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Palace defends Teehankee pardon ‘No complaint from Hultmans’–Ermita

October 7, 2008

By Joel Guinto

MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE) Malacañang has defended President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s grant of executive clemency to a controversial murder convict, saying this underwent a “very rigorous review.”

Claudio Teehankee Jr.,who was convicted for the 1991 murders of 16-year-old Maureen Hultman and 21-year-old Roland John Chapman was released from the National Bilibid Prisons on Friday evening.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said that as early as 1999, the Hultman family had agreed to a P6-million settlement with the Teehankees. Under the terms of the settlement, the Hultmans would get the Teehankees’ house in San Juan if the convict failed to pay the full amount.

“This was committed [against] the Hultmans, and the Hultmans did not object when asked about the possibility of giving Mr. Teehankee pardon,” Ermita told reporters in Malacañang.

“The Hultmans thought there was remorse on the part of Mr Teehankee. He has served his time, and therefore, they did not object when they were asked during the processing of his paper…That’s a major factor [in the President's decision],” he added.

Ermita said the grant of executive clemency was Arroyo’s prerogative.

“There really is nothing special about it except for the fact that he is a prominent personality,” he said.

Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez, for his part, said he was informed that the Hultmans had been advised of the impending release of Teehankee and posed no objection.

“I also assume that he has already paid the civil indemnity to the family of the victim,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez admitted that Teehankee’s brother, Manuel, a former justice undersecretary, dropped by his office one time and asked if Claudio could be released on parole.

Press Secretary Jesus Dureza pointed out that Teehankee was only one of 292 prisoners that were granted executive clemency in an order dated September 28.

Asked about perceptions the clemency order on Teehankee was kept secret, Dureza said: “There is no such thing as secrecy. When we grant clemency it’s publicly announced, although some malicious minds will probably give it that spin.”

Earlier, he told radio station dzMM that the case of Teehankee was “subject to very rigorous review, it was even reviewed twice.”

For good conduct, Dureza said five days was deducted from Teehankee’s sentence for every month he spent in jail in his first two years of imprisonment.

“Ultimately [after] 14 years of being imprisoned, he was therefore entitled to a commutation of sentence,” Dureza said.

Dureza said all convicts who have displayed good behavior in prison were entitled to executive clemency.

Asked if the President was set to pardon another high-profile murder convict, Rolito Go, Dureza said: “Haka-haka lang po iyon [That's speculation].”

Go was found guilty of murder three years after he shot and killed Eldon Maguan in 1991 following a traffic altercation. He is serving his sentence at the New Bilibid Prisons in Muntinlupa City.

Tetch Torres, INQUIRER.net

Bicam approves renewable energy bill

October 7, 2008

By Michael Lim Ubac
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 21:03:00 10/07/2008

MANILA, Philippines — The bicameral conference committee adopted on Tuesday the renewable energy bill, which aims to reduce the country’s dependence on imported oil and thus help shield Filipinos from price fluctuations in the global market.

Principally authored by Senators Edgardo Angara and Juan Miguel Zubiri in the Senate, and Representatives Juan Miguel Arroyo and Luis Villafuerte in the House, the bill supports the development of renewable energy (RE) sources such as hydro, wind, sun, biomass and ethanol over crude and other petroleum products.

The bill seeks to encourage local entrepreneurs to go into the development of the country’s vast alternative energy resources through a package of fiscal and non-fiscal incentives, and help decrease dependence on imported fuel.

Both panels of the Senate and House of Representatives crafted a compromise version of the bill, certified urgent by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, after more than five hours of deliberation at the Sofitel Hotel in Pasay City.

Angara and Representative Arroyo said the final copy of the bill would be sent to both houses for ratification before the adjournment of Congress on Wednesday.

The House approved the bill in June, while the Senate passed it on third and final reading in late September.

To show government’s aggressiveness in tapping alternative energy resources, the bill, if signed into law by President Arroyo, will give renewable energy users and developers tax-free privileges on the importation of equipment and even a seven-year income tax holiday.
It would take about two years, and billions of pesos, to put up renewable energy plants and facilities, said Zubiri after the bicameral meeting.

So far, 12 companies have been “waiting in the wings” and willing to spend P50 billion, Zubiri said. He added that the country can produce an initial output of 100-200 megawatts of clean energy for the next two years.

“But in the long run, power will become cheaper because we don’t need to import [so much] oil,” he said.

Angara said the proposed measure would foster sustainable growth, energy independence and economic security for the country, saying “renewable energy use can save the country valuable foreign exchange of as much as $3.6 billion or almost P200 billion in fuel purchases.”

“Every 600-million-kilowatt-hour of RE generation saves one million barrels of oil. The Philippines could avoid having to buy more than 100 million barrels of oil by developing 2,500 megawatts of RE-based [energy] by 2014,” said Angara.

The bill calls for the massive utilization of renewable energy sources that are abundant in the country but remain untapped, so far, due to lack of funding and encouragement from the national government.

Zubiri said the measure would begin the process of phasing out harmful coal-fired power plants and bunker-fuel plants that “are polluting [the environment] and causing greenhouse gases and climate change…At the same time, it will lead to lower power prices because the sale of RE to the consumers is value-added tax-free.”

