Gunfire, blasts, a dying breath

October 7, 2006

First posted 03:46am (Mla time) Oct 03, 2006
By DJ Yap
Inquirer

Editor’s Note: Published on page A1 of the October 3, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

IF YOU THINK losing a loved one is heartbreaking, you should listen to Elsie Badbad’s story. Then you would know what anguish really means.

Elsie was not there when her husband Rodrigo, a military sergeant, was killed in an ambush by communist guerillas in Cagayan de Oro City last month. But its horror would likely stay with her for a long, long time.

She heard everything on her mobile phone — the gunfire, the explosions, her husband’s dying breath.

“I wish I had been there with him. I would probably have been able to help him. And even if I couldn’t, at least I would have been able to hold him,” said Elsie, a mother of two.

The 34-year-old was talking to Rodrigo on her cellular phone that morning when, all of a sudden, enemy forces began attacking her husband’s company.

“One moment I was conversing with my husband, then suddenly I was hearing guns and loud blasts in the background,” she said in Filipino.

“I started panicking and screaming at the phone, asking my husband to tell me what was going on,” Elsie said.

Longest day

Amid the loud noise, “I heard his voice on the line. He was moaning. After that, I heard more gunfire and explosions. It lasted 10 seconds.”

Then the line went dead.

It was the longest day in Elsie’s life.

“I kept calling him until it was already 3 p.m., but no one was answering anymore … The worst thing was not knowing. Was he dead or alive?” she said.

“At 7 p.m., someone went to our house and said he would accompany me to the morgue. Our youngest and I couldn’t stop crying … I never realized that my world would stop so suddenly.”

A widow in tears

Elsie was in tears when she told her story before a group of high school students during last week’s Peace Tech 3, a dialogue among youths on the impact of war and conflict on women.

The forum linked up students and teachers at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City, with their counterparts at the Notre Dame University in Cotabato City.

The third in a series of teleconferences on issues that concern the youth, the forum was organized by the Assisi Development Foundation, Center for Peace Education of Miriam College, Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, United Nations Children’s Fund, Australian Agency for International Development and the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives. Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. provided the cable technology.

Another widow

During the forum, women who were caught in armed conflicts talked about their experiences before an audience of some 750 students from UP and more than 1,100 from Notre Dame.

Elsie said her husband’s death put in doubt the future of her children, an 8-year-old boy and a 4-year-old girl. Now she has to fend for them by herself.

“We’ll get by. But it’s going to be hard,” she said.

Another widow who spoke at the forum was Teresa. As in Elsie’s case, the story behind her husband’s death was a sad one.

Except that Teresa’s husband was fighting on the opposite side — he was a “commander” of the New People’s Army, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

“I had just given birth to our first child when I heard that he might have been killed,” Teresa said.

A love story

“It took a month before someone confirmed his death to me,” she added. “By then, I was taking care of our child at my parents’ house where he left me.”

“I’ve since taken up a job as a helper in a store,” Teresa said.

She described her husband as a “kind and thoughtful man.”

Breaking the somber atmosphere in the hall, Teresa told the students a love story — how her husband courted her by writing her a love letter, which she answered favorably “after five days.”

Teresa spoke at Notre Dame, and Elsie at UP Diliman.

Futile wish

Although their husbands died fighting each other, the two widows harbored no ill will toward each other.

“That’s the way it is. You can’t blame them because they were just following orders,” Elsie said.

“When my husband was alive, I was always wishing that he would never meet any of the rebel groups. I wished they would just go their separate ways without knowing where the other was,” she said.

But she knew it was a wish in vain.

“Every time there’s an encounter, someone’s bound to die. Somebody will lose a husband or a son,” she said.
http://news.inq7.net/archive_article/index.php?ver=1&index=1&story_id=24422

Copyright 2006 Inquirer. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Rebel ma gives up NPA to be with 5 children

October 7, 2006

First posted 07:24am (Mla time) Sept 26, 2006
By DJ Yap
Inquirer

Editor’s Note: Published on page A1 of the September 26, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

EVERY TIME she gave birth, Francia found herself making a painful choice between caring for her baby and carrying on the struggle as a cadre of the communist New People’s Army.

Always, she ended up choosing ideology over motherhood. As each of her children was born, she left them in the care of other people.

“A month after I gave birth, my child would be sent to a caretaker — each of them to a different family,” she said in Filipino. “I would get to visit them maybe once a week. But they never really thought of me as their mother.”

“That was just the way it was,” said the 31-year-old mother of five.

“When you’re inside (the NPA, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines), there’s no distinction between men and women. You forget you’re a woman; you forget you’re a mother,” she said.

But after years of fighting in the mountains, Francia finally realized it was time to choose family over principle.

In May 2001, she left the communist movement and surrendered to the government in order to be reunited with her children.

