If pushing for good governance in Santo Tomas town in Davao del Norte is an easy job for lawyer Eliza Evangelista-Lavina, this is because she used to come from a place where many people fear to tread.
Before being named as Municipal Administrator of Sto. Tomas munipality, Evangelista Lapina–played a key role in a special body aiming to drive away communist rebels in Davao City’s highland district of Paquibato, by bringing government closer to the people.
PEACE 911 formed by Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte brought basic government services to the epicenter of the communist insurgency in the tri-boundaries of Davao Region-Bukidnon-Cotabato area.
As Peace 911 Focal Person, Eliza Evangelista Lapina coordinated a monthly caravan of city agencies bringing health, agriculture, legal, social, education, cooperatives, civil registry, land transportation and other basic services to 14 barangays of the mountainous district. Peace 811 also enhanced community peace with presence of police and military which also engaged in road repair and construction.
Sto. Tomas town is lucky to have Eliza Evangelista-Lapina helping her father, Mayor Ernesto “Tatay Erning” Evangelista , in steering the town to progress and development through good governance.
On September 16, 2019, the young lady lawyer was named as Municipal Administrator of Sto. Tomas. She was this time at the forefront of a new war—not of the communist insurgency—but ridding the municipal government’s bureaucracy of “corruption and malpractices.”
Fondly called as “Attorney Elay,” Elisa, as the chief administrative officer, will coordinate, lead and direct the department heads, officers and employees in the administration of the municipality in accordance with the policies and plans approved and established by the local chief executive.
Administrating the affairs of the municipality is a managerial skill that Lapina is adept at.
During her stint as the Peace 911’s head, she has proven herself not just a hands-on leader but also good at coordinating, and working both with the masses and government agencies.
Peace 911 was implemented in Davao City in compliance to President Rodrigo Duterte’s Executive Order 70 or the Whole of Nation Approach in Attaining Inclusive and Sustainable Peace.
The success of Peace 911—its principles and mechanisms—is now seen as a template to implement EO 70 and replicate the best practices of the peace and development initiative across the country.
Like her mayor-father, Elisa takes the job seriously. It took her several months to decide and vacate her post as the Peace 911 focal person under the leadership of Presidential daughter and Davao City Mayor Sara “Inday” Duterte.“
It takes a lot of discernment to leave a job that I am passionate about. But my decision to help and join in the administration of Tatay Erning is perhaps my response to a higher calling of public service.
It is a tough job, really,” Lapina, a peace and rights advocate, said.
When asked what prompted her to resign as Peace 911 focal person, Elisa said she wants to help her mayor-father lead a “corrupt-free” governance while giving the constituents of Santo Tomas the services they had long been deserved.
“My father wants to leave a legacy of corrupt-free governance. Of course, we don’t do it overnight or by Thano’s snap. Removing corruption in the bureaucracy is a painstaking step to begin with. But it has to be done,” she said.
“My father wants to leave a legacy of corrupt-free governance. Of course, we don’t do it overnight or by Thano’s snap. Removing corruption in the bureaucracy is a painstaking step to begin with.
But it has to be done,” she said. She would later confirm cases of corruption involving some municipal officials and admit that it would take time to do more intelligence gathering to build up cases against them.
“Not under my father’s term,” she warned, adding that malpractices performed by municipal officials and conduct unbecoming by wayward employees must be fixed to allow the delivery of public services unhampered.
“I think the message is clear and that is we need to exact a high and exacting standards of honesty in public service. Tatay Erning’s political will to stamp out corruption in the municipal government’s bureaucracy remains resolute,” Elisa said.
While critics of her mayor-father say that she’s the “unseen hand” behind the major revamp in terms of the structure, assignments and affairs in the municipal government, Elisa, with equal bravado, said:
“Let them rant ‘till Kingdom come. They are entitled to their opinion, anyway.”She described the changes his mayor-father implemented since he took his office as the town mayor last July 1 as nothing but “compliance to all the law.”“We only corrected what needs to be corrected. It is expected that along the process, some will squeak because the new bureaucracy won’t favor them,” she said. New brand of public service
What inspired her perhaps was her motivation to render a new brand of public service emanating from her mayor-father’s politics of performance. “A government that is sensitive to the needs of people.
is what drives me and motivates me each day,” she said. “The people of Santo Tomas should feel that the government is working for them,” she said. Prior to her assumption as the municipal administrator, Lapina spent 20 years in the government service.
