Friday, September 25, 2009

The Ninth Ray and our quest for peace in Mindanao

Senate Bill (SB) 3307 or the Ninth Ray bill was approved by the Senate and House of Representatives last week during the bicameral conference where differences between the senate and house versions were reconciled.


What it proposes to do is to add a Ninth Ray on the sun symbol in our flag to represent the Muslim nation (yes, there was/is a Muslim nation) that fought against the successive hoards of Spanish and American colonizers.

Here's an excerpt from Gordon's press release on the subject:
"This is a great step in recognizing the fact that we had Muslims such as Lapu-Lapu, Sultan Kudarat, Amai Pakpak, Sorongan, who kept fighting the Spaniards long before this country thought of a revolution against Spain. This would foster unity, make sure that nobody is excluded. If we are to have national unity in this country it must begin in our flag, it must be symbolized in our flag," he said.

"We take an amendment of the law here but we actually amend the mindset of our countrymen and bring the nation back to its original posture, one that will not accept tyranny, one that will oppose tyranny. And we should give credit where credit is due," he added.
Some people thought it would be funny to make jokes about the proposed legislation and others have registered their opposition to it.

What these people don't know and don't realize is that Gordon didn't file the bill out of the blue.  Certain groups representing our Muslim countrymen lobbied for the Ninth Ray bill and making fun of this bill is like making fun of those who seriously think that it will rid us of a historical resentment some Muslim Filipinos have against mainstream Philippines.

Of the whole lot of those who reacted to the Ninth Ray Bill, Ill comment on the views that fellow bloggers Smoke and Indolent Indio have put forward. Smoke's satire on the proposed bill actually led to a very interesting rendition of the Philippine flag; and Indolent Indio says he finds it superficial compared to bringing the development needed in Mindanao.

Smoke, a girl who got my goat weeks ago and hasn't returned it yet, wrote:
"Dick Gordon is a moron. But he’s a smart moron. Haha. After all, there are morons and then there are morons who can disguise their blatant bid for the Muslim vote with historical revisionism!"
Indolent Indio, also wrote:
"Mindanao will still have to struggle with underdevelopment, poverty, and an insurgency caused by the two, but, hey, they’re on the flag now. So, hooray. Let it not be said that Imperial Manila does not care about Mindanao."
Before I go into what I have to say about Smoke and Indolent Indio's valid views on the Ninth Ray bill, let me ask, "Just how important is the Philippine flag to you?"  Let me ask you, when the TV station you are watching signs off for the night, do you stand up and place your right hand on your left breast?  Do you know the words to Lupang Hinirang or Bayang Magiliw (as it known to other 'patriots')?

Do we really care about any of our country's symbols? How much do we really care? Think about it.

Smoke, despite calling Gordon names, has a valid point and so does Indolent Indio.

Taken alone, the Ninth Ray bill is meaningless.  It is superficial as the whole flag and all of our nation's symbols are superficial.  If you're not convinced that it is superficial, just look around and see if anyone regards any of our nation's symbols as with the respect that is due to these symbols.  The Heraldic code, apart from articulating in words what our country's symbols are, also prescribe the manner in which these symbols must be treated.

If I understand it correctly, the flag and all of its elements, ought to be displayed and used in a certain manner.  But of late, I've been seeing very stylized renditions of the the flag and we see these renditions on T-shirts.  The Philippine flag, our most sacred symbol, has become FASHION MERCHANDISE.

If you haven't read the heraldic code and are at a loss about what I am talking about, here are the relevant sections of that code:


A. Design of the National Flag

SEC. 4. The flag of the Philippines shall be blue, white and red with an eight-rayed golden-yellow sun and three five-pointed stars, as consecrated and honored by the people.

H. Specifications of the National Flag

SEC. 27. The flag shall have the following proportions. The width of the flag, 1; the length of the flag, 2; and sides of the white triangle, 1.

SEC. 28. The technical specifications shall be as follows:

The blue color shall bear Cable No. 80173; the white color, Cable No. 80001; the red color, Cable No. 80108; and the golden yellow, Cable No. 80068.