He said homeowners who would tap solar power for their electricity needs under the metering system would be paid for energy they would produce.

“They will have a discount. At the end of the month, Meralco [Manila Electric Company], for example, will check how much they produced energy-wise, how much they consumed and fed to the energy grid. Meralco will deduct that from the total cost. Consumers can even be repaid by Meralco, or they can now be given a discount, but definitely, they will be getting a discount for the electricity charges.”

He said the measure would benefit the poor directly because host-communities of renewable energy would be given 100 kWh in “direct discount” for their electricity bills, plus “very, very minimal transmission and tolling charge.”

“This is the best package of incentive to any developer,” he said, disclosing other fiscal and non-fiscal incentives, to wit — VAT-free for manufacture, importation and sale of renewable energy equipment, depreciation loss, net operating cost carry over, among others.

(PDI)

Inquirer Mindanao NPA loses ‘mother of all mothers’

October 7, 2008

By Jeffrey M. Tupas
Mindanao Bureau
First Posted 00:20:00 10/05/2008

DAVAO CITY, Philippines—Lola emerged from the tent, complete with matte-finished cheeks, lips in strong pink and a sky-blue choker to match the shirt. Although everyone was busy for the big day, they never failed to notice Lola whose flamboyance, many would say, was so contagious even in the least demanding times.

That day, Lola was to officiate at a wedding in a hinterland village of Compostela Valley. And when much of the attention was showered at the bride and the groom, Lola effortlessly took a generous part of it from the indigenous peoples, the farmers and the visitors who had traveled far to witness and celebrate the union.

Puzzling for outsiders to see was how Lola was getting all the fuss, but it was understandable, really, for someone who hooked the world’s admiration (and criticisms) when Lola married a young man in an elaborate and controversial ceremony three years ago.

Lola is Valerio Mante Jr. or Ka Richard, a gay communist fighter who, for more than 10 years, surrendered himself to the embrace of a “people’s revolution.” He was one of the top leaders of the New People’s Army in Southern Mindanao who took up the fight of peasants and indigenous peoples against oppressive forces.

Mourners from mountains

And when he passed away recently, a throng of mourners from the same sectors swelled into Davao City—never mind if it would show a bit of heart toward the revolutionary movement.

On board trucks and braving military checkpoints, hundreds of people went down the hills of Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental to say goodbye to Val. He was buried on Sept. 30.

Val, 57, died from blood infection that resulted in kidney failure, a day after he was finally confined in a city hospital or more than 14 hours after his comrades brought him on a crude stretcher down the mountains of Compostela Valley. It was a week after his health deteriorated rapidly.

Rubi del Mundo, spokesperson of the communist-led National Democratic Front of the Philippines in Southern Mindanao, said Val, to the very end, chose to stay at their base.

“He did not mind the intermittent fever he was suffering from and instead told the comrade-medics not to fuss over him because he was just fine. After so much convincing, he finally allowed himself to be brought to a hospital in Davao,” Del Mundo said.

Before his death, Del Mundo said, Val was even making everyone in the hospital room happy and made a list of those who would be invited to his wake, “playfully reminding us that even in his death, there are people to organize and mobilize.”

Active

Val’s involvement as an activist and a guerrilla started when he was an active worker of the Catholic Church, even long before the dictator Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law in 1972. During the First Quarter Storm, he joined Khi Rho, a mass organization working among peasants.

He was detained for more than a year at the now-defunct Philippine Constabulary Barracks in Tagum City. After his release, he went back to Davao City and directed a Lakbayan protest march from Tagum to Davao against massive landgrabbing.

During martial law, Val became the chair of the Citizens Council for Justice and Peace (CCJP) and later joined the Nationalist Alliance for Justice, Freedom and Democracy. He also became a member of the Freedom from Debt Coalition in the early 1990s and head of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan in Southern Mindanao from 1996 to 1998.

Val was the “darling of the press,” working from one sector to another. Antonio Ajero, a veteran journalist, said Val gained the respect of the media during his time for being “amiable and sincere to what he’s saying.”

“I could remember him as someone very personable and sincere. He was very articulate and had a good relationship with the media because he was never arrogant, and had good answers to every question,” Ajero said.

Joining the NPA

His friends recall that Val’s decision to join the NPA became a topic for discussion among them.

Nick David, one of his closest friends, said he had a debate with Val over his joining the underground movement because of Val’s age. (At that time, Val was 47, fresh from heading Bayan.) “He was already too old to join the movement,” David said.

But then when David visited Val in the mountains, he realized how Val loved the people and how he was being loved in return. “He loved the farmers so much. During dinners, he would carefully pick crumbs because in producing rice grains, farmers have to go through a difficult experience,” he said.

Journalist Carlos Conde, another friend of Val’s, wrote in his blog: “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.”

“But Val, during the times when 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 areas, for instance, a real agrarian-revolution was taking place, supplanting the bogus one being implemented by the government,” Conde added.

Rural reach

In his journal, Val expressed that his decision to join the armed revolution came after he desired to expand his reach to the people in the rural areas.

