"What this Country needs is not a change OF men but a change IN men" March 1980

Sunday, August 31, 2008

TRIBUTE: Capt. De Dios, Maj. Zambrano & the valiant crew of C-130 Tail 4593

Senator Gordon with Major Manuel Zambrano after a successful transport of fruits from Cotabato to Manila for the Fruits for Hope peace initiative.

Today we give tribute to nine officers of our Philippine air force—all good men, all committed to the service of our country and our people right through to the end.

On Monday, Philippine Air Force officers Captain Adrian de Dios and Major Manuel Zambrano, along with their crew composed of Sergeants Constantino Lobregat; John Arriola; Gerry Delioso; Felix Pedro Patriarga; Petronilo Fernandez; Patricio Claur, Jr.; and Sergeant Aldrin Ilustrisimo, gave their lives in the service of our nation.

They perished when their C-130 aircraft crashed in the Davao Gulf. They died not in the middle of the theater of war but no less, and I emphasize, no less in the service of peace.

They were not geared for battle but were on a humanitarian mission to deliver life-saving aid to those caught in calamity, and to rescue fellow Filipinos from the wreckage of disaster.

While our stereotyped image of the soldier is one that involves the use of weapons to kill an enemy, Captain de Dios and his men showed us another side of the soldier’s life mission: to become a lifeline to those in need, to be the bearers of hope and the chance to start over. They showed us not the face of war but instead, a vision of our greatest aspirations: peace, harmony, dignity and progress for every Filipino.

Senator Gordon and Red Cross Team with pick-up truck and supplies on board C-130 #4593 bound for Marinduque and Catanduanes Relief Operations January 26, 2007

I have had the honor of flying on the C-130 with Major Zambrano and the others on several humanitarian missions as the Chairman of the Philippine National Red Cross. In my conversations with Zambrano, his co-pilot, and crewmen, I had a sense that they were happier to be flying on missions of peace rather than delivering the implements of war.

It was on a flight for the PNRC's Fruits of Hope program, I believe that Zambrano and the others felt the fulfillment of their role as keepers of peace.

The Fruits of Hope Program of the Philippine National Red Cross seeks to alleviate poverty among our brother Filipino Muslim farmers. This is done by helping link the farmers in Sulu and Cotabato to fruit buyers in Metro Manila. In that way, we can assure them of a better livelihood, a sense of equal dignity and brotherhood with the rest of the Philippines.

On a higher level, what Major Zambrano and his colleagues were doing was not simply a livelihood project: in a very real way, it was taking away the sense of desperation and alienation among our Filipino Muslim brothers that has become fertile soil in which extremists sow their ideas of violence and destruction: the fruits of those extremist ideals are now upon us, unfortunately.

Still, the efforts of Captain de Dios, Major Zambrano and their fellow officers are not and will never be in vain: it is through their heroic efforts and sacrifices that many Filipino Muslims today grow strong in their sense of being peaceful and productive partners in their community’s and our nation’s progress.

More importantly, these Air Force officers showed us that through acts of caring and compassion, we can all work for peace—such acts are far more effective, in the long-term, in securing peace than any successful battle . Indeed, they proved that an open hand offered in peace holds more courage than a hand gripping a gun.

These words are just the beginning of the real tribute that these air force officers deserve. The real tribute we can give them would be to live out our lives guided by the love, passion and commitment they offered to their fellow countrymen.

In reflecting on the tragedy of their deaths, in remembering their heroism in life, let us extend to Captain de Dios and his men the ultimate honor, the greatest tribute: to allow ourselves to be inspired by their example, and to work even harder for peace, progress and unity between all Filipinos.

Let us make that pledge in their memory and for the sake of all the Filipinos they served with valor, commitment and unwavering duty, until the end.

30 August 2008
Jesus Villamor Airbase
Pasay City

RP woes similar to Battle of Imus in 1896

Sen. Richard Gordon on Sunday likened the woes plaguing the country today to the fight for freedom that paved the way for Battle of Imus more than a hundred years ago on September 3, 1896.

"The challenges that our country is facing today are no less overwhelming than fighting for freedom with little more than a few old rifles against the military might of a world superpower a hundred years ago -- the imperial might of what was Spain. In this century, we are fighting revolution against the worst that we see in ourselves as a nation,” Gordon said.

The senator said compared to September 1896, however, the “war” being waged today “is not against men but for change.”

“The unifying thread in all our history from our seafaring Datu forbears to our overseas Filipino workers and from our fight against imperial tyranny to our fight against the tyranny of defeatist mentalities is this: It is our search for the realization of our dream of an enabled, empowered and ennobled existence," he said.

Gordon is the great, great grandson of Col. Jose Tagle who led the Battle of Imus, which was the first victory of Filipino revolutionary forces and rallied all of Cavite and other provinces to fight the Spanish colonial government.

During last year’s 111th anniversary celebration, Gordon lamented that many Filipinos, especially the young, were familiar with fall of Bataan and Corregidor but not so much with the Battle of Imus where Filipinos had achieved victory.

During the battle, Gordon said Tagle had defeated the best of Spanish forces led by Ernesto General Aguirre.

Gordon likens RP woes to Battle of Imus

AFP modernization to stop the bleeding

MANILA, Philippines—More soldiers will literally bleed to death in Mindanao if the military fails to upgrade its equipment.

The immediate modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) would save more troops battling Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels, Sen. Richard Gordon said Sunday at the Balitaan sa Tinapayan press forum in Sampaloc, Manila.

