BAD MORNING: MY VIEWS BY roger m. balanza

 

NOVEMBER 8, 2007

BAD MORNING!

MYVIEWS by ROGER M. BALANZA 

I woke up this morning to be greeted by Senator Pia Cayetano in a front page photo in the Mindanao Insider Daily with a pack of Marlboro made in Thailand in hand, painted over with the photo of a man suffering from neck cancer caused by smoking.

The photo made me puke I had to reach out to my pack of cigarettes for another stick to blow away my anger at anti-smoking campaigners who are pushing us smokers to the brink of extinction.

The Cayetano pic was shot during a press conference in Manila where she urged the same packaging be adopted by local cigarette manufacturers to terrorize smokers about the ill-effects of the habit.

I thought I had enough of broadcaster Edgar Delivo of ABS/CBN, now Herbal Doctor Delivo of the herbal medicine promoter Alternativo, who had strung in front of their clinic in Matina in Davao City, a large ugly poster of a naked human body illustrated from head to foot with all kinds of diseases that one could get from smoking.

I am angry at Pia and Edgar for intruding into the private matter of how some people choose the method of killing themselves.

I am in a bad mood, so here goes….  

JEKYLL AND HYDE     

Key officers of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) and the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkasters sa Pilipinas in Davao City have thrown their loud support to radioman Roel Sembrado in filing a case against Compostela Valley Provincial Board Neri Barte at the Office of the Ombudsman for Mindanao in Davao City.

This flip Barte in the company of his wife and daughter of the same frame of mind as the newly-elected ComVal official manhandled the Radyo Natin broadcaster inside the announcer’s booth on October 24.   

Sembrano reportedly was in the middle of a program lashing at Barte’s meddling in the barangay elections when the Barte gang arrived and grabbed the microphone from the poor mediaman.

After the female members of the family of goons pinched, slapped and scratched the face of Sembrano—he also reportedly endured a hail of coffee cups, staplers, forks and spoons and anything the itchy females found in the booth—the super goon Barte took over the air lanes for about 15 minutes.

Hooray to the NUJP and KBP!

But I envy Sembrado.We were also a victim of a top Comval politician—who miserably lost in the last May elections with her daughter politician—who instigated his wife to file libel against us but the NUJP was a no-show in giving us support.

Barte also figured in a gun-poking incident involving a female broadcaster of Radyo Natin inside a videoke bar in Nabunturan learly this year. We never heard any condemnation from NUJP or KBP to perk up the spirit of the broadcaster who had to fight her own battle alone against the same terrorist who tormented Sembrado.

Sometime ago, an official of a national government agency called for a press conference to assail a report about possible anomalies in his agency that was published by the Mindanao Insider Daily where we are the Executive Editor.

In attendance were several members of the local chapter of NUJP working for other local papers who tried to inspire the official into suing us in court for libel even as the official was clear about the presscon being held merely to air the side of the agency.

Can media truly rely on NUJP for support when press freedom is threatened?

My case shows the kind of people behind NUJP: the day after the press conference, the other local dailies—in stories bylined by the NUJP members—headlined the official’s plan to sue me for libel!! 

KURYENTE 

Karapatan led by Kelly Delgado trooped to the Regional Trial Court on Thursday to help a mother file a writ of amparo to force the military into releasing an abduction victim, her son.

It turned out that on the same day, Luisito Bustamante, who said he was not abducted but only invited to shed light about his being a member of the New People’s Army—not by the military but by an anti-communist pastor—would surface to deny he was in the hands of the military.  

A few hours after the show at the RTC, local television would report that Bustamante is not missing. Pastor Noli Ubat, the anti-communist pastor who snatched Bustamante he claimed is a member of the New People’s Army, is also turning his victim not to the courts but to the victim’s mother.

Pastor Ubat abducted Luisito Bustamante on October 27 in Malabog in Davao City.

The family of the 21-year old Malabog resident has suspected Ubat worked for the military, which was denied by Col. Alex Ambal, commander of the 73rd Infantry Battalion operating in Paquibato.

So the family went to Karapatan—a communist front if we believe Task Force Davao commander Col. Allan Luga—to seek help.

But Ubat has no ideological bent to kidnap Bustamante: He has a score to settle with the NPA and snatched Bustamante he suspected to be in the rebel band that ambushed him and his wife.Ubat was ambushed last year while driving home on a motorcycle to Malabog. His wife died in the attack he blamed on the NPA.

