Archive for June 11th, 2008

Editorial Cartoon: The Ces Drilon Abduction

June 11, 2008

A victim by state corruption and commercial corruption.

NPA raids coal mine in Negros Occidental

June 11, 2008

By Carla Gomez
Visayas Bureau
First Posted 10:36pm (Mla time) 06/09/2008

BACOLOD CITY – The military alleged on Sunday that the New People’s Army raided a coal mine in Calatrava town, Negros Occidental and burned its equipment after its owners allegedly failed to pay revolutionary taxes.

Maj. Nathaniel Villasor, 303rd Infantry Brigade Civil Military Operations chief, placed at P150,000 the damage to the equipment of a coal mine owned by former board member Fernando Leonor and Melvin Villamero.

Villasor said the raid on the coal mine was done simultaneously with the burning of three Tanduay Distillery Inc. delivery trucks at the Barcelona Port in Barangay Old Poblacion, Escalante City, on June 4.
The rebels, allegedly led by a certain Odot Danoso, took handheld radios and cellular phones of the mineworkers, who were not harmed, the military said.

Calatrava police chief Inspector Danilo Zuniega said on Sunday that the work at the mine site has been suspended.

The mine workers expressed their dismay at being temporarily displaced from work at the time classes were about to open, Zuniega said.
The military also advised the Calatrava police investigators not to proceed to the mining site as the 15th Infantry Battalion soldiers were still pursuing the suspects, Zuniega said.

Police placed the damages on the Tanduay delivery trucks and cargo allegedly burned by suspected rebels at the port of Escalante at P6 million.

Villasor said the series of incidents, including the liquidation of a former civilian volunteer organization and the attack on an Army detachment in Guihulngan, showed desperation on the part of the NPA rebels, after they lost their guerrilla bases in central Negros to the 11th Infantry Battalion.

Senior Supt. Rosendo Franco, provincial police director, urged the community to report the presence of strangers in their place to prevent more atrocities that would be committed by insurgents.

Capt. Lowen Gil Marquez, chief of the AFP Civil Relations Group in Western Visayas, said the incident at the port of Escalante could have been prevented if the liquor firm personnel had informed the military of the extortion letters they have received from the CPP-NPA.

Lt. Gen. Pedro Ike Insierto, AFP Central Command chief, who recently visited the 303rd Infantry Brigade headquarters in Barangay Minoyan, Murcia town, has ordered the military to pursue the suspects behind the simultaneous raids and destruction of properties in northern Negros.

Meanwhile, CPP spokesperson Gregorio Ka Roger Rosal hailed the NPA for its string of recent victories against government forces.

“With the government forces suffering more losses, the more they try to pursue their military offensives against the revolutionary forces, it is they and not the revolutionary forces who will be significantly weakened by the target end of their current counterinsurgency operational plan Bantay Laya II,” Rosal said in a statement released Sunday by the CPP’s Information Bureau, a copy of which was furnished the Inquirer.

Ka Roger said the most recent communist offensive against government forces was a lightning attack Saturday afternoon against a detachment of the Army’s 72nd Infantry Battalion in south Mindanao’s Compostela Valley.

Rosal said the guerrillas quickly overpowered government militiamen manning the detachment and torched it down before leaving with the paramilitary forces’ 14 M1 Garand rifles.

The CPP spokesman also reported that NPA rebels also attacked another Army detachment in Sallapadan, Abra in the Cordillera Administrative Region.

Citing initial reports, Rosal claimed that five government soldiers were wounded in the firefight, including the detachment commander.
“The NPA also burned down the Army detachment after overrunning it,” he said.

With reports from Delfin T. Mallari Jr., Inquirer Southern Luzon

Ermita: ABS-CBN crew made selves ‘convenient victims’

June 11, 2008

MANILA, Philippines — Broadcaster Ces Drilon and her crew may have ignored security precautions in covering dangerous areas for an exclusive story and, thus, set themselves up as “convenient” victims for the armed group that abducted them in Sulu Sunday, a senior Palace official said Wednesday.

Nevertheless, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said efforts are underway to safely recover Drilon, cameramen Jimmy Encarnacion and Angelo Valderama, and their guide, Mindanao State University Professor Octavio Dinampong, who authorities say are being held by members of the Abu Sayyaf.

Ermita said had the news team coordinated with authorities, security could have been provided to them even if only “up to a certain point.”

Noting that provinces like Sulu and Basilan are “danger areas,” Ermita said it is “usual practice” to inform local government officials and security forces “about the purpose of their being there,” Ermita, a former military officer, said during his weekly press conference.

“Had they coordinated with the military and police, I’m quite sure the military and police in the area would have said that they can provide security up to a certain point. If you are not comfortable, then only up to a certain point [then] you can send an emissary to your contact” from which ever group to be interviewed, he said.

In the case of Drilon and her companions, Ermita said, “they avoided being accompanied by authorities so it became very convenient for the kidnappers to do what they did,” he said.

while saying he understood the need of media to look for exclusive stories, he said they should also be aware of the “pros and cons of going to a very dangerous mission.”

Ermita recalled that when he was in the military, he knew how to get in touch with the other side before entering their area. “I make it a point to know that conditions were satisfied. I was confident that I would not be kidnapped,” he said.

In 1984, Ermita, helped negotiate the surrender of then Moro rebel leader Gerry Salapuddin, who now represents the party-list Anak Mindanaw in the House.

Ermita said local officials of Sulu are helping in efforts to safely recover the news crew, including sending emissaries to the kidnappers.

But he maintained government will not give in to any ransom demand. (PDI)

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My Take:

Eto pang isa. Tama bang sisihin ang biktima kung bakit siya naging biktima?

Kung pinurga na nila non pa ang sabwatang militar-knr group eh di dapat sana walang nangyaring kidnapan dyan.

Magpapa-gwapo lang e maninira pa ng iba.

‘Human Security Act not applicable to Drilon kidnap’

June 11, 2008

MANILA, Philippines — The Human Security Act (HSA) is not applicable to the kidnapping of broadcaster Ces Drilon and her crew, Justice Undersecretary Ricardo Blancaflor, spokesman for the Anti-Terrorism Task Force, said Wednesday.

Under the law, terrorism is any person who commits an act punishable under specific provisions of the Revised Penal Code “thereby sowing and creating a condition of widespread and extraordinary fear and panic among the populace, in order to coerce the government to give in to an unlawful demand.”

He pointed out that the abductors’ demand for ransom was made to the ABS-CBN network, for which the abducted journalists worked.

“Missing the element which is the demand against the government, the HSA will not apply,” Blancaflor said.

He this was one of the loopholes in the law that they urged but failed to get the Senate to plug.

“I don’t think these terrorist are that stupid. I am sure they have read the law and found the defects and they will use such defects,” Blancaflor said.

But Blancaflor said there are other ways to prosecute terrorists through other laws under the Revised Penal Code and special laws.(PDI)

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My Take:

Blancaflor is stupid.  And in an effort to hide his stupidity, he branded Ces’ kidnapper as intelligent, law-reading animals.

Tarantado!  It only shows that the HSA was passed not to be used against the real terrorist (including some part of this government), but against their political opponent, and the insurgency.

Hostaged TV crew ‘alive, well’

June 11, 2008

MANILA, Philippines — ABS-CBN anchor Ces Oreña-Drilon and two TV crew members, who police said were abducted by the Abu Sayyaf, are “alive and well” and being treated fairly by their captors, an official said Tuesday.

“Pinapakain naman sila (They are being fed). They are well and alive. Hindi sila nakatali and nakakalabas sila (They are not tied and they are able to move around), but they are being escorted,” Chief Superintendent Joel Goltiao, police regional director for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao told Inquirer in a phone interview, citing reports from the crisis management team formed to negotiate with Drilon’s captors.

ABS-CBN, which confirmed the crew were “missing” on assignment in Sulu, declined to comment on unofficial reports reaching the police that a ransom of P10 million to P30 million was demanded for the release of Drilon and her crew Jimmy Encarnacion and Angelo Valderama.

“The reports are very unclear at this point in time… and there are other things that ABS-CBN told us that we are not at liberty to reveal,” Police Director General Avelino Razon told reporters in Camp Crame.

Goltiao said the ABS-CBN news team was intercepted Sunday in Maimbung, a township in the Sulu capital Jolo, by armed men under Albader Parad, an Abu Sayyaf leader in the area, and Gapur Jundain, a former member of the Moro National Liberation Front who recently joined the Abu Sayyaf.

The TV news team arrived in Jolo on Saturday at the invitation of a professor at the Mindanao State University, Octavio Dinampo, Goltiao said. The following morning, Dinampo picked them up from a university hostel, but armed men intercepted them as their vehicle passed through the village of Kulasi, Goltiao said.

Dinampo, chairman of Sulu’s Bantay Ceasefire and executive officer of Tulung Lupah Sug, has access to the Moro National Liberation Front and is knowledgeable about the Abu Sayyaf.

Goltiao denied reports circulating in website forums that Dinampo, who was also reported missing, along with Drilon and her crew, had been released.

“But we cannot confirm this until we see him,” Goltiao said.

“And we are more into Ces Drilon because we are still checking if he [Dinampo] is also a victim or whether he is in cahoots with the abductors,” he said.

The “kidnapping” story on Monday did not appear on the pages of the Inquirer the next day or its affiliates, including Cebu Daily News, due to ABS-CBN’s request to hold the story for a day to avoid placing the journalists’ lives at further risk.

“The request was made primarily for the security and safety of Ces and her companions. At that time (Monday), we did not know what their situation was. We don’t want to speculate on any information that would jeopardize their safety,” said Bong Osorio, ABS-CBN head of corporate communications.

He also said they made the “gentle request” for other news agencies to “embargo” the story on Drilon’s disappearance.

The story was not carried by the top three papers Inquirer, Philippine Star, and Bulletin, but appeared in the headlines of Manila Standard Today, Daily Tribune, and the Manila Times and some Manila tabloids.

Local and foreign press organizations condemned the abduction of Drilon and her companions, and called on the Philippine government to ensure their safe return.

“We are deeply concerned for the safety of these three journalists. It is great cause for concern that this volatile southern region of the Philippines remains insecure for the press, and we call on local authorities to work diligently to secure their safe and swift release,” Bob Dietz, Asia program coordinator of the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, said in an e-mailed statement.

“The fears held for the ABS-CBN crew are a stark reminder that journalism in the Philippines has not ceased to be an incredibly dangerous profession and we honor those journalists who work for press freedom under such difficult circumstances,” said the Asia Pacific chapter of the International Federation of Journalists.

IFJ’s local affiliate, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, said that “whatever the abductors stand for, whatever their goals are, there is absolutely no justification for seizing journalists whose sole concern is to seek out the truth and present this as accurately as possible.”

“Seizing [Drilon’s group] cannot in any way serve your ends and can only bring down condemnation on your heads,” NUJP said in a statement signed by chairman Jose Torres Jr. and secretary general Rowena Paraan.

Razon said journalists who are in Sulu to cover developments in the kidnapping of Drilon and her news team should coordinate with the Armed Forces and the Philippine National Police in the province to avoid similar incidents from happening.

Earlier, police said Drilon had refused an offer of security escorts, citing the “confidentiality” of the report she was pursuing. /Inquirer

Ang Mensahe ni Gloria: Walang bago liban sa akting

June 11, 2008

Kapapanood ko pa lang sa balita ng Independence Day message ni PGMA.  At nangalisag ang balahibo ko.