Gordon, who is also chair of the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC), cited the case of Marine Cpl. Angelo Abeto who bled for four hours while waiting for a helicopter to fly him out of Tipo-Tipo, Basilan, last month.

Abeto, 30, died from a shrapnel wound in the head while finally being airlifted to Zamboanga by a helicopter contracted by the United States military. The AFP’s Vietnam-War era UH-1H helicopters reportedly failed to fly due to bad weather.

“Many more would survive, including civilians caught in the crossfire, but who will transport them to hospitals? If we had more helicopters, they could receive medical treatment as soon as possible,” Gordon said in Filipino.

Another big blow was the recent loss of one of the military’s two C-130 transport planes. Although a new cargo plane will arrive this month, the senator said the acquisition of three more helicopters should be pushed to increase mobilization.

Despite assistance from the PNRC, Gordon said servicemen were still poorly supported as they lacked “medical packs” or first aid kits.

A comprehensive plan for the bereaved soldiers’ families was also lacking, Gordon noted, as in the case of Lt. Col. Angelo Benitez, whose wife did not have a job.

AFP modernization to stop the bleeding – Gordon
By Allison Lopez
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 05:14:00 09/01/2008

Red Cross to provide homes for 14 families in conflict

Philippine National Red Cross Chairman and Senator Richard Gordon is leading efforts to provide new homes to 14 families hardest hit by the fighting between government troops and Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters. The 14 families have had family members killed by suspected MILF fighters, who also burned their houses.

Gordon was in Lanao del Norte on Saturday to personally assess the situation as PNRC Chairman. The heart-wrenching stories told to Gordon by the victims of the conflict did not fall on deaf ears: Gordon has committed the presence of the PNRC in the area to continue helping all victims of the conflict, from civilians to soldiers to Muslim rebels.

Gordon has also coordinated with local officials to immediately start relocating the 14 families, providing for their needs in the face of their tragic loss, and rebuilding their homes. The greatest obstacle to their rehabilitation was the lack of land one which they could rebuild their houses. The lots on which their old homes stood did not belong to them.

Through the help of Gordon and former Lanao Councilor Anthony Labaro however, the 14 families were given their own land. Labaro made the land donation after he was told by Gordon about the 14 families' plight.

An agreement was quickly drawn up between the PNRC, Lanao Gov. Mohammad Khalid Dimaporo, Lanao del Norte 2nd District Congressman Bobby Dimaporo and MayorBertrand Lomaque to begin the housing project for the victims.

The beneficiaries include Rudelyn Sosima, whose husband and two-year-old daughter were killed by armed men, believed to be MILF fighters, who broke into their home.

Besides Rudelyn, other beneficiaries include Jessica Patarlas; Flora Porcare; Anita Lagura; Mateo Balasbas; Apolinario Laggam; Theodoro Capapas; Fortunato Amomonpon; Juana Amomonpon; Henry Balos; Patronilla Pabginwit; Wilima James Ichico; Geoffrey Dagwan; Emerita Bitasulao; Alexander Malaay; Francisco Sosimo, Jr.; Paulio Jumuwad; and Teodoro Jumuwad.

Most of the beneficiaries lost a parent, sibling or spouse in the fighting. All of their homes were burned to the ground.

Gordon said that the housing project is being undertaken in the name of peace and in defiance of the inhumanity of war. He added that building homes, an act of peace, will become a weapon against war.

"These homes will be built and they will be built through the cooperation between a community of Muslims and Christians. What evil has destroyed, goodness will build in defiance of violence. In this life-giving act of building we make our stand and we defy violence, using the bayanihan spirit of cooperation, respect and compassion between Muslims and Christians. Indeed only peaceful means will ultimately defeat war. We must win using peace in order to create a vibrant, progressive and peaceful Mindanao," said Gordon.

Gordon helps 14 Lanao Families rebuild homes amid war; says only peaceful means can defeat war

Friday, August 22, 2008

Red Cross evacuating 700 caught in Mindanao crossfire

MANILA, Philippines -- Volunteers and officers of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRCC) and the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC) are evacuating some 700 civilians caught in the crossfire of the escalating violence in Mindanao, Senator Richard Gordon said Friday.

In a phone interview, Gordon, who also chairs the PNRC, said the civilians are from the villages of Muntay, Balong, and Ambadan in Datu Piang town, Maguindanao province.

"We might bring them to a tent city we might set up in Cotabato...We are simply getting them out of harm's way," he said.

The senator said the PNRC is also responding to the needs of the people in Oroquieta, Ozamiz, and South Cotabato, the last of which saw a cholera outbreak among evacuees.

"We are also helping in the dengue outbreak in Calasiao, Pangasinan...We're still verifying the reported [dengue] outbreak in Baguio...Our people and our resources are really stretched," he said.

Gordon appealed to the public for donations to the PNRC. He said cash and checks will go a long way towards purchasing food and other needs in the areas of concern, which would lower transportation costs.

"You can dial 143 or 527-0000 for your donations," he said.

Fighting broke out between government forces and Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels after Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order against the signing of the memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain (MOA-AD), which would have led to the creation of the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity.

Red Cross evacuating 700 caught in Mindanao crossfire
Gordon appeals for public help
By Veronica Uy
First Posted 16:01:00 08/22/2008

Shopping malls as voting centers

SHOPPING malls may become the polling precinct of the future and voters can cast their vote as easily as withdrawing cash from an automated teller machine.

Senator Richard Gordon said putting up satellite voting centers was plausible in the wake of the success of the automated elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Gordon, who was guest in a recent forum in Quezon City, said voters will no longer have to troop to the provinces in order to vote.

