Sunday, December 28, 2008
By Armand Dean Nocum
“I wish I was born as poor as them … at least I could play all day.’’
This innocent remark from my eight-year-old daughter just floored me a day before Christmas when I was driving her home from practice at a nearby golf driving range in Quezon City.
We had then spotted several children knocking at car windows asking for food. Seeing them, I told Ashia Marie just how lucky she was to have food to eat, a good school; and a family that could provide for her needs.
Ashia, who had been regularly training for golf competitions since age five, told me that she longs to play with children of informal settlers who live near our house in Don Antonio Heights, Quezon City.
At first, I scolded her for not knowing how to be contented and thankful to God for her small blessings. But later at home, it dawned on me that my little girl is slowly losing her childhood for the dream of bringing honor to the country by winning in junior golf tournaments abroad.
After showing interest in golf at age two, Ashia had spent most of her childhood in driving ranges and fairways than malls or playgrounds. Her life since then had revolved mostly around school, tutorials and golf.
Unlike other children who can rest after school, Ashia is driven straight to the golf course to practice before returning home to study. This happens about three times a week. Other junior golfers do this daily.
On weekends, she is carried off to the car still asleep as early as 4-5 AM so she could make it to golf tournaments out of Metro Manila. And after the awarding ceremonies and braving the SLEX or NLEX traffic, she arrives home about 6 PM. Her weekends see her leaving house before daybreak and returning when the sun has set.
Mostly, she does not mind this kind of schedule because she enjoys the game she fell in love with long before she learned how to talk. She was calling it “dolf” at two years old. She was born cute and with light complexion, but constant exposure to the sun had turned her dark.
So far, golf enabled her at six to qualify and proudly bring the country’s flag in the 2007 Callaway Junior World Golf Championship in San Diego, California. Although caddy errors and numerous penalty strokes caused her to slide to No. 5 at the end of the tournament, Ashia still made the country proud by making a hole-in-one in the prestigious golf tournament.
I cannot get mad enough or fire the caddy because the nervous and error-prone caddy was me.
In spite of me and in the hands of local caddies, Ashia rebounded by making two more holes-in-one in a span of two weeks in two tournaments here. For making three holes in one by age seven and in a span of 10 months, friends now call her the “Muslim Ace” (her mother Annora is a Tausug).
This Christmas and with more time out of school, Ashia can’t help but miss the children she used to play with before she got serious in golf.
So, on Christmas Day and after she helped distribute bags of food, toys and grocery items to kids coming from informal homes, we allowed Ashia to spend the whole afternoon playing with them. I promised to allow her to play with them some more in the succeeding holidays.
But after resuming her golf practice and playing in tournaments after Christmas, Ashia has yet to play with her old friends whose carefree lives she envies.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
The goodness of Filipinos never ceases to amaze me. It seems doing good attracts not only good, but great people. Since starting our A-Book-Saya Group book-donation project, we have time and again met people whose actions brought my faith back to the Filipino people.
This was exactly what I felt in meeting actor and businessman Diether “Diet” Ocampo who it turned out has his KIDS Foundation which has the same concern as ours’. So, here’s a press release I wrote about that happy union of forces between our two groups.
DIET SECURES BOOKS FOR KIDS IN ABU SAYYAF LAIRS
Actor and businessman Diether “Diet” Ocampo facilitated the donation of 84 boxes of imported books to be distributed to schoolchildren in suspected lairs of the Abu Sayyaf in Zamboanga City and Basilan.
Ocampo, founder of Kabataang Inyong Dapat Suportahan (KIDS) Foundation, recently secured the books from the International School Manila (ISM) which donated high school books, audio and video education materials, maps and used library materials for Mindanao kids.
“We want Muslim and Christian kids in war-torn areas in Mindanao to also benefit from our effort to distribute books to a million children nationwide,” Diether said after turning the books over to the A-Book-Saya Group (ASG) book-donation program.
The ASG program, started by Christian-Muslim couple Armand and Annora Sahi Nocum, aims to flood Mindanao with books to stop the rise of child warriors by making kids in troubled areas pick books over guns; and education over terrorism.
Ocampo’s KIDS Foundation has teamed up with the Acts of Hope for the Nation (AHON) Foundation (the corporate social arm of Filway Marketing, Inc.) to launch the Isang Milyong Aklat, Isang Milyong Pangarap (One Million Books, One Million Dreams) program.
Mrs. Nocum, a Tausug, said the ISM books would help in the ASG’s plan to put up a library known as the Kristiano-Islam (Kris) Peace and Harmony Library and which will be set up in a suspected Abu Sayyaf lair with a mixed Christian-Muslim populace in the hinterlands of Zamboanga City .
“We decided to put up a library because children complain that the libraries that received our books are closed in the evening or weekends when they need them more. For areas where there are no telephone connections, no Internet or computer shops, the library is the only real source of information for those doing research after school has closed,” said Annora Nocum.
She said ASG also plans to secure from donors second-hand computers and printers and wireless Internet roaming devices to hook up war-torn kids to the world.
Prospective donors could drop by the Nocums’ Satti Grill House outlets at SM-Fairview Food Court , Quezon City and at M.H. del Pilar corner Padre Faura, Manila with their books; while those wishing to donate old computers may call 3393732, 09195897879 and 09175208013; or log in at www.sattisfaction.blogspot.com.
Armand/ Ann Nocum
Tels. 7993745/09195897879/ 09175208013
Dec. 5, 2008
Photo Caption 1:
Diet Secures Books for kids victimized by war in Mindanao: KIDS Foundation head Diether Ocampo standing with (left to right) A-Book-Saya Group’s Armand Dean Nocum and June Frances E. Hamoy and Roxanne Oquendo, office manager and program manager of KIDS foundation, respectively, following the turn over of 84 boxes of books from the International School Manila to the A-Book-Saya Group book-donation project. Book donors may call 3393732, 09195897879 and 09175208013; or log in at www.sattisfaction.blogspot.com.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
As we celebrate the 25th death anniversary of Sen. Benigno ``Ninoy’’ Aquino Jr., many people find themselves asking whether Ninoy’s faith in the Filipino was worth his sacrifice. Is the Filipino really worth dying for?
In the past, I too found myself increasingly losing faith in the Filipino. But since me and my Muslim wife launched our A-Book-Saya Group book-donation project, we found ourselves recovering faith on the Filipino people, both giants or the most lowly among us.
Yes, friends, as we said before, the generosity of the Filipino spirit remains high – at least for us Filipinos who live our lives away from the limelight and who silently work to make this work a better place one day at a time.
So, from here on, I would proceed to thank the generous souls who have been helping us so far. I would start thanking former Sen. Jovito Salonga for whom we wrote a press release last month.
Former Sen. Salonga Donates Books to Abu Sayyaf Kids
Zamboanga City – Former Senate President Jovito Salonga has donated books to the A-Book-Saya Group (ASG) book-donation project to show in a “concrete and demonstrable way’’ his deep concern for the education of Muslims in Mindanao.
