Bukidnons hail Sen. Zubiri’s resignation, but …

MALAYBALAY CITY (3 August) – It was a good and humble gesture but Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri should not stop at stepping down.

For Fr. Danilo Paciente, head of the Diocese of Malaybalay’s Social Action Center, Zubiri should also help clean the electoral process and help in the reformation process by exposing anomalous acts by groups or persons.

Paciente, in a series of text messages to this reporter, said if Zubiri did not have a mandate because of the alleged cheating during the 2007 elections, then there was no need for him to resign.

In what turned out to be his last privilege speech in the 15th Congress, Zubiri announced his resignation over “unfounded accusations”, referring to allegations he benefited from the fraud that reportedly marked the conduct of the 2007 elections in Maguindanao.

“I am resigning because of these unfounded accusations against me, and this issue has systematically divided our nation and has cast doubts in our electoral system which has affected not only myself, this institution but the public as well,” he added.

Zubiri said he resigned not because the allegations were true or that he was already tired [of performing his duties as legislator] but because he wanted to defend his and his family’s “honor, integrity and dignity”.

Many Bukidnon officials and residents backed the senator’s move.

“His resignation has the semblance of a very true statesman. He chose honor than position… I have no regrets of idolizing him,” Bukidnon Gov. Alex Calingasan said.

Board member Nemesio Beltran Jr., a lawyer, said that now that Zubiri has resigned, the electoral protest process should be allowed to take its course so that the truth will come out and the rule of law will prevail.

Another board member, Jay Albarece, who was an active labor lawyer, said Zubiri did the most honorable thing given the circumstances. “He earned the admiration of many by giving up his seat,” he added.

The provincial board’s regular Wednesday session was moved for Thursday upon the request of Vice Gov. Jose Ma. R. Zubiri Jr., who joined his son as the latter delivered his privilege speech at the Senate.

Former Bukidnon Gov. Ernesto Tabios said what Zubiri did showed his good manners. “That was kind of Sen. Zubiri to resign before the SET (Senate Electoral Tribunal) may announce their decision,” he said.

“His resignation is the Senate’s and the nation’s loss. I will vote for him next time. He is not power hungry like many politicians,” said lawyer Agustin Nazareno of the Ateneo de Davao University law school.

Russel Aquino, of the Provincial Office for Indigenous Affairs, said the resignation was a good historical and moral lesson for Filipinos, showing them the need for delicadeza and to look at national interest. He added that he appreciated Zubiri’s move but considered it as a loss for Bukidnon and Mindanao.

Juanito Aroa, former president of the Mindanao Association of Water Districts, said Zubiri’s move gave life and meaning to the time-honored Japanese doctrine that values honor above life.

Dr. Conrado Duque Sr., retired Central Mindanao University professor, said he was sorry hearing Zubiri’s resignation, but added that there seems to have truth in the accusation that there was “manipulation of elections in Maguindanao.”

“It was a dignified and honorable decision to resign, though a big loss for the people of Bukidnon and the entire country,” according to Dante Victoria, an official of the Bukidnon State University.

Bukidnon provincial legal officer Jeffrey Sayson said it was a loss and a noble act, “something we Bukidnons could be proud of.”

“It was an honorable exit. I admire his humility in stepping down from his position,” said Lora E. Anar, a teacher at the Bukidnon State University Elementary School Laboratory.

“It’s very rare for an elected official to resign. Sayang (Such a waste). He was one of the most visible, effective, and active senators,” said Reuel B. Gallo, a businessman and president of the Bukidnon chapter of the University of the Philippines Alumni Association.

“He made history! There is no rebuttal on that. Somehow he was able to gain some points for his re-bid for the senate come 2013,” said Francisco Mabaso Jr., of the People Power Volunteers for Reform. But he noted that Zubiri resigned when the election protest against him is about to be completed with the coming out of witnesses.

“It is a bold move no one has ever done in the history of Philippine politics, I believe,” Malaybalay Bishop Jose Cabantan said via text message.

But some critics posed questions on Zubiri’s resignation.

