Sunday, August 21, 2011

Official Statement of the CANDAO CLAN on the LIGUASAN MARSH Controversy

This official statement of the Candao clan is with reference to an alleged report made by the United States Embassy tagging the name of my father, former ARMM Governor Datu Zacaria Candao, as a claimant of the Liguasan Marsh in Maguindanao. Said report was prepared during the time of US Ambassador Kenney to the Philippines in 2006 but was made available in Wikileak early this week.
In the name of TRUTH and FAIRNESS, we stand by the fact that the US Embassy diplomatic cable is “baseless and unfounded."

For the record, my father, Datu Zacaria Candao, has not filed any claim of the Liguasan Marsh in the past nor has he authorized any member of the Candao clan or any third party to lobby or make a claim of Liguasan Marsh on his behalf.

My father has openly addressed this problem during his incumbency as a major issue that has to be resolved between the Government of the Philippines and the MILF.

As a staunch advocate of peace in Maguindanao, the former Governor would support all talks between the Philippine Government and the MILF to settle the conflict over Liguasan Marsh.

For the interest of my readers, here is the full text of the original news from GMA News Online.

MILF won't let go of gas-rich wetlands – WikiLeaks
posting08/20/2011 | 02:18 AM
GMA News Online
The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will not let go of mineral-rich ancestral lands in Mindanao, particularly an expanse known as the Liguasan Marsh, according to a “sensitive but unclassified" cable message of the United States’ Manila Embassy to Washington D.C.
A Singapore-based freelance journalist posted on his blog the supposed WikiLeaks-sourced diplomatic cable message sent in February 2006 when the US ambassador to Manila was still Kristie Kenney.
The US Embassy cable said, “MILF Vice-Chairman of Political Affairs Ghazali Jafaar has referred to the Liguasan Marsh as a "legacy from our forefathers" and stated that the Bangsamoro people…would not part with their lands in the marsh."
It noted the MILF even established a “Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA) to lead, manage, and determine developmental efforts, including in the Liguasan Marsh."
The US Embassy recalled that in the late 1990s the Philippine National Oil Company and Malaysia’s state-run oil firm, Petronas, found natural gas and oil in five sites in the marsh, which covers a massive 288,000 hectares in the provinces of Maguindanao, North Cotabato, and Sultan Kudarat.
“According to the PNOC, the estimated natural gas deposits in Sultan Sa Barongis alone would be enough to fuel a 60MW combined cycle power plant for 20 years," the embassy cable said.
“However, the PNOC and Petronas suspended operations in the Liguasan Marsh area due to threats from the MILF and extortion by local mayors and political warlords," the transmission added.
MILF stronghold
The US Embassy pointed out that the Liguasan Marsh “remains an important MILF stronghold, home to an estimated 280,000 Muslims, and an area where members of the terrorist Jemaah Islamiya have historically conducted training and sought refuge."
Several powerful Mindanao political clans have “competing land ownership claims" in the marsh, according to the US Embassy.
“The clan of former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Governor Zacaria Candao has already staked a claim to 40 percent of this land, while other clans — including the Mangudadatus and Pendatuns — have claimed at least 50 per cent ownership," the cable noted.
The Ampatuan and Alamada clans were also mentioned as having land claims in the Liguasan Marsh.
The US Embassy said the various land claims “will make exploitation of these resources difficult."
“Multinational firms are already eyeing areas in Mindanao for possible projects," as of the early 2006, the US Embassy said, noting that those interested in mining and energy exploration in the Philippines grew significantly since the Supreme Court declared the Mining Act constitutional.
The embassy noted that firms up to 100 percent foreign-owned may now invest in large-scale search for oil, gas and minerals.
Back in 2008, the head of the Moro National Liberation Front — the organization from which the MILF splintered — Nur Misuari had pointed out that the Liguasan Marsh holds billions of dollars in gas.
Last year, the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) has embarked on restoring the ecosystem of the Liguasan marsh. (End of report)

I have already made known my side to the news site and in fairness, they have included our official statement in their updated version on the same day.

I decided to write this official statement as our final statement on this controversy. All media outlets can make use of this note as reference of the truth from our side.

Thank you very much for your time.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Bangsamoro Muslims

Alsalam Alykum. I greet all my readers in Peace, in and outside the Philippine archipelago. Your humble writer seeks to dissect the problem that ails the Bangsamoro people in Mindanao--an island in the Philippines that has always been the center of war between the government and the Moro secessionist rebels belonging to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

I also appeal to my readers who are not from Mindanao, to open your heart and mind as I share my thoughts. It is my objective to present the truthful side of my fellow Muslims who have always been the victim of wrong judgment owing to distorted articles circulating all over the net.