Salonga turned over 15 books he recently written to the ASG project which is primarily aimed at flooding Mindanao with books to stop the rise of child soldiers and warriors in the ranks of the Abu Sayyaf Group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF); and the New People’s Army (NPA).
“The building of a better nation is a challenge not only to the Christians but also to the Muslim students and probably with a bigger impact. I want to help in a concrete and demonstrable way,’’ Salonga said of his support to the ASG project.
The books Salonga donated to ASG are titled “The Task of Building a Better Nation,” “Presidential Plunder: The Quest for the Marcos Wealth;” and “The Intangibles that Make a Nation.”
A study conducted by the USAID-Growth with Equity in Mindanao show that the survival rate of pupils in Mindanao areas is so low that only 10 out of 100 school age children actually complete secondary education on time. Only six out of 10 school children are capable of understanding what they read to help them become self-sufficient and productive.
This was blamed on the lack of basic learning tools, poverty, corruption; and shortage of competent teachers and sporadic armed conflicts.
Salonga recalls getting overwhelming support from Muslims down South when he ran for the Senate in 1965. “When I first ran for public office in the Senate, I got the highest vote from Mindanao as author of the Sabah claim. The Muslim congressmen were all out in supporting me. I was number-one in Mindanao,’’ he said.
Salonga, who recently received the Ramon Magsaysay Award for government service, continues to work for the cause of nation-building through citizens’ groups he founded, including Kilosbayan, Bantayog ng mga Bayani; and Bantay Katarungan.
Christian Muslim couple Armand and Annora Nocum, who started the ASG book-donation project, is now in Zamboanga City to distribute the first set of books to Muslim children living in Manicahan, a barrio believed to have a sizable number of Abu Sayyaf members. Manicahan, located 24-kilometers east of the city proper, is said to be the jump-off point to Sacol Island where the Abu Sayyaf is known to keep their kidnap victims.
Those who wish to support the ASG book-donation project could drop off their books at the Satti Grill House outlets at SM-Fairview Food Court, Quezon City; and at M.H. del Pilar Corner Padre Faura, Manila. Donors may call the Nocums at Contact Nos. 3393732, 7992745, 09195897879 and 09175208013. Donors may also log in at www.sattisfaction.blogspot.com.
Armand/ Ann Nocum
Oct. 26, 2008
Former Senate President Salonga turns over books to Armand Nocum of the A-Book-Saya Group (ASG) book-donation project. Looking on are lawyer Emilio Capulong Jr. (front left) and Lincoln Remolona (back left), executive director and executive assistant of Bantay Katarungan, respectively.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Assalamu Alaykum (Peace be with you)
We did it! We turned ``trash’’ of unused, discarded books into a treasure trove of goodwill and knowledge for hundreds of poor, war-shocked Muslim kids in Zamboanga City .
And we owe it all to you, dear friends, for writing about the A-Book-Saya Group (ASG) book-donation project in your columns, blogs;and as well as in helping us disseminate our message to your e-groups here and all over the world.
Some 400 students of the all-Muslim Manicahan Poblacion Elementary
School, Zamboanga City, received last Oct. 28 a total of 593 books, magazines and a set of encyclopedia which were donated by people in Metro Manila and Zamboanga City.
Apart from enlightening their minds, our gift of books touched their hearts. As pointed out by Masabiha Jumaani – a Muslim teacher – our book donation initiative has shown them that Christians in Metro Manila do have the heart for them.
“We’ve thought all along that our brethren in Metro Manila have forgotten us. These books have dispelled that wrong perception. Thank you for bridging the distance to tell us that our brothers and sisters in Metro Manila do care for Muslims in far Zamboanga,” Mrs. Jumaani said after receiving the books.
And for a group of neglected Filipinos who are reared to think that non-Muslims here in Metro Manila are monster and thus deserving of their bombs and bullets, Mrs. Jumaani’s words mean a lot.
So with our small, albeit insignificant gesture, we have not only planted the seed of knowledge for these kids to consider choosing books over guns; but we have also pricked their hearts a bit to see that people here in Metro Manila have hearts too.
That positive feeling is significant in the crucial moments when one of them do get to be recruited to join terrorist or rebel groups and is entrusted the task of bombing our buses and trains here. That positive feeling from their childhood may still stop them from detonating that bomb.
This was the reason we chose to distribute books to Manicahan because the area is believed to be the place where the Abu Sayyaf keeps kidnap victims. Manicahan, a barrio located 24 kilometers east of the city proper is also the ASG’s jump-off point to their lair in nearby Sacol Island . Unfortunately, security concerns prevented us from reaching the island itself.
But much remains to be done because Muslim kids were clamoring for more books. But let’s do more than that, let’s give them other discarded stuff like toys, used clothing, school supplies etc.
Let’s give more as the Christmas Season approaches. They will be happy and grateful for anything we could give them. Again, we thank you for helping us to disseminate this message.
As usual, donors may bring their stuff at the Satti Grill House outlets at SM-Fairview Food Court , Quezon City ; and at M.H. del Pilar Corner Padre Faura, Manila . Donors may call the Nocums at Contact Nos. 3393732, 7992745, 09195897879, 09175208013 or log on at www.sattisfaction.blogspot.com for more details.
Concerned Christian-Muslim Couple,
Armand & Annora Nocum
(This was the message we sent out to friends and ASG project supporters after coming from Zamboanga City)
Sunday, November 2, 2008
Here's the press release I wrote after distributing our first set of books in Zamboanga City. It feels great to bring smile to children whose fathers we always condemn but seldom understand. Read on and please open up your hearts to peace and understanding. I would like to thank our friends at the Malaya newspaper who published the story today.
Abu Sayyaf Kids Happy to Receive 593 Books from Metro Manila Folks
Some 400 Muslim elementary school students – many believed to be children of the Abu Sayyaf Group – received 593 books, magazines and a set of encyclopedias donated by people in Metro Manila through the A-Book-Saya Group (ASG) book-donation project last October 28.
Masabiha Jumaani – a Muslim teacher at the all-Muslim Manicahan Poblacion Elementary School – thanked the book-donors in Metro Manila for having the heart to look into the plight of the mostly poor students.
“We’ve thought all along that our brethren in Metro Manila have forgotten us. These books dispel that wrong perception. Thank you for bridging the distance to tell us that our brothers and sisters in Metro Manila do care for Muslims in far Zamboanga,” said Jumaani during a short program.
Annora Sahi Nocum, who led the book-giving, told the parents of the students that the ASG project is primarily aimed at showing Muslims that there is a peaceful way out of poverty and that their fellow Filipinos all over the country are willing to help them take the path of peace.
“Like many in Metro Manila, we used to merely complain and roll up our eyes when we hear the Abu Sayyaf and the MILF making trouble again. But we realized that the feeling of neglect is partly fuelling discontent among us Muslims; so we have tapped the generosity of good-hearted Christians in Metro Manila to show that we are here for you if you choose to pick books over guns,” said Annora, a Tausug Muslim.