“In the future, one only has to go to the mall, find an automated polling machine and cast his or her vote. The idea is they can vote only once. If they do that in other machines, they will immediately be barred to vote again,” said Gordon, touted as the father of automated elections.

Gordon said he was confident the automated elections can be done in the next elections, noting its success despite the unstable security situation, inadequate communications and transportation infrastructure.

Gordon further noted that despite the lack of time for a massive voter education campaign on the new automated system, voters in Maguindanao generally described their voting experience as “easy and amazing.”

Vince Dizon, spokesman for Smartmatic-Sahi, the technology provider for the automated polls, said the success proved that the country is ready for full automation in 2010.

“It was Senator Gordon’s efforts in the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on election automation that pushed the Comelec to ensure automation of the ARMM elections. We owe it to him that we were able to successfully pilot-test the technologies in preparation for the 2010 national elections,” Dizon said.

“We will make sure that the Commission on Elections will give ample time for the training of voters in next elections,” Gordon said.

“If given a longer period of time training, definitely the voters will be more confident in using the machines,” Dizon said.

“With DRE machines, counting is done automatically and transmission can be done in minutes directly from the precincts. This is the wave of the future and the voters of Maguindanao have proven that we are ready for fast, clean and credible elections,” he added.

Shopping malls as voting centers
Joel M. Sy Egco
Manila Standard Today
Saturday - 23 August 2008

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

MILF, AFP: 'allow Red Cross in conflict areas'

MANILA, Philippines -- Let Philippine National Red Cross workers into conflict areas in Mindanao, the chairman of the PNRC has appealed.

Senator Richard Gordon said Tuesday there were reports that some of their volunteers were prevented from entering areas affected by the clashes between the MILF and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in Mindanao.

Gordon reminded both sides that the Red Cross was a neutral agency mandated to help everyone.

"As this conflict continues both sides of the war, we need to realize that the Red Cross volunteers are in the area to help everyone -- whether they are families or fighters from the government side or the MILF,” he said.

“I am therefore appealing to the military and the MILF to respect the actions of the Red Cross and allow it to fulfill its humanitarian mission," Gordon said.

MILF, AFP told to allow Red Cross in conflict areas
By Kristine L. Alave
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 12:55:00 08/19/2008

Saturday, August 16, 2008


Philippine National Red Cross Chairman and Senator Richard Gordon raised PhP3.2 million pesos for victims of Typhoon Frank—including those in the sinking of M/V Princess of the Stars—and other victims of disasters, after more than a thousand people who attended his birthday celebration on August 5 pledged their continuing support to the Red Cross and manifested this support through their donations.

Gordon's birthday celebration, which became a fund-raising event for disaster victims, was hosted by travel media personality Susan Calo-Medina and PNRC governor Andrew Nocon.

Birthday gifts

It is not so well-known that Gordon usually does not like to hold big parties on his birthday. He would rather prefer a simple celebration with his family and close friends. It was only at the prodding of Buhay Partylist congresswoman Carrisa Coscolluela that Gordon reluctantly agreed to have a party.

For Gordon however, holding such a big event was not just an opportunity to celebrate: he saw fit to put the celebration to good use in order to benefit the unfortunate victims of recent disasters in the Philippines, particularly those who lost their homes, loved ones and livelihood to Typhoon Frank and the sinking of the M/V Princess of the Stars.

Therefore, Gordon agreed to have his party only if it were turned into a fund-raising event, to generate financial aid for disaster victims through the Red Cross. Essentially, Gordon wanted to give gifts to disaster victims instead of receiving gifts for himself during his birthday.

Gordon's plan was a resounding success: at the end of the party, he was able to raise PhP3.2 million which would be forwarded to the Red Cross and used to help victims of disaster. It also showed his outstanding ability to gather and unite support from the corporate world to high-society to political figures—more than a thousand of whom attended the event--in order to raise money for a good cause.

Again, this move was vintage Gordon; the senator and PNRC chief had in fact, earlier declined to accept a talent fee that was due to him after he agreed to endorse a brand of medicated soap. That talent fee, amounting to PhP 6 million, was also forwarded to the Red Cross.

Enthusiastic support

The turnout for Gordon's birthday party-turned-fundraiser showed how credible and respected a figure Gordon is among various sectors in society. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo herself, former President Fidel V. Ramos, Vice-President Noli de Castro, and Senators Manny Villar, Loren Legarda, Juan Miguel Zubiri, Francis Pangilinan, Frank Drilon, Juan Ponce Enrile, Joker Arroyo and (former Senator) Francisco Tatad all came to the event to pitch in for the fund-raising effort.

The fund-raising was also gained international support as the Royal Embassy of Cambodia and Austrian Ambassador Herbert Jager gave their respective contributions for the Red Cross.

Representatives from big corporations, all of whom are generous supporters of the Red Cross, also attended the event to heed Gordon's call to help disaster victims. Philip Morris alone, in fact, donated PhP 2 million. Other corporations who donated include Equitable PCI Bank, Phil. Crop Insurance Corp., Subic Bay Development Management Corporation Inc., Querubin Rubber Corp., Hanjin, International Advertising Corp., Solar Entertainment Corp., and Liwayway Marketing. All of them cited their profound respect for Gordon and the goodwill he created between them and the Red Cross, as the chief reasons for them to extend their support.