Gumagaling na sa akting si PGMA!  Mula sa kanyang pang-FAMAS award na “I am Sorry”, heto’t mukhang Oscar’s na ang target niya nang lumabas siya sa telebisyong ala-Juday kung magpresent ng kanyang IDMessage!

Wala namang bago dun sa kanyang mensahe kundi puro empty promises, militaristic posturing at pamumulitika.  Akala ko nga e SONA na yun hehehe.

Pero yung kanyang akting? Wow!  Nakakatakot!  Kung kaya na niyang umarteng relaks ngayon sa gitna ng krisis at patayang nagaganap sa bansa, aba eh, asahan nating mas marami pang scam at paglabag sa mga karapatang pantaong magaganap.  At sa mga susunod na araw ay mas magiging natural na ang kanyang akting at di na natin mahahalata pa kung ano ang kasinungalingang namumutawi sa kanyang mga bibig.

Susmaryosep!

P13 wage increase for Bicol workers

June 11, 2008

LEGAZPI CITY – The Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board (RTWPB) in this city has approved a P13 cost of living allowance (COLA) increase apart from the minimum wage of private workers in Bicol Region. Rosendo Belo, RTWPB secretary, in an interview said that under Wage Order No. 13 the wage hike will become effective on July 1, 2008. He clarified that after six months or on January 1, 2009, the P6 will be integrated into the basic wage while the P7 will be maintained as COLA.

Exempted from the coverage of this new wage order are household or domestic helpers, persons employed in the personal service of another including family drivers and workers in registered barangay micro-business enterprises pursuant to RA 9178.

Upon the effectivity of Wage Order No. 13, all covered workers shall receive a daily cola of P13, Belo said.

Under RA 6727 which created the wage body, workers have been classified as falling into non-agriculture or agriculture sectors. The minimum wage of these workers depend on the geographical location of the business establishments.

For instance, business establishments in the non-agriculture sector employing more than 15 workers in the cities of Legazpi, Naga, Iriga and Tabaco and the municipalities of Pili, Camarines Sur and Daraga, Albay will get the new minimum wage of P239 (P226 plus P13) but workers in all other areas of Bicol will get P227 (P214 plus P13).

For establishments in the handicraft industry employing 20 or more workers in the first-class areas the new minimum wage will be P214 (P201 plus P13).

For plantation workers in the first-class geographical area the new wage will be P217 (P204 plus P13).

Belo further said that distressed business establishments may apply for exemption from the coverage of the new wage order.

Although Wage Order No. 12 is barely six months after its approval on Nov. 30, 2007, the RTWPB had motu propio consulted with labor and management sectors before the issuance of the new wage order. The wage body made this move after considering the supervening events like the rising process of petroleum products and basic necessities.

The tripartite wage body is headed by Ernesto Bihis, regional director of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) as chairman with Directors Romeo Escandor of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) and Jocelyn Blanco of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) as vice chairmen and Edgardo Navarroza and Marcelo Tan of the employer sector and Jose Dizon of the labor sector.(BicolMail)

No soaring rice price in Bicol, says NFA

June 11, 2008

LEGAZPI CITY – What happened in Mindanao where the price of commercial rice had gone up to as much as P50 per kilo would not happen here in Bicol, said Edgar F. Bentulan, Director of the National Food Authority in Region 5.

Bentulan revealed that the price of commercial rice in Mindanao had really shot up to as much as P40 to P50 per kilo. He said he had found this out when he visited his family in Cagayan de Oro City recently.

“Because we had run out of rice, we tried to buy a half sack of rice from the local NFA dealer but we failed because every family was allotted only five kilos of rice. So we bought the cheapest commercial rice at P35 per kilo,” he said.

Bentulan said that the price of commercial rice had gone up in Mindanao because traders had been expecting the lean months when the cereal would be in short supply.

“We’re better off in Bicol because the highest price is only P35 per kilo and that is only for Masbate. Here in Legazpi City you can buy commercial rice at P31 to P32 per kilo,” the NFA chief said.

He also assured Bicolanos that the region had enough rice as 150,000 bags of rice from Vietnam were being unloaded at Tabaco port

“Excluding the 150,000 bags of rice from Vietnam, we have in our inventory 821,000 bags as buffer stock which could last for 114 days for the whole region,” Bentulan said.

The former NFA regional director of Region 12 said the decline in rice production in Mindanao could be attributed to conversion of some rice lands for the production or palm oil, sugar and corn. He also blamed climate change for the irregular rice planting season that has resulted in low harvest.

Catanduanes governor opposes mini-hydro

June 11, 2008

VIRAC, Catanduanes — The provincial governor here who is supposed to lead in undertaking an environment-friendly project to minimize, if not combat, global warming turns out to be its strongest oppositor.

Gov. Joseph Cua of Catanduanes reportedly has expressed his opposition to the proposed construction of a mini-hydro power plant here despite favorable endorsement by Bishop Manolo A. De los Santos of the Diocese of Virac, the League of the Municipalities of the Philippines-Catanduanes chapter, Bicolano Senators Joker Arroyo and Gregorio Honasan, and of the National Power Corporation.

Sources claimed the project runs counter to the business interest of the governor.

The min-hydro power plant is an electric power generating plant that utilizes the kinetic energy of falling or running water (run-off river hydro plants) and turn the turbine generator to produce electricity. The project hopes to generate no less than 101 KW or more than 10,000 KW of renewable and clean energy.

Elizaldy ‘Zaldy’ Co, president of the Sunwest Water and Power Co. Inc., (SUWECO) accused the governor of being the real ‘inconvenient truth’ because the governor is involved in diesel fuel business.

Co expressed disgust upon learning that Gov. Cua is blocking the mini-hydro power project which could have otherwise generated employment, provide clean energy and resolve power outages.

Co said that Cua monopolized the diesel-fed fuel business in the island Catanduanes, and worst, sell it at 30 percent higher compared to prices in mainland Bicol.

“There was a businessman who put up the Petron gasoline station and spent almost P2 million but he (Gov. Cua) opposed it too because it would affect his diesel business. The issue here is not only moral but ‘vested interest’ considering that he was elected as public servant. If he allows our project, the government will save P200 million a year, aside from providing clean energy,added employment and income,” Co told Bicol Mail.

Aside from gasoline business, Cua is also engaged in rice trading, owner of RSL buses plying from Catanduanes-Manila vice versa, and sea crafts operating the Catanduanes-Tabaco sea lane.

Co is constructing the Solong mini-hydro projects with capacity of 2.1 MW in San Miguel town, Hitoma 01 with 1.5 MW and Hitoma 02 with 1.35 MC capacity all in Obi, Caramoran town, Gigmoto mini-hydro power plant with 0.55 capacity in Gigmoto town and Kapipian mini-hydro project with 2.8 MW capacity in Solong,Catanduanes with the total of 8.3 MW capacity.

Apart from Catanduanes mini-hydro projects, Co is currently constructing several mini-hydro projects in the country such as the Villasiga Mini-hydro project in Igsoro, Bugasong Antique, Guiamon San Ramon Mini-hydro project in Laua-an, Antique, Dalanas Mini-Hydro-project in Barbasa, Antique, Tiniano Mini-Hydro project in Tibiao, Antique with 14.1MW total capacity. All these projects were supported by Bishop Lagdameo of the Diocese of Jaro to address the acute power shortage in Panay island, especifically in Iloilo.

In Albay province the on-going mini-hydro power plants are the Misibis Multi-Purpose Reservoir in Cagraray Island, Bacacay town, Cumagingking and Vera Falls mini-hydro projects in Malinao town.

The mini-hydro projects in this island province is programmed to be operational by 2010 with a total of 5,375 KW capacity and additional 2,600 kW capacity by 2013 to stabilize and energize numerous barangays here.

Unfortunately, the renewable energy project of SUWECO was blocked by Govv.r Cua before the Energy Regulatory Commission last month.

Cua cited the following grounds in his opposition paper submitted May 26,2008 : the applicant failed to submit the documents prescribed by law; there is no competitive selection process or bidding undertaken by FICELCO in the selection of SUWECO as new power producer; the selling price of electricity offered by the firm is grossly overpriced and is against the basis established by law; SUWECO has no technical and financial capacity to undertake the project; the cooperation period stated in the Electricity Supply Agreement (ESA) is violative of the law; and SUWECO did not conduct a feasibility study to justify the assumptions made in the ESA.

As if on cue, Arvin T. Amata, provincial legal officer of Catanduanes, also asked the ERC to invalidate and scrap immediately the instant application for approval of the ESA submitted by SUWECO and FICELCO for lack of merit.

SUWECO entered into ESA with the First Catanduanes Electric Cooperative Inc. (FICELCO) whereby the latter would pay for all the electricity produced by the proposed mini-hydro electric plants at a discounted rate of 4 percent less than the subsidized and approved generation rate (SAGR) for Catanduanes for a period of 30 years from commercial operation, Co said.

On May 7, 2008, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Catanduanes led by Vice Governor Alfredo M. Aquino granted Gov. Cua an authority to represent the provincial government in any legal action relative to the electricity supply agreement entered into by FICELCO and SUWECO.

The provincial board council stated in their authorization given to Cua to oppose the said agreement due to following grounds; FICELCO has an existing ESA with several power providers which to date still remains to be in effect not having been declared invalid or rescinded by any competent authority in an appropriate proceedings, several provisions of ESA between FICELCO and SUWECO are found to be detrimental to FICELCO and its consumers.

The council added that the provincial government, pursuant to its mandate under section 16 of the RA 7160 to promote the general welfare of the people of Catanduanes, is duty bound to do and enforce any legal action including opposing the application for approval of the ESA between Ficelco and SUWECO which is pending before the ERC.

Former Senator Francisco Tatad, a native of Catanduanes, opined that Cua and his allies’ move was disadvantageous to the people while it was deemed to protect the governor’s business interest.

Tatad had Rodolfo Albano, Jr., Chairman of the Energy Regulatory Board to help facilitate the speedy completion and immediate operation of the mini-hydro projects being undertaken by SUWECO in several municipalities of the island province in order to liberate their poor constituents from the scourge of unstable power supply and inordinately high prices provided by highly polluting bunker-fed sources.

“I am made to understand, however that certain provincial politicians who are involved in the sale and distribution of bunker fuel, are moving to block the projects for their own reasons,” Tatad said in his letter to Albano.

He said that as former chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and principal sponsor of the Electric Power Crisis Act in the Senate, it was his dream then to see the province of Catanduanes and other small islands in the country which are cut off from the national power grid, become self-sufficient in energy, through their exploitation of indigenous renewable energy sources like water, sun and wind.(BicolMail)

Si Bayani Fernando, ang MMDA sa Sogo

June 11, 2008

Sa motel, sa di-lubos na tanggap na lunan ng sexual na pagnanasa, pinapanasa na ang ibang uring pagkamamamayan na may finansyal na yaman para maka-book ng kwarto:  pulisyahin ang sexual at iba pang pagnanasa, pumanatag sa itinakdang panuntunan, at tamasain ang temporal na kaligayahang iniendorso ng estado. Hindi na trespassing subject ang nasa loob ng motel, ipinaloob na siya at ang kanyang ginagawa sa lehitimasyong pang-estado ni Fernando at ng MMDA.