Annora, who started the ASG project with Christian husband Armand, said they have decided to take the initiative of “flooding” Mindanao with books since merely complaining about the insurgency and terrorism problem in Mindanao will not solve it.
The Christian-Muslim couple chose the Manicahan Poblacion School because the area is fast becoming notorious as the place where the Abu Sayyaf keeps kidnap victims. Manicahan, which is located 24 kilometers east of the city proper, is also the ASG’s jump-off point to their lair in nearby Sacol Island.
While thankful for the books, School Principal Juliet M. Besas said that she hopes that people here would also help them get new schoolrooms, toilets, desks and chairs and help fill up the library they don’t have.
The Nocums promised to return soon with more books, used clothes, school supplies, medicines and other stuff to make the Muslim folks of Manicahan feel less detached and neglected by the government and the people in Metro Manila.
Those wishing to support the ASG book-donation project could drop off their books and other donations at the Satti Grill House outlets at SM-Fairview Food Court, Quezon City; and at M.H. del Pilar Corner Padre Faura, Manila. Donors may call the Nocums at Contact Nos. 3393732, 7992745, 09195897879 and 09175208013. Donors may also log in at www.sattisfaction.blogspot.com.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
A-Book-Saya Group To Meet Abu Sayyaf Kids
Thanks to your support, we are heading to our hometown Zamboanga City tomorrow to bring our first set of books to a remote island where the Abu Sayyaf Group is known to bring their hapless kidnap victims. The A-Book-Saya Group (ASG) will finally get to meet the children of real Abu Sayyaf members.
Your column and e-mail-brigade have convinced lots of people here and abroad to donate about 400 used books, magazines and encyclopedias which we will distribute to Muslim children in Sacol Island, Zamboanga City on October 27.
Your support to our dream of flooding Mindanao with books had shown us that there is hope in the country because there are still many good and caring Filipinos. You did not only help us get books; you helped us recover our faith in the innate goodness of ordinary Filipinos like all of us.
But please help us even more because a lot remains to be done to convince poor Muslim and Christian kids that there is better hope in picking up a book than a gun. Recent news reports from there show that not only are Mindanao children being recruited to join the ASG, the MILF and the NPA, local warlords and politicians now also tap children as young as 12 years old to be their bodyguards.
Obviously, children are not only cheap, but their romantic notion of war and recklessness make them more than willing to kill and die for their patrons. And when they do get out of job, where do you think they will go? Armed and gullible, they are easy prey to rebel or extremist groups. Manila is just a boat ticket away from the next bomb explosion.
So, let’s help stop this vicious cycle of poverty and violence and give them a better view of a peaceful and happier world. Nothing can deliver this message to them better than books. Let your books reach their hearts and minds while they are young.
Considering the poverty level and the high illiteracy rate in Mindanao, the books that now may appear discarded trash to us here in Manila are glistening gold to them. It may well be the first and last book that they will receive in their lifetime.
When you do give books, give us those with lots of pictures because while we take it for granted that our kids can read before reaching Grade 1, most Mindanao kids can hardly read well even in Grade VI. Picture books will surely entice them to read.
Please drop your books at our Satti Grill House outlets at the SM Fairview Food Court, Quezon City or at the Corner of M.H. del Pilar, Ermita, Manila. Donors may contact Ann through Nos. 7992745/3393732 or 09175208013/ 09195897879. For more information, please log on at www.sattisfaction.blogspot.com.
Again, please help us disseminate our message of peace through your column, blog or through email for us to reach more people who care for the future of Muslims and Christians in the country.
Concerned Christian-Muslim Couple,
Armand and Annora Nocum
October 23, 2008
Sunday, October 5, 2008
Inquirer features A-Book-Saya project in Its Hari Raya Puasa Issue
I’m so honored by the Philippine Inquirer’s support for our book-donation project. The front-page news article was beautifully written by my esteemed colleague Ceres. I think nobody could have written it better than Ceres. I hope you will enjoy reading a glimpse of my family’s life.
Christian-Muslim couple’s dream
They show the way to peace
By Ma. Ceres P. Doyo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 04:08:00 10/01/2008
MANILA, Philippines—This marriage between a Christian man and a Muslim woman works.
This is what Armand Nocum and Annora Sahia wish the Christians and Muslims in Mindanao, some of whom have difficulty living together, can learn from.
And now the couple want not only to show how they live together in harmony, but also hope to go beyond themselves and reach out to war-torn communities in one simple way—through books.
Specifically through the Books-4-Guns project, also known as the A-Book-Saya Group, which suggests the joy and enlightenment a book can bring to children who have known only strife.
But before the books there was food. And food, as people may well know, is a great pacifier, bonder, uniter—the way to go to assuage hunger and appease anger as well.
Armand, an ex-seminarian and a former reporter of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, and Annora, a Tausug Muslim and a nurse, own the Satti Grill House. It is a small budget eatery in Ermita, Manila, and it serves food of Malaysian and Arabic origin indigenized by the predominantly Muslim communities of Zamboanga and Sulu.
The word “satti” is derived from the Southeast Asian “sate” or “satay.” The eatery Satti is also the name of a dish.
Satti’s bottled peanut sauce is now undergoing fine-tuning by the Department of Science and Technology. (The couple also have a stall at the SM Fairview Food Court plus other income-generating endeavors.)
Books, not guns
Armand grew up in Zamboanga City, and Annora, in Sulu.
“We plan to flood Mindanao with books and magazines, both old and new, in order to open the eyes of young Christians and Muslims there to the reality that they have a better future if they pick up a book rather than a gun,” he said, adding:
“We had a common childhood experience of seeing many guns, but we remember books to be very rare. It’s like you weren’t a full human being if you didn’t own a gun.
“If the books can stop even only one or two potential terrorists from bombing civilians, that would be fulfillment enough for us.”
Armand and Annora spoke with one voice: “What do we do to children who grew up thinking that the future depends on how they handle their guns? What do we do to children of war who grew up with guns, and not books? Kill them all?”
A variety of books have already been donated, Armand said.
These will be examined and classified, but he wishes that there were more books suited for the children of indigenous communities in Mindanao. (There are some available now, written and designed by writers and artists from such communities, courtesy of Pamulaan, but they are not easy and cheap to produce.)
Christian, Muslim weddings
Armand recalled seeing the fair Annora for the first time when he was a reporter for a Zamboanga paper.
Annora was then a student at the Jesuit-run Ateneo de Zamboanga.
He wooed her, but marriage was not immediate. She left for Kuwait while he moved to Manila and joined the Inquirer.
For the two of them, religion was not a big issue, but for some relatives it was. To make a long story short, when Annora came home in 1995, the two decided to tie the knot.
They had a Christian wedding (with Fr. Angel Calvo, a Claretian, officiating) and later a Muslim wedding (with an ustadz presiding) on Oct. 7, 1995.
Calvo, a Spanish Catholic missionary and known peace advocate, assured the couple it was all right for them to be husband and wife.
