Archive for 2008

LFS-Lanao, STAND-IIT and LKM-Lanao join the evacuees in Duyog Ramadhan in Munai, Lanao del Norte

October 6, 2008

LFS-Lanao, STAND-IIT and LKM-Lanao

join the evacuees in Duyog Ramadhan

in Munai, Lanao del Norte

When will the war come to an end for this boy and the hundreds of thousands of evacuees in Munai and elsewhere in Mindanao?

On the toad to Munai

——-

Report from LFS Lanao:

Thirty members of the LFS-Lanao, STAND-IIT and LKM-Lanao travelled four hours of rugged road from Iligan to Munai, Lanao del Norte, to join our Muslim brothers and sisters in their culmination of the Holy Month of Ramadhan on September 30, 2008. We were joined by the National president of Suara Bangsamoro, Ms. Amirah Ali Lidasan.

Aside from joining the Duyog Ramdhan, we were there also in preparation for the NATIONAL INTERFAITH HUMANITARIAN MISSION on October 21-25, 2008 in Lanao del Norte.

Because we were new in the place and because most of us are Christians, the thousands of evacuees initially were not very enthusiastic. But during the Solidarity gathering where we presented cultural presentations related to the Muslim culture, we were warmly welcomed. They asked us to sing one song after another that we almost run out of songs to sing. The speech of Suara Bangsamoro national presdient Ms.Amirah  Lidasan helped  in making the evacuees understand the causes of their present problems.

In the morning, we had breakfast with the evacues and organized parlor games for the children while preparatory work for the humanitarian mission in late October was conducted.

Munai is a highly-miklitarized community crawling with soldiers; nevertheless we learned to love it because of the people we met and because it is such a great, cool and beautiful place.

Interviewing the evacuees

National president of Suara Bangsamoro, Ms. Amirah Ali Lidasan.

Entertaining the evacuees with songs.
LFS-IIT Chair Marvin Urey Antiquina with the children of Munai.JPG

Cultural Presentations for the evacuees, parlor games for the kids.

(Arkibong Bayan)

Death of an NPA guerrilla

October 6, 2008

The last time I saw him in Davao City about four years ago I think, he looked gaunt. Too gaunt, in fact. He had just come down from the mountains and, as he would often do, was touching base with friends, many of them journalists like me who had covered him and the progressive movement when he was the secretary-general of the leftist Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan or New Patriotic Alliance) in Southern Mindanao.

His skin also grew darker, and I joked that Biolink, a skin-whitening lotion, hadn’t done much for him. How could it? he said. In the mountains, where Val Mante Jr. had repaired to after years and years of being the public face of the Left in Davao, the last thing you cared about is your skin.

Val, you see, was a New People’s Army guerrilla. After legally fighting the government on the streets, he probably figured that a more meaningful struggle — albeit underground and fraught with danger — could be fought to protect the welfare of poor Filipinos who eke out a miserable living in the countryside, where the defenseless and voiceless needed intellectuals from the middle class like himself to counter a state that was becoming more and more oppressive.

It seemed as though becoming an NPA guerrilla was inevitable for Val, an expression of a higher level of commitment to a cause, if ever there was one. It was a decision that did not shock his friends. To us, it was simply a matter of time before Val decided to bear arms.

To be sure, many would scoff at Val’s decision to become an NPA and the things he stood for, dismissing this as stupidity, a mindless commitment to an ideology long discredited. Perhaps. But Val, during the times that we interacted while he was already with the NPA, would often impress on me that this “dead ideology” is far from deceased in the poor rural areas where peasants are locked in a never-ending struggle with their landlords. In these areas, for instance, a real agrarian-revolution was taking place, supplanting the bogus one being implemented by the government.

As I have personally seen in the many years that I covered the communist movement in the Philippines — and having actually camped with Val one time to do this story — this “dead ideology” is the one thing that gives many of these abused masses the hope that they couldn’t find elsewhere — hope for justice, for a decent life, and for an existence free from the abuses of the state.

Val didn’t harbor any illusion that he and his fellow communists would take over the country anytime soon. “It will probably not happen in my lifetime,” he told me once years ago. It didn’t matter to him whether the revolution would succeed or fail; as far as he was concerned, it was the right thing to do.

Whether one agrees with Val’s ideology or not, nothing can dispute the fact that, in the past three decades, the absence of good governance and the overwhelming dominance of abuse, corruption and hunger in our national life have pushed many poor Filipinos in the countryside and elsewhere to seek refuge in the bosom of the revolution, into the arms of comrades like Val And for 10 long years, Val was with them, right to the very end.

Val Mante Jr. died of a kidney illness on Sept. 22. He was 57.

Rubi del Mundo, spokesperson of the National Democratic Front in Southern Mindanao issued a statement about Val on Wednesday. It read in part:

Coming from lower middle class origins, Ka Val was a consummate activist, instructor, organizer, untiring mass leader, poet, literary writer, a friend, comrade and a dedicated member of the Communist Party of the Philippines. Having spent more than half of his life aboveground as an activist — from being a progressive seminarian and youth activist in the turbulent 1970s to being a human rights worker in the 1980s and as secretary general of the militant Bagong Alyansang Makabayan in Davao City, Ka Val decided to move on from the boundaries of legal democratic struggle.

Ka Val joined the New People’s Army in the late 1990s and spent a decade full of hard struggle, in loving and earnest service with the masses of Southern Mindanao. Ka Val, ever the practical and hardworking cadre, did not mind the intermittent fever he was suffering since last week and instead told comrades — who were worried and who were pressing him to seek medical treatment — not to fuss over him because he was fine. Ka Val finally relented, endured almost 14 hours of travel atop a hammock carried by comrades, and finally sought medical treatment at a hospital in Davao City Sunday (Sept. 21). He never fully recovered. The next day, after three attempts of resuscitation, doctors declared him dead.

The revolutionary movement and the masses would surely miss Ka Val, whose life was a stark example of loving sacrifice and whose death is as heavy as the mountains in the countryside. PinoyPress.net/Bulatlat

Cuesta family tries hard to cope with journalist-father’s murder

October 6, 2008

Written by Karen Papellero
Monday, 29 September 2008
var sburl8220 = window.location.href; var sbtitle8220 = document.title;var sbtitle8220=encodeURIComponent(“Cuesta family tries hard to cope with journalist-father’s murder”); var sburl8220=decodeURI(“http://zumel.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=536″); sburl8220=sburl8220.replace(/amp;/g, “”);sburl8220=encodeURIComponent(sburl8220);He loved so much his work as a journalist. He could not imagine himself doing any other job. One can say he died doing what he loved the most.”

This was how Gloria Cuesta described her husband, Dennis Cuesta, the Radio Mindanao Network (RMN) broadcaster who was shot last Aug. 4 in General Santos City by motorcycle-riding assassins near a commercial complex. He died after five days in coma.

Mrs. Cuesta shared that as early as June of this year, Dennis has already received threats and even admitted that he is “going against a big fish” in the issues that he tackled in his program. She said he did not elaborate who the “big fish” is.

Up until his death, he was program director of DXMD-RMN General Santos and hosted the station’s morning news and commentary program, Straight to the Point. The post in the General Santos station was a promotion given to him this year. He was formerly a reporter and field correspondent at the RMN station in Davao City.

“I told him to resign from the job or at least to transfer to another area because I was really concerned for his safety. But he said that he could not do any other job except that of a journalist,” Mrs. Cuesta said.

She also revealed that when Dennis realized that the threats were getting serious – unidentified men “tailing” him from work to his house and threatening messages being sent to his cellphone – he had to change boarding houses at least twice.

The Cuestas’ home is in Digos, Davao del Sur. Dennis rented a room in General Santos and had to go home to his family every weekend.

But he never asked any help from his colleagues regarding the threats to his security. Mrs. Cuesta said that Dennis did not want to bother anyone with his troubles. She does not know of any documentation or record of the threats her husband received.

She never realized the importance of keeping track of the said threats up until that fateful afternoon when she received a phone call from a friend informing her that Dennis was shot and already in coma due to a gunshot wound in the head.

He died Aug. 9, two days after another RMN broadcaster was also shot by motorcycle-riding assassins.

Martin Roxas, 32, based in Roxas, Capiz and a broadcaster for DyVR-RMN was shot just a few kilometers from the radio station in broad daylight last Aug. 7. He died on the spot.

According to the records of the Media Safety Office of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), Cuesta’s death brought to 60 the number of journalists killed since 2001, under the Arroyo administration and 96 since 1986.

Cuesta is the fifth journalist killed this year, according to NUJP.

After-shocks

Dennis Cuesta left behind seven children. The youngest, a two-year old girl, still asks Mrs. Cuesta whether Papa is coming home this weekend.

Yet, the family had to contend not only with the loss of a father but also with events brought about by the brutal killing.

Mrs. Cuesta shared that neighbors and friends told her that during the burial of her husband and even a few days after, unknown men were seen near the Cuestas’ home, asking about the family. They were allegedly from General Santos City but did not say why they were there. She immediately requested for protection from the local police due to the incident.

She also had to take time off from her work as a government employee to attend to the legal actions for the case. She had to leave the kids to her parents to attend the preliminary hearings at the Department of Justice (DoJ) office in Manila.

The preliminary hearings at the Justice Department was concluded last Sept. 26. However, the respondents to the case, including Police Inspector Redempto “Boy” Acharon, whom witnesses have pointed to as the alleged gunman in the killing together with one identified by his alias “Jerry”, have neither appeared in the hearings nor submitted counter-affidavits.

General Santos City Mayor Pedro Acharon, Jr. was also summoned to appear in the hearings by the DoJ but did not also respond, according to the office of State Prosecutor Misael Ladaga.

Inspector Redempto Acharon is a close relative of Mayor Acharon. The former has reportedly resigned from the police force after he was identified by the witnesses as a suspect. Presently, his whereabouts are still unknown, though unconfirmed reports said that he is still in General Santos City.

State Prosecutor Misael Ladaga however said that the purpose of the preliminary hearings- to establish probable cause, is not dependent on the counter affidavits of the respondents. His office is now submitting the case for resolution.

Still, the Cuesta family remains hopeful.

“Lisod tinuod ang ikaw mahabilin. Kinahanglan jud namo ang suporta sa uban. Maayo nalang nga gitabangan mi sa iyang mga kauban sa RMN ug uban pang taga-media” (It’s really difficult to be left behind. We really need all the support we can get. It’s a good thing that his colleagues in RMN and also other members of the media have helped us), Mrs Cuesta said.

Currently, Mrs. Cuesta said that she is busy completing the requirements needed to apply for the scholarship program offered by the NUJP for the children of slain journalists.

“Padayon lang gud gihapon. Mao man ang hagit sa kinabuhi” (We must still go on. This is the challenge of life), she said. Bulatlat

Gloria Arroyo does a Sarah Palin

October 6, 2008

Is President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo doing a Sarah Palin?

I ask this in light of the insistence by Press Secretary Jesus Dureza that the press conference that was to have taken place last Oct. 2 had to be limited to economic issues and that the members of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (Focap) had to provide in advance the questions to be asked the president.

The Focap, through its president Jason Gutierrez of Agence France-Presse, balked at the preconditions set by Malacañang. Rightly so, I should say.

“The president is the nation’s chief political leader and as such the public would be interested in knowing where she is taking the country as well as her initiatives in response to outstanding political issues,” Gutierrez wrote Dureza after Malacañang canceled the event. “As members of the media, we in Focap see our role as the conveyor of the president’s message to the nation, be they political or not.”

Gutierrez added: “As a matter of principle upon which Focap was founded more than 30 years ago under martial law, and as responsible members of the press, we strongly object to being party to any form of media management, prior restraint or censorship. Fencing off certain subjects for discussion with the president does not bode well for press freedom.”

Dureza wrote Gutierrez back to say that Focap had misunderstood Malacañang’s action and that requiring advance questions was not a way to manage or censor the press briefing, as Focap alleged, but so that the president can better prepare her answers.

Then Dureza let on in his letter – almost gleefully, as if to say “Suck on this, Focap!” — that the president was going to meet with members of the Manila Overseas Press Club on Oct. 3 in a meeting he described as on a “no attribution basis.” (What!? I can talk to the president but I can’t tell people I did? Drat.) Presumably, MOPC agreed to the Palace’s conditions. (I won’t debate how any self-respecting media group would agree to something like this. Then again, the MOPC, in the “about us” section of its website, can’t even get the name right of Carl Mydans, the legendary photojournalist from Life magazine, so there you go.)

Before we go any further, let me point out a couple of things:

1. Malacañang always screens not just the questions to be asked during press conferences with Arroyo but also who can ask the questions. It does this with the MOPC, as well as with the Malacañang press corps and other media groups.

2. Arroyo and the Focap has always had a rocky relationship. Arroyo has always resisted meeting with Focap. She apparently doesn’t enjoy being asked relevant, intelligent questions. In July 2005, Malacañang actually barred Focap members from joining an Arroyo press briefing at the Palace. Earlier, Malacañang had been furious that Focap had invited as guests in its forums mutineers and former Arroyo officials who had become critical of her.

Now back to Sarah Palin.

In case you’ve been livin’ under dem rocks the past two months, she’s the moose-huntin’, straight-talkin’ hockey mom from Wasilla, Alaska, who was handpicked by dat doggone ol’ mav’rick John McCain to be his runnin’ mate in the US elections. (Dat sent everyone ape shit, din’t it?) Dat Sarah girl din’t have nothin’ by way of profound intellect and real political experience (aside from a little mayorin’ here and some governorin’ there) and so the McCain camp thought it was wise to protect her from the likes of Katie Couric, who can ambush her with tough questions, such as what sort of mag’zines and noospapers Sarah reads. (Our gal Sarah, bless her heart, replied, “All of dem!” which floored poor Katie nat’rally because even she can’t get past the advertisements in People mag’zine, no sir.) Dem ‘publicans only want her to talk to jern’lists who can ask only harmless, stoopid questions. And fer good measure, those doggone ‘publicans had insisted she memorized sev’ral talkin’ points. You betcha she drilled-baby-drilled those talkin’ points into her head in time for the debate last Fridey, which many out there in the vast and cold state of Alaska — where she is an executive of, where Sarah can actually see dem Reds runnin’ ’round like headless chickens since dey discovered cap’talism – folks ‘cludin’ her huntin’ pal Joe (Sixpack, not Biden) thought she wonned fair and square.

I can understand why the McCain camp did what it did with Sarah Palin. As her interviews with Couric showed, she’s an airhead. A doggone airhead.

But Arroyo? She’s an economist. She taught economics at UP. Her whole political credential revolves around her being adept with economics. She went to the same school as Bill Clinton, for crying out loud! She should be able to parry the toughest questions.

Ah, but the key issue in this mini-flap are not the advance questions. The more important issue is the requirement that the Focap people cannot ask her political questions. To paraphrase a Focap member who posted his thoughts on the group’s message board, “Excuse me? She’s the president of a country and she doesn’t want political questions?”

(It’s like interviewing Moses and all you are allowed to talk about is his beard. What’s with the stick? “Sorry, can’t go there.” You actually parted the sea with that? “What part of confidential-due-to-biblical-security you don’t understand?” Did you actually talk to God? Why would he disguise himself as a burning bush? “Is your head hard enough to withstand this tablet?”)

We all know, of course, why this is so. As far as Malacañang is concerned, journalists can be pests. They can provoke people — especially hot-tempered and arrogant people like Arroyo — into doing something silly during a press briefing, like raising their voice, respond condescendingly to reporters or, heaven forbid, throw a cellphone at one of them.

Or worse, Arroyo can be painted into a corner on questions about her legitimacy and all the scandals facing her and her people.

I actually pity Jess Dureza, who is himself a former journalist. I’m sure he doesn’t want to censor the press (nudge-nudge wink-wink). But with a boss like Arroyo, the tendency is, apart from simply following her wishes, to try to minimize the damage she could do to herself. pinoypress.net

Pangasinan is Region I’s poorest province

October 6, 2008

BELIEVE IT OR NOT

MABINI– If you think Pangasinan is the most affluent and productive province, think again!

Pangasinan may be the biggest in terms of land area and population within the Ilocos Region, but it remains the poorest province in the entire region.

Based on the family threshold survey conducted by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in 2006, the province, one of the top rice producers, is fact, among the 20 poorest provinces in the country.

The results of the survey, called the 2006 Family Income and Expenditure Survey (FIES), was the basis of DSWD in identifying the towns of Mabini, Bolinao, Urbiztondo and Aguilar as among the poorest of the poor and should benefit from the government’s Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino (PPP).

Marlyn Peralta, assistant regional director of DSWD in Region 1, explained that the PPP is a poverty reduction strategy that provides grants to extremely poor households to improve their health, nutrition and education particularly of children aged zero to 14.

The program targets 300,000 households throughout the country.

These beneficiary-households will receive cash grants of P6,000 a year or P500 per month per household for health and nutrition expenses; and P3,000 for one school year or 10 months of P300 per month per child for their educational expenses.

The educational expenses are limited up to the third child of school age per family.

Peralta said DSWD is just starting the PPP in the four Pangasinan municipalities but she expressed hope that this will also be expanded in others towns of the other provinces in the region.

The PPP is being undertaken in coordination with the Department of Education, Department of Health and the local government units

Peralta said other agencies are being encouraged to get involved in the program since it takes a holistic approach to conquer poverty.—LM (SundayPunch)

Victim’s mom deplores gun policy for barangay chiefs

October 6, 2008

ALAMINOS CITY–The fear of possible abuse and misuse of the shotgun issued by the provincial government was lent credence with the recorded killing of a nurse last year.

The death of Gabriel Viray Bautista, 39, a Lucap resident, in the hands of barangay officials from neighboring Bani town, using a handgun issued by a congressman, was recalled by the victim’s mother, Clara Viray Bautista.

The 76-year old woman, dressed in black, wept bitterly before newsmen at a press conference called by Mayor Hernani Braganza on Thursday to discuss his latest advocacy: “No to shotguns and .45s”.

Her son was mercilessly gunned down on September 4, 2007 in front of the Meteor Garden Videoke Bar in Bani, by Bani barangay officials using a Caliber .45 pistol issued to one of the suspects under a similar program of 1st District Rep. Arthur Celeste, arming barangay captains.

“Many months in the past, the city suffered from violence. We do not want a repeat of that incident in our beloved city”, said Braganza fearing that more residents will fall victims with the recent arming of barangay captains in the province.

When asked why he did not raise his objection then, the mayor said he had warned against it but the media did not find it worthy as an issue then.

Three of the suspects now in police custody are Marcelo Tugas, barangay captain of Garreta,; former Barangay Captain Rico Aquino of San Miguel,; and Councilman Donald Sison, also of San Miguel. Sonny Avelino, former barangay chairman of Ambabaay, tagged as the gunman, remains at large.

All were on a drinking spree that evening when they chanced upon Bautista.

In his September 10, 2007 signed affidavit, Aquino stated that the caliber. 45 pistol used in the shooting, an Armscor bearing SN 1046871, registered under his name was issued by Celeste on December 2006. The gun is now in the custody of P/Supt. Lloyd Millan, the police chief.

Gabriel, 39, father of three children and a male nurse of the Western Pangasinan District Hospital, was with co-workers to have snacks when he was shot.

“I want justice for my only son,” wept Mrs. Bautista, adding that those responsible must be punished to the full extent of the law.

She pressed for the immediate arrest of Avelino.

The suspects not only shot Bautista to death but also commandeered their vehicle and divested the passengers of their cash, jewelry and cell phones. — LM (SundayPunch)

Braganza slams policy on shotguns for kapitans

October 6, 2008

PROTEST CONTINUES

ALAMINOS CITY–This is not a war zone.

This was Mayor Hernani Braganza referring to both his city and the province as he severely criticized anew the provincial government’s program arming barangay leaders with shotguns ostensibly for the latter’s protection and to help “maintain peace and order”.

In a press conference on Thursday at Lucap Wharf, Braganza minced no words in denouncing the program as he anticipated the misuse of the issued firearm by the barangay officials.

Underscoring his opposition, Braganza cited the Philippine National Police’s own policy that it would not agree to arming civilians with shotguns even in strife-torn Mindanao.

“If the PNP is not keen on arming the civilians to fight the rebels in Mindanao, why are we doing this in our province,” Braganza posed.

Despite being the lone voice opposing the shotgun distribution, Braganza maintained his stand that his city does not need shotguns because Alaminos, like the rest of Pangasinan, remains a friendly and peaceful city.

He reiterated his appeal to the Governor Amado Espino Jr. to re-issue the shotguns instead to the province’s local police stations known to be poorly equipped.

Braganza clarified he has nothing personal against the governor to whom he is indebted for saving his life when he was still a young activist in the mid 70s and Espino was then the Metrodiscom commander of the then Philippine Constabulary in Angeles City.

“We are not against the distribution of the shotguns per se,” said Braganza, pointing out that the shotguns should instead be issued to the police, who needs these more in its fight against criminality.

He stressed that the preservation of peace and order is the primary job of the Philippine National Police, and it is duty of civilian officials from mayor down to barangay captain, to govern, preventing crimes in their respective jurisdictions, without the use of guns.

ARMED ALAMINOS kapitans

The provincial government said that as of September 19, about 99 percent of the 1,330 barangay chairmen of Pangasinan were already issued one pump shotgun each.

Included were 15 of the 39 kapitans of Alaminos who, Braganza said, were personally invited by Espino to Lingayen without any coordination with his office.

The 15, the mayor said, defied the resolution of the city council headed by Vice Mayor Teofilo Humilde Jr. which adopted it in its regular session of September 5 expressing vigorous objection to the distribution of shotguns to local barangay captains.

Braganza said the city legal office is now preparing letters to the 15 barangay captains who received the shotguns, asking them to explain why they defied the city council resolution and his order not to receive the shotguns.

However, he said that of the 15 barangay captains, five have already expressed their desire to return the issued shotguns to the provincial government through the local police.

The same resolution had appealed to Espino to issue the shotguns to the local police instead.

However, he said he is still giving the 15 a chance to turn the weapons over to Liga ng mga Barangay president Helen Bumagat, barangay captain of Amandiego, who in turn will return the same to the capitol.

Humilde also read a manifesto from Alaminos City officials restating that Alaminos City attained unprecedented progress and peace “not by arming our barangay officials and civilians” during the press conference.

Braganza said it is the responsibility of the mayors like him to provide the barangay captains with all the tools and equipment, like vehicles, which they need to carry out their mandate “but never shall we give them guns”.

Braganza pointed out that only policemen should be made to respond to situations where crime perpetrators are armed.

GUIDELINES

Braganza echoed the observation of his fellow mayor, Domingo Doctor of Burgos, that the shotguns were issued without any guidelines at all.

Doctor, a lawyer and former military officer, even had to seek general guidelines governing the shotguns from no less than incoming Police Director General Jesus Verzosa, since the barangay captains were only given insufficient training to handle guns.

The city mayor expressed doubt that a mere memorandum receipt issued by the provincial government can take the place of a license or a permit to carry firearms.

He said licensing is a strict requisite for any holder of firearms set forth by law which must apply to all, and cited a need for the holder of firearms to secure clearances and undergo neuro-psychiatric test and even drug test before an application to hold firearms is approved by the PNP.

Councilor Cirilo Radoc, a lawyer, said once the firearm is used to commit a crime, both the barangay chairman and whosoever issued the firearm become criminally liable.

Braganza said he himself is a gun-owner, being a member of a gun club but his license to own and his permit to carry the same outside of his residence is not transferable to any city or barangay official.

He cited it as an analogy where license to own the shotguns belongs to the province and not to the barangay chairmen.—LM (SundayPunch)

8th International Contest of Ecological Graphic Humor – EcoCartoons 2008

October 6, 2008

8th International Contest of Ecological Graphic Humor – EcoCartoons 2008

The «Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Peru» and the «Grupo de Apoyo al Sector Rural» convoke the Eighth International Contest of Ecological Graphic Humor «ECOCARTOONS 2008». Caricaturists, graphic artists in general, amateurs and professionals are called together, without age limit from all over the world.

• The works must reflect ideas related to the subject of: Global Warming.