Hers was one of the stories told at yesterday’s Peace Tech 3, a dialogue among youths on the impact of war and conflict on women.

The forum connected students and teachers at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City, with their counterparts at the Notre Dame University in Cotabato City.

It was the third in a series of teleconferences on issues concerning the youth.

During the forum, women who were caught in armed conflicts talked about their experiences before a large group of mostly high school students.

About 750 students listened in at UP, while an audience of more than 1,100 attended the forum at Notre Dame.

Tears

Francia was the first speaker. When she began her story, she was calm and collected, but as her narration went on, emotion took over, and she shed tears.

A native of Bicol, she was only 19 when she was recruited to the NPA. “It was not my original intention to join. I was supposed to be applying for a job, but when we were taken to a camp, I just went with the flow.”

After six months of training, she went to see her family again. “We were all in tears. My parents said they were afraid for my sake. They pitied my condition because I had grown so thin,” she said.

“But in the end, when I was talking to them, it was as though I was also trying to recruit them (into the NPA),” she said.

Married to a comrade

Francia assumed combat duty within the organization and, for 12 years, fought government forces in Southern Luzon.

She married a comrade, and gave birth to five children, with ages now ranging from 3 to 12.

As standard policy in the camp, every time Francia gave birth, her child was taken away to be reared by different caretakers.

“They (her children) didn’t even know each other. And they only thought of me as a relative,” she said. “It was difficult knowing my children were growing up with other people.”

“It hurt me, but I just tried to ignore the sad feelings. I couldn’t do anything. I had no choice,” Francia said.

This went on for many years, she said, until one day, she just woke up wondering why she could not live a happy life with her family.

“When I became older, I realized that the ideals of my youth were not as important as my children. I longed to be with them,” Francia said. “I wanted a good future for them.”

Complete

Today, her family is complete. Her husband turned himself in to authorities three weeks ago, out of concern for their 7-year-old daughter who is in a hospital for a lung infection.

“I’m happy now that we’re a family,” she said. “I may have made bad choices for my children. But I hope they’ll understand me when they’re older.”

Her children may still be getting used to the idea of themselves being a family, after growing up in different households.

But Francia is unperturbed. After all, she now has all the time in the world to look after them.

The organizers and partners of Peace Tech 3 were the Assisi Development Foundation, Center for Peace Education of Miriam College, Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Australian Agency for International Development, Canada Fund for Local Initiatives and Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co.

http://news.inq7.net/archive_article/index.php?ver=1&index=1&story_id=23100
Copyright 2006 Inquirer. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Luzon-Mindanao peace videoconfab format may heal Israel-Arab conflict

October 7, 2006

Luzon-Mindanao peace videoconfab format may heal Israel-Arab conflict
Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP).

08 August 2006

MANILA – International organizers of a videoconference promoting peace and cultural understanding among the youth in the northern and southern Philippines have expressed high hopes that such information and communications technology (ICT) format might help heal the decades-old wounds of ethnic strife between Israelis and their Arab neighbors, primarily the Lebanese and Palestinians.

Organizers of PeaceTech 1, the world’s first ICT-equipped talk show on peace-building for the youth starting with students from Luzon and Mindanao, said the people of Israel whether Israeli Jews or Israeli Arabs and their neighboring Arabs in Lebanon and Palestine would better understand their ethnic and cultural similarities through verbal communication rather than through perpetual conflict where hundreds of civilians including children had perished.

In the first of a seven-part series of videoconferencing shows to promote peace primarily among young Christians and Muslims in the country, PeaceTech organizers revealed that their efforts, with the support of the United Nations (UN) and the Australian government, could even be replicated in the other corners of the world, especially in the conflict-affected regions of the Persian Gulf and the Middle East.

“Imagine this technology when the children and youth of Israel and Lebanon are able to talk, and there would be no war,” Robin Pettyfer of the Assisi Development Foundation Inc. said recently during the videoconference launching simultaneously at the University of the Philippines (UP) campus in Diliman, Quezon City and at the University of Southern Mindanao (USM) campus in Kabacan, North Cotabato.

Pettyfer, a Canadian national who works here as program manager of PeaceTech, cited as a positive development when Israeli and Lebanese youth are able to talk just like the Christian and Muslim Filipino youth who participated in the videoconference at the National Institute for Science and Mathematics Education Department (NISMED) Auditorium in UP Diliman and at the University Laboratory School (ULS) Convention Hall in USM Kabacan.

Dr. Nicholas Alipui, a representative of the United Nations Indigent Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), praised the videoconference for benefiting multi-stakeholder peace initiatives primarily in Eastern Luzon and Central Mindanao, thereby setting an example in helping solve the armed conflict in the Middle East where innocent children and adult non-combatants had become victims.