“I was a Claretian seminarian,” Armand said. “Fr. Rhoel Gallardo, who was kidnapped and killed by the Abu Sayyaf, was my fellow seminarian.”
Not too long after the wedding, Annora left again for Kuwait, where she worked as an operating-room nurse. “I wanted to earn a little more,” she said.
She did not know she was pregnant when she left. Their elder daughter, Arizza Ann, now 13, was born in Kuwait.
Annora came home with the baby but left again shortly. Armand continued to work as a reporter. Arizza was left in the care of Armand’s brother and sister-in-law.
“Those were pain-filled years,” Armand recalled. “I lived in a rented, rat-infested room and went to work in a beat-up motorcycle. But those years of saving up paid off.”
After a total of five years in Kuwait, Annora came home to stay. Their second daughter, Ashia Marie, was born eight years ago.
Ashia studies at Holy Spirit School, a school run by Catholic nuns, in Fairview, Quezon City. Arizza also studied there and graduated valedictorian. She is now enrolled at Philippine Science High School.
It will be up to his daughters to choose their religion when they come of age, Armand said. For now, they are exposed to the Christian and Muslim faiths as practiced respectively by their father and mother.
Peace and unity
Early in the marriage, Annora, with her good business instinct and Armand backing her all the way, started a car exchange business that expanded in no time.
Armand stayed on in journalism until 2006.
With their small businesses thriving, the couple now want to spend their energies on something else—peace and unity.
“Through food, we can break down the wall of bias that some of us Christians have put up,” Armand said.
“Muslim food appreciation may bring respect of the Muslim religion, culture and norms. We are happy that in our food outlets, Christians and Muslims are coming together to break bread daily,” he said.
However, Armand said with a sigh, “the recent outbreak of war in parts of Mindanao has shown us that we should do more than offer food.”
This is why, Armand said, he and Annora decided on the Books-4-Guns project and adopted the A-Book-Saya catchphrase to counter the damage that the Abu Sayyaf was doing to the image of Muslims in general.
Jolted out of comfort zone
The book project had long been there, but he did not push it hard enough, Armand admitted.
“Then the MILF-MOA brouhaha jolted me out of my comfort zone,” he said, referring to the scrapping in August of the memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which had caused a resurgence of violence. “This time there is no turning back.”
Armand said he was “willing to sacrifice time, money and comfort” to keep the book project going—and thriving.
“When we stay silent we are contributing to the loss of innocence, dreams and hopes of the Muslim and Christian children being marched off to war as child soldiers,” he said.
“Today they may appear distant and fragile, like toy soldiers, but 10 years from now, these children will become deadly bombers and make us pay for our indifference and neglect of their miserable lives in Mindanao.”
The systems and structures of the project have yet to be put up, but Armand hopes that things will fall into place with the help of like-minded citizens in Mindanao and elsewhere.
“I nurtured this dream for more than 20 years,” he said. “Annora and I hope to show young Muslims that we care for them. We want to saturate schools and day-care centers in Zamboanga, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi with books in order to make young Muslims realize that there is greater hope in knowledge than in the barrel of a gun.”
(Book donations may be brought to the Satti Grill House on M.H. del Pilar Street in Manila or at the SM Fairview Food Court in Quezon City. Those who wish to help may contact 932-3609, 339-3732, 0922-8169510, firstname.lastname@example.org or satisfaction.blogspot.com).
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
SHOULD WE SHOOT OR SAVE MUSLIM CHILD WARRIORS?
Muslim child warriors are on the rise!
Weeks ago, the military showed video footages of the MILF training young kids for war.
Last Monday, several peace advocates were kidnapped in Tipo-Tipo, Basilan and the police claim it was the handiwork of 10 ``minors’’ believed to be members of the Abu Sayyaf Group.
``What is alarming is that there were young boys, as young as around 12 years old. They (victims) estimated their ages as between 12 and 19, or teenagers,’’ Philippine Navy Spokesperson Lt. Edgardo Arevalo said of the incident.
Unfortunately, me and my wife Annora, a Tausug Muslim, no longer find the matter ``alarming.’’ You grow up with guns, what do you become? You grow up with the culture of hatred, violence, distrust and ignorance, what do you become?
So, what do we do to children who grew up thinking that the future depends on how they handle their guns? What do we do to children of war who grew up with guns and not books and better education? Kill them all?
For those of us who have teenage children, this is a very hard question to answer. For me and my wife, this piece of depressing development in Basilan only emboldened us even more to step up our efforts to flood Mindanao with books through our ``A-Book-Saya-Group’’ book donation project.
Please help make our ABSG fight the righteous fight not only against the ASG but the MILF, the MNLF and Christian vigilantes groups as well. Help us expose poor children in war-torn Mindanao to books in the hope that they grow up to be professionals and peace-makers.
Please be part of our ``group'' and help us disseminate our ASG project to the public through your newspaper column or through your E-Groups in the Internet. Please pass this message to as many people as you could.
Initially, we have designated our Satti Grill House outlets in SM Fairview Food Court and at the corner of MH del Pilar and Padre Faura as drop-off points for the books. Later, we hope to tie up with newspapers and private firms to help take in the books.
Thank you for taking time to read our letter of appeal.
Armand and Ann Nocum
Concerned parents of 2 Christian-Muslim children
Donors may contact us through Nos. 7992745/3393732 or 09175208013/09195897879 or at www.sattisfaction.blogspot.com and
(By the way, the picture above is that of my 13-year-old daughter Arizza Ann. She was the first Christian-Muslim to graduate valedictorian at the School of the Holy Spirit, Quezon City. She's now studying at the Philippine Science High School.)
REALITY BITES HARD
I’ve had this dream of wanting to start a book donation program for years now. Actually, several years ago, I had brought books donated by Sen. Loren Legarda to Zamboanga City and gave them to a school in a mix Christian-Community. You know this is something you can do only when you have the luxury of time and resources.
But last April, this idea came back to me when the Zamboanga Cathedral was bombed and so I started emailing friends a letter of appeal to end the bias towards Muslims and for us to flood Mindanao with books.
Then the MILF-MOA issue literally exploded with bombs and bullets in Mindanao and that was when I resumed my book-donation initiatives. I then started drumbeating that appeal in a local paper and the national columnists.
But yesterday, something I read convinced me that I should no longer just put off this advocacy to a part-time work and that I should sacrifice more of my time to make it a full-time initiative.
The reality check came in the form of news that 12-16 year-old child warriors were believed to be behind the kidnapping of several peace advocates belonging to an NGO group headed by Fr, Angel Calvo, who belongs to the Claretian missionary order. I am a Claretian ex-seminarian and Fr. Calvo was the one who officiated the marriage of me and my wife.
The issue of child warriors definitely hit closer to home this time.
Thus, I am doubling up my effort to reach out to as many people as possible for them to support my dream to flood Mindanao with books, education and goodwill, instead of guns, hatred and ignorance.
Here’s a letter I’ve been sending out recently and I hope you can help me distribute it via email to all your friends and loved ones. Thanks a lot.