“Is it going to give him more votes in the next national elections?” a teacher who asked not to be quoted said.

“Does it challenge the country’s political system for overhauling, particularly the electoral system? I don’t know where it will lead us,” said Fr. Diosdado Tabios, who ran opposite Gov. Calingasan, who was supported by the Zubiris in the 2010 elections.

Elsewhere, Zubiri’s resignation likewise elicited various reactions, based on a Bukidnon News report.

“Despite his protestation of innocence, he knew, as the Filipino people a long time ago knew, that he was a beneficiary of the GMA-hatched scheme to rig the 2007 elections that made him the ‘Senator from Maguindanao’,” said lawyer Carlos Isagani Zarate, secretary-general of the Union of People’s Lawyers in Mindanao, referring to former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s alleged attempts at rigging the elections in Maguindanao.

“Kung hindi pa nabaliktad ang mundo (Had the world not turned upside down), he will probably stick out. Thanks, but no thanks, Miguel,” Zarate added.

Pat Sarenas, chair of the Mindanao Coalition of Development NGOs (Mincode), said: “At least we can now teach our children that lying is stealing. And it is evil.”

Salic Ibrahim, chair of the Reform the ARMM Now (RAN), said it was a “nice move to kick off the electoral reform in the ARMM.”

Guiamel Alim, of the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society Organization (CBCS), said Zubiri “is worth emulating.”

“Stunned! I have great admiration for Sen. Migs. And he proves that there is decency in a gentleman in that chamber. Saludo ako kay Migs!” said peace advocate Fr. Jun Mercado, OMI. (Walter I. Balane)


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DEpEd Malaybalay high school focuses on agriculture, fisheries

SAN JOSE, Malaybalay City  – The Department of Education’s San Martin National High School, in the city’s Basakan (rice granary area) district is focusing on offering agricultural and fisheries skills for elective subjects of hundreds of students, mostly children of farmers, Manuelito Melendez, the principal who pioneered the program said.

Melendez told Bukidnon News at an education forum recently that the subjects, along with fisheries and information technology are the three electives offered so far the school under the Technology and Livelihood Education program.

Dr. Florante Corpuz told Bukidnon News via telephone the school was really mandate to be an “agriculture national high school” to respond to the resources and needs in the area.

But one problem that confronted the DepEd schools division in implementing the agriculture curriculum is lack of qualified teachers and vacant positions.

Corpuz said they need a graduate of Agriculture Education who passed the teachers’ board examinations. Melendez said there are many agriculture graduates who have the farm and teaching skills but do not have the academic qualification.

For a teacher to qualify for an item to teach in such special schools, Melendez said, are required to have teacher’s license. He said those who have not passed the teacher’s board may teach but will be paid only as a job order employee.

Even if it was in demand long before, SMNHS was able to offer fisheries only this year, he said, because no one qualified. He said they are glad that a graduate of education majoring in agriculture from a Bohol university became a sole applicant this year.

San Martin is in an agricultural area, which is the original site of the Bukidnon Agricultural School, the forerunner of the Central Mindanao University.

Melendez said there times in the last 10 years that production, mainly, went down in the area. Among the factors considered was the dearth of technical knowhow among farmers.

He said the offering of agricultural and fisheries skills training within the TLE subject will prepare the high school students to farming as a future career or as another skill in order to continue farm productivity in the area.

In Malaybalay City, Bukidnon National High School in downtown Malaybalay City, also offers training in agriculture as an elective of the TLE subject.

Agriculture and information technology electives, offered from first year to fourth year levels, were offered in SMNHS since 2004.

Melendez, who has been assigned to another school in the city in June, said fisheries, was added to the list of the school’s TLE electives when classes opened in June 2011.

He added that the Department of Education has been opening up specializations for high schools to prepare for the senior high school program under its K+12 program. The two-year senior high school program, he said, will be training grounds for students who want to learn on specific expertise even before entering college.