She was designated by Presidential Daughter and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte as one of the members of Davao City Advisory Committee on Peace and Development until appointed to be the focal person of Davao City’s Peace 911.
She worked as a Computer Programmer back in 1999 in the local government unit of Davao.
She completed her Masters degree in Business Administration (MBA) at the University of Mindanao as a working student
Shen then pursued Bachelor of Law and passed the Bar exam in 2012. In 2012, Lapina was appointed as Attorney IV in the City Legal office by then Mayor and now President Rodrigo Roa Duterte.
Reprinted with minor revisions, originally published in Municipal Government of Santo Tomas, Davao del Norte, September 16, 2019
DAVAO CITY Mayor Sara Z. Duterte is set to lead the launching of the “Peace Economy” initiative on November 20 in the far-flung Paquibato district, with the goal of stimulating economic development based on the sharing of resources.
A statement by the city’s peace and order arm, the Peace 911, on Monday said “Peace Economy” inititive aims to highlight the partnership between the farmers of Barangay Malabog here and Helen’s Farms of NCCC.
The campaign, Peace 911 said, is anchored on the slogan “Sharing Wealth”.
“The partnership is aimed at getting a high price for the producers and a low price for the consumers,” the statement said.
Barangay Captain Jessie Areja of Malabog underscored the importance of developing a partnership between the producers of vegetables in Paquibato and Helen’s Farms, which acts as a marketing intermediary of farm products.
Irene M. Santiago, peace adviser to the local government, said the “Peace Economy” is a system for producing, distributing and consuming goods and services that leads to an improved quality of life for producers in local communities, consumers in rural and urban areas, as well as distributors who connect producers to the market.
Santiago said that “Peace Econom”y is characterized by “sustainable local production and democratic ownership, limited number of intermediaries between the producers and consumers, responsible consumption, environmental sustainability, and human security.”
“The Peace Economy is a system of wealth sharing,” she said.
Meanwhile, Benjamin A. Lizada, president of the Restaurant Owners Association of Davao City, urged the heads of restaurants, hotels, resorts and supermarkets to join the campaign to link producers of various goods and services in Paquibato with the Davao market.
Lizada heads the core group of business people who are collaborating with Peace 911 to make the “Peace Economy” concept a reality. (PNA)
Out from the clamps of communist idealism, former Salugpongan pupils do not mind attending classes in a makeshift classroom supervised by the Department of Education (DepEd) in a far-away village in Paquibato District.
Colonel Nolasco Mempin, the commander of the 3rd Infantry Brigade, said the makeshift classroom is just temporary to bridge the education needs of 51 primary pupils in Sitio Gatungon, Barangay Tapak, Paquibato District.
This will also ease the pupils’ burden of walking for hours to go to the nearest DepEd school in Paquibato.
“This temporary school donated by some of our partner stakeholders like UBI (Ulticon Builders Inc), Peace 911 and DepEd will surely address the lack of classrooms with teachers in far-flung areas,” he said.
The makeshift classroom was activated on Tuesday weeks after the suspension of Salugpongan Ta Tanu Igkanungon schools in the city for lack of government permits and non-accreditation by DepEd.
Mempin said there is a need to facilitate the proper education of the pupils in DepEd schools.
Besides the lack of permit and accreditation from DepEd, the Salugpongan schools were also alleged training grounds and the site of recruitment by the New People’s Army (NPA).
“The CPP-NPA- NDF targets the communities for their exploitation and recruitment in their extremism and struggles to topple existing and change it with their Marxist-Leninist-Maoist socialism form of government through the Salugpungan schools,” Mempin said.
If schools do not have permits, accredited or recognized by DepEd, pupils of said schools could not proceed to higher grade level. CIO
A MOTHER’S DAY SPECIAL FEATURE
BY PATMEI BELLO RUIVIVAR
Alice Thomas Ellis, a prolific British essayist and author, has a famous quote about men, women, and war: “Men were made for war. Without it they wondered greyly about, getting under the feet of women, who were trying to organize the really important things of life.”
This quote rings true in Davao City this Mother’s Day as women and mothers led by Davao City Mayor Sara Z. Duterte-Carpio sounded the siren call symbolizing the city government’s integrated and comprehensive response to the state of emergency that is Paquibato last Thursday, May 10, 2018.