LET US FLOOD MINDANAO WITH BOOKS
Assalamu Alaykum (Peace be with You)
I am Armand N. Nocum, a former reporter of the Inquirer...
...the recent outbreak of war in Mindanao has shown us
that we should do more than offer Muslim food here.
This is the reason why we decided to start our Books-4-Guns
project. We plan to flood Mindanao with used and new books, magazines,
and all kinds of reading materials to open up the eyes of young
Christians and Muslims there to the reality that they have a better
future picking up a book than a gun.
Although I'm a Christian and my wife is a Muslim who grew up
in Zamboanga City and Sulu, respectively, we had a common experience
of having many guns in our childhood but remembering books to be very
rare. Old newspapers can only be read as they are brought home wrapped
in dried fish bought from the city.
We call our small project A-book-Saya Group (ASG). Of course
it is a play on the word Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) because we want to
show how the giving of books could help stop one more potential
terrorist or rebel from picking up guns or bombs. We'll find
fulfillment even if in our lifetime, our books could help stop only
one or two potential terrorists from bombing civilians.
We hope you could be part of our ``group'' and help us disseminate our
ASG project to the public. Initially, we have designated our Satti
Grill House outlets in SM Fairview Food Court and at the corner of MH
del Pilar and Padre Faura as drop-off points for the books. Later, we
hope to tie up with newspapers, private and government firms to help
take in the books.
Donors may contact us through Nos. 7992745/3393732 or 09175208013/
09195897879 or at www.sattisfaction.blogspot.com and
Mucho y mas gracias
Monday, September 8, 2008
Humor in Times of Horror
Times are indeed hard, what with bombs raining down my hometown with the regularity of my mom’s calls and text messages of panic and alarm. Recently, she asked whether it was advisable to wipe out her pocket garden of orchids to dig a fox hole where they could take cover in case the MILF attacks our place.
Before that, she was texting me no end about text messages making the rounds of Zamboanga warning people to withdraw their money from banks because the MILF will burn them. That resulted in a bank ran but the attack did not happen, not yet.
So, bombarded by my mom’s texts, I thought of making a press release to make light of what is happening there and at the same time push for my pet advocacy, the A-book-Saya book donation project.
Unfortunately, the newspapers did not pick it up because they might not have found it amusing that I was reducing the horrors in the South into a comedy. Either that or I may be speck of dust in the big cosmic world of Philippine press.
Anyway, I’m now sharing what I wrote to all of you folks who take time out to read my blog.
PRESS RELEASE Reference: Armand/Ann Nocum
August 17, 2008 09195897879/0917520801317 Tel. 7992745
GRP, MILF DARED TO END DIFFERENCES OVER A BOWL OF SPICY MUSLIM FOOD
A Christian and Muslim couple yesterday dared the Moro Islamic Liberation Front leadership and the GRP panel to resolve their differences through a “satti challenge’’ – the gulfing of a spicy Malaysian food loved both by Christians and Muslims in Zamboanga City in less than three minutes.
In making the challenge, couple Armand and Annora Sahi Nocum, a Christian and Muslim, respectively, said they just wanted to diffuse the tensions and accentuate the need for the warring groups to recognize what make them similar, like being Filipinos, sharing a slightly related religion, culture and culinary traditions.
“Why do have to fight over what differentiates us? Why don’t we just celebrate the similarities between Christians and Muslims in the country?’’ said the Nocums, who had put up a Halal food business to introduce Muslim food to the metro palate.
“They say food is the best way to a man’s heart, we believe Muslim food can also serve to break down bias, mistrust and misunderstanding between Christians and Muslims. Eating Muslim food is a good start in having better appreciation and respect of their culture. We have no choice. We have to accept and love each other as Filipinos; there are just not enough bullets in the arsenals of the Armed Forces of the Philippines or the MILF for us to successfully wipe each other out.” said Armand Nocum, who left his job as reporter to put up the satti business.
Satti is the local version of the Satay or Sate foods that are popular in Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. This exotic food is eaten with grilled chicken or beef – along with rice cooked in coconut leaves – being dipped into a bowl of hot and spicy satti soup.
“It’s so spicy that it cannot be eaten in less than three or five minutes. It’s spicier than the Malaysian version and I challenge the Malaysian officials brokering the deal to join the satti challenge as well,” said Mrs. Nocum, a Tausug who used to work as a nurse in Kuwait.
The Nocums directed their challenge to the government panel led by Secretary Rodolfo Garcia and Hermogenes Esperon Jr. and the MILF officials to include MILF vice chairman Ghadzali Jaafar and MILF spokesperson Eid Kabalu.
The couple also said they would like to see sitting in one table other protagonists in the issue of the controversial Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain, including Cotabato Vice Gov. Emmanuel Pinol, Sen. Mar Roxas II, former Sen. Franklin Drilon, UNO spokesperson Adel Tamano, Zamboang City Mayor Celso Lobregat, Zamboanga City Reps. Maria Isabelle Climaco Erico B. Fabian; and even US Ambassador Kristie Kenny.
The Nocums said they are willing to host a ``sattihan’’ breakfast for this group in their Satti Grill House outlets in SM Fairview Food Court or at the MH del Pilar corner Padre Faura outlet.
Nocum also asked other Christian-Muslim couples all over the country to make their voices heard for the sake of peace.
“We may be the minority, but all of us have successfully shown that Christians and Muslims can live under one roof without shooting each other,’’ said Armand Nocum, who joked that his Tausug wife is more adept than him in handling .45 caliber pistols.
(The picture above is that of my daughter Ashia Marie, age 8. In 2007, she brought honor to the country by landing Top 5 in the Callaway Junior World Golf Tournament. Thus far, she has three holes-in-one under her belt, earning the name ''Muslim Ace'' from fellow junior golfers)
Monday, August 18, 2008
PUBLIC RELATIONS IN TIME OF PR DISASTERS
By Armand Dean Nocum
Dean & Kings PR & Marketing Strategists
President and CEO
My Rotarian friends, the world has evolved so much that we are finally living in a world which communication guru Marshall McLuhan called a ``global village.’’
Technology has grown by leaps and bounds. Whether we like it or not, the world has shrunk into our television sets, computers, PDA’s and cellular phones. Although these immediate and real-time connections have brought us closer, it also pushed privacy as we know it to near extinction.
Gone are the days when individuals, government officials and private corporations can work alone in peace and not have their lives exposed in the 6 o’clock news, the tabloids, the attack-dog columnists; the You Tube and ever-increasing blogs. But among all these anti-privacy busters – the most common and damaging of all is the text messaging system.
Texting has not only brought down one President, it may also bring down another one. Texting is truly the equalizer, these days, no matter how high or mighty you are, you are just a text away from infamy and doom.
These days, with media becoming all powerful and with technology connecting us all globally, our reputations, accomplishments, positions, possessions, human relations and businesses are just a computer click away from destruction.
What used to take armies to bring down now only takes a computer mouse or a cheap mobile phone to accomplish.
