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Antonio M. ReyesRizal, Bonifacio or Aguinaldo

Did you know it was the United States Governor-General to the Philippines, William Howard Taft who chose Jose Rizal as our national hero and that he also chose our national animal, tree and bird?

In choosing our national hero Taft and his advisors had to choose between Dr. Jose Rizal, Supremo Andres Bonifacio and General Emilio Aguinaldo.

Since Rizal was a reformist who preferred non-violence, while Bonifacio and Aguinaldo believed only a force-of- arms could lead our country to freedom. Naturally they chose Jose Rizal instead of the two “war mongers”.

So as not to alienate followers of the three heroes (who I believe all qualify for national hero status) I have summarized below their most significant credentials so that readers can decide for themselves who among them deserve top honours.

Dr. Jose Rizal was a very good writer and authored the novels Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo which lambasted our Spanish colonizers, particularly the Friars, for abusing our hospitality. But it is for his poem “Me Ultimo Adios” which he wrote in his cell in Fort Santiago on the eve of his execution that he is best known for. He never recanted his life as a “free thinker” who believed all religion should be respected, nor his membership, in what was then considered a heretic movement called Freemasonry.

He was also a doctor and spoke several languages. Yet his novels, which were written in Spanish and banned in the Philippines, were never widely circulated here. And even if it were; only the few who understood Spanish could understand it.

Andres Bonifacio the founder of the Katipunan or freedom movement, didn’t finish schooling because he lost his parents at an early age and had to take care of his six siblings. Born in Tondo, Manila, he was considered a man of the masses. Yet despite his handicaps he would publish a newspaper called Kalayaan and organized the Katipunan later known as the KKK which, had over 30,000 members nationwide.

But alas he was assassinated by members of a rival faction of his party and never attained his full leadership potentials.

General Emilio Aguinaldo our much maligned hero who succeeded Bonifacio as leader of the Katipunan movement came from a well to do family and had lived in what we would still consider a mansion today.

He holds the distinction of actually defeating the Spaniards at Intramuros and inflicting 45,000 American casualties in the Philippine American war which lasted three long years.

His main handicap was that the US Governor General William Howard Taft hated him for declaring war on the United States and engaging its armed forces in the bloodiest foreign war it had then experienced. Even today, over a century later, there is still no national holiday commemorating his leadership role in our fight for independence.

These are the pros and cons of our three finalists for Top National hero status in the Philippines. Since all three are obviously deserving of the distinction (although Aguinaldo appears to have the edge) may I suggest we declare a “Triple Tie” so we can finally have unityin our deeply divided Banana Republic.

By the way, have you ever wondered why we celebrate General Douglas MacArthur’s landing at Palo Leyte each year, while forgetting it was our very own Colonel Ruperto Kangleon who cleared the way for his peaceful landing?

There is a saying that “Inside many Filipinos is a fat American trying to get out.” It’s called colonialized mentality, and there is no known cure for it.

River mining or Eco-tourism?

Now that Congress and the Supreme Court has pronounced that provincial governments have sole authority to issue permits for river mining regardless of its size,we hope this will finally, lead to a more rational plan for the Subang daku River.

Actually the authority to issue quarrying permits was devolved to the provincial government by the Local Government Code of 1992. But the Mines and Geosciences Bureau of the DENR was reluctant to relinquish its hold on this lucrative power and insisted that river quarrying beyond 5 hectares was still their responsibility.

Governor Roger Mercado called the decision a “win-win” development for all the stakeholders since earnings from the quarrying would be divided between the barangays where the quarrying sites are located which would receive 40% of its earnings, while the town and provincial governments would each receive 30%.

But aren’t we forgetting about the other stakeholders like the farmers along the river whose lands are being eroded by the unregulated quarrying of the river? What about the fishermen who rely on the fish they catch from Sogod Bay for their livelihood and the owners of the dive resorts there? Will they too benefit from this development?

