A Prophet Outcast in Pampanga?

By Fer Cao
Institute For Popular Democracy

[...] In all likelihood, this is the deepest essence of Among’s offensive against the Pineda camp and which may well totally backfire on him, what with the intense reaction such an offensive had provoked among the local officials in that camp. He must have sensed that with all forms of pervasive evil in his midst, the littlest compromise would defeat his biggest purpose. And thus, like the catacomb Christians of pre-Constantine Roman empire, Among Ed had dug his feet in the middle of the coliseum and had shown that apart from God he is not afraid of anything and anyone. Come slay me, he appears to dare everybody, and oblige me in my martyrdom.

And so it seems inevitable that once the Pampango gladiators start to unleash their beasts and move in for the kill, they would find an almost too-willing martyr who for his defense will only invoke God and good governance. Some in the gallery might protest loudly or they might not at all. It won’t matter though: the thumbs down signal had been already given, the beasts of war have already been unleashed and are now hurtling towards their prey. The only thing that could save this would-be martyr is an act of mercy from the Empress herself. But having fought many battles and winning all of them, the ruthless Empress is beyond mercy. In fact, she had waited for this moment far too long already!

And here lies the greatest, most compelling, irony. In slaying this unarmed prophet of good governance, Malacanang will inadvertently create its ultimate antithesis: a very powerful icon of reform. And in doing so, this impending outcast prophet in Pampanga---uncompromising against evil, faithful to his God and fellowmen, and magnificently glorious in defeat---might just well be the nation’s hottest political icon come the 2010 elections.

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Sometimes when circumstances conspire against us, it is easy to forget the justice and righteousness of the Almighty who sees every hidden motives of people's hearts.

We can pray for a deliverance from our situation, yet we may forfeit the great reward that awaits. Most of the time, great rewards are unsuspectingly packaged in trials and are delivered through hardships and difficulties, and the intercessors are not always the recipients or beneficiaries.

Toss your precious stone into the middle of the stagnant water in a still pond, and you will see the little ripples it creates glide from the center towards every corner of its dry banks.


Sincerity, Honesty, Fair Compromise: Essential Keys In Negotiations

By Tony C. Abaya

There seems to be only one way out of the impasse created by the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD), between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and that is, to renegotiate it.

But it has to be assumed that some in the MILF would object to any renegotiation. These are the hardliners who believe that the MOA is a done deal and is already binding on the GRP, even if it has to be approved in a plebiscite, has to be backed by an enabling law from Congress, and has to wait for charter change to accommodate a federal state – which the MILF are demanding – within a larger federal union.

The MILF panel contends that these legal and constitutional details are of no concern to them because, as rebels, they are not bound by the Philippine Constitution, which they specifically insisted should not be mentioned at all in the MOA, to which the GRP panel sheepishly agreed.

Assuming there are still moderates among the MILF leadership who will agree to renegotiate, some basic ground rules should be agreed upon from the start.

One. The venue for future “peace talks” should be in Indonesia, not in Malaysia. Malaysia is not an honest broker in these negotiations. The Malaysians do not and will never forget that President Ferdinand Marcos tried in the 1970s to organize an invasion force that was meant to invade Sabah (or North Borneo) and claim it as part of Philippine territory on behalf of the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu, who had merely leased it to the British North Borneo Co., but which in turn ceded it to the Federation of Malaysia.

A Bangsamoro federal state controlled by the MILF, if it were to become a reality, would most likely declare independence from the Philippine Republic – the MILF has always been separatist – and even federate itself with Malaysia, since Malaysia has always been a much better managed country than the Philippines.

It can be argued that the separatist struggle that has percolated among the Moros in the region since the 1970s was stoked by Malaysia, with the help of British intelligence, as their payback to us for Marcos’ failed grab for Sabah..

Indonesia, at least, has no reason to harbor ill will against the Philippines. Furthermore it has had its own share of separatist movements and would be sympathetic to Philippine efforts to discourage the dismemberment of the Republic.

