrupters this early while we are working out the peace mechanics . For one thing, this will also put a test on the MILF and help clear some lingering suspicions that they are playing a "bad cop good cop" game with the BIFF as their orchestrated "bad cop".

My final word on this: having been there myself before, I must hurriedly add that  all this are easier said than done. So there!


RESPECT FOR LUMADS --- Then my thoughts turned  to those poor, unfortunate families, mostly "Loads" who were transported to Davao city on board trucks to "enjoy" the Season the "urban" way. I saw how some of them found their way in the city streets begging for "gifts" or for some measly coins as dole outs. The intentions of bringing Christmas cheers to our hinterland Lumads may be laudable but I  agonized at the indignity they had to go through knocking on vehicle doors or coming in hordes at motorists or passersby willing to shell out something. Their being housed in public buildings of course initially raised sanitation issues. Sorry to say but we  encouraged our Lumads to be  medicants. ( like those graft-prone 4Ps dole outs that have become institutionalized by the P-noy administration.)

We can give them cheers by bringing them here for a quick stay but please NOT for the whole duration of the Season. We can also bring goodies to them right there in their own communities instead of temporarily uprooting them from their usual habitat and comfort zones.

I remember reading a study where it questioned our usual  tendency to expose our indigenous peoples to so-called modern ways of living and then when they returned to their normal lives in their places of origin, their level of happiness becomes unduly distorted with higher expectations  of the good life but obviously not achievable to them given their actual situation and capability.


FORMULA FOR JOY --  I recall reading somewhere  the arithmetical formula of achieving joy or HAPPINESS. It is EXPECTATIONS divided by DELIVERY equals level of HAPPINESS. Try this out. If one EXPECTS  P100 pesos but what is DELIVERED is  only P50 pesos, he is only ONE-HALF  HAPPY. However, if he expects only P50 pesos ( not P100) and he receives the SAME amount of P50 pesos, he is FULL HAPPY. Raising the EXPECTATIONS factor will radically change the equation.

Hence, raising expectations of a good urban life to our Lumads who obviously cannot get the same expectations fulfilled or delivered, will engender more dissatisfaction or unhappiness. The study even cautioned "do-gooders" to lay off our indigenous peoples who are happily contended with their traditional and indigenous ways and way of life. We should not supplant their ways with ours. Let's leave them alone and not tinker with their lives. Yes, we can help them with their basic needs that they lack be it in education or health. But generally, let them be.  For example, I have seen how some NGOs used Loomed communities for resource generation,'(aka project funding proposals), then  "immersed" themselves in several Loomed communities, gave some assistance but only to fold tent just because their funding support from somewhere had dried up! Or their projects non-sustainable. The poor Lumads are left with new -- but empty -- bags. Unmet  expectations!

Just some  random thoughts as we enter 2015.

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