• The artistic criteria that will be considered for the evaluation, is based on a representation of humor or aesthetically obtained whose language can be direct or symbolic.

• The technique is totally free.

• Each participant can present an unlimited number of works that must be sent by any of this two ways:

Via mail:

format A4 (21 X 30 cm)
Send works to:
GRUPO PUCP – ECOCARTOONS
Av. Universitaria 1801 – San Miguel.
LIMA 32 – PERU

Via email:

ecocartoons@pucp.edu.pe
JPEG format with 300 DPI of resolution
(The winners that send their works by email will be notified to resend by mail the original picture to the address.)

• The works must not contain textual elements. In the reverse of the work must be indicated the information about the author: name, local address, E-mail or Web address.

• With the delivery of their works, each participant confirms the acceptance of the bases of the contest. The works will become part of the exhibition that will be made on the day of the awards ceremony, as well as part of itinerary exhibitions in cities of Peru and in different countries. All works will represent their country of origin in the museum of graphic ecological humor of the Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Peru.

• The jury will be integrated with members of sponsors institutions and enterprises, event organizers and the best representative personalities of graphic humor in our country. The decisions of the jury cannot be appealable.

• The deadline for sending works is October 30. The winners will be announced on November 13, in an official ceremony at the Cultural Center of the Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Peru. The organizers of the event will inform the winners by telephone, e-Mail or through the embassies or consulates.

• The post delivery must be in flat packages. Do not roll or bent your works. They must not be put in frames or glass. The organizers do not assume responsibility for damage of the delivery. The delivery costs will be afforded by the sender. Local post register on the stamp will be considered in the deadline. After that date, works will be refused.

• Prizes:

First Prize: US$ 1,000.00 and honor diploma.
Second Prize: US$ 500.00 and honor diploma
Third Prize: US$ 250.00 and honor diploma.

http://ecocartoonperu.blogspot.com/

Underground river gets No. 1 spot in 7 Wonders

October 6, 2008

By Celeste Anna R. Formoso

THE PUERTO Princesa Subterranean River National Park (PPSRNP), home of the longest navigable subterranean river, has seized the No. 1 spot in the search for the New 7 Wonders of Nature from Cox’s Bazar Beach, Bangladesh as of September 22, 2008.

This recent development in the live ranking in the N7W has thrilled Mayor Edward S. Hagedorn, who said that although the quest is not initiated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), it is still exciting because it’s like the “American Idol” of sites around the world that were created naturally.

“Our various campaigns to get the subterranean river to the highest rank in the New 7 Wonders of Nature have finally paid off. We are now No. 1 in the live ranking as of September 22. Let us hope that the trend remains that way,” Hagedorn said in an interview with Palawan Times.

The famous subterranean river knows no season. Every season is peak season, according to Mayor Hagedorn. This photo was taken from the website of a visitor who has already seen the splendor of the 8.2 kilometer underground river at the PPSRNP. The park has already overtaken Cox’s Beach Bazaar of Bangladesh in the recent live ranking.

Earlier, Hagedorn and the city government launched the “U R a Wonder of Nature” to swell the votes that the PPSRNP is getting for the wonders of nature search. The project provides free tours to the subterranean park – entrance fees and ride fares waived – to allow more residents of the city’s 66 barangays to visit. The campaign only requires simple conditions: that those who will avail have voted for the park and must show proof, and that they’re legitimate residents.

On September 12-14, during its participation in the 19th Philippine Travel Mart held at the Megatrade Halls of the SM Megamall in Manila, the city government got another major boost in its campaign for the PPSRNP to be included in the N7W.

Visitors who went to the booth of Puerto Princesa were encourage to participate in the effort to bring the subterranean park to the awareness of the world as a spot in the Philippines whose beauty is remains extraordinary compared to other places.

Inside the PPSRNP can be found the 8.5-kilometer navigable underground river, which is said to be the longest in the world. Domestic and foreign guests, including ambassadors and foreign attaches, have been awed by the unique cave system that it has with cathedral-like formations of stalagmites and stalactites. (PalawanTimes)

Editorial Cartoon: (Right To Reply) Another Stab

October 5, 2008

Clearly Anti-Constitutional

(Photos) SALINLAHI Alliance for Children’s Concerns: Children Take Small Steps Towards Peace in Mindanao!

October 5, 2008

SALINLAHI Alliance for Children’s Concerns:

Children Take Small Steps Towards Peace in Mindanao!


NEWS RELEASE
1 October 2008
REFERENCE: Alphonse Rivera, Spokesperson, 0929-6076157

Children Take Small Steps Towards Peace in Mindanao!

Footprints of children in armed conflict in Mindanao queued up towards a sign of peace at the Peace Bell inside Quezon City Circle this morning. The footprints symbolize the call of children and child rights advocates to stop the Arroyo government’s all-out war and restart the peace negotiations with the MILF.

SALINLAHI Alliance for Children’s Concerns took the lead for today’s activity, gathering about 100 children, including Moro children from urban poor communities in Metro Manila. The group, together with other child-focused organizations referred to a peace that is based on justice and not a peace of the graveyard.

Alphonse Rivera, Spokesperson of SALINLAHI, said, “While October is celebrated nationwide as children’s month, Salinlahi and its allies see no reason to celebrate it with festivities. Today is the last day of the Ramadan and we mark this 1st day of October as a day for calling peace for the sake of the Filipino children, especially the Moro children. The Moro people of Mindanao have long been struggling for their right to self-determination and for their ancestral domain and yet the government responds with bombs, bullets and massive displacement of the Moro people from their homes and sources of livelihood, time and time again.”

The National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) reported at least 500,000 families so far displaced by this conflict and crowding out limited spaces in evacuation centers. “Children are getting sick and have stopped schooling. Children have also died because of indiscriminate firing and air strikes by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP),” continued Rivera.

Now that Pres. Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo and the AFP are asking for the declaration of MILF leaders Bravo and Kato as terrorists by the United Nations (UN) and with the pull-out of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) peace negotiating panel from the Peace Talks, SALINLAHI and other child rights advocates are expecting a continuous rise in the numbers of war victims, especially women and children. “Women and children are vulnerable to this kind war and terror that our government has created. They are most prone to deaths, abuses, harassments and other military atrocities because the AFP does not recognize and respect their human rights,” added Rivera.

“In this kind of war that the government is waging, there is no bright future for the Moro children. We call on other children and child rights advocates to join hands and call for peace!” Rivera concluded. ###

MALUNGKOT AKO KAPAG MAY DIGMAAN
(Ang digmaan sa Mindanao sa isipan ng isang Bata)
Ni: Mary ann Ordinario-Floresta

Story narrated by: Gabriela Partylist Rep. Luz Ilagan

Ba’t kaya ganito ang aking nararamdaman? Kapag naririnig ko na ang malalakas na Putukan, ang ating mundo ay hindi ko na maintindihan.

Nakikita ko ang nag-aalalang mukha ni Ina. Umaagos ang luha sa mga mata, habang si Ama ay nagahahanda upang madala ang aming mga alagang manok at kambing.

Tatakbo na naman kami at hindi ko alam kung saan papunta.  Nandyang sasakay kami sa kariton na hinihila ng kalabaw, o kaya ay sa traysikel, sa dyip o Ford Fiera at makikisakay na lang sa kahit anong sasakyan na mapadaan basta’t makalayo lang sa putukan. “Digmaan, digmaan,” naririnig kong sigaw ng mga tao sa aking paligid.

Ano ba itong Digmaan? Ano man ito, nalulungkot ako. Alam ko, matatagal na naman bago ako muling makapaglaro. Iiwanan na namin namin ang aming maliit na bahay, ang aking saranggola, bola at aking mga aklat.

Nag-iisip nga ako, muli ko pa kayang makikita ang aking manika sa aking pagbabalik?

Hindi ko maintindihan ang digmaan.  Pinagmamasdan ko at tinitingnan ko na lang. May mga sundalo at rebelde. Parang sine, o kaya’y
tulad sa telebisyon. Naglalaro kaya sila? O umaarte lang? Pero may mga baril sila at tangke de gyera pa. Tiyak mayamaya biglang may sasabog na naman at kami ay muling magtatakbuhan.

Kung minsan, hindi ko mapigilan ang umiyak. lalo na kung naiisip ko ang kaibigan kong si Khalil  na nawalan ng kamay dahil sa digmaan. Makakapasok pa kaya siyang muli? Paano kaya niya gagamitin ang kanyang lapis at krayola? Ewan ko. Hindi ko talaga maintindihan.

Hindi ito ang buhay na nakagisnan ko. Dahil sa digmaan, nagtatago kami ng matagal, palipat lipat sa ibang bayan. Akala ninyo madali?…
Nakakapagod. Naghahanap kami ng lugar, o ng gusaling masisilungan, at kalimitan ay mga paaralan.

Ang daming tao, sama-sama kaming natutulog sa isang silid-aralan. Hindi kami magkakakilala. Maraming lamok, wala kaming kumot, walang kulambo at walang banig. Nakahiga ako sa semento, ang lamig sa likod. sina Ama at Toto? Sa labas sila natutulog.  Dahong niyog ang banig.

Kadalasan sa aking pagtulog, nagigising ako at nagugulat sa malaksa na pagsabog. Minsan, ginising ako ni Ina. “Gising anak! Binabangungot ka.”  Sabi ko sa kanya, “ang laking baril, hinahabol ako…. tumakbo ako ng mabilis upang makapagtago….natatakot ako.”

Hindi kami makapagpalit ng damit at wala kami ni isang gamit.

Hindi nga kami makapaligo dahil wala ring tubig. Kaya siguro marami ang nagkakasakit sa amin. Nakita ko pa nga, may isang ina, nanganak siya. Kaya lang ang sanggol ay hindi gumagalaw. Sabi nila, wala raw kasing doktor nanag-aasikaso sa kanya.

Dahil sa digmaan sumasakit ang aking tiyan. Pero ang sakit, tinitiis ko na lang. Wala kasi kaming pagkain kahit na kapirasong tinapay man lang. Minsan wala akong agahan o pananghalian. Buti na lang may mabubuting tao na napapadaan at may dalang pagkain tulad ng noodles, tuyo, sardinas o kaunting bigas. Naririnig kong sabi nila, donasyon daw yun. Pero kulang na kulang. Hindi magkasya para sa lahat. Pero anong magagawa namin kundi makuntento na lang.

Malungkot ako kapag may digmaan. Nakikita ko may mga taong nasusugatan o kaya ay namamatay. Sumusigaw ang mga tao. May nadadapa, may umiiyak, at mayroong hindi na kumikilos.

Habang si Ina, sa kamay ako ay hila-hila. Nababangga pa ako at naaapakan ng kahit sino. Pero kahit mahirap, kailangan na ako ay tumakbo at humakbang kahit ako’y nakapaa lamang.

Ang lalo kong ikinatatakot ay ang isiping, sina Ama, Ina, Toto at Nene… paano kung isang araw sila ay mawala o dili kaya’y biglang magkasakit? Kaya’t sa palda ni Ina, mahigpit akong kumakapit. Baka kasi ako ay mawala at maiwan.

Ako ay nalilito, nalulungkot at nanghihina. Wala na bang katahimikan? Wala na bang Kapayapaan? Kailan titigil ang putukan? Kailan ba matatapos ang digmaan? Hindi ko na alam ang aking gagawin. Nagtataka bakit ang mga tao’y nagkakaganito. ang dami kong tanong ngunit hindi kayang sagutin ni Ama sa akin.

Pagod na ako… Gusto ko nang umuwi… gusto ko nang magpahinga… maglaro…kumain ng maayos..at..bumalik sa paaralan. Tumawa at maging masayang muli. Hindi kaya nararamdaman ni Digmaan na ako ay nahihirapan? Hindi ko na talaga maintindihan.

Kaya dasal ko sa Diyos Amang Makapangyarihan na nagmamahal sa mga batang tulad ko, na kami sa ay kaawaan. Kasi nalulungkot kami kapag may digmaan. Susubukan kong itong hilingin. Sana pakinggan Niya ako. Magdadasal ako na kapayapaan na lang ang umiral sa pusot’ diwa ng buong sangkatauhan.

(Arkibong Bayan)

Women’s Front: Celebrating women’s courage amid terror and fascism

October 5, 2008

By INNABUYOG-GABRIELA

When Martial law was declared by the late President Ferdinand B. Marcos on September 21, 1972, the Filipinos were stripped off of basic freedoms. Precious liberty was censored as curfews and other sorts of restrictions were enacted as laws. People were silenced and forced to take the state’s fascism with a grain of salt.

As the right to life and liberty were violated, some Filipinos still persisted. They defied the iron fist of Martial Law as they saw the need to fight for the restoration of human rights. They persisted, even in small groups, to educate the people and inspire the youth to emerge.

On September 19, the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) recognized some of the heroes that the Martial Law gave birth to. As part of the commemoration of the ML declaration, the first “Gawad Tanggol Karapatan” was granted to the men and women on Northern Luzon who fought during the time when it was most dangerous to do so.

Among the 14 awardees, the “Gawad Tanggol Karapatan” was awarded to five resilient women. They are strong women who became mothers, sisters and friends to those suffering persecution. Regardless of the limitations and expectations of the society as women, they boldly resisted ML.

The late Sr. Esperanza Quirino of the Religious of the Good Shepperd was best known as “Speedy Parang.” From her speeches to her actions, ‘Speedy Parang’ hurried each day to service the most that she could. She served as the human rights coordinator in Cagayan Valley. During the times of the martial rule, she organized aid for the political prisoners as part of the Task Force Detainees in Isabela. Even with the conditions of her tuberculosis (which later consumed her life in 2006), she pushed herself, hopping from different provinces to help those in need. She gathered whatever she could, including fresh produce to the solicited goods from whoever she met and gave them to those who needed it most. She transformed charity into a people’s struggle.

As the story goes, once you see Sr. Parang, look no further and you will also see Sr. Shatz. The late Sr. Anunciata Salamatin, was the buddy of Sr. Parang. Together, they serviced to the widest of people. Sr. Shatz was growing old and sick but she never took medications. As she put it, rather than spending so much money on her medication, she chose to give this money to the struggling poor. She was known as a friend to the poor. She was also an avid watchdog of human rights. She believed that justice is free for everyone.

Another HR defender from the religious sector is Sr. Aurora Dulay. To the people who know her, she is known to be determined, kind but firm. Also keen on the campaign for the protection of human rights, Sr. Aurora saw fit that justice, equality and truth should be inculcated to children at an early age. She integrated the value of truth in schools as part of the curriculum and even in certain areas like Math, English and Science.

Mother Marylou Felizco’s realization about the oppression in the country came when her child entered a progressive group. Witnessing her children’s group propagate the words of liberty to the nation, she opened her arms to these young bloods. She and her husband gave the young activists a shelter away from the claws of martial rule. She calls these children, now grown up, as her “political children.” She eventually joined several progressive groups ranging from HR to women’s sector.

As she traveled in the different areas of the country, she realized that the real problem of women in the Philippines is poverty. She realized that the enemy of women is the poverty that engulfs not only a woman but her entire family as well. The plight of the Filipino women is close to Mother F’s heart. She understood that women carried double the burden in the society. Women carry the thought of having to work harder for the survival of her family. And with the oppression, this thought gets even more complicated. As part of the Innabuyog-Cordillera, she gives herself for the cause of women and their struggle for assertion.

Petra Macli-ing also received the award. She is best known as “Mother Petra.” At a young age, she was widowed and was left to raise eight children on her own in Mainit, Bontoc, Mountain Province. Each day, she played the role of both mother and father to her children. She tended to their farm daily and worked in their store afterwards. In the late 1970s their land, homes and livelihood were threatened with a plan to build the Chico Megadam, a World Bank funded project. Realizing the threat in the life and survival of the community, Mother Petra was one of the locals who helped organized a campaign against the construction of the dam. They formed human barricades against the large machineries.

Mother Petra mobilized the women of Bontoc and fronted women in the barricades to prevent protesting locals from being killed by the Philippine Constabulary which served as the security force of the project. She is also best known for her courageous effort to lead the women to bare their breasts when the clashes were getting violent. This was her way to push away the enemies and at the same time, shame them.

Mother Petra’s fight against the Chico Dam reflects her true heart as a mother. During her acceptance of the “Gawad Tanggol Karapatan” she explained the struggle for the land is a woman’s big responsibility.

Mother Petra also went beyond her limitations. During the dictatorial rule, she helped mobilize the women in Bontoc to campaign for the release of political prisoners. She joined the lobbying for the release of these prisoners.

Tough the Martial Law ended, these women continued to struggle. They carry with them the courage to fight and protect human rights and the inspiration to give to the next generations.

Today, poverty rates go high up and human rights continues to be violated. People who oppose the regime are silenced and denied of their rights and privileges. As Mother Petra puts it, educated or not, we all have the equal capacity to protect the rights that are due to each one of us. As women in this society, we also take part in the defense of our land, rights and resources. As parting words, according to Mother Petra, we women are also the carriers and the cradle of the new generations to come. Let us be the educators. Let us be the defenders and let us be the inspirations for the future. # (NorDis)

Weekly Reflections: Never to return to Egypt

October 5, 2008

By REV. LUNA L. DINGAYAN

“In Egypt we used to eat all the fish we wanted, and costs us nothing.” — Numbers 11:5

“The king is not to have a large number of horses for his army, and he is not to send people to Egypt to buy horses, because the LORD has said that his people are never to return there.” — Deuteronomy 17:15

September 21

September 21 is significant to us for two reasons. Firstly, this is the day when the then Pres. Ferdinand E. Marcos declared Martial Law throughout our country. Some historians though would like to correct the historical facts saying that the signing of Proclamation No. 1081 was actually antedated to September 21, although the enforcement of this law came the following day, September 22, because 21, a multiple of 7, was President Marcos’ lucky number.

Perhaps, 21 was a lucky number for deposed Pres. Ferdinand E. Marcos, but for the Filipino people it became a number that stands for suffering and is cursed. Indeed, it stands for freedom that was lost. Throughout the whole period of Martial Law, about 10,000 people were arrested, tortured, killed or simply disappeared, never to be seen again.

Secondly, September 21 is significant also because this day is declared by the United Nations Organization and the World Council of Churches as the International Day of Prayer for Peace. It seems to be a coincidence, but nevertheless it is indeed a fitting reminder that the best way to commemorate the declaration of martial law is no other than to earnestly pray and to see to it that never again martial law in any form or guise will return in our beloved country.

Of course, many are saying there is no need to declare martial law, because in reality martial law has never left us. The values and ways of martial law have been very much with us, despite claims to the contrary. What we need to do perhaps is to struggle for true freedom, and for genuine and lasting and peace in our land.

Wilderness experience

This reminds us of the Israelites’ experience in the wilderness as recorded in the Scriptures. They were enslaved by the Egyptians for about 400 years. They suffered a lot in the hands of their cruel slave drivers (Ex.1). In the midst of their sufferings, they cried out unto God for help. Through Moses, whom God called from the wilderness of Midian, the people were set free and started their long and difficult journey through the wilderness towards the Promised Land, a land “flowing with milk and honey” (Ex. 3: 8) . Meaning, it was a land believed to be spacious, rich and fertile.

Now, it was when they were in the wilderness that the Israelites experienced the problem of food. Actually, it is not that they had no food, because God provided them Manna for their daily sustenance. But rather, they had this strong craving for meat – the kind of food they used to eat in Egypt. And so, they began to remember their food in Egypt – “the cucumbers, the watermelons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic” (Num. 11:5) – and tried to compare it with the Manna, the only food God had been giving them each day. They said, “In Egypt we used to eat all the fish we wanted, and it cost us nothing” (Num. 11:5). And so, they concluded that it should have been better for them to have stayed in Egypt and never left the place. Thus, some of them would like to go back to Egypt.

Selective memory

There are at least two things that we could learn from this wilderness experience. First of all, people who have gone through a difficult life of repressive rule tend to have some selective memories when they are faced with new problems and difficulties. The Israelites remembered the food they ate in Egypt, but they seemed to have forgotten their lost freedom and the sufferings and repressions they experienced as slaves in the hands of the Egyptians. They had remembered the food, but they had forgotten their lost freedom.

Similarly, many of us are saying that life was better economically during the Martial Law years. Probably, it’s true, but then we also tend to forget those whose lives have been sacrificed for the sake of justice and genuine freedom. We also tend to forget those who have been imprisoned, tortured, killed, and disappeared in the darkest nights of Martial Law.

Genuine change

Secondly, the wilderness experience also shows us that genuine change can not be done overnight. Having been enslaved for many years, the Israelites were able to internalize deeply the life of a slave, so much so that when they were set free they apparently were not ready to embrace a life of freedom. Their values and ways of life were still that of a slave.

As slaves, the Israelites were used to be dominated and to be dictated upon by their masters. Hence, they seemed to find it difficult to live in freedom. They find it difficult to put their ultimate trust in God daily, to make hard decisions for their own selves, and to shape their own future and destiny as a people.

It is already about 22 years since the ouster of the late dictator, yet the spirit of martial law is still the kind of spirit that is ruling over us. We have in fact an undeclared martial law in our country. The values and ways of life of the martial law years have been very much with us. Repression, summary execution, lies and deceit, graft and corruption, moral decadence, political patronage, militarization of the bureaucracy, concentration of wealth in the hands of the few and the impoverishment of the many: all these things and many more associated with the martial law years are still very much with us and are even getting worse.

Nevertheless, this should not deter us from pursuing our narrow and winding road and difficult journey as a people towards our own Promised Land. The Israelites journeyed in the wilderness for 40 years. Forty is a symbolic number for the Israelites, which simply means many years. It does not necessarily mean exactly 40. It could be more than forty or less than 40. But definitely, it means many years. Nevertheless, the Israelites had finally reached their Promised Land, no matter how long and difficult the journey had been.

Justice and peace

For the Israelites, Egypt was a symbol of slavery, of repression and exploitation of people. Thus, when the Israelites were able to establish their nation in the Promised Land, they were given instructions never to return to Egypt. The revised instructions for the king written in the Book of Deuteronomy read, “The king is not to have a large number of horses for his army, and he is not to send people to Egypt to buy horses, because the LORD has said that his people are never to return there” (Dt.17:16).

Never to return to Egypt means that the Israelites must not go back to the ways of Egypt. They should do away with slavery, with repression and exploitation of their own people. They should always remember that once upon a time they were slaves in Egypt. They knew what it means to be a slave.

We also know what it means to live under Martial Law, declared or undeclared. We know what it means to risk one’s life for the sake of truth and justice. Thus, we have to pray and to work hard to exorcise the demonic spirit of martial law and allow the life-giving spirit of genuine freedom, of justice and peace to reign in our land. We must never return to Martial Law; we must never return to Egypt. # (NorDis)

Statements: Ilocos HR group denounces Philippine Army’s vilification cmapaign

October 5, 2008

By ILOCOS HUMAN RIGHTS ALLIANCE (IHRA)

Human Rights group Ilocos Human Rights Alliance (IHRA-Karapatan) strongly condemns the statements made by the 50th Infantry Battalion (IBPA) Civil Military Operations branding Karapatan as “legal front” of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA).

We view these statements of the 50th IBPA as part of the dirty tactics of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to discredit and harass legal progressive organizations who are steadfast in asserting the rights of the people.

In their radio program Timek ti Soldado (The Soldier’s voice) aired in July and August 2008, certain Lt. Kigis and Sgt. Garcia consistently slandered Karapatan and its regional chapter, IHRA and tagged it as “communist front that “protect and defend the rights of their fellow NPA’s.” Kigis and Garcia also stated in their program that Karapatan destroys the moral values of the youth because it influences the youth “to do harm to their families and to the community.”

The said “soldier-broadcasters” also accused party list group Bayan Muna and Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) of using projects as “legal fronts” to deceive the people and recruit them to join the CPP-NPA.