Mindanao, one of the three major islands in the Philippines, is a war torn island whose inhabitants hunger for peace. It is an island the reminds the Filipino people how our Muslim forefathers fought hard to preserve their faith and culture. Annihilated by foreign invaders but the Muslims leaders in the past gave their life to ensure that Islam remains unadulterated by the forced assimilation of varied races composed of the Spanish and American colonizers.

Your humble writer will make no attempt to use sarcasm against those who write negatively against us, for that would be leveling my mind with subjectivism. It is my sincere intention to break the barrier of truth, of untold or deformed news about Muslims in my country to favor a western ideology and to gain support for anti-Muslim campaigns.

It is my sincere intention to reach out to all my readers and to make you understand that just like other religious groups, the Muslims in Mindanao desire earnestly NOT to be misunderstood and misjudged.


The haunt of defamatory words against the Muslims continue up to this day despite the fact that technology has already advanced itself in amazing discoveries yet the minds of those who look at Muslims as terrorists remain stagnant and boxed to their deterioration.

Some of those biased writers who have little knowledge of the truth could easily draw conclusions from unverified report and regard them as conclusive and therefore the standing reality about the entire Bangsamoro people.

It is grave injustice against Muslims in Mindanao to be branded as terrorists. It is not fair that every Muslim, including the unborn sons and daughters of Muslim couples, will have to suffer the social stigma attached with their characters just because there are sectors who think that Muslims are born to be militant.

NO true Muslim will support any terroristic acts for Islam is not a religion of war.

No true Muslim will embrace violence to offend any individual or sector for it was written in the holy Qur'an that the best form of Jihad is the "Conquering of the Soul" .

It is not surprising that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will always open its door to talk peace and negotiate with the government, not only to serve the purpose of the organization but to be worthy in the eyes of the Almighty Allah.

The war in Mindanao is the result of a long history of political and economic neglect. Political injustice breeds war and the cycle will continue from generation to generation.

Why must we accept the maligning of our character and reputation as Muslims? We are pained by such myopia committed by people who are considered intellectuals, yet they are too unprofessional to discern that they deliver unfair reportage arising from unverified reports.

Knowing and having practiced the tenets of journalism to the book as an editor-publisher of a community newspaper for almost seven years, your humble writer has steadfastly refrained from delivering "discriminatory news" especially on the aspect of religion. Exercising professionalism and respect for other people's ideology and religion, my paper called for Peace--the much desired condition in my war torn province.


This writer does not deny that bad and good Muslims inevitably operate in one mainstream but it does not follow that they meet sans collision. The good Muslims will always oppose the bad Muslims for they destroy the peaceful image of Islam that the majority of true Muslims protect.

No true Muslim will support a bad Muslim who enjoys the abuse of power.


I assert that Muslims are not born terrorists. This is a worldwide myopia for even the educated ones allow themselves to be victimized by this misconception. Do not be a victim of a deliberate campaign made by powerful western countries to destroy Islam as a religion.

While it is true that there are Muslim fundamentalists who subscribe to the idea of sowing violence against the innocent ones, it does not follow that all Muslims think the way they do. Is it right then that all Muslims be classified as one?

In application, if one family member is a thief, does it follow that everyone is a thief. Another analogy:If all presidents of the United States were anti-Muslims, does it follow that all succeeding presidents will be toward this stance?

I would say no, for an opposite answer will prove that we subscribe to an unfair generalization of facts. A general statement is a product of a subjective mind.

The terrorism of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) is not the terrorism of the entire Bangsamoro Muslims. If the Muslim Filipinos rebelled against the government, their reasons point to the much celebrated case of the Jabidah Massacre.

The Filipino Muslims, then and now, stood up for their cause, and that is to fight for justice in their homeland. But like all the rest of the people of the world, we too are clamoring for peace. Peace in the heart and soul are our rights.

Like you, Filipino Muslims hate terrorism and all forms of violence done not only against our race and religion but also those outside ours. We hate unfairness and injustice. We hate war.

Therefore, I would redundantly assert that the war in Mindanao is the consequence of political and social injustice. If Muslims were treated fairly, there will be no war to talk about.

The Philippine history authored by writers of moral fortitude is the best reference to understand the complexities existing in the stalled peace talks between the government and the Moro rebels. Please do not use other references that will only inject confusion into your mind to ensure that you will objectively understand the why's and what's of the Mindanao war.


This leads me to ask this question why such negative mentality against the Muslims persist in the minds of the many despite the fact that there are ways to confirm the veracity of unfair reports against us.

Why would intelligent minds welcome such apparent prejudice and bias without knowing the whole truth beforehand? Why?