“At the height of my activism, I decided to join the NPA. My decision elicited various reactions from the people close to me. Some were happy, some were skeptical. This did not affect my decision,” he wrote.

“It was a product of a long and painful struggle against selfishness, individualism and pride. I gave up a comfortable lifestyle, left my family and relatives and evaded close friends. It was the harshest yet the best decision so far I’ve made in my life,” he added.

Sama Sulong, a “lumad” leader from Boston town in Davao Oriental, said Val would always be remembered as the “inahan sa tanang inahan (mother of all mothers).”

“Lola treated us as his real children. The grandmother of the lumad people … the hero of the oppressed,” Sulong said.

PERA Law (Full Text/Scanned)

October 7, 2008

Please read it here.

CBCP PRISON CARE EXEC No proof Teehankee reformed ‘Good conduct in jail not same as full rehab’

October 7, 2008

By Dona Pazzibugan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 20:58:00 10/07/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Convicted murderer Claudio Teehankee Jr. may have been jailed for 14 years, but a Catholic church advocacy group for prison reforms doubts whether he has “reformed” since the country’s penal system does not provide any rehabilitation program for inmates.

Rodolfo Diamante, executive secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) Episcopal Commission on Prison Pastoral Care, said having a record of “good conduct” inside a Philippine prison would not be the same as undergoing rehabilitation.
Good conduct only means the inmate did not join any riot or cause any trouble, said Diamante.

“‘The problem in our system is that there is no treatment. If there is no rehabilitation program, then the decision [to free Teehankee] becomes a very political one,” he said.

The CBCP advocates “restorative justice,” which provides for a rehabilitation program that would eventually give convicted criminals who have reformed a chance to return to society.

“Pardon or clemency should not be based on whether time has been served, there should be a program,” Diamante stressed, pointing out that hundreds of other inmates who had applied for clemency since they had served their time were turned down.

“How would you rehabilitate if there is no rehabilitation program? What then is the basis of the release? That’s why the decision [to pardon] would always be questioned since there is no clear basis,” Diamante said. (PDI)

Transparency urged in Arroyo pardons

October 7, 2008

By Thea Alberto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 17:53:00 10/07/2008

MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE) While the decision to grant a pardon or executive clemency is a constitutional right, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo should be “fair and transparent” in enforcing them, senators said Tuesday.

Opposition Senator Francisco “Chiz” Escudero said the President failed to be transparent in granting executive clemency to Claudio Teehankee Jr.

Teehankee, son of the late Chief Justice Claudio Teehankee Sr., was released from the National Bilibid Prison over the weekend after serving only 14 years of his double life imprisonment term for the murders of Maureen Hultman and a friend in Makati City in 1991.

“Ang hinihiling lang lagi sa Pangulo ay accountability at
transparency…bakit hindi naipagbigay alam sa publiko [What has always been asked for from the President are accountability and transparency… why was the public not informed]?” asked Escudero, noting that the decision could have been there for months.

Senate Majority Leader Francis Pangilinan described the release of Teehankee as proof of the rotten justice system in the country, where rich and influential criminals could easily avail of executive clemency regardless of the severity of their crime.
“The release of Teehankee is indicative of the state of our system of justice in the country, rotting away due to failed political leadership and governance,” said Pangilinan in a text message.

But Senator Juan Ponce Enrile said Teehankee’s release was the “prerogative of the President,” saying it was an “act of state that prisoners are entitled to seek executive clemency once they have served the minimum required sentence.”

Senator Manuel “Mar” Roxas II agreed with Enrile, but noted that the power of the President to grant pardon or lower a convict’s sentence through executive clemency was a policy that must be “objective” and not discretionary.

“It is just disheartening that applications for clemency and pardon by the rich and influential persons are immediately acted upon by our officials. It is a pity that this is not the same as far as other prisoners, who have grown old in prison, are concerned, and who until now are still awaiting government action on their cases,” Roxas said in Filipino.

“This is wrong. Justice is not being applied equally on the rich and the poor, so the people have lost trust in the country’s justice system,” he said.

Senator Panfilo Lacson urged the government to release an official list of those who benefited from the presidential pardon so that the public could see whether the parole was “fair” to either both rich or poor.

“The DoJ, through the Board of Pardons and Parole, should make public an inventory of convicts in heinous crimes who are pardoned or paroled, with emphasis on their social status. Is everyone getting a fair shake?” said Lacson.

Mincing no words, Lacson accused Arroyo of tipping the scales of injustice in favor of “well-connected, influential and rich convicts” who, he said, “apparently [are] getting priority even in parole.”

Lacson, a former director general of the Philippine National Police, said the list of those who benefited from pardon and parole “may give the public a glimpse into whether the rich and influential are still putting one over the justice system, even after they are convicted for heinous crimes.”

Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez’s admission that Teehankee’s brother, Manuel, reminded him about Claudio’s application for clemency was “very revealing,” Lacson said.

The convict’s brother Manuel is presently the Philippine representative to the World Trade Organization in Geneva.

“Secretary Gonzalez’s admission was very revealing. If you don’t have someone in the corridors of power to ‘remind’ the authorities about your case, you will be forgotten. This is no longer a fair fight, especially for the common Filipino,” he said.

