Know our new MinDA chair

Posted: October 21, 2010 in Peace

Know our new MinDA chair

By Ben Sumog-oy

For the inhabitants of the SOCSKSARGEN region, the name Luwalhati R. Antonino has already become a household name. She had retired from mainstream politics since 2001, immediately after she finished her third term in the House Representatives, but her name has never escape public consciousness spanning various strands within our contemporary historical epochs.

Her appointment as the new chair of the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA), replacing Atty. Jesus Dureza, makes her name even more prominent, now invading the national political landscapes.

Popularly known formerly as Malacañang in Mindanao, MinDA came into existence by Virtue of the recent passage of Republic Act No. 9996.

Lu Antonino was lately given a thunderous applause, by a throng of people attending the Mindanao Business Conference (MBC), when former Senator Mar Roxas publicly announced that she had been appointed by President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III to the highest public post in Mindanao, a position with a rank equal to that of a cabinet secretary.

The inter-generational perpetuity of the name Luwalhati R. Antonino is attributable not only to her family’s political grandeur, but also, and largely, to her character as a person, as a mother, and as leader to her own people. She, as is well known, rides gloriously on the splendors of her own achievements. Lu, as she is fondly called, is her own woman.

Lu is the wife of another political leader, former City Mayor and Congressman Adelbert W. Antonino, who is widely regarded as the primary architect of the radical transformation of General Santos City as one of the major economic corridors in the country. She is also a mother to a former Congresswoman and now an incumbent City Mayor of General Santos City, Darlene Magnolia R. Antonino-Custodio, who, owing to her no-nonsense positioning on major national issues and concerns, her high-profile development works, and to her intrinsic political charisma, has succeeded to decorate the national political stage.

Cynics had, at first, questioned the logic of Lu Antonino’s appointment to her new job, but their commentary had later on lost its sting, which has turned out later to be a magic spell that further strengthened the philosophical foundation of her installation to a grandiose position in Mindanao.

Lu Antonino does not fall from standard vis-à-vis her appointment as MinDA chair in terms of academic qualification. The Qualification Standard or the QS attached to the position of a MinDA chair requires one to be a member of the Philippine Bar or a holder of a Masters degree.

A holder of a Baccalaureate degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Santo Tomas, Lu Antonino had pursued higher levels of education, until she earned not only one but two Masters Degrees: Masters Degree in Arts and Masters Degree in Business Administration. She earned all these degrees from the University of New York, New York, USA.

There are some people who asked, rather maliciously, how Lu Antonino’s Baccalaureate Degree in Chemical Engineering would play a role in the pursuit of a nagging political question in Mindanao.

Concededly, pursuing a theoretical or purely academic postulation along this lane is extremely difficult, considering that discourses of this nature are not in abundance, if not a rarity.

It is difficult, but it can be done. It is difficult, but the formula is simple. One only need to pay an analytical visit to Lu Antonino’s political narratives, embellished by the abundance of her experiences as a social researcher, a legislator and a development advocate.

Chemical engineering is defined as a branch of engineering that deals with the application of concerned branches of science to the process of converting raw materials or chemicals into more useful or valuable forms. In one aspect, the process requires the mixture or merger of various substances in order to make a new, but useful material. To undergo this process, one needs to be endowed with extraordinary talent and skills in creating a happy balance and perfect homology between and among, at times varied contra and cross-repelling, substances.

This applied theory in chemical engineering is perfectly relevant in social engineering works involving social classes, economic and political forces, and religious factions, which, almost always, embrace competing interests.

A study of her political and organizational history as a three-termed congressperson, and as a leader with extensive organizational and development experiences, would reveal how Lu Antonino displays an admirable savvy of combining and balancing varied, and diametrically opposing, thoughts into ONE universally accepted idea.

Unarguably, this kind of expertise in social craftsmanship is what we need today in Mindanao, an Island soaked into decades of social ferment, division and bloodletting.

Unless the different antagonistic social fibers that comprise Mindanao’s tri-people society are embroidered into one sympathetic whole, without defacing the integrity of each and every filament, a powder-keg, which is Mindanao, is still likely to burst into a social conflagration destroying every part of the Island and every piece of our dreams.

There is no question that her academic attainments are far above the standards attached to the post to which she was appointed. During her elementary and high school days, she was prominently placed on the topmost part of the academic list. She earned two relevant Masters Degrees in one of the most prestigious and respected universities in the United States.

But, it is not at all accurate to conclude that Lu Antonino’s expertise in social engineering is just a product of mere classroom initiations or of a wheel-chair theory development process.

It is an adeptness honed by actual lifetime experiences that enabled her to develop a high degree of social tolerance and natural impulses that abhor the devils of war and a powerful drive to contribute for the attainment of lasting and meaningful peace.

Lu Antonino was born and raised with a very conservative family in Kiamba, Sarangani Province – a municipality where the luring beauty of nature abounds. It is further made fancy by its enthralling beaches, by its placid springs, brooks and swamps and by its majestic mountain ranges which are host to thousands of living creatures, whose beauty and wonders prove the divine artistry of Someone Omnipotent.

However, despite its natural splendors, the Municipality of Kiamba had its share of the most detestable form of violence that characterized the ferments of the ‘70s.

It was during this decade that the Moro struggle for self-determination was first waged, having been triggered by the infamous Jabidah massacre. Kiamba then was not only considered as a zone of war, but it also served as a theater for actual combat. Destructions to property were pursued with impunity, and the killings were done en masse, in an almost genocidal proportion.

The spate of violence that frequently visited the Municipality of Kiamba during these trying times had prominently influenced Lu Antonino’s processes of acculturation as she passed through the different vicissitudes of her youth.

It is also during this troubled period that the young Lu Antonino had developed too much hatred for violence and for which she made a solemn pledge to contribute largely to the common efforts to end the bloodletting in Mindanao, if given a chance.

It would seem that her unexpected appointment as MinDA chair is a chance she had been waiting for since her childhood.