Defending the good Muslims is my responsibility as a writer. Hiding the truth would imply an admittance of guilt and acceptance of falsity. To tolerate wrong perception would result to the destruction of the character of the Moro people.

As a writer,however, I must take it upon myself to clarify the truth to avoid the continuance of a "hate culture" directed against all Muslims all over the world, which does not single out the bad ones, for even the good ones are prejudged unfairly. Allowing such culture of hate will only add pain to the wounds caused by history.

I am a Muslim who loves freedom and will help in the institutionalization of peace in whatever small way I can. I am just like you who is inspired by the love of my family and who will always rise up for the truth to bridge the gap between us and the non-Muslim community and to establish fairness and justice at all times.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Philippine History Revisited

Aguinaldo and Bonifacio revisited

I have nothing against any leader of the United States. Personal attacks against anyone is not my cup of tea considering that I have always been a responsible writer . But I am sharing this article with those who know less of our past as a nation, or as a race struggling for our rights and nationality. Perhaps the Filipinos were not born patriotic but circumstances where we dwell in caused by so much injustice have provided the rebirth of our race to an aware constituency of a beleaguered country.

I shall make no attempt to put an opinion on who is the treacherous character in this piece, but I will give you some facts that will guide your own judgment to release you from your own ponders. The truth will set us all free.

Asian manager columnist Gertie Tirona wrote about Cavite as “La Madre de losa ladrones” or “Mother of Bandits”. This was the general perception of the people during the Spanish era.

It dates back to 1896 when the first elected Philippine President, General Emilio Aguinaldo, allied with the United States to defeat the Spaniards. Aguinaldo’s accomplice in the United States were Commander Dewey and Consul General Pratt. Aguinaldo’s alliance was “quid pro quo“—a partnership that risked Philippine independence in exchange for the liberation of the Filipinos from the oppressive Spaniards.

Aguinaldo was aware of the repercussions relative to his move. In fact, he brought this worry to the attention of his American allies but this was dismissed as "nothing" by his American counterparts. Those words proved to be false for the Philippines has become not only an ally of the United States to drive away the enemies of the Filipinos in the past--the "alliance" has also institutionalized in the form of providing grant for debt certification for the Philippines.

Our leaders maintain that Filipinos need the support of a powerful country like the United States to help sustain our foreign debt. A dependency that gives no leader a choice but to be subservient to the power that feeds the nation.

During Bonifacio and Aguinaldo's time, the consequential magnitude of all the participation done by the Americans to free the Filipinos from Spain’s control was indirectly making the Philippine government submissive to their demands.

Aguinaldo’s move overlooked the possibility that the USA could change their stance from protection to imperialism.

From 1898 to 1991, the US had bases here in the Philippines but not sans controversy for the Filipinos feared that the bases have left toxic chemicals that are life-threatening to the environment of the communities surrounding those areas.

Adding insult to the injury was the pending resolution of the much celebrated Subic rape case involving six (6) US marine soldiers and an innocent Filipina. Justice is yet to be served and the kins of the victims asked: "How long do we have to wait?"

Perhaps, if Aguinaldo knew that this could have happened, he must have shelved his decision to ally with the US government. Too bad and too late.

In fact, he admitted that the killing of Andres Bonifacio was necessary to restore order in the revolutionary government. Aguinaldo added that Bonifacio’s death would stop his popular following. The revolutionary government which was led by Bonifacio had a massive support which evoked fear in Aquinaldo.

Bonifacio earned a name coined by the Aguinaldo faction:treacherous. This was owing to the former’s public display of disobedience to the presidency of Aquinaldo.

However, looking deeply at the events surrounding both parties would lead one to deduce that the "treachery" thrown at Bonifacio was a double standard description. Many also alleged that Aguinaldo ’s alliance with the US government was also a treacherous partnership for it was unapproved by most sectors who wanted to free the nation from foreign intervention.

This brings me to more questions:If Bonifacio was allowed to live, would he stand in the way of Aguinaldo to establish such alliance with the Americans ? Was Aguinaldo aware that he was trekking that kind of partnership with the Americans?

Did Aguinaldo ignore the fact that his move was the start of an imperialism which the US will play as a monolithic role in the Philippines? It is fair to assume that Aguinaldo had the best intention in his mind when he made the partnership with the United States then, for he was not in control of the succeeding events in the history of imperialism in the country.

Well, we have answers to that. Read the Philippine history book.

This is the historical struggle of our forefathers in the past. Bonifacio stood for a non-interference from any foreign country and depended on his Filipino brothers to fight against Spanish invasion. His assassination was a testimony of his heroism for no less than Aquinaldo confirmed that his killing was done to stop his following which wanted complete independence for the country. A following that was totally opposed to Aguinaldo's pro-foreign intervention.