Lacson noted that Gonzalez had admitted that Arroyo was the one who had ordered the release of Teehankee.

“While no one can question the prerogative of the President in ordering the release of a convict, no one can blame the aggrieved parties for feeling sore and cheated of justice either,” said the senator.

Senator Loren Legarda said Arroyo was letting loose criminals.

“Are we turning into a country that does not respect the law, that abuses its powers of executive clemency? It is dismaying and disappointing to say the least. Are we turning our country into a country of criminals on the loose?”

Michael Lim Ubac, Philippine Daily Inquirer

Hultmans ‘shocked’ at Teehankee release

October 7, 2008

By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 22:04:00 10/07/2008

MANILA, Philippines — The family of the late Maureen Hultman is “very angry” and “shocked” over President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s grant of executive clemency to the man convicted of her murder.

“We are very sad, very disappointed, and very angry,” Andres Hultman said in an interview on QTV-11 television Tuesday evening.

The elder Hultman criticized the secrecy he said surrounded the clemency grant to Claudio Teehankee Jr.

“He was sentenced to life imprisonment…Now he’s free. Why was it kept quiet and secret? Why didn’t the rules and regulations apply,” Hultman said.

Hultman’s statement belied Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita’s claim earlier Tuesday that the family did not oppose the clemency grant.

“It was completely unexpected. The possibility was never mentioned to us, that he will be pardoned,” Hultman said.

He also expressed dismay over reports that Teehankee’s brother, Philippine representative to the World Trade Organization Manuel Teehankee, a former justice undersecretary, asked Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales to push for his brother’s pardon.

“What does this say about the country?” he said.

Hultman laughed off reports that Teehankee had apologized for the murder of his daughter, saying, “The last time we talked to him, he denied that he committed the crime.”

“We miss everything about her [Maureen]. She was the most lively of our children,” he said.(PDI)

UN adopts new Somalia piracy resolution : Urges states to deploy military ships, planes

October 7, 2008

Agence France-Presse
First Posted 22:41:00 10/07/2008

UNITED NATIONS — The UN Security Council on Tuesday unanimously adopted a resolution urging states to deploy naval vessels and military aircraft to actively join the fight against rampant piracy off the coast of lawless Somalia.

Resolution 1838 “calls upon all states interested in the security of maritime activities to take part actively in the fight against piracy on the high seas off the coast of Somalia, in particular by deploying naval vessels and military aircraft.”

The French-drafted text urges states with naval vessels and military aircraft operating on the high seas and airspace off the Somali coast “to use the necessary means, in conformity with international law…for the repression of acts of piracy.”

It again “condemns and deplores all acts acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea against vessels off the coast of Somalia.”

It said that “the provisions in this resolution apply only with respect to the situation in Somalia and shall not affect the rights or obligations or responsibilities of member states under international law.”

Last June, the 15-member Council had already adopted a resolution empowering states to send warships into Somalia’s territorial waters with the government’s consent to combat piracy and armed robbery at sea.

The June resolution had given a six-month mandate to states cooperating with Somalia’s transitional government (TFG) in fighting piracy to “enter the territorial waters of Somalia for the purposes of repressing acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea.”

The waters off Somalia — which has not had an effective central government for more than 17 years and is plagued by insecurity — are considered to be among the most dangerous in the world.

Dozens of ships, mainly merchant vessels, have been seized by pirates off Somalia’s 3,700 kilometers (2,300 miles) of largely unpatroled coastline.

The pirates operate high-powered speedboats and are heavily armed, sometimes holding ships for weeks until they are released for large ransoms paid by governments or owners.

Tuesday, pirates holding a Ukrainian ship carrying tanks and military hardware with 21-member crew off the coast of Somalia said that a deal could be reached soon for the vessel’s release.

“A deal might be sealed by Wednesday and then we will issue a statement regarding the end of the matter,” said Sugule Ali, a spokesman for the estimated 50 pirates holding the MV Faina since September 25.

The pirate would not comment on the amount of ransom being negotiated. (PDI)

Gordon hints at joining 2010 race

October 7, 2008

By Michael Lim Ubac
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 22:47:00 10/07/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Hinting at his entry into the 2010 presidential derby, Senator Richard Gordon reminded the nation on Tuesday that the “next president should have competence, integrity and reliability.”

The senator, in a press statement, said he “has remained open to clamor for him by some sectors to seek the presidency come the May 2010 elections,” although it also said he has “yet to make his decision final as he prefers to focus his efforts on his works in the Senate.”

In September, Senate President Manuel Villar declared his decision to seek the presidency in 2010, a move that made him the target of colleagues in the chamber who also harbor presidential ambition.

Villar has been accused of inserting into the 2008 national budget a double funding for the Circumferential-5 extension road in Parañaque City, a claim he and his Senate allies vehemently denied.

With the global financial meltdown, Gordon said the country should have “a strong leader.”

“The next president should be able to offer to the Filipino electorate a proven track record of competence, enjoy integrity and can be relied upon during times of national crisis,” said Gordon.

More than money and political machinery, Gordon said a presidential candidate, or any candidate for national or local post, should possess the right qualities of a strong leader to improve the country and the citizenry.