Gordon's friends, whether in politics or not, also gave generous amounts for the Red Cross as their gift to the celebrator. Among them are Gov. Enrico Aumentado, Gov. Adelina Rodriguez, Cong. Hermia Roman, Cong. Mary Ann L. Susano, Hon. Pryde Henry A. Teves, Hon. Lorna Silverio, Maj. Gen. Delfin Bangit, General Narciso Abaya, Dr. James Dy, Rosie & Carlos De Leon, Mr. & Mrs. Wilfredo Fernandez, Cesar Virata, Victor Villavicencio, Ramon Moreno, and Victor Lazatin.

Even Gordon's former classmates in the Ateneo de Manila University and the University of the Philippines Law School Batch 1972 also came not only to celebrate but to also give what they could to the fund-raiser.

Organizations and institutions who showed their support to Gordon and their generosity to the Red Cross are the Liga Ng Mga Barangay-Olongapo City, Reserve Officers Legion of the Phils., APA Law Office, Department of Tourism-Cordillera Administrative Region, PMA Class 72 and the Philippine Coast Guard Auxillary.

Gordon's guests at his birthday bash unanimously expressed one reason for why they are so willing to lend their support: they all believe in Gordon and in the sincerity of his sense of mission to help others. They said that this faith and trust in Gordon's commitment to help the less fortunate is what spurs them to give their support to the Red Cross swiftly, generously and without a second thought.

Surprise guests

And yet, even a veteran of disaster and emergency response like Gordon could still be surprised—the senator and PNRC chief was moved by the presence of two very special guests at his birthday: Evangeline Triumpante and Salvacion Aguila.

Triumpante and Aguila are two out of thousands of beneficiaries of a housing program that Gordon and the PNRC spearheaded to help victims of super typhoon Reming. All in all, Gordon and the Red Cross—together with families and communities affected by Reming—were able to build more than 13,000 typhoon resistant homes for families who lost their houses and livelihood due to the super typhoon.

Gordon told guests at his birthday that the 13,000 homes were built without fanfare and media attention, saying the Red Cross undertook the housing program "silently" and only when it was completed did the news spread through the media.

Gordon praised Triumpante and Aguila, both women heads of their respective households, bread-winners and sources of hope, inspiration and dignity for their families. The senator and PNRC chief said that the two women represented what is best in the Filipino. He also pointed out that if all Filipinos took inspiration from Triumpante and Aguila, then true peace, progress and prosperity would not be just dreams but a reality for the entire country.

Gordon said that Triumpante and Aguila, by leading their respective families in building the typhoon-resistant homes, proved that even in the face of great adversity, the Filipino can rise up and better his or her lot in life.

He recalled his amazement at seeing how, from raw structures the PNRC provided to the two women, they were able to transform these into beautiful, functional homes fit for their respective families.

"They will be able to carry this country by themselves…quietly did this…pagbalik namin, semento na yung lapag, built their own…these two people represent a great country.

"What we can do for our country, to uplift this country, bring back the dignity of this country…these two ladies makes me proud," Gordon said in his speech.

Other surprise guests at Gordon's birthday celebration included survivors of the M/V Princess of the Stars who thanked him personally for the medical treatment, stress debriefing and other help that they received through the Red Cross.

The members of the Aeta tribe who survived the Mt. Pinatubo explosion thanks to Gordon's efforts to evacuate them were also present, as well as the victims of the Cabanatuan earthquake who were rescued from the rubble, also through the intervention of Gordon and the Red Cross.

Humanitarian awards

Gordon has received two Red Cross Gold Humanitarian Service awards for his accomplishments in humanitarian work in the Philippines. He was first conferred the Gold Humanitarian Service Medal during the Red Cross Biennial on December 2007.

The first time that award was given however, Gordon politely declined to accept it, citing delicadeza—he felt that as Chairman of the Philippine National Red Cross it would not be proper for him to accept the award. He also said that at the time, he felt that he still did not measure up to the accomplishments of his mother Amelia Gordon, who is a former Governor of the Red Cross and also a recipient of the Red Cross Gold Humanitarian award.

On his birthday however, Red Cross Governor Justice Leonor Ines Luciano conferred on Gordon the Gold Humanitarian award, and finally convinced him of the rightness of his acceptance.

In finally accepting the award Gordon said, "the real award is that you know yourself…are worthy, and you said yes, you don't need any."

The conferment of the award to Gordon was witnessed by his mother Mrs. Amelia J. Gordon (also a former Red Cross Governor and Gold Humanitarian Awardee), his children and grandchildren.

The second time that Gordon was awarded the Gold Humanitarian Service Medal was in April of 2008, which was given to him by Japanese Red Cross President Tadateru Konoe. According to Konoe, the Japanese Red Cross awarded Gordon the medal for his humanitarian efforts in saving victims in the 2006 Guinsaugon, Leyte landslide.

Man of action, man for others

Gordon highlighted one main tenet of his life in his birthday speech: "To give and not to count the cost". Ample evidence of Gordon's deep, personal commitment to this guiding principle was presented to guests through AVPs created by the PNRC Communications team, who wanted to give their own tribute to him.

Guests were surprised and applauded enthusiastically upon watching the AVP showing Gordon in action during the disaster of Typhoon Frank: how he cancelled an official trip to the United States as part of the presidential entourage, in order to visit areas hit by the typhoon in order to help victims.

The AVP showed Gordon tirelessly moving from one disaster area to another, personally overseeing relief efforts, giving orders to Red Cross staff and volunteers, attending assessment and planning sessions with local officials, traveling by banca, and even wading through waist deep floodwaters if necessary in order to reach victims.

Guests expressed amazement over how personally Gordon took his job as PNRC Chairman, making sure that he personally came in contact with victims and listened to their stories and their problems firsthand. They were impressed at how Gordon worked through his own exhaustion, buoyed by his desire to help others, and risked his personal safety at disaster sites.