NI ROLAND TOLENTINO
KULTURANG POPULAR KULTURA
Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 18, June 8-14, 2008

Hindi ako nagtaka kung hanggang sa kwarto sa Sogo, isang higanteng chain at gusaling motel, ay napanood ko ang cable show ng MMDA (Metro Manila Development Authority). Siempre, ang bosing na si Bayani Fernando, na ang tagumpay sa munting syudad ng Marikina ay nire-reproduce sa iba pang syudad ng Metro Manila, ang bida.

Hindi lang siya bida, siya ay bidang-bida. At sa ilang saglit, tulad ng kanyang mantra (Metro Gwapo, Tao-Ganado), ay bigla nga siyang nagkaroon ng personalidad. Minsan ko nang natunghayan si Fernando sa isang poetry reading sa lumang bahay na trinansforma sa isang cultural center sa Marikina. At winish kong sana ay nagbaon ako ng unan.

Monotono ang kanyang boses, dead-pan ang mukha. Pero ang bangis ay nasa ilalim ng hitsura. Tunay na megalomaniac ang hitad. Kinuha ang wallet sa likod na bulsa ng pantalon, at may tinanggal na pirasong papel. Dahil nga poetry reading ang event, nagbasa ito ng sinulat niyang tula. At balak niyang ipalilok ang kanyang tula sa marmol sa sports arena pa raw!

Sa Internet site ng MMDA, http://www.mmda.gov.ph/main.htm, ay nagmumukhang impressive ang mga proyekto ni Fernando: traffic engineering, education at enforcement; solid waste management; establishment at operation ng landfills; flood control at sewerage management; CAMANAVA-flood control project; Metro Gwapo at Metro Clear Roads; Gwapotel; Street Dweller Care Program; MLMO-Imaging a Vibrant Metropolis; Metro Clean at Metro Safe Programs; Road Emergency Program; Urbanidad; ang notorious na Wet Rag (papasadahan ng basang trapo ang mga nag-aantay na pasahero sa kalsada) at Pink Flag; at door-to-door garbage collection.

Sa isang banda, nagpapasalamat ang maykayang pribadong mamamayan sa pag-angat ni Fernando at MMDA sa pamantayan ng urbanidad, sa abot ng makakaya, sa global na panuntunan. Tila mas mabilis na umuusad ang mga pribadong sasakyan sa tila walang katapusang pinalalawak na mga kalsada at sidewalk, na peryodikong tinataniman ng halamang di mabuhay-buhay nang kumpleto. Impresibo ang proyekto dahil nilegitimisa ni Fernando ang pagpapaproyekto bilang primaryong proyekto ng MMDA.

Samakatuwid, hindi naman talaga ang panuntunan ay makaabot sa isang humanisadong global na standard, kundi ang simpleng magkaroon lang ng hanay ng proyektong nagpapamukha na tila walang katapusan ang pagkilos ng kanyang mga pwersa. Ang paproyekto ay nagsasaad ng kinetisismo ng publikong serbisyo gayong mula sa ibaba, tinatangkang burahin ang anumang makakapagtunghay sa di-global na karanasan (tindera sa bangketa, pagdura, pag-aantay ng sasakyan sa kalsada mismo, at iba pa).

Kaya sa kabilang banda, sinusumpa naman ng nasa ibaba ang paproyekto ito dahil hindi na unti-unti kundi malawakan na ang pagbura sa di-kosmopolitan, di-global na urbanidad. Totoong hindi pa sagaran na nabubura ang mga nagtitinda sa sidewalk at di tumatawid sa napapakalayong pink at blue na pedestrian walk na wala nang lilim, tulad na lang sa Commonwealth Avenue, isang tampok na paproyekto ng MMDA.

Pero ang layon ay gayon na rin. Mas malayo sa nerve center ng MMDA, mas nababawasan na ang karanasang anti-urbanidad. Mas kumikitid ang daan, mas marami ang tumatawid sa highway, mas walang pedestrian walk. Na nagtataka ang napapadaan dahil sa ibang seksyon ng Commonwealth pa rin, ay halos magkakadikit naman ang pedestrian walk.

Iaakda ni Fernando ang astang urbanidad sa pamamagitan ng behavior modification.  Binabago ang kalakaran ng pag-iisip, pagkilos at pag-uugali: paglalakad sa bahagi ng highway at pag-aantay sa elevated waiting area; pagpara sa mga bahaging ito lamang; maingat na pag-U-turn sa designated slots; towing kapag nasiraan o mali ng parada; red sidewalks para itakda na no parking at bawal magtinda; pink lanes para malinaw ang lunan ng publiko at pribadong pag-aari; at iba pa.

Ang problema ay di lamang epistemikong marahas ang behavior modification na ito. Sa usapin ng uri, mas humahaba ang nilalakad at tumatagal ang oras ng paglalakad ng mga nasa ibaba gayong mas bumibilis ang oras ng biyahe ng mga nasa itaas. Mas delikado nang tumawid sa mga walang pedestrian walk ang mga nasa ibaba dahil sa bilis ng sasakyan ng mga nasa itaas. Mas nabibiyayaan ang maykayang pribado kaysa publikong mamamayan.

Literal lalo pa ang karahasan. Binubuhusan ng gaas ang nakumpiskang binebenta sa sidewalk; spinre-spray ng “colorum” ang mga bus, taxi at FX na walang papeles; dine-demolish ang mga tirahan para malinis ang kalsada at tulay nang may 15 araw lamang na abiso; inilalagak ang street children at mga pulubi sa DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) nang walang lubos na pagtatanto sa kanilang inbidwal na karapatan; at iba pa.

Pinipulisya ni Fernando ang mga nasa ibaba nang sa gayon ay hind maging kriminal.  Dahil sa paglawak ng execution ng kanyang kapangyarihan, nakriminalisa na ang mga inaakalang di-ligal na gawain—pagtitinda sa sidewalk, pagsakay sa di-designadong bahagi, pagdura, pagtawid sa mismong kalsada—bago pa man aktwal na magampan ang ganitong gawain.

Kriminal na ang turing kaya naman napakahilig ni Fernando na gumawa ng mga rehasang seksyon sa mga proyekto. Pink pa nga para mas humanisado ang turing, na nagdo-double tasking na trellis sa malawakang pagpapatanim ni Fernando ng kadena de amor, ang opisyal na bulaklak ng Metro Manila.

Gayunpaman, malinaw na minamarkahan ni Fernando kung sino ang dapat ipulisya—commuters, pedestrians, sidewalk vendors—at kung sino ang hindi. Kung sino ang may akses sa ekonomikong kapangyarihan at pagkamamamayan, at kung sino ang wala at kulang. Anti-masa si Fernando at MMDA dahil ang turing sa masa ay mob na dapat pinupulisya.

Kung gayon, double standard ang panuntunan ni Fernando sa mga mamamayan ng Metro Manila. Para sa Italianong kritikong kultural, Antonio Gramsci, ang estado ay gumagamit ng tambalang pwersa at panghihimok para makamit ang konsensus na paborable sa kanya.

Ang panghihimok ay ginagamit ni Fernando para sa gitna at mataas na uri na may latay ang kanilang posisyon at tinig sa lipunan. Ang pwersa at dahas ay nakatuon sa mababang uri, na dahil sa abang indibidwal at kolektibong lagay, ay ninakawan na ng tinig at posisyonalidad ng estado. Paano magsasalita ang sa una pa lamang ay itinuring na ng estado na kanyang kaaway?

Kriminalisa ni Fernando sa Metro Manila ang lantarang pakikipagtunggali. Na sa isang palabas sa balita ay mismong mamamayan na ang tumulong magdemolisa ng kanilang tahanan para maprotektahan ang mga naimpok na gamit sa loob ng bahay. Na wala na silang magawa maliban sa pag-ayon sa pwersa ng baril, maso at makina ng anti-demolisyon team.

Ang tagumpay ng anti-demolisyon team, at ni Fernando at MMDA sa pangkalahatan, ay ipagpadaloy ang anti-mahihirap na gawain. Sa ngalan ng kinetisismo ng pagpapaproyekto na nagpapamistulang kay raming pagbabago sa infrastruktura ng globalidad sa Metro Manila, napapakabayo sa kariton ang maykayang mamamayan. Nagkakaroon ng blinders para hindi makita ang kakambal na karahasang dulot ng masibong pagkilos.

Pero tunay bang batayang pagbabago ang dulot ng pagpapaproyekto? Anim na buwan akong naglagi sa Kyoto, at sa aking pagbabalik, nagkaroon ng dalawang rotunda ang airport road at nawala ang interseksyong direktang nag-uugnay sa EDSA. Tunay namang umuusad ang trafiko, pero mas matagal lamang akong dinala nito sa aking patutunguhan.

Ang nangyari, ako na sa lipunang ito ay may gitnang uring posisyon, ay nagmistulang hamster sa spinning wheel sa kulungan. Ibig sabihin, kilos lang ako nang kilos pero wala naman talaga akong pinatutunguhan. Ang nangyayari lamang sa lahat ng pagbabago sa trinatransforma ni Fernando ay walang patumanggang pagkilos tungo sa pareho pa ring posisyonalidad.

Narereafirma ako at ang kakaunting iba pa sa aming nakakataas na lagay sa lipunan gayong lalong nasasadlak ang nasa mababang antas sa mas lalo pang abang lagay. Mas maraming kailangang habulin ang nasa ibaba para magkaroon ng akses sa nasa itaas.

Ang pinapadaloy ni Fernando ay neoliberalismo. Inaasa sa indibidwal ang pagkaagapay sa panuntunang globalidad na urbanidad. Ginagawang napaka-impyerno at marahas ang lagay ng nasa ibaba at napakataas ng panuntunang nasa itaas na may relief na espasyo mula sa purview ng estado, na ang rekurso para makaakyat ay nasa kanilang sariling mga kamay.

Kaya bakal na kamay ang pagsasadlak ng isa pang mantra ni Fernando at MMDA, “Pantay-pantay kung may disiplina” na nagpapaalaala sa diin ng motto ng Bagong Lipunan ng diktador na Marcos, “Sa ikakaunlad ng bayan, disiplina ang kailangan.”

Ang sinasaad ng mantra ni Fernando ay ang paglalapat ng di-pantay na pagdisiplina para sa inaasam na behavior modification. At para makaabot ang nasa ibaba sa pamantayan ng pagkapantay-pantay, kinakailangan nitong madisiplina hanggang disiplinahin nito ang sariling pagkatao.

Sa motel, sa di-lubos na tanggap na lunan ng sexual na pagnanasa, pinapanasa na ang ibang uring pagkamamamayan na may finansyal na yaman para maka-book ng kwarto:  pulisyahin ang sexual at iba pang pagnanasa, pumanatag sa itinakdang panuntunan, at tamasain ang temporal na kaligayahang iniendorso ng estado. Hindi na trespassing subject ang nasa loob ng motel, ipinaloob na siya at ang kanyang ginagawa sa lehitimasyong pang-estado ni Fernando at ng MMDA.

Sa lunan na ito, sa pagkakahon ng at pagdidisiplina sa pagnanasa, si Fernando ang non-erotikong bosing. Buti na lang at hindi siya literal na naalaala habang nakikipagsiping. Ipinagsisigawan ng kanyang mga tarpaulin ang kanyang mukha at mantra gayong, tulad ng isinasaad ng kanyang imahen, hindi naman siya gwapo.