“This program definitely will benefit the young people and the overall peace process in the Philippines , yet we also hope that peace reigns for the sake of the children in Haifa , Israel and in Beirut , Lebanon ,” said Alipui during the PeaceTech launching.

PeaceTech “ambassadors” and panelists in the program include Muslim female students who shared their experiences to the videoconference audience as victims of ethnic stereotypes from some teachers in universities for wearing their Islamic veils and a young man who revealed instances where students like him from Quezon Province had become targets of prejudice from some classmates in college who accuse them of being communists.

“They should not look upon us as terrorists,” Kabacan program emcee Baicon Macaraya told the crowd at the ULS Convention Hall primarily composed of representatives from the Zamboanga and Lanao regions on her fellow Muslims’ experiences of religious discrimination in the hands of non-Muslims.

Representatives of the Philippine Army in Central Mindanao and of the government panel talking peace with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in the area also disclosed their own experiences on building peace in the community and on preventing future conflict within their respective jurisdiction.

“We in the Armed Forces are not just soldiers of the republic but also engineers who build bridges, wells, and shelters for the people of Mindanao,” said Army 1st Lt. Isidro de Guzman Vicente via teleconference from North Cotabato after narrating his brigade’s previous armed encounters with MILF elements in 2003.

With technical provision from the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT), the PeaceTech program has been made possible through the implementation of UNICEF, the government of Australia through the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), and Assisi Foundation with assistance from the group YouthAid, various scholastic institutions, and the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process. (OPAPP)

http://www.opapp.gov.ph/index.php?cat=read&subcat=news&id=90
Copyright 2006 Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP). Contact Us
For your inquiries, comments or suggestions, email us at: opapp@opapp.gov.ph


Young people share views on Mindanao conflict

October 7, 2006

© UNICEF Philippines/2006/Bito
Videoconferencing connects young people from Manila and North Cotabato in Mindanao in a series of exchanges on war and poverty.
1 August 2006, Makati — For the first time ever, Christian and Muslim youth from all over the Philippines used technology to virtually cross the country’s thousands of islands and engage in dialogue. Linked by videoconferencing facilities, about 600 young people spent four hours discussing armed conflict, peace building, discrimination and poverty in the first of seven videoconferences entitled, “PeaceTech.”

Although all young, Peace Tech participants came from diverse backgrounds in various parts of the country: Metro Manila, Isabela, Cordillera region, Occidental Negros, and Zamboanga del Sur. Most were students; a few were young soldiers from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

The video conference concept is a breakthrough in the decades-long conflict between Christians and Muslims that has been raging especially in Mindanao, Southern Philippines. Children and young people have been displaced, some mobilised, in the armed conflict.

“Conflict feeds on fear of the unknown and conflict is dissipated through knowledge,” Dr. Nicholas Alipui, UNICEF Country Representative, said.

“There are very wide gaps in understanding between different communities, confessions and ethnicities in the Philippines and in all cases fear of the unknown is the driving force behind those gaps. These video conferences are bridging these gaps and can create wider harmony in diversity.”

The participants listened to youth panelists, engaged in small group discussions, and participated in an open forum. For many, PeaceTech helped destroy stereotypes.

“With PeaceTech, I experienced working with Muslims. I can’t believe I once thought they were religious fanatics and terrorist supporters,” admitted April of Quezon City.

Many realized for the first time how discrimination hurts young people in their everyday lives.

Haya, 16, recounted how her teacher forced her to remove her veil in the classroom. “She reminded me that I was not attending a Muslim school,” Haya disclosed.

Canadian manager of PeaceTech, Robin Pettyfer, said, “It was amazing to see youth come together on the screens. How often do you have an AFP soldier speaking with a victim of war? How often can a poor 12-year-old girl from Negros talk with a Muslim girl from Manila about her future? Well, today, that happened!”

Organized by the Assisi Development Fund and YouthAid, PeaceTech is supported by the Australian government and UNICEF. It is an experimental initiative that may prove useful in other conflict-ridden countries.

“If this works in (the Philippines), we can do it in Israel and Lebanon, Iran and Iraq, and all the other areas where there is prejudice,” Pettyfer added.

Future plans include working with the Department of Education to integrate CDs of the dialogues in social studies classes. PeaceTech may also expand to the Internet, allowing participants to continue dialogues in online chats.

The increased awareness and understanding that PeaceTech nurtures is the most important peace-building tool of all.

Jimmy, a participant from Bicol, concluded, “We are more alike than different, but we make that little difference into a big one.”  

# # #

http://www.unicef.org/philippines/news/060802.html
For further information or to arrange interviews, please contact:

Dale Rutstein
UNICEF Manila, 901 0177 or 0917 866 4969, drutstein@unicef.org
Alexis Rodrigo
UNICEF Manila, 901 0173 or 0917 858 9447, arodrigo@unicef.org