These malicious and slanderous statements of the two “soldier-broadcasters” only proved the desperation of the AFP to crush the people’s movement. It is undeniable that the military disrespects civil and political rights of the people. The AFP specifically the 50th IBPA irresponsibly used the media to directly malign the CPP-NPA without even analyzing and acknowledging the root-causes of nearly 40-year old armed conflict. As such, these irresponsible accusations served as a license to attack legal progressive organizations as it directly these organizations such as Karapatan to the CPP-NPA-NDFP, the target of the counterinsurgency program, Oplan Bantay Laya 2.

The vilification campaign made by the AFP is a component of OBL 2, the continuation of the failed counterinsurgency program of the US-Arroyo regime that resulted in the killings of more than 900 unarmed civilians and members of the legal democratic organizations, disappearance of more than 198 and other gross human rights violations. These statements clearly show that the military is behind the spate of gross and systematic human rights violations.

For more than 13 years, Karapatan has been in the forefront of human rights advocacy in the Philippines. It has exposed and opposed state terrorism and fought hard to attain justice for the victims of human rights violations committed by state agents such as the AFP and PNP. It has served the marginalized sectors of the society by fighting for the people’s nationalist and democratic interests. No amount of disparagement can stop Karapatan from asserting the people’s civil, political, socio-cultural and economic rights.

It is no surprise that the Arroyo regime and the military’s state terrorism will be met with outmost defiance by people struggling for peace anchored on justice. #

Statements: The Itogon Landslide: A Result of Prolonged Large Mining Operations

October 5, 2008

By Windel Bolinget
Secretary General, CPA

There is much for Benguet Corporation (BC) to account for in the horrendous disaster in Itogon that severely affected the lives of local residents from 80 households in the indigenous community of Beda, and in Antamok last September 22. Putting the blame solely on natural calamities like Typhoon Nina and small-scale mining as done by BC, the Mines and Geo-sciences Bureau and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is both lame and weak, when we know for a fact that BC’s socially and environmentally destructive large mining operations since 1903 is to answer for the disaster.

What had happened in Itogon already happened in Colalo, Mankayan in July 1999, where Lepanto Mining has operated for the past 72 years in massive underground operations which softened and weakened Colalo grounds, such that any typhoon can aggravate a disaster waiting to happen.

The 16 miners trapped must be immediately rescued, because BC is accountable for this and to their families. Their effort to rescue is the least they can do and it must not cover up their responsibility and accountability in the whole disaster — loss of lives, the environmental disaster, displacement of the families and the demolished ili that will never be built again. What future awaits the displaced families who have lost their loved ones, their home and ili (village)? Is BC going to pay for the long term effects of its destructive operations? As do other mining companies, BC will resort to a media blitz of corporate responsibility through technical assistance to the victims. That however, is not a long term solution but a coverup of the real situation.

This is what happened in Itogon. The environment and the mountains should never have been disturbed in the first place. The mining disasters in Rapu-Rapu where Lafayette Mines operated since 2005 and in Marinduque, where Marcopper created the country’s largest mining disaster in 1996 prove that the Itogon landslide is not an isolated, naturally occurring incident.

This as well is the very nature of large and corporate miningdangerous and unsafe, and the companiesf claim of any social responsibility is not a commitment of restoring the environmental, economic and social damages loss they have committed. There will always be environmental and social disasters in areas of large mining operations in the same manner that there will always be militarization and human rights violations also therein, as long as the mining policies of the Arroyo administration are based on the Mining Act of 1995 or RA 7942.

We have no hope of any sort from the DENR, when it is DENR Secretary Lito Atienza himself who serves as the company’s spokesperson, when it said blame should not be put on the company, especially in the case of the 14 miners trapped underground. What kind of public official puts last the interest of the public it should be serving?

We call on the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), Commission on Human Rights (CHR-CAR), including the municipal and provincial governments to look into the interest and welfare of the Itogon community — both those directly and indirectly affected. The provincial government must decisively act to put a stop to such disasters, for environmental protection and socio-cultural preservation by placing a ban or moratorium to large mining operations in the province. Otherwise, there will soon be no Benguet province to speak of in the future — only a wasteland of mine waste and abandoned communities.

The historical injustice done to the Ibaloi and Kankanaey in Itogon as a result of development aggression — large and destructive mining, in particular must be corrected. This shall emanate from the concerted action of the people of Itogon to aggressively resist and oppose large and destructive mining operations therein, and to reject impending threats from various applications. Otherwise, there will be always be a disaster waiting to happen, hastened by natural calamities.

Other Cordillera provinces, especially those threatened by large and destructive mining operations and overlapping applications, must unite and be vigilant and resist these to defend the Cordillera homeland from further plunder and destruction.

Benguet Corporation, including Philex and Lepanto must be accountable for the environmental and social damages they have caused in indigenous communities in Benguet. An independent investigation that will not again be another case of impunity must be urgently carried out. #

From Under This Hat: Surface James

October 5, 2008

By KATHLEEN T. OKUBO

James Balao is mestizo Japanese, like me. His eyes are just chinkier because he is also part Chinese, like my kids. He is a very much better investigative and literary writer than very many of us identified as journalists.

We, both, trace our roots to the Japanese migrant workers who came in the 1900s to build Kennon Road, the City of Baguio and the town of La Trinidad. He was abducted on September 17, twelve days ago, on his way to his parent’s house for a visit. His is the first case of enforced disappearance under this president.

This stirs my memory of my father’s stories during the 2nd world war. My father was assigned to the USAFFE engineering brigade when the war broke out. He was one of those who did not choose to change his name when the Japanese were the established enemies of (the American colonizers of) the country. His group was usually ahead of the fighting troops having to build bridges or dig trenches for mobility and defense.

When Bataan fell, he was among the last of the defending Igorot soldiers and Baguio boys who naturally sought each other for support until the death march and eventual escape from it.

He, and his death march colleagues in the Japanese-army-occupied Baguio City were wanted outlaws. They naturally joined the guerrilla forces – the people’s army for the Americans had ran or retreated to Australia.

The Kempetai (the notorious Japanese secret police) searched for them. In this hunt he painfully witnessed school mates, former playmates and relatives rat on these escapees and guerillas. In his story he described these traitors as having a bag with two holes for eyes over their heads as they went to point at the wanted outlaw. Victims were cruelly treated, “worst than dogs” by the Kempetai. He was not able to escape one of these he was tortured in their chambers (the present Bayanihan Hotel). He was just lucky he got away and headed to the mountains before they could (the Tabora park now) chop of his head.

That was an open war situation and the nationalist bravely defended his country whether he was part Japanese, Chinese, Jew, Russian American, and Igorot.

When Martial Law was declared by Marcos, many young activists were abducted, detained, tortured, summarily killed. The youngest political detainee I met was 13 years old, high school president, top of his class, son of a shipping magnate, and he even did not know why. From Baguio there were some 80 people, from Dagupan more than 150 members of then ‘de Colores’ prayer group. I also met former friends and even relatives pointed out innocent people like the traitors of old.

The Kempetai of today is no longer a foreigner but a ‘macabebe’ or a ‘magdalo’ made legit by a government directive and leashed against the lesser people of a nation, against an Andress Bonifacio. History, has documented traitors in different guises and most during or when it is a poor peoples war against the establishment. For traitors like these try very hard to legitimize themselves in the eyes of the nation. (No wonder the PR budget is so big)

Yes, Virginia, there is an on-going war in the country. It is a war against graft and corruption, big time thieves, against being cheated off your daily sustenance, against those who perpetuate poverty. A war against Martial Law again. I believe it is for this reason the people’s enemy has taken James.

I repeat the appeal to friends, relatives, the Filipino, Japanese, Chinese and Igorot communities to please help the family and clan find James.

I also add this postscript to also stress the need for unity against state terrorism:

“First they came for the communists and I did not speak out because I was not a communist; Then they came for the socialists and I did not speak out because I was not a socialist; Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist; Then they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew; Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.” # (NorDis)

Advocate’s Overview: Struggle for press freedom

October 5, 2008

By ARTHUR L. ALLAD-IW

(This is a shortened version of the keynote speech delivered by this columnist to the College Editors Guild of the Philippines or the CEGP-BB Press Congress at the University of the Philippines Baguio on September 20.)

Your theme is evident of your desire for another decade to advance press freedom and your thirst for a social change.

I remember lately in one of the provinces of Northern Luzon, Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was gutsy in announcing that the Philippine Press is the most free in the Asia region. When we heard that, a colleague in the media jokingly claimed that it is true: “any dissenters would be kept silent forever as manifested by the more than 900 cases of extra-judicial killings since she assumed the presidency in 2001”.

The cases on extra-judicial killings have not spared the media. At present, there are already 60 journalists killed. Like the other cases, justice remains elusive to the victims’ and their families despite the creations of the Milo Commission, the Task Force Usig of the Philippine National Police, and the report of Prof. Phillip Alston to the UN that the killings are done with impunity. The data on the killed journalists make the Philippines next to Iraq as the most dangerous place for journalists worldwide.

To quote from the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) campaign materials: “The Philippine Press is under siege by a state that increasingly shoots its messengers. The Philippine Press, among the staunchest defenders of democracy in this nation, operates in conditions that violate the same rights we seek to champion on behalf of our clients, the public.”

The killing of journalists is not only a violation of that precious right to life. But more importantly, the killing of journalists is a manifestation of killing democracy itself. If we kill the messengers, the information will not reach our clients, the public. The right of the public to know is not realized. Democracy here is under siege. The essence of democracy should be manifested by the free flow of information.

The NUJP believed that: “There can be no press freedom if journalists work under conditions of fear, poverty and corruption.” Under the present administration however, it had adopted state policies which are manifestations of a creeping authoritarianism. Remember the Calibrated Preemptive Response (CPR), Proclamation 1019, and the anti-terror law also known as the Human Security Act. These are all attempts to gag media and to silence dissenters. The CPR and Proclamation 1019 were set aside by the Supreme Court mainly as these violate the basic freedoms – like Freedoms of Expression and of the Press – enshrined in the Bill Of Rights. The sword of Damocles that hangs now on the head of freedom advocates is the Anti-Terror Law.

Remember also the illegal arrest and detention of media practitioners covering the Manila Peninsula. The CHR declared that the PNP-Military act was illegal.

Among the issues haunting media practitioners and instilling fear on them is libel, an act punishable under the Revised Penal Code. The First Gentleman (FG) was among the people who utilized libel against media practitioners, though lately he withdrew the cases he filed against journalists. Libel has been continuously utilized more as a threat to journalists. I need to point out that this antiquated law was adopted during the Spanish Colonial period against Filipino propagandist. It is aimed to silence critics rather than as a means to achieve justice.

The position of NUJP is to decriminalize libel as it is used to silence media practitioners from their role to bring information of public interests. Other countries, like the USA, had already set aside this antiquated law as it has no place in modern democracy. We are asks on how to address media excesses or abuses. In my point of view, even without the Libel law, we have the Civil Code provisions on damages that can be utilized if there will really be an excesses to be committed by media practitioners. In fact under the Civil Code provisions on damages, the more that a person is respected in a community or in the society, the more that he is entitled for damages.

By the way, NUJP found out that most of the victims of extra-judicial killings and threat on media, including libel, were provincial journalists. It is in the provinces that the rule of law is weakest and might is often mistaken for righteousness.

From the situations of journalists that I had shared to you, I can summarize that the Philippine Media is under threat. The journalists’ rights to life, liberty and security (all basic rights) are threatened by the very state that is supposed to protect these said rights. And the violations are being done with impunity.

What then is our role as media practitioners? What should be done?

In the latest national assembly of NUJP, we reiterated that organizing, like what you are doing, is a weapon we can use to advance our issues against media killings and suppression. An organized group with organized voice will surely be heard of their concerns.

We need also to push for our campaigns, like justice for the journalists’ killed, decriminalization of libel, and any threat to press freedom. We need to inform the public that the media practitioners – whether in the mainstream or in the campus – are not spared with the anti-people policies of the state.

In the case of the NUJP, we need to coordinate with press freedom advocates whether in the campus, in the regional and national level, and in the international level. We had proven that this coordination is effective particularly on our campaign against extra-judicial killings and threats to the media.

We need to be united under the present situation where media is under siege. # (NorDis)

BSU joins the world’s fight for indigenous peoples rights

October 5, 2008

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet — Benguet State University (BSU) is one with the whole world as it observed the first year anniversary of the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) September 12.

The event also marks the 4thyear of the Second Decade of Indigenous Peoples declared by the UN general assembly in its 74thPlenary Meeting in December 22, 2004.

BSU, through its Gender and Democracy (GAD) focal point, the Department of Social Sciences, in partnership with the Cordillera Indigenous Peoples Historical Society sponsored the celebrations with the Salidummay Performing Arts group leading the gongs and dances.

What transpired during the event is more meaningful than the watwat (share of meat) wines that were feasted upon by those who came to celebrate.

State of IPs

Xavier Akien, vice-chair for Internal Affairs of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), presented in a capsule, the state of indigenous peoples [IPs] with focus on the issues and concerns they are presently confronting.

In particular, Akien mentioned about the construction of the dams and how it adversely affected the life of the community; the land conversions that caused the displacement of Agta and Dumagats and the Aetas of central Luzon, the Lumads of Mindanao, among others.

Lawyer Jose Mencio Molintas , Expert on Indigenous Mechanisms of the UN Human Rights Council, highlighted the advocacy work of IPs at the international level, for the Draft Declaration of IP Rights. He said after more than two decades of lobby work, the UN General Assembly signed the Declaration on September 13, 2007.

Women IPs and Cordillera IPs, for one, were in the forefront in the many years of advocacy work, Molintas said.

The Gambang experience

During the forum on IP issues, Fausto Maliones of the Benguet Anti-Mining Action Network and representing Gambang, Bakun Punong Barangay Alvaro Paquito, their experiences on the Free Prior and Informed Consent [FPIC] experience with regards to the Royalco Philippines’ application for an exploration permit for 986 hectares in Gamban, Bakun.

FPIC is an important provision of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA), which seeks to get the consensus of all members of the affected communities for any development projects. This should be determined in accordance with the community’s respective customary laws and is free from external manipulation, interference and coercion.

Maliones revealed that during the FPIC process, several violations were committed. During the preparations for the field- based investigation, there was no community participation at all. The FBI was only participated in by a representative from the company and the FBI team, consisting mainly of NCIP personnel. This was held in Aug 22-25, 2007.

He said external manipulations and interference were already evident. During the casting of votes on Dec 22, 2007, clustering was done; of the 2,899 registered voters, only 750 actually voted. This shows that not even half of the voters casted their votes.

Despite community tension, signing of the Draft MOA proceeded on January 24, 2008 at a certain hotel in Buguias. This is ironical as the MOA should have been a public matter and could have been done in Gambang itself.

In reaction, the Barangay Council of Gambang passed a resolution to request for the suspension of the FPIC activities in the area. This was endorsed by the Gambang Indigenous Peoples Association and Community Organization [GIPACO] requesting the NCIP to do concrete actions against the MOA entered into by some community members and the Royalco – but to no avail.

This is indeed ironic as the “rights” of the IPs has been recognized in the IPRA law and reaffirmed in a UN Declaration, yet such rights remain wanting.

As of press time, drilling already started in the community. # Contributed by Christine Grace B. Sidchogan (NorDis)

Buguias farmers to return empty pesticide bottles

October 5, 2008

BUGUIAS, Benguet — Vegetable farmers using chemical pesticides may now return empty containers to distributors and manufacturers with the Empty Container Management Program set in place with the September 11 signing of a memorandum of agreement.

Mayor Felicio R. Bayacsan, representing local vegetable producers in the MOA, said the farmers just learned of the adverse impact of chemical pesticides and inorganic fertilizers when two local universities conducted a study among Buguias and Kapangan farmers.

He said a lot of other studies point to the abuse of pesticides and inorganic fertilizers

Eye-openers

“The findings opened our eyes to the hazards,” Bayacsan told the media during the Kapihan sa Benguet at the town hall Thursday. He did not elaborate on the hazards, but emphasized the need to manage the toxic wastes.

Benguet farmers leave the empty containers anywhere because they are unaware these would pose danger to humans and the environment, added Bayacsan. The Agno River reportedly carries the toxic wastes to lowland farms and the Lingayen Gulf, which is a major fishing ground in northern Luzon.

With the forging of the agreement, pesticide and fertilizer companies would retrieve the containers from the gardens. Bayacsan said he had talked with representatives of Syngenta and Bayer for the bottle retrieval plan.

“Ti problema kayat da a dakami ti mangrumek ti bote,” (The problem is that they wanted us to shred the bottles) said Bayacsan. The shredding would minimize the volume for easier packaging and transport, he added.

Participating agencies

The MOA seeks to enforce relevant regulations; determine related activities geared at the proper handling of pesticide containers; and find funding for the project. It also proposes the testing of farms and the environment for the extent of pesticide contamination.

Signatories to the MOA besides Bayacsan and Loo Barangay Captain Delino Dampilag Sr. include representatives of the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority (FPA); Crop Protection Association of the Philippines; Philippine Integrated Crop Management Association; Integrated Waste Management, Inc.; Croplife Philippines and Newfoundland and Plastic Manufacturing Corporation.

FPA’s mandate is to regulate fertilizer and pesticide use and to educate the public of the n the benefits as well as the hazards of pesticide use and its proper handling, including proper disposal of empty containers.

In the meantime, experts have advised residents in contaminated farms to add one more pipe to their pumped water sources and to boil drinking water.

Admitting there was an abuse in the use of fertilizers and pesticides, Bayacsan said more farmers are now either controlling the use of inorganic inputs or shifting to organic farming.

Pesticide studies

In a study done on a ten-year period from 1980 to 1990 Dr. Charles Cheng and Katherine Bersamira of the Filipino-Chinese Hospital noted pesticide-related health problems of farmers, such as itchy skin, dry lips, watery and itchy red eyes that lasted for days, abdominal and chest pains, muscle cramps, appetite loss, dizziness, nose bleeding and irregular and discolored nails.

Last year, another study by the National Institute of Health (NIH) of UP Manila tried to collect blood samples among Benguet farmers and correlated ailments these have been suffering from. Participating farmers underwent examinations of the head, eyes, ears, nose, throat, neck, lungs, heart, abdomen and extremities. Past ailments, lifestyle, food preferences and eating habits, chemical and pesticide exposure, including occupational practices regarding pesticide use, storage and waste disposal were among those included in the interviews.

The NIH research results though were kept from the public to prevent undue panic among Benguet residents. # Lyn V. Ramo (NorDis)

Militarization threatens food security — women’s group

October 5, 2008

TABUK, Kalinga — As part of Innabuyog’s campaign on Land, Food and Rights, it launched a series of community workshops all over the Cordillera region to assess the food crisis, its impact to women, coping community actions and recommendations for government.

Done with the Cordillera Women’s Education Action Research Center (CWEARC) the recent workshop that took place in Kalinga identified militarization as one of the burdens and a threat to food security on top of the unbearable impact of the worsening economic crisis.

Women whose major role is to ensure food for their families have much to say on the effects of militarization. A case in point is the experience of Ag-agama women, who recalled the brutal killing of their village mate Kagawad Rocky Aboli by members of the 21st in July 2008.

Such incident has left a situation of fear among the residents especially women and children. During military operations, community members are afraid to go to their farms for fear of being suspected as rebels.

Our swidden farms were left untended and we do not know what happened to the legumes that we have just harvested,” Manang Betty lamented.

Besides the worry of where to get food for the next meal, they also fear the safety of their husbands and children.

Even the school teachers worry much for the safety of their pupils such that they advised their pupils not to go to school especially when there is a helicopter flying in the vicinity. Helicopters are used to clear the area by strafing before landing.

This system of clearing indeed endangers anyone within the vicinity making everyone a target including animals and other properties.

Manang Betty added the community does not need the presence of military in their community. She said they are peace-loving people and they have a high respect for one another.

“Sometimes the military would say that they came to teach school children but we do not need them because we can actually teach our own children,” Manang Betty said.

Aware of its heavy impact to their livelihood, women participants continued to call on the Arroyo government to stop militarization in the countrysides. What they reiterated is viable economic development and social services that will ease our burden.

Women leaders promised to intensify their campaign against militarization, among other issues and concerns they have to face. At the same time they have to strengthen and develop new ways to increase food production to cope with the worsening economic crisis. # Virgie Dammay (NorDis)

Bakun elders reject Royalco exploration

October 5, 2008

BAKUN, Benguet — Elders of at least nine more sitios in Barangay Gambang here rejected the mineral exploration project of Royalco, Philippines.

In a resolution, the barangay council of Gambang endorsed the Certificate of Rejection by the council of elders of sitios Mabuhay, Pulag, Gold Star, Mogao, Batanes/Paasin,Nametbet/Lebeng/Bagtangan, Takayan, Liwang and Bolbolo, covering Phase III of the said mining exploration venture.

Barangay Captain Alvaro Paquito signed Resolution No. 51-2008, which defined the council endorsement for the said rejection.

Upon learning of the approved exploration permit application, elders questioned the processes and altercations of legal interpretations ensued between NCIP representatives and individuals. The heated exchange dismayed the Council of Leaders and Elders of their understanding of “customary laws” and “indigenous rights” as embodied under the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA).

Among the arguments the Certificate of Rejection forwarded include the predominantly agricultural character of the livelihood sources of the people and their preference to develop farming rather than mining; the apprehension that mining would divide the community and alter the harmonious community relationships; and the apprehension that the company’s interest in the area does not end in the exploration stage and that they fear losing their water to the mining operations.

“We are preserving the land for the future generation and the generations to come. We are not ready to allow these lands for large scale mining,” the elders’ certification of rejection reads.

The Council of Leaders and Elders, also added that Sitio Liin is the source of water for both domestic and irrigation.

“In case any exploration will happen at Phase III, this will affect all the sitios sourcing water here. It would be disastrous to the residents and their livelihood,” one of the signatories said.

The leaders and elders also maintained they did not receive any prior notice for such consultation. They said they were informed two days before, which they said is not enough for them to prepare. They assert that this is violation of their right to Free prior Informed Consent as community. Some of them were not able to attend due to lack of access to information in their sitios.

Some of the landowners opposing the said mineral exploration were not in the list. They tried  to include participate so that they could question such anomalous approval but they were not given chance by the NCIP team.

More elders of affected sitios are also preparing for their Certificate of Rejections, according to another resident.

Royalco’s exploration involves an area of 986 hectares in Barangay Gambang. Its free, prior and informed consent has been approved for Phase I, while those of phases II and III are undergoing consultations. Phase III met strong community opposition, according to Paquito. # Sonia Bullong (NorDis)

Benguet farmers add to OFWs

October 5, 2008

BUGUIAS, Benguet — This town that claims to produce 80% of all temperate vegetables in Benguet, has been sending its farmers for greener pastures in foreign countries, the municipal agriculture officer (MAO) divulged Thursday.

Many Buguias gardeners go to work in farms in North America, Europe and Asia, according to MAO Asano Aban, mentioning Canada, the United Kingdom and Japan as among the favorite destinations for local gardeners.

In Japan they usually work as trainees for three to six months. “As trainees, they earn much more than their local earnings here,” Aban told Nordis. He added farmers also learn new farming techniques, especially in areas of agricultural technology, which they apply when they come home.

Many get recommendations from him, being an authority to certify the applicants have experience in growing temperate vegetables. He said the OFW phenomenon in Buguias has been lingering for years.

He said farmers opt for employment abroad to ease the financial hardships in Benguet’s temperate vegetable industry.

No Elf for the local farmer

Aban attributes the capability of farmers to acquire delivery trucks or build concrete houses to their incomes as overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

“Apay kabaelan ti ordinaryo a gardener to gumatang ti Elf?” (Can an ordinary farmer buy an Elf?) he asked referring to a popular brand of light delivery trucks.

According to Aban, the law of demand and supply and the impositions of international trade have greatly affected Benguet farmers’ income. He said imported vegetables are far cheaper than locally grown vegetables because farmers in foreign countries have government subsidy to lean back on when market and natural disasters strike against their produce.

“Palalo daytoy umayan ti imported a nateng,” (Vegetable importation has adverse impacts on our farmers) Aban said referring to liberalization in agriculture born with the General Agreements on Tariff and Trade of the World Trade Organization (GATT-WTO).