Her understanding of the situation in Mindanao was further bolstered when she served as the President of the Mindanao Legislators Association (MLA), and as she worked in consultation with various sectors in Mindanao in consonance with the discharge of her functions as a three-termed member of Congress. Her immersions with the different social sections in the Island further widened her appreciation of the Mindanao situation and the needs of its people.

There are few segments of society that had attributed certain fallacies to the appointment of Lu Antonino as MinDA chair in their vain attempt to discredit or demean the logic behind her appointment and cast aspersion on her integrity as a leader of Mindanao.

They questioned the propriety of Antonino’s appointment because of her active opposition to the establishment of the Southern Philippines Council for Peace and Development (SPCPD), an offshoot of the peace agreement forged between the GRP and MNLF during the incumbency of the then President, Fidel V. Ramos in 1986. She was unjustly labeled as an anti-Muslim because of her no-nonsense opposition to the establishment of the SPCPD.

This criticism is wholly misplaced. Lu Antonino’s opposition to SPCPD was not anchored on ethnic prejudice or bigotry nor a blatant repulse against the processes of peace, but on a perception that the Council would not simply work, and that it would only plunge the Moro people into the abyss of false hopes.

The eventual collapse of the SPCPD, even before it fully existed, and the corresponding demystification of its leader, Nur Misuari, rendering him totally insignificant in the political scheme-of-things in Mindanao, had ratified the correctness of Lu Antonino’s social positioning. What she feared all along had actually happened.

In addition, there are quarters which tried to force a comparison between the two leaders for the purpose of painting on the public consciousness that the former MinDA Chair, Jesus Dureza, is a better specie than the incumbent chair, Lu Antonino.

A comparison, especially if fraught with gender stereotypes, is an obnoxious game. No less than the eternal line in Desiderata is revealing of this sham: “Do not compare yourself with others for you may become vain and bitter for always there is a better or lesser person than yourself.”

But still we are pretty sure that if an objective comparison is to be made Lu Antonino could emerge as substantially different from or even better than her predecessor.

Surely, unlike her predecessor, Lu Antonino will not transform Mindanao into a plantation economy as a developmental approach to peace, considering its extractive nature, and its deadly impact on the life situation of the basic sector.

Surely too, unlike her predecessor, Lu Antonino will not cuddle the different factions of the Moro Elite and use them as an armed counterpose against the legitimate Moro causes so that the eventual reincarnation of a Frankenstein responsible for the Maguindanao massacre, and which eventually devoured the very government responsible for its creation is prevented.

Truly, we expect a different Mindanao under the auspices of the new MinDA chair.

(Note: The author is a former activist who is now writing a column in one of the leading newspapers in Mindanao and is finishing a law course in the MSU College of Law, General Santos City Campus.)


Approaches to Peace

Posted: September 2, 2010 in Political

Approaches to a Peaceful and Livable Community

If you may notice in the program, I am succinctly described as a columnist/writer, and, not as one who has forte at verbalization of things and ideas.

I am very happy with the description, as this serves as a virtual justification for my mangled pronunciation and my terribly twisted English accent.

There are some who say that contemporary university students consider good English pronunciation and accent as singular measures for intellectualism, and that they tend to subordinate under these standards all forms of theoretical discourses.

Of course, I know that this critique of the today’s students suffers from absence of empirical basis. However, if by sheer misconception of current reality, I am not, at all, accurate in my appreciation of your generation, I sincerely apologize and, with utmost humility, request you to look at my intrinsic defect as a product of the peculiar vicissitudes of my own youth.  

Let me now begin.

The question of peace, in the context of Mindanao, goes beyond the sphere of a mere social problem. Peace is a question far deeper than what we can imagine.  

It has an umbilical chord connected to history, to the prevailing political and socio-economic structures, and to an operative culture that renders all attempts at social reconstruction almost impossible.

All these pose as obstacles to the smooth march of our civilization, and disrupt the birthing of a new peaceful Mindanao.

The Moro struggle for a homeland and the revolutionary and reform overtures continuously waged by various ideological groups make peace exceedingly elusive in this Island paradise.

It is elusive not because we are devoid of the needed capacity to attain peace, but because the social requirements for its attainment are too great that our generation may not be able to satisfy them.

Candidly, I was tempted to discuss my topic “approaches to a peaceful and livable community” by postulating on higher theoretical frameworks and by navigating along the usual arguments that directly responds to these gargantuan issues.

I was tempted to postulate on:

ending poverty through the dismantling and replacement of the prevailing social structures;

1. the establishment of a strong state, thereafter, to counterpose any act of disturbance against society’s order and to usher a smooth social transition;

 2. the transformation of property relations, respecting the ancestral domain of the Moro and the lumads;

 3. giving rise to genuine autonomy for Muslim Mindanao, among others; and

 4. the need to institute changes in the Constitution as a prelude to the pursuit of these transformative agenda.

But I resisted the temptation. I refused to delve into the ideal, at least in the context of local governments and local communities.

 For a social theory to be able to bring about certain qualitative meaning to our respective journey as a community, it is but necessary that such a theory be made a happy combine of the ideal and the practical.  

 The logic here is simple. The things ideal are as vast as our minds can explore, and they define no borders.

 On the other hand, what we can do as a community is limited by the things material, which are, in many instances, beyond our power and capacity to provide. Thus, our theory does not simply work, and we fail miserably in the end.

 I am happy to receive feedback lately that, in the pursuit of the city government’s development theoretical works, Mayor Darlene Antonino-Custodio is always uncompromising on her insistence for the formulation of the “doables”.

 I was informed that Darlene would always insist that development goals should be pursued by implementing strategies which give premium to objective and subjective conditions.

 This means that she detests and resists relentlessly any form of quixotic tendencies that, sometimes, characterized many old-fashioned bureaucrats and, no pun intended, some “prophets of the revolution.”

 Thus, expecting a stern repulse from the Mayor if I do, I would focus my discussion this afternoon on approaches that can be applied on the prevailing local conditions, without, of course, casting aspersion on the importance of active participation and involvement of local governments and basic social institutions in a national discourse intended to advance our country’s peace-building work.

