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Joel: A tribute for a dear friend, brother and comrade

I HAVE known Joel Virador since the early 1980s. He was then working with the Citizens Council for Justice and Peace (CCJP). Our paths crossed early on as we were together in so many political activities especially during the days of Welgang Bayan.

We were together in so many medical missions up in the mountains, visiting political prisoners, out in the streets protesting or spending million sleepless nights on endless tigoms.

When I first attended the Bayan Muna Congress sometime in 2001, I convinced Joel to run under the party list and had to convince some doubting Thomases in Mindanao and Manila on having a Mindanawon in the Bayan Muna slate.

Joel would always tell me of our joke when he was already a congressman. “Bai, nagpalit man lang ko og suka niadto sa dihang gidesisyonan ninyo nga padaganon ko sa Bayan Muna.”

Joel was a funny kasama yet steadfast in his principles and in defending the downtrodden.

I am very happy to be one of Joel’s friends and kasamas for decades, both sharing our aspirations for a homeland free of exploitation and oppression.

Two weeks before his death, Joel had requested me through text to get him an electolarynx. He was so happy and looked forward this week of May to receive the electrolarynx I promised him. Joel may no longer receive his electolarynx to amplify his voice but his voice for justice, freedom and democracy shall reverberate across the land louder than a million electrolarynx.

I am so happy that on his deathbed I had the chance to speak to Joel and whisper to him “daghang salamat Jo sa atong panaghigala ug pagkakauban. Maningkamot ko Jo nga sa akong gamay nga pamaagi ug binuhatan makatampo ko para makab-ot atong pangandoy sa usa ka katilingban nga luwas sa pagpahimulos ug pagpanglupig. Ayo-ayo Jo sa imong pagpanaw.” – Dr. Shalom Lorenzana former officer of the Community-Based Health Program in Mindanao, and former regional coordinator of Bayan Muna Southern Mindanao

Uphold Youth Agenda. Youth and students from all over the country have joined forces with candidates for the 2019 midterm elections for a National Youth Covenant.

The covenant, which was made at the UP Diliman School of Economics Auditorium, seeks to forge unities with aspiring public officials in the common goal of ensuring that social services and holistic development are available to as many youth as possible.

The Covenant gives primacy to the demand for free education at all levels, as well as advancement of the students’ and youth’s democratic rights.

The demand comes in conjuncture with the passing of RA 10931, or the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act, which mandates free education in state universities and colleges, technical-vocational learning centers and local universities and colleges.

However, maneuvers are being done in schools which run counter to the heart of the law, including but not limited to the charging of dubious, redundant and miscellaneous fees.

The Covenant aims to gain commitment towards making education accessible to all Filipino youth regardless of age, gender, political or religious belief, and socio-economic standing.

Besides forwarding the free public education at all levels, the National Youth Covenant aims to make the 2019 Youth Agenda a reality.

These include:

• Decent jobs for the youth and the people

• Improved healthcare and other social services

• Clean and affordable energy, water and utilities

• Increased awareness and focus on mental health

• Better telecommunications and internet

• Good governance and youth empowerment

• Promotion of democratic rights in and out of campuses

• Gender equality and end to discrimination

• Environmental preservation and climate action

The attainment of such goals are central to ensuring a better future for the pag-asa ng bayan and the next generations to come who will inherit this country.

Such would entail lifting them out of poverty, working towards lowering the prices of basic commodities, democratizing the political arena, achieving climate justice and the like.

We call on all of those aspiring for government positions to heed to the challenge.

We are calling on all “senatorial” bets to commit to the attainment of free and accessible education.

We dare them to stand with us in the struggle to ensure that all Filipino youth can acquire quality education which will enable us to become productive members of our society. – Paula Janer, College Editors Guild National secretary-general; Raoul Manuel, deputy secretary general of the National Union of Students of the Philippines

The Killings in Cotabato City. We haven’t paid attention to the almost daily shootings in Cotabato until finally the victim is someone we know/knew. And then we start paying attention, and then we start condemning.

These killings have been going on for years – in front of government offices, near police stations, along major thoroughfares – sa Bagua, sa Old Market, sa harapan ng ORC, sa Rosary Heights, sa kahabaan ng Sinsuat Avenue, sa Tamontaka, sa Super, sa college. Office districts, residential areas, commercial areas, walang pinipiling lugar ang pamamaslang na ito. Name an area in Cotabato City, meron patayan diyan na nabaon sa limot, killings that have been posted on social media but did not get much reaction.

Ang mga street killings na ito, para din yan Human Rights Violations (HRV). Pinapalampas lang natin, kibit balikat kapag some random person ang hinuli, ginulpi, tinorture, o di kaya ay “itinumba”. Until the victim of the HRV is someone we know. And then we protest to high heavens.

Ang mga street killings na ito, para din yan displacement sa rural areas. Kapag sa sulok ng Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, o Sulu, hindi ganoon karami ang nakikialam, nagpapakita ng dismaya. Minsan nga hindi pa nababanggit sa social media o sa mainstream media. Until such time urban area naman ang na-displace.

Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi rajioon. –Zainudin Malang, lawyer, founding head of a human rights and civilian protection organization in Mindanao, and former member of the peace process monitoring body

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TREND MAKER. Mindanao Gold Star Daily was established in 1989 to set ablaze a new meaning & flame to the local newspaper business. Throughout the years it continued its focus and interest in the rural areas & pioneered the growth of countryside journalism.

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