Binago lang ang panuntunan ng pagkagwapo. Wala sa pisikalidad. Nasa internalisasyon ng disiplina at akses sa kapangyarihang estado. Ang inaakalang bawal at hindi katanggap-tanggap ay binigyan na ng rekurso para makapaloob sa pagkamamamayan ng estado.

Kaya ang halinghing ay sabayang pagtamasa ng sexual na ligaya, at latay sa hagupit ng estado ni Fernando. Bulatlat

MAIKLING KUWENTO: Headline

June 11, 2008

Malaking-malaki ang salitang iginuhit sa mukha ng diyaryo: Napatay ng mga sundalo sa isang engkuwentro si Alfredo Collantes, 31, tubong Tobog, Oas, Albay na kilala rin sa alyas na Ka Lando, Ka Waway, at isang mataas ng opisyal ng New People’s Army (NPA) sa Timog Katagalugan… Matindi naman ang pagpapabulaan ng kanyang inang si Matilde. Aniya’y magbubukid lamang ang kanyang anak na dinukot ng mga sundalo noong gabi ng Mayo 13, sa bahay nito sa Legaspi…

NI NOEL SALES BARCELONA
Inilathala ng Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 18, June 8-14, 2008

Naalimpungatan siya. Hindi, nagulantang.

“Baaaaaangggg!!!”

Bigla siyang sinalakab nang matinding takot. Naririyan na naman sila. Sinulyapan niya ang nawala sa ayos na relo sa dingding: alas-dos ng madaling-araw.

Sinundan ang pagsabog ng rapido ng armalite. “Bratatatatat!”

Tiplag siya. Unti-unti siyang gumapang at sumilip sa siwang ng sawali. Nagpupulasan ang ilang kalalakihang naka-khaki.

Blag! May sumipa sa pintuan, nakakita siya ng kisap, biglang nagdilim ang buo niyang paningin.

GUMIGITI ang pawis sa kanyang noo samantalang kumikirot pa rin ang noong kinulata ng puluhan ng armalite.

“Aminin mong ikaw si Ka Lando,” sabi ng anino. Nalalambungan ng dilim ang mga mukha nilang paikut-ikot sa kanyang kinauupuan. Nakatali siya sa silyang narra.

“H-h-hindi ko ho alam ang sinasabi n’yo. Wala akong, uunnggh!” tanging ang kirot sa kanyang dibdib ang naramdaman niya nang hampasin ng yantok. Hindi siya makahinga. Buwisit! Mga putang ina n’yo! Hindi mausal dahil sa tindi ng kirot ng kalamnan, mga kasukasuan.

Kssst! Sabi ng kawad ng pinagdikit. Binasa siya. Hindi, binuhusan siya ng tubig na pakiramdam niya’y sinalok lamang sa kung saang pusali. Saka idinaiti sa balikat niya, sa dibdib, sa bayag, sa utin. Kzzztt! Napapatiplag siya sa pagdaan ng daan-daang boltaheng dumadaloy sa kayang laman at ugat.

MANHID na siya nang tantanan ng mga anino. Nanghihina siya. Hindi na siya makapanlaban, hindi makagulapay. Naramdaman na lamang niyang kinalagan siya, kinaladkad na parang patay na hayop at saka ibinalibag sa mapanghing karsel.

Nakatulog siya dala na rin marahil ng pagod. O talagang nagdilim na ang isip niya dahil sa matinding kirot at hirap na naramdaman kanina?

NAKATANGHOD sa kanya ang hindi kilalang lalaking naka-fatigue nang magising siya.

“Alberto Dimasalang y Cunanan ba ang buo mong pangalan?” anito. Nasa harap sila ng makinilya. Amoy niya ang lansa ng sariling dugong natuyo sa kanyang punit-punit nang damit—mula pantalon hanggang kamiseta.

“Hindi. Alfredo Collantes po.”

Tiningnan siya nang masama ng nagtatanong.

“Ikaw si Alberto Dimasalang y Cunanan, ‘di ba?” angil nito. Para niyang nakikita ang musang na handang sumagpang sa manok.

“Hindi nga po…” mahina niyang sagot. Wala na siyang lakas para makipagtagisan pa.

“Titingnan natin ang totoo,” anito. Gumapang muli ang kilabot sa buo niyang katawan. Mauulit ba?

ILANG ARAW na rin siyang nakakarsel nang magpunta ang kanyang ina.

Nang makita siya, pumalahaw ng iyak. Awang-awa ang matanda sa kanyang bunso.

“Ano’ng kasalanan mo sa kanila?” tanong ni Aling Matilde. Hindi siya kumibo. Nakatulala siya.

Nagpaalam ang ina. Pasumandali lamang siyang aalis at sa pagbabalik, may dalang pagkain at damit para sa anak. Nakatulala pa rin siya.

Napatangis muli ang ina. Takipsilim na nang umalis ang matanda. Umiiyak pa rin. Tumutulo na rin ang luha niya subalit walang rehistro nang anumang emosyon ang mga mata niyang nakatuon sa kawalan.

Parang muli niyang narinig ang mga yabag, ang pagsabog, ang mga putok at naramdaman ang kirot ng kanyang buong katawan.

Nakita niyang muli ang dalawang lalaking dumukot sa kanya sa kanyang kubo noong nakaraang linggo. Papalapit sa kanya. Hahawakan siya sa dalawang bisig ngunit manlalaban siya, aagawin ang kalibre .45 na nakasukbit sa baiwang nang isa. May putok na aalingawngaw.

MALAKING-MALAKI ang salitang iginuhit sa mukha ng diyaryo:

Napatay ng mga sundalo sa isang engkuwentro si Alfredo Collantes, 31, tubong Tobog, Oas, Albay na kilala rin sa alyas na Ka Lando, Ka Waway, at isang mataas ng opisyal ng New People’s Army (NPA) sa Timog Katagalugan… Matindi naman ang pagpapabulaan ng kanyang inang si Matilde. Aniya’y magbubukid lamang ang kanyang anak na dinukot ng mga sundalo noong gabi ng Mayo 13, sa bahay nito sa Legaspi… Inilathala ng Bulatlat

Fil-Ams Arrested During Independence Day Celebration

June 11, 2008

Two Filipino-Americans were arrested, June 4, by the New York Police Department (NYPD) and security forces of the committee in charge of the annual Philippine Independence Day Parade during a protest action at the fair area where festivities were being held.  The two were playing makeshift drums of buckets when arrested.

BY RONALYN V. OLEA
Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 18, June 8-14, 2008

NEW YORK CITY, USA – Two Filipino-Americans were arrested, June 4, by the New York Police Department (NYPD) and security forces of the committee in charge of the annual Philippine Independence Day Parade.

Based on accounts sent by the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON), Rusty Fabunan, 35 and Pewee Recaido, 18, both members of the Filipino community fraternity, Kapatirang Pilipino (Kappa Pi) were dragged by the NYPD for “failure to disperse.” The two were playing music using makeshift drums of buckets when they were arrested.

In a statement, Fabunan said, “We’re not here to make trouble. We just don’t want to listen to loud American music all day on this celebration of Philippine Independence. We’re just calling for positive change, and for that, we were harassed.”

Sa sarili nating Independence Day Celebration, hindi kami free,” (On our own Independence Day Celebration, we’re not even free), said Recaido.

Fabunan and Recaido were part of the 200-contingent from the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON) and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN or New Patriotic Alliance) USA chapter.

They marched down Madison Avenue chanting “Habang si Gloria ay nasa itaas, masyadong mataas ang presyo ng bigas!” (While Gloria is on top, prices of rice are too high.) and “How on earth can we be free, with a thousand dollar booth fee? How on earth can we be free, change your ways PIDC!”

The participants protested the $1000+ rental fee for a fair booth, which was being charged by the Philippine Independence Day Committee (PIDC). The group deemed that the local commercialization and high rental fees for booths were corruption schemes being perpetrated by the Philippine Consulate to fleece more money from the Filipino community.

NAFCON Member Rico Foz, related, “The contingent was obstructed from entering the main fair area by a blockade set-up by the NYPD. After holding an impromptu rally calling for an end to the local commercialization of the annual parade and fair, NAFCON-BAYAN participants were eventually let in and then continually harassed when they carried their placards inside.”

Robert Roy, Executive Director of the Philippine Forum, said, “This was a targeted act against us led by the PIDC committee and the Philippine Consulate. Both have been harassing our contingent for years now. They are threatened by the message we bring to the PIDC so they wanted to censor us.”

Repeated attacks

According to NAFCON, they were also stopped from marching the parade route by the NYPD in 2005. That time, they carried placards calling for Philippine Consul General Cecilia Rebong to move out of her $10,000 a month condominium at Trump Towers in Manhattan. In 2006, marchers protested the spate in extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances targeting activists in the Philippines. In 2007, police stood guard as NAFCON marchers criticized the Philippine Consulate for its collusion with SentosaCare LLC, a healthcare management company in New York that has been known to illegally recruit nurses from the Philippines.

Released on the spot

Onlookers who had been entertained by the music played by Fabunan and Recaido gathered and confronted the NYPD shouting, “Just music… What’s wrong with that?”

The two were eventually released on the spot due to pressure from street protesters. Fabunan quickly thanked the crowd of supporters, “If not for the united voices of chanters pressuring the police, I would have spent the night in jail.” Bulatlat

To Hell and Back: the Story of an OFW who Tried to Endure Everything to Provide for Her Family

June 11, 2008

Stories of OFWs are full of accounts of contract substitution, escaping maltreatment, and enduring prisons.  But how much can OFWs take just to fulfill their dream of helping lift their family from poverty?  Norayda Katigan, 26 years old, tried to endure four months of beatings by her employer and by the owner of the recruitment agency, only to be pushed from the third floor terrace of her employer’s house, causing injuries to her spine and disabling her for the rest of her life.

BY JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MIGRANT WATCH
Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 18, June 8-14, 2008

Twenty six-year-old Norayda Katigan was overjoyed when a seeming golden opportunity came her way last year. Living in Buluan, Maguindanao all her life, she was being recruited by a certain Samie Sabanda to work as a domestic helper in Dubai.  And Sabanda was not even asking her to pay a placement fee.

Because Sabanda was introduced by a relative, Katigan trusted her.

On October 5, 2007, Katigan was brought to Manila along with six other aspiring OFWs. They stayed in Sabanda’s residence in Las Piñas for almost two weeks. Full of hope and dreams, they were finally scheduled to leave the country on October 18.

Straight to jai
l

On the day that they were scheduled to leave, the staff of Nonstop Agency, to which Sabanda belonged, gave them P750 ($16.65 at the October 2007 exchange rate of $1=P45.041) for their terminal fee. Aside from that, they were also given a sketch with instructions regarding the people they should approach. “

Katigan related that they were told,“Wag kayong magtanong dito, dito, dito. Kung ayaw ninyong mahuli, dito kayo magtanong.” (Do not inquire from these people.   If you do not want to get caught you should approach only these persons).

Nagtaka nga ako kung bakit pinagbawalan kami magtanong sa OWWA or sa mga security guards,” (I wondered why we were not allowed to talk to OWWA officials or security guards inside the airport) she added.