Aside from agriculture, fisheries, and information technology, the areas where DepEd is putting special skills training include garments, food, arts, carpentry, and other areas. (Walter I. Balane)


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Anakpawis Rep mulls House probe vs. CMU

MALAYBALAY CITY – Anakpawis Party-list Rep. Rafael Mariano has considered a possible House inquiry on Central Mindanao University for alleged violations, including the attack of its security guards to protesting occupants of a portion of the latter’s area in Musuan, Maramag, Bukidnon.

Mariano filed House Bill no. 1480 seeking the conduct of a House investigation of the alleged violations done by CMU and its security guards.

In a press conference on June 22 in Valencia City, he expressedsupport for the members of the Bufallo Tamaraw Limus (BTL) Association to continue leasing about 400 hectares even after the contract and a subsequent extension has  already expired.

The farmers have pushed for another extension of four more years and a relocation afterwhich. They also pledged to pay P4,000 per year per hectare. CMU on the other hand offered to lease only for P1 per hectare per year but only for three years, and no relocation at the end of it.

This led to the farmers Kampuhan or protest at the main gate of the university since May 23 up to date, cut shortly only by the attack of CMU guards on June 14 to demolish the protesters tents leaving six protesters hurt. Three security guards were held under police custody but released a day later of an affidavit that even the complainant-farmers admit to be faulty, as it was rushed.

Mariano said he will lead opposition if BTL farmers will be evicted from CMU without relocation. CMU and BTL officials, he added, must talk and discuss for “mutual terms and conditions.”

Mariano told reporters he understood the budget cut on state colleges and universities.

But the issue of quality education and BTL (livelihood and relocation), which concerns about 800 families, he said, should not be compromised.

He reiterated, however, that his party list will support CMU for quality education.

But Mariano, at the same time warned of the possible House probe of CMU over its security guards’ alleged attack on BTL protesters.

He added that some members of the police and Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) would also be included in the investigation because of their alleged human rights violations on BTL farmers.

Mariano said he expects congress investigate the alleged human rights violations “in aid of legislation.”

Jose Benemerito Jr., BTL spokesman claimed they were and are victims of human rights violations.

He added that they are considering filing charges against CMU officials, who he said “must be accountable” for the guards’ attack.

But Benemerito said they will spare the guards from the complaint as they were only following orders.

CMU president Ma. Luisa Soliven told Bukidnon News last week there was no order to shoot or attack the protesters. But she admitted there was an order to dismantle the tents on the ground that the protesters’ permit to rally has already expired.

She went to Manila last week to attend a meeting with the CMU board of regents but she has yet to announce the outcome of the meeting where, she told Bukidnon News, she would recommend an eviction of the farmers from CMU property.

As of June 25, the farmers have suspended their protest. (Walter I. Balane)

See this story also in: www.Bukidnon News.com

CMU guards fire at farmers-protesters; 5 hurt

MALAYBALAY CITY – Security guards of Central Mindanao University fired at farmers who camped out to protest near the university’s main gate Tuesday morning. The Buffalo-Tamarraw-Timus (BTL) Association reported five of their members were hit and were brought to two hospitals, Agustin Sanong, BTL media liaison said.

The farmers have protested since May 24 CMU’s decision not extend their lease over 400 hectares of land and relocate them after.

The guards dismantled the protesters’ tents in the area and confiscated their materials, he added. Sanong told Bukidnon News two multi-cabs of CMU’s blue guards arrived near the side of the university main gate where they camped at around 10a.m.

“They fired without warning. About 40 blue guards just attacked us,” he said in an SMS sent early Tuesday afternoon. Sanong named those hit as Larry Divera, hit in foot and chest; Oyong Santillan, hit in foot with bullet that came out at his back; Abelardo Jarden, hit in leg; and a certain Marilou Porten.

Jose Benemirito, a BTL spokesperson who told Bukidnon News on May 28 that the farmers are still open to the relocation offered by the provincial government in Talakag, was also hit in his foot.

He said earlier that they just can’t just move out right away if the relocation site is not ready for them.

Sanong could not name who among the victims have been declared safe as of Tuesday early evening but he said two are still subject for operation. The victims were brought to a hospital in Valencia and in Malaybalay cities, Sanong said.

