30 years after Fr. Alingal’s death: Bukidnon remembers a man in search of justice through peaceful means

MALAYBALAY CITY – In a reunion among at least 1,400 church lay miniters or alagad, Miarayon, Talakag, Bukidnon parish priest Fr. Mat Sanchez reminded church workers of the life and death of his fellow Jesuit slain priest Godofredo Alingal in time for the 3oth anniversary of his death.

He told Bukidnon News the slain priest is best remembered for choosing the path of “active non-violence” despite the violence faced by the people of Bukidnon during the Martial Law years.
Alingal was the parish priest of the Immaculate Conception Church in Kibawe, Bukidnon, and the director of the parish’s Stella Matutina Academy. He was shot and killed at the age of 58 in 1981, during the martial law era. He was known for defending the rights of poor farmers in the town.
On April 13, 1981, the Monday before Easter, five unidentified men, two bearing revolvers and three others masked in handkerchiefs, entered the rectory of the priest.
A minute later, he was shot in the chest and killed. Alingal has served Kibawe, Bukidnon for 13 years.
“He opted he active non-violent way instead of resorting to violence, or not doing anything at all,” Sanchez added.
In his homily during the mass on the second day of the lay minister’s gathering, Sanchez said Alingal showed the way to peace by not supporting armed struggle as an alternative to the despotic regime of President Ferdinand Marcos.
He said Alingal’s life and death later became a threat to those who abused the people during Martial Law.
Sanchez reflected on the “Empty Tomb in Kibawe,” a piece written by the late Bukidnon bishop Francisco Claver on Alingal’s death.
Claver’s popular piece cited the tomb built by the parishioners for their slain priest. It was not used because Alingal’s remains were buried in Dapitan, Zamboanga del Norte his hometown upon request of his mother.
The late bishop wrote that Kibawe’s empty tomb for Alingal was like Christ’s empty tomb during the resurrection.
“There was no wondrous rising from the dead in Kibawe, true, but the promise was there, and the faith in that promise,” Claver added, as quoted by Sanchez.
Sanchez said Alingal’s death and his way of resurrection came in the people’s hope and leaving their fears to fight against abusers during Martial Law.
“The people became courageous by the hope the priest has inspired,” he added.
Soon, he added, people started talking more about the military and the rebel abuses in Church and town gatherings.
“It was sort of an early form of people power back in 1981,” Sanchez said.

Hermogenes Cadiz, 71, a farmer and lay minister from Kibawe and one of Alingal’s alagads, said the priest earned the ire of some businessmen at that time who were affected by the church’s campaign against loan sharks and irregular business practices like inaccurate weighing scale for the town’s grain buy and sell industry.
But he clarified that there were two angles to his death, one by hired killers by those he offended in his campaign and, the other, the rebels.
Bur Cadiz said Alingal’s death failed to stop the people’s resolve to go against abuses during the Martial Law years.
“It was clear that Fr. Alingal was following the church’s teachings on peace and non-violence. He fought against oppressors, both in uniform and the rebels,” he said.
He said Alingal’s defense of the rights of poor farmers earned him the dislike of political and military officials in the area.

The Sojourners magazine reported that on April 20, about 4,000 local farmers and their families attended Father Alingal’s funeral, despite lingering fears of more repression.
“Some of them even organized a procession to the funeral with banners, including one that read, “Is death the answer for speaking for justice?”
Claver said Alingal could have avoided death had he chosen to remain silent.
“He could have closed his eyes to the evils he saw around him. He could have given in to fear, yielding to threats in his life, abandoning his flock to the ravening wolves. But no,” he said.
“He was for justice, actively, uncompromisingly. He was also against violence, just as actively, just as uncompromisingly,” Claver said in his piece written a week after Alingal’s funeral. (Walter I. Balane)


Sen. Escudero agrees to call for gov’t workers as “bearers of good news”

MALAYBALAY CITY – Senator Francis ‘Chiz’ Escudero supported Malacanang’s call for government employees to help spread the good news.

In a press statement dated April 4, Escudero said he agreed the call as long as it’s factual and does not consist of pure embellishments. He said the government should recognize the real and existing problems and address it accordingly.