Fighting the law of supply and demand

Besides importation, farmers’ income tend to dwindle with the law of supply and demand. There are times when there is too much cabbage in the market that farmers just leave them in the fields to rot, causing them more losses.

“The local farmers really look up to the plan to look into the planting calendar,” Aban said, as he clarified the town is getting ready with its report for the said plan in line with the program of the provincial government of Benguet to come up with the provincial vegetable profiling project.

Benguet Gov. Nestor B. Fongwan initiated a plan to regulate the planting calendar so as not to flood the market with just one kind of vegetable at any given time. The project got some P400,000 in government funds in March when Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo visited Benguet.

Meanwhile, Aban initially estimated the typhoon Nina damage to crops at P3.2 million. # Lyn V. Ramo (NorDis)

Human Rights Lexicon: Enforced disappearances

October 5, 2008

The United Nations Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, proclaimed by the General Assembly in its resolution 47/133 of 18 December 1992, defines enforced disappearance.

Following the Declaration is the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. This is an international human rights instrument of the United Nations (UN) and intended to prevent forced disappearance. The UN General Assembly adopted the text on December 20 2006 and opened for signature on February 6 2007. So far, 73 states have signed, and four have ratified. It will come into force when ratified by 20 states-parties.

Part I of the Convention states:

“Article 1
1. No one shall be subjected to enforced disappearance.
2. No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification for enforced disappearance.

Article 2
For the purposes of this Convention, “enforced disappearance” is considered to be the arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty by agents of the State or by persons or groups of persons acting with the authorization, support or acquiescence of the State, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person, which place such a person outside the protection of the law.”

Enforced disappearance does not refer to the manner of disappearance or the presence of violence frequently surrounding the disappearance. It is not only involuntary because it is the result of State action and enforcement of policy.

It has the following elements: first, the victim is arrested, detained or abducted against their will or otherwise deprived of their liberty; second, the perpetrator/s are officials of different branches or levels of Government, or by organized groups, or private individuals acting on behalf of, or with the support, direct or indirect, consent or acquiescence of the Government; take note that the perpetrators can be private individuals but acting on behalf of, or with the support, direct or indirect, consent or acquiescence of the Government; and third, it is characterized by a refusal to disclose the fate or whereabouts of the persons concerned or a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of their liberty, which places such persons outside the protection of the law.

This is a doubly difficult form of suffering. The victims frequently tortured by their captors and in constant fear for their lives. Often, the captors of the enforcedly disappeared (desaparacidos) never release them and their fate remains unknown.

Their families and friends may never find out what has happened to them. Emotions alternating between hope and despair, wondering and waiting, sometimes for years, for news that may never come. They too are threatened and may suffer the same fate themselves, and that the search for the truth may expose them to greater danger.

The material loss that usually results from the disappearance compounds the emotional upheaval, made more acute by the costs incurred in the search. In some cases, it may also make it impossible to receive pension or other means of State support in the absence of a death certificate. Economic and social marginalization also frequently results.

If death is not the outcome and the captors eventually releasing the victim, the nightmare does not end, as the victim may suffer from the physical and psychological consequences of this violation, and the brutality and torture that often accompany enforced disappearances.

The victims are well aware that their families do not know what has become of them and that the chances are slim that anyone will come to their aid. The victims not only disappear from society but they are also outside the protective precinct of the law. They are at the mercy of their captors who violate their rights to security, safety and life, dignity as a person, to a fair and speedy trial.”1

The Convention attracted 57 signatures when opened for signature in Paris. The United States refused to sign, saying that “did not meet our expectations.” A number of European countries also refused to become parties. These included the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, Germany, and the Netherlands, which later signed it on April 29. As of March 2008 only Albania, Argentina, Honduras and Mexico have ratified the Convention. # Beverly Longid

Footnotes
1 Report entitled “Disappeared Technique of Terror”, prepared by the Independent Commission on International Humanitarian Issues, London, 1986
2 . The initial signatories were: France, Albania, Algeria, Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Congo, Croatia, Ghana, Guatemala, Haiti, Japan, Lithuania, Maldives, Moldavia, Morocco, Uganda, Senegal, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Macedonia, Chad, Tunisia, Vanuatu, Belgium, Bolivia, Bosnia Herzegovina, Cameroon, Cap Verde, Chile, Comoros, Costa Rica, Cuba, Cyprus, Finland, Grenada, Honduras, India, Kenya, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malta, Mexico, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Niger, Paraguay, Portugal, Samoa, Sweden, Uruguay, Mali, and Azerbaijan. The Republic of Ireland signed the Convention on 29 March 2007. Armenia signed on 10 April 2007, Ecuador on 24 May 2007 and Italy on 3 July 2007. Colombia, Denmark, Gabon, Germany, Liechtenstein, Panama, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Swaziland signed the Convention between September and October 2007. Norway signed on December 21 2007. The Netherlands signed on 29 April 2008. (NorDis)

Support pours in to surface missing activist

October 5, 2008

BAGUIO CITY — Support continue to pour in from all sectors, for the immediate surfacing of James M. Balao, an activist reported missing since September 17.


Photo by Brenda S. Dacpano/NORDIS

Declared by rights groups as a case of enforced disappearance (see side bar for related text), the Balao case is gaining even international attention as his family and friends intensify urgent search efforts.

In a proposed resolution, some Baguio City council members are united in condemning the involuntary disappearance of Balao and are committed to give any assistance to the family for the “immediate surfacing and release of Balao by his captors.” The proposal is up for deliberations during the council’s regular session Monday.

Mayor Reinaldo Bautista Jr., also condemning the abduction of Balao, said Thursday he would issue a directive to the city and regional Philippine National Police (PNP) offices for assistance in locating Balao immediately. He also asked the public to contact his office for any information on Balao’s whereabouts.

Police Regional Office Cordillera (PROCOR) Director Eugene Martin came out with a directive early last week to all provincial offices for any information on the case.

Meanwhile, Commissioner Leila De Lima of the Commission on Human Rights assured the family that their office would treat the case as a priority.

In an on-line petition signing initiated by the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), of which Balao is a member, hundreds have already signed calling for the immediate surfacing of Balao.

“The search for James Balao gets more and more urgent by the minute. He must be immediately and unconditionally surfaced,” said the petition.

Wilma Gacayan Wilson, one of the petitioners commented, “James is a good friend of mine from college 20 plus years ago, in the University of the Philippines Baguio. James is a man of character, morals, ethics, principle. He has always stood up for the poor, the unfortunate and for those whose voice is suppressed. The Philippine government, if it truly believes in basic human rights, needs to expend all the necessary resources to ensure the safe return of James to his family at the soonest possible time.”


CONGRESS LOBBY. The Balao siblings (left) asked Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño some assistance for their brother’s enforced disappearance case. Photo by Cye Reyes/NORDIS

Meanwhile, Balao’s siblings along with the CPA and the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) had a dialog Thursday with Bayan Muna Representative Teddy Casiño who is a member of the Congressional Committee on Human Rights. He was in town for a speaking engagement.

According to Casiño, Bayan Muna would include the case of Balao in a privilege speech Monday, along with the recent disappearance of two peasant organizers in Bataan. He also consoled with the family and assured them of the party’s assistance in the search of their brother.

The United Nations Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearance asked the CHRA to forward a case summary to New York to present it to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who was there to address the UN.

Amnesty International (AI) released an appeal to the public to send letters of concern to pressure the Philippine authorities from PGMA to the secretary of defense and the chief of police to order a prompt and thorough investigation on the Balao case and other cases of enforced disappearance and extra-judicial killing.

Meanwhile, militant organizations held a candle-light protest Wednesday and a noise barrage Friday condemning Balao’s alleged abduction.

According to CPA Chairperson Beverly Longid, Balao’s case is not an isolated incident and is part of a systematic government move against members of legitimate people’s organizations like CPA in its “counter-terrorism and anti-insurgency” campaign.

CPA members Markus Bangit and Alyce Claver were assassinated in June and July 2006, respectively. Both cases are yet to be resolved.

CPA alleged elements of the Intelligence Security Unit (ISU) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) as the perpetrators of Balao’s abduction.

Before his disappearance Balao had reported that he was in heavy surveillance since June and had often observed white and blue vans tailing him.

As of press time, no government unit has confirmed nor denied the accusation.

The Balao family continues to appeal for the witnesses to come out and for the public to give any information of Balao’s whereabouts. # Cye Reyes (NorDis)

Lax policies blamed for Itogon disaster

October 5, 2008

Corporate social responsibility a myth

BAGUIO CITY — An anti-mining group in Benguet province claimed that the disaster in one of the mining villages of Itogon town that buried 16 small scale miners is traceable to lax environmental and pro-corporate mining policies of the country.


ANOTHER ATTEMPT. Miners make another attempt to rescue their fellows trapped at shaft 114 of Goldfield in Poblacion, Itogon, Benguet last week. Two additional pocket miners were reported to have been missing together with the 14 other that were reported earlier this week. Photo courtesy of Redjie Melvic Cawis/PIA

Virgel Aniceto, spokesperson of the newly formed Benguet Mining Alert and Action Network (BMAAN), pointed out the lax environmental policy of the state is manifested by the absence of a rehabilitation program by the Benguet Corporation (BC) after it profited from mining the Itogon area for many years since 1903. BMAAN is a new organization which advocates sustainable environment.

Aniceto’s pronouncements came in the wake of reports that quoted Itogon Mayor Mario Godio as seeking a review of Republic Act 7076 or the People’s small Scale Mining Act of 1991.

No rehabilitation

“The absence of rehabilitation over the mined out areas shows that corporate social responsibility to affected communities is just a myth,” Aniceto explained in a phone interview.

Aniceto pointed out as concrete example the latest destruction brought by mining in Itogon town.

The landslides in Sitio Bedda in barangay Loakan, Itogon, were mainly caused by the collapse of two BC tunnels below the church of the Iglesia ni Kristo in that area.

The church was among the buildings not destroyed due to the slides, but at least 51 houses were destroyed causing at least 400 residents to evacuate the areas. Residents claimed the landslides and collapse of the tunnels was due to mining.

Trapped miners

The collapsed tunnels, believed 700 feet deep, trapped 16 small scale miners at the height of typhoon Nina.

The miners, mostly from Ifugao in the Cordillera and Quirino in the Cagayan Valley, were allegedly contracted by BC under the Community Mining Program, where a sharing scheme between the company and the miners are agreed on, sources revealed.

The bodies recovered were in the stages of decomposition Thursday night, two bodies were found inside the tunnel when flood waters started to rise. The first body was that of Joel Bulga from Aglipay, Quirino, while the second was identified as Vincent Himmayod from Nagtipunan, also in Quirino.

Earlier, the National Disaster Coordinating Council identified the other 14 as Gilbert Nattem, Garry Ganu, Rudy Boling Jr., Joel Bulga, Jeyson Himmayod, Rudy Himmayod, Jojo Himmayod, Juan Himmayod, Marvin Himmayod, Vincent Himmayod, Joseph Anayasan, Mario Annayasan, Gerry Monyboda, and Robert Buway. Two other missing miners were named as Nitnit Pagulayan and Jose Panio.

Rescue and retrieval

The rescue and retrieval operations for the trapped miners are on its sixth day in Sitio Goldfields in Barangay Poblacion.

Various government, private and non-government organizations are among those joining the operations but community members are leading the rescue despite bad weather.

As early as Tuesday, SN Aboitiz Philippines-Benguet dispatched personnel and equipment to aid in the rescue but to no avail as the rush of flood waters was so strong and the tunnels filled up to chin-deep.

On Thursday and Friday, more groups pitched in, even giving crash lessons in SCUBA diving.

The Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) in a statement pointed to large scale mining, particularly BC, as the culprit. “Their effort to rescue is the least they can do and it must not cover up their responsibility and accountability in the whole disaster – the loss of lives, the environmental disaster, displacement of families and the demolished community which could never be built again. What future awaits the displaced families who have lost their loved ones, their homes, and their community” the statement read.

Meanwhile, while government environment authorities see corporate liability over the disaster, BC’s Reynaldo Mendoza, vice-president for legal affairs, said the tunnel where the miners remained trapped is a “no mining zone,” insinuating that the miners entered the mines without permission.

BC has been in Itogon for a century. In 1996, it stopped its open pit mining that stripped mountains of its forest covers in Itogon.

In 2000, the company started its community mining scheme where any one interested can join small scale mining activities after company approval.

In 2005, it offered its Antamok open pit as a water reservoir for a bulk water project it won for Baguio City. # Arthur L. Allad-iw (NorDis)

Movie Review: No Country for Old Men

October 4, 2008

Movie Review: No Country for Old Men

Cast: Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin, Woody Harrelson, Kelly Macdonald

Director: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen

Sa tingin nyo ba’y napanood nyo na ang pinakanakakatakot na pelikula? Mag-iisip kang muli pag napanood mo ang No Country for Old Men.

Una kang mapapakibot sa paraan ng pagkamatay ng isang pulis mula sa pananakal ng assassin na si Anton Chigurh (ginampanan ni Javier Bardem). Magigimbal ka sa eksena dahil sa dami ng napanood mong eksenang may taong namamatay sa sakal, sa eksenang ito ni Chigurh mo mararamdaman ang sakit na nararamdaman ng taong sinasakal dahil makikita mo ang konsentradong kadiliman sa mga mata ni Chigurh.

Mapapapikit ka rin sa napaka-cold blooded na pagpatay ni Chigurh sa may-ari ng sasakyang gagamitin niya. Akala mo ba’y hindi nakakatakot ang mga napanood mong eksena nung mga binabaril at nagbabaril sa ulo? Pwes, magkakamali kayo sa eksenang ito with Anton Chigurh.

Isa pang eksenang magpapatayo sa mga balahibo ninyo sa antisipasyon ay ang paglalagay niya sa kapalaran ng buhay ng isang tao sa barya sa pamamagitan ng toss coin. Ang napakaitim na humor ng papel ni Bardem ang siyang magbibigay sayo ng antisipasyon na papatayin niya ang tinder, pero ang unexpected na paggalang niya sa resulta ng toss coin ang makapagbibigay sa inyo ng malalaim na buntoong-hininga sabay ang pasasalamat na hindi niya pinatay ang tindero. Walang sinabi ang bangis ni Two-Face (Batman villian) sa paggamit niya dito ng barya. Ang malaki niyang boses, katambal ang mga matang parang nanunuot sa kaluluwa ang nagbibigay ng mensahe na talagang papatayin niya ang kausap niya kung iyon ang sasabihin ng barya.

Ang No Country for Old Men ay adaptasyon sa nobelang sinulat ni Crmac McCarthy nong 2005. Ang daloy, lalo na ang ending ng pelikula ay masasabing nagging tapat sa orihinal na latag ng nobela. Kaya kung hindi nyo nabasa ang nobela, maaaring hindi kayo makuntento sa paraan ng pagtatapos ng pelikula.

Pero eto, ang No Country for Old Men ay masasabing isang pelikulang tumutuligsa sa pamahalaan ng Estados Unidos. Ang pagpapakita ng mga nakakarimarim na eksena sa mga manonood habang tuloy ding ipinipresenta ang kawalan ng hakbang na ginagawa ng pamahalaan ay totoo sa titulo ng pelikula, ang Amerika ay no country for anyone, lalo na para sa mga matatanda. J

Tatlo ang nagdala sa pelikula. At hindi ito mga artista. Hindi si Tommy Lee Jones, hindi si Javier Bardem at mas lalong hindi si Josh Brolin. Bagkus, ang tunay na nagdala ng pelikula ay ang mga karakter na ginampanan nilang tatlo. Hindi ako magdadalawang isip na sabihing isa sa kanilang tatlo, kung hindi man silang lahat, ang nararapat na ma-nominate sa mga malalaking award giving bodies.

Editorial Cartoon: VFA Emblem

October 4, 2008

Look closely and you’ll see the ‘VFA’ in there. :)

SC asks Senate to disclose Bolante inquiry

October 4, 2008

THE Supreme Court wants a full disclosure on the result of the Senate’s inquiry on the controversial P728-million fertilizer fund scam, which pointed to former Agriculture Undersecretary Jocelyn “Joc-Joc” Bolante as the scam’s alleged chief architect.

In a resolution, the High Court en banc resolved to “require the parties to manifest the status of the Senate inquiry within a non-extendible period of seven days.”

The High Court said it needs to know first the status of the Senate inquiry for it to act on the petition filed by Bolante in 2006, which seeks to nullify the arrest warrants issued against him by the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food.

Bolante was cited in contempt by the Senate agriculture committee and the Senate ordered his arrest on December 12, 2005 after he failed to attend the joint committee hearings scheduled on October 6, 26 and November 17, 24, and December 12, of the same year, despite subpoenas sent to him.

In his petition, through counsel Antonio Zulueta in January 2006, Bolante asked the High Court to issue a temporary restraining order with prayer for preliminary injunction to set aside the Senate’s warrant of arrest, on grounds it is unconstitutional.

The petition was executed on January 4, 2006 before Roberto Bernardo, Philippine vice consul for State of Illinois, Chicago, USA. Named respondents in the suit were Senators Joker Arroyo and Ramon Magsaysay Jr., former chairmen of the Senate Blue- Ribbon and Committee on Agriculture and Food, respectively and their members, as well as Senate Sergeant At Arms Jose Balajadia.

Records show the P728-million fertilizer fund was distributed before the 2004 national elections among lawmakers, including congressmen whose areas they represented had no farmlands.

Investigation at the House of Representatives later revealed that many of the congressmen who were on the list of among those who benefited from the fund did not actually received the amount purported to them. Among those on the list who received nothing was Rep. Teodoro Locsin of Makati City.

Government critics expressed belief that the P728 million was diverted to President Gloria Arroyo’s 2004 election campaign fund.

Bolante is currently jailed at the Kenosha County Detention Center in Wisconsin for an immigration case and appealed the decision of the US Court of Appeals that junked his petition for political asylum.

The Senate had also recommended Bolante’s prosecution before the Office of the Ombudsman. The case, however, remains pending.

Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez said Bolante will remain a freeman if he is deported, as there were no criminal charges filed against him nor a pending warrant, except for the one earlier issued by the Senate.

“So if he arrives I don’t think we can arrest him unless the Senate can enforce its order to arrest him,” he said.
– William B.Depasupil (ManilaTimes)

Pope reaffirms Church opposition to contraception

October 4, 2008

VATICAN CITY: Pope Benedict XVI on Friday reaffirmed the Roman Catholic Church’s opposition to contraception on the 40th anniversary of a papal encyclical on the controversial topic.

Contraception “means negating the intimate truth of conjugal love, with which the divine gift [of life] is communicated,” the pope wrote in a message published by the Vatican.

The rhythm method is an acceptable form of contraception for couples in “dire circumstances” who need to space their children, the leader of the world’s 1.1 billion Catholics wrote to participants in a seminar on the 1968 encyclical by Pope Paul VI.

The landmark document, whose title in English is “On the Regulation of Birth,” was published at a time when the development of the Pill was giving new sexual freedom to women across the world.

Millions of Catholics distanced themselves from Rome as a result, while the clergy were divided on how to deal with such a document, covered as it was by the doctrine of papal infallibility.

In July, some 60 Catholic groups from Europe to the Americas called on Benedict to reverse the position.
– AFP (ManilaTimes)

Charter change possible next year – Miriam

October 4, 2008

By Efren L. Danao, Senior Reporter

A constituent assembly to amend the Constitution could start next year despite the Senate consensus that it could wait until after 2010, Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago said Friday.

In a forum on Charter change at Our Lady of Fatima University in Valenzuela City, Santiago said Charter change, or “Cha-cha,” could push through in 2009 if the position of the House of Representatives on the computation of the three-fourths vote needed to convert Congress into a constituent assembly would hold sway.

She explained that the position of the House is there would be a joint voting of the House and the Senate in a constituent assembly and that the three-fourths vote should be obtained from the total number of repre­sentatives and senators.

“Since there are more congressmen than senators, the House will be able to out-vote the Senate,” she said.

The Senate position is that Charter change needs three-fourths of the House plus three-fourths of the Senate,” she said.

She predicted the Supreme Court would eventually decide the conflict between the House and the Senate. She noted, however, that even former Supreme Court justices and constitutional convention delegates are divided on the answer to this issue.

No clear answers from Constitution

The 1987 Constitution did not specify whether the House and the Senate should vote jointly or separately when Congress constitutes itself into a constituent assembly to amend the Constitution. Any Supreme Court decision favoring the House position would make the Senate vote in a constituent assembly irrelevant.

Santiago said that as a constitutional law professor, she opposes any Charter change unless there are compelling reasons.

“One compelling reason is the imperative necessity to change the nationalistic provisions, in order that the Philippines can be globally competitive,” she said.

Senate Minority Leader Aqui­lino Pimentel Jr., author of a joint resolution seeking a shift to a federal government, wants Cha-cha as soon as possible. He is hopeful that his resolution would precipitate a nationwide information campaign and debates on the merits of his proposal.

Sen. Richard Gordon, chairman of the Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments, had said he would conduct hearings nationwide to feel the sentiments of the regions on Charter change. At the same time, he insisted that amending the Constitution could be best pursued if candidates who make an issue of it in 2010 will win.

Senate President Manuel Villar said Charter change could wait until after 2010.

“It is too divisive an issue right now, when we should be concentrating on alleviating the economic difficulties of our people,” he said. (ManilaTimes)

Palin escapes gaffes, but Biden wins debate

October 4, 2008

ST. LOUIS, Missouri: Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin defied her critics with an aggressive, folksy showing in her debate clash with Democrat Joe Biden, escaping without a disastrous gaffe.

But Palin, who branded Barack Obama “dangerous” in a string of attacks on the Democratic nominee, appeared to do little to transform a race that polls suggest may be slipping away from her running mate John McCain.

The Alaska governor disappointed those who predicted she would fail miserably in the keenly awaited primetime debate, following a tirade of mocking assessments about her credentials ahead of the election on November 4.

“I may not answer the question the way you want to hear, but I’ll talk straight to the American people and let them know my track record also,” said Palin, who was wildly popular but has seen her opinion ratings fade in recent days.

Often winking at the camera, Palin fired off staccato sound bites and prepped answers that often ignored the questions, in a populist tone that framed her and McCain, and not Obama and Biden, as agents of change.

“I like being able to answer these tough questions without the filter, even, of the mainstream media kind of telling viewers what they’ve just heard,” Palin, a 44-year-old mother of five said.

Palin has faced a storm of criticism for only doing a handful of media interviews and refusing to conduct a full-scale press conference.

Biden wins

Biden, a political veteran with 35 years of experience, provided detailed policy answers, trying to show a range of expertise across the economy, foreign policy and national security.

At one stage, he choked up when he talked about his wife and infant daughter killed in a 1972 car crash, in a moment that may have helped Biden forge an emotional connection with undecided voters.

Biden was careful not to attack Palin or her credentials directly, anxious about being branded as sexist or a bully, and sought to label McCain as a clone of unpopular President George W. Bush.

“I haven’t heard how his policy will be different on Iran than George W. Bush’s.

“I haven’t heard how his policy will be different on Israel than George Bush’s.

“I haven’t heard how his policy on Afghanistan will be different than George Bush’s, I haven’t heard how his policy in Pakistan will be different than George Bush’s.”

But Palin rebuked Biden for dwelling on the past.

“There is a time, too, when Americans say enough is enough with your ticket on constantly looking backwards and pointing fingers and doing the blame game,” she said.

Snap opinion polls suggested Biden won. CNN’s sampling said he took the clash by 51 percent to 36 percent and a CBS survey of uncommitted voters put Biden at 46 percent against 21 percent who said Palin won.

Palin the reformer

Framing herself as a typical middleclass person that goes to kids’ soccer games, showcasing her “hockey mom” persona, Palin painted herself as a reformer as a small-town mayor and governor and an expert on energy.

“Nice to meet you, can I call you Joe?” Palin said, in a comment picked up by microphones as she first met her adversary.

“Darn right it was the predatory lenders,” she said when asked whether mortgate sharks caused the subprime crisis.

The rivals clashed on the financial meltdown.