GMA Testigo on Thursday five days after the abduction tracked down Ubat in sitio Balogo where he had kept Bustamante.But Bustamante said he was treated well by Ubat and was not harmed.I want to inform my mother that I am not missing, he told GMA Testigo.Ubat said he was inviting Mrs. Bustamante to come to Balogo to fetch her son.

What now Karapatan? 

PAWIKAN KID! 

The Davao City media find city councilor Leonardo Avila’s comments on the death of Marianeth Amper incredible. Why? 

The 11-year old Six Grader killed herself by hanging “due to poverty” inside their house outside of a housing subdivision in Maa, Davao City on November 2.

The death has drawn far-ranging comments on the state of poverty in the country, gaining wide media attention nationwide after the tragedy was featured by nationwide televison and the national dailies.

Avila says: Amper’s suicide was a symbol of extreme poverty and I appeal to the government to address the problem which is a violation of human rights.

Avila is the author of the Davao City Children’s Welfare Code. He is a key actor in the Davao City Children’s Welfare Council and is a member of various groups espousing child welfare and development. Is it admitted he first won a seat in the Davao City Council on the basis of his campaign to protect street children.

Then why is he incredible?

Because until the Amper suicide, Mr. Avila has never been heard commenting on children and how poverty could drive them to extreme decisions, despite children welfare being the political platform that placed him in the local legislative body.Of late, he has been talking and talking about nothing but the preservation of the marine sea turtle.

As chair of the Pawikan Conservation Council—a local body supervising a marine turtle sanctuary in Punta Dumalag—Mr. Avila is now Mr. Pawikan, whose priority is more inclined towards the sea animals than the poor children of the city—an old cause of his that has been buried in the catacombs of his forgotten memories.                                                                                                                                        

Water conservation a serious concern

DAVAO CITY COUNCILOR IN AFRICA

for World Water Summit

MYNEWS by ROGER M. BALANZA            

Davao City councilor Arnolfo Ricardo Cabling is currently in South Africa to attend a world summit on water conservation upon the invitation of the United Nations Economic and Cultural Cooperation (Unesco).           

The weeklong summit (Nov. 4 to 9) is organized by the Hydrology for the Environment, Life and Policy (HELP), a Unesco-funded project based in Australia assisting Third World countries on water conservation.           

The South African trip is the second foreign travel for Cabling, who as chair of the Davao City Council committee on environment and natural resources authored the landmark Watershed Protection, Conservation and Management Ordinance.           

In August, Cabling with councilor Leonardo Avila III, also on invitation of HELP, toured Australia to observe water management programs.           

Cabling is joined in the International HELP Symposium dubbed as “HELP in Action-Local Solutions to Global Water Problems” by Engr. Cristeta Gallano of the Davao River Initiatives and Dr.Ruth Gamboa of PCEEM/UP and HELP Network Davao.           

In the summit, Cabling would present local efforts on watershed conservation and water conservation and the state of Davao City rivers conservation efforts.              

Telecom cellsites facing dismantling

DAVAO CITY GOVT WARNS TELECOMS ON CELLSITES WITHOUT PERMIT     

MYNEWS by ROGER M. BALANZA                              

The Davao City Council yesterday accused telecom firms of corporate arrogance and warned legal actions could be taken against them for construction of cell site facilities without approval of the legislative body.            

For taking for granted authority of the city council, Davao City councilor Pilar Braga warned she would order dismantling of cell site towers constructed without permit from the local government, as barangays complain works were done without prior consultation with the community.           

Braga, chair of the committee on energy, transportation and communication, dished out the threat during a committee hearing yesterday that tackled requests by telecoms to construct towers in various parts of the city.           

In the hearing, the committee discussed eleven applications for cell site construction some of which she noted were already started before the Davao City Council could issue an approval.           

“You are breaking the law by starting work without legislative authority, “ Braga told representatives of the telcoms that included Smart, Glone, Bayantel and others.           

In a sternly worded warning, Braga said she would recommend a stop to the entire operation in the city of a telecom firm that would continue work on cellsites that have no permit.           

Braga noted that some of the constructions not only have no authority from the city council but also lack clearance from the concerned barangays and the National Telecommunications (NTC).           

The councilor at the same time advised the City Engineers Office to inspect cell site towers on top of buildings and recommend approval or disapproval to the committee. She said these towers may be defective to pose threat to the public.           

“Let us not wait for accidents to happen,” she admonished CEO which appears to be blind to cellsites being constructed without permit from the city council. The bottom line here is public safety and welfare, she said.           