Dubbed Davao Peace 911, it will serve as the “gatekeeper” of all programs, projects and activities related to peace and development in Paquibato. It will make sure that any intervention done in the communities there are reflective of the articulated needs of the people and efforts of all agencies are integrated and effectively coordinated rather than implemented in silos.
This idea is borne out of a woman’s impatience of seeing Paquibato unchanged for many years and of a mother’s exasperation with senseless violence that continues to claim innocent lives.
“What is happening in Paquibato is an emergency and it is unacceptable to me that this goes on without resolution, without an integrated response,” declares Mayor Duterte-Carpio.
Paquibato, the largest district in Davao City at 66,242 hectares representing more than 27 percent of the city’s total land area, has been a war zone for decades and its more than 40,000 residents in the13 barangays have been perennially caught in the crossfire between government troops and the Communist New People’s Army (NPA).
The mayor, who was speaking from her heart as a frustrated yet determined mother of three young children, appealed to the people gathered at the Paquibato Elementary School gym last Thursday to help her stop the physical violence that turns women into widows and children into orphans.
“As the city’s mayor, I am the one who takes responsibility when we fail to protect lives and properties in Davao even if it is not directly my fault. I am the one who comforts the widows and provides support to the orphaned children. It is not enough to just say sorry, I have to do something. I must solve the problem,” she explains.
She has offered to talk peace, to find a mutually acceptable solution to the conflict with the communist rebels. She has offered them jobs and livelihood, even jobs that would still allow them to use their guns. She has tried to build roads and bridges and bring technology, but contractors and investors are too afraid to go into the conflict zone and risk having their equipment burned and their safety compromised.
Exasperated, the mayor turns the table around and tells the people of Paquibato: “Wala sa ako ang tubag, nasa inyo.” (The answer does not lie with me, but with you.)
She added that, perhaps, her perceived bias against the communists and her stubborn streak of having things done her way does not make her an effective messenger for peace in Paquibato. Thus, she created the Davao City Local Peace Committee (DC Peace) during the peace month of September last year to give it one more try.
Through the DC Peace, a committee composed of government and civil society leaders appointed by the mayor to help her find creative solutions to the root cause of conflict in Paquibato, the city government now has a mechanism where people can participate in local peace and development efforts.
DC Peace came up with Panag-AMBIT Paquibato or Panagsabot Alang sa Malampusong Bago-ong Inisyatibo para sa Taga-Paquibato, which is essentially an agreement and collaboration among different sectors and barangays on peace and development initiatives for the benefit of the people of Paquibato. It is peacebuilding from the grassroots that ensures people’s participation and ownership of the peace and development process.
Davao City Mayor’s Peace Adviser Irene Morada Santiago helped develop the framework for Peace 911 and she laid out its three principles during her speech at last Thursday’s launch.
First, it must address inequality, which Santiago considers the root cause of violence. The people of Paquibato have not had equal access and opportunities to the growth and development Davao City has achieved because of their remote location and the armed conflict. Peace 911 will make sure Paquibato residents get all the extra help they need from the government to get them to the same level as other Davaoeños in the city.
Second, it must have the broadest possible participation of all the people in Paquibato from the conceptualization of plans and programs to their full implementation. Women, who are half of the population, are brought into the peace process as full and equal partners. Women’s invisibility and marginalization in the process is the voice of history talking, according to Santiago. She added that “the voice of history is not the true voice of the people.” Through Peace 911, the people of Paquibato will be able to change the narrative from women as mere victims of violence and underdevelopment to agents of change and leaders of peace.
Third, Peace 911 is “big and fast, not small and slow.” It means the response needed must involve big investments and quick response. So the usual government process of piecemeal interventions and slow bureaucratic processes would not do for Paquibato, which has been in a state of emergency (although not declared officially) for a long time now.
“The secret to peace is simple. It is not easy but simple. The secret to peace is us,” said Santiago, quoting William Ury, a leading expert in peace negotiation and mediation.
Following the three principles of Peace 911, the DC Peace embarked on community consultations from December 2017 to February 2018 in the 13 barangays of Paquibato district.
The people have identified their major concerns which include fear and insecurity, marginalization, discrimination, exploitation, lack of access to basic services, and maldevelopment.