 My personal thesis is that given mathematical formula or applied theories cannot restore or sustain peace in Mindanao and, even, in our city. The diversity of the people’s experiences and cultures in this Region would render all automated formula ineffective, and they could even be an aberration to our quest for lasting peace.

 It is my personal view that the conscious building of our narrative as a community and as nation is a time machine that could bring us back into the tranquility of our past, and move us forward into the serenity of our future.

 Through our constant summation and distillation of our experiences as a community and as a nation, we can draw important lessons that could guide our long and difficult journey towards lasting peace.

 These lessons that we can draw from our narrative building works could serve as a sure formula for peace as they are culled from our success and failure, from our happiness and pains, and from the grandeur of our fame and the blood of our sacrifice.

 In the work for peace, the process takes center stage. We cannot force a solution to unpeace. Thus, the effective approach to peace is to subject it relentlessly to constant and continuing discourses and, by our fortitude and sacrifice, lasting peace is attained without us probably noticing it.

 But the discourse, in order to become an effective approach to peace, must be done at all levels of our national life.  It must be brought into the bosom of our basic communities as genuine stakeholders of any peace project. After all, they are, by the nature of their existence, the direct victims of unpeace.  

 The recent move of our City Mayor, Darlene, to innovate and enhance the “City Hall sa Barangay” program in order to make it more interactive and dialogical is a necessary contribution to the narrative building work of our basic communities.

 Enlivening the discourse for peace at the local levels is the main substance of my concrete proposals this afternoon.

 In the past, I was privileged to write a discussion paper on peace for a peace institution, then, implementing its program in the city. That paper I wrote was entitled “Democratizing the Peace.” 

 In that paper, I advanced a thesis advocating for the localization of peace interventions through the institutionalization of effective mechanisms where the local residents can actively participate in peace and development works.

 In that same paper, I envisioned a situation where self-reliant, autonomous, sustainable and empowered barangays are dynamically and collectively working in partnership with sustainable and self-governing basic communities and organized community-based institutions in the pursuit of a common aspiration.   

 I argued that, by building this kind of a community and by facilitating this kind of dynamic community interactions, we are actually establishing “green patches of peace” in the city, and on the so-called bleak landscape of Mindanao and the whole country.

 Within these “green patches of peace”, the community people are given the opportunities to attain and celebrate their “little victories”, and these “victories” could serve as building blocks for the edifice of peace that we all desire to build for our city, for Mindanao, and the whole country.

 The establishment of these “green patches of peace” could serve as the city’s vital contribution to the national struggle for the attainment of peace and prosperity.

 In concrete, in that paper I wrote, I advanced the following strategies for the establishment of the “green patches of peace” in the city.     

 Solid community organizing should take center stage to continue and sustain all initiatives for the attainment of lasting peace and development within the basic communities;

 1. Solid organizing interventions are necessary to enable formal government structures to lend permanency to all peace and development efforts;

 2. The formation of alternative power centers should be done by forming new organizations or by revitalizing or strengthening existing cooperatives, people’s organizations (POs), women associations and youth organizations within the barangays;

 3. Empowerment of the barangays and community institutions for effective engagement in decision-making processes, resource mobilization works, and in the implementation of programs and projects;

 4. Basic social institutions, especially those working for peace, must be strengthened and be given meaningful participation in the Barangay assembly, Barangay Development Council, the Lupon Tagapamayapa (a structure in the barangay which is in-charge of conflict transformation), the Barangay Peace and Order Council and other mandated and recognized special bodies in the barangays; and

 5. More governance seminars and trainings at the community levels should be conducted, targeting purok leaders, members of religious groups, including PO and Coop leaders in order to effectively pursue participatory governance, take hold, and maximize the benefits of the current democratic spaces, and guarantee peace in the end.

 The dynamic interactions of formal and alternative power centers in these basic communities, coupled with the meaningful participation of these basic social institutions in the processes of decision-making result to the leveling off of the people’s understanding of the various peace and development issues affecting their life’s situation, and to the crafting of appropriate responses to these issues.

 These processes may not guarantee an end to poverty but it would surely usher the people from the crisis of hope, the main culprit for the destruction of our basic community structures and the collapse of families as basic social institutions. The weakening of our community structures and the collapse of our basic institutions are anathema to our desire for the attainment of lasting peace.  

 The so-called “Batang Tun-og” phenomenon which had plunged many parts of the country into certain levels of terror was driven less by poverty but more by the collapse of the institutional character of the Filipino family and the weakening of our social structures in basic communities. The “Batang Tun-og” phenomenon is the greatest threat to our peace, today and in the future.

 The strong, vibrant and cohesive gangs of “Batang Tun-ogs” reflect not only the character of our successor-generation, but they also perfectly mirror our future. They will not only pose a serious threat to the peace of society, but they will create a society woven in accordance with the “norms” of their own morality and the “standards” of their own practices.

 When this happens, our problem would not anymore be the threat to the peace of society; it is society itself.

 Now, let us go to my final points.

 The massive crackdown waged by the City Mayor against drugs and illegal gambling is a move towards the right direction. Drugs and gambling are threats both to the well-being of the individuals and society.

 Drugs and gambling do not only weaken the human character and temper the people’s aspiration for excellence, but they also pose a danger to society. We detest the proliferation of drugs and gambling because they necessitate the establishment of sub-social structures that render the formal state structures ineffective.

 Drugs and gambling create a strong system of political economy that renders state institutions inutile and weakens the coercive state instruments through the bastardization of government agents and their cohorts. In some states and localities, drug lords and gambling lords even control governments and their many instruments.

 Finally, the disturbance to peace is admittedly the logical consequence of poverty, but, admittedly too, not all indicators of unpeace are attributable to a harsh economic situation. Experiences of other communities and nations would also tell us that unpeace also results from the collapse or weakening of state and social institutions, and the eventual collapse of human character.

 Let me end by asking a simple question: “What shall we do after this forum?” My answer is also simple: “Let us go back to our communities, to our puroks, to our barangays, to our schools and to working places, — and start the discourse for peace.”