Before issuing new permits to mining operators shouldn’t the Provincial Board decide whether it is river mining or eco-tourism it will prioritize?

We mention this because the two are incompatible and cannot be implemented concurrently. But if they choose river mining, which they seem to be favouring, then they must prepare the implementing guidelines and the technical manpower to ensure it succeeds.

Otherwise they will not only continue destroying our rivers, but our farming, fishing and eco-tourism industries as well. Perhaps the best option would be to follow the recommendation of the Ateneo University study on the quarrying operations at Subang daku and “ let the River Heal Itself.”

Sogod Bay is not only the richest fishing ground in Eastern Visayas - it is also the home of some of the finest dive sites in the world. If properly developed it could easily eclipse Vietnam’s famous Ha Long Bay which attracts over a million tourists each year.

Meanwhile the provincial Board should pass a resolution authorizing Governor Roger Mercado to order the Community Environment and Natural Resources (CENRO) offices here to cease issuing logging permits - for this responsibility has also been devolved to the provincial government.

Their action (or lack of it) on these crucial issues will decide the quality of environment we will leave our children, and their children, in the years to come.

May God grant them the wisdom to make the right choice.

Antonio M. Reyes is the publisher and editor of the Southern Leyte Times the largest circulating newspaper & website in Southern Leyte.

High time for the airport


The recent announcement of the CAAP for the suspension of large commercial flights at the Daniel Z. Romuldez Airport will have an effect on many Southern Leytenos who are scheduled to use the regional airport in the next few weeks, or possibly months.

The CAAP suspension of large commercial flights is reportedly due to the repair of “fast developing potholes” on the airport’s runway and also other infrastructure.

Another reason would be, though not highlighted by our government, is the fast approaching visit of his Holiness, Pope Francis, on January next year to visit “Yolanda” hit areas of Tacloban City and Palo town.

Air travelers should be ready for an unpleasant surprise as there will surely be changes in their commercial flight schedules from now until probably the end of the Christmas season. So it’s best to contact your air carrier for any clarification or adjustments on your scheduled flight. It’s better to be sure now than sorry later.

This development in the Tacloban airport has again revived the age old questione; why is our decades old airport in Southern Leyte still not fully operational?

One of the major hindrances to our province’s economic growth is that it is still relatively isolated from most of our country’s highly developed and urbanized cities. To reach the nearest airports, we would have to travel many kilometers over land to Tacloban City or board a boat for Metro Cebu. At this age of high speed travel, information and technology, our people deserve at least a working airport by now.

Our airport which started construction almost two decades ago with hundreds of millions already allocated to it through the years, still needs to have constructed a CAAP standard passenger terminal, administration office and state of the art airport control tower.

Last May the DOTC with the blessings of Malacanang Palace had announced that it had already allocated P217 Million for the completion of our airport. But similar announcements have been made before and it is no wonder that many of our people are re expecting a “halfbaked” allocation of the promised airport budget.

In reality, the airport project will continue to move at snail’s pace unless our community lobbies for it. The main reason for this is our national government’s centralized bureaucracy which needs constant follow-ups and non-stop lobbying in Metro Manila.

Many national and local administrations have come and gone, promises made and broken, but the fact of the matter remains - we still do not have a real working airport for our people.

It will take a gallant effort by Southern Leytenos as a whole, citizens and officials alike, to make this decades old dream a reality. A good place to start would be with the outgoing Aquino administration, which I am sure, would want to leave a lasting legacy in Southern Leyte.
His Excellency President Simeon Benigno Aquino III says he listens and acts to the dictates of the public, which he claims are his real “bosses”.

With this premise it would be a good opportunity for us (as his bosses) to express our opinion, and push for the speedy completion of our airport.

After many years, it’s high time.

Yes, men also cry
by Atty. Jess G. Dureza

I wrote last time mentioning about President Aquino holding back tears during the SONA, I got several
comments from Facebook.