“The next president of this nation should possess the traits of a strong and competent leader to be able to put to the front burner the need to uplift our people from their suffering and to provide them with the dignity that they deserve,” he said.

“The people should choose a leader that has the right qualifications, an unsullied track record of performance, a national vision, and someone who is least tainted by corruption or by influence of the powerful,” he added.

The statement said Gordon has been strongly pushing for the rehabilitation and acceleration of the country’s education and health care system, the promotion of tourism that would create jobs in the countryside, and the institution of political reforms, foremost of which was the full automation of the country’s electoral exercise.

Concurrently, Gordon is the chairman of the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC), which he claimed to have modernized, “transforming it into an institution that is not only limited to providing blood and responding to disaster-related incidents, but also offering volunteer, social, community health and nursing, and safety services.”

Recently, the PNRC acquired new equipment such as ambulances, rubber boats and fire trucks, which have allowed its volunteers to respond quickly to more victims of disasters and calamities.

“It is unfortunate that most people look up to politicians who have money and political power, when what they really have to focus on are the good and productive things that a candidate has done to improve the country,” Gordon said.

He explained that the Filipino voters should be “smarter” in choosing the country’s next president by looking deeper into the track record of the candidates.

“Our country needs a leader and not just a political figure. We need a president who knows not only what the country needs, but also what should be prioritized among those needs and how each necessity should be addressed,” he said. (PDI)

CLIMATE CHANGE, IRRESPONSIBLE MINING Green NGO warns of deadly combo for RP

October 7, 2008

By Margaux Ortiz
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 23:05:00 10/07/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Climate change and irresponsible mining in the country could prove to be a deadly combination in coming years, a legal policy research and advocacy organization said on Tuesday.

Members of the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center (LRC) said miners’ inability to predict the weather and amount of rainfall could prevent them from implementing safety measures properly.

“These mining companies say they are able to contain mining toxic wastes in what they call tilling ponds or dams,” Ronald Gregorio, LRC campaigns paralegal, said in an activity held in Quezon City in observance of the Anti-Mining Solidarity Week.

However, the tilling ponds and dams — where hazardous wastes such as mercury and cyanide are dumped — are known to spill over and pollute the surrounding land or watershed whenever the miners miscalculate the amount of rainfall.

“Climate change has blurred the divide between summer and the rainy season. Summer now does not mean that there would be no rains or even typhoons,” Gregorio said.

He added that mining might not be suitable for a disaster-prone country such as the Philippines.

“Typhoons and earthquakes would only worsen the situation, with the consequent spillage of toxic wastes leading to death of biodiversity and food scarcity,” Gregorio said.

He added that the number of mining companies operating in the Philippines only painted a bleaker picture for the environment, especially with an undermanned Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

Gregorio likened the DENR to the Bureau of Food and Drugs, which he said lacks the capacity to monitor all dairy products in the country amid the melamine scare.

“With so many mining corporations operating in the country, it is impossible for the DENR to monitor them all,” he said.

LRC documents show 30 companies with exploration permits in the country and 262 companies with mineral production sharing agreements.

He called the government’s mining revitalization program “reckless and unfair to land owners, especially farmers.”

“The government’s mining policies do not jive with the people’s rights,” LRC’s Ana Muhi stressed.

She said “these policies do not take into consideration human rights, biodiversity, water, agricultural, displacement and starvation costs.”

Gregorio said the group has been planning to push for an alternative mining bill, which would stipulate that the industry should have a link with “downstream industries.”

“This means the creation of local industries such as metal processing and machinery plants that would turn the minerals into finished products without exporting them,” Gregorio said.

He added the creation of such industries would regulate the extraction of minerals and prevent the use of toxic chemicals such as mercury and cyanide.

“There would be no use for such destructive chemicals because the miners would not be pressured to sell the minerals for a higher rate abroad,” Gregorio said.

“The Philippine Mining Act should be scrapped and replaced with a more patriotic law,” he said. (PDI)

Prof says power rate hike would continue to be felt

October 7, 2008

by Liza Agoot

UP DILIMAN, Quezon City – Contrary to the objective of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) to bring down the cost of electricity, the cost of power in the country continues to increase.

Prof. Rowaldo Del Mundo who gave a three-day seminar on the subject EPIRA 101 to board members and employee representatives of the electric cooperatives in the country said that power rate hike will continue to be experienced.

The seminar is part of the competency training and certification program in electric cooperative power distribution system engineering given by the National Electrification Administration in cooperation with the National Engineering Center of the University of the Philippines Diliman.

The Philippines, Del Mundo said, has the second highest power rate compared to other countries all over the world.

The increase in power cost, he said, is brought about by the privatization of the generation companies, which were earlier tagged to address the high cost of power in the country.

He explained that one-third of the country’s debt was incurred by the National Power Corporation (NPC) in constructing power plants. Instead of the power plants becoming assets after many years, 91 percent of them have become liabilities.

Del Mundo said that solving the NPC’s indebtedness will actually solve one-third of the country’s indebtedness from international financial institutions.

He further said that privatization can greatly solve the problem.
However, in selling the generation companies, the government tagged a price about 300 percent higher than the cost that one will incur when it decides to build its own generation plant.