Early this year, a tower constructed in Maa crashed, killing a worker and injuring three others.           

Braga said the rampant violations have worsened forcing her to warn legal action against the telecoms.           

I am already angry because you are taking us for granted, said Braga.           

She said that while the city government welcomes the telecom firms, they should conduct themselves properly by securing needed permits for construction of their facilities. 

THE LEANING COCONUTS OF MATINA SHRINE HILLSDANGER SIGNS. A row of coconut trees leaning to the left in what the Mines and Geosciences Bureau said is a telltale sign of an old landslide on the site now being developed into high-end housing subdivision in Matina Shrine Hills.

THE DAVAO CITY COUNCILORS: ANTI-POOR AND PRO-BIG BUSINESS?

durianburgdavao MINDANAON  E  W  S  B  L  O  G                                           NOVEMBER 8, 2007 

ARE YOU FOR BIG BUSINESS?

MYVIEWS by ROGER M. BALANZA            

The series of articles we wrote—published in the Mindanao Insider Daily and subsequently carried by durianburg—about two high-end housing subdivisions in a landslide-prone area in Shrine Hills in Matina, Davao City apparently have touched the sensibilities of some people for very clear reasons that could only be described as self-interest.           

In particular, a Davao City councilor called me up to express his dislike for the articles that detailed fears of residents in housing projects below the hill about the prospect of their being swallowed by landslides. The fear has basis.No less than Noel Angeles, senior officer of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) testified in committee hearings at the Davao City Council that the area has been identified in a Terrain Analysis and Study conducted by MGB and the City Planning and Development Office (CPDO) as geologically hazardous and prone to landslide.            

In his testimony, Angeles even charged Crown Asia and the Consunji firm of corporate arrogance for not consulting with MGB before buying the project site—that is the scene of an old landslide.           

The articles I wrote was not just about potential landslides swallowing houses and killing people below the Shrine Hill or about massive floods in subdivisions triggered by development works in the new projects.           

I was trying to warn that Shrine Hills is a Cherry Hill tragedy in the making if nothing is done to stop Crown Asia and Consunji.           

The councilor, a friend, told me that I should not be writing such kind of alarming reports that he said could send a wrong signal to investors about the local media or the city government (in this case the Davao City Council committee on housing, rural and urban development chaired by Arnolfo Ricardo Cabling, which is hearing the complaints of the subdivision residents) being unfriendly to them.           

I would not wonder why he took pains to censure me about the reports. The answer comes from the horse mouth: he said I should be careful because the high-end subdivisions are owned by big investors.            

The two high-end housing projects are owned by Crown Asia (30 hectares) of Senator Manny Villar and David M. Consunji Development (30 hectares).           

Concern about Davao City’s image being spoiled by reports deemed business-unfriendly by some quarters I may take with a grain of salt, even if I have a reason to be an alarmist as in the case of the Shrine Hills housing projects.           

But I would not take it lightly when some people flex muscles to pressure media into dumping facts about Shrine Hills as a future tragedy—for reasons that smell graft.           

The call comes at the same time that rumors spread about high-end subdivisions in the Talomo area—under which the city aquifer, the source of the Dabawenyos; precious drinking water, lies—are dangling million-peso bribes to have their applications approved by the Davao City Council.           

The call not to report about landslides in housing projects owned by Mr. Villar and Mr. Consunji—certified as not fit for housing projects by MGB—also hurt as it comes as hundreds of homeless urban poor residents wait for eternity for approval by the city council of their applications for locational clearances for socialized housing—which have been sleeping the sleep of the dead in the Davao City Council.           

Sometime ago, an urban poor activist handed to me what appeared to be a privilege speech that a city councilor would deliver during a regular session in defense of the plight of the home poor.           

 I am not at liberty to divulge the name of the activist or the city councilor who would take up the cudgels for the urban poor.           

Nevertheless, for the consumption of my councilor friend who is a friend of big-time high-end developers, the never-been-delivered speech reads: 

 ARE WE ANTI-POOR? 

LAST WEEK, MR. PRESIDENT, THIS AUGUST BODY APPROVED THE DAVAO CITY SHELTER CODE. THE URBAN POOR SECTOR WITH THOUSANDS OF HOMELESS FAMILIES WHO WOULD BENEFIT FROM THIS CODE WAS PROFUSE IN THANKING US AND THE HEAVENS FOR THIS LANDMARK LEGISLATION. AS ONE OF THE AUTHORS OF THE SHELTER CODE,

I AM SUPPOSED TO SAY THAT THIS PRO-POOR ORDINANCE HAVE PROVEN THAT THE MEMBERS OF THIS CITY COUNCIL HAVE NOTHING BUT COMPASSION FOR THOSE HAVE LESS IN LIFE. 