Undersecretary Abigail Valte recently said everybody has to pitch in. She said the job is not only for Cabinet secretaries, but also for undersecretaries and public information offices (PIOs) of agencies.

“This is actually the job and primary responsibility of the Communications Group in the palace which they have not been able to do effectively for the President. I hope they are not simply passing the buck so to speak,” Escudero said.

President Benigno Simeon Aquino III recently said there is a need for more information dissemination to the general public from his Communications Group. Aquino cited this might be one of the reasons why his satisfaction ratings had fall slightly in the recent survey.

The recent Social Weather Stations survey said 69 percent of Filipinos were satisfied with the performance of President Aquino while 18 percent were dissatisfied, for a net satisfaction rating of +51, lower than his +64 rating in November.

Valte said it’s not entirely the mistake of the communications group. She said all that needs to be done is to understand the functions of Secretaries Sonny Coloma and Ricky Carandang. She added the office of Carandang is task of forming the message and the dissemination part rests on Coloma through government-run media – NBN-4, RPN-9, IBC-13 and dzRB.

Secretaries Coloma, Carandang and Edwin Lacierda all acknowledged they have to be more aggressive in disseminating achievements of the nine-month-old administration of Aquino.

Aquino lamented that some good achievements of his administration failed to make it to the front pages of newspapers. Aquino cited on the Atlantic Gulf and Pacific’s $10 billion in contracts. Reportedly, about 4,000 engineers displaced from Libya could be hired on the project.

The recent Social Weather Stations survey said 69 percent of Filipinos were satisfied with the performance of President Aquino while 18 percent were dissatisfied, for a net satisfaction rating of +51, lower than his +64 rating in November.

“I would like to think instead that they are asking for help from fellow officials and co-workers in government to bring the President’s accomplishments and message of hope closer and more understandable to our people,” Escudero further said.(Mel B. Madera)

Malaybalay mayor optimistic DILG will approve police auxiliary unit

MALAYBALAY CITY – Mayor Ignacio W. Zubiri in a press conference on March 26 expressed optimism that the city government will get approval in its plan to organize its own police auxiliary unit.

“I could say a 70 percent possibility of our plan will come to reality. Just recently I met Department of Interior and Local Government Secretary Jess Robredo and discussed about the issue. The result was encouraging. It seems he favors the project in Bukidnon particularly in Malaybalay,” Zubiri said.

Zubiri said Robredo acknowledged his letter request about the plan.

The police auxiliary nationwide, he said, is reviewed by the Philippine National Police over allegations some police auxiliary were involved in the Ampatuan massacre in Maguindanao province where 58 persons were killed, 32 of them were members of the media. The others were members and political allies of now Maguindanao Gov. Toto Mangugudatu.

Despite this, Zubiri said the plan of Malaybalay might be considered because of the insurgency problem.

The NPA rebels were also tagged responsible in attacking a police convoy on March 6 in Mapayag Village this city. Two members of the Scene of Crime Operatives (SOCO) including its civilian volunteer were killed on the spot. That fourth fatality in the ambush, a member of the city police force was killed while undergoing treatment in a hospital. Four other policemen were injured.

Several atrocities were also staged by the suspected members of the New People’s Army (NPA) in Malaybalay. The NPA attacked two big banana firms operating in Malaybalay and in Bukidnon in general, the Sumifru and Dole Skyland. The NPA claimed responsibility of the twin incidents. They also claimed responsible in killing a village councilwoman of Dalwangan. The NPA were also tagged in killing former Barangay Mapayag Village chief.

In the previous years the NPA were also tagged in killing Enrique and Cresencio Penaso. The Penaso brothers were both former police officers and were killed separately.

Zubiri said the police auxiliary will be locally funded and has already gained support from the city council. If realized, he added, it would help the government in combating insurgency problems in Malaybalay City.

He said once approved, the city will initially organize a 40-member police auxiliary unit.

In 2009, the city government has already organized Special Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) Active Auxiliary (SCAA). They were assigned in a CAFGU detachment under 23rd Infantry Battalion in Upper Pulangi area of the city and in the villages of Can-ayan, Patpat and Dalwangan.