He took as an example the 15-year-old Masinloc power plant which has an economic lifespan of 30 years. Its price is US $270 million but was sold at US $930 M.

“Where do you expect the investor to get the return on investment?” The professor said, “Naturally, from the power that will be delivered.”

He said that privatization of the NPC power plants is still about 51 percent. By 2009, privatization could have reached more than 70 percent.

The generation cost as of this time, Del Mundo said, remains to be regulated. However, it is expected that at 70 percent privatized, the generation cost will start to be deregulated, leading to uncontrolled rates.

Looking at the electric bill, he said, generation cost is about 70 to 80 percent of the cost of power paid by the consumers.

“There is no way to go but to balloon the rates,” he said.

However, the phenomenon of privatization, he added, can be battled.

“Electric cooperatives can help solve the problem by engaging in generation. Look at the viabilities of the rivers in your area,” he said.

Cooperatives, he said, are non-profit by nature compared to private utilities. “When rates are perpetuated by private utilities, the coops will have to show the actual costs and by nature cannot have pro-fits,” he said.

He encouraged cooperatives to empower themselves, improve their system and never say “we don’t have money,” whenever requests for power lines in un-electrified areas as well as in industrial areas come in.
There are ways on how coops can cope with the demand for power without necessarily having to tremendously increase power rates.

Del Mundo said, the Benguet Electric Cooperative, which he has been supervising for more than three years now as a consultant, continuously improves itself in terms of manpower skills and capabilities as well as system upgrade.

This is the reason why Beneco, while not perfect, tries its best to provide a good service to the consumers, as well as continues with its missionary goal to provide electricity to all areas covered by the franchise. (BaguioMidlandCourier)

Academic research reveals that Abra River is polluted

October 7, 2008

by Liza Agoot

A study conducted by the Saint Louis University College of Engineering showed that the Abra River is polluted.

The study entitled “The Abra river system water quality monitoring” by Josephine Aries Dulay came out in the Northern Luzon Research Journal published in 2007 which is an inter-university publication for applied research and development studies.

Data sampling for the research was started in October 2004. The sampling was performed on a quarterly basis.

“Water samples taken from different sites along the length of the Abra River system were analyzed in terms of physic-chemical characteristics which include temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, total suspended solids, total dissolved solids, biochemical oxygen demand, nitrates, lead, mercury, chromium, and cyanide concentrations,” reads the study’s abstract.

The samples were taken from the headwaters in Guinaoang as control sample, then going down stream at the mill outlet, tailings dam spillway, Lepanto Bridge, Kayan, Gitlangan, Bulaga, Patungkalew, Banoen, Manabo, Bucay, Bangued, Banaoang, Caoayan, and Santa.

“It was found that except for temperature, all parameter readings exceeded allowable limits or did not meet minimum required concentrations set forth in DAO 34 for the rivers to be classified AA (public water supply class I), Class A (public water supply class II), or Class B (recreational water class I),” the study reads. “This means that the river is polluted and is no longer suited for domestic use.”

“During samplings at the mill outlets and tailings dam spillway, no life forms in these parts of the river were observed,” the researcher noted.
Also alarming to note is the presence of toxic substances such as high nitrate concentrations, heavy metals, and cyanides.

The nitrates could be attributed to fertilizers, domestic and industrial effluents, and animal manure.

Heavy metals present are lead, mercury, and chromium in concentrations much higher than acceptable limits. Although these metals are naturally present in the environment, “if found in excessive amounts, they are most likely due to industrial discharges,” the study reads.

Cyanide has also been found to be in concentrations above the acceptable limits, “especially at the mill outlet and the mine tailings spillway,” the study reads. “Cyanide is the most common chemical used to extract gold from ore despite the fact that leaks or spills of this chemical is extremely toxic to fish, plant life, and human beings.”

Cyanide can break down with sunlight and oxygen, but the low amount
of dissolved oxygen (DO) in the water hinders it from breaking down.
The low DO also means the water cannot support aquatic life.

“Due to the pollution, the river may no longer be able to fulfill its productive and life-sustaining functions, as the river’s assimilation and self-purifying capacity is greatly impaired,” the researcher stated.

Abra River stretches from Mountain Province passing through Ilocos Sur and Abra. It used to be rich in aquatic resources supporting the needs of the communities it traverses.

Growth in population, urbanization, technological advancement as well as mining, the study mentioned, have contributed to the river’s pollution.

The abstract of the study reads, “The evidence gathered suggests that much of the pollution in the river originate from the corporate mining operations.”

The study shows that deforestation and slash and burn activities in the upland area, illegal logging and tunnel shoring in mining areas causing soil erosion and river siltation, and use of chemical pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers by the farmers nearby also cause river
pollution.

While the research may hurt, the researcher’s objective in doing the study is to assess the river’s capacity to receive waste discharge and later recover from the disturbance, to classify the river according to guidelines set by Department Administrative Order 34 of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

It was, however, stated that the river has the capacity to regenerate if proper management of waste disposal is met.

The author suggested that dredging, like what Marcopper in Marinduque did, can be done to be able to bring back the ecological system of the river beds. Oxidation to destroy cyanide molecules can also be done.