Two. The GRP should negotiate only with groups that seek only greater autonomy. Groups that declare themselves separatist are really beyond negotiations because their minds are already made up and there is no point in talking to them. The GRP should talk to present separatists only if and when they are ready to scale down their demands to greater autonomy, rather than outright separatism.

The GRP should also insist that all negotiations should be held within the ambit of the Philippine Constitution. If groups wish to negotiate without acknowledging the over-arching jurisdiction of the Constitution – as the GRP panel foolishly caved in to the MILF - then forget it.

For once, I agree with former president Joseph Estrada: “We have only one flag, one armed forces and one nation. It is treason if you give away part of the country to the MILF.” [...]

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All out offensive against the MILF has never been proven to work. In the past it may have significantly crippled the MILF but there will always be young MILF generations who will take over the wrong way of advancing the past generation's cause.

Justice for the innocent civilians must be demanded by the government while the renegotiation is restarted. If justice is not satisfied, any new agreement that may be arrived in the future would only be standing on a faulty foundation because there will be relatives of the innocent civilians who will find an opportunity to take the law into their own hands thereby possibly causing new sparks of hostilities in the future after a final MOA will have been signed.

The present situation is a test for the MILF especially to its leadership. How their leadership would handle the situation would spell the success or failure of the renegotiation if they are still willing to do so.

All peace-loving Muslims MILF or not, should have their leaders join minds and heads with the leadership of the MILF so that there will be true one voice in the different Muslim communities in Mindanao and in the Philippines.

May God put a real lasting end to this decades-old conflict of same-blood people. We are Filipinos first before we are Muslims, Lumad, or Christians. Can't we truly love each other?


Passing the Baton

Preparing Young Minds for Christian Leadership
Laguna conference
by Julius Tajale

We have just conducted the Student Leadership Conferences in the Philippines in two locations: Laguna at the Word of Life Camp, and Davao at Camp Alano. God is really working in the lives of our Christian High School Students here in the Philippines in order to influence the future.

261 students and advisers attended in the Laguna Conference, while 191 students and advisers attended in Davao. The students were blessed by receiving insights into what Christian student leadership is, and advisors reaffirmed their calling to coach the students into Christian leadership.

Working  on strategic plansDuring the conference, each school delegation was asked to present the status of their BHAGs (big hairy audacious goals) from last year's conferences. It's exciting to see that they really fulfilled their plans! All school delegations were able to form new BHAGs for 2008 and present them in the conference.

We discussed 10 topics during the conference, held a "Scavenger Hunt" and strategic planning session. The two students (Tim and Juan Miguel) who went to Orlando last April with me gave their testimonies and made a presentation.

Also in this year's conference, we organized the participating schools into district and national organizations so that we can advance the Christian Student Leadership Program in our country.

Part of our plan is to organize so that we can properly monitor the leadership programs in the schools as well as their implementation of their strategic plans. Through this structure we are planning to establish a leadership program for all ACSI member schools offering High School. The program will cater to Christian Coach Development and Christian Student Leader Development. This is where we will employ all of the Passing the Baton resources such as coach training, Wisdom Trek, leadership Trek and other enriching activities.

Praise and worshipWe also had a special session with the advisers to discover their needs and concerns. Topping the list is the need to train good coaches (advisers). Other concerns are: how to sustain the enthusiasm of the student leaders after the conference, develop a training method that is more experiential in nature for the students and coaches, continuity of the programs established by the students (in their strategic plans) since the students will graduate after a year or two, and the concern of some coaches transferring to public schools after they are trained.

It is always a privilege to be working in the Lord's Vineyard!

Our hope is in the power of the Lord made manifest in the workings of the Holy Spirit through the hearts and minds of people who are responding to His call.

In properly taking care of the vineyard, it is not the number of workers that matters most, rather it is the dedication and the quality of work of the workers.

Are we helping train quality workers for the Lord's vineyard? What kind of baton are you passing on to the next generation?