Upon arriving at their final destination, she realized that she was in Damascus, Syria and not in Dubai. As unsettling questions filled her mind and before she could react, immigration officers confiscated their passports and detained them.

Itinira kami sa parang bartolina. Mainit, walang pagkain, walang inom, walang ihi,” (We were detained in a small cell. It was hot inside. We were not given food or water. We were not even allowed to urinate) Katigan told Bulatlat.

After two days of detention, Katigan and her fellow Filipinos were finally released upon being fetched by the staff of the ROAA Services Agency. But before being released, Katigan said, immigration officers slapped their face. “Pero hindi na namin pinansin sa sobrang gutom,” (But since were so hungry, we ignored it) she added.

Feeling helpless and scared

When they arrived at the office of the agency, Yman Almoaalem, the owner of ROAA Services Agency, ordered them to line up. He confiscated their belongings and interrogated them about what happened inside the airport. He also ordered the staff of the agency to cut their hair below their ears because he said employers prefer short-haired domestic helpers.

They were told that their salary was being reduced from $200 to $150. “Ang sabi nila dun yun (Manila) pero pagdating dito (Damascus) hindi yun ang sweldo ninyo” (The agency staff told us that the $200 monthly salary indicated in the contract was good only in Manila. It is different here in Damascus) she said. Katigan told Bulatlat that she complained to Almoaalem about the sudden change in the contract. “Sinampal ako ni Mr. Yman na may-ari ng agency doon. Natakot na ako kaya wala na ako nagawa,” (Mr. Yman slapped my face. I felt helpless and scared)

Beatings

Katigan said that during her first month at work, her employer Nasser Othman, his wife Walada and their four children were very kind to her. However, during her second month of stay with them, Katigan said, the Othmans started to treat her harshly.  “Nagmula yan kapag inuutusan ako, nagkamali ako at pag hindi ko naintindihan (yung utos). Sasampalin ako at tatadyakan,” (Whenever I committed mistakes and did not understand their instructions, they slapped my face and kicked me.) she related.

Katigan told Bulatlat that her employers made her go up the roof to scrub it as clean as possible. She added that her employers were very meticulous. “Yung kaldero nga eh, ginagawang salamin ng amo (Walada Othman) ko. Ganun dapat kakintab. Aamuyin niya lahat” (Walada Othman even used the pots as mirror.  That is how spotless and shiny she wanted it to be.  She smelled it too.)

She asked help from her agency but she was scolded instead. There was a time when she was brought by her employer to the office of the agency.  Almoaalem slapped her face six times, and kicked her twice at the back before she was fetched by her employers. After that incident, Katigan said, Walada Othman became harsher. She narrated that Mrs. Othman ordered her not to eat until her chores were finished. So she ate her meal, which both served as her breakfast and lunch, at around 3 p.m. every day. Katigan complained that she often felt weak and dizzy, almost to the point of fainting.

But still she was able to bear everything for four months.

A series of adversities

On March 20, 2008, Katigan was rushed to the hospital because of fever. She was discharged from the hospital the next day. But her employer told her that she has AIDS. Katigan related to Bulatlat, “Kasi lagi nilang sinasabi na kapag nagkakasakit ako eh may AIDS daw ako. Pero nilalagnat lang naman ako,” (Whenever I was sick, my employers told me that I have Acute Immune Deficiency Syndrome. But it was just fever).

The doctor told her employer that Katigan should refrain from work for five days. But upon arriving home, Katigan said, Mrs. Othman pushed her and forced her to start working. Katigan pleaded to be sent to her agency but her employer did not allow her.

The next day, Katigan was busy hanging washed clothes at the 3rd floor terrace of her employers’ house when Mrs. Othman approached her and started to scold her. His eldest son Karam arrived and asked his mother what was happening. While she was hanging the clothes with her back turned to them, Karam pushed her on the edge and she fell landing on the iron fence of the house. Their neighbor brought her to the hospital.

As a result, she lost five teeth and broke three spinal discs. On March 26, a representative from the Philippine consulate in Syria arrived to sign a waiver, which allowed doctors to conduct the necessary surgery. Because of the surgery, Katigan has19 stitches at her back. She was discharged from the hospital sometime in April. The representative from the Philippine consulate told Katigan that they would not be able to help her because her agency is responsible for her welfare.

After being discharged from the hospital, Katigan was arrested by the police and imprisoned for ten days before she was returned to the agency. She was beaten up by Almoaalem who also tore her medical prescriptions. While waiting for her repatriation, Katigan told Bulatlat,  Almoaalem usually called her to his office to slap her face or to kick her.

The long trip home

Because she needed money to buy plane tickets she pleaded and kneeled down in front of police officers to ask for their assistance in claiming her unpaid salary and her belongings from her employer. After a month, she got her unpaid salary, which she used to buy her plane ticket.

Upon learning that she was about to go home, her fellow overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) asked her to mail their letters pleading for assistance to their families and to the government.  She hid it inside her clothes because she knew Almoaalem would inspect her belongings before she left. Not only did Almoaalem inspect her bags, he also took the rest of her money and assaulted her physically before bringing her to the airport.

On her way home, Katigan met Marjorie Rodriguez, an OFW from Beirut, Lebanon. She narrated her experience to Rodriguez who felt sympathy towards her. While inside the aircraft, Rodriguez asked financial assistance on her behalf from fellow Filipinos passengers.

When Katigan arrived in Manila, officers from the Overseas Workers’ Welfare Association (OWWA) told her that they could provide her with a place to stay but could not reimburse her plane ticket. But Katigan opted to accept Rodriguez’s offer to help. She stayed in the house of  Rodriguez’s sister in Cavite while Marjorie arranged for her return home to Buluan, Maguindanao.

Katigan missed her flight home to Buluan because she waited for the relative of one of her OFW friends in Damascus who was supposed to pick up a letter from her. Since then, Migrante International, an organization of OFWs and their families, took her in while helping arrange her trip back home.

A life changing experience

Last June 3, Migrante held a press conference to demand for the scrapping of remittance charges levied on OFWs and to air Katigan’s story as well. Kara David, a reporter from GMA Network, referred her case to the GMA Kapuso Foundation for medical assistance. She was brought to the Philippine Orthopedic Hospital for check up. The doctors who checked her told her that her spinal column is bent thereby causing her back pains. Also since she was not able to drink her medications, her feet are always numb.

Katigan’s dream of helping lift her family from poverty was shattered with the prognosis of doctors that she could no longer work  “Hindi ko alam. Shempre mapipilitan din ako ng kahit anong kaunting mapapagkakitaan man lang para makatulong ako sa nanay ko. Sabi kasi nila hindi na ako pwede magtrabaho,” (I don’t know what would happen. But I have to earn something to help my mother even if they told me that I could no longer work because of my condition) Katigan lamented.

Migrante International is assisting Katigan in rebooking her flight back home after her dialogue with some members of the House of Representatives. She told Bulatlat that she is not comfortable when people ask her to recount the details of what happened to her in Damascus. But the thought of helping the remaining OFWs in Damascus keeps her going. “Ayaw ko na kasi maulit pa yung nangyari sa akin eh,” (I do not want others to experience what I have gone through) Katigan said. Bulatlat

Compel RP To Implement Alston Recommendations – HR Groups

June 11, 2008

The UPR Watch, a delegation composed of representatives of human rights, church groups, and non-governmental organizations that attended the Universal Periodic Review of the human rights record of the Philippine government before the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) urged the UN to compel the Arroyo government to implement the recommendations drawn up by Philip Alston, UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, after his investigation of the spate of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines late last year.


BY BULATLAT
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
Vol. VIII, No. 18, June 8-14, 2008

The UPR Watch, a delegation composed of representatives of human rights, church groups, and non-governmental organizations that attended the Universal Periodic Review of the human rights record of the Philippine government before the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) urged the UN to compel the Arroyo government to implement the recommendations drawn up by Philip Alston, UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, after his investigation of the spate of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines late last year.
“The conclusions of Professor Philip Alston, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions are a stinging indictment of the human rights record of the Philippine Government  and a mockery of its continued membership in the UN Human Rights Council,” said the UPR Watch in a statement released to the media.

In her oral intervention during the interactive dialogue at the 8th Session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Ms. Marie Hilao-Enriquez, Secretary General of KARAPATAN and a member of the Philippine UPR Watch, said Alston’s basic conclusions do not speak well of the Philippine Government, which is as a member of the Council. Members of the UNHRC are supposed to observe the highest standards in  human rights protection and promotion.

Enriquez delivered her oral intervention at the interactive dialogue following the report of Prof. Alston.  Her statement was supported by the Commission of Churches on International Affairs of the World Council of Churches (WCC CCIA), the Asian Legal Resource Center (ALRC) and the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL).

”Despite the open hostility and the undiplomatic tirade of the Philippine Mission on the report and the person of Alston, the Philippine UPR Watch supports and commends the conclusions and recommendations of the highly respected Special Rapporteur,” said Rev. Fr. Rex Reyes, secretary general of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines and head of UPR Watch.

Reyes added, “The vituperative language and aspersions cast by the Philippine Mission together with the reportedly 50-member government delegation on Prof. Alston were the total reverse of the public relations spin by high government officials in Manila who immediately went to town trumpeting the ‘good grades’ the government supposedly received in the UN.  Alston consistently concluded that the counter insurgency program of the government is one, if not the primary, reasons for the extrajudicial killings in the Philippines. “

”Alston also noted that while state security forces have been involved in the killings of
workers, farmers, church people, activists, media persons, indigenous peoples, lawyers, and other members of mass and people’s organizations, the military still remains in a state of denial and that no convictions were made on military personnel.”

Enriquez reported to the UN Human Rights Council that Jonas Burgos, a peasant organizer and son of Philippine press freedom icon Joe Burgos, has been missing for over a year despite evidences pointing to the involvement of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in the abduction. His mother Dr. Edita Burgos has exhausted all legal remedies in the country to no avail.
She confirmed to the Council that the killings have not stopped.  The human rights alliance KARAPATAN, Enriquez said, has documented 13 cases of extrajudicial killings and two cases of enforced disappearance since the beginning of 2008.  There were also hundreds of victims of displacement due to military operations, Enriquez added.

Enriquez appealed to the UN to compel the Philippine government to comply with the recommendations of Prof. Alston, especially with regards instituting changes in the counter-insurgency program of the government and the AFP, abolishing the Inter-Agency Legal Action Group, as well as all the general recommendations of the Special Rapporteur.

The Philippine UPR Watch also urged the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to ensure that the Philippine Government will actually honor its pledges and commitments to the UNHRC. Bulatlat

Streetwise: Human Rights and the U.S. ‘War on Terror’

June 11, 2008

In the light of increasing revelations about the horrendous violations of human rights and international humanitarian law by the U.S. military, U.S. government-contracted private security agencies and such state investigative arms as the Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the course of the U.S. war of occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan and while rounding up suspected “terrorists” in the U.S. and other countries, it is not surprising why the Bush administration and the Arroyo regime find themselves mutually reinforcing each other’s fascist mindset and policies.