 Some may accuse me of trivializing an otherwise future-defining issue by suggesting a non-challenging task. To them I say, “let us try it, and very soon we will know that it is not as easy as we think.”

Thank you.

I am now starting to serialize in this space the old article I wrote for Darlene, with a hope that we can contribute in the task of social mobilization to enable the new local administration to redirect our local community in accordance with the social covenant it forges with the people during the newly-concluded local elections. This article will come out in eleven series. Let us begin:

The life of Darlene Magnolia Recasa Antonino-Custodio, Representative of the First Congressional District of General Santos City and South Cotabato, can be readily viewed in graphic details by merely putting to in-depth scrutiny her unpopularized resume or biodata.. An examination of her kilometric list of achievements is enough for us to conclude that she is, indeed, a woman of wisdom and achievement, and one public official with sufficient preparation for executive or management tasks.

However, such a resume, being mere product of mechanical listings of the efficacious achievements of Congresswoman Darlene Antonino-Custodio, now the mayor-elect of General Santos City, is not enough to capture all the beautiful abstractions lurking beneath every facet of her feats as a person and as a young politician. Of course, it cannot be denied that her resume, mechanical as it is, has been welcomed by many quarters with some degree of awe. For a very young politician, like Darlene, her achievements stand taller than herself.

In the past, Darlene is one among the few politicians whose academic preparation and initiation for public office are always put to doubt. Probably for the other politicians, the issue is legitimate. But for Darlene, the reason is that there is no aggressive effort on her part to advertise or popularize her competence, much more her achievements. Unlike other politicians, she finds it culturally repugnant to engage on any matter that borders to the self-serving.

Thus, the primary task of this work is to breathe a fresh new life to Darlene’s statistics of achievement by bringing to the fore the human contexts through which they were given shape and form. A resume, if not put in the context of human struggle, becomes  merely a repository of a lifeless data. Any monumental achievement, even if it had emerged overarching among all others, may still be rendered meaningless if not viewed through the lens of humanity, and without considering them in the context of human experiences that passed through different vicissitudes of an ever changing social landscape.

If Darlene has succeeded to have herself prominently decorated in the national political stage by virtue of her being a no-nonsense legislator, a crusader for good governance and a development activist; it is not a feat and a social stature that just spurt out by the mere stroke of a magic wand. It is primarily attributable to Darlene’s a glorious lineage, to her formidable formal and informal initiations and apprenticeships in the arena of governance and development. Some said that it is because she has the looks that suits well with the requirements of our contemporary boob-tube politics, but others posit that it is because of her in-born charisma, reinforced by her good-natured eloquence. (To be continued)


We are also waiting for some materials from the information officers of Governor Migs Dominguez in Sarangani Province which we will use to update our readers about the economic and governance trends and events in this seashore area. We have been receiving feedback from our friends in Sarangani that they appreciate the post-election analysis we previously published in this space. We will continue doing it so we may be able to enliven the economic and political discourses in this speedily growing seashore province.

General Santos City and Sarangani Province are interesting areas for economic and political discourses are they are both managed by young and dynamic leaders who have, this early, captured the national political stage because of their proven expertise in the field of politics and governance.


Yellow Bus Line – The giving of this report is quite too late, but I am constrained to do this because the drivers of Yellow Bus Line or YBL still continue to drive recklessly along the General Santos City-Davao City route. We will continue to discuss here the abusive ways of YBL drivers as our mission to prevent the tragedy that these drivers could inflict on the lives of many passengers in the future.

At about 2:00 in the afternoon of May 15, 2010, we almost fell on the ravine while the bus we were riding was negotiating on a mountainous part of Malungon, Sarangani Province. This accident was not caused by anything, except the abusive ways of the driver manning the bus.

This near fatal accident happened because the driver, instead of reducing speed, was steeping on the gasoline on curves and corners to the consternation of the passengers. As we experience it, this has been the brand of driving of abusive YBL drivers. Almost all YBL drivers are doing this.

The bus did not reduce speed, as it always did, and instead moved speedily as we approached a very dangerous curve located at one of the highest mountains in Malungon. Beyond said curve is a deep ravine which is approximately more than 300 meters deep, with which the bus could easily fall into that deadly abyss by the driver’s slight mistake.

But despite that dangerous curve, the driver did not loosen the gasoline. While the bus was nearing the edge of the ravine, the driver maneuvered to avoid the abyss by sharply moving the bus towards the left, causing it to skid, with its right tires no longer touching the ground. With the driver almost losing control, the bus speed off into the rocky mountainside on the left side of the road.

To prevent the bus from bumping on the rocky mountainside, the driver moved the bus back to the right, causing the bus again to skid, with its left tires this time no longer touching the ground, towards the deep ravine. Then the driver maneuvered to avoid the ravine for the second time, until the violent movements of the bus were finally stabilized.

I got a scarce on my left hand. My wife turned as pale as paper. Some passengers also suffered slight injuries as a result of the incident. What was frustrating of all was the fact that the driver and the conductor did not apologize to the passengers.

Few weeks after this incident, it was reported in the news that one of the YBL units was featured in a self-accident; it fell due to its own weight and speed. I still observe that YBL buses continue to step on the gas even on dangerous curves, forcing the passengers to strongly hold on their seats to avoid being thrown away.

I still have plenty of tragic experience with YBL. I commit to inform the public about it, until Ritchie Yap, the owner-manager of YBL, will do something to discipline his abusive drivers.

Manny Piñol, of North Cotabato, and Ace Barbers, of Surigao, lately appeared hilarious in public when they questioned their failed bid for reelection for the position of governor in their respective provinces. They appeared funny as they undertake their unlikely post-election maneuverings because all the people know that they are the ones who were in the better position, or who have the stronger arsenal, to do electoral cheatings.

We have big trouble with politicians. They find it hard to learn. It took them a very long time to realize that their defeats are caused by their own respective follies. For Piñol and Barbers, their defeats were actually wake up calls that came too late in the day, and were made in their most painful shape and form – their defeat.