SEC. 29. In order to establish uniform criteria in the making of our national flag and to guarantee its durability by the use of quality materials, the following standards and procedures shall be observed:

(a) All requisitions for the purchase of the Philippine National Flag must be based on strict compliance with the design, color, craftsmanship and material requirements of the Government;

(b) All submitted samples of flags by accredited suppliers offered for purchase for government use shall be evaluated as to design, color and craftsmanship specifications by the Institute, through its Heraldry and Display Section, which shall stamp its approval or disapproval on the canvass reinforcement of the flag
sample submitted. The samples shall be sent to the Institute by the requisitioning office, not by the flag supplier; and

(c) The Industrial Technology Development Institute (ITDI) or the Philippine Textile Research Institute (PTRI) of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) shall evaluate the quality of material of all flag samples and certify whether the fabric for the blue, white, red and golden yellow colors, including the canvas submitted, conforms to government requirement as to quality of the material. The samples shall be sent annually to the ITDI/PTRI by the manufacturer. The laboratory test results shall be submitted by the said office to the Institute.

SEC. 30. All deliveries of the flags requisitioned by the government shall be inspected by the requisitioning agency's internal inspector and by the Commission on Audit (COA) using the flag stamped approved by the Institute as reference.

SEC. 31. In carrying out its responsibilities under Section 4 hereof, the Institute, COA, the ITDI/PTRI shall prepare guidelines to be approved by the Office of the President.

SEC. 32. All government agencies and instrumentalities shall ensure that the requirements under this Act with respect to the standards, requisitions and delivery of the national flag are strictly complied with.

SEC. 33. All departments, agencies, offices, and instrumentalities of the government, government-owned or
controlled corporations, local government units, including barangays, shall include in their annual budgets the necessary outlay for the purchase of the national flag.

I. Prohibited Acts

SEC. 34. It shall be prohibited:

(a) To mutilate, deface, defile, trample on or cast contempt or commit any act or omission casting dishonor or ridicule upon the flag or over its surface;

(b) To dip the flag to any person or object by way of compliment or salute;

(c) To use the flag:

(1) As a drapery, festoon, tablecloth;
(2) As covering for ceilings, walls, statues or other objects;
(3) As a pennant in the hood, side, back and top of motor
(4) As a staff or whip;
(5) For unveiling monuments or statues; and

(6) As trademarks, or for industrial, commercial or agricultural labels or designs.

(d) To display the flag:

(1) Under any painting or picture;
(2) Horizontally face-up. It shall always be hoisted aloft and be allowed to fall freely;
(3) Below any platform; or

(4) In discotheques, cockpits, night and day clubs, casinos, gambling joints and places of vice or where frivolity prevails.

(e) To wear the flag in whole or in part as a costume or uniform;
(f) To add any word, figure, mark, picture, design, drawings, advertisement, or imprint of any nature on the flag;

(g) To print, paint or attach representation of the flag on handkerchiefs, napkins, cushions and other articles of

(h) To display in public any foreign flag, except in embassies and other diplomatic establishments, and in offices of international organizations;

(i) To use, display or be part of any advertisement or infomercial; and

(j) To display the flag in front of buildings or offices occupied by aliens.

Now consider if the pictures below conform to the use of the Philippine flag as prescribed by the Heraldic code.


Now, as for Gordon's Ninth Ray bill and Smoke's contention that it is a "blatant bid for the Muslim vote with historical revisionism".  She stacked the cards against Gordon by conveniently ignoring all the other things that the Senator has done in an effort to bring peace to places in conflict in Mindanao.

Part of Gordon's thoughts on bringing peace to conflicted areas in Mindanao is solving the root causes of conflict -- poverty and isolation.  Gordon has, on his own, sought to apply solutions to poverty in Mindanao and sought to create policies of inclusion for people living in conflicted areas in Muslim Mindanao.

As far back as the time when he was still Subic Bay Chairman, Gordon told FedEx to set up spoke in Gensan so that Tuna from that area can be shipped by air-freight to Japan -- this had an impact on the livelihood of fishermen there.

As tourism secretary, when countries all over the world were slapping the Philippine left and right with travel bans, Gordon the ONLY VOICE that opposed these travel bans.  He even brought people to places blighted by kidnapping and conflict to prove that these areas were not WAR ZONES as they are often described by the press -- our press and the press of other countries.

As Senator, one of the first bills that he pursued was the scheduling of the ARMM elections and in 2008, he pushed for the Automation of the ARMM elections -- ensuring our Muslim countrymen's participation in our country's democratic processes.

As Red Cross Chairman, he launched the Fruits of Hope project which sought to give farmers in conflict areas livelihood by selling their produce in Manila.  This was done at the height of conflict in Basilan and Sulu.