Bukidnon News sought CMU president Dr. Ma. Luisa Soliven for comments, but she did not respond to requests coursed through SMS for interview via telephone.

The incident was confirmed by the Maramag police station but Chief Inspector Linoraldo Torres, the town police officer-in-charge, refused to give details to Bukidnon News “pending investigation.”

He said police investigator SP02 Regner Sevilleno is yet to submit his initial report as of Tuesday late afternoon. He vowed to give Bukidnon News a copy of the report.

According to an SMS report forwarded by Supt. Canilo A. Fuentes, Bukidnon police deputy director for operations, six protesting farmers were hit “during a commotion.”

He said “they were hit with gunshots during a commotion” when their shanties were being demolished by the security guards of CMU.

The report Fuentes gave, which he labeled as “sketchy report,” showed that the CMU security guards were led by CMU security director George Gewan.

The same report cited that the CMU guards confiscated protesters’ tent and bamboos poles.

“They even took our rice supply, rice pots, tarps, and leaving us almost with nothing,” Sanong said.

But Sanong admitted that their permit to hold a rally has already expired.

From May 24, BTL members estimated by organizers to be 500 gathered at the main gate in Musuan after a CMU-created task force failed to forge an agreement on the status of about 800 families occupying at least 400 of the more than 3,000 hectares of land titled by CMU.

The farmers are asking that their collective contract be extended for four more years, pledging to pay P5,000 per hectare per year and are demanding a permanent relocation site at the end of the four-year extension.

In 1991, The Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board (DARAB) issued certificates of land ownership to BTL farmers, after they applied for coverage under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program about a third of CMU’s close to 3,000 hectares.

The DARAB granted them CLOAs for close to 400 hectares —only to be slapped 10 years later by a Supreme Court decision that favored CMU. The high court in 2001 decided that CMU lands were exempted from redistribution. CMU claimed that they intend to use the land for “educational and scientific purposes.”

In 2002, the BTL entered into a memorandum of agreement with CMU to lease the area for five years. The local government vowed to look for a relocation site. When the MOA expired in 2007, however, farmers found no relocation site. They refused to vacate the area and tried to continue tilling the farm.

But the university’s blue guards kept them watched, in many instances the farmers’ cried harassment.

In 2008, Soliven told Bukidnon News earlier, CMU proposed a “transitional lease contract,” approved for signing by the BOR. But BTL did not sign it, claiming it was “one-sided.” Soliven said the late Mardonio Lao, former CMU president, stopped the farmers from tilling the lands when the contract expired.

When Lao died, CMU officer in charge Rodrigo Malunhao allowed the farmers to return to farming the area for “humanitarian reasons.” The present rally was a repeat of the rally held when Malunhao arrived in CMU.

His work as officer in charge was cut short when he fell ill a year later and was replaced by Bukidnon State University president Victor Barroso, who served as OIC for both universities until Soliven’s assumption in February 2011.

Soliven said over radio station DXDB on May 27 that the CMU board of regents approved an extension of only three years and is asking for only a peso per hectare per year lease. At the end of it, she added, the farmers have to leave with no relocation site.

CMU has asked the farmers to vacate following an earlier offer by the provincial government of relocation in Talakag town. But the farmers are holding their ground. They said they will not relocate yet because the site is still undeveloped. Vice Gov. Jose Ma. R. Zubiri Jr, who was Bukidnon governor when the plan for relocation was hatched with his son Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri, said the firing incident was a disappointment.

On June 8, six days before the incident, Zubiri presided over a dialogue between CMU and the BTL. But he said the negotiation was botched when CMU allegedly refused to allow farmers to return to the rice fields to continue farming while other stakeholders are looking for a relocation site.

He said he asked provincial government lawyers to file a temporary restraining order against CMU so farmers won’t be driven away. Bukidnon Gov. Alex Calingasan said there must be a joint national and local government effort to address the problem.