Palin warned Democrats would embrace wealth distribution and high tax policies that she said would limit growth. Biden argued that eight years of Republican policies were to blame for the economy’s nightmare.

“It was two Mondays ago that John McCain said at nine in the morning that fundamentals of the economy were strong,” Biden said.

“Later that day John McCain said we had an economic crisis—that doesn’t make John McCain a bad guy but it does point out he’s out of touch,” he added.

Palin chose not to parry a Biden claim that McCain argued against greater regulation on Wall Street, and contributed to the debt crisis.

She argued Obama voted in the Senate to raise taxes 94 times, a claim that has been questioned by newspaper reports and independent fact-check operations.

She painted Senator McCain as a “maverick” immune from the kind of Washington logjam politics she framed his colleague Biden as representing.

While Palin was strongest on domestic policy, the gap in experience and knowledge was exposed when the debate turned to national security, and the Bush administration’s foreign policy legacy.

She called the commander of the NATO-led security assistance force in Afghanistan “McClellan” instead of his name General David McKiernan, and her answers were often vague.

Mixed views

For her admirers, Palin gave a barnstorming performance, erasing doubts about her credentials and threadbare foreign policy experience.

“She’s holding her own with an experienced, polished politician,” said the owner of the Conservative Café, a coffee shop in Crown Point, Indiana that caters to right-wing customers.

In Dublin, Ohio, meanwhile, a group of around 100 McCain-Palin supporters crammed into Hoggy’s Barbecue and Grill were delighted.

Peggy Guzzo of Liberty Township, Ohio, was ecstatic at around the halfway mark. “I think she’s doing phenomenal,” Guzzo said.

“She’s taken control of the stage. She’s very authentic, very sincere. She’s speaking from true convictions. That’s what I love about her.”

But in Democratic-dominated Los Angeles, a group of debate-watchers crowded around a television screen in the heart of Hollywood frequently cringed and shook their heads as Palin went about her work.

“Frankly, I’m terrified,” said production assistant Robin Dicker, 35. “When you boil it down her message is essentially fear-based. And I worry that that is what people in middle America will respond to.

“I’m concerned that a lot of women voters will see the public image, the good looks, the hair, the children, the wholesome family, and then the message of fear, and they won’t look too far past that.”
– AFP (ManilaTimes)

Manila Times Exclusive: ‘Jueteng,’ illegal logging hound Isabela – Padaca

October 4, 2008

Despite making great progress in governance and electoral reform, Isabela Governor Grace Padaca said she faces much unfinished business in her fight against illegal gambling and illegal logging.

Padaca, who became popular for ending Isabela’s 40-year political dynasty of the Dy family and for recently winning the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Government Service, said the illegal numbers game jueteng is still rampant in the province.

Part of her difficulties is the public’s perception that “jueteng is a victimless crime” that provides livelihood for many people, she said during an exclusive roundtable interview with The Manila Times.

And she conceded that her success depends on whether “higher officials want it stopped.”

For example, Padaca told The Times that she asked the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office to establish a small-town lottery in Isabela, hoping that will become a substitute for the illegal game. But so far, no dice.

She added that most “jueteng operators talk to previous leaders [of Isabela],” making it harder to stop illegal gambling, because her political rivals remain influential and are capable of offering protection.

Illegal logging

Like jueteng, the governor said the province needed to provide legitimate livelihood to draw people away from illegal logging. She estimates that between 10,000 to 12,000 people are involved in illegal logging, and “many of the people involved in illegal logging are poor people.”

The province looked at providing those people with piglets, but many of them are so poor that they cannot wait for the three months for their animal to grow up.

Instead, Padaca said she approached private companies and nongovernment organizations, like Haribon Foundation and the League of Corporate Foundations, for help in establishing a reforestation program that will create jobs—as well as replace the denuded parts of the northern Sierra Madre.

The governor said the province has confiscated about a million board feet of illegally cut down trees—worth about P150 million in the black market.

With the help of Secretary Lito Atienza of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the confiscated wood is to be auctioned, and the proceeds due the provincial government would be used to fund livelihood programs, the governor said.

Tourism business

Padaca said illegal logging not only robs the environment of valuable resources, but also opportunities to develop eco-tourism in Isabela.

Of the one-million-hectare land area of the province, about 360,000 hectares are in the northern tip of the Sierra Madre mountain range.

Isabela has much to offer nature lovers, Padaca said, adding, “We even have a bonsai forest.”

And there is a lot of variety in the province, where there are a number of beach resorts that rival the world-famous Boracay in central Philippines, she said.

One such place is Honeymoon Island in Divilican town, she added.

But she concedes that infrastructure, like hotels, is still lacking.

Answering critics

Padaca said it’s unfair for her critics to brand her as anti-poor for her campaign to eradicate jueteng and illegal logging.

Her government has enrolled 130,000 people in the PhilHealth insurance program, which has raised some P73 million for her province, she said. That money has allowed the government to buy much-needed hospital equipment and fully equipped ambulances, she added.

Padaca is also working on a deal with the provincial government of Manitoba, which will hire 10,000 to 20,000 people from Isabela to work in Canada. The workers in demand are welders, accountants and restaurant crew, she added.

And Isabela has a scholarship program, the KTK or Kursong Trabaho Agad program, which helps young people take up vocational courses that help them get a job.
– Camille A. Bersola (Manila Times)

==============

My Take:

Padaca ang Panlilio’s experience proves one thing, even a government official like them can never combat illegal gambling if someone higher than them, and someone who controls the guns and goons are in favor of it.

2 MILK PRODUCTS POSITIVE FOR MELAMINE

October 4, 2008

The scare from contaminated China-made milk products has become real for the Philippines, Russia and Vietnam and caused tempers to flare up violently in Taiwan.

Two milk products imported from China and sold in the Philippines have tested positive for melamine, Philippine health officials said Friday. The officials ordered that the products be removed from store shelves immediately.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque 3rd said authorities suspect that the milk products, under the brand names Greenfood Yili Fresh Milk and Mengniu Original Drink Milk, were illegally smuggled into the country, as they do not have labels in English.

Duque played down any fears of a public-health scare stemming from consumption of the two brands.

He said the government has shut down a Manila supermarket found to be selling the brands.

“There have been no reports coming from our hospitals, whom we ordered to report to us cases of kidney problems that may have some associations with the intake of milk tainted with melamine,” Duque said.

Based on records of the Bureau of Food and Drugs (BFAD), there is no registered infant formula produced in China being imported into the country.

28 brands cleared

The Health department, meanwhile, cleared 28 other milk products being sold in local stores after tests on them for melamine contamination turned out negative.

These milk products are Anchor Lite Milk, Anlene High Calcium Low Fat milk UHT, Bear Brand instant, Chic Choc milk chocolate, Farmland skim milk, Jinwei Drink, Jolly Cow pure fresh milk, Kiddie Soya Milk Egg Delight, Lactogen 1 DHA infant formula, M&M milk chocolate candies, M&M peanut chocolate candies, Milk Boy, Nestogen 2 DHA follow-up formula, Nestogen 3 DHA follow-up formula, Nido 3+ prebio with DHA, Nido Full Cream milk powder, Nido Jr., No-sugar chocolate of Isomalt 2 Oligosaccharide, Nutri Express milk drink, Pura UHT fresh Milk, Snickers fresh roasted in caramel nougat in thick milk chocolate, Vitasoy soya milk drink, Wahaha Orange, Wahaha Yellow, Want Want Milk Drink, Windmill Skim Milk Powder, Yinlu Milk Peanut, and Yogi Yogurt Flavored Milk Drink.

While these 28 products were already cleared, Duque said the temporary ban would continue on Chinese products particularly those that would still undergo tests.

More tests

The 30 milk products were the first ones tested. Some 20 products are still undergoing tests, results of which will be released early next week.

Duque appealed to private laboratories not to conduct their own testing without coordinating with the Bureau of Food and Drugs first.

He said that the bureau has the only authority to release results of tests for possible melamine contamination of milk products.

The bureau said it plans to test about 200 food products imported from China that contain milk.

Health authorities said they would work with other government agencies to stop the importation and sale of contaminated milk products from China. They also plan to file charges against those who will be arrested selling or distributing such products.

Melamine, an industrial chemical, can cause kidney failure and was blamed for the death of at least four children in China and more than 50,000 others falling ill from it.

Lost revenue

The scare from this chemical has cost the Philippine distributor of the popular Snickers chocolate bar millions.

“We’ve lost P30 million in revenues since the melamine scare started,” Henry Azcarraga, the country head of MARS Inc., told reporters during inspection of the company’s imported products at the Bureau of Customs on Friday.

The bureau held release of MARS’ P5-million worth of imported chocolate products from China pending results of laboratory tests and analyses to be done by health offices.

Azcarraga said the chocolates that MARS distributes in the country have been given clearance by the governments of Hong Kong, Malaysia, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand.

The company is also the local distributor of M&Ms and Dove chocolate bars that are highly popular among children and teenagers.

In September, Manila ordered Chinese-made milk products to be removed from grocery shelves after tests revealed widespread contamination with melamine, which also makes products appear to have more protein.

The move of the Philippines’ Health department to take out from stores contaminated China-made products will not affect trade relations between Manila and Beijing, Press Secretary Jesus Dureza said also on Friday.

But Dureza added that China must be more concerned about the issue and should move fast to prevent further exports of the toxic products.

Around the region

In Vietnam, the country’s food-safety watchdog said also on Friday that it had found melamine in 18 milk and dairy products imported from China as well as Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.

The toxin was discovered in milk, creamer and biscuit products, which had all been taken off supermarket shelves, the food safety authority and Health ministry said in statements on their websites.

Chinese milk producer Yili and Malaysian biscuit brands Khong Guan and Khian Guan were among the items containing melamine.

Tropical Vietnam does not have a large dairy industry and imports most milk products from neighboring China and Southeast Asia.

Many parents and kindergartens in Vietnam said they would cut milk from their children’s diet, media reports said.

But the Health ministry said: “Kindergartens and schools are strongly recommended not to cut milk from children’s menu to ensure enough nutrition.”

It has banned milk products of unclear origin and threatened to punish companies violating food hygiene and safety regulations.

In Russia

In Russia, authorities seized 1.7 tons of Chinese milk powder after banning imports over a deadly contamination scandal in the Asian country, Interfax news agency said Friday.

“We found 1.7 tons of dry milk produced in China in [the far eastern city of] Khabarovsk. We are confiscating it,” Russia’s consumer protection chief Gennady Onishchenko was quoted as saying.

The Russian government announced an import ban on all Chinese dairy products on Tuesday.

The restrictions were imposed on reports of the melamine toll on Chinese babies.

Minister attacked

In Taiwan, its Health minister was hospitalized also on Friday after he was allegedly attacked by opposition lawmakers angry over the government’s response to the widening scandal over tainted Chinese milk products, witnesses said.

Television footage broadcast on several networks showed the minister, Yeh Ching-chuan, being surrounded by a group of people, as reporters shouted, “How can lawmakers hit people? Don’t use violence.”

A lawmaker from the ruling Kuomintang at the scene, Chang Sho-wen, said the scuffle erupted when several opposition members of parliament tried to prevent Yeh from leaving the parliament after a meeting with bakery owners and MPs.

Yeh was later hospitalized for heart palpitations and dizziness, said a spokeswoman for the National Taiwan University Hospital.

A public-health expert best known for leading Taipei through the SARS crisis in 2003 as the capital’s deputy mayor, he took over as Health minister last week after predecessor Lin Fang-yue resigned over the tainted milk scandal.

Taiwan has banned all Chinese dairy imports and ordered those products already imported to be tested for traces of melamine.

Yeh said Thursday that six China-produced Nestlé products were pulled from store shelves after they were found to contain low levels of melamine, but insisted the contamination did not pose a significant health risk.

Nestlé Taiwan criticized the move, saying the levels were insignificant and that the government’s decision would cost it at least one billion Taiwan dollars ($31.15 million).
– Rommel C. Lontayao, Angelo S. Samonte, Anthony Vargas And AFP (ManilaTimes)

===========

My Take:

Sec. Duque seems to be building his name for something.  Maybe its 2010 polls, maybe not.  But his recent cries on the Melamine ek-ek shows us that he’s a bit hungry for publicity.  Why don’t he welcome private groups initiative?  After all, the final say will be coming from his office naman eh.  Just asking.

Anyway, he lacks the appeal to win a senatorial race.  If ever he’s doing this for that ends.

MILF homeland deal dead

October 4, 2008

GMA govt still committed to pursuing peace

By Angelo S. Samonte, Reporter

It’s final. President Gloria Arroyo reiterated that her administration would no longer sign an agreement on ancestral domain with the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) whatever the Supreme Court decision on the homeland deal would be.

The President standing pat on her decision to trash the territorial pact came as the European Union backed her so-called paradigm shift in resolving the nearly four decades of separatist conflict in Mindanao in southern Philippines.

A former rebel leader, Nur Misuari of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), on Friday also supported the government’s peace efforts in the South, an apparent turnaround in his past criticism that President Arroyo failed to implement the 1996 final peace agreement between Manila and the MNLF.

“We want peace. We don’t want war, and I am helping [the President] to bring peace to the South,” Misuari said during a meeting with Sulu Gov. Sakur Tan and senior military and government officials on Thursday at the provincial capitol in Patikul town.

In her speech during the 107th anniversary celebration of the Office of the Solicitor General in Fort Bonifacio in Makati City on Thursday night, Mrs. Arroyo said she was firmly closing the door on the controversial agreement “in the light of the recent violent incidents committed by MILF lawless groups.”

Such groups attacked mostly Christian communities in four provinces in Mindanao in southern Philippines in August. Ensuing clashes between government troops and the rebels saw more than 200 soldiers, insurgents and civilians killed and nearly half-a-million residents displaced.

Committed to peace

Despite her decision not to sign the agreement, the President said: “We are committed to doing everything possible to bring lasting peace to Mindanao and end 40 years of fighting that has killed more than 120,000 people.”

“It is in the interest of all Filipinos, Muslim and Christian, to end the violence that has held that part [Mindanao] of our country back and required an investment of hundreds of millions of pesos to support our military presence there,” Mrs. Arroyo added.

To achieve lasting peace in southern Philippines, the President said, all peace talks would be refocused from dialogues with the rebels to direct talks with both Muslim and Christian communities in Mindanao.

She highlighted her new paradigm shift of disarmament, demobilization and rehabilitation, or DDR, which, she said, would be the “overall framework governing our engagement with armed groups in peace talks.”

Under this strategy, Mrs. Arroyo said, rebel forces would be held accountable for all their actions.

“Our people, together with government, will be the primary force in defining the shape and direction of societal change, not the force of arms,” she added.

EU backing

In supporting the President’s new tack against the rebels, Eneko Landaburu, the European Union’s director general for external affairs, offered to study strengthening the government’s new policy through development assistance to Mindanao.

“[We] will help the Philippines find ways to recuperate the situation. The Philippine government already spent enormous amounts of effort and government resources for the peace pact [between Manila and MILF]. They should not go to waste,” Landabaru said.

Mrs. Arroyo dissolved the government peace panel on September 3, or a few weeks after the attacks led by rebel commanders Umbra Kato and Abdurahman Macapaar or Bravo. The two MILF leaders justified the attacks, which they said they launched to protest the aborted signing of the agreement on ancestral domain on August 5.

The deal would have added 721 villages to the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao under the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity, virtually the government for the Muslim homeland.

Philippine Ambassador to Belgium Cristina Ortega said dissolving the Philippine peace panel was necessary to enable the government to realign all peace initiatives with disarmament, demobilization and rehabilitation.

“By consulting directly local communities and holding dialogues with them, the new approach would be more effective and viable,” she added in a statement.

Peace broker

Rafael Seguis, the Foreign Affairs undersecretary for special concerns, said Malaysia is still willing to continue with brokering the peace process in southern Philippines.

The signing of the homeland deal set in Kuala Lumpur nearly two months ago was stalled after the Philippine Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order against it on petitions from local officials in Mindanao.

The Supreme Court is expected to again hear oral arguments on the petitions in the next few weeks.

Hermogenes Esperon Jr., the presidential adviser on the peace process, earlier admitted that Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had expressed disappointment over the collapse of the homeland deal.

Seguis, apparently confirming Badawi’s reaction, said during a chance interview with The Manila Times: “Malaysia did not like what happened, but they are still willing to help and give assistance to the Philippines, provided that the MILF will not resort to violence.”

Esperon on Friday expressed confidence that the government could achieve peace in Mindanao regardless of the resistance of the MILF.

“No matter how bad the damage [inflicted by the rebels] is, there is still hope to achieve peace,” he said during a media forum at Hotel Rembrandt in Quezon City.

Like the President, Esperon insisted that the MILF first turn in Kato and Bravo, plus another rebel commander, Solaiman Pangalian, to show its sincerity in seeing the peace process through.

The three commanders have been issued a total of 44 warrants of arrest and they and other rebel leaders are facing a total of 152 criminal cases.

Supposedly, 16 MILF commands have not joined followers of Kato, Bravo and Pangalian in battling government troops, a sign that the rebel leadership remains committed to an existing ceasefire agreement between the government and the separatist group.

In throwing his support behind Mrs. Arroyo’s peace initiatives, Misuari said he had been asked by the President to help quiet down the rebellion in Mindanao.

He spoke with Tan, Maj. Gen. Juancho Sabban, commander of military forces in Sulu, and Undersecretary Nabil Tan, a presidential adviser, about his role as a peacemaker.

Misuari also met with his loyal forces in Sulu led by Habier Malik, who is wanted by Philippine authorities for previously leading a series of attacks on government troops in Sulu.

In September, he said that the MNLF had nothing to do with the peace talks between the government and the MILF. “We are not involved [in the peace process between them]. We are not a party to that [process]. We are not bound by any consequences of any peace agreement.”

Misuari is facing rebellion charges over a failed attempt of his followers to seize a major military base in Sulu. He fled to Sabah, his former refuge, but was arrested by Malaysian authorities and sent back to Manila. Misuari is currently out on bail.
– Llanesca T. Panti, Al Jacinto And Jefferson Antiporda (ManilaTimes)

Editorial Cartoon: (OFWs) Floater

October 3, 2008

With a big pabigat!

Fact-finding team inspects US troops and facilities

October 3, 2008

By Bong Garcia

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INITIAL findings of the Legislative Oversight Committee on the Visiting Forces Agreement (Lovfa) showed that the presence of the American forces in Zamboanga City is not violating any provisions of the VFA between the US and Philippine government.

This was disclosed Thursday afternoon by Senator Rodolfo Biazon, the co-chairman of Lovfa that is tasked to verify all allegations against the continued stay of the American forces in the country.

What’s your take on the Mindanao crisis? Discuss views with other readers

However, Biazon said they are not yet making a conclusion based on the initial findings, citing they will continue to do the evaluation based on their ocular inspections.

Biazon and other members of the Lovfa arrived Thursday morning in Zamboanga City and inspected the American forces that are stationed inside Philippine military bases.

Some of the American forces are stationed inside Camp Don Basilio Navarro that houses the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) headquarters, Camp General Arturo Enrile and Edwin Andrews Air Base (EAAB) that houses the 3rd Air Division.

Biazon said there are two issues that they are checking and these are the allegations that the American troops are involved in actual combat and whether they are establishing bases in this part of the country.

So far, Biazon said there were no reported American soldiers who were injured or killed in any of the clashes taking place in Mindanao, “but Filipinos, yes.”

He said there is no truth to the allegations that the American troops are establishing bases, citing all of the facilities here are administrative in nature.

“As a former soldier, it is difficult for me to make a conclusion that the Americans have establish their own military base in this part of our country,” Biazon said.

He said all of the US troops’ facilities inside the Philippine military bases are temporary in nature.

He cited that one facility, a barracks inside Camp Enrile has been turned over to the Army’s 1st Infantry Division as stipulated in the Term of Reference (TOR) of the VFA.

The TOR states that all structures of the US forces will be left behind for the use of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Lovfa co-chairman Congressman Antonio Cuenco called on the people or group complaining about violations regarding the US troops’ presence to substantiate their allegations.

“So far we have not found any violation in so far the VFA between the US and RP is concern,” Cuenco said.

Cuenco said that providing information to Filipino troops by the Americans does not tantamount to any violation.

Earlier, Presidential Commission on the VFA Undersecretary Edilberto Adan said the US soldiers only provide technical assistance to the Philippine troops as part of the joint military exercises popularly known as Balikatan.

“We are happy to be able to get information from any source whatsoever so that we can attain our objectives in demolishing these enemies of our state,” Cuenco said.(SunStar)

Photos: Protests on the 36th Anniversary of Martial Law

October 3, 2008

NEGROS

Protest rally in Dumaguete City, Guihulgnan and Escalante City….

News Release —- September 21, 2008

GROUPS DENOUNCE HUNGER, POVERTY AND MILITARIZATION OF NEGROS TO MARK MARTIAL LAW DECLARATION

Shouting anti-government chants and carrying placards with anti-militarization slogans, 700 militant members of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Negros (BAYAN), KARAPATAN, September 21 Movement and the Northern Negros Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (NNAHRA) marched in downtown Bacolod yesterday to remind the dark period of Martial Law in the country.

The groups also burned the effigy of Uncle Sam and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, whom the militant activist considered as the brains behind the total war campaign and human rights violations.

More than 300 join the protest action held today in Guihulngan and Dumaguete City while more than 1,000 participate in a rally commemorating the Escalante Massacre was held last Saturday in Escalante.

“Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is comparable to the late dictator in terms of human rights abuses, corruptions and unpopularity. Her regime committed gross and systemic human rights violations with 910 victims of extrajudicial killings and 195 victims of enforced disappearance”, says BAYAN Secretary-General Felipe Levy Gelle Jr.

“The incarceration of Randall Echaniz, Emilia and Maricris Quirante, the poor upland farmers of Cadiz, Calatrava and Cauayan and rising numbers of political of conscience across the country are hallmarks of a fascist regime who considers political dissenters as “subversives and “enemies of the state”. KARAPATAN recorded 19 political prisoners in various jails in Negros Island.”

Randall Echaniz, deputy secretary-general of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) was illegally arrested by plainclothes police and army intelligence operatives in Bago City while attending a land reform conference.

Gelle added that “like Marcos, Arroyo relied on the trusted military and police generals to prop up her weakening and unpopular governance. She made possible the increasing budget for AFP modernization and launch total war campaign against the Moro people and the Filipino masses through the Oplan Bantay Laya 2”.

“The regime answered the people’s struggle for just wages, security of jobs and opposing landgrabbing by mining and biofuel agribusiness with additional army troops, bullets and bombs and the militarization of Negros countryside. The horrors of martial law are coming back”.

The people must courageously resist the worsening repression and oppression as well as to call to an end to the vicious attacks on the democratic rights of the people. We must continue to fight for justice not only for the victims of the Marcos and Arroyo regime but to put an end to the system that breeds this oppression.

BAYAN Press Statement

September 20, 2008

Activists, old and new, mark Martial Law anniversary in Mendiola

Activists spanning several generations converged at the foot of the Don Chino Roces (Mendiol) Bridge today to commemorate the 36th anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law by the dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

The groups are demanding justice for the victims of the Marcos dictatorship and as well as the human rights victims under the Arroyo administration. In particular, the protesters are calling for the release of 218 political prisoners, 198 of whom were arrested under the Arroyo regime according to human rights group SELDA.

“The Arroyo regime has gained the sole distinction of being the regime closest to the Marcos dictatorship in terms of its human rights record, corruption and foreign policy. The Arroyo regime is the best argument that we should never allow a return to a fascist dictatorship, no matter what the pretext is,” said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr.

“Despite its claims of an improving human rights climate in the country, hundreds of victims are still being denied justice. Scores of activists are incarcerated in jails all over the country, a grim reminder that the vestiges of Martial Rule are still here,” Reyes said.

The militant group cited the case of detained peasant leader Randall Echanis who was also jailed during Martial Law and is now facing murder charges under the Arroyo regime. Echanis has been in detention since January.

“It is a basic feature of a fascist dictatorship that all those who disagree with it are treated as enemies and criminals. This explains the huge rise in the number of political detainees under Mrs. Arroyo’s watch,” Reyes said.