Mining operations and environmental protection going together, the author said, is realizable, but “radical changes in mining practices and stricter government implementation of environmental laws” must be done and “mining companies [should] utilize available technologies for the treatment of contaminated fresh surface water, efficient on-site reduction of metal and the control, storage, and beneficial utilization of mine tailings.” (BaguioMidlandCourier)

Release of missing CPA leader being demanded

October 7, 2008

by Harley Palangchao

Two groups in the region are calling on the military and intelligence units of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police to cause the release of James Balao, one of the founding members of the militant Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA).

He was reportedly missing since Sept. 17 and was last seen in Baguio City.

The CPA and the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance made the call to the AFP and the PNP, which the groups claimed are the most possible agencies behind Balao’s disappearance.

The CPA reported Wednesday that Balao is the second founder of the CPA to be the victim of a supposed enforced disappearance after Ama Daniel Ngayaan, who was abducted by government forces in Pasil, Kalinga in 1987.

To recall, Balao, who worked for the Research and Education Commission of the CPA, was first arrested in 1988 for alleged illegal possession of subversive documents but the case was subsequently dismissed for lack of evidence.

The call for the government forces to cause Balao’s release, if he is indeed in their custody, gained support from other cause-oriented and militant groups in the Cordilleras in wake of the noted pattern of disappearances of prominent militant leaders and protesters whose cadavers were later recovered while some are still missing up to now.

“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,” reads the CPA statement released to the media Tuesday afternoon.

The CPA has been labeled by the military as a political front of the Communist Party of the Philippines, or supporter of the New Peoples Army, but such tag was vehemently denied by the group, saying that CPA is a legitimate people’s organization.

“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,” the CPA statement further reads. (BaguioMidlandCurier)

Mediaman files counter charges vs police officer

October 7, 2008

by Harley Palangchao & Liza Agoot

A mediaman filed a case for violation of his rights as an accused person before the People’s Law Enforcement Board  against the head of the police station who detained him unjustly last week after a minor vehicular accident.

Peoples Journal
photojournalist Cesar Reyes filed a criminal case against P/Insp. Joseph Fokno Del Castillo, chief of Baguio City Police Office Compac 4, for violation of Republic Act 7438 or incriminating an innocent person as well as delay in the delivery of detained persons. An administrative case for grave abuse of power and authority was also filed against the police officer.

This stemmed after the police proceeded to detain Reyes from midnight of Sept. 18 up to noon of Sept. 22 for charges of grave threat and
illegal possession of fire arms without his knowledge.

To recall, Reyes was involved in a vehicular incident night of Sept. 18 along Session Road, when he bumped into a KIA pride taxi driven by Jaime Caccam. Caccam then called for back up from fellow drivers and his operator Carlos Abrigo. Reyes said that he was forced to bring out his gun when one person pushed him to the ground after being verbally abused by several other men.

To settle the matter, Reyes paid P2,000 for the supposed damage to the taxi while Abrigo said he forgave the journalist. The amicable settlement was logged in the police blotter of Compac 4.

But what surprised Reyes was that Abrigo went back to file a case for grave threat against him after the amicable settlement. More surprising to Reyes was why he was charged for illegal possession by Del Castillo when he voluntarily surrendered his gun and necessary documents to the authorities. Del Castillo even attested that the firearm seized by two of his men from Reyes was turned over to him together with the firearm license card and permit to carry outside of residence.

“When I was detained at Compac 4, I was never informed that I was being investigated. I was only made to believe that I will just raise the amount of P2,000 to pay Abrigo. There is therefore no basis for Del Castillo to state in his affidavit that he informed me of the nature and cause of my arrest and my constitutional rights as an accused because he never did,” Reyes said.

“The case for grave threat was unnecessary because Carlos Abrigo and I have already settled our differences as borne in the police blotter we both voluntarily signed,” he added.

Del Castillo also failed to deliver Reyes to the proper judicial authority during the entire period of his detention. From Compac 4, Reyes was brought to the City Jail 5 p.m. of Sept. 19. This was when he learned that he was being charged with grave threats by Abrigo and illegal possession of firearm by Del Castillo.

The mediaman was ordered released on Monday by the City Prosecutor’s Office after inquest prosecutor Ruth Bernabe dismissed for lack of probable cause the illegal possession of firearm case filed against him. “There is no probable cause to indict the respondent of violation of illegal possession of firearm. It appears from the records of the case that the respondent was able to present a license for the said firearm as a permit to carry,” reads Bernabe’s resolution.

Lawyers Richard Cariño and partner Christian Ulpindo, who acted as Reyes’ legal counsels, said they do not want to pre-empt their next move.

As of Sept. 26, however, Del Castillo continues to unjustly withhold Reyes’ firearm license and permit to carry.(BaguioMidlandCourier)

Kalikasan PNE challenges Isabela Gov: Expose and persecute big-time loggers!

October 7, 2008

For the past months, Gov. Grace Padaca has been actively campaigning against illegal logging in Isabela, and has in fact successfully confiscated logs worth millions of pesos. But for Kalikasan-PNE, a militant environment group, efforts to curb forest denudation must be focused on big-time loggers and the politicians behind them.