More than these actions, he has consistently been kicking the government's rear in an attempt to drive it to provide a full court press of government services to places like Basilan, Sulu, and other places where there is conflict.  He has, time and again, berated the COA to do its job in ARMM to ensure that government services are being delivered.

I am sure I must have left an inordinate number things out in this preliminary list of what Gordon has done to bring peace to Mindanao, but at the core of all of these things is a drive to forge peace through measures that haven't been tried before.

We've talked with Muslim separatists and till now, that talk breaks down -- then fighting resumes.  We've also tried eradicating Muslim separatists and taken to branding certain elements as TERRORISTS, launching tons of bombs and bullets.  This didn't succeed either.

Perhaps the NINTH RAY, AS AS SYMBOL of a commitment to forging more policies of inclusion and more policies of bringing the peace will get us further than all of the talk and conflict that has been applied to resolving conflict in Mindanao.

The NINTH RAY, perhaps, can be seen as Gordon's promise to bring peace to Mindanao.

And SMOKE, there is nothing wrong with courting votes, there is a wrong way to go about it (false claims in political ads) or real action in the real world.

So far, despite those who made fun of the Ninth Ray Bill, there are people who celebrated its progress in legislature.


Gordon says, measure would further promote national unity

The approval of the Senate and the House of Representatives in a bicameral conference of the proposal adding a ninth ray to the sun in the Philippine Flag has elated different sectors of the Muslim community.
Senator Richard J. Gordon (Ind.), author of Senate Bill 3307 proposing the ninth ray, said Muslim Filipinos welcomed the bicam approval because it is expected to further promote respect, understanding, and acceptance between Muslim and non-Muslim Filipinos.

"This measure would further promote national unity. Our Muslim brothers hailed this act. They wanted to celebrate it for the Eid'l Fitr Festival last Monday because this is a great step in recognizing their role in the fight for the nation's independence. We owe it to our Muslim brothers who have contributed many things but have become totally marginalized," he said.

Atty. Pangnal Datu Ramos, legal counsel of the Bangsa Moro Civil Society and former Vice Governor of Lanao del Sur, said that Gordon's initiative displays his statesmanship and respect for the Filipino Muslims.

"The Bangsa Moro people will never forget Senator Dick Gordon's consistent advocacy of recognizing the heroic struggle for freedom of the Bangsa Moro people that led to the approval of the 9th ray in our country's national flag. Senator Gordon displays his statesmanship and respect for the Filipino Muslims, sorely lacking in our national leaders. May his tribe increase," Datu Ramos said.

For his part, Congressman Munir Arbison of the 2nd District of Sulu stated that "the people of Sulu thank Senator Gordon for his bill honoring Filipino Muslims who, history tells, have fought foreign intruders for hundreds of years to protect and preserve our unique and inspiring way of life."

Meanwhile, Datu Norodin Alonto Lucman, a Moro Historian, said that having the ninth ray makes him feel good "to be part of the Republic."

"I am so proud that after more than a century of non-recognition of our heroic ancestors who gave up their lives for the freedom of our country, the Senate finally added a 9th ray to the flag in honor of their heroism and historical role in the independence of our country," Lucman said.

Those who also expressed their elation over the measure include Bai Samirah Gutoc of the Young Moro Professionals Network; Ambassador Abul Khayr D. Alonto, Moro Leader and co-founder of the Moro National Liberation Front; Datu Haron Demarunsing of the Muslim Traders Group of Zamboanga; Assemblyman Zia Alonto Adiong of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Regional Legislative Assembly; Datu Mohammad Dimaporo Dimalna, Vice Mayor of Binidayan, Lanao del Sur; Atty. Aymee Biruar-Metmug from a group of young Moro lawyers; Norodin Bin Hashim, an overseas Filipino Worker in Qatar who is a member of the 9th Ray Mindanao Movement; and Datu Drieza Lininding, a Moro youth leader.

Gordon said that the warm welcome of many Muslims to the ninth ray implies that they already feel that they are gradually being respected, understood, and accepted.

He pointed out that it is important to recognize the efforts and contributions of the Muslim Filipinos in the country's history so that they would not feel marginalized and Filipinos would be united regardless of creed.

"With their courage, bravery and integrity, our Muslim heroes left an imprint on national history that, at the very least, must be given due recognition in the most heraldic item of national importance--the Philippine flag," Gordon said.

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