BY CAROL PAGADUAN-ARAULLO
Streetwise / Business World
Posted by Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 18, June 8-14, 2008

“The (U.S.) strategy which is keyed on military stealth and might had trampling effects on the basic liberties of suspected terrorists for laws are silent when the guns of war do the talking. The war on terrorism has inevitable spillover effects on human rights all over the world, especially in countries suspected as being used as havens of terrorists.” — The Old Struggle for Human Rights, New Problems Posed by Security, Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno

At the 8th session of the UN (United Nations) Human Rights Council, during which the Philippine human rights record is being reviewed, UN Special Rapporteur Prof. Philip Alston stood by his findings on the alarming spate of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines in the last six years.

According to the non-government organization, Philippine UPR (Universal Periodic Review) Watch, Mr. Alston stated that so many of the cases remained unexplained; only a few cases, prosecuted; and to date, there had been no conviction of military personnel involved. Mr. Alston underscored his finding that, in so far as the number and characterization of the killings, the methodology used by the Philippine government was defective.

Fr. Rex Reyes, head of delegation of the Philippine UPR Watch, said that after Alston’s report, the Philippine Mission in Geneva submitted a six-page statement lambasting the report as “inaccurate, highly selective and biased” and vilifying Mr. Alston himself.

It is not at all out of character for the Philippine government to stick to its denial mode as far as extra-judicial killings (EJKs) and other human rights violations are concerned. The regime of Mrs. Gloria Arroyo, while continuing to understate the gravity and extent of the killings, washes its hands of any culpability, accuses its detractors of exaggerating the problem and of politicking, and then proudly proclaims that it has significantly reduced the incidence of EJKs and human rights violations in general.

Mr. Alston was reported to have “happily note(d) the drop in the number of extrajudicial killings since he began his mission in the Philippines.” But he also wryly added, “The decrease in number while a cause to congratulate, is likewise a cause to condemn because it merely shows clearly who are behind the extrajudicial killings.”

The Arroyo regime’s bloody human rights record was close to being universally criticized by the international human rights community, including such institutions as the International Parliamentary Union as well as certain countries in the European Union known for their consistent defense of human rights. Yet most recently, Malacañang issued a press release welcoming the 2008 report of the U.S. State Department “hailing the Philippine government’s adherence to democracy and freedom, respect for human rights and stepped up efforts to end extrajudicial killings and disappearances.” Presidential Spokesperson Bunye added, “(The report) reiterates the commitment of the American government to assist and stand by us.”

The U.S.-backed Arroyo regime, facing serious challenges to its political survival, has courted the support of the U.S. and ensured the loyalty of the U.S.-trained Philippine military by escalating military actions not only against the CPP-NPA-NDFP (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front of the Philippines) but against legal progressive organizations and personalities under the guise of countering “terrorism.” Hence the rise in extra-judicial killings.

Moreover, the regime has been emboldened by the U.S. “war on terror” to rely mainly on a military solution to the armed conflict rather than address the roots of the armed conflict by instituting basic social, political and economic reforms. Thus, one of the first victims of the U.S. “war on terror” in the Philippines is the quest for a just and lasting peace through peace negotiations between the government and the NDFP.

In the light of increasing revelations about the horrendous violations of human rights and international humanitarian law by the U.S. military, U.S. government-contracted private security agencies and such state investigative arms as the Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the course of the U.S. war of occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan and while rounding up suspected “terrorists” in the U.S. and other countries, it is not surprising why the Bush administration and the Arroyo regime find themselves mutually reinforcing each other’s fascist mindset and policies.

It behooves human rights advocates exposing and opposing the brutal Arroyo regime to pay particular attention to the U.S. own bloody human rights record everywhere and the particular role that the U.S. continues to play in encouraging and sustaining state terrorism by its neo-colonial client regimes. The indisputable and documented trail of U.S. war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, and crime of aggression against sovereign countries must be unmasked and fought against.

Specifically, the U.S. refusal to sign on to the Rome Statute mandating the International Criminal Court (ICC) and its use of arm-twisting measures, e.g. a cut-off in military and economic aid, against countries that ratify the Rome Statute, is a virtual admission of guilt and the intent to continue violating human rights (HR) and international humanitarian law (IHL). The ICC is widely considered to be a historic and major breakthrough in human rights protection because it provides international mechanism for prosecution of grievous violations of HR and IHL. The Philippines signed but did not submit the treaty to the Senate for ratification due to such U.S. pressure.

The official U.S. post-9/11 “Guidelines for Interrogation” of suspected “terrorists” include methods considered as torture by international law standards. Even U.S. courts have ruled these to be unconstitutional. The U.S. also signed but “with reservations” the International Convention on Torture. Severe, inhuman and dehumanizing torture has been inflicted by US forces in Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and other US-run detention facilities all over the world. Evidently the practice of torture by U.S. security agents and armed forces is systematic and to a certain extent institutionalized.

Human rights groups and several public inquiries in Europe have found the U.S. government, with the help of numerous governments worldwide, to be engaged in the illegal practice of extraordinary rendition, secret detention and torture. The U.S. government-sponsored program of renditions is an unlawful practice in which numerous persons have been illegally detained and secretly flown to third countries, where they have suffered additional human rights abuses including torture and enforced disappearance.

The latest scandal surrounding the U.S.-led war of terror is the emergence from a number of sources such as statements from the U.S. military, the Council of Europe and related parliamentary bodies and the testimonies of prisoners, that the U.S. is operating “floating prisons” in an attempt to conceal the numbers and whereabouts of those detained as “terrorist” suspects.

Indeed, Mrs. Arroyo’s upcoming meeting with U.S. President Bush in the U.S. this month shows just how much she still admires and follows the lead of her fascist, if lame-duck, role model. Business World / Posted by Bulatlat

Analysis: Tokenism

June 11, 2008

The problem with those practicing tokenism is that they always make sure that their efforts are seen and publicized; it’s as is if they are doing a lot, when well in fact, they have done close to nothing, in terms of impact. In responding to the worsening crisis confronting the Filipino people, the Arroyo government chose measures that are not effective but are highly visible, thus the preference for handouts. These are not meant to mitigate the effects of the social and economic crisis on the Filipino people but to ease the effects of the political crisis on the Arroyo government.

BY BENJIE OLIVEROS
ANALYSIS
Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 18, June 8-14, 2008

The problem with those practicing tokenism is that they always make sure that their efforts are seen and publicized; it’s as is if they are doing a lot, when well in fact, they have done close to nothing, in terms of impact.

The Filipino people are saddled with so many problems, with the continuous surge in oil and food prices, and yet the Arroyo government lends a deaf ear to measures that would provide immediate relief to the people as well as those that would address the main causes of these problems.

Inflation is soaring, with a 9.6 percent increase in May – the highest in nine years – and threatening to hit 10 percent anytime soon. Instead of controlling prices, the Arroyo government chose to increase benchmark interest rates by a quarter of a percentage point. Raising interest rates is the knee-jerk or rather, the main solution of mainstream economists to address the problem of inflation. The rationale behind this is that inflation, according to mainstream economics, is caused by an increase in demand for commodities, which is, in turn, caused by an increase in the purchasing power of consumers brought about by increased income and employment.

But the problem is, the current pressure of inflation is not caused by an increase in the demand for commodities brought about by a corresponding increase in the purchasing power of consumers. In fact, the country is experiencing double-digit unemployment and underemployment rates, 11.3 percent and 18.5 percent respectively, according to estimates by IBON Foundation; and in as much as Filipino consumers are in dire need of basic commodities, they could hardly afford it. Rice traders are complaining that sales of commercial rice have gone down. Also, drivers of public utility and private vehicles are trying everything to cut-down on fuel consumption. What we are experiencing right now is stagflation: inflation coupled with a stagnation in the economy. And if no substantial, effective measure is instituted by the Arroyo government, the economy would shrink more, especially with the recession in the US economy – the main trading partner of the Philippines and its biggest investor- while prices would keep on soaring.

If the Arroyo government wants to really control inflation, it should control the prices of basic commodities.

In stead of removing the 12 percent VAT on oil, rescinding the Oil Deregulation Law, and regulating oil prices, the Arroyo government chose to lower the 3 percent ad valorem tax on crude importation and grant fuel subsidies to public utility vehicles. But lowering the 3 percent tariff on crude importation would hardly make a dent in pump prices as it is too little to make a difference, and refining and marketing charges and the 12 percent VAT on sales of gasoline and diesel easily erase any gain in the reduction of tariffs. Neither would the P3 billion ($67,988,668 at an exchange rate of $1=P44.125) quarterly subsidy meant to provide fuel discounts for drivers of jeepneys and buses make a lot of difference. Pump prices have already increased 12 times during the year and is expected to increase some more. Just last weekend, pump prices increased P1.50 ($0.03) for the second consecutive week. Some analysts are predicting that gasoline prices would reach P65 ($1.47) per liter soon. How much then would be the discount? How many would benefit from it? For how long could the government sustain it?

Even more stupid is the directive of the Department of Energy to oil companies not to announce price increases supposedly to prevent speculation.

Removing the VAT on oil would lower pump prices by an average of P5 ($0.11) per liter. (How can the government stomach the fact that it is making a windfall in tax collections on petroleum products amounting to P49.2 billion or $1,115,014,164 in 2006 and P18.6 billion or $421,529,745 from January to July 2007 with soaring of oil prices while the Filipino people are suffering more?)

More importantly, regulating oil prices would protect consumers from speculative attacks of oil traders and monopoly pricing of giant oil companies. Because with regulation, oil companies would have to justify any petition to increase pump prices.

With soaring prices, incidences of poverty and hunger are expected to worsen. But the solution the government is implementing is to allocate P2 billion ($45,325,779) for “cash transfers” to selected poor families. Considering that the population is estimated at 80 million and that by government’s conservative estimates, the average poverty incidence is at 26.6 percent, this P2 billion ($45,325,779) cash transfer would amount to only P93.98 ($2.22) per person for the 21,280,000 who are living below the poverty line. The tokenism of this allotment is even more glaring if we consider that, based on data culled by IBON Foundation, 70 million Filipinos live on P110 ($2.49) per day.

If the Arroyo government is serious in solving poverty, it should implement a genuine agrarian reform program and gear the country’s industry, as well as the whole economy, towards producing the needs of Philippine society. And with a well-balanced industrialization, more jobs would be generated.

To solve high power rates, the Arroyo government is engaging the Lopez family in a legal battle for control of Meralco and has announced a P2 billion ($45,325,779) grant subsidy for those consuming less than 100 kilowatts of electricity a month. It is true that the Lopez family practices monopoly pricing in setting power rates being the main distributor of electricity to households. It also true that Meralco’s practice of charging pilferages to consumers – reflected in charges for system losses – is grossly disadvantageous to consumers. It is also true that power plants owned by the Lopezes, as well as those owned by other companies, are wrongly charging all the power they generate regardless if it has been consumed or not under the “take or pay” provision in government contracts. It may also be true that the Meralco is purchasing electricity from Lopez-owned power producers at a much higher rate through the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM). But engaging Meralco and the Lopez family in a corporate legal battle is tedious and expectedly would be a long, drawn out conflict. In the first place, Meralco and the Lopez family is able to do these because of the Arroyo government’s deregulation and privatization policies.

If the Arroyo government is sincere in bringing down power rates, it should renegotiate its contracts with Independent Power Producers (IPP), repeal the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001 (EPIRA) and regulate power rates. With the EPIRA, the Lopez family is able to own and control not only Meralco but power plants as well; it is able to manipulate the computation of rates; it is able to distort contract prices at the WESM. But the setting of grossly disadvantageous contracts and manipulation of rates is not the “monopoly” of the Lopez family. It is also being done by other power producers such as the Aboitiz along with their foreign partners. That is why the Foreign Chambers of Commerce are warning the Arroyo government not to renegotiate its contracts with IPPs and not to amend the EPIRA.