But he said he is in favor of reducing CMU’s land area such that the extra lands could be leased to farmers instead of multi-national companies, as he said CMU appears to be doing. (Walter I. Balane)

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Farmers demand extension of land use, relocation from CMU

MALAYBALAY CITY – It’s planting season but these farmers are in the picket lines, not in the rice fields.

Farmers belonging to the Buffalo Tamaraw Limus Association staged a week-long rally against Central Mindanao University in Musuan, Maramag, Bukidnon demanding that they be allowed to continue using land previously leased to them, but which contract has already expired.

From May 24 to May 29, BTL members estimated by organizers to be 500 gathered at the main gate in Musuan after a CMU created task force failed to forge an agreement on the status of about 800 families occupying at least 400 of the more than 3,000 hectares of land titled by CMU.

To succeed the expired five-year contract, farmers asked to be extended for four more years and pledged to pay P5,000 per hectare per year. At the end of the four years, the farmers are demanding a permanent relocation site.

But CMU president Dr. Ma. Luisa Soliven said over radio station DXDB on May 27 that the CMU board of regents approved only a three -year extension asking only for a P1 per hectare per year lease. At the end of it, she added, the farmers have to leave with no relocation site, which she said has already been offered by the government earlier.

CMU has asked the farmers to vacate following an earlier offer by the provincial government of relocation in Talakag town. But the farmers are holding their ground: they will not relocate yet because the site is still undeveloped.

BTL spokesperson Jose Benemerito Jr. told Bukidnon News on May 28 the farmers are still open to the relocation offered in Talakag.

“But we can’t just move out right away. The relocation site must be prepared first,” he said.

He added that the roads are not yet built and allegedly there is still no access to water and electricity there.

In the rally, the farmers warned that they will continue to till their farms in CMU and vowed to start it on May 28. By evening of May 27, Benemerito said, Soliven asked them in a letter to wait for the BOR decision.

The BOR, he was told, meets on June 2.

But Benemerito said time is running. If farmers have their way they wanted to start planting already after months of CMU’s decision for a status quo in the rice fields. The farmers continued to stay in the area but were not allowed to till the farms.

Soliven, who inherited the decades old problem from past CMU presidents, have met leaders of the farmers in consultations before she ordered the formation of the task force.

She told Bukidnon News in an earlier interview that CMU is pushing for a win-win solution to the land problems with the farmers.

The nine-member task force, which includes a representative from BTL, failed to come up with the compromise agreement.

But even if they did, any agreement would still be temporary.

Soliven said although an appellate court declared CMU titles as “null and void,” the final say rests in the decision of the Supreme Court.

“If the Supreme Court favors CMU, we will honor the task force’s recommendation,” she said.

Any new proposals, Soliven said, must be brought to the BOR’s attention.

A year after the five year contract expired, in 2008, Soliven said CMU proposed a ‘transitional lease contract,’ approved for signing by the BOR. But BTL did not sign it claiming it was “one-sided,” she added.

Soliven said former CMU president, the late Mardonio Lao stopped the farmers from tilling the lands when the contract expired.

When Lao died, CMU officer in charge Rodrigo Malunhao allowed the farmers to return to farming the area for “humanitarian reasons”. The present rally was a repeat of the rally held when Malunhao arrived in CMU.

His work as officer in charge was cut short when he fell ill a year later and was replaced by Bukidnon State University president Victor Barroso, who serve as OIC for both universities until Soliven’s assumption.

Aside from the farmers, CMU also battles a land dispute with indigenous peoples who claim a portion of CMU’s lands as their ancestral domain.

Earlier, the Supreme Court decided that Presidential Proclamation 310, issued by former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, to set aside at least 670 hectares to the Lumad, as unconstitutional.

But the IPs see it as not yet the end. The high Court has to decide on the Court of Appeals decision declaring CMU’s titles as null and void, Bae Alma Binayao, head claimant told Bukidnon News in an earlier interview.

“That is the real test because we have evidence to prove it,” she added.

Soliven said she hopes that both parties will respect the decision of the Supreme Court.

“In case it favors CMU, please respect the decision,” she said.

Soliven and Binayao claim they both have strong arguments for their positions. (Walter I. Balane)