UNFORTUNATELY, MR. PRESIDENT, ON THE DAY THAT WE APPROVED THE CODE, SOME MEMBERS OF THIS COUNCIL DEMOLISHED THIS PRO-POOR AGENDA WITH THEIR POSITIONS ON APPLICATIONS FOR RECLASSIFICATION OF RELOCATION AREAS FOR TWO URBAN POOR ASSOCIATIONS. 

IT IS IRONIC, MR. PRESIDENT, THAT ON THE VERY SAME DAY THAT OUR URBAN POOR REACHED A CLIMAX IN THEIR EXPECTATIONS FOR CONCRETE STEPS ON OUR PART TO TRULY ADDRESS THE PLIGHT OF THE HOMELESS—WITH THE APPROVAL OF THE SHELTER CODE—SOME OF US HAVE THE INSENSITIVITY TO THROW A MONKEY WRENCH TO TWO PIECES OF LEGISLATION THAT WOULD PROVIDE A ROOF OVER THE HEADS OF ABOUT 500 FAMILIES FROM THE HAPLESS POOR SECTOR. 

I AM REFERRING, MR. PRESIDENT, TO LEGISLATIVE ITEM NO. 153 PERTAINING TO SOCIALIZED HOUSING OF GOLDEN HILLS VILLAGE IN PANACAN, BUNAWAN DISTRICT; AND TO LEGISLATIVE ITEM NO. 66 WHICH PERTAINS TO SOCIALIZED HOUSING OF GENERALAO VILLAGE ASSOCIATION IN INDANGAN, BUHANGIN. 

IF WE MAY RECALL, MR. PRESIDENT, THE FIRST ITEM WAS INITIALLY APPROVED AND THEN RECALLED AT THE INSTANCE OF TWO HONORABLE COUNCILORS IN A MOVE THAT COULD ONLY BE CALLED AS ANTI-POOR. THE SECOND ITEM, MR. PRESIDENT, SUFFERED A SIMILAR IGNOMINOUS FATE BY FAILING TO GET THE REQUIRED THREE-FOURTH VOTE BECAUSE SOME COUNCILORS IN AN APPARENT SHOW OF UTTER INDEFFERENCE TO THE PLIGHT OF OUR URBAN POOR, CHOSE TO DISAPPEAR LIKE THIN AIR FROM THIS AUGUST CHAMBER DURING THE VOTING. 

MR. PRESIDENT, LAST WEEK BEFORE WE STARTED DELIBERATION ON THESE TWO ITEMS—WHICH ARE ON THIRD AND FINAL READING—I BEGGED THAT THESE ITEMS BE APPROVED BECAUSE THEIR BENEFICIARIES HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR ITS APPROVAL FOR MONTHS.  I BEGGED MR. PRESIDENT THAT THESE TWO ITEMS BE TACKLED FIRST AT THE TIME AS WE HAVE THEN THE RARE NUMBER—21 HONORABLE COUNCILORS PRESENT—TO MUSTER THE VOTE TO APPROVE THESE APPLICATIONS. 

THESE SOCIALIZED HOUSING APPLICATIONS WERE IN THE CALENDAR FOR THIRD READING FOR FOUR SESSIONS ALREADY. THE BENEFICIARIES OF THESE PROJECTS FOR WEEKS HAVE BEEN ATTENDING OUR SESSIONS—TO WITNESS OUR APPROVAL—IN A VIGIL FULL OF PREGNANT EXPECTATIONS TO SEE THE DAY WHEN THEY WOULD BE LIBERATED FROM THE BONDAGE OF HOMELESSNESS. 

MR. PRESIDENT, I APPEALED THEN IN BEHALF OF THE HUNDREDS OF FAMILIES DISPLACED BY FLOODS IN BACACA, THE HUNDREDS OF FAMILIES WHO LOST THEIR HOMES TO THE GIANT WAVES OF BUCANA, FOR THOSE WHO WERE UPROOTED FROM THEIR FORMER ABODES BY DEMOLITION, AND THOSE WHO LOOK UP TO THE CITY GOVERNMENT FOR HOUSING ASSISTANCE—WHO WOULD BENEFIT FROM THESE SOCIALIZED HOUSING PROJECTS. 