To solve the highly probable increase in drop-out rates of students – due to the pressure of high prices of basic commodities and services on families – the Arroyo government ordered a freeze in tuition increases of State Colleges and Universities (SCU) and appealed to private colleges and universities to do the same. It also allocated P1 billion ($22,662,889) for student loans and scholarships. The P500 million ($11,331,444) student loan fund is supposed to provide 62,500 third and fourth year college students with P8,000 ($181.30) loan without interest under the Student Assistance Fund for Education for a Strong Republic. The other P500 million ($11,331,444) is meant for for four-year scholarships to around 1,666 students to be allocated as follows: P300 million ($6,798,866) for eligible students in SCUs who would receive P15,000 ($339.94) per year, and P200 million ($4,532,577) for deserving students in private schools who would receive P30,000 ($679.88) per year.

But SCUs and private schools have already increased their tuition before the freeze order was announced. The University of the Philippines (UP), for example, has already implemented a 300 percent hike in tuition since last school year.

Moreover, the planned student loans and scholarships would benefit a very small percentage of students enrolled in tertiary education. Data from the Commission on Higher Education revealed that there were 819,251 enrollees in SCUs and other government-owned education institutions and 1,583,064 students in private colleges and universities during academic year 2004-2005. The 64,166 students who would benefit from the loan and scholarship constitute a mere 2.6 percent of the total number of students in 2004. Besides, the amount allocated for loans and scholarships are not sufficient. Tuition at UP amounts to between P17,000 to P20,000 ($385.26 to $453.25) per semester. The University of Sto. Tomas (UST), with a relatively low tuition compared to other private universities, charges around P1,000 ($22.66) per semester. With miscellaneous and other fees, the tuition amounts to around P40,000 ($906.51) per semester.

To help ease the burden of parents in public elementary and high schools, the Arroyo government announced that uniforms are no longer required. But expenses for uniforms constitute a small percentage of the expenses of parents. Parents are also burdened with transportation and food expenses, and costs of school projects. And with the almost nil budget of public schools for Maintenance, Operating and Other Expenses (MOOE), parents are made to bear expenses for school repairs, furniture and fixtures, and even the salaries of janitors.

If the Arroyo government is really serious in easing the burden of education expenses of parents, it should increase the education budget significantly, including the allocation for SCUs. According to CEGP National President Vijae Alquisola, SCUs even experienced a reduction in government subsidies. SCUs got a meager share of 1.84 percent from the national budget, a decrease from the 2.74 allocation it received last year. Alquisola said that the Polytechnic University of the Philippines, which charges the lowest tuition among SCUs suffered a budget cut of approximately P6 million ($135,977) this year.

With the responses of the Arroyo government, it appears that it is not so much interested in solving the crisis at its roots. Rather it came up with policy responses that merely scratch the surface of the crisis. It chose measures that are not effective but are highly visible, thus the preference for handouts. These are not meant to mitigate the effects of the social and economic crisis on the Filipino people but rather to ease the effects of the political crisis on the Arroyo government. The question is, how long can the Filipino people continue carrying the burden of the crisis and how much time can the Arroyo government buy? Bulatlat

Farmers Ask CBCP: Support GARB, Not CARP Extension

June 11, 2008

Calling the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) of the Aquino regime “bogus,” farmers from Southern Tagalog, Central Luzon and Mindanao regions ask the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines to support House Bill No. 3059 or the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB) which the late Anakpawis (Toiling Masses) Rep. Crispin “Ka Bel” Beltran filed in the 14th Congress.

BY NOEL SALES BARCELONA
Contributed to Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 18, June 8-14, 2008

Calling the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) of the Aquino regime “bogus,” farmers from Southern Tagalog, Central Luzon and Mindanao regions ask the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines to support House Bill No. 3059 or the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB) which the late Anakpawis (Toiling Masses) Rep. Crispin “Ka Bel” Beltran filed in the 14th Congress.

This developed as some 1,000 farmers from Southern Tagalog were staging a “Lakbayan para sa Lupa, Pagkain at Hustisyang Panlipunan” (March for Land, Food and Social Justice).

In the weekly Kapihan sa CyPress media forum at the Treehouse Restaurant, Matalino St., in Quezon City last June 7, Orly Marcellana, secretary-general of the Katipunan ng Samahang Magsasaka sa Timog Katagalugan (Kasama-TK or Association of Peasant Organizations in Southern Tagalog), a local chapter of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP or Peasant Movement of the Philippines ), and currently the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (New Patriotic Alliance or Bayan) regional chair, said that history has already proven the futility of the existing agrarian reform program, which is now 20 years old.

“In the two decades of CARP’s implementation, the farmers in the region remained landless, hungry and poor. We have enough of this bogus land reform,” said Marcellana.

Marcellana insisted that only GARB can introduce an almost-perfect solution to the landlessness problem of farmers in the country.

Rev. Ray Galloaga of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP), who works closely with the peasant folk in the region, cited the Scriptures and said that as part of the social justice program of Yahweh, Israelites-through their judges and kings-have implemented their own version of agrarian reform program

“Thus, it is rightful to support what the peasant-folks are fighting for right now and that is the passage of a progressive legislation on agrarian reform,” Galloaga said.

Earlier, Second National Rural Congress (NRC2) Chair and Cagayan de Oro Archbishop Antonio J. Ledesma, expressed support to the extension of CARP.

CBCP even asked the President to certify the bill extending the CARP as urgent. She certified it as urgent early last week.

The Central Luzon experience

United Luisita Workers’ Union (ULWU) president and now Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA or Union of Agricultural Workers) Rene Galang shared his own experience with CARP inside the Cojuangco-owned Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac.

“Instead of giving the lands to the farmers and farm-workers for them to till, they (the Cojuangcos) have given us the Stock Distribution Option (SDO), a scheme that paved way for more abuse. Now that the Supreme Court has finally decided in favor of the farmers, the Cojuangco clan still refuses to give the farmers’ part of the hacienda which our colleagues have already shed their blood for,” Galang said, referring to the November 16, 2004 massacre.

Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luzon (AMGL or Alliance of Peasants in Central Luzon) chairman  Joseph Canlas said more and more lands are being grabbed by unscrupulous landlords and developers thus leaving more and more farmers landless and hungry.

Among the schemes used are crop conversion and land use conversion, in which lands are being developed into industrial and residential uses, and instead of being used for production of rice and other food lands are planted with cutflowers and other high-yielding crops, threatening the country’s food supply, Galang elaborated.

“That’s why, we are strongly supporting the bill that our beloved Ka Bel, filed in Congress,” said Galang.

CARP: the Mindanao experience

Mindanao has the same experience, said Antonio “Ka Tonying” Flores, KMP officer in Mindanao.

“Many lands have been classified as corporate farms, which can only be distributed if the corporation owning the farm voluntarily submits to CARP, as provided for by the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law of 1988,” said Flores.

GARB

Incoming Anakpawis Rep. Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano, said that he would be fighting hard for the passage of the GARB and will ensure that the farmers would win this battle.

Mariano joins thousands of farmers that are expected to flock the foot of Mendiola bridge, this June 10, CARP’s 20th anniversary. Contributed to Bulatlat

Amid Oil Crisis: No Need for Emergency Powers Yet, DoE Says

June 11, 2008

But public warned to ‘expect the worst’

While oil prices in the international market are soaring and projected to hit US$200 per barrel before December, the Department of Energy (DoE) claimed that the situation is under control and there is no need—as of now—to give emergency powers to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. However, Energy Secretary Angelo T. Reyes Jr., said that the country must expect the worst now that pump prices of gasoline and diesel have breached the level of P50 (US$1.124) per liter and transport groups are not totally abandoning their demand for a fare hike, despite the “withdrawal” of their petition to the Land Transportation Franchise and Regulatory Board (LTFRB).

BY NOEL SALES BARCELONA
Contributed To Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 18, June 8-14, 2008

While oil prices in the international market are soaring and projected to hit US$200 per barrel before December, the Department of Energy (DoE) claimed that the situation is under control and there is no need—as of now—to give emergency powers to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

However, Energy Secretary Angelo T. Reyes Jr., said that the country must expect the worst now that pump prices of gasoline and diesel prices have breached the level of P50 (US$1.124) per liter and transport groups are not totally abandoning their demand for a fare hike despite the “withdrawal” of their petition to the Land Transportation Franchise and Regulatory Board (LTFRB).

In the weekly Kapihan sa Sulô in Quezon City, the energy chief said that they are still talking about short- and long-term solutions to the surge in oil prices.

Measures such as the promotion of the use of compact natural gas (CNG) and liquefied petroleum gas for public utility vehicles, tariff cuts on crude imports (which was done earlier) and the promotion of the use of biofuels in industries and transport, are more likely to be considered, he said.

“But for now, all we need to do is to conserve and cut down on our fuel consumption,” Reyes said, adding that it is not government’s sole responsibility to find solution to the crisis.

“Expect food prices to soar due to higher transport cost,” Reyes added.

On the issue of suspending the 12-percent value-added tax (VAT) on oil, Reyes explained that it is hard for the administration to do so for it is mandated by law. The law he was referring to is Republic Act No. 9337, more commonly known as the Restructured Value-Added Tax Law, which was passed in 2005.

“Unless we repeal or amend the law, then the suspension or the removal of VAT on oil can’t be imposed,” said Reyes.

Asked about the possible re-opening of the US$2.3-billion Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP), which was mothballed in 1987, Reyes replied that it is easier said than done.

Some groups are lobbying for the reopening of the controversial power plant but Reyes clarified that government needs at least US$800 million (P35.585 trillion) to rehabilitate the plant and the public must wait another five years before the BNPP can be fully operational.

On the other hand, independent think-tank IBON Foundation, Inc., said that it is the proper time for the government to take a stand and regulate the domestic prices of oil.

In the statement published in their official website (http://www.ibon.org/), the think tank stated that the recent pronouncements of the Big Three (Petron, Caltex and Shell) that they need to increase their prices by as much as P10 to P11 ($0.22 to $0.24) per liter highlight the urgency of reinstating regulation of the oil industry.

The government has lost its power to control prices of petrol in the local market after the Downstream Oil Industry Deregulation Law was implemented in 1998. Contributed to Bulatlat

State School Tuition to Match Private School Rates by 2010

June 11, 2008

The leader of a youth group, citing the Philippine government’s own Long-Term Higher Education Development Plan (LTHEDP), said that tuition in state schools will match that of private schools by 2010.

BY BULATLAT
Vol. VIII, No. 18, June 8-14, 2008

The leader of a youth group, citing the Philippine government’s own Long-Term Higher Education Development Plan (LTHEDP), said that tuition in state schools will match that of private schools by 2010.

The plan prescribes the following targets for 2010: (1) the reduction of the number of SUCs by 20 percent; (2) the conversion of six SUCs to ‘semi-corporations;’ (3) the generation of income by 20 percent of SUCs through the sale of intellectual property rights and grants; (4) the establishment of active income-generating projects in 50 percent of SUCs; and (5) the collaboration with big business of 60 percent of SUCs.

