Gunfire, blasts, a dying breath

October 7, 2006

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

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.

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

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.


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.”


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.
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)
Copyright 2006 Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP). Contact Us
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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.”  

# # #
For further information or to arrange interviews, please contact:

Dale Rutstein
UNICEF Manila, 901 0177 or 0917 866 4969,
Alexis Rodrigo
UNICEF Manila, 901 0173 or 0917 858 9447,

Peacetech Philippines to host world’s first videoconference on peace-building for youth

August 12, 2006

Review by Wowcebu City 

The Philippines will be the first country to host “Peace Tech,” the world’s first videoconferencing talk show on peace building for youth that will be simultaneously launched today at 7:30 am -12:00 noon at the Nismed Auditorium, Nismed, Quirino Ave., UP-Dilliman, Quezon City and at the ULS Convention Hall, University of Southern Mindanao, Kabacan, North Cotabato.

Robin Pettyfer, Canadian manager for Peace Tech says, “Peace Tech is just as it sounds. It’s the peace in technology! We have the technology to unite people in a global talk show. So it’s time we start!”

Over the next several months, a series of “Peace Tech” will unite hundreds of youth from Mindanao, Luzon and the Visayas in live dialogs on giant screens that will serve as a modal for an international talk show that will connect youth from different countries on a regular basis.

UNICEF and the Australian Government, sponsors of the project said, they are using the talk show as an experiment with the goal of bringing different youth groups together, often divided by conflict. They added, “The series is badly needed in a world where conflict is on the rise. Whether it be between Israel and Lebanon, Iraq and the United States, the world needs an international medium that makes it easy for young people to come together to discuss their differences and misperceptions. “Peace Tech” does just that. It is an honor that the United Nations (UN) chose to start this here in the Philippines.”

According to the organizers, “Peace Tech” is particularly relevant to the Philippines where geography restricts inter-group dialogs. It gives young people in remote areas an opportunity to instantly reach out to fellow Filipinos and it provides security, by allowing participants to meet with other youth in insecure areas.

Participants to the “Peace Tech” series are inclusive of children and youth from all sectors: former MILF; AFP soldiers; Muslim, Indigenous Peoples, Christians; out-of-school youth; university students; and children from conflict zones and they come from all over the Philippines including: Zamboanga del Sur in the Zamboanga Peninsula; Maguindanao in the ARMM; North Cotabato in Socsargen; Lanao del Norte; Davao; Negros Occidental in the Western Visayas; Camarines sur in Bicol; Quezon and Cavite-Laguna in the Calabarzon; Nueva Ecija in central Luzon; Benguet and Mountain province in the Cordillera Administrative Region; and Isabela in the Cagayan Valley.

The 7-part videoconferencing series is led by the Assissi Development Foundation with a number of partners that include: Youth Aid, OPAPP, the AFP, the Young Moro Professionals and numerous groups, schools and colleges. UNICEF and the Australian Government are the primary funders of the project with the PLDT providing the satellite link technology for the videoconferencing.

For any questions please check the website: and or contact Robin Pettyfer Cell # 0915-775-2889; Office: 634-1712; in Mindanao, contact Jerry Jose Cell # 0919-622-5225. (PIA-Cebu)

Peace Tech group promotes Christian-Muslim peace

August 2, 2006

The Philippine Star
Peace Tech group promotes Christian-Muslim peace

When Muslim teenager Haya goes back to school tomorrow after participating in a talk show and video-conferencing workshop, she will be taking home more than just memories or new friendships.

She will take with her an expanded perspective on Christian-Muslim relations and a deeper understanding that any conflict is best resolved through dialogue and an open mind.

Sixteen-year-old Haya was one of the participants in mondays launching of a talk show entitled “Peace Tech” a seven-part documentary about building understanding and promoting dialoque among Filipino youths, including Muslims living in different parts of the Philippines.

Some 300 students from different schools in Metro Manila and 500 coeds from Mindanao ware linked through large video screens, with one panel moderating the show from the University of Southern mindanao in Cotabato and another panel speaking fromt the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon vity.

“Peace Tech” was organized by Canadian Robin Pettyfer and the Assisi Development Foundation and supported by the United Nations Children’s Fund ( Unicef ) and Australian Agency for International Development ( Aus Aid ). Pettyfer said their focus is on young people because they represnt the next generetion and some of them will be tommorows leaders.

“We focused on the youth because they are open-minded, receptive and flexible,” he said. If they are tought about understanding each other’s cultures and religion and encouraged to respect each other and work together, there is reason to be optimistic that a long-term durable peace and genuine reconcillation can be achieved in the future, Pettyfer added.

For four hours, students from Metro Manila and Mindanao engaged in a lively discussions about their views on the conflict in Mindanao, Christian-Muslim relations, their future and the country’s future.

Participants also formed small groups and shared what they felt about a range of issues, including poverty in the Philippines and discrimination against Muslims students in a getting-to-know-you fun atmosphere. During the panel discussions, soldiers assigned in Mindanao also offered their views on the conflict.

Haya, who has one of the panelist, shared her painful experience of discrimination in the hands of a Christian teacher. In between sobs, Haya, a senior high school student in a public school in Metro Manila, recounted how her teacher pulled down her head shawl inside the classroom.

“My teacher came from behind and pulled down my veil. I felt so humiliated when she shouted at me and said I am being rude beacause I wear a head scarf inside the classroom. She said i am not attending a Muslim school so it’s not proper to come to class wearing a veil. “Sabi nya kabastusan daw yun at kapag nagpatuloy daw ako ay babaan niya ang grades ko,” (She also said it was rude and she’ll give me lower grades),” Haya Said.

To keep the peace, Haya did not inform her mother of the incident though classmates reported the teacher to the school’s guidance counselor. She also obliged by not wearing a veil again inside the classroom.

Muslim students in Cotabato wept with Hayas story and asked if the teacher was punizhed. She said the teacher was simply repremanded. To this day, Haya and the teacher ignore each other when they meet in school.

Pettyfer said it would have been better if Haya talked to her teacher and discussed their differences in religion.

“I think dialogues are needed on a regular basis between different groups to improve understanding and lessen tension. This is where “Peace Tech” as a talk show becomes an effective tool for communication. Here the youth can come together and discuss their differences and tresh out their differences to achieve peace,” Pettyfer said.

Unicef country representative R. Nicholas Alipui, who delivered the opening speech, expressed optimism that the video conference can be a way to break down the culture of ciolence, fear, hatred and stereotypes that young people suffer in society because of cultural or religous differences.

“Conflict is always borne out of fear, it comes from the fear of the unknown, and from something we dont know. This video conference is an important venue for young Filipinos, whethr Christians or Muslims, indigineous or not, to come together to communicate and share their fears, hopes and aspirations as people who belong to the same nation,” Alipui said.

In his speech before the participants, Alipui said had there been a video conference similar to “Peace Tech” in Lebanon and Israel things would have been different.

“I believe strongly that had this sort of oppurtuniy been created, the crisis between Lebanon and Israel could have been prevented. The people there suffer the same factors of fear, hatred and prejudice.I channels of communication like video conferencing are opened up, the level of conflict could have been decreased.”Alipui said. ” Young people can be part of the solution.”

Indeed, Haya and the others who joined “Peace Tech” now have better understanding of how Christians and Muslims can peacefully co-exist and be friends.

Haya said telling her story of prejudice was liberating.”I agree with my Christian friends now that opening up and keeping the communication lines open can spell a lot of difference. It chnaged the way i see things. I’m glad,” Haya told Pettyfer after the show.

Meanwhile, six more “Peace Tech” teleconferences are slated in the coming months. The next video conference will cover topics such as “Overcoming Prejudice,” Youth, children and Armed Conflict,” Women in Conflict and Peace Building,” “Indigineous Approaches to Peace Building,” “The Decision Makers,” and “Building a Culture of peace.

Hopes up for peace tool being tested in RP

August 1, 2006

August 01, 2006
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Hopes up for peace tool being tested in RP
If this can work in the Philippines then it should work in Israel and Lebanon, too.The United Nations Children’s Educational Fund (Unicef) and the Australian Agency for International Development are in the middle of pilot-testing a series of teleconferences meant to foster peace and understanding between warring groups. “You have a country of 7,000 islands. If it can work in the Philippines that is (divided) by seas and ocean, it can work anywhere else,” said Robin Pettyfer, the lead coordinator of Peace Tech, a series of video conferences between soldiers, civil society, people’s organizations and even rebels from different parts of the country. “If this works in your country, we can do it in Israel and Lebanon, Iran and Iraq,China and South Korea and all the other areas where ther is prejudice,” he added in an interview with the INQUIRER. Peace Tech yesterday conducted its first session between two groups — both composed of sectors in the conflict — from Luzon and Mindanao. One group was at the University of the pHilippines in Diliman while the other was gathered in Cotabato. Yesterday’s session featured two young officers saying it hurts them to see civilians getting hurt in the armed conflict and a Moro Islamic Liberation Front ceasefire monitor stressing the need to solve the root cause of the conflict. There was also a Muslim peace advocate expressing outrage at teh sight of a newborn baby who was among those displaced when government troops bombed their village. “Peace Tech is relevant to the Philippines where geography restricts inter-group dialog. It gives young people in the remote areas an opportunity to instantly reach out, Pettyfer said. Aside from Unicef and Aus Aid, other groups involved are Assissi Development Foundation, formerly Tabang Mindanaw and Youth Aid.