FOR THE RECORD MR. PRESIDENT, THESE HOUSING PROJECTS CAME TO REALITY WITHOUT ANY FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE FROM THE CITY GOVERNMENT. POOR AS THEY ARE, THESE HARDY URBAN POOR MEMBERS LABORED TO RAISE FUNDS AND BORROW MONEY TO BUY THESE RELOCATION SITES. ALL THEY NEEDED IS FOR US IS TO LEGITIMIZE THEIR PROJECT WITH A SIMPLE GRANT OF RECLASSIFICATION OF THE SITES. 

LAST WEEK, MR. PRESIDENT, THE APPROVAL OF THE REQUEST FOR RECLASSIFICATION UNDER LEGISLATIVE ITEM NO. 153 PERTAINING TO SOCIALIZED HOUSING OF GOLDEN HILLS VILLAGE IN PANACAN, BUNAWAN DISTRICT—AFTER BEING INITIALLY APPROVED—WAS RECALLED BECAUSE TWO HONORABLE MEMBERS OF THIS AUGUST BODY QUESTIONED THE VOTES. I WOULD NOT MENTION THEIR NAMES. I WILL GIVE TO THE URBAN POOR SECTOR ITSELF THE HONOR OF JUDGING THEM FOR THEIR ACTIONS. BUT RECORDS OF THIS COUNCIL WILL SHOW THAT A MEMBER OF THIS AUGUST BODY HAD THE APPROVAL RECALLED BECAUSE HE WAS VOTING AGAINST THE PROJECT BEING NOT READY TO VOTE ON ITEM NO. 153. RECORDS WILL ALSO SHOW THAT ANOTHER MEMBER OF THIS COUNCIL ALSO HAD THE TEMERITY TO ASK IF THE ITEM NEEDED URGENT ACTION, IN UTTER IGNORANCE OF THE FACT THAT THE BENEFICIARIES OF THESE TWO PROJECTS HAVE AGONIZED FOR MONTHS IN WAIT FOR OUR APPROVAL OF THE RECLASSIFICATION. 

THE SADDEST PART IN THIS SAD EPISODE IN THE LIFE OF OUR URBAN POOR, MR. PRESIDENT, IS THAT RECORDS IN THIS COUNCIL WOULD SHOW THAT THESE HONORABLE MEMBERS WHO DERAILED THESE PRO-POOR PROJECTS ARE MEMBERS OF THE COMMITTEE ON HOUSING, RURAL AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT, WHO SIGNED THE COMMITTEE REPORTS APPROVING THE PROJECTS.  THE SECOND ITEM—LEGISLATIVE ITEM NO. 66 WHICH PERTAINS TO SOCIALIZED HOUSING OF GENERALAO VILLAGE ASSOCIATION IN INDANGAN, BUHANGIN—AS RECORDS WOULD SHOW DIED A DEATH THAT CAN ONLY BE BLAMED ON OUR LACK OF ENTHUSIASM—AS INDICATED BY THE MYSTERIOUS DISAPPEARANCE FROM THIS CHAMBER AT VOTING TIME—WHEN WE ARE NEEDED TO VOTE ON SOCIALIZED HOUSING PROJECTS. 

THIS LACK OF INTEREST ON PRO-POOR LEGISLATION IS A SAD CONTRAST TO THE SPEED WITH WHICH SOME OF US RAISE THEIR HANDS TO VOTE ON HIGH-END SUBDIVISIONS OR BIG BUSINESS SEEKING RECLASSIFICATION, WHILE WE BECOMING SCARCE WHEN THE URBAN POOR CRIES FOR HELP.  NEVERTHELESS, MR. PRESIDENT, THE TWO ITEMS ARE IN TODAY’S CALENDAR AFTER I PLEADED—FOR THE SAKE OF OUR URBAN POOR—FOR RECONSIDERATION LAST WEEK. 

I HOPE TODAY’S SESSION WOULD NOT END WITH THE URBAN POOR GOING HOME IN FRUSTRATION AND ANGUISH AT HAVING VOTED CITY COUNCILORS WHO HAVE NO HEART FOR THE HOMELESS. ONCE AGAIN, I APPEAL TO MY HONORABLE COLLEAGUES, MR. PRESIDENT, THAT THESE TWO ITEMS BE TREATED WITH URGENCY AND FAVORABLE ACTION—FOR THE SAKE OF OUR HOMELESS URBAN POOR.          

     

No Favor Nor Fear