The defeats of these two defeated political giants were wake up calls made after their deep slumber, giving them no time to reinvent their ways and save themselves from perdition. The wake up calls to remind them of their near-inutility and erroneous social positioning were their very electoral defeat, and these what makes them do a ridiculous act of crying foul against their financially disadvantaged opponents.

That these two fallen giants were unsuccessful in their respective bids for reelection for governor is not what make them ridiculous. It is because of the fact that, by complaining electoral fraud against their disadvantageously-placed adversaries, they appear like invincibly battle-clad warriors who pitifully sob before their unarmed, but determined, enemies.

Close to home, the political scenario was diametrically different. Congresswoman Darlene Magnolia R. Antonino-Custodio had captured the mayoralty post in General Santos City with comfortable ease, despite being subjected to the most brutal form of propaganda that had ever been undertaken in the history of Philippine politics. That form of propaganda was too repulsive to the conscience that it cannot be mentioned here.

In the last election, the people have finally spoken. By their spontaneous act, they repudiated such dirty type of politics, in a much clearer language. The number of votes which Darlene had garnered in the newly-concluded local elections was bigger by more than half than the combined votes of her three political adversaries.

With such repudiation, we can only hope that no such form of propaganda will ever be initiated in General Santos City in future local elections. With public consciousness radically skyrocketing, as our society flirts with modernity, black propaganda has already lost its magic spell.

But Darlene has something to think about with regards to the results of the recent elections. It is not perfectly correct to say now that Darlene’s landslide victory would mean that everything could go well as usual, and that guards could now be loosened down, without any future danger. To believe otherwise is to tread on a dangerous proposition.

Although Darlene had emerged convincingly triumphant in the last election, it does not, at all, mean that the last election just passed by without any danger signal. In fact, there was a wake up call, not for Darlene, but for the other members of the Achievement with Integrity Movement (AIM).

The current post-election period presents a very telling future political scenario; that is, the possibility of the 2013 local elections emerging to be the most contentious elections in the history of General Santos City, with the apparent capacity of the current local opposition forces to level the political playing field.

It is still too early to define the new local political landscape after the latest local elections. But the present formation of forces in the local political stage serves as a wake up call on AIM politicians, especially the AIM city councilors, that they must now veer away from their bad habits of depending solely on the integrity of, and the great respect that the people have for, Darlene and the party’s founder Adel Antonino and on the loyalty and dedication of AIM’s mass-based leaders for their electoral victory.

By their own serious efforts, the AIM city councilors and other AIM politicians must contribute to the strengthening and vitality of the party, and they must not be contended with the usual situation where they are merely collateral beneficiaries of Darlene’s and Adel Antonino’s public support and respectability.

In Sarangani, Roy Chiongbian did not survive the onslaughts of Congressman-elect Manny Pacquiao, who is armed with awesome popularity and financial power. The reason for this is the fact that his brother-supposed-to-be predecessor, out-goin Congressman Erwin Chiongbian, has not performed well as an advocate in, and out of, Congress.

Not only that Erwin Chiongbian slept on his job, but he also failed to maintain his rapport with his constituencies in Sarangani. The reason for this is simply Erwin’s mistaken belief that, since he is a Chiongbian, he is unbeatable. This mistaken belief pained Roy Chiongbian all throughout the electoral campaign. The public frustrations on Erwin transcended and made a heavy toll on him.

What made the local election in Sarangani too dreadful for awhile was the fact that Governor Migs Dominguez almost became a collateral victim of Manny Pacquiao’s political tsunami. Fortunately for Migs Dominguez, his outstanding performance as the province’s chief executive and his constant immersions with the people even in the remote villages in the province saved the day for him. He is considered by the people as indispensable in Sarangani’s journey towards economic prosperity.

The good name he had painted in the canvass of public consciousness was the reason why his last line of defense against the overwhelming effects of Manny Pacquiao’s gigantic financial arsenal did not crumble at the crucial hour of the battle.

Previewing the nature of the governance of an incoming administration is a political forecasting, which could hardly have any scientific basis. But equipped with a comprehensive appreciation of ONE’s political and governance fundamentals and history, any person could venture on political forecasting involving an incoming administration, and still turn out accurate on his postulation of future political events.

If I were to enjoy the luxury of “little” vanity, I can rightfully claim that, of the 500,000 residents of General Santos City, I am one among the very few who are privy of the fundamentals and the evolution of the politics and governance of the Antonino family.

Again, please excuse my vanity if I declare here that my quite complete privity of the Antonino family’s politics and governance makes me an “authority” in the task of foretelling the outcome of the maiden administration of the incoming City Mayor, Darlene Magnolia R. Antonino-Custodio.

I have strong basis for this claim. Those who were hooked on their radio and television sets from 1987 to 2001 would readily agree with me that I was, once, the harshest critic of the Antonino brand of politics and governance.

To effectively play this role, I constantly studied and analyzed the history and political ways of the Antoninos for the primary purpose of hunting for loopholes and gray areas to qualify the logic of my venomous tirades against them.

In fact, to add power to my verbal cannons, I traced the roots of Darlene’s father, Adel Antonino, to a group of English prisoners who, in 1817, were exiled by Captain James Cooke to a continent now known as Australia.

Of course, admittedly now, it was a commentary founded on malice for I was then leading a struggle against the, then, incumbent city mayor, Adel Antonino, as a public sector union leader. Actually, such a claim of mine lacks basis in history.

I have been told by those in the know (this fact carries a heavier weight) that the forebears of Adel Antonino’s mother, Magnolia Welburn, who later married Guadencio Antonino, can be traced from a group of Irish immigrants who peopled Australia during the renaissance of modernization.

There are still more in my experience which could ably predicate my claim (I will try to present them in my future writings), but I think that the above discussion is already enough to establish my “authority” to make a forecast on what the incoming administration of Darlene Antonino-Custodio would become within the next three years.