Indeed, this is the age of communication and media crisis! The age of Public Relations Disasters!
More than ever, private and public personalities, public and private companies; and all entities that are not living isolated in Neanderthal or Jurassic age caves are seeing the need to hire public relations or crisis communications to protect their reputation.
These days, one needs to hire PR experts as one hires lawyers, accountants or guards to keep one’s safety and company stable and in good shape.
PR, which is defined as ``the management of reputation,’’ has been around for years now with American President Harry S. Truman once saying: ``All the president is, is a glorified public relations man who spends his time flattering, kissing, and kicking people to get them to do what they are supposed to do anyway.’’
In no time is the PR’s relevance more appreciated than now.
What is Crisis Communication?
So, just what is communications crisis?
Media crisis is when you have a sexy Khorina Sanchez virtually waking you up with a call to comment about a scandal affecting you or your company. It is having Arnold Clavio knocking at your company door or seeing your name trashed in Mon Tulfo or Vic Agustin’s column. It is going home and finding your family crying over embarrassing news about you which they first saw on television.
In short, it is staring at a situation that could affect the name you build for years, the company you started from scratch and losing it all to an adverse or negative media projection. Worse, you find yourself clueless and immobilized in the face of such life-changing crisis.
Crisis may come as result of an act of God, business operations; corporate moves; legalities; rumors; staff; and scandals.
But here in country, there are far serious forces at work and they include corrupt senators and congressmen who use congressional in investigations to raise campaign funds; unscrupulous BIR, BI and BOC officials; corrupt policemen and barangay officials; and extortionists in media or pseudo-media.
Once the crisis has erupted, then any or all of these crisis factors are likely to surface to join the feeding frenzy. For example, a news report on your company’s labor problems could get unscrupulous media men blackmailing you; then you’ll have unscrupulous labor, revenue and customs officials looking at your books; and much later you found yourself being sued not only for labor violations, but smuggling and tax evasion as well.
Worse, enterprising lawmakers may initiate congressional hearings on your company. From experience, I can tell you this is pure hell because unlike the courts, basic parliamentary rules, procedures or decorum are rarely observed as solons scramble over each other to throw the most offensive and personal question so their faces will land in the TV Patrol or 24 Oras. As for the others, they will grill you so hard for you to remember their names when you decide to pay yourself out of the crisis.
What to do?
So what do you do the when crisis hits you?
The best way to fight PR crisis is to be prepared. You must have a crisis manager to consult. He must have anticipated the entire crisis that could hit you or your company; and as well as set up a detailed crisis strategy plan. Under this plan, a communication team is formed to contact executives, legal and audit officials anytime of the day.
This team will immediate appraise the crisis and issue press statements both to stakeholders and the media. The first 10 hours of the crisis is crucial. It is very important that the news – even a bad one – should come from you; otherwise, the media and those victimized by the crisis will fill in their own lopsided and negative information, thus fueling the crisis even more.
In cases like these, it is best to tell the truth, provided the lawyers are consulted before this is done. But then, don’t make the lawyer your spokesperson because in their desire to be legalistic, they may make you or the company appear guilty or to be hiding something. The best spokesperson is a family member of the owner and one who can show and display compassion.
In this case, showing is better than doing. Be with the victims right after the tragedy. Show compassion and you will see your company getting stronger and better right after the crisis.
After the Cebu Pacific plane crashed in 1998, their PR consultant lose no time in advising them to set up a place where relatives of the victims could go and the place had snacks, coffee and trauma counselors. The company also flew the relatives of the victims to the crash site in Misamis Oriental.
After the crisis, Cebu Pacific went on to beat PAL in the domestic market.
Per advice of his PR, Fernando Zobel did not just provide the victims of the 2007 Glorieta blast money over and above what the insurance firms provided for, but Fernando Zobel also visited relatives in the hospitals. On top of that, he gave them a million and residential houses.
Most of the time, it’s not the money or service you give but the act of giving it that counts. Of course, you do this with media knowing about it.
What not to do
After the do’s, now we go to the don’ts of crisis management.
The best way to illustrate the don’ts is to show you the PR disaster called the Sulficio Lines. This company did not only lose a ship, it lost all credibility and connection with its customers.
This include hiring lawyers first (no offense to lawyers) more than crisis managers to respond to the crisis. Where the PR could have advised them to immediately go out to face the media and the victims, the lawyers advised them to hide and make no comment to escape liability.
As a result, they blew away any credibility and public sympathy by showing – through their lawyers – that they only cared about their legal survival and have little regard for the victims.
Added to this, they also appointed a lawyer-spokesperson who showed no emotions. Thus, the offer of money from the poker-faced lawyer only earned them more criticisms.
And rather than tell the truth, their lawyers went on into a legal offensive blaming the weather, Pagasa, coast guard and everybody else, except themselves. The owners were also advised to hide the fact that the ship was carrying toxic endosulfan.
When they finally got the sense of getting a PR, this PR erroneously advised them to drumbeat their ``social responsibility,’’ but their failure to immediately respond to the PR crisis made this claim sound hallow, so they only got more beatings from congressmen who accused them of telling them lies during a congressional hearing.
Thus, as I end my talk with the advice that doing good is the best defense against a PR crisis or disaster. Acts of goodness or philanthropy on our part; or corporate social responsibility on the part of our companies would serve to earn for us a ``reservoir of goodwill.’’ This ``social credits’’ will come in handy in times of crisis because we can always claim that the tragedy is out of character with our companies’ consistent desire to do well and serve well.
If everything fails, follow the advice of book author and US Congress librarian Daniel J. Boorstin who said:
``Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some hire public relations officers.’’
This was the speech I delivered at the Rotary Club Grace Park last August 13. I hope you find this information usefull given this crazy times of communication revolution.
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
A MESSAGE TO MY MUSLIM RELATIVES
``Why Fix It if It Ain’t Broke?’’
This was my wife Ann’s reply when she first heard about the ruckus relative to the controversial Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE) deal.
Take that from a fiercely-proud Tausug who stood pat in retaining her religion even after marrying me – a Catholic who once studied to become a priest. We were married in Christian and Muslim rites.
Ann’s view is that things are already okay, with Christians and Muslims living and co-existing happily in and out of the ambit of the Autonmous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
Well, Ann is not entirely happy about things happening in areas under ARMM, but she feels that things are bearable for Muslims under ARMM and as well as for Muslims living in Christian-dominated areas that opted to be outside of ARMM.
Until the BJE midnight express came to town like a thief in the night.
Now, things that were working well are turning haywire. Good ties and respect built between divergent cultures and religions are again becoming shaky and unstable. Greed for power and money is making enemies of Muslim and Christian friends and neighbors.
Thus, at these uncertain times, I would like to send out an appeal to my relative Muslims – by affinity, that is – to keep calm and not allow themselves to be used as pawns by politicians who have repeatedly fooled them on the idea of autonomy.
Our beloved Muslim brethren should be wary of politicians who promise them a government of heaven but give them a life of hell. This has already happened with tragic results in the ARMM.