Guests also marveled at Gordon's efforts and accomplishments at modernizing the Philippine National Red Cross in order to widen its reach and broaden its capacity to help more disaster victims. Guests were particularly impressed at how Gordon was able to acquire high-tech ambulances equipped with the latest communications and life-saving devices, making them mobile emergency rooms and trauma centers.

Guests also watched an AVP detailing how Gordon was also able to convince the government of Japan to donate fire trucks to the Red Cross. With these fire trucks, the Red Cross may now help victims struck by massive fires that usually occur in crowded urban poor areas.

PNRC Secretary General Corazon Alma de Leon, in her speech, could only say words of praises to Gordon for his untiring efforts for the Red Cross.

"Chairman Gordon is truly a man for others. He is determined to help those who are in need, to be of service to the most vulnerable individuals," de Leon, who is always with Gordon in visiting disaster areas and also relentlessly extends her hand to give help, said during the event.

In his speech, Gordon sought to inspire guests with his vision for a better Philippines and his belief in the power of the Filipinos' innate yet underestimated and underused capacity for cooperation, volunteerism, bayanihan and compassionate action.

"Let's move forward and make this country the humanitarian center of the world," Gordon said.

Guests said they all came away from Gordon's birthday celebration richer in spirit and more inspired by his vision. They said that they saw Gordon—who was earlier given a Gold Award by the Japanese Red Cross for his earlier humanitarian accomplishments—as someone who will go out on a limb to help those in need, and has the ability to unite and inspire others to work together to accomplish great things quickly and effectively, to bring about the greater good.

Guests at Gordon's birthday celebration came away more convinced and grateful that he is truly a man of action and a man for others. #

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Automated Polls

Senator Richard Gordon, author of the amended Automated Elections Law, which calls for the pilot testing of automated election system before its implementation in a national elections, visits the voting centers in Shari Aguak, Maguindanao at the start of the ARMM elections. Gordon said voters would no longer wait for weeks or months for the results to come out.

Monday, August 11, 2008

"The Country can go high-tech"

The elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) were generally peaceful and the automated casting of ballots proceeded smoothly although there were reports of isolated violent incidents, authorities reported yesterday.

PNP chief Director General Avelino Razon Jr. said the elections were generally peaceful despite skirmishes between government troops and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels in Basilan.

Armed Forces vice chief Lt. Gen. Cardozo Luna, who is also head of Task Force Halalan 2008, said the hostilities in North Cotabato between government troops and the MILF did not affect the peaceful elections in the ARMM.

Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) chairman Henrietta de Villa said the poll watchdog group is satisfied with the turnout of the elections in ARMM despite some reports of ballot snatching and isolated violence.

De Villa said the automated election machines supplied by Smartmatic and Avante Technology Inc. helped in the quick casting of ballots and canvassing.

“So far comparatively (with previous ARMM polls) I see an improvement. It has considerably improved. Definitely there has been a reduction in the anomalies because human handling has become limited and results of the elections would be known in a shorter time,” she said.

Comelec Chairman Jose Melo estimated the turnout of voters at about 60 percent.

The ARMM is composed of the provinces of Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Shariff Kabunsuan, Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi.

The region has 1,516,775 registered voters that are expected to cast their votes through the very first automated election system in the country’s history in 1,903 polling precincts to choose a regional governor and vice governor and 24 assemblymen of the Regional Legislative Assembly.

The ARMM gubernatorial candidates are reelectionist Datu Zaldy Puti Uy Ampatuan (Lakas-CMD), Guimid Panalangin Matalam (Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino), Ali Jumadil Omar (independent), Jupakar Pindah-Asia Arabani (independent), Ismain Berto Ibrahim (independent), Alvarez Silal Isnaji (independent), and Ahmad Darping Nooh (Independent).

Bets for regional vice governor are reelectionist Ansaruddin-Abdul Malik Alonto Adiong (Lakas-CMD), Kadra Asani Masihul (KBL), Kursid Hajirie Sampang (independent), Alex Andul Qayyum Langco Ambor (independent), and Ailani Jr. Tan Susulan (independent).

Two types of automated election machines were used – the Optical Mark Reader (OMR) and the Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) system.

OMR required voters to fill up a ballot, which is then counted with a specially designed machine, while DRE allowed voters to cast their votes through touch screen.

The DRE was reportedly used in Maguindanao while the OMR technology was used in the cities of Marawi and Lamitan as well as in Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Lanao del Sur, and Shariff Kabunsuan.

The police have identified 887 barangays as areas of concern or hot spots while 49 areas were tagged as areas of immediate concern.

Melo said that in Tawi-Tawi, Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao, there were no reports of any violence in the polling precincts.

Comelec executive director Jose Tolentino, however, said that 47 of the 3,050 DRE machines were replaced due to technical problems.

“Nothing is perfect but replacement machines are readily available. There are 1.5 million voters in the ARMM and if some 1,000 voters, for instance, were not able to vote, I hope that it won’t be the one highlighted (in the media). It’s only a small percentage,” said Tolentino.

Sen. Richard Gordon, author of the election automation law, said the ARMM automated polls showed that the country can go high-tech and discard the manual elections that are tainted with poll fraud.

ARMM polls generally peaceful
By Cecille Suerte Felipe and Sheila Crisostomo
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Philippine Star

High-tech ARMM polls - ‘Smashing success’

Comelec Chair Jose Melo said 50 to 60 percent of the 1.5 million registered voters cast ballots in 1,901 precincts equipped with two sets of computers each where they either blotted circles beside the names of their candidates or touched screens for their selections.