Let me begin:

-I am very certain that the formulation of a welfare and humanist program would be Darlene’s priority, not only as an amelioration strategy, but as an economic strategy aimed at increasing the family’s per capita income. Certainly, Darlene would veer away from the traditional view that a welfare program is just an expense program and, therefore, an odd thing in the economy. My study of the Antonino economics is that the implementation of a welfare program, if done under a well laid-down framework, increases the expendable income of the poorest of the poor by radically reducing their household expenses. It is my opinion that Darlene, as a well-learned individual, will do this because she is fully aware that so many advance states had embark on a comprehensive welfare program not only as a social balancer in favor of the poor but also as an effective solution to poverty-related social problems, and become successful in the process.

-I am very sure that Darlene would focus primarily on economic or income-based infrastructure projects, which would connect the city’s center to different food production communities, as a strategy to revitalize the basic communities by increasing production and by ensuring the easy access of food production communities to local, domestic and international markets. I say this because, based on my personal study, all the Antonino’s programs and projects in the past were formulated and implemented, with an eye sharply focused towards the establishment of self-reliant and self-sustaining communities. Thus, I see Darlene’s administration as glory days for social institutions in both rural and urban communities.

-I am convinced that the maintenance and improvement of the city’s peace and order condition will be the center-stage of Darlene’s administration, knowing fully well its indispensable role in the success of any economic development endeavors. But, in doing this, Darlene will deviate from the traditional practice of making the government armed instruments as primary forces to ensure social tranquility. I am also sure that the strengthening of both formal and alternative centers of power in the barangays to ensure people’s access to justice and community resources will be Darlene’s primary peace and order strategy. With this strategy in place, the coercive instruments of the state will only play a supportive role in the city’s peace and order drive under her administration.

-It is my opinion that Darlene will exert substantial efforts to ensure the establishment of investments with locally-driven capital, without looking askance at environment-friendly foreign ventures that bring into the city liquid capital, and not just borrow money from local or domestic banks for their investment needs. Appurtenant to this, I am sure that Darlene will, foremost, encourage local investors that would engage in labor-intensive ventures to ensure the steady increase in local employment rate and prevent the abortive effects of the massive outflow of capital, resources and income.

-Towards this end, Darlene will strengthen and empower the local bureaucracy, headed by a dynamic city administrator, to enable it to pursue its tasks without much supervision from her so she could focus her attention more on important social mobilization works. With an empowered bureaucracy in place, we will be seeing Darlene actively leading the people towards a direction which she will formulate with the democratic participation of various key players in the economy. Thus, we will also be seeing a city where the wider segments of the population are actively involved in the affairs of the local government.

I am joining the 2nd Mindanao Bloggers Summit which is spearheaded by the Soccsksargen Convenors Collective headed by my good friend Avel Manansala of Bariles Republic. A laudable project of the Mindanao Bloggers under Oliver Robillo, this year’s gathering will have for its theme:  MINDANAWAN, PAMINAWON INTAWON:  Blogging the Mindanao Consciousness.

The summit will be held at the Family Country Hotel and Convention Center on October 25.  A tour around the city will happen the following day.

We have the following sponsors and supporters to thank for:

NOKIA (Philippines), Inc.
Mayor Pedro B. Acharon, Jr.
Congresswoman Darlene Antonino-Custodio
ABS-CBN Regional Network Group
Mindanao Bloggers
Bariles Republic

ACLC-Skeptron Ventures, Inc.

Asia United Bank
NoKiAHOST.COM- P5/day Philippines Webhosting
Family Country Hotel & Convention Center
East Asia Royale Hotel

Digital Filipino
Pacific Seas Seafood Market

Shalom-Crest Wizard Academy

Generals Logimark Exponent

GensanSALE.COM – AnyThing for Sale in Gensan

Prints and You

Sta. Cruz Seafood, Inc.
Dellosa Design Builders, Inc.

While, strictly put, it is just  program, the General Santos City’s SHEEP-CLP (SHEEP is an acronym for the city’s major development thrusts which we will later spell out, while CLP stands for Computer Literacy Program) operates as a virtual division under the City Mayor’s Office (CMO).

Operating under the auspices of City Mayor Pedro B. Acharon, Jr., this program is considered a virtual division under the CMO due to the existence of its own organizational structure, with clearly defined functions and hierarchical responsibilities. Correspondingly, it has a staffing pattern – with required qualification standards (QS) for each and every position found therein – which is now occupied by chosen technical persons and information technology (IT) experts.

Currently, SHEEP-CLP, while lacking in usual sensationalism innate to many local service departments, remains to be a largely obscure office but its role in the pursuit of the city’s development strategies (CDS) and for the charting of its destiny, if subjected to deeper examination, cannot be discounted. Such a role, as we shall delve later, is actually of monumental significance to the future of the city and its people.

SHEEP-CLP had only a total of five staff members, with Percival Pasuelo, Norda Celebrado and Gertrudes Bartolaba at the helm, when it was created in 1999.

Notably, a year before that, former Mayor and Congressman Adelbert W. Antonino dramatically recaptured the highest local political seat when he finally defeated his then strongest political archrival after a highly sensational power see-saw that had characterized the city’s political landscape for almost two decades.

Therefore, when SHEEP-CLP was finally birthed in 1999, Adel Antonino was actually serving his second term as a City Mayor.

As always, institutions created for a purely public purpose have their own elemental subjectivity. Consequently, this is also true with SHEEP-CLP. Adel Antonino, regarded as a computer wizard long before computerization was first introduced in the city in the early ‘90s, had IT then as one of his major fields of interests. That Adel Antonino’s near-obsession on IT at that time had helped propel the establishment of SHEEP-CLP in the city is a contention that we do not consider as one that betrays logic.

Today, with Mayor Jun Acharon serving his third and last term as City Mayor, SHEEP-CLP is now composed of 25 staff members, working under the direction of Amelia Barroga, the new program supervisor. In addition, the program has already a manifold of office infrastructures put under its control. Together with the growth and development of its physical and human resource infrastructures, SHEEP-CLP has vastly expanded its mandated functions and its role in the pursuit of the city’s development agenda.