Bayan and human rights groups Karapatan, SELDA and Hustisya converged on Mendiola Bridge for a wreath-laying activity and a short program. The veterans of Martial Law marched from Lepanto Recto while the younger generation of activists marched from the Bustillos Church.

“The fear of a return to Martial Rule by any name is not unfounded. We see the desperation of the regime to stay in power at all costs. We see the unrestrained role of the military in government. We see the continued backing of the United States for an unpopular regime,” Reyes said.

“The only thing that stands in their way is the people. Our people have learned enough from Marcos and they will never allow such a monstrosity to return. Our people will resist,” Reyes added.

THE FILIPINOS’ OATH
(Inspired by the works of Amado V. Hernandez, Rio Alma, Jose Lacaba and Bienvenido Lumbera)

Joi Barrios-Leblanc, BAYAN PHILIPPINES Women’s Desk

Never again.
Never again to barbed wires.
A stretch of sky from a prison cell[1],
The constant fear of fascist rule

Never again to the grasshopper queen[2]
Her opulent feasts as the masses starve.
She who thinks she wears a crown,
Hesitates not when she tramples upon the poor.

Never again to the amazing adventures of Juan de la Cruz,[3]
From the rice fields to the factory, he seeks for work
Yet, at each turn, a sign:
“Bawal magreklamo!” “Bawal magwelga”
No complaints, no strikes, no dreams of freedom
nor prosperity allowed.

I gaze at the photographs taken by the lens of my youth[4]
Then and now in my beloved land,
and I ask, what the difference is
Of Martial Law declared
And Martial Law creeping in.

Never again, not today, nor tomorrow[M1] .
Our eyes wide open in the darkness of the night,
We stand guard, learning from the past.
The masses can drive away kings and queens,
Pretenders to the throne
Armed with love for the land,
The people shall never hesitate to revolt.

PANATA NG PILIPINO

(Pasintabi sa mga makatang Amado V. Hernandez, Rio Alma, Jose Lacaba at Bienvenido Lumbera)

Joi Barrios-Leblanc, BAYAN (Bagong Alyansang Makabayan) Women’s Desk

Hindi na kailanman.
Hindi na kailanman ang alembreng tinik,
ang bilanggong pulitikal na tumatanaw sa kapirasong langit[5]
ang takot sa pasismo na namamahay sa dibdib.

Hindi na kailanman ang kondesa del tipaklong,[6]
Ang magagarang pista habang mamamayan ay gutom,
Ang pagtapak sa mahirap niyang nag-aakala
na korona ang sa ulo nakapatong.

Hindi na kailanman ang isang Juan de la Cruz na may pakikipagsapalarang kagila-gilalas,[7]
Mula sa bukid hanggang sa pabrika, trabaho ang hinahanap,
Ngunit sa bawat hakbang, ay may karatulang nagsasaad:
“Bawal magreklamo!” “Bawal magwelga!”
“Bawal ang mangarap ng laya at gihhawa!”

Pinagmamasdan ko ang mga kuha ng aking kamera:[8]
ang noon at ngayon sa aking bayang sinisinta,
at nagtatanong: ano nga ba ang pagkakaiba,
ng Batas Militar na hayag at binabandila,
at Batas Militar, na palihim, dahan-dahan
na gumagapang upang sakmalin, ang ating kalayaan.

Hindi na kailanman. hindi ngayon, hindi bukas.
Pagkat tayong ang mga mata’y nakadilat
sa kadiliman ng magdamag,
Tayong nakatanod at handang kumllos,
Tayong naturuan na ng kasaysayan,
Batid nating walang hari o nagrereyna-reynahan
Ang hindi mapatatalaksik ng bayang nagnganalit,
Bayang ang bawat himagsik, ay nakasalig sa lupang iniibig.

[1] From Amado V. Hernandez’s “Isang Dipang Langit.”
[2] From Rio Alma”s “Kondesa del Tipaklong.”
[3] From Jose Lacaba’s “Ang Kagila-gilalas na Pakikipagsapalaran ni Juan dela Cruz.”
[4] From Bienvenido Lumbera”s “Tatlong Kuha ng Aking Kamera
[5] Humahalaw ang imahe na ito sa “Isang Dipang Langit” ni Amado V. Hernandez
[6] Humahalaw ang imahe na ito sa “Kondesa del Tipaklong” ni Rio Alma.
[7] Humahalaw ang imahe na ito mula sa “Ang Kagila-gilalas na Pakikipagsapalaran ni Juan dela Cruz” ni Jose Lacaba
[8] Humahalaw ang imahe na ito mula sa “Tatlong Kuha ng Aking Kamera” ni Bienvenido Lumbera.

Press conference of BAYAN, KARAPATAN and Northern Negros Alliance of Human Rights Advocates announcing the protest actions for the 36th Anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law

FIRE-GABRIELA USA

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 20, 2008
Reference: Joanne Alcantara, GABRIELA-USA, National Coordinator
(206) 859-7525, email gabrielawomen@gmail.com

GABRIELA USA DENOUNCES ARROYO’S MARTIAL LAW OF TODAY

Thirty-six years ago, on September 21, 1972, Ferdinand Marcos, the
former US-supported dictator of the Philippines, declared Martial Law
in his country. The political repression, liberalization of economic
policies and social constriction following his declaration claimed the
lives of hundreds of Filipinos. Today, the historical trauma of that
period and the continuation of backwards economic and political
policies still resonate. Filipino American women denounce the ongoing
militarization of the Philippines and the undeclared state of Martial
Law in the Philippines under Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA).

The resonance of Martial Law can be more accurately described as an
extension and continuation of graft and corruption from the Marcos
dictatorship all the way through the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo regime.
While she sits in her stolen presidential seat, GMA has washed her
hands in the blood of over a thousand community leaders, activists and
common people. GMA’s eagerness to bend over backwards to the dictates
of United States politics and its IMF/World Bank appendages have
outdone the assaults of Marcos on his own people.

The increasing conflict in Mindanao, falsely assigned religious
undertones as its source, finds its origins in the years of Martial
Law when Marcos engineered Philippine policies and legislation to open
up to the demands and orders of countless transnational, multinational
corporations and the then emerging IMF/World Bank. These grievances
exacted on the people of Mindanao pushed the Bangsamoro people to
fight against economic and state aggression to protect their land,
life and resources.

The very same fight exists today in Mindanao, the violence erupting is
from a people defending themselves and their land. The easy fallback
story of Christians versus Muslims is one of the fables in GMA’s
fictional legacy in her presidency, just like her claims to appease
the poverty and labor situation in the Philippines. US-backed foreign
intervention and the return of permanent US military bases is again a
reality for the Philippine people under the watch and permission of
the GMA administration.

The direct impacts of GMA’s foreign diplomacy results in the
displacement of women and children in Mindanao, beginning with the
arrival of US military occupation in 2001. Family homes, children’s
schools and community spaces have been readily disposed to be replaced by military development and corporate aggression. The “collateral damage” and the lives of women and children taken by these settlements are shocking and continue to escalate.

The entrance of US military bases in Mindanao opens the doors for the
proliferation of bases elsewhere in the Philippines, Zamboanga being a
site for expansion. These conditions, tried and true, leave women more
vulnerable to prostitution, sexual terrorism and rape with the arrival
of military servicemen in the thousands.

GABRIELA-USA, consisting of babae, San Francisco, Pinay Sa Seattle and Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment in New York, unite to call for a serious investigation of the US military encampments in the
Philippines and a restoration of constitutional law and Philippine
sovereignty. GABRIELA-USA demands that respect be reinstated to the
people of Mindanao, that they be granted their ancestral domain and be
able to live with the dignity of their full human rights.

On September 20, 2008, at the Bayanihan Filipino Community Center,
FiRE-GABRIELA USA hosts “On Martial Law.” This event features special guest Bebot Galvan from KABALIKAT, support network for Filipina domestic workers. Together, community members remember the conditions of Martial Law under Marcos, his overthrow during People Power I in 1986 and discuss today’s conditions of ongoing militarization and the call to oust Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

NEVER AGAIN! NEVER AGAIN TO MARTIAL LAW!
US TROOPS OUT OF THE PHILIPPINES! US MILITARY AID OUT OF THE PHILIPPINES!
NO TO ANOTHER GENERATION OF WAR ON WOMEN AND CHILDREN!
OUST GLORIA MACAPAGAL-ARROYO!
SELF-DETERMINATON FOR THE BANGSAMORO PEOPLE!
###

http://www.firenyc.org

Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE) is a mass-based women’s organization serving New York City and its surrounding areas. We connect the Filipino diaspora to the women’s struggle in the Philippines. By bringing woman-born and woman-identified people together, we challenge pervading stereotypes and create self-defined Filipina identities. For more information, please visit http://www.firenyc.org


FiRE is a proud member of BAYAN-USA, an alliance of progressive Filipino groups in the U.S. representing organizations of students, scholars, women, workers, and youth. To learn more about the only overseas chapter of BAYAN, and the other organizations in our alliance, please visit http://bayanusa.org

News Release
September 21, 2008
Reference: Berna Ellorin, Secretary-General, BAYAN USA, email: secgen@bayanusa.org

Arroyo Worse Than Marcos, But Undeclared Martial Law Won’t Save Unpopular Administration– BAYAN USA

On the 36th anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law in the Philippines under the US-backed dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos, Filipino-Americans under BAYAN USA are vowing to support the current movement to remove the current “undeclared dictator” Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo from her presidential seat.

“In many ways, she is worse than Marcos,” states BAYAN USA Chair Chito Quijano. “While Marcos imprisoned his opposition, Arroyo’s death squads just kill them in broad daylight in front of the civilian eyes. It is still an undeclared martial law in our country.”

According to the most recent reports from Philippine human rights monitoring group Karapatan, approximately 1000 extrajudicial killings of civilian dissidents have been documented as of June 2008 under the Arroyo administration, while an additional approximation of 200 abducted. In the last nine months alone, more than 230,000 Filipinos have been have been victimized by forced evacuation and massive displacement due to extensive militarization in the countryside, which also spawns other terrorizing acts such as indiscriminate firing at civilians, hamletting, as well as harassment and intimidation by the US-backed Armed Forces of the Philippines on poor farming communities in the far-flung regions of the country.

“The US government is as responsible for the human rights atrocities committed in the last seven years of Arroyo’s regime, as it was guilty for crimes against humanity committed during the Marcos dictatorship,” declared Quijano.

Since 2002, hundreds of millions of US taxes have been allocated to the Philippines. This escalation of US-intervention followed the Philippines’ designation by Bush and his war-criminal cabinet as the “2nd front of the war on terror.”

Corruption is also remains at an all-time high under Arroyo. While the ZTE-NBN scandal has plagued the administration since last year, numerous cash payola bribery schemes and misappropriation of billions in government funds are strongly latched to Arroyo as well.

“It’s as if Arroyo is trying her best to mimic her idols, Ferdinand and Imelda, in terms of lavishness of lifestyle, human rights violations, and government corruption,” Quijano added.

“Now with armed conflict escalating in Mindanao, Arroyo is once again living up to the Marcos legacy,” Quijano continued. “Marcos spearheaded the all-out war in Mindanao by opening it up to the neoliberal dictates of transnational corporations. Arroyo continues the legacy by pitting the conflict as strife between Muslims and Christians. It is not. In fact, it is Arroyo’s and the US military who are the most violent aggressors in the region, seeking to evacuate Muslim and Christian communities alike in favor of mining companies, golf courses, and forced land conversions.”

Arroyo is set to come to the United States for the second time in the past 3 months, with her last visit in June raking in millions in expenses on hotels for herself and her 50+ entourage. She will be in the US again by September 23.

Despite the ongoing economic and political crises, Filipino-Americans are confident martial law tactics won’t defend Arroyo’s seat from a broad opposition movement. As in 1986 and 2001, Filipinos are once again clamoring for another unseating in Malacanang.

“There is a formula that has been proven time and time again in Philippine history. Repression against the people breeds resistance. Arroyo’s repression will be her own undoing, because it is forcing more and more Filipinos into action,” Quijano ended. ###

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 21, 2008
Reference: Valerie Francisco, Chairperson, Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment
(FiRE), (925) 726-5768, email fire.nyc@gmail.com

FILAM GENERATIONS REMEMBER MARTIAL LAW, PAST AND PRESENT

New York, NY–In the middle of a busy Saturday at the Filipino community hub of Woodside, Queens, a younger generation of Filipino Americans gathered to hear the stories of a different generation. The generation that lived through a dark chapter in Philippine History, Martial Law, helped piece together a story that sometimes is easier to forget.

Bebot Galvan, a member of KABALIKAT Domestic Workers Support, was one of the guest speakers of the event organized by a Filipino women’s organization, Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE). Galvan started the sharing by telling the crowd that we “can’t remember Martial Law without remembering family, friends and comrades.” Galvan recounted the added dangers women had to face under Martial Law, detention meant sexual torture and rape under the hands of the fascist government. She went on to tell about the blatant injustices perpetrated by the Marcos regime to the common Filipino people: the curfews, the lack of freedom of speech and press, constant surveillance, to say the least.

Another invited speaker was Ramon Mappala, a former detainee during arbitrary sweeps of Martial Law, shared his experiences as a student at the University of the Philippines in Baguio City and how activism on campus was an invitation for government scrutiny. He told the younger generation that gatherings like the one we were having would be warrant enough for arrest and detention. As the young people in the audience looked around in disbelief, Mappala insisted that any critical stances of the government was undoubtedly punished.

Thirty-six years ago today, on September 21, 1972, Ferdinand Marcos, the former US-supported dictator of the Philippines, declared Martial Law in the Philippines. And today, the historical trauma of that period and the
continuation of backwards economic and political policies still resonate. Both Galvan and Mappala commented on the state of Martial Law and its continuation throughout the years.

Galvan stated, “Martial law hasn’t ended at all. Martial law has existed through Marcos, Aquino, Ramos, Estrada and especially Macapagal-Arroyo.” The height of the human rights violations in the Marcos
dictatorship has been surpassed by the Macapagal-Arroyo regime in her 7 years in office, GMA’s record has a over thousand violations reported in 2008. GMA’s eagerness to bend over backwards to the dictates of United States politics and its IMF/World Bank appendages have outdone the assaults of Marcos on his own people.

“Martial law still exists because those in power during Marcos’ administration is still in seats of power,” said Mappala, “But the
difference today is the government don’t care to make excuses for
disappearing activists.” The disappearance of 2 young women, students at the University of the Philippines and activists, Sheryl Cadapan and Karen Empeno, doing field research with famers in 2006 is evidence to the brutality of state repression under the Arroyo regime.

This inter-generational exchange ultimately led to the question: how has
Martial Law affected subsequent generations, especially those Filipinos born in the US? Jackie Mariano, the educational officer of FiRE, stated, “Our lives as Filipinos in the US are connected to Philippine history and current struggles as the US-Philippine regimes come closer and closer together.”

GMA’s policy of political repression, foreign diplomacy and economic
strategies mimic the very steps that Ferdinand Marcos to drive the Philippine into unending debt and social unrest. Despite, these odds, in an afternoon commemorating the deaths and disappeared during the Martial Law era, these generations of Filipinos in the US came together to also remember the resilience of the Filipino people.

“Remembering our history through the experiences of members in our
community is the best way learn,” Mariano added, “As FilAms we have
inherited this history and the right to change our future.”
###

NETHERLANDS

(Arkibong Bayan)

NMYL, Conscience sign recall petition v. Panlilio

October 3, 2008

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO — “We need a politician, not a priest,” a leader of the National Movement of Young Legislators (NMYL) Pampanga chapter said Thursday.

Janus Calara of NMYL-Pampanga issued the statement after he and his members signed the recall petition against Governor Eddie Panlilio the other day.

What’s your take on the Mindanao crisis? Discuss views with other readers

He said the priest-turned-governor has lost the confidence of the younger generation of voters and officials.

The signing of the recall petition was done during the NMYL’s general assembly meeting at the Max’s Restaurant here, which was attended by other 70 NMYL and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) officials.

“The NMYL-Pampanga believes in the stand of the Provincial Board (PB) and the Pampanga Mayors League (PML) to push for a recall through a signature campaign,” Calara told media men and other recall supporters.

The NMYL is a group of public officials whose age is 35 years old or below which advocates “for a new breed of politics which is non-traditional.”

“As young legislators, we, too have been advocating for good governance and transparency. It is sad to see the reality that despite the huge collection in quarry fees, no concrete program and projects have been given Kapampangans,” Calara said.

Taking a defensive stand, Calara said they were not paid to sign the recall petition, adding that they are not traditional politicians who only follow the move of the majority of politicians.

Asked who they think would best suit the post of the next governor in case of a recall election, Calara said: “For me, I think Vice Governor (Yeng) Guiao could very well take the post.”

Kambilan president Rosve Henson said they have gathered 200,000 signatures and are doing their own verification of the signatures before filing the recall petition at the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

Panlilio’s camp earlier expressed confidence that the priest-turned-governor will win in a recall election, in case one will be held.

Meanwhile, the Conscience Inc., the good government advocacy group headed by Pampanga’s Best owner Lolita Hizon, also signed recall petition against Panlilio in Barangay Cabalantian in Bacolor town on Thursday.

Crisostomo Martin, president of Conscience, said Panlilio’s administration “merely divided the province” and resulted into the buffering of social services, government programs and the progress of the province.

“Panlilio has made no significant change in this province and has only wasted the opportunity to make his term productive,” Martin said.

Hizon also lambasted Panlilio for being “psychologically incapacitated” in making logical decisions for the province. Chief of which, she said, is the continued “stubbornness” of the governor to remove provincial administrator Vivian Dabu.

In a separate interview with Panlilio, he said supporters of the recall should think well of his achievements before making such a decision.

Panlilio said he has done so much in improving the quarry collection of the province, the removal of corruption in government bidding, and fight against the illegal numbers game “jueteng.”

“It is their right (to support recall) but there should still be respect for both camps in such an endeavor,” Panlilio added. (IOF)

Lawmaker files bill vs suspects’ presentation to the media

October 3, 2008

By Jun A. Malig

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CITY OF SAN FERNANDO — Pampanga Third District Representative Aurelio “Dong” Gonzales Jr. has filed a bill seeking to prohibit the presentation of criminal suspects to the media.

Gonzales, who formally filed House Bill (HB) 1239 at the House of Representatives last July 23, found an ally in newly appointed Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Jesus Versoza, whose first official directive was for police officials to stop such a practice.

What’s your take on the Mindanao crisis? Discuss views with other readers

The full title of the lawmaker’s bill is “An Act Prohibiting the Presentation to the Press or Public of Suspects in Criminal Investigations before Cases are Formally Filed Against the Suspects.”

In his explanatory note, Gonzales said law enforcement agencies usually present suspects in a press conference while announcing that the case has been solved. He said such procedure violates some fundamental rights of the suspects.

“While an accused enjoys due process and the constitutional presumption of innocence, a suspect who is presented in a press conference is subjected to unwanted publicity. Even if the charges, if at all filed, are later dismissed, the zeal of our law enforcers in showing they are on top of the case could besmirch the name and reputation of a suspect or his/her family,” the congressman said.

Gonzales said public presentation before formal charges are filed against criminal suspects violates their human dignity.

Under the bill, any person who violates the law will face not less than six months and one day imprisonment or a fine of P20,000, or both. If the offender is a member of a law enforcement agency or a lawyer, the penalty to be imposed “shall be six years and one day to eight years.”

The proposed law only allows the posting of names and photographs of criminal suspects at large in order to facilitate their arrest.

Media interviews will be allowed only “upon the suspect’s written consent with assistance of counsel.” It states that, “no interview shall be allowed without the presence of (the suspect’s) counsel unless the suspect waives such privilege in writing.”

The bill allows law enforcers who have custody of the suspect to inform the public only of the circumstances as regards the suspect’s arrest “but should not include the identity and personal circumstances of the suspect.”

On Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Francis Pangilinan described as “an impressive start” Versoza’s ban on presenting criminal suspects to the media.

“He has hit the ground running. That is exactly the kind of leader needed by law enforcement: Decisive in thought and action. The police should do their jobs first before they put their best forward to the public. Their job is to enforce the law. They should remember that,” the senator said in a statement.

The new PNP chief’s first directive after assuming command last Saturday was to curb persistent abuse of criminal suspects through public humiliation and physical violence.

Though the official memorandum order was still to be issued, two Muntinlupa City policemen were already under investigation for possible violation of the directive.

Versoza said they would be made responsible for tolerating a brawl between an accuser and the accused while being covered by media.

“Such practices must stop. Until proven in court, an individual is presumed innocent by our constitution. This is something that should have been implemented a long time ago. That it has to be covered by yet another rule proves that the PNP truly needs reforms,” added Pangilinan.

Three months ago, Commission on Human Rights (CHR) chairperson Leila de Lima described the law enforcement agency as the prime violator of human rights in the country. Versoza’s first directive is said to be a response to this. (SunStar)

3 lawyers face disbarment over Meralco case

October 3, 2008

THE lawyer of First Gentleman Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo and two Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) counsels are not yet off the hook from the Meralco ownership case before the Court of Appeals (CA).

A complaint for disbarment was filed Thursday against lawyer Jesus Santos, also a member of the GSIS board of trustees, and GSIS counsels Estrella Elamparo and Orlando Polinar for their respective violations of the Code of Professional Responsibility for lawyers.

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Alan Paguia, a former lawyer of deposed President Joseph Estrada, who himself had been suspended indefinitely by the Supreme Court (SC) in a separate case, filed the disbarment case as a taxpayer and lawyer.

In his complaint, Paguia alleged that Santos committed the same violations as Presidential Commission on Good Government chairman Camilo Sabio when the latter called up his brother, CA Associate Justice Jose Sabio Jr., allegedly to influence him “to help the GSIS.”

The SC, in its September 9 decision, ruled that Camilo’s telephone call to relay to his brother the rightness of the GSIS’ cause constituted an impropriety in violation of the law, “prompted by a call from a member of the Board of Trustees of GSIS.”

Camilo’s action was referred by the Court to the Bar Confidant for appropriate action.

According to Paguia, it would appear from the record that Camilo would not or could not have committed the impropriety had Santos not prompted or instigated him to do so.

From that point, there was a “meeting of minds” between Santos and Camilo in conspiring to push for the GSIS’ cause, thus they are similarly situated, said Paguia.

“The impropriety would not have been committed without the instigation of Attorney Santos. Chairman Sabio appears to have been completely ignorant of the material facts until Santos informed him. It would follow that there was a meeting of minds between the two, pursuant to which the act of impropriety was committed,” he stated in his complaint.

Paguia further said that unless the SC treated Santos in the same manner as it applied Canon 13 of the Code of Professional Responsibility in the case of Camilo, the equal protection clause of the Constitution would be violated.

Canon 13 states that: “A lawyer shall refrain from any impropriety, which tends to influence or gives the appearance of influencing the court.”

As for Elamparo and Polinar, Paguia said their actions of personally furnishing CA Justice Vicente Roxas, ponente of the Meralco case, a copy of their motion to defer action on the petition filed by the Lopezes “patently tends to influence or gives the appearance of influencing Roxas.”

He pointed out that under the law, the act of filing any motion is complete the moment it is received by the receiving clerk.

In this case, Paguia said the two GSIS lawyers, instead of being satisfied with such completion of filing, persisted in personally furnishing Roxas a copy of their motion, clearly to impress upon him the urgency of their motion and for the magistrate to take immediate action. (ECV/Sunnex)

Davids vs Goliaths: Face off in Mindanao mines

October 3, 2008

By Edwin G. Espejo

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FILIPINO partners of foreign mining firms are slowly beginning to realize that inviting prospective offshore investors is proving to be more than they could handle than all shades of activists opposed to mining operations in the country.

These differences are taking deep roots in the boardrooms where giants in the global mining industry are slowly building up their interests and investments in Philippine mining companies.

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Asiaticus Management Corporation (Amcor) president Vicente Jayme Jr. said the difference goes beyond clashes over management style and cultural sensitivities.