This is the common perception of the Filipino masses and I have hopes in my heart that the new president of the United States, President elect Barack Obama, would look into the welfare of the Filipino people, whose economic partnership with the Philippine government must promote our human dignity as a race and not be used for any purpose that is unjust to our rights and liberties as a nation.

(Photos: Aguinaldo in military uniform and Bonifacio in coat and tie.)
Source: Wikipedia

Friday, May 28, 2010

The First Encounter: An Idyll of Innocence

by Miguel A. Bernad, S.J

Bernad narrated the scenario during the first encounter between Ferdinand Magellan and the people of Cebu in 1521 led by Rajah Humabon. He noted some relevant points relative to the conversion of the natives to Christianity led by Magellan.

The author raised the issue on how at that time, the people of Cebu really absorbed their new religion considering that Magellan was only with them for a week? Did they really understand the essence of the liturgical rites done on them by the group of Magellan?

Bernad was correct in refocusing the attention of his readers on the need to look at the issue of baptism as a possibility that it could be a mere act of accomodation on the part of the natives, out of hospitality to their foreign guests.

Bernad asked:"Was it not perhaps a pathetic case of misunderstanding? Were not the Spaniards and the natives operating on different wave-lengths? The Spaniards understood the baptismal ceremony to be a real sacrament of the faith, admitting new Christians into the church. How did the Rajah of Cebu and his subject understand it? Can we dismiss the possibility that the Cebuanos understood this ceremony as merely the Spanish counterpart of the blood-compact?"

However in the concluding part of his story, Bernad admitted that although Magellan might not have instilled the real essence of Christianity in the hearts of the natives and Rajah Humabon during that time, he spoke positively on the status of Christianity in the present. Even without him speaking about it, it is undeniable that Christianity is a well practiced religion not only in Cebu but universally.

What I consider as a plus point for Bernad was his sharp analysis on the initial encounter between the natives and their invader. He offered another angle to the story by not focusing on the event of the baptism per se but on the factors that were overlooked by many historians.

In essence, Bernad was keen on guiding the thoughts of his readers to ponder deeply on the surrounding events of the baptism beyond the merrymaking and new developed friendship between the Cebuanos and Magellan.

I got this hidden message between his lines when he enumerated the existing practices of the natives then on the issue of sexual promiscuity,animist cult, and slavery. Bernad summarized his point in one question when he wrote: How was Christianity to deal with that?

A good write for Bernad. Brilliant and I highly recommend it for all readers out there who are interested to read the other angle of the first encounter between Magellan and the natives of Cebu.

Bernad is a well-known author and literary critic. His M.A and Ph.D are from Yale University.

(Photo: Ferdinand Magellan)
Photo source:www.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

A Brief Note on Moro Rebellion

Whilst I expounded on my previous post about my article on the collective character of the Bangsamoro Muslims, I forgot to accentuate on one major point that has to be considered when addressing the Mindanao conflict.

The struggle of the Muslim Filipinos did not sprout out of unity but of the opposite. The shout for justice in the Moro homeland came from sectoral disparity, however, the prevailing sentiment then succeeded to convey a determined political message to the central government.

There were two sectors which advocated for radical change in Mindanao since the 1960s to abandon Datuism in the modern Islamic society-- the group of young Muslim reformers on one hand and the young Muslim militants on the other hand.

The reformers desired a radical political change by approaching it in two ways: warfare and political immersion.

Within the nucleus of reformers surfaced another division by the so-called moderates who did not go against the existing political structure, and those who did not ally with the system nor with the militants as well.

The Philippine government then exerted its influence and succeeded to isolate the militants but it failed to quash the burning idealism of the brilliant Muslim reformers who were united in their strong religious adherence.

This was the consequence brought about by the usurpation of rights of the Bangsamoro people in their homeland. The Moros felt threatened by the continued expansion of non-Muslims into southern Mindanao and the continued militarization in their midst.

The people of Mindanao, particularly those who are fighting to pursue their rights and identity preferred to be called as "Bangsamoro Muslims" for it connotes UNITY or COLLECTIVITY in their struggle.

The struggle though varied in approach yet still spells out one cause and that is to achieve justice for all the people of Mindanao.

As a Muslim, I see no problem of co-existence nor opening Mindanao to other religious sector if it could strengthen interfaith coordination between Muslim and Non-Muslim Filipinos.

I define Mindanao development not on the basis of religion but on the peaceful co-existence of all its inhabitants provided however that the basic rights of the Muslims must not be relegated to the backseat.