Results of the vote for governor, vice governor and 24 members of the regional legislative assembly are expected to be announced on Wednesday.

Melo said he was “very happy” with the results of the landmark polls—the first in the country where computers were used to cast ballots. If successful, the system will be used in the 2010 national elections.

Sen. Richard Gordon, chair of the Senate committee on electoral reforms, said voters in Maguindanao and Shariff Kabunsuan were really eager to try the new technologies.

“It was a smashing success. It’s something to look forward to. It shows that Filipinos can conduct clean and honest elections,” Gordon said in a briefing with Melo at the Comelec.

The Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting Monday said it was also satisfied with the conduct of the balloting in the region dubbed as the “cheating capital” of the Philippines.

Henrietta de Villa, PPCRV chair, said Monday’s elections were a definite improvement compared to past exercises.

“So far, comparatively, I see an improvement. With the automated machines, we did not see voters who had difficulty with it because they tried to study the machines beforehand,” De Villa said.

“Definitely the anomalies were lessened because the human handling was also lessened,” she said in an interview.

Excellent, Comelec says of high-tech ARMM polls
By Julie Alipala, Kristine L. Alave
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:20:00 08/12/2008

Computerized voting easy, like placing bets in video machines

Maguindanao--Voters in Maguindanao, the province with the fourth largest number of voters in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), described the automated process in the regional elections as something as easy as placing a bet in video machines, an illegal but popular form of gambling.

Senator Richard Gordon, chair of the Senate committee on electoral reform who blocked the move of Malacañang and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front to postpone the ARMM polls, visited precincts here and said it was interesting to see how voters were enthusiastic about the touch-screen voting.

Gordon, on the other hand, said: "What I saw was not just encouraging. There was enthusiasm among the voters in the automation of the ARMM elections. Voting was fast."

He said that "with DRE, the entire process is fast and the results come out fast, too. So the losers will feel less pain as they await the results. Kaunting aray na lang (Only a slight pain for the losers)."

The senator, however, reserved his comments on the OMR technology used in the other ARMM provinces it requires ballots to still change hands before finally dropped in boxes. He feared that this transfer of ballots could allow for "intervention" from candidates’ camps.

Computerized voting easy, like placing bets in video machines – Maguindanao voters
By Nash B. Maulana
ABS-CBN News Online

Finally, Automated Elections Law implemented

At last, the fruit of the Automated Elections Law authored by Senator Richard Gordon will be seen by the whole country as the ARMM held its elections on Monday using the automated elections system.

Gordon, who had seen the system work during the mock elections last month, said the ARMM automated polls will be the dawn of a new era in modern democracy, doing away with manual elections that are tainted with various images of cheating and deception.

He said the people will no longer have to wait for weeks or months for the results to come out. In a few hours, all votes will be counted and no form of cheating could pass through.

Gordon explained that this exercise is crucial for the 2010 presidential elections, since the law that he crafted calls for the pilot testing of the system in six cities and six provinces prior to its implementation in a national election.

He added that with the implementation of an automated election system the country will no longer hear "Hello, Garci" and "I am sorry" dialogues. With no election-related controversies hounding incumbent officials, the country will move forward faster because the people have confidence in the elected officials.

"We have worked hard for the Automated Elections Law. We had hoped it would be tested last 2007 elections, but it didn't happen. Now, we're just a few hours away from witnessing a new system of elections. This is not just a historical event for our country, but a crucial one. Isinulong ko ang batas na ito para sa susunod na eleksyon sa 2010, patas na ang laban. Wala na ang dayaan at dahas. Wala na ang mga dagdag-bawas at cash-unduan. Elected officials can now hold their head up high because they know they are the true leaders chosen by the people. The populace will have confidence in their leaders because they were voted through a credible system of elections," Gordon said.

Friday, August 08, 2008

ARMM polls must push through

THE Armed Forces of the Philippines will be sending two battalions to Mindanao to provide security during the conduct of the elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) on Monday.

Sen. Richard Gordon said Friday that threats of violence in Mindanao should not derail the ARMM elections.

The additional troops, numbering 600, will come from the Luzon and Visayas which will augment the soldiers already deployed at the Muslim region according to Lt. Col. Ernesto Torres, the military’s public information chief.

Torres said the Armed Forces would secure 1,901 voting centers with 3,156 voting machines and about 1.61 million voters. Soldiers will always be coordinating with the Philippines National Police and the Commission on Elections.

The battalions would be pulled out from units stationed in Quezon and Samar provinces, and will arrive at the Muslim region on Saturday.

ARMM polls must push through

At the upper chamber of Congress, Gordon, chairman of the Senate Committee on Electoral Reforms, noted that the 2005 elections in Iraq had a voter turnout of 70 percent even if it had just gone through a war “because they wanted to show that they were for democracy.

“If Iraq could conduct elections in wartime conditions, then there is really no reason for us not to be able to hold elections since we are not in a state of war,” he said.

Gordon, author of the Election Automation Law, said that the August 11 election at the ARMM would also be an opportunity to test the new automated system in preparation for the 2010 elections

“On Monday, we will witness the beginning of the era of modern elections in the Philippines,” he said.

The Commission on Elections said that with automation, the results of the Muslim region elections would be known within hours after the closing of the polls.

Gordon is confident that the automated ARMM election would also help restore the people’s trust and confidence in the electoral process.