“We have altogether different objectives which resulted into the delay of our exploration activities,” Jayme said, referring to Australian mining giant BHP Billiton with which he and his Filipino group have a joint venture agreement to explore ore deposits at the Pujada Nickel Project in Davao Oriental.

Trouble began when Filipino partners of Amcor questioned the priorities of BHP Billiton, which owns 40 per cent of the company.

“We have been waiting for them (BHP Billiton) over the last seven years to make good of their commitment to pour in investment for the project exploration,” he said in an interview at the break of the first Mindanao Mining Forum held at the Waterfront Insular Hotel in Davao City two days ago.

His fellow company official, Amcor Vice President Lauriano Barrios, said he is getting the impression that big foreign mining companies are only engaged in “mine banking.”

By claiming stakes in Philippine mining projects, he said these mining giants are already amassing huge profits in the stock markets. “They are building up their capital at our expense,” Barrios said.

While acknowledging that their case is mere microcosm of clashing interests between Filipino and foreign investors, Jayme said each and every mining corporation has its own peculiarities.

He has a point.

At the Sagittarius Mines Incorporated (SMI) in Tampakan, South Cotabato, an internecine corporate war is also brewing.

Xstrata Copper, a subsidiary of Xstrata Plc, is engaged in a bitter and costly war to hold off a bid of investors from taking control over the 34 per cent stake held by its partner, another Australian mining firm Indophil Resources Ltd., after it foiled an attempt by Hongkong-based Stanhill Consortium to get into the corporate picture.

Filipino corporate conglomerate Alsons Group is now trying to buy Indophil’s stake at Tampakan Copper and Gold Project.

With ore deposits of over 12.8 million tons of 0.6 per cent copper and 15.2 million ounces of 0.2 grams per ton of gold, The Tampakan Copper and Gold Project is reportedly the biggest of its kind in Asia. This potential find has sent the share prices of Indophil Resources Ltd., at the Australian Stock Exchange from AUS$0.35 per share to 1.32 per share at the time Stanhill made its offer in June this year.

The corporate war in SMI has spilled over to the corporation itself. The ensuing corporate shakedown following the takeover of Xstrata people in the management of SMI has heightened the opposition to the mining operations of the company.

A former consultant of SMI said, since Xstrata gained control over the project, nothing good has come out for the company in the local media.

Filipino partners of Philex Gold in Surigao are likewise moving to buy out the 50 per cent interest of Anglo American Plc following divergent views with the foreign mining firm “on a number of assumption and conclusions made in (its) feasibility studies such as metal prices, treatment and refining charges, engineering and owner’s costs and capital contingency.”

Jayme, whose father is former public works and finance secretary Vicente Jayme Sr. during the Aquino administration, said some global mining companies are using their “proprietary rights” over mining technologies and stacks off cash to hold Filipino mining interest hostage.

He said they finally decided to rescind their contract with BHP Billiton “because of our commitment to the communities.”

If need be, they will do it on their own sans BHP Billiton, he pointed out.
Technologies, he revealed, are no longer the private domains of these foreign mining firms.

“We have made several consultations with Chinese and Japanese mining firms and they are willing to help us out,” Jayme said.

BHP Billiton is the world’s biggest diversified mining company and holds varying amount of stakes over scores of mining claims all over the world. Xstrata Plc, on the other hand, is the world’s fourth largest mining firm while Anglo American Plc is among the world’s leading mining giants.

Barrios said with BHP Billiton having so much and so many interests in mining all over the world, exploring nickel at the Pujada project has become the least of its priorities.

“What about us? We cannot wait for them forever. Ginugutom nila ang mga (They are starving the Filipino) investors,” he rued.

Jayme refused to characterize the ongoing boardroom wars in many local mining firms with foreign partners as a product of birthing pains following the passage of Republic Act (RA) 7942 or the Philippine Mining Act of 1995.

RA 7942 was crafted to ostensibly resuscitate the mining industry in the country which, during the pre Martial Law era, was Asia’s biggest and most developed.

Until recently, Mindanao has been largely untapped as past mining operations were heavily concentrated in Luzon and Visayas. Since the passage of the law, there are already over 64 mining applications from 26 mining firms in the South Cotabato-Cotabato-Sultan Kudarat-Saragani-General Santos City (Soccsksargen or Central Mindanao Region) area alone.

With the Supreme Court (SC) in 2004 upholding the constitutionality of the RA 7942, which allows foreign corporations to wholly own mining firms and claims in the country, there is no telling where these intra-corporate wars are headed to.

Jayme is not straightforwardly asking the government to intervene and review its policy on the development of the mining industry in the country. But he has these parting words: “Support what is Filipino that belongs to the Filipinos.” (SunStar)

P100M libel suit mulled vs Davao daily

October 3, 2008

By Ben O. Tesiorna

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THE chief executive officer of Dabawenyo Minerals Corporation (DMC) is contemplating on filing a P100-million libel suit against a local newspaper for alleged malicious publication of a story against him.

In an interview, DMC chief executive officer Said Sayre said the Mindanao Daily Mirror story on October 1, 2008 entitled “DMC officers seek TRO vs chairperson” is nothing but “concocted and malicious rumor.”

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He said the writer, Judy Quiros, also failed to get his side of the issue before coming out with the story.

Sayre said the wife of one of his accusers, Rex Gabrido, is also an employee of the local daily, thus fueling his suspicion that the story was out to discredit him and his firm.

Mindanao Daily Mirror editor-in-chief Marietta Siongco said Thursday that their story was based on the facts stated in the complaint of three former DMC officials filed before Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 10.

She admitted that Gabrido’s wife, Marites, is the assistant advertising manager of their company but added that no employee could influence her to come out with the story.

Siongco said they are ready to publish the side of Sayre anytime he wishes to be interviewed by them.

In the Daily Mirror story, Sayre was accused of forgery and fraud by former company officials identified as Habib Mahalail Hassan, DMC vice president for operations; Rex Angelo Gabrido, corporate secretary; and Hadji Nouh Daiman, DMC director for operations.

The three accused Sayre of forgery and falsification of public documents “to collect substantial amount from the entities he entered into contract without authority and resolution from the DMC Board.”

For this, the three complainants are now asking the RTC for a temporary restraining order against Sayre to stop him from entering into any contract or agreement with any investors.

Gabrido claimed that Sayre is planning to liquidate him for refusing to accept the P500,000 offer as payment for Gabrido’s 129,287.50 shares from the company.

Sayre said the three are all lying as he presented documents to prove that he had already paid the three complainants more than what they should get from the company.

In the deeds of sale he presented, Sayre said he paid P500,000 for the 129,287.50 shares of Gabrido. He said this is more than the amount of shares valued at P1 per share.

Another deed of sale showed Sayre paying P1 million for the 21,245 shares of Hassan. Sayre also paid P250,000 for the 21,425 shares of Daiman. The deeds of sale were all executed in July this year.

“So how could they say I have not paid them and that they are still part of my company? I have paid them more than what they deserve and yet ganito ang gagawin nila sa akin? The case they filed in court is ongoing and now nag-una una na sila ug palabas ug story. Kaya karon I will face them because I have all the documentary evidence whereas yung kanila is all rumor,” Sayre said.

Sayre said before the court complaint, the three also filed same complaints before the offices of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB)-Southern Mindanao and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP).

He showed documents showing that MGB and NCIP Southern Mindanao have dismissed the complaints of the three for lack of merit last September 23.

Sayre said no less than Gabrido himself, as corporate secretary back then, authorized him (Sayre) to negotiate with any private investors for their mining concession in the boundaries of Mati City and Lupon in Davao Oriental.

The secretary certificate presented by Sayre was dated March 5, 2005 and signed by Gabrido and Sayre.

Sayre said documentary evidences in his hand would dispel all allegations hurled against him by his three former employees. He said the three had long been trying his patience. He said the allegation that he plans to assassinate Gabrido is, however, below the belt and that he would not allow it to pass.

Sayre said a grave accusation as planning to kill another person dictates for the accused to be asked of his side first before publishing such a story.

He claimed the Mindanao Daily Mirror failed to exercise its duty, thus he will seek redress in court against the local daily and his three accusers. (SunStar)

Pangilinan joins calls for surfacing of Balao

October 3, 2008

By Rimaliza Opiña

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SENATOR Francis Pangilinan backed calls of international rights groups calling for the immediate surfacing of missing activists in the country.

The statement was issued over the recent disappearance of James Balao, an activist affiliated with the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA). He was declared missing since September 17.

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“Have we again reached a point in our history when international groups need to interfere for human rights to be acknowledged? What are the military and police doing? Shouldn’t they be searching for James Balao? Their lack of decisive action on his disappearance further confirms suspicions they are involved in this crime,” Pangilinan said.

The independent human rights group, Karapatan, pegs the number of killed activists and journalists at 800 and 200 cases of enforced disappearance since 2001.

The senator said he will support petitions calling for the surfacing of the missing activist.

“If we need to petition the Supreme Court to command the military to open their camps, that is what we will do,” he said.

Members of the City Council filed a proposed resolution supporting the call for Balao’s surfacing. Several militant organizations did the same. They held rallies and sponsored various forums for the purpose.

UN, OIC’s help sought in Mindanao conflict

October 3, 2008

By Richel V. Umel and Malu Cadelina Manar


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MARAWI CITY — Some 5,000 Maranaos took to the streets Thursday their call for the United Nations (UN) and the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) to help end the armed conflict in Mindanao.

It was the biggest anti-war rally in Mindanao since full-scale fighting began in August after the junking of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) initialed by the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

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Waving banners and streamers with calls for a halt in the indiscriminate bombing of Moro communities, the rallyists marched from Bangolo to the Army headquarters in Kampo Ranao in Marawi City.

“We are angry. We want an end to this war,” said Haj Abdullah Lacs Dalidig, leader of the Islamic Movement for Electoral Reform for Good Government.

Dalidig said Moro communities in Central Mindanao and two Lanao provinces have bear the brunt of the military offensive to catch the two MILF commanders — Umbra Kato and Abdul Rahman alias Commander Bravo — accused of carrying attacks in North Cotabato and Lanao del Norte.

“Our communities have been subjected to aerial and artillery bombardment that did not happen anywhere else in the country. Communities in Luzon and Visayas did not suffer like we do,” he said.

Dalidig said the UN and OIC should step in to end the war and bring the failed peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the MILF back on its track.

The peace rally came as new clashes erupted in Maguindanao province killing four soldiers and five guerrillas Thursday.

In a manifesto, the Consortium for the Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS), composed of several non-government organizations, peoples’ organizations, academe, and religious groups, said that with the mediation of the two strong and very influential global organizations, there would be cessation of hostilities in Mindanao.

The group has also called on the UN to investigate and determine the true cause and extent of the war in Mindanao.

The group felt the Moro people are still bereft of their inherent rights as a distinct sovereign nation.

“When, after many decades of so-called peace negotiations, the Bangsamoro people wake up to the harsh truth of the abominable situation of sustained betrayal, manipulation, lying, cheating, and killing by the Government of the Republic of the Philippines,” it stressed.

Meanwhile, International humanitarian agencies have raised concerns over their safety when delivering aid to thousands of people displaced in the southern Philippines, officials said Thursday.

Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro said the issue was aired during a meeting between a special government taskforce on refugee and various UN agencies.

“One of the issues raised was the security of international aid workers and other NGOs (non-governmental organizations) who are helping in the relief operations,” he said.

But providing troops to escort food convoys could also strain soldiers on the frontlines against the MILF, which has been locked in heavy fighting with troops since August.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said Thursday that it is providing emergency aid for thousands of people displaced by fighting with Moro rebels in the southern Philippines.

The P15-million package will provide medicines and medical supplies and ensure safe water for some 38,000 families in evacuation centers in the south, the WHO said in a statement in Manila.

“Evacuees are vulnerable to diseases such as diarrhea and respiratory tract infection that may be acquired because of crowding and less than ideal environmental conditions in temporary shelters,” WHO representative Soe Nyunt-U was quoted as saying.

Journalists covering the war also raised concern of their safety after unidentified gunmen strafed a van carrying reporters and photographers of the Agence France Press in Datu Piang town last Tuesday.

Red Batario, Asia-Pacific regional coordinator for International News Safety Institute (INSI), said no one of the journalists was hurt but the incident was “sobering reminder that the situation in hostile environments can rapidly change, putting lives at risk.”

Batario said new guidelines were emailed to news organizations to ensure the safety of their reporters, TV cameramen and photographers.

“It is important for members of the media to make themselves easily identifiable as such especially when using unmarked, private vehicles,” Batario said. (Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro/Sun.Star Davao/Sunnex)

2 Chinese products tested positive for melamine

October 3, 2008

MANILA (2nd Update 1:53 p.m.) — The Department of Health (DOH) released Friday names of two milk products from China sold in local supermarkets that contained melamine.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque identified Mengniu Original Drink Milk and Green Food Yili Pure Milk as the two China-made milk products that tested positive of melamine content.

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Mengniu Dairy Group Co., manufacturer of Mengniu Original Drink Milk and Yili Industrial Group Co., maker of Green Food Yili Pure Milk are China’s two largest dairy producers.

China’s General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine reported earlier that about 10 percent of liquid milk samples taken from Mengniu Dairy Group Co. and Yili Industrial Group Co. are positive melamine.

The DOH also released 28 milk and milk products that were found negative of melamine contamination.

These products are:
1. Anchor Lite Milk
2. Anlene High calcium low fat milk UHT
3. Bear Brand instant
4. Chic Choc milk chocolate
5. Farmland skim milk
6. Jinwei Drink
7. Jolly Cow pure fresh milk
8. Kiddie Soya Milk Egg Delight
9. Lactogen 1 DHA infant formula
10. M&M milk chocolate candies
11. M&M peanut chocolate candies
12. Milk Boy
13. Nestogen 2 DHA follow-up formula
14. Nestogen 3 DHA follow-up formula
15. Nido 3+ prebio with DHA
16. Nido Full Cream milk powder
17. Nido Jr.
18. No-sugar chocolate of Isomalt 2 Oligosaccharide
19. Nutri Express milk drink
20. Pura UHT fresh Milk
21. Snickers fresh roasted in caramel nogut in thick milk chocolate
22. Vitasoy soya milk drink
23. Wahaha Orange
24. Wahaha Yellow
25. Want want Milk Drink
26. Windmill Skim Milk Powder
27. Yinlu Milk Peanut
28. Yogi Yogurt Flavored Milk Drink

Duque said appropriate charges will be filed against the supermarkets that sold the two Chinese milk products found positive of melamine despite the earlier ban ordered by the health department.

He said the Bureau of Food and Drugs (BFAD) will release on Tuesday results of 30 more milk and milk products that were tested for melamine content.

The DOH is testing more than 200 products from China for any presence of melamine, a toxic chemical, which experts said increases the protein level in the baby formula and since it is insoluble protein, it causes precipitates in the kidney.

BFAD Director Leticia Gutierrez said the two milk products from China that contained melamine were smuggled into the country.

Gutierrez explained that the two milk products bare labels in Chinese character, which means that these two were not registered by BFAD.

She further said imported products registered in their office should have English translations of the label. (Sunnex)

Editorial Cartoon: On the Right to Reply

October 3, 2008

Puentevella’s Revenge

27 aktibista sa Southern Tagalog ‘hinaharas,’ kinasuhan ng arson

October 3, 2008

BAHAGI umano ng “pagkikriminalisa sa mga aktibista” ang “malisyosong” pagkaso ng arson ng Globe Telecom sa 27 lider ng militanteng mga organisasyon sa Southern Tagalog.

Sa isang press conference, kinondena ni Bayani Cambronero, regional coordinator ng Bayan Muna-ST, ang “pagsasampa ng gobyernong Arroyo ng gawa-gawang mga kaso dahil sa kabiguan nitong patahimikin kami sa pamamagitan ng esktrahudisyal na pamamaslang.”

Kinasuhan ang prominenteng mga lider-aktibista ng arson, destruction, at conspiracy to commit rebellion kaugnay ng panununog ng mga rebeldeng New People’s Army sa cell site ng Globe Telecom sa Lemery, Batangas noong Agosto 2.

Kinasuhan sina Cambronero; Rolando Ming, bise-presidente ng Piston (Pinag-isang Samahan ng Tsuper at Operator Nationwide); Noriel Ricafort, pangakalahatang kalihim ng Bayan-Batangas; Atty. Remigio Saladero, founding member ng National Union of People’s Lawyers at kilalang labor lawyer; Agaton Bautista, provincial coordinator ng Anakpawis-Batangas; Renato Baybay, tagapangulo ng Kamagsasaka-Ka (Katipunan ng mga Magsasaka sa Kabite); at Isabelo Alicaya, tagapangulo ng Habagat (Haligi ng mga Batangueñong Anak Dagat), at iba pa.

Kabilang pa sa mga kinasuhan ang walong magsasaka na dinukot at tinortyur ng mga elemento ng PNP (Philippine National Police) sa Silang Cavite noong Agosto 31. Pinakawalan din ang mga ito nang hindi kinakasuhan.

Ayon kay Cambronero, madaling mapatunayan sa anumang tanggapan o korte ang kanilang pagka-inosente kapag sinunod ng gobyerno ang due process. “Marami sa amin, hindi man lang sinabihan hinggil sa kaso at aksidente lang nalaman ito,” aniya.

Samantala, naniniwala si Arman Albarillo, pangkalahatang kalihim ng Bayan-ST, na “nakikipagsabwatan” ang Globe Telecom sa PNP. “PNP pa rin at iba pang mga ahensiya sa ilalim ng COC-IS (Cabinet Oversight Committee on Internal Security) ang may hawak ng mga baraha dito,” aniya.

Bahagi pa rin umano ang ito ng Oplan Bantay Laya 2, programang kontra-insurhensiya ng gobyernong Arroyo.

Magpoprotesta sa Oktubre 6 ang iba’t ibang mga organisasyon sa Southern Tagalog sa harap ng Camp Crame, Quezon City para kalampagin ang bagong talagang hepe ng PNP na si Jesus Versoza hinggil sa diumano’y panghaharas sa kanilang mga lider.

Pagbaybay sa karapatan ng mga marino

October 3, 2008

NITONG nakaraang Linggo ng Mandaragat o Maritime Week, dinagsa ang T.M. Kalaw sa Maynila ng mga nag-aasam na makasakay ng barko para makahanap ng posibleng kabuhayan sa pagmamarino. Doon naghihintay ang ilang kumpanya na bigyan sila ng puwang.

Ngunit alam kaya ng mga nag-aasam na pumalaot ang sasapitin nila sa gitna ng karagatan?

Nagsagawa ng isang seminar ang Centerfils (Center for Filipino Seafarers), ISAC (International Seafarers Action Center), at FSM (Filipino Seafarers Movement) noong Setyembre 25 para talakayin ang karapatan ng mga mandaragat. Dumalo sa seminar ang mga maybahay ng mga mandaragat at mga beterano at baguhang seafarer.

Nagbigay ng paunang salita si Bishop Ephraime Fajutagana ng Iglesia Filipina Independiyente, miyembro ng Centerfils. Aniya, mahalagang malinawan ang mga mandaragat sa kanilang mga karapatan–laluna’t samu’t saring trahedya ang sinasapit ng ating mga kababayang mandaragat, tulad na lamang ng mga na-hostage sa Somalia ilang linggo pa lang ang nakalilipas.

Kasaysayan ng pandaragat

Ipinaliwanag ni Jeremy Cajiuat, project coordinator ng ISAC, ang kahalagahan ng pandaragat.

Aniya, isa sa pinakaluma at pinakaimportanteng industriya ang pagbabarko. “Sabi nga ng International Shipping Federation, kung walang barko, kung walang maritime industry, mamamatay ang kalakalan sa buong mundo,” saad ni Cajiuat.

Dinadala ng mahigit-kumulang 50,000 barko ang 90% ng mga kalakal sa buong mundo. Bagaman hindi lumilikha ng produkto ang pagbabarko tulad ng manufacturing, bahagi ito ng linya ng produsiyon bilang tagapaghatid ng raw at finished products. Aniya, “kung hindi maihahatid ang mga produkto kung saan ito maibebenta, walang value ang mga produktong ito.”

Sa kabuuan, kumakamal ng US$ 380 Bilyon ang industriya ng pagbabarko kada taon. Kontrolado ng iilang maritime power ang nasabing kita, na kumakatawan sa 5% ng kabuuang pandaigdigang kalakalan.

Noong dekada 50, kabilang ang Magsaysay Shipping sa mga maritime power na namayagpag sa industriya ng pagbabarko. Pero humina na ang lokal na kumpanyang ito. Sa kasalukuyan, kilala na lamang ang Pilipinas sa pagluluwas ng mga mandaragat.

Numero-unong pinagmumulan ng mga marino ang Pilipinas. Sa kabuuang 1.2 milyong nakasakay sa barko, 20% o isa sa lima ang Pilipino.

Repleksiyon ang dami ng bilang ng mga nais pumalaot ng kawalan ng disenteng hanapbuhay dito sa Pilipinas, dagdag ni Cajiuat.

Karapatan ng mga marino

Sa kalagayang maraming Pilipino ang nagbebenta ng kanilang cheap labor o murang paggawa, mainam na magtanong kung anu-ano nga ba ang kanilang karapatan at pribilehiyo.

Pinuna ni Atty. Joseph Entero, pangkalahatang kalihim ng ISAC, ang SEC o Standard Employee Contract ng POEA (Philippine Overseas Employment Agency). Unang-una, aniya, “Paano maiintindihan ang SEC kung hindi ito mabasa dahil napakaliit ng pagkakasulat?”

Dapat tumatayo ang SEC bilang kasunduan sa pagitan ng employer at employee o ng manning agency at ng seafarer. Pero sa kalakaran, wala umanong boses sa SEC ang empleyado.

Kinuwestiyon din ni Entero ang hindi pagpirma ng POEA sa kontrata gayong ito mismo ang nagpapatibay ng mga nakasaad dito. Aniya, mahalagang malaman ng publiko na dapat nagsasagawa ng “tripartite consultation” o makalahatang panig na konsultasyon ang POEA.

Inihayag ni Entero ang ilang batayang karapatan ng mga manggagawa. Kasama rito ang karapatang maghabol sa kanilang mga manning agency kung, halimbawa, hindi sila nakasakay sa naitalang barko. Isa pang karapatan ang pagsasaad ng wastong kondisyong medikal. Mahalaga rin, aniya, ang pagbibigay ng manning agency ng kanilang cash advance. Dapat ding walang placement fee na sisingilin mula sa mga sasakay ng barko.

Sa kabilang banda, inilahad din ni Entero kung paano maaaring magamit ng mga manggagawa ang SEC para igiit ang kanilang mga karapatan.

Madalas umanong magmula ang mga kalituhan at anomalya sa maling interpretasyon sa SEC. Kaya dapat wasto, halimbawa, ang pagkakaintindi sa kung kailan ang umpisa ng kontrata. Paano nga naman kung magkaroon ng aberya ang isang nakapirma na ng kontrata bago pa man siya sumakay ng barko? Ang kontrata, ani Entero, ay nagsisimula “upon departure from port” o sa daungang pinagpirmahan mismo ng empleyado.

Ipinaliwanag din niya ang tinatawag na “contract substitution” na ilegal na praktika ng mga manning agency. Isang ehemplo nito ang pagpapalit ng barkong sasakyan ng manggagawa nang hindi nakasaad sa kanyang unang pinirmahang kontrata.

Maling praktika

Isa pang mahalagang karapatan ang pakikipaglaban hinggil sa maaaring maging disability o kapansanan ng mandaragat dahil sa pagtatrabaho. Ayon sa SEC, maaaring maging fit to work pa rin ang isang manggagawa depende sa klase ng pinsalang natanggap nito sa katawan.

Pero sinasandigan ng ISAC ang naunang desisyon ng Korte Suprema na hindi sa grado ng pinsala humihina ang paggawa ng isang empleyado kundi sa kabuuang epekto nito sa kanyang pagkilos. Para kina Entero, hindi sapat na sabihing fit to work pa rin ang manggagawang nawalan kahit na isang daliri lamang.