Also, in 1999, SHEEP-CLP started as an office that merely worked to help develop and sharpen the IT skills of different offices within the city’s bureaucracy; including the IT skills of its development partners which are basically government mandated or recognized institutions and civil society organizations. Later on, however, SHEEP-CLP expanded its mandate, this time, to serve the interest and welfare of the bigger society by conducting regular computer classes among students and pupils in public secondary and elementary schools (the social significance of this is discussed in the theoretical portion of this work).

Aside from conducting computer trainings for the present crop of city government functionaries, SHEEP-CLP is also involved in initiating Computer Literacy Tests (CLT) for job aspirants. The CLT is given before a work applicant for any position in the city undergoes so-called Intelligence Quotient (IQ) and Emotional Quotient (EQ) examinations. These examinations are usually conducted by the Human Resource and Management Development Office (HRMDO), under Mrs. Sarah T. Sanchez.

In the pursuit of its bigger role, SHEEP-CLP is, at first, commissioned to transfer technologies in computer operations to students/pupils of public secondary and elementary schools (The reason for this we will elucidate later on) by training public school teachers who would, in turn, hone the computer skills of their students or pupils. But it was later found out that this scheme is not wholly effective. The local branch of the Department of Education Culture and Sports (DECS) has simply no enough personnel to satisfy the human resource requirement of the program.

To remedy the situation, the SHEEP-CLP personnel took the cudgel in conducting basic computer literacy training sessions in all public secondary and elementary schools within the city; the work that they continue to do until today. This is also the reason for the increase in the number of personnel under SHEEP-CLP from five in 1999 and twenty five at present. As an added premium for local government offices and its school beneficiaries, SHEEP-CLP also extends computer repair and maintenance services involving local government-owned computers, when time warrants.

Since its inception in 1999, the number of beneficiaries of SHEEP-CLP has reached roughly around 11,000 students and pupils. Basic computer literacy trainings still continue, with the program becoming a permanent component of the City Annual Budget (CAB). Its permanent presence in the CAB is a clear testament to its perpetuity as a program, but, operating as a virtual office.

At present, all public secondary and elementary schools in the city are benefited with the services of the program, although, the same services are still to extend to newly established schools’ annexes (extension areas). However, Mrs. Barroga revealed that Mayor Jun Acharon pledged to put these schools’ annexes within the service ambit of SHEEP-CLP, either late this year (2008) or early next year (2009).

The basic computer literacy trainings that SHEEP-CLP extends to students and pupils include, inter alia, Microsoft Windows, Word Excel, Page Maker, Front Page and Power Point, among others. Of course, the computer lessons that SHEEP-CLP gives vary according to the respective needs of its beneficiaries.

To heighten the effectiveness of the process of information technology transfer, SHEEP-CLP prepared and reproduced training modules, hand-outs and training designs which the students/pupils could use for their future engagements vis-à-vis the sharpening of their IT skills. Updated from time to time, these learning instruments are regularly distributed to the beneficiaries of the program.

It is worth noting that the services that SHEEP-CLP renders to its beneficiaries are beyond abstractions. It also extends infrastructure support to schools which are hosting basic computer literacy trainings by providing computer teachers, buildings, if necessary; computer sets, and supplies, if funds allow it. It also allocates P1, 500.00 per host school to defray the cost of electricity incurred for the use of the computers during the trainings.

From school year 2000 to 2007, SHEEP-CLP has provided a total of 794 computers to 48 public secondary and elementary schools, costing around P22, 000,000.00, in all. The mentioned amount represents costs for the purchase of computer sets with tables, printers, scanners, networking accessories, uninterrupted power supply units, automotic voltage regulators and other peripherals.

Of the 48 schools provided with computer sets, 30 schools were given 20 computer units each; 8 schools,  15 computer units each; 5 schools, 10 computer units each; 3 schools, 3 computer units each; while another school received 3 computer units. A trade school in Barangay Lagao was also given a computer unit.

The funds used for the acquisition of these computer units were all provided through local appropriations. However, the construction of various buildings where these computers units are housed was made possible through the Countrywide Development Fund (CDF) of Congresswoman Darlene R. Antonino-Custodio.

In the first blush, the services that are being rendered by SHEEP-CLP may appear simplistic, merely at par with other social services normally extended by local governments to their respective constituencies. However, if sharply viewed through the lens of the prevailing global order and the city development strategies/thrusts, SHEEP-CLP services actually carry in them deep-seated social meanings, much deeper that we usually imagine.

To contextualize, the city’s IT program, under SHEEP-CLP, is a built-in component of the Acharon administration’s development thrusts, condensed within the acronym “SHEEP”. These development thrusts were first formulated and adopted during the second term (1998-2001) of Adel Antonino as City Mayor, but were lately revised to tailor-fit to the prevailing social conditions, although the acronym “SHEEP” was purposively retained to preserve its roots and its narratives in public memory.

Formerly, SHEEP stood for Shelter, Health, Education, Environment and Peace and Order but now SHEEP stands for Social Transformation, Human Empowerment, Economic Diversification, Environment Security and Regeneration and Participatory Governance and Transparency. As we may notice, the city’s thrusts have had transmogrified from specifically confined impulsions 1998 into a vastly expanded areas of development concern at present.

Thus, SHEEP, as a development thrust, like any other development experiment, is also involved in narrative building, indicative of its dynamism as a social experiment.

Considering that local development offensives, under the era of globalization, are largely knowledge-based, SHEEP-CLP operates, in effect, as an indispensable component of the above-mentioned development thrusts, which are reeling along the city’s development strategies (CDS): good governance, competitiveness, bankability and livability.

These development strategies, as we all know, serve as ascending parallel lanes towards the city’s vision, which is to build an economically prosperous and globally competitive city inhabited by empowered and healthy people who actively participate in local governance.

While it plays an important role in each of the city’s development strategies, SHEEP-CLP’S main functions is to help make the city globally competitive by preparing its productive forces – present and future – in the field of information technology, now considered to be one of the major arenas for global engagement.