One of them recalled how reputedly hardy, and steely Davao City Mayor Rody Duterte, unabashedly shed tears holding in his arms a young child who died, an innocent victim during the rampage of penal colony escapees who shot it out with the authorities, using hostages as shields attempting to breach the government cordon right in the PNP headquarters downtown.Many innocent lives -- and all the hostage takers -- died in that carnage. That was sometime in 1995.

Yes I too fight back tears on occasions just like all of us do. Shedding tears or crying are perfectly human expressions of emotion that at
certain times are uncontrollable. And just like everyone else, we try and hide and allow a tear to fall without immediately reaching for that ubiquitous handkerchief. I enjoy watching public figures like movie stars do that with finesse.

I remember my late father, Martin, was the "crying-est" person I knew. He would cry even when angry. Once, he was crying aloud as he whacked me with a broom after a firecracker I carelessly ignited, exploded near my face. He would shed tears as he would break up fights among relatives or neighbors. At times, I could hear him cry when in an argument with my mother in the other room.

"Mababaw ang luha" (tears are shallow) was a usual description of him. My mother Amparo however was always in control of her emotions as far as I can remember. I have never seen her cry. In my case, I confess I am easy to tears like my father but I always try hard to fight them back, especially when in public.

The most notable "crying" politician I can recall was the late Senator Alejandro Almendras whose public speeches were never complete
without shedding tears on stage. And the crowd loved him for that. Then, there was one movie years ago I watched where I could hear some moviegoers just sobbing away and crying out loud during the movie.

I had a few unforgettables of my own. In 1998, when I was crisis manager during a plane crash in Mindanao, I could not help but publicly shed tears during a briefing session in a hotel in Cagayan de Oro with angry and noisy relatives of missing passengers. It was the third
day after the plane crash but the remains (there were no intact bodies) could not be brought down yet from the mountainside by helicopter and the relatives were already angry and shouting at us.

What I felt was a mixture of anger, frustration, exhaustion mixed with grief. I stopped in the middle of my talk just allowing tears to flow when I started choking. The good part was that everyone noticed and they all stopped and stayed quiet. Somehow, they felt that we were one with them. Because of that incident, our succeeding briefing sessions became orderly.

Embedded impunity
By Juan L. Mercado

The immediate often blurs the significant. Pope Francis’ press conference, aboard the plane returning from his South Korea visit is an example.He made “a chopping gesture and a whistling sound as if to say death comes sooner or later for everyone”.Headlines cascaded on Francis saying he probably had two, at most three more years to serve. Then, “it’s off to the Father’ house,” he smiled.

What if health faltered to where he could not discharge his duties? He’d resign “even if such a step does not appeal to some theologians.”

That smudged Francis statement that there were no more problems blocking the beatification process for Salvadoran archbishop Oscar Romero who had been murdered by .a sniper from para-military “esquadrones de la muerte."

That resonates here. Fr. Fausto Tenorio, 59, served indigent tribal people in North Cotabato for 39 years. He was gunned down on October 17, 2011 at his parish in Arakan.

“Armed Forces Eastern Mindanao Command denies it had any hand in Tentorio's rubout. But it did tag the priest as “friendly” to the NPA admits the comman’s spokesperson. Did the military remember that “.Father “Pops’’ Master “welcomed sinners and tax collectors”?

In El Salvador, the conservative Romero had been jolted by death squad murders. He evolved into an outspoken critic against brutal suppression of leftist rebels, by the right wing government in the 1980- 1992 civil strife. Romero was shot as he lifted the Host during consecration.

Romero’s cause is now before the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. It oversees the complex process that leads to canonization after screening for, declaration of "heroic virtues" and beatification. The pope has the final say.

Tentorio shepherded his flock and cobbled programs from child immunization to adult literacy.Thousands he cared for trudged alongside his coffin. “For many years, Fr. Tentorio served the people in a courageous and indefatigable way” wrote then Pope Benedict XVI. “He was “a good priest, a fervent believer.”