Kasama rin sa karapatan ng mga manggagawa ang wastong pangangalaga ng kumpanya sa kanilang kalusugan. Nakasaad sa SEC na dapat mabigyan ng lunas ang manggagawa sa pinakamalapit na pagamutan sakaling mapinsala ito. Ngunit sa praktika, naghahanap pa ang manning agency ng pinakamurang pasilidad bago ipagamot ang marino.

Isinaad ni Entero bilang halimbawa ang paghahabol ng isang napinsalang marino. Sa tulong ng ITF o International Transport Federation, nakapag-claim siya ng mahigit US $1 Milyon para sa damages at pagpapagamot sa Europa. Kung hindi pa itinulak ng grupo, aniya’y baka pinauwi na lamang sa Pilipinas ang seafarer at lumala ang kanyang pinsala.

Mahalaga ring malaman ng publiko na mayroong Contract Bargaining Agreement o CBA sa pagbabarko, na “armas ng mga maggagawa sa paghahabol sa ilan pa niyang mga karapatan at benepisyo,” ani Entero.

Sa isang industriyang may limpak-limpak na nakakamal mula sa lakas-paggawa ng milyong manggagawa nito, marapat lamang na malaman ng ating mga kababayan na nangangarap kumita bilang isang mandaragat ang kanilang mga karapatan sa laot.

Photos: Surface James Balao

October 3, 2008

SURFACE JAMES M. BALAO NOW!

The CORDILLERA PEOPLES ALLIANCE urgently demands that those responsible for the enforced disappearance of JAMES M. BALAO should immediately and unconditionally surface him. We are specifically calling on the military intelligence units of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police to surface James. James’ surveillance leading to his abduction was executed only by means of the joint operations of the military intelligence groups-the Intelligence Security Unit (ISU), Military Intelligence Group (MIG) and the PNP. Balao is not simply a missing person but a victim of enforced disappearance, and this is an urgent issue of the right to life that must be upheld and respected at all times. We challenge the AFP and PNP that if they truly are defenders of human rights and are mandated to serve and protect the Filipino people, they MUST immediately surface James Balao.

Balao is a founding member of the CPA in 1984 and worked in its Research and Education Commission, extending his services and expertise in this area in the Cordillera provinces such as in Ifugao. He is the president of their clan association, the Oclupan Clan Association. He hails from Atok and La Trinidad in Benguet. Balao is the second victim of enforced disappearance in the CPA, with Ama Daniel Ngayaan who was first abducted in October 1987 in Pasil, Kalinga. Balao was first arrested in 1988 for allegedly possessing “subversive” documents. The case was dismissed due to lack of evidence.

Intensified Surveillance and Harassment Towards Extrajudicial Killings
Balao’s enforced disappearance is not an isolated incident. It is part of a systematic and desperate move of the State against members and officers of the CPA in its “counter-terrorism and anti-insurgency” campaign. The ultimate end-all of being unjustly branded as a “communist front” or “terrorist” is surveillance and harassment towards extrajudicial killings. In recent months, our members, including innocent civilians, became victims to the state terror unleashed thru the Oplan Bantay Laya. Through the OBL, the Arroyo regime has mercilessly claimed the lives of CPA members Markus Bangit and Alyce Claver in June and July 2006, and nearly, the life of Dr. Chandu Claver.

In November 2007, human rights worker Vangie Tadeo from the CPA-Abra chapter was abducted and it was very fortunate that Vangie escaped from her abductors. In March 2008, a youth member of our cultural member organization was abducted. She was surfaced after four days when her captors could not probably get anything from her. She was severely interrogated and remains in trauma. In their massive military operations in Tubo, Abra last March 2008, the 50th IB killed 60-year old farmer-hinter Mariano Galisen. In April and June 2008, elements of the 77th and 21st IBs mercilessly gunned down farmer-hunters Rey Logao and Rocky Aboli, both of Lubuagan, Kalinga, in what the military senselessly calls a “legitimate encounter with the NPA”. The circumstances of their deaths show that they are innocent civilians merely attending to their daily routine of farming. If the military can commit such a gruesome act to Aboli who is in fact a councilman of Upper Uma barangay, the ordinary civilians are also subject to the AFP’s mad terror tagging. The 5th Infantry Division has in fact manufactured a list of 25 alleged NPA surrenderees that includes names of civilians like Max Liyang Finmon-as of Tonglayan, Natonin, Mt. Province. The barangay officials immediately issued a resolution, also signed by Natonin Mayor Ana Rafael Banaag and the Natonin PNP Chief Eusebio Aclupen, stating that Finmon-as is NOT an NPA but a local resident whom they know.

Undaunted vigilance is very necessary at these crucial times. The regime is desperate in its attempt to prove that it is successful in quelling the revolutionary NPA, because it cannot. That is why it is manufacturing a list of NPAs which are actually innocent civilians and carries on attacking legitimate people’s organizations like the CPA.

The surveillance never stopped, and now, with James’ enforced disappearance, more suspicious looking drivers, taxi cabs and private vehicles have been parking near the CPA regional office and its network of organizations. The extrajudicial killings came to a lull in 2007 as a result of the sustained multi-level pressure at the extremely isolated Arroyo regime and its OBL, and while the regime underwent review for its human rights record in the Universal Periodic Review. The Philippine government’s report to the UPR contained barefaced lies and half truths about the real human rights situation in the country, claiming credit for the decrease in the number of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances through supposed “measures” undertaken by the Philippine government.

Defy State Terror!

Once an innocent civilian or a member of a legitimate people’s organization such as the CPA is labeled as a front organization of the CPP, an NPA supporter or a terrorist, that is already laying the ground towards surveillance, harassment and extrajudicial killing or enforced disappearance. In James’ case, let the public know that an AFP dossier has actually tagged James an alleged position as head of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Education Bureau in the Ilocos and Cordillera regions. This is outrageous and an outright desperate attempt of the AFP to claim that indeed, the State’s “counter-insurgency” is yielding positive results!

We challenge the AFP and PNP to immediately and unconditionally surface James Balao. Each day that you, the PNP and AFP remain silent and indifferent to the enforced disappearance of James only validates further your accountability in his disappearance.

We, along with the Balao family, appeal to the public for support in our effort to have James immediately surfaced. This is our task as Filipino citizens to always uphold and protect the right to life and not deny it to anyone.

A State that violates basic human rights and brazenly denies the right to life must not be tolerated. We will not tolerate each passing day with passivity nor will we tolerate the impunity bred in this fascist regime. We will heighten our vigilance and most especially, resist and defy state terrorism. We will not be lameducks waiting for prolonged surveillance and harassment and the next extrajudicial killing. We will resist all forms of state terror and if necessary, through self defense as an assertion of our rights to life and self determination!

SURFACE JAMES BALAO NOW!
RESIST AND DEFY STATE TERRORISM!

CORDILLERA PEOPLES ALLIANCE

Reference:
Beverly Longid
Chairperson, Cordillera Peoples Alliance

BALAO FAMILY LETTER SENT TO THE COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS

22 September 2008

Hon. Leila De Lima
Chairperson
Commission on Human Rights
SAAC Bldg., UP Complex
Commonwealth Ave. Diliman,
Quezon City

Dear Honorable Leila De Lima:

James had been missing since Sept. 17, 2008. Today is the fifth day of his unexplained disappearance – the fifth agonizing day of waiting for our family. We are a family gripped with absolute fear. Each passing moment without knowledge of our James’ whereabouts makes us more hopeless.

James is the eldest of our four children and was born in April 10, 1961. He has remained single into his late 40’s as a result of his dedication to his work. For James, his service to the people has always come first. But regardless of his status, he has always been a family man. His desire to serve extended as well to his clan and James has always been a pillar upholding our family.

In 1981, James, graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from the University of the Philippines (UP) Baguio. In college, he was the Editor-in-Chief of Outcrop, the UP Baguio campus newspaper. After graduation he worked as a research staff for the Cordillera Studies Group (CSG), based in Easter School (1981-1984), then as a staff of Pons Benagen, a member of the 1986 Constitutional Commission. James was especially involved in the drafting of the provisions on indigenous peoples rights in the 1986 Constitution.

James was one of the founding members of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) in June of 1984. Prior to that, James had been working as a research staff of the Cordillera Resource Center (CRC). An expert in research, James subsequently worked as member of the CPA’s Research and Education Commission as a researcher and trainer until 1993. Between 1994 and 1997 he was based in Ifugao, first with the Ifugao Research and Development Center and later with the Ifugao Leaders Forum. He has frequently extended his research and training skills to CPA member organizations in other provinces. James has significantly contributed to the CPA’s research in particular on the issues of tribal war, agricultural liberalization and ancestral land. As an active member of the CPA, James makes it a point to attend the CPA’s Annual Cordillera Day celebration such as in Tocucan, Mt. Province (2004) and Baguio City (2007). At present, he is the president of the Oclupan Clan Association.

In his work with the clan association James has played an even more important role in our family. He was tasked with looking into the registration and documentation of clan properties. He has also served as a mediator in clan and tribal conflicts. His selfless willingness to use his education and skills in the service of his family and his people has greatly contributed to the Cordillera’s collectivity and connectivity.

James’s sudden absence is extremely alarming. Starting the first week of June this year, James and the rest of our family have been under regular surveillance by unidentified people. Vehicles with heavily tinted windows have been regularly seen tailing him and us from our residence to wherever we went during the day. We believe that his years with the legal progressive people’s movement has made James the target of state terrorism.

We absolutely fear for his safety and for his life.

We humbly ask your attention, and request your services. Your assistance in immediately locating James is vital to his survival. If he is still in captivity, we believe that his captors will release him, knowing that you have interceded in this delicate situation. If he is being mistreated, we hope that his captors will cease their actions and spare him anymore harm, knowing that the Commission on Human Rights is behind us.

Please help us find James. We, Arthur and Jane, parents of James, Nonette his younger sister, Winston his brother, and Joni the youngest of the family, will exhaust all efforts and resources to locate our James. Together with his colleagues, all the people he has helped and supported in his life, all the clans and tribes he has been a part of we are calling on you to join our search. We will all be lost unless James is found. We fear that the more time we spend searching the less time he will have. We will not cease until we find our James.

We will not lose hope or faith. Please help us find James Balao.

With utmost respect,

The Balao Family
and the people of the Cordillera

JAMES BALAO PROFILE

James Balao is a founding member of the CORDILLERA PEOPLES ALLIANCE (CPA) when it was established in June 1984. Before the founding of the CPA, James was concurrently a researcher of the Cordillera Studies Program (CSP), the research and documentation arm of the Cordillera Schools Group (CSG), and a member of the Cordillera Consultative Committee then chaired by Atty. William Claver. The CSG published IGOROT: A People Who Daily Touch the Sky in 1986, and James’ name appears in the acknowledgment to the CSP staff. At present, he is the President of the Oclupan Clan Association and one of his tasks is to look into the registration and documentation of the clan properties.

Even before the founding of the CPA, James was working as a research staff of the Cordillera Resource Center (CRC), then Cordillera Consultation and Research (CCR). His forte and expertise in education and research were reflected in his work as head of the CPA’s Research and Education Commission as a trainor and researcher. He has invaluably contributed to CPA’s Research and Education work, especially in defining the particular manifestations of national oppression and the particular features of self-determination in the Cordillera.

James was with the CPA Regional Office until 1993, and then devoted his skills and expertise to the research and education work of the CPA

chapters and network in the provinces such as in Ifugao from 1994 to 1997, with the Ifugao Research and Development Center (IRDC) and later with the Ifugao Peasant Leaders Forum (IPLF). Then onwards, and up to present, he extends the same services to other provinces in the region, carrying out CPA’s research and education work particularly in agriculture and the Cordillera peasant situation, and his main contribution has been in helping to clarify the features of semi-feudal exploitation in the Cordillera.

At the same time, James has been actively attending to family affairs as clan president of the Oclupan Clan Association. As an active member of the CPA, James makes it a point to attend the CPA’s CORDILLERA DAY Celebrations, such as in Tocucan, Mt. Province (2004) and Baguio City (2007).

Balao graduated BA Psychology from the University of the Philippines Baguio in 1983, with a double major in Psychology and Economics. In college, he was the editor-in-chief of the Outcrop (campus newspaper). James had also worked as a staff of Pons Benagen, of the 1986 Constitutional Commission on the drafting of the 1986 Constitution especially on provisions on indigenous peoples.

He is the eldest child of Mr. and Mrs. Arthur and Jane Balao of Atok and La Trinidad, Benguet and is the eldest of four children. He was born in April 10, 1961. #

Download Profile in PDf format

OPEN LETTER OF THE ALL-UP ACADEMIC EMPLOYEES UNION and SUPPORTED BY THE ALL UP ACADEMIC UNION NATIONAL

September 27, 2008

SURFACE JAMES BALAO NOW!

2008 is the Centennial Year of the University of the Philippines. Since January, the entire University System has been celebrating. In fact, in UP Baguio, one of the culminating activities is a Grand Alumni Homecoming on December 5, 2008. But Alas! The preparations to turn this activity into a memorable, major celebration is theatened. One of the University of the Philippines Baguio’s harvests of intelligent minds, of true Iskolars ng Bayan who take to task genuine service to the people, is missing.

JAMES BALAO graduated in1981 with the degree BS Psychology. As a student, he served as editor-in-chief of the official student paper, Outcrop. After graduation, James involved himself into research and writing projects for both academic and non-government organizations. One of his major research outputs has to do with “The Land Problem of the Cordillera National Minorities.”

No one could just disappear in thin air. James could not disappear voluntarily without informing his family and frIends. James loves life. In fact he has been an advocate of the defense of life and land of the Cordillera Peoples, for the protection of his people from oppression and exploitation. James could have only disappeared involuntarily, forcibly.

The UP community appeals to the highest authorities of the Philippines to find the whereabouts of James and send clear signs of the Government’s adherence to justice by surfacing him immediately. If any state agency suspects him of any violations of the laws of the Philippines, James must be allowed to defend himself. The law enforcers must adhere to due process.


We also appeal to all concerned individuals and organizations to sign the on line petition at http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/CPAjamesbalao/
.

You may also forward letters of solidarity to the Balao family through and through the CORDILLERA HUMAN RIGHTS ASSOCIATION email address (chra@cpaphils.org)

ALL UP ACADEMIC EMPLOYEES UNION BAGUIO CHAPTER supported by ALL UP ACADEMIC EMPLOYEES UNION NATIONAL

DETAILS OF JAMES BALAO’S DISAPPEARANCE

The family of JAMES BALAO, a member of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), has reported that he has been missing since 17 September 2008. He left his residence in Fairview, Baguio City at around 7:00 AM on the said date and since then, has not been in contact with his friends and family; nor can they contact him. This is very unlikely for Balao, who his friends and family know to be conscientious as to informing them of his whereabouts.

James is of medium-built, 5’7”-5’9” tall, is chinky-eyed and was last seen wearing a black jacket, brown pants, visor, black hiking boots and eyeglasses. He was carrying a yellow and blue backpack and red travelling bag. He was going to spend the following days in the family residence in La Trinidad. His absence is very alarming, as he has reported regular surveillance to his family starting first week of June 2008 and has increasingly heightened until his disappearance. He has
even observed white and blue vans that regularly tail him from his residence to his daily chores.

We are urgently calling on the authorities, particularly the Philippine National Police, and the public who know him (former classmates, friends), to aggressively assist the Balao family and us in our search for James.

Any information in relation to James may be forwarded to the Balao family at 09175069404; the offices of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (442-2115); and the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (445-2586 and 09189199007). #

(Arkibong Bayan)

Rights v.2: Higit pang posibilidad

October 3, 2008

NAKABIG, walang duda, ang atensiyon ng Estado at ng marami pa nang bigyan ng MTRCB (Movie and Television Review and Classification Board) ng X-rating ang serye ng mga public service announcement o PSA na Rights noong nakaraang taon. Halos tig-iisang minuto lamang ang mga ito. Pero dahil paksa ang malagim na sitwasyong pangkarapatang pantao—na walang sinabi ang mga pelikulang horror kapag isinabiswal—at nakaturol sa gobyernong Arroyo, hinarang ang premiere ng Rights sa Robinson’s Galleria.

Noong Setyembre 19, inilunsad ang Rights v.2, pangalawang serye ng mga PSA, sa isang auditorium sa University of the Philippines-College of Mass Communications. Di-komersiyal at relatibong malaya ang venue kaya’t hindi hinabol ng mga sensura. Hindi na rin bago ang konsepto. Marahil kalakhan ng audience, pamilyar na sa tipo ng indipendiyenteng mga gawa ng iba’t ibang filmmaker na nababahala sa animo’y Martial Law sa bansa.

Pero hindi nauubusan ng dahilan para likhain at panoorin ang Rights. Patuloy ang mga kaso ng sapilitang pagkawala, ekstrahudisyal na pamamaslang, panunupil sa kalayaan sa pamamahayag at malayang asembliya, tortyur, at ilegal na pag-aresto at detensiyon, litanya ni Ruth Cervantes, public information officer ng grupong Karapatan. Babala pa niya, maaaring sumirit ang mga ito sa oras na maramdaman ng Estadong humihina ang atensiyon at reaksiyong publiko.

Iba’t iba ang pagtatangka ng mga filmmaker na makakuha ng malakas na atensiyon at reaksiyon mula sa audience. Ang Luya ni Ging Flores, close-up na kuha ng dinidikdik na luya para madiing “tao ka…hindi luya” na pwedeng umaray at lumaban. Simple ang metapora, maiintindihan ninuman. Sikreto ng kakapangyarihan nito ang hindi katanggap-tanggap na imaheng malilikha sa laylayan ng imahinasyon, habang pinapanood ang tila inosenteng pang-araw-araw na eksena mula sa kusina,

Sa Terorista Ka Ano? ni Ted Edward Ferras, absurdo naman ang mga eksena. Sa loob ng paaralan, punto-de-bista ng isang may hawak na baril na tila nag-amok. “Terorista” ang mga biktima batay sa stereotype na aktibista: long hair, balbas-sarado, naka-Chuck Taylors, at hindi naliligo. Ayon nga sa isang manonood na nag-react sa palabas, “Nakakatawa, pero naiinis ako na natatawa ako.” Kaparis ito ng natural na reaksiyon sa buhul-buhol na mga katuwiran ng Estado at ng US tuwing may sinusupil nang dahil sa oryentasyong pampulitika. Matatawa ka muna (panangga, marahil, sa pagkagulat) bago magpuyos sa galit.

Dramatikong naratibo na batay sa aktuwal na mga karanasan ng bagong-layang mga bilanggong pulitikal na Tagaytay 5 ang Awit at Tula ng Artists’ Arrest (Artists’ Response to the Call for Transformation and Social Change). Tampok sa mga ito ang kilalang mga aktor na sina Joel Torre, Chin-Chin Gutierrez, at Art Acuňa—mahusay, sa makatuwid, ang acting. Pulido rin ang mga aspektong teknikal. Huli ang tensiyon ng tortyur-interogasyon na patungo sa isang masahol na lundo; at ang tapang na sa sining ibinulwak ng mga pinahihirapan. Ayon kay Axel Pinpin, isa sa Tagaytay 5, sinariwa ng eksena ang mga nangyari sa kanya. Ipinunto ng kritikong si Doy del Mundo, hindi bilang anunsiyo kundi maikling pelikula maikakategorya ang dalawa. Isa pa, emosyunal kaysa intelektwal ang reaksiyon dito, aniya.

Pukaw-emosyon din ang Bakwet ng Southern Tagalog Exposure, head shot ng batang idinadaing sa kanta ang panggugulo ng mga sundalo sa kanilang pinagmulang nayon. Maaalala, mula sa unang serye ng Rights, ang pangongonsensiya ni Adelisa, anak ng pinatay na mag-asawang aktibistang Albarillo. Epektibo ang hilaw na mga tugon ng mga musmos na direktang apektado ng karahasan ng Estado.

Animation naman ang ilang PSA. Itinaguyod ng Warrant ni Bon Labora ang pangingibabaw ng biswal bilang pangyayaring aktuwal (“Hindi marinig ng tenga ang sinasabi ng dilat na mata”). Voice-over ang salaysay ng pulis na umano’y nanlaban ang inaaaresto, habang ipinakikita na natutulog lamang ang isang tila magsasaka kasama ng kanyang pamilya nang siya’y pagbabarilin. Sa Peace ni Emil Jurado, ginamit pang-tortyur ang kuryenteng nag-iilaw sa higanteng billboard na Peace and Stability. Pagtigbak ito sa mito na laging katuwiran ng Estado sa mga paglabag sa karapatang pantao, at may pangiliti pang alternatibong konsepto: “Nasa kamay natin ang tunay na kapayapaan.”

Sa 15 bagong mga likha, makikitang yumabong ang inisyatibang Rights. Mas maraming filmmakers ang natulak na paksain ang di-dapat malimot. Panghihikayat pa ni King Catoy, miyembro ng ST Exposure na prodyuser ng Rights v.2, hindi naman ganoong kalaking trabaho ang paggawa ng PSA at maliit lamang na kontribusyon. Katunayan, tatlo sa mga ito, ang Desparecidos, Puppets, at Cutouts, ay mula sa mga estudyante ng UP na dalawang linggo bago ang premiere lamang nahikayat ng grupo na gumawa.

Sang-ayon ang mga prodyuser sa obserbasyon ni del Mundo na limitado ang mensahe ng anunsiyo o pelikulang mahigit isang minuto. Layon lamang ng mga PSA na maging lunsaran ng mga talakayan hinggil sa sitwasyong pangkarapatang pantao. Kung magpapalalim pa, ani Catoy, maaaring matumbok ang dahilan ng paglaban—ang pagkait ng Estado sa karapatang pang-ekonomiya ng mga mamamayan.

Masasagot sa mga talakayan matapos ang panonood, halimbawa, kung sino at bakit nabilanggo ang Tagayatay 5 at si Eduardo Serrano (pamagat at paksa ng isa pang PSA ng ST Exposure), ano ang ginagawa nina Karen Empeňo, Sherlyn Cadapan, at Jonas Burgos bago sila nawala (mga mukha ng desparecidos sa Desaparecidos at Tagu-Taguan nina Recci Baculor at Zig Dulay), o kung ano ang isyu sa martsang binomba ng tubig sa Quenching Fire ng Kodao Productions.

Posible kayang patungkol naman sa mga karapatang pang-ekonomiya ang susunod na serye ng Rights? (Biro ng aktres na si Bibeth Orteza, baka umabot sa v.15 kapag nanatili sa puwesto si Gloria) Ramdam ang krisis ngayon higit kailanman, lalo ng pinakamahihirap na inalayan ng buhay ng karamihan sa mga biktima ng paglabag sa karapatang pantao. Maantig din kaya ang imahinasyon ng kasing-daming filmmaker sa horror ng kahirapan? Maaasahan kaya sila, partikular ang mga nasa mainstream, na bitbitin ang kasing-ispesipikong usaping pang-ekonomiya? Ipanawagan ang “P125 dagdag-na-sahod ngayon na” mula sa “Stop political killings”?

Sa ngayon, marami pang posibilidad ang Rights v.2. Ipakalat ito sa internet na pinakamabilis at murang paraan (panoorin ito sa google). Ikopya sa DVD at ipamahamagi. Ipalabas at talakayin sa iba’t ibang pagtitipon at pagkilos.

Maaari ring pag-isipan ng mga filmmaker ang higit pang ambag sa ganitong adbokasiya—ang paghikayat sa mga kapwa-filmmaker na sumama, ang paggawa ng mga pelikulang mas masaklaw at mahaba, at ang pag-alay ng sarili sa kilusang masa na tanging nakakapamuwersa sa Estado na itigil,o pahupain man lang, ang mga paglabag sa karapatang pantao.

Ilang araw lamang matapos ang premiere ng Rights v.2, dalawang lider-magsasaka, sina Florencia Espiritu at Nelson Balmania, ang dinukot sa Bataan. Muli, buhay-at-kamatayan ang nakataya sa atensiyon at reaksiyon ng publiko at ng Estado. Malungkot, pero mapanghamon din, na hindi tayo nauubusan ng dahilan na itaguyod ang Rights.


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