"What this Country needs is not a change OF men but a change IN men" March 1980

Monday, August 27, 2007

Gordon's insights should enlighten our war mongers

AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
Sunday, August 26, 2007

Senator Dick Gordon is an action man who chooses to be in the front lines. Thus, it comes as no surprise that while blabber mouths in Malacañang Palace, Congress and the Senate pontificate from a safe distance — Dick Gordon was in the heart of the conflict in Mindanao.

Leading the Red Cross in ministering to the needs of civilians in the strife-affected areas, Gordon gets that rare opportunity to know the deepest emotions and thoughts of the people there.

Anyone who has a say in the furtherance of that conflict should seriously consider Dick Gordon's report and set of recommendations that were submitted to Senate President Manny Villar.

Here are the highlights of Dick Gordon's August 20, 2007 five-point summary:

"From what we saw and heard first-hand, we believe that the situation in the two islands (Basilan and Sulu) can considerably be improved if peacekeeping efforts are matched by vigorous action to enhance basic governance — i.e. the projection of government authority and the provision of basic public and social services. Specifically, we noted the following:

1. Despite the recent hostilities in Basilan and Sulu, which have claimed many lives and injured others, the area is by no means a war zone. The situation is under control. This is not to minimize the seriousness of the terrorist threat and the high toll of lives of recent incidents there. But the fighting has occurred mainly in a few pockets of the two islands where the campaign against terrorist bands, particularly the Abu Sayyaf, is being prosecuted.

The focus of complaint and worry of the local people is not peace and order but the poor provision of basic services (such as schools, water service and roads), the payment of salaries to teachers, and support for economic activities and livelihood.

2. The education situation is disturbing. Many teachers and government employees in Basilan and Sulu are complaining of not having received their salaries for as long as six months and more.

On the bright side, we witnessed some cheering scenes in the schools we visited. In one school, we joined Tausug grade school students in singing the national anthem and reciting the oath of allegiance to the Republic. In another school we saw grade school students gather and listen to a debate among students running for election to their student council. Noteworthy also is the fact that in these schools, the teachers and students go to school in uniform.

It would be good if government can move fast to build and repair more schools, provide water facilities in the region and shore up support for the teachers. There is no lack of desire among the teachers; they have the passion and willingness to educate, as exemplified by their continued work despite not receiving their salaries.

3. In our visit to the Jolo Integrated Provincial Hospital, we found much to cheer about. Health care services were available. The place was spotless and very orderly.

In Basilan, health services and livelihood are inadequate. They do not lack dedicated and caring people there. But they do need more support and provisions for their services.

4. On the economic front, business and commerce go on as usual in both islands. In the campus of the Jolo Agricultural School, we visited a site that used to be a dumping ground for bodies. It is now being used for poultry raising. We found high school and college students bottling sardines, mangosteen and durian. Everywhere we went, we were being offered bananas, lanzones and other fruits.

Another move that could really help the regional economy is for the government to finish the circumferential road in Isabela City in Basilan and other road projects. This will pave the way for local prosperity because of the increase in the number of rubber trees and the abundant production of lanzones.

What I am suggesting here is that we should consider a change in perspective and approach to the area.

5. After taking everything into account therefore, we believe that the campaign against terrorism will yield more lasting results if the military effort is matched by a comprehensive effort to build up the physical, social and legal infrastructure in Basilan and Sulu, as well as in ARMM in general. The autonomous region is quite simply the poorest in the country.

Mindanao, including Sulu and Basilan, is not a war zone. What we face there is a battle for hearts and minds."

* * *

Gordon provides a holistic approach that is backed by a thorough understanding of the problem. Gordon even sees the potential of Basilan and Sulu as tourist destinations — an idea the regime quickly grabbed and mouthed without as much as crediting Gordon for conceiving it.

The Mindanao problem is made worse by the emotional hysteria and military adventurism of people who do not understand the scope and seriousness of the issues surrounding the Muslim secessionist movement.

Many Filipinos delude themselves into thinking that the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) — poorly equipped, greatly divided and deeply demoralized — has what it takes to quell the Muslim rebellion. They forget that even the US and Spain had failed miserably in crushing Muslim insurgency in Mindanao.

A similar scenario plays out in Iraq today. A high-tech, military savvy America is waging an un-winnable war despite the advantage of fighting in an open desert terrain.

Our AFP is far from being high-tech and Mindanao is not an open desert. Its jungles and mountainous terrain provide ideal cover for insurgents who can so easily draw sympathy from fellow Muslims who had long suffered from neglect.

* * *

Chair Wrecker e-mail and website: macesposo@yahoo.com and www.chair wrecker.com

Monday, August 20, 2007

Invest in Peace

For Senator Richard Gordon, who spent two days in Sulu and Basilan last week, military action must be coupled with “physical, social, and legal infrastructure in the region.”

In his report to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, which he made available to the media, Gordon said residents welcome the gun ban being enforced in Sulu.