During the present era of globalization, expertise in information technology is a potent weapon for massive accumulation of knowledge and an indispensable measure for human excellence. Thus, those who fail to sharpen their expertise in the field of information technology are sidelined and cannot catch up with the speeding train of modernity. As it is, there is no way that the city could compete globally without expanding its people’s knowledge arsenal, especially the one involving information technology.

Let us deepen our analysis of this development thesis. Globalization – defined as a process of transforming the world into a global village – is facilitated by modern transportation and sophisticated communication and information technology. While it hastens closer interactions between and among different nations and cultures, globalization has soaked these same nations and cultures in stern, at times barbaric, competition against each other. As experience indicates, those that failed or refused to relate with information technologies are defeated, exploited and pitifully sidelined in ignominy.

While globalization is desirable per se; it has some vile aspects that, if not effectively confronted, could plunge the city into eventual economic perdition.  These vile aspects of globalization are further reinforced by its neo-liberal strategy that calls, among others, for the, 1.) withering of nation-states and put them under the stranglehold of global capital; 2.) establishment of borderless economy; 3.) trampling afoot of the people’s sense of nation and national identity; and, 4.) devastation of local communities to make them more vulnerable to foreign control. These are the reasons why this type of globalization is also called a corporate-led globalization.

Worse, neo-liberal globalization further bolsters the dominance of strong and affluent nations (e.g. the G8) over fragile and poor nations, like the Philippines. With this type of globalization, exploitation is done not only on the basis of sectors and class but also on the basis of nations and cultures.

It is, therefore, very clear that, when it adopted global competitiveness as one of the major elements of its development strategy, the city government, although its local officials are not so conversant on this, did not only have the formulation of relevant economic programs in mind but also the fortification of the city from the tsunami-like onslaughts of the “evils” of globalization.

Although the forces of global capital have lately suffered from lingering sickness, neo-liberal globalization as a global system remains strong and lurks at peace beneath the rumblings of the social chaos it caused, confident of the fortifying power of global superstructures responsible for its growth and development.

Local governments, like our own, are forced by circumstances to play according to the set of rules enforced by the prevailing global system, lest, they would be finding themselves piercing the last nail on their respective coffins. But the city government, with the establishment of SHEEP-CLP, is preparing itself for global engagement not only to survive but to prosper – to dominate if possible.

Neo-liberal globalization will endure not because it offers a perfectly working global economic system – in fact it is frequently visited by so many, sometimes deadly flaws – but because an alternative to this global system is not likely to be invented within succeeding generations and, if by twist of fate, such an alternative system would be invented, there is certainly a serious want of forces necessary to effect the transmogrification of the current global system into a new, just and more humane order.

The impossibility of creating a new global order was articulated by Francis Fukuyama, author of the book End of History and the Last Man (which Senate Star Witness Jun Lozada claimed to be his favorite book). In his book, he claimed that, with the advent of corporate globalization, history has practically ended. He contended that this corporate-led globalization is the ultimate destiny of humanity; meaning that the world has already reached the end-point of its journey to where it should be and to what it shall become.

Having considered the prevailing global order as the best economic system that humanity has ever established, Fukuyama also contended that corporate globalization is no longer irreversible; it will never unravel. There is no more global order that humanity can invent that is more glorifying than this one. Therefore, all nations and cultures should learn to operate under its sets of rules and adjust to its given standards, if they are to benefit from this new global order.

So, when SHEEP-CLP was finally birthed in the late ‘90s, what preoccupied the minds of local officials then was how to prepare the city and its productive forces for effective global engagements, not only to merely survive but to also prevail and dominate, in the end. This is one of the main reasons for the creation of SHEEP-CLP. This is also how SHEEP-CLP should be viewed as a social program.

However, the social functionality of SHEEP-CLP does not end there. Globalization does not only result to strong competition between and among nations and national cultures; it also gives rise to domestic competitions, with local government units fighting for global and national attention in a bid to rev up their respective local economies. Local governments, optimizing the use of their new-found autonomous powers, have been preoccupied in the job of outsmarting each other in order to serve the best interest and welfare of their respective constituencies.

Consequently, local government units that fail to engage in the arena of information technology are likewise relegated to the economic dustbin, unable to participate in the race for local economic development.

Thus, as a program, SHEEP-CLP is meant to prepare the city’s productive forces to effectively confront these new economic and political dynamics involving local government units within the country. Clearly, therefore, the role that SHEEP-CLP plays does not end with its intervention in the preparation of local forces for active engagement not only with international forces but with domestic forces as well. Sharpening the city’s competitive edge with other LGUs is also one of the important reasons for the establishment of SHEEP-CLP.

Moreover, and more importantly, SHEEP-CLP helps prepare the city’s subjective forces for both global and domestic engagements by providing both the rich and the poor equal access to information technology. It means that this program gives the poor, who are incapable of gaining academic initiations in expensive private schools, equal access to information technology which they can hardly have without the SHEEP-CLP. This is pursued in consonance with the belief that an unjust society cannot effectively engage with other societies because its social fibers are too weak to endure the beatings of external forces.

It should be noted that private schools are already giving the children of affluent families access to information technology even beginning from kinder garten, while the children of poor families in public schools do not have such kind of luxury. As a result, public school children are terribly left out, thus, putting them on disadvantageous position in the endless race for life. To cure this social infirmity, SHEEP-CLP was established to cater to students and pupils in public schools who belong to the lower socio-economic strata of society.

It is, therefore, unequivocal that the establishment of SHEEP-CLP was for the purpose of ensuring sociological balance between the rich and the poor and of leveling off the playing field for all the people, which is basically the main philosophy for the existence of the state. While it is meant to make the city globally and domestically competitive, it is, foremost, intended to ensure social equity in the city by erasing the social fault-line that separates the poor from the rich, at least, in terms of access to information technology.

In sum, therefore, SHEEP-CLP has a two-pronged mission: One, to make the city globally and domestically competitive; and, Two, to give the poor people equal access to IT education so that they will not be sidelined in the processes of development.

Yes, SHEEP-CLP remains to be an obscure office but it continues to silently play its significant role in the growth of the city and in ensuring fair and just economic and political environment for all the people in this part of the country.