“Our holding of automated elections in ARMM will more quickly build a foundation for peace and cut deeper inroads for development, which is a core issue of conflict in the Southern Philippines. With fast, fair, and accurate elections, we can be more certain of political stability in the ARMM,” he said.

More troops rushed for Muslim polls
By Jefferson Antiporda Reporter and Efren L. Danao, Senior Reporter
The Manila Times

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Peace in Mindanao

Concerned with the peace process in Mindanao, Senator Richard J. Gordon, the author of the automated elections, visited the headquarters of the MILF in Camp Darapanan, Cotabato last Saturday to talk with MILF leaders regarding the upcoming automated elections in the ARMM.

"I thought I should go there and tell our Muslim brothers face to face that I am sincere and although I could not support the cancellation or postponement of the elections, I wanted them to hear that I support the peace process", Gordon said.

Upon their arrival at Camp Darapanan, Senator Gordon, accompanied by BUHAY party-list representative Carissa Coscolluela, were greeted warmly by two columns of MILF militiamen on both sides of the road.

Gordon said that the meeting was warm, cordial and candid. Gordon told MILF Vice Chairman for Political Affairs, Ghazali Jaafar and other members of the MILF central committee that he could not support the postponement of the upcoming ARMM elections. He told them that the automated elections will revolutionize the 2010 elections which are fast approaching. He reminded them that previous elections in the ARMM pushed through while there were on-going peace negotiations and that in fact the peace negotiations resulted to the signing of two peace agreements.

The first meeting was with the Mindanao Alliance for Peace (MAP), the mass arm of the MILF who asked Gordon to inform the Senate of their desire to postpone the elections. They said that the present officials and candidates will not really represent the people and that it will take them three more years to have peace in Mindanao and will delay their timetable for peace if the elections push through.

In a later meeting, Gordon met with Ghazali and members of the MILF Central Committee who told Gordon that their people might not be able to accept it if the elections pushed through and that there could be trouble in Mindanao if elections pushed through.

In both meetings, Gordon said that the real enemy is ignorance and the lack of understanding of the details of the peace agreement which needed to be properly explained so that people will not draw their own conclusions out of fear. Gordon also told Ghazali that he believed in the integrity and effectiveness of the leadership of the MILF to assuage the lesser instincts and violent tendencies of some within the ranks so that they could harness these energies to working on a just and harmonious peace. Gordon said that peace is not the document but the living between Christians and Muslims in a harmonious relationship like married couples who have to work on their marriage to create a successful union.

Senator Gordon with MILF Vice Chairman for Political Affairs Ghazali Jaafar talking about peace issues in the ARMM.

He reminded Ghazali and the members of the MILF Central Committee that they are far too deep in the peace process and that they should not throw away what they've worked hard and sacrificed for. He added that it is important to push through with the elections so that peace and development in the ARMM will finally set in.

In no uncertain terms, Gordon told Ghazali and other MILF officials that he is opposed to the postponement of the ARMM elections but that he is a very active proponent for lasting peace in Mindanao. He assured the group that he will support the peace process.

Gordon believes that closer is better and that the national government should load up not on weapons of war but with blessings of peace. Gordon told everyone present that he supports the idea that more funds for education, health and infrastructure development be brought to Mindanao to develop the region. He believes that those who belong to the marginal sectors of society could succeed in life through business and employment.

Gordon said that it is a no brainer that the ARMM is the poorest region in the country but with dedicated leaders and the proper government support and funding he believes that the ARMM can make a turnaround and become one of the most prosperous regions in the country.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Gordon visits MILF Camp

GMA 7 Video: http://www.gmanews.tv/video/26624/Gordon-visits-MILF-camp

Senator Richard Gordon told MILF leaders during a meeting at Camp Darapanan in Shariff Kabunsuan, that it is already too late to postpone the ARMM elections.

Senator Richard J. Gordon, with MILF spokesperson Eid Kabalu and Congresswoman Coscolluela, at Camp Darapanan MILF headquarters shakes hands with an MILF personnel.

Friday, August 01, 2008

50 cents per text to health and education

Instead of reducing the P1 text charge, telecommunication firms are
willing to allocate half of their income from text messaging or P0.50
per text to health and education programs as investment in youth.

Sen. Richard Gordon said he was surprised to hear that Globe Telecom,
Smart Communications and Sun Cellular executives were amenable to his
idea when they discussed it during a Senate hearing.

He said keeping the P1 cost of text could make a lot of difference.

"I am against the removal of the P1-charge on text. There are 55
million Filipinos with cellphones today and with just one text message
a day per cellphone user, that's P55 million. What we can do is leave
half of every peso to telcos and they can live with that. But the
other 50 cents, let's put it in a program called Health and Education
Acceleration Program (HEAP)," Gordon said.

The program comes following a 50 percent cut on text rates in the next
three months, which the telecommunications firms granted and President
Arroyo announced last Monday.

Gordon said he was touched to hear the telcos' representatives state
their desire to uplift the quality of education and health programs in
the country.

"I did not expect it, I actually shed a tear when they said they were
willing to set aside the 50 cents for the program on health and
education," he said.

"Are you happy with the education of your children today? Are you
happy with the quality of teaching today? Are their schools okay?
Their books? Do they have computers? Do they eat on time in school?
Based on that premise, I will ask you now, is it okay for you to pay
P1 per text but provide your children public education that can be
seen in America and other First World countries?" Gordon asked.

He said under his proposal, the P1 per text charge would remain for
five years since half of the telcos' revenues would automatically go
to HEAP.

Gordon's Senate Bill 2402 seeks to create the HEAP Corp., which will
be a government corporation that will spearhead the rehabilitation and
acceleration of education and health infrastructure in the country.