The people of Paquibato have also proposed six major solutions to address their urgent concerns:
1. Create and implement a strategic and integrated agriculture (including agri-tourism) development plan to provide livelihood opportunities and bring inclusive economic growth in Paquibato;
2. Establish a community-based health and wellness program to ensure a healthy human resource pool and save community resources from expensive medical costs;
3. Build local capacities for peace including inter-cultural harmony to sustain peace in Paquibato;
4. Enhance women’s participation for public office to ensure that half of the population are meaningfully included in the decision-making process;
5. Implement a youth development program through sports and the arts as well as a catch-up plan for Paquibato children; and
6. Create an Indigenous Peoples Affairs Office in Paquibato to ensure that indigenous communities are not marginalized, discriminated against and exploited in the peace and development process.
Paquibato has set clear short-term and long-term goals. Immediately, they aim to build “a climate of safety and security for every child, woman and man in Paquibato.” Strategically, they aim to “change the pattern of development in Paquibato by using a human-centered approach taking into account cultural diversity and aiming for self-reliance, social justice, and participatory decision-making.”
Now that an inclusive peace framework has been clearly set, an entrepreneurial aspect needs to be brought in to sustain and multiply the peace dividends.
Entrepreneur and Davao City Councilor Marissa Salvador-Abella of the second congressional district, where Paquibato belongs, has initiated an innovative program that will address the practical and strategic needs of the residents there.
“If Peace 911 is the emergency treatment to stabilize Paquibato, Peace, Inc. is the regimen that will nourish and sustain the people towards inclusive economic growth and lasting peace,” Salvador-Abella explains.
Peace, Inc. stands for Paquibato Economic Advancement through Crops Expansion. It is a hybrid of a cooperative and a corporation, adapting the best practices of both to make it a more responsive agricultural social enterprise.
It is made up of 22 cooperatives with members from indigenous communities and “millennial farmers,” meaning the new generation of young and entrepreneurial farmers in Paquibato. They incorporated themselves and invited agriculture, technology, business, and finance experts to join them on the board to run their agricultural ventures as a world-class enterprise.
Peace, Inc. will assist Paquibato cooperatives to access financing and technical assistance from banks, micro-finance institutions, and government agencies. It will also serve as consolidator of agricultural products produced by Paquibato farmers and give them access to local and international markets. It will facilitate capacity building and organizational development of the member cooperatives to always make them competitive but culturally and gender sensitive in the way they do business.
Councilor Salvador-Abella sees the development of a 25-hectare economic zone producing high-value crops like cacao, coffee, coconut, and abaca in Barangay Salapawan to jumpstart Paquibato’s inclusive economic growth. She said that the ecozone will have manufacturing plants for processing so farmers get more value from the products they produce.
She has also identified another 25-hectare area for livestock production and tapped investors and markets for them. She has also convinced the Don Bosco Technical School to establish a 10-hectare training and technical school complex in Paquibato to develop the community’s human resources.
“As a mother, food and livelihood are important components to peace for me and that is why my thrust as chair of the committee on agriculture in the City Council has been centered on food and the empowerment of small farmers to become social entrepreneurs,” Salvador-Abella shares.
Integrating and coordinating peace and development efforts of Davao Peace 911 is the task of Atty. Elisa Lapina, Davao City’s Legal Officer. She is the focal person appointed by Mayor Duterte-Carpio to make sure its implementation runs according to plan and consistent with what the people of Paquibato wants.
Atty. Lapina is one rare breed of lawyer who brings creativity and heart into her work. She just does not make sure everything is legal, she also cares that it is moral and just.
And her infusing last Thursday’s Peace 911 launch with “hugot lines” (heartfelt quotes) as a way of introducing each barangay in Paquibato reminds all present that peace is deeply personal, too. It is the desire of each man, woman, and child. It is a dream of every family, every community. It is a deep expression of hope. And it is hope that moves people to change and to bring about change in their communities.
The start of the video that introduces Peace 911 features this “hugot line”: “Ang gusto ng pangulo ay pagbabago kaya andito kaming mga tao sa distrito ng Paquibato, ayaw na ng gulo; magsimula na tayo, kaya halina kayong mga taga-gobyerno, magtulungan tayo para sa tunay na pagbabago.” (The president wants change that is why we, the people of Paquibato, reject violence and want to start new; so we invite the government to work with us to bring genuine change.)
The dream of peace has always been elusive in war-torn Paquibato. But change is here now and it is the women and mothers who are leading it. Proving the argument that when you add women to any equation, you change everything. (With author’s permission. First published in the MINDANAO TIMES)