Police regional director Conrado Laza, Zubiri said, cited Bukidnon’s insurgency problem in a conversation with Robredo. He said Bukidnon might get a big portion of the 400 plus quota for Region 10 of the police recruits this year.

The mayor said the city’s 87 policemen are not enough to serve more than 100,000 residents.

The creation of a police auxiliary unit was pushed following the murder of Bukidnon State University instructor Jay Jaspher Santoninio in Brgy. 1 in November 2010  and the robbery involving personnel of the city’s branch of the Development Bank of the Philippines, which killed security guard Pedro Cabalida right in down town Malaybalay City on January 31.

Several critics hit the city’s lack of police visibility, which they said has emboldened perpetrators.  (Mel B. Madera)

(Updated) Bukidnon reps file bill creating 4th district

(In this version, six paragraphs of rejoinder from board member Nemesio Beltran Jr. were added at the end. – Ed.)

MALAYBALAY CITY – Bukidnon’s three members of the House of Representatives filed the bill creating the province’s fourth congressional district, based on records obtained by Bukidnon News.

Rep. Jose Zubiri III (3rd district), the principal author, filed the bill on March 15. House Bill No. 04382 is entitled “An act reapportioning the first (1st) and second (2nd) legislative districts of the province of Bukidnon to hereby create an additional legislative district in the province of Bukidnon to be known as the fourth legislative district.”

Bukidnon’s two other representative’s Florencio Flores Jr (2nd district) and Emmanuel Paras (1st district) co-authored the measure.

As of March 22, the bill is at the Committee on Local Government level for hearings, according to the House of Representatives’ Legislative Information System as of March 30.  Bukidnon News is yet to obtain a copy of the bill.

As of the public consultation on January 6, Vice Gov. Jose Ma. R. Zubiri said the proposed district reconfigures the composition of the existing three districts. He explained that the requirement of 250,000 population for the creation of a new district is behind the reconfiguration.

Bukidnon, with a population of 1.19 million based on the 2007 census, has three legislative districts at present.

The second district where Malaybalay and Valencia cities belong has a population of 474,943.

The move will put the two cities apart in separate districts.

Based on the January 6 presentation of Vice Gov. Jose Ma. R. Zubiri Jr. the proposed new second district will be composed of Malaybalay City, and the towns of Lantapan, Cabanglasan, and San Fernando. Its population will be reduced by at least 200,000, down to 272,883.

Valencia City will be included in the 4th district along with Kadingilan from the 3rd district and Kalilangan and Pangantucan from the 1st district. The fourth district will have a population of 276,128 in the proposed composition.

The municipality of Impasug-ong originally from the second district is proposed to be included in the 1st district to join Baungon, Sumilao, Manolo Fortich, Malitbog, Talakag, and Libona. The first district will have a population of 283, 128.

The third district will be the biggest in population (based on the 2007 population census) with 357, 498. It will be left with seven towns including Damulog, Dangcagan, Don Carlos, Maramag, Kibawe, Kitaotao, and Quezon.

Except for the mayor of Impasug-ong, no other official raised an issue concerning the creation of the new district during the consultation. The mayor of Pangantucan town stood up but eventually agreed that their town will be transferred to the new district.

Impasug-ong mayor Mario Okinlay voiced out their opposition to be included in the first district as they are comfortable with the second district. He said Malaybalay City has a more stable financial status so it would need less use of the PDAF funds.

But Board member Nemesio Beltran, Jr, said the Sangguniang Panlalawigan has passed a resolution in February 2011 incorporating the outcome of the consultation.

He said that the new district will be composed of Valencia City and the towns of Pangantucan and Kalilangan, which belong to the present 1st district.

The 1st district will be composed of the same towns in the north except Pangantucan and Kalilangan.

Only Valencia City will be taken out from the existing second district. This means, Impasug-ong will stay with the district.

The third district will not be reconfigured.

According to Beltran, based on the 2010 census of population each of the reconfigured three districts and the proposed new district will pass the population requirement for the creation of a new district, which is at least 250,000.

President Benigno Simeon Aquino III is yet to sign the 2010 census results.(Walter I. Balane)