He belonged to The Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions. The mission members work in: Africa like Alegiria, to Mexico in Latin America and Papua New Guinea, Thailand and the Philippines. The Vatican recognized it in 1926. Today it supports more than 500 missionaries in 18 countries.

As pastor, Tenorio “sought justice for lumads or indigenous people, dispossessed of their land, harassed by armed men, when government seemed to abandon them”, Kidapawan bishop Romulo de La Cruz recalled. Siding with the oppressed “can earn you enemies who go after even the kindest of men.”

A UN Commission later established that death squad leader Roberto D'Aubuisson ordered the killing of Romero. Here AFP's Eastern Mindanao Command continues to deny it had any hand in Tenorio's rubout.

Up to now the murderers of Fr Tenorio have not been pinned down reports Asia Philippines from Kidapawan in North Cotabato. The investigation is snarled by contradictory and false leads. Jimmy and Robert Ato were arrested in December 2011. So were five, members of the paramilitary group "Bagan", led by Jan Corbala, also known as "Commander Iring". Two witnesses have retracted.

"Someone is trying to block or deflect investigations" suspects Fr. Peter Geremia, PIME. Look at is the paramilitary groups that patrol the area "They seem untouchable. We are locked into “a system of impunity and a system of corruption" he stresses there are also other victims of extrajudicial executions".

It is a measure of Fr. Tenorio’s integrity that even Mindanao communists tried to hijack his name. In a full-page Inquirer ad on 26 October last year, the Southern Mindanao Regional Party committee hailed Tenorio as “Beloved Servant of the Masses. Siegfred M Red, “secretary” signed the ad. This is unprecedented.

Fr Tentorio was selfless, not because of his priestly vocation but “because he learned from the masses,” the ad's spin. ”The masses alone are the creators of history.” This is, of course, Mao Ze Dong 101. “Party members should take their cue from the masses and reinterpret policy with respect to the benefit of the masses”, the Great Helmsman wrote. Sundays, Tatay Pops would give “brief but sound homilies that affected people's lives” the paid ad says. “In his sermons he guided peasants and the masses to embrace the national democratic struggle.” That's communist shorthand for conflict.

The military insists they did not tag Fr Tentorio as “communist” and thereby become a target for hitmen. “The ad is a deceptive attempt to insinuate that the military is behind his murder”, the spokesman protested.

Assassins have not been brought to justice. The Catholic Bishops Conference and PIME are pressing government to nail the killer and mastermind. “What makes us so indignant is the impunity of the perpetrators,” the Italian ambassador fumed. What will we tell Pope Francis when he visits in January 2015?

“Your dream is my dream”, Tentorio wrote: in his last will and testament made public by his PIME confreres. Scribbled .in the Visayan dialect he was fluent in, Fr Pops added “Your struggle is my struggle. You and I are one companion in building the Kingdom of God”.

That resonates in Romero’s note: “Nothing we do is complete, which is another way of saying that the kingdom always lies beyond us. We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker. We are workers, not master builders, ministers, not messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own.

Juan L. Mercado is the Founder of the Press Foundation of Asia and is best known as one of the Visayas Region's most prolific and multi-awarded writers.







Lessons from history

Odong who?


Older editorials . . .


Supreme Court backs Governor on mining!

Maasin City wants to be No Smoking Capital of the Philippines

Napantao fish sanctuary invaded

Suspected rapist hunted

PNP to strictly enforce curfew


Jewelry worth a million peso missing

Abrasive drunk stabs Tanod

Child Abuse suspect arrested

Notorious city robber caught


Rizal, Bonifacio or Aguinaldo

River mining or Eco-tourism?

High time for the airport

Embedded impunity


Are City Council Minutes confidential?

Heavy Vehicle May Damage Bridge

Local Priests Ignoring Pope’s Directives

Eco-Tourism or River Mining?

Largest Parking Area in the country

Exasperating City Red Tape

SP should focus on priority matters

Political Rumours

Cokaliong’s Floating Coffins





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