“We challenge the governor to expose and persecute big-time loggers and corrupt politicians instead of going after poor communities doing small-scale logging in her province. She has the authority and responsibility to do this. In addition, statistics and studies have shown that the major denuders of forest are the big-time legal commercial loggers who are also the ones the main financiers and buyers of illegal logging in the country,” Kalikasan-PNE National Coordinator Clemente Bautista Jr.

According to a study made by Center for Environmental Concerns, an environmental education and research NGO, legal or government-sanctioned logging accounts for 68% of the total forest cover loss from 1981 to 2002, while illegal logging accounts only for 2%.

“Facts show that the big-time commercial loggers in Isabela are the ones who cleared vast tracts of forest and even up to now are the main culprits of forest destruction in the province. In 2006, one logging company in Isabela was allowed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to log 25,887 hectares of forest; this is already way more than the declared forest reserve in the province. Also, in 2006, there were 7 logging companies which have Industrial Tree Plantation Agreement (ITPLA) which allow them to exploit a total of 62,266 hectares of forest areas. This reflects how the policy of Arroyo government and the DENR favors commercial logging over forest conservation and rehabilitation,” explains Mr. Bautista.

Based on the data from Forest Management Bureau (FMB), the total forest lands in Isabela is 411,804 hectares in 2003. In 2006, there is only one forest reserve in the province which is Tumauini Watershed Forest Reserve covering 17,670 hectares of forest lands in the Isabela.

“Gov. Padaca and other local government officials with forests in their area of jurisdiction should strike at the root of forest denudation and this is the licensed operations of big-time loggers. They should use their legitimate power and to cancel the permit of destructive logging operations and hold the big-time loggers accountable. At the same time, communities involved in small-scale logging should be assisted and provided with alternative livelihoods,” Mr. Bautista explains.###  (Kalikasan)

Editorial Cartoon: VFA Flag

October 6, 2008

Another way to see it.

US Troops Out Now! Mindanao

October 6, 2008

US Troops Out Now! Mindanao

Statement on the 17th anniversary of the rejection of the US Military Bases Treaty

Reference:
Bishop Felixberto Calang
Convenor
Mobile # 0918-929-4244

Seventeen years since historic “Magnificent 12″ vote Senate should curb US military’s unconcealed, uninterrupted presence in Mindanao

The Out Now! Mindanao Coalition condemns American insolence towards Philippine national sovereignty with the unconcealed and uninterrupted presence of US military forces and their obvious involvement in local counterinsurgency operations.

We call on the Senate to live up to the nationalist stance of the Magnificent 12 senators who voted to oust the US Bases in September 16, 1991 by moving to abrogate the Visiting Forces Agreement and the US-RP Mutual Defense Treaty of 1951.

There is more than enough evidence of US transgression of Philippine sovereignty especially in Mindanao . These involve engagement in combat operations, intelligence-gathering, and “social reconnaissance”, not to mention US meddling in the government’s peace negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). These evidences should lead to the scrapping of the VFA, ten years after it has legalized the reentry of American forces on Philippine soil.

The US-led Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines holds headquarters in Camp Navarro , Zamboanga City . US military forces have special infrastructure there to cater to its personnel, war equipment and vehicles.

Scores of human rights violations perpetrated by US troops have also been reported since the shooting of Buyong-buyong Isnijal in 2002 in Basilan. The most atrocious of these is the incident in Maimbung, Sulu last February 4, 2008 where four US soldiers were sighted joining an operation that killed eight civilians in a fishing community that included two children and a pregnant woman.

These violations have been kept under the rug either because victims were no longer interested to litigate or they entered into amicable settlements to avoid prolonged and costly litigation.

US military vessels have had limitless access to Philippine territorial waters. The USS Vandegrift made port calls in Cotabato City , General Santos, and Cagayan de Oro City. They were closely guarded in these ports and media access was limited. The Arroyo government never disclosed the terms of reference governing these port calls.

US civilian and military officials themselves have uttered policy remarks that verify US troops operations on the ground that go beyond the nature of war exercises.

Francis Ricciardone, then US ambassador, had claimed in 2005 that the US is involved in ‘intel-ops fusion,’ an operation which has all the marks of espionage. A paper by Astrid Tuminez, senior research director at the US Institute of Peace, also pointed out US military intelligence support to the AFP during airstrikes against MILF forces in the Butilan Marsh on three separate instances in 2004 and 2005.

The Arroyo government has tried to exhibit so much bravado to defend Philippine sovereignty in relation to the GRP-MILF Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD). But it shrugs its shoulders with the wanton display of arrogance of American forces with their patently illegal basing on Philippine soil. Secretary Eduardo Ermita justifies the continued stay of US military forces with the most trivial reasons. But Ermita’s levity only belies the gravity of violations on the national sovereignty committed by American troops with the approval of the Arroyo government.

Such double-speak points to the unconscionable subservience of the Arroyo government to the United States . And Arroyo’s approval to the unabashed operations of US troops in Mindanao and the rest of the country is a disservice to the Filipino people’s historic struggle to oust foreign troops in 1991.

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)

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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)

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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.


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