“The local people, while edgy about the recent fighting and the military presence, are happy about the gun ban,” he said, adding that the Sulu governor has successfully convinced all elected local executives -- mayors and village chairmen -- to report to their posts, not in faraway Zamboanga City.

“What the people there are complaining about has to do with the poor provision of basic services like schools, water and roads, the payment of salaries to teachers, and support for economic activities,” he said.

Gordon urged Arroyo to finish the circumferential road in Isabela, Basilan and enable faster movement of goods and people.

“[The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao] is quite simply the poorest in the country. We can drain local support for extremism and terrorism if the local people can feel and see vital public and social services and good governance in their midst. For this kind of capacity-building, assistance from the national government is a must,” he said.

Gordon, who is also chairman of the Philippine National Red Cross, said his organization is setting up a full-fledged blood bank for Basilan and Sulu by upgrading the present blood station into a blood collection unit. He also said the two provinces have been provided a brand new four-wheel-drive ambulance each.

“We have installed a single-side band radio communications [system] in Isabela and Lamitan towns. We continue to send blood products and supplies and medicine to Basilan and Sulu. We have augmented our staff with foreign conflict-trained personnel to help manage response, relief, and rehabilitation of internally displaced persons and other challenges. We are implementing water projects in both islands. And we will put up a health station in Albarca, Basilan, the site of the recent ambush,” he said.

By Veronica Uy
Last updated 05:36pm (Mla time) 08/20/2007

Pinoy's worth living for

Sen. Richard Gordon also does not believe in Ninoy’s words that the Filipino is worth dying for.

“I think Filipinos are worth living for. What does our national anthem say, ‘ang mamatay ng dahil sa ’yo’? But it also says, ‘sa manlulupig, di ka pasisiil.’

So we have to work on that, and we should start to overcome ourselves and work for change,” Gordon said.



The Philippine Star

Vehicle smugglers close to Arroyo

Senator Richard Gordon, the founding chair of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, said that smuggling had gotten worse at Subic and Clark largely because of people close to Arroyo.

Gordon said one of the biggest smugglers operating out of the former American naval base was a “congressman’’ who was “very, very close to the President.’’

“This guy is not just into smuggling cars, he’s also into smuggling other commodities like fuel, alcohol and cigarettes,’’ Gordon said.

By Gil C. Cabacungan Jr.

Last updated 08:34pm (Mla time) 08/20/2007

Friday, August 10, 2007


The ambush and killing yesterday of 20 AFP troops in Sulu by suspected members of the Abu Sayyaf Brigade raises concern about the situation in the South today.

Within just one month, the nation’s elite troops have twice suffered heavily at the hands of the forces of terror. Last July 10, 24 of our Marines were similarly ambushed and killed in Basilan.

While we offer our sympathies to the families of the fallen, we have to look more closely into why our troops are suffering this high level of casualties. I believe Congress and the public deserve to know more about the real situation in the South so that appropriate adjustments – whether in policy or program or materiel or logistics – can be made, and better support to our troops can be provided.

If I may offer an unsolicited advice, I suggest that the Commander in Chief, joined by leaders of the Senate and the House of Representatives, call for a top-level briefing on the situation from the AFP high command and commanders in the field.

We have to know how our policy is really faring in Mindanao and Sulu, the adequacy of support for our troops, the quality of intelligence they are receiving, the state of troop morale, and the general climate for peace and order in the affected areas.

It is also fitting to inquire into how military action against the terrorist bands can be matched by socio-economic and civic action to truly alleviate conditions in the South, so that more among our Muslim brothers can be brought within the protection of the State.

This is not a question of assigning blame or pointing fingers. This is just a matter of how we can all pull together for the improvement of the situation in the South.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Statement on Presidential Aspirations

Lest I be accused of starting the 2010 presidential campaign this early, I want to clarify what I said in my interview over dzBB last Sunday and which the Philippine Star, Malaya, Daily Tribune and Abante quite alertly reported on in its issue today.

I made no declaration about my candidacy in 2010; I only responded to questions fielded to me about the possibility of my running for the highest office within the gift of our people.

I said I would be lying if I did not admit to being interested in the office. I have heard for years the appeals of many who were urging me to run, and their whispers have been louder of late.

I fully respect the decisions of others who have already announced or hinted at their running for the Presidency. I wish them well.

With respect to party alignments, there are some whose strategy is to anchor their bids on the revival of the old political parties. In my case, if and when I run for President, I will look not to the past but to the future.

I will try to mold a popular party coalition for national modernization and renewal from the many new parties that have emerged over the past decade. I want to address the hopes of all those who want to make the Philippines a better place and a more progressive nation.

But that said, I want to emphasize that my priorities now are my work in the Senate, the Philippine Red Cross, and the various advocacies that I support.

In the Senate, many issues and problems of great national import await the deliberation and decision of our senators. I too feel the weight of this responsibility, and I will put the greater part of my time to filling it. All talk about the future must yield to the needs of the present.