Since its inception, I have yet to hear any of Ann’s relatives, friends and acquaintance in their hometown in Sulu speak anything good about ARMM. All the stories about the ARMM are horror stories – hospitals with no doctors, funds and facilities; schools with no teachers, salaries, books and equipment; roads uncompleted or substandard; and pubic service going to near-zero level.
Ann’s relatives are testimonies of how bad things are under ARMM: one suffered a stroke on the way to a Zamboanga City hospital because Sulu hospitals could not give her treatment; another could not get her retirement money for years now because ARMM officials were asking her commissions; others left the province for Zamboanga because they cannot find work there; and many others came here in Manila to seek a better life.
Amid all these wanton poverty, greed and corruption in ARMM, you have their officials driving the flashiest cars and building the most opulent houses in Zamboanga City. There is even a place there now that’s called ``millionaires’ row’’ because they are teeming with mansions of ARMM’s rich and famous.
So, this is the ARMM they are forcing some of us to join. This is the Eden, the Paradise they are dangling before the eyes of our relative Muslims.
This time, I would like to caution our Muslim relatives not to be fooled again. Even if they now call it BJE, one thing remains – only the powerful and rich Muslim will benefit from it with the poor Muslims getting poorer.
If the Arroyo Government and the MILF are really serious in getting us to join ARMM, then they should immediately work hard to improve public service in the ARMM areas, ignite economic growth there, institute accountability for corrupt officials; and show it to be a Heaven on Earth.
They must turn ARMM into an ideal state with rich coffers generated locally and from rich Muslim countries; teeming with reliable and working hospitals, schools and roads; and led by honest and sincere public servants who not only fear the law, but Allah’s wrath towards the corrupt and the heartless.
If that happens, then count me in to lead my relative Christians and Muslims to lead the campaign to be included in that kind of ARMM.
Unless that happens, this is message I leave to Esperon and the MILF: Lucut petate y also balutan y deja kanamon con paz. (read more about Nocumment at www.sattisfaction.blogspot.com)
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
Are Zamboanguenos Being Set Up for a No-El Scenario?
The controversial Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE) deal is pregnant with unimaginable consequences, but right now, the biggest casualty is the abortion of peace, justice and fair play for Zamboanguenos and Filipinos in general.
Having covered the President for the Inquirer, I can very well surmise Malacanang’s possible end-game – the extension of the President’s term either through charter change or emergency rule to be declared should war erupts in Mindanao.
Nothing is really what it seems for the Arroyo Government. Time and time again it has proven itself not averse to using everything – that includes playing with our feelings and fooling with our territorial boundaries – to get what it wants.
This time, the Palace seems to be out to provoke us and our Muslim brothers into fighting each other over key barangays, rich mining sites and coveted forest reserve areas. President Arroyo’s peace adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. and company apparently did a very good job in Zamboanga by curving out places so sacred to Zamboanguenos – City Hall, Fort Pilar, Immaculate Conception Cathedral etc.
They are aware that the move is enough get true-blue, hot-blooded Zamboanguenos like Councilor Jimmy Cabato into reviving militia groups to protect the city’s sacred grounds and territorial integrity.
Was the bombing of what is now called Metropolitan Cathedral intended to arouse Chavacano anger towards Muslims? Could it be a prelude to what is happening now? Was the military not too quick to blame the Abu Sayyaf then even while the smoke from the bombing barely cleared?
On the other side of the fence, the issue has also given the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and many Muslims in general a false hope that finally the realization of their dream to establish a Mindanao Muslim republic is at hand.
As I write this, MILF leaders have already declared the BJE as a ``done deal’’ and that they no longer need to have it formally signed in Kuala Lumpur. This comes even as the Supreme Court has issued a temporary restraining order on the BJE’s memorandum of agreement.
I can’t blame the MILF, for one they don’t recognize our laws and secondly, they might have been also fooled by our peace negotiators into believing that everything is a ``done deal.’’ Even if it were not so, once the idea of an achievable autonomy has been planted in their minds, there is no stopping them from looking forward to it or fighting for it!
As it is, the genie of delusion has been set free and there is no turning back. We have uncorked the genie of war and there is no way we can return it back. The dogs of war are out for blood.
But then is it not possible that this is really what the government wants? Would skirmishes or pockets of wars between Christians and Muslims not be convenient excuse to declare a state of emergency or even martial law?
And would a state of emergency not be a convenient excuse to postpone the 2010 elections? Certainly with many plunder and grant cases filed against her – with many more coming – would President Macapagal not be scared stiff about the prospects of losing her Presidential Immunity?
The experience of convicted and ousted President Estrada is surely not lost in the mind of the present occupant of the Palace and her family. If the even more popular Erap landed in jail after losing his immunity, what could prevent GMA from suffering the same fate?
A paranoid mind knows no logic.
Then again there is the Cha-Cha scenario with Palace Spokesman Jesus Dureza yesterday admitting that there is need to change or amend the Constitution to fully implement the BJE. This too could result in a no-election (No-El) scenario. Former President Marcos did this, former President Fidel-Ramos tried to do this; so why should not President Arroyo do it too?
But what should we Zamboanguenos do? What can we do?
The best way to fight those out to make us puppets of their evil designs is not to play into the hands of the puppet masters.
Muslims and non-Muslims alike should exercise restrained, caution and sobriety to look at the BJE issue with open mind and realize that this is not yet the end of the world. Constitutionalist Fr. Joaquin Bernas is right, the BJE deal signed by the MILF is just a mere scrap of paper and still long way off from implementation, if ever it gets implemented, which I doubt.
For now, it’s best to keep faith in the wisdom of the Supreme Court where a unanimous vote for TRO already speaks volumes about the thinking of the justices relative to the unconstitutionality of the BJE.
Gracias y hasta manana.
Nocumment feels great to be back in the saddle, thanks to tenacity of my friend and Spree Magazine goddess and mentor Frenci Carreon who had been egging me to bring back the column for years now. Nocumment used to see print at the defaunct The Morning Times under the venerable Rene Fernandez. A Zamboanga City on fire is just the best time for all concerned Zamboanguenos to rise up and be counted!
Monday, August 4, 2008
I stopped writing the column when I left for Manila to write for the Philippine Daily Inquirer more than 16 years ago (gosh! I’m old!).
But this issue relative to the ARMM has somehow forced me out of self-imposed retirement in news-writing after leaving PDI two years ago. So, here’s an electronic copy of my first banner headline for today’s edition of the Zamboanga Today newspaper edited by my friend Frenci Carreon.
Happy reading amigos y amigas.
SC STOPS GOV'T FROM SIGNING FLAWED ARMM DEAL
By Armand Dean N. Nocum
Manila – Heeding the growing voice of protest in Mindanao, the Supreme Court yesterday restrained the government from pushing through with today's signing of the "Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Voting unanimously, the high court granted the temporary restraining order (TRO) sought by local officials of North Cotabato and Zamboanga City challenging the constitutionality of the MOA-AD.