One of the more controversial targets, according to Kabataang Pinoy chairman Dion Carlo Cerrafon, is the pegging of tuition rates at a level similar to that of private schools in 70 percent of state schools by 2010.

“These targets clearly go against present back-to-school government posturing on public tertiary education.”

He said incessant hikes in tuition in state schools, particularly at the University of the Philippines (UP), are clear indicators of the government’s resolve to meet the LTHEDP’s targets by 2010.

“Most state schools have already implemented the plan by increasing their internally-generated funds (IGF) through the privatization of auxiliary services and other revenue projects in the university. A number of SUCS, like UP and the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP), have already entered into joint ventures with profit-oriented entrepreneurs and big businesses, as already evident in the new ‘science and technology’ park being built in UP property Commonwealth avenue and call center offices and training center in PUP main campus,” he explained.

He added that in two separate memoranda by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) in 1999 and 2000, 86 CHED supervised institutions (CSI) have been or are in the process of being integrated into SUCS. In six year, the number of SUCs was reduced by 154, from 264 in 1998 to 111 in 2004.

“LTHEDP slowly transforms state schools into efficient income earning entities with the long-term goal of making them self-reliant capable of running their institutions without government subsidy.

“Such policy not only justifies state abandonment of its responsibility to educate young Filipinos, but it also serves as the basis for schools to engage in money-making activities like joint ventures with corporations, selling of intellectual properties and other assets, income-generating projects, tuition adjustment and imposition of new fees. This ensures corporate dominance even in public education, making tertiary education the province of the elite,” Cerrafon pointed out.

“Unless we begin investing more on education and start reversing education policies that encourage commercialization, we will continue to see more students leaving college because of high fees and poverty,” he said. Bulatlat

More Students Transfer from Private to State Schools

June 11, 2008

But fee hikes, limited slots force transferees to dropout, says youth group

A growing number of the country’s college students are transferring from the private schools to state colleges and universities due to rising costs of private-school education. But state schools have been increasing their tuition and other fees in recent years. Because of this, thousands of college hopefuls might be forced to drop out of school this year.

BY BULATLAT
Vol. VIII, No. 18, June 8-14, 2008

A growing number of the country’s college students are transferring from private schools to state colleges and universities due to rising costs of private-school education. But state schools have been increasing their tuition and other fees in recent years. Because of this, thousands of college hopefuls might be forced to drop out of school this year.

Citing recent trends in enrollment, youth group Kabataang Pinoy revealed that due to the rising cost of education, more and more students enrolled in private higher education institutions are either forced to transfer to state schools or find themselves dropping out altogether.

Records from the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) show that in 1980, only 10 percent of college students were studying in state schools. By 1994, the number went up to 21 percent and at present already accounts for almost 40 percent of the country’s tertiary-level student population.

“But many of these transferees will find themselves dropping out of college. The problem is, there are no more rooms in state schools either,” Kabataang Pinoy President Dion Carlo Cerrafon said.

“State universities and colleges (SUCs) are confronted by similar problems. Poor education spending and annual budget cutbacks force state schools to impose enrolment quotas and increase fees, forcing many state scholars to leave,” he added.
As a result, Cerrafon said, access to public higher education institutions, which is the last resort for students who want to obtain a college degree, has become impossible to many college hopefuls.

“While it is true that SUCs offer tuition lower than private schools, tuition rate and miscellaneous fees in state schools and universities have seen the biggest increases in recent years, thus making SUC education also inaccessible to ordinary students,” he explained.

Last year, the University of the Philippines (UP) increased its tuition by 300 percent, from P300 ($6.50 at last year’s average exchange rate of $1:P46.15) to P1,000 ($21.67) per unit.

Another state institution, the Eulogio Amang Rodriguez Institute of Science and Technology (EARIST) in Manila, implemented a 600-percent tuition hike, resulting in a 50-percent drop in enrollment last school year. From last year’s P15 ($0.32) per unit, EARIST now charges P100 ($2.27 at the June 6 exchange rate of $1:P44.14) per unit. Laboratory fees also increased from P25 ($0.54 at 2007 rate) to P500 ($11.33 at June 6 rate).

The Philippine Normal University (PNU) had already increased its tuition by 400 percent in 2003.

The country’s biggest state school in terms of population, the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP), was also poised to hike its tuition by 525 percent last year but was forced to shelve its plan due to massive student protests. It would have increased tuition from P12.50 ($0.27 at 2007 rate) to P75 ($1.62) per unit.

Cerrafon said state schools are also forced to accept only a limited number of students due to budget cuts.

Last year, the University of the Philippines (UP) Office of Admissions said some 66,000 high school graduates all over the country applied for the UP College Admission Test (UPCAT). But only an average of 12,000 applicants are admitted each year. For example, some 14,000 applicants on the average seek to enter the UP College of Nursing but only 70 or 0.5 percent are admitted.

The same goes with PUP. PUP has 16 branches and extensions in Luzon and each unit conducts its own PUPCET (Polytechnic University of the Philippines College Entrance Test). In PUP’s main campus in Sta. Mesa, Manila, more than 50,000 thousand students take up the entrance test every year but only 10 to 13 thousand on the average are admitted. One of the lowest passing rates in PUPCET history was recorded in 2006, when only 7,357 examinees passed the entrance test.

Cerrafon added that the increases in tuition and other fees would certainly have an effect on the enrolment of poor but deserving students coming from the provinces.

“Rising fees will certainly daunt bright students from depressed and remote areas of the country from enrolling in UP or other big state schools and eventually force them to settle for poorly-maintained state colleges in the provinces or worse, give up their college dream.”

Studies from private think-tanks and international organizations show the effects of rising cost of education, even in public higher education institutions. In June 2004, the Wallace report pegged college dropout rate at a staggering all-time high of 73 percent. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) National Commission of the Philippines, on the other hand, reported a measly 22-percent overall student survival rate from 1st to 4th year college. Bulatlat

Farmers Kick Off Week-long March for New Land Reform Bill

June 11, 2008

No less than 1,500 farmers, fisherfolk, agricultural workers and peasant women from Southern Tagalog provinces – Mindoro Occidental, Mindoro Oriental, Quezon, Batangas, Laguna, Cavite and Rizal have kicked off a week long rural people’s march to dramatize their opposition against the proposal to extend the 20-year-old Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), and push for the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB) or House Bill No. 3059 principally authored by the late Anakpawis (Toiling Masses) Rep. Crispin “Ka Bel” Beltran.

BY GERRY ALBERT CORPUZ
Contributed to Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 18, June 8-14, 2008

No less than 1,500 farmers, fisherfolk, agricultural workers and peasant women from Southern Tagalog provinces – Mindoro Occidental, Mindoro Oriental, Quezon, Batangas, Laguna, Cavite and Rizal have kicked off a week long rural people’s march to dramatize their opposition against the proposal to extend the 20-year-old Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), and push for the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB) or House Bill No. 3059 principally authored by the late Anakpawis (Toiling Masses) Rep. Crispin “Ka Bel” Beltran.

Five of the biggest rural-based groups – Anakpawis, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP or Peasant Movement of the Philippines), Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya or National Alliance of Small Fisherfolk Organizations), Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA or Union of Workers in Agriculture) and Amihan- National Federation of Peasant Women, in cooperation with Katipunan ng Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (Kasama-TK or Association of Peasant Organizations in Southern Tagalog) and Pamalakaya-Southern Tagalog will spearhead the “Lakbayan ng mga Magsasaka para sa Lupa, Pagkain at Hustisyang Panlipunan” (Peasant March for Land, Food and Justice).

“GARB is Beltran’s legacy to the Filipino farmers. It is a landmark piece of legislation that recognizes the class interest and class power of the peasantry,” said Kasama-TK secretary general Orly Marcellana.

Marcellana added: “The rice crisis we are experiencing is proof that CARP has done nothing to solve the landlessness of peasants and the development of agriculture in the country. Since CARP was implemented, more farmers have been driven away from their lands and homes because of massive land grabbing and land use conversions made legal by CARP. This bogus land reform program now being directed by Arroyo is a pest to farmers.”

Lakbayan organizers added that peasant and rural people joining the march are expected to enter the National Capital Region (NCR) on June 8 and would hold a vigil in Baclaran Church on the same day. On June 9, the farmers would march from Baclaran to the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) National Office in Quezon City for an anti-CARP and pro-GARB solidarity night. On June 10, the farmers would march from DAR to Mendiola in Manila to demand the rejection of CARP extension, and the passage of HB 3059.

20 years of injustice

“For millions of farmers and rural people, CARP is equivalent to 20 years of social injustice and extreme massacre of peasant land rights. It is nothing but a token symbol of land reform. It is about time to bury this shotgun piece of legislation six feet under,” KMP secretary general Danilo Ramos said in a press statement.

“As far as truth- and justice-seeking farmers are concerned, the death of CARP is the new beginning for GARB, a landmark piece of legislation that will entail a thoroughgoing and justice driven agrarian reform program in the country. The free distribution of land to landless farmers is the corner stone of GARB which is a million times superior to the bankrupt character and orientation of CARP and CARP extension,” Ramos added.

Reply to detractors

Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap told detractors of GARB and proponents of CARP extension that CARP beneficiaries themselves were victims of the twenty year old bogus agrarian reform program.

“Proponents of this bogus land reform program failed to explain the real score behind thousands of cases of land reform reversals, compounded by confiscation of land titles, thousands of cases of land use conversions, across-the country land grabbing extravaganza and the unexplained P143-billion ($3,240,793,201) taxpayers’ money spent for CARP, which all happened in the 20 years of CARP,” the Pamalakaya leader added.

“Now GARB detractors have the guts to tell the farmers that CARP is meant for social justice despite the fact the CARP failed the tillers of this land over the last 20 years. The ring leaders of the pro-CARP syndicate in and out of Malacañang are obscuring the truth in the name of their respective political and material agenda,” Hicap added.

“These pro-CARP extension hooligans and anti-GARB shenanigans are misleading the farmers for fear of losing their rackets in and out of the Arroyo syndicate,” the Pamalakaya leader said.

CARP victims

KMP’s Ramos and Pamalakaya’s Hicap cited at least 7 big cases in Southern Tagalog where CARP beneficiaries including fishermen were eased out from their farmlands to give way to land use conversion projects undertaken by big landlords, private developers and the government:

• 10,000 farmers and fisherfolk beneficiaries, all CARP beneficiaries are still locked in a battle against Fil-Estate, the Manila South Coast Development Corporation and SM of Henry Sy over 8,650 hectares of prime agricultural lands, which private developers intend to develop into a major eco-tourism hub in Hacienda Looc, Nasugbu in Batangas. The Department of Agrarian Reform cancelled their Certificate of Land Ownership Awards (CLOAs) and Emancipation Patents (EPs) to pave way for land use conversion.

• The CLOAs of CARP beneficiaries were revoked by DAR in Hacienda Roxas in Nasugbu, Batangas covering 7,183 hectares of sugar lands to give way to eco-tourism, residential and commercial projects to be funded by foreign and local investors.

• In Hacienda Puyat in Batangas, some 1,800 hectares of land were denied to supposed CARP beneficiaries to pave way for the construction of golf courses and other eco-tourism projects.

• The DAR allowed the exemption and conversion of 10,000 hectares of sugar lands to livestock farms, poultