Saturday, June 07, 2014


By Raul Socrates Banzuela

Ang puno ng manggang hitik sa pamumunga...pinupukol.

During the Langkaan Controversy in 1990, the peasant movement was deeply united to defend Butch when he was being bypassed each time by the powerful Committee on ConfIrmation of Congress.  The public debate then was raging whether or not the piece of prime agricultural land (Langkaan) in Cavite should give way to Joe Concepcion-supported Marubeni industry.

Having been among the staunch proponents of HB 400, which later became the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARL), together with Edcel Lagman and the late Boni Gillego, Butch becoming Secretary of the DAR after the coup of 1989 and the ouster of Miriam as DAR Secretary, was received by the peasant and the NGO movement with great enthusiasm and anticipation of great things to come in the agrarian reform front.  It was no surprise then that even Jimmy Tadeo of KMP who REJECTED CARP, came to join us in the gallery in the Senate supporting Butch's confirmation and to witness the gallant defense for Butch's confirmation by some Senators like Nene Pimentel. 

The rest was history...and tragedy.

After a series of bypass, and an expected awkward situation in the Cabinet where Joe Concepcion, DTI Secretary, and Butch Abad, DAR Secretary, would be sitting side by side with President Cory, he finally succumbed and resigned.  It was among the saddest moments in the peasant movement, feeling a great loss amidst the advance of the anti-reform forces.  Twenty four years hence, almost all prime agricultural lands in CALABARZON has been wiped out, prime and precious limited alluvial soil cemented to subdivisions and factories. Meanwhile the peasant movement has remained in the streets, many of its leaders, now senior citizens, still pushing, even pathetically just so Congress would extend the life of CARPER two more years and Notice of Coverage could still be issued to hundreds of thousands of hectares of land left uncovered, including the 14,000 hectares of grabbed land (by Danding) in Bugsuk Island in Balabac, Palawan.

Far from its original vision, a government centerpiece program not very much unlike that which catapulted Taiwan, South Korea and Japan to industrialization and modernization, CARP did not get the Presidential leadership it badly needed (except, perhaps during Ramos). Some 4 million farmers who received land (some 7 million hectares reportedly distributed) remained un-attended with the necessary support services (credit, extension, market, etc.), mostly still living below poverty line.

Butch, as DBM Secretary, and with strong support from PNoy, could have the second chance to help ensure funding availability to support millions of agrarian reform beneficiaries achieve their historic nation building role.

We just hope and pray, he does not experience another awkward situation in the Cabinet and succumb the second time...and resign. 

We encourage him to stay put and stand his ground, and remain united with reform forces in government, and to continue to join the march of a people who has finally decided to take head-on the scourge of patronage politics. A new day is dawning...three Senators will soon be in jail. 

Friday, May 16, 2014

Corazon Juliano Soliman
15 May 2014

Last April 27th, Sunday, the homily of Fr. Francis really struck me.  He spoke about our hesitance to talk about our wounds and encouraged us to do so.... as Jesus did when he showed and invited the apostles to touch his wounds... It was not easy to listen as he shared and he spoke about his dilemma when he wrote a book about the son of a priest, that it takes courage and humility to talk about our wounds even with our family members and closest friends.

It has taken me almost two week to write this reflection piece because I was afraid that it may be misinterpreted or even derided and twisted to allude meanings that are far from my own thoughts.  I have been nudged every day since that homily to write, by my conscience.

As public servants we live in a fish bowl.  We cannot separate most of our public life from our private life, thus our family and friends are always affected by public perception - negative or positive feedback.

I have known Butch Abad since the 1970's.  Together with his wife Dina we were part of the movement for democracy.  He was jailed together with Dina and their baby Julia in the late 70s because of their involvement in the anti-dictatorship movement.  After temporary release he took up law while he continued to contribute to the effort of conscientization and mobilization of the Citizens for Democracy.

Butch worked with Atty. Hector Soliman, my husband, to initiate and organize an alternative law practice - as mentored by Sen. Pepe Diokno - wherein people's organizations were assisted by lawyers who provided legal support during their struggle for their right to development.  This blossomed and grew into the Alternative Law Groups we know today.

Butch entered the legislative arena as congressman and he initiated laws: supported legislation that institutionalized reforms such the agrarian reform law, and the people's participation bills. Those actions were consistent with the values and the principles we stood for.  Again, as evidence of his commitment to social justice and truth, whenever faced with a cross road of actions that could compromise his principles and values, Butch always took the difficult path by following his conscience - he resigned as Secretary of Agrarian Reform during Pres. Cory 's administration - a very difficult decision because he loved Pres. Cory; he chose to leave the Arroyo administration when again truth was compromised and suffered the consequences of this action such as the marginalizing of their home province Batanes... Butch has stood for his principles by taking the difficult path instead of the easy path of compromising principles.

When he took up the challenge of being DBM secretary to manage the coffers of the government, Butch opened up the systems, information and the processes so that our citizens could track budgets and expenditures, participate in the budget process and ensure that the funds are spent in a judicious and responsive manner.

And yet today he is maligned as the person who taught Napoles the tricks about stealing via NGOs... I am sure it hurts him, the wounds cut deep and wide... and yet he will not speak about his wounds.  He continues to do his work, silently bearing the pain even as he tries to show the public that he is a person of integrity and principle.

Most of us in public service carry the same wounds.  Maybe not as big and deep as those suffered by Butch, but we all feel that there are many times that we are sacrificial lambs on the altar of political ambitions of those who may not necessarily be acting on behalf the common and highest good.

This reflection piece is for all of us who are wounded public servants.  It is good to talk about our wounds and let our loved ones, family and friends touch them. Their loving touch provides the gentle healing we need to carry on our mahusay, matapat and magiliw na paglilingkod sa sambayanan. -- END

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


"I have never dealt with Janet Lim Napoles or any of her fake NGOs in any way throughout my career in public service: either as representative of Batanes, as Budget and Management Secretary, or as an official of any other public office that has been entrusted to me. I have spent my professional life—inside government and in civil society—working to improve the lives of ordinary Filipinos by pushing for reforms in public governance.

“Moreover, all projects I sponsored under the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) when I was a legislator are above board—none have been coursed through any fake NGO. Unlike other personalities dragged into the PDAF Scam of 2007-2009, who have been implicated by evidence and testimony by whistleblowers, nothing credible has been brought against me – but rather, unfounded allegations and malicious name-calling.

“I find it amusing, if not outright revolting, that I am once again in the crosshairs of those who want the Aquino Administration to fall. Matagal ko nang tanggap na idadawit ako kung saan-saan gawa ng aming trabaho sa DBM bilang tagapangalaga ng kaban ng bayan at tagasulong ng reporma sa pamahalaan—lalo na’t pinaiigting ngayon ng Administrasyong Aquino ang Daang MatuwidHabang lumalapit ang 2016, tiyak na marami pang lalabas na absurdong alegasyon. Tiwala akong masasala ng publiko ang mga kuwentong imbento lang, at maninindigan sila para sa katotohanan."

"Until the public sees the true affidavit of Janet Lim Napoles, and until hard evidence supports the statements in this affidavit, everything is speculation, if not total fabrication, at this point. I ask the public not to immediately believe these allegations, but to weigh the only thing that matters in the end: the evidence. I urge the Department of Justice and the Ombudsman to continue their investigation, follow the evidence wherever it may lead them, and take appropriate action on behalf of the people.”

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