Under the HEAP, every commercial mobile service provider shall be
required to remit to the HEAP fund half of its net revenue earnings
arising from local text messages. Initial estimates place the amount
to be generated at around P98.7 billion a year, which will be a fund
separate from the budget allocated by government for public education.

These funds shall be earmarked for the construction of classrooms,
computer and science laboratories, clean cafeterias and school

"I don't think our telcos are so hard hearted and so attached to their
billions in profits that they won't see this as a direct way to lift
millions of our people out of the cycle of poverty by providing them
the best quality education possible," he said.

"By lifting people out of poverty, it is not unlikely that the telcos
will also be assured of not only continued demand for their services
but also a higher demand for higher value services," Gordon said.

The Philippine Star
'Telecoms open to allocating half of revenues to health, education'
By Aurelia Calica
Friday, August 1, 2008

On Giuliani P22,000/seat

VIDEO: http://www.inquirer.net/vdo/player.php?vid=1301

MANILA, Philippines -- They are both lawyers. They were both mayors who cleaned up their dirty cities. They both led their constituents during a disaster. And they both have RG for initials. All this Senator Richard Gordon pointed out but said that he might be better than former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani.

"All I am saying is, we have comparative accomplishments. Pero baka naman mas marami tayong krisis na nilagpasan at pinagtagumpayan…RG siya, Rudy Giuliani, Italyano iyan eh. Ako Richard Gordon, Amerikano, Gordon. Pero pinili ko maging Pilipino pero siya pinili niya maging Amerikano [But maybe we survived and overcame more crises…He's RG, Rudy Giuliani, an Italian. I am Richard Gordon, American. But I chose to be Filipino, while he chose to be an American]," he told reporters.

Giuliani spoke before government and corporate VIPs at the Makati Shangri-La Hotel Tuesday and called for transparency in government. He said Filipinos should elect someone they could trust.

But Gordon said paying a hefty price to hear Giuliani speak did not make sense because the Philippines has a lot of heroes.

"Bakit tayo magbabayad ng $22,000 per seat? Marami tayong bayani dito, mga lider na subok sa crisis [Why pay $22,000 per seat? We have a lot of heroes here, leaders who are tested by crises]," he said.

Gordon said that while he admired Giuliani for his composure and leadership during the 9/11 terror attacks in New York, the senator pointed out that he handled more disasters -- the Pinatubo eruption, the departure of the Americans from the former Subic Naval Base, and even the Ormoc, Leyte flashfloods.

"Bilib ako kay Giuliani at that particular moment in time nuong nagging mayor siya at nuong tinamaan ng 9/11 ang New York. Magaling talaga siya [I admired Giuliani at the particular moment when he was mayor and New York was hit by 9/11. He's really good]…I can understand where he's coming from," he said.

But Gordon reiterated that he has accomplished more, enumerating them thus: "Lahat ng disaster napuntahan ko. Napaganda natin iyong base, tinanggal naman tayo. Nagbakasyon tayo, nagturismo tayo, umangat ang turismo. WOW Philippines, Intramuros, lahat sumikat. Naging presidente tayo ng international organization ng tourism, PATA. Umalis ako sa turismo, nilagay ako sa Senado at Red Cross [I have gone to all disasters. We were able to improve the base, although we were removed there. We went on vacation, we went into tourism and tourism improved. WOW Philippines and Intramuros, all became popular. We became president of the Pacific Asia Travel Association. After tourism, I joined the Senate and the Red Cross]."

Boasting of his achievements, the president of the Philippine National ed Cross said the PNRC now has a fire brigade with 10 fire trucks and would soon have ambulances and rescue trucks.

Gordon says he's better than Giuliani
By Veronica Uy
First Posted 16:30:00 07/31/2008

ARMM polls psotponement won't pass Senate

The Senate committee on suffrage yesterday virtually closed its doors
on a postponement of the elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim
Mindanao (ARMM) scheduled on Aug. 11, saying the Upper Chamber is not
keen on entertaining the bill filed in the Lower House for that purpose.

In an interview, Sen. Richard Gordon told the Tribune that while they
respect the ongoing peace negotiations between the government and the
Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the government should not just
accede to the MILF's demand for the ARMM election's postponement as
the rebels are seeking the inclusion of 712 new barangays and the
cities of Lamitan and Cotobato in the expanded region.

"The peace accord should be unconditional," said Gordon. "For the
government to accept the demand of the MILF would
only weaken our position on the negotiating table."

"I don't want to strengthen the hand of MILF by postponing the ARMM election."

"As chairman of suffrage, I object to a postponement," said Gordon."

The Commission on Elections (Comelec), he said, has already concluded
a series of simulated polls using both the Optical Mark Reader and
Direct Recording Electronic types of automated election systems, the
senator said. "Thus, we are on the eve of electoral greatness and with
the Automated Election systems now in place, we will hear our
democracy speak the truth clearly and quickly," the author of the
Amended Automated Elections Law said.

"We will finally see the end of a lack of closure in our political exercises,
where even the counting of votes is concluded with no clear winner emerging as opposing camps hurl accusations of fraud at each other."

Gordon added that if the ARMM election is postponed, people would be
made to shoulder the P300 million bill for the lease of the automated
election machines.

"We are only leasing the equipment for the automated polls and they
have already been paid. If we postpone the elections, then there goes
another P300 million in public funds that will go down the drain,"
said Gordon.

ARMM polls'postponement won't pass Senate, says Gordon
By Charlie V. Manalo
The Daily Tribune