Explaining the high court's actions, SC spokesman Atty. Jose Midas Marquez said the court handed down the TRO since "rights may be violated" and so the court decided to step in to maintain status quo until such time it rules on the merit of the petitions filed by Mindanao officials.
Although the High Court was originally scheduled to have its en banc meeting today, the SC moved the meeting one day in advance in order to make a timely ruling on the controversial MOA.
``We have to act fast because this issue may affect basic and constitutional rights. We are also concerned about possible violence resulting from this highly controversial constitutional issue,'' an SC source told this Zamboanga Today contributor.
The SC also directed the government through Office of the Solicitor General to officially furnish the Court and the petitioners copies of the final MOA not later than August 8.
The SC also ordered the parties to present their case in an oral argument on August 15, at 9 pm.
Under court rules a restraining order by the SC is valid until subsequently lifted by the tribunal.
Zamboanga City yesterday joined Cotabato officials who last week sought to stop the government from inking a deal with the MILF today..
In a 22-page petition, Zamboanga City Mayor Celso L. Lobregat, Districit 1 Rep. Ma. Isabelle G. Climaco, (1st District) and Rep. Erico Basilio A. Fabian (2nd District) sought the issuance of a temporary restraining order and/or preliminary injunction enjoining the government from signing the MOA on ancestral domain with the MILF.
It also asked the Court to issue a writ of mandamus to compel the negotiating peace panel of the government to provide them the final draft of the MOA on ancestral domain.
The officials also prayed to exclude Zamboanga City from being part of the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity and to declare null and void the MOA in case its signing pushes through.
The petitioners said the non-disclosure of the provisions of the MOA on ancestral domain has deprived the people of Zamboanga City their right to information and to participate in the decision-making process.
"To hide behind the mantle of national security so that the people would remain in the dark on matters of affecting their lives and properties is a travesty of justice and of the constitutional rights of the people," the petitioner claimed.
Since the issue of ancestral domain refers to the claiming of ownership over a particular portion of the Philippine territory, the petitioners insisted, that they along with the residents of Zamboanga City have the right to be informed of the contents of the MOA.
The petitioners are opposing the supposed inclusion of the province in the ancestral domain being claimed by the MILF.
The Sangguniang Panlungsod of Zamboanga even issued a resolution dated November 24, 2005 requesting the government peace negotiating panel then headed by Secretary Silvestre Afable to conduct public consultations on the issue.
On February 13, 2006, Lobregat wrote a letter to Secretary Jesus Dureza, then presidential adviser on the peace process, reiterating the need for the government peace panel to conduct consultations with the local government the people of Zamboanga City and other who would be affected by any agreement it may sign with the MILF panel.
"Since the issue of ancestral domain refers to the claiming of ownership over a particular portion of the Philippine territory, which may include private properties, petitioners and the residents of Zamboanga City, have the right to be informed over the matter and participate in the decision-making process as they will surely be affected thereby, since their properties are located in the claimed dominion," the petitioners added.
Named respondents in the case were Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Hermogenes Esperon and the GRP peace negotiating panel headed by Rodolfo Garcia and Leah Armamento, Sedfrey Candelaria, Mark Ryan Sullivan, as members.
Earlier, North Cotabato officials led by Gov. Jesus Sacdalan and Vice-Governor Emmanuel Piñol filed a similar petition seeking full disclosure of the contents of the MOA.
They also sought the issuance of a TRO enjoining the singing of the agreement.
Friday, April 18, 2008
Dear Fellow Filipinos:
LET’S END THE BIAS TOWARDS MUSLIMS
By Armand Dean Nocum, former Inquirer investigative reporter
As a Catholic and an ex-seminarian, it’s heart-wrenching to hear about the bombing of
A day after the bombing, police authorities quickly pinned the blame on the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) even before they could actually gather strong evidence to back up their claim.
Instead of anger, what came to my mind was the feeling of fear – fear for my wife who is a Tausug and my two half-Muslim kids. What will their future be in a world where Muslims are always being associated with the ASG?
What will their future be when government authorities are quick to the draw in blaming the ASG for the bombings in Glorieta and Congress? All the reports proved false, but none of those who blamed the ASG came out to apologize.
I have no sympathy for the ASG, but neither can I tolerate the bias towards Muslims, most of whom just want to be respected and to live in peace, just like you and me.
It is bad enough that we have neglected our Muslim brethren, but it is even worse that we ostracize them by lumping them up with the ASG.
Bias will not make the Muslim secessionist and terrorist problem go away; neither will guns and bullets.
Bias will even stoke the fire that fuels the feeling of distrust and discontent felt by our brothers and sisters Muslims down South. You mix distrust and ignorance and you have a perfect formula for mayhem.
Instead of crippling bias, we should all work to reverse the long years of distrust and neglect towards our Muslim brothers and sisters.
We could start by helping show our young Muslim compatriots down South that we care for them and that they have a better future when they pick up books, pencils and play with computers instead guns and rocket launchers.
Thus, this commentary is not just one of the many ``bleeding heart’’ commentaries circulating the web; this one calls for action. And the action starts now.
I am finally putting into action a dream I have nurtured for 23 years – to launch a campaign or movement whereby discarded or used books from the more progressive side of the country are shipped down South.
The aim is to saturate schools and day-care centers in Zamboanga, Sulu, Basilan and Tawi-Tawi with books of interest to children to fire up young Muslim minds into realization that there is greater hope and power in knowledge/education than the barrel of a gun.
Education revolution down South will also open up the eyes of young Christians to the reality that they should be more understanding not only of Muslims, but also all other cultures of the world because bias and bigotry most often come from ignorance.
I am calling this campaign ``A-book Saya Group’’ or ASG to show that the problems relating to terrorism in
Those wishing to give their books can drop it off at my Satti Grill House outlets in M.H. del Pilar, near the corner of Padre Faura and at
In the future, I will add more outlets – including media and business establishments – where books could be dropped off. Since Metro Manila has been good to my family and my businesses, I will also set aside a portion of the earnings in my two food outlets to initially cover the cost of shipping the books to
But as the volume of donation increases, I would very much welcome donations and tie-ups with shipping companies to help defray the cost of shipment. Someday I will expand the donation to include old computers and other educational equipment that are so common to students in
Please join me in my quest to take even small steps to make the
We could all find inner peace if we could stop just one ignorant and biased Christian lad from bombing mosques or making insults to Muslims and thus planting the seed of intercultural hatred.
No help is so small; what’s important is that we start now! Should you have no books to give, circulating this message to your friends or by word of mouth will do. Please call me at 9323609/3393732 or 09228169510 for details. You may also email me at email@example.com or check out my blog at satisfaction.blogspot.com.
The situation in Zamboanga is scary. Police there say the bombers of the Immaculate Conception Cathedral are out to ignite Christian-Muslim animosity.
Now you see that although the bomb killed no one, the biggest casualty was understanding and trust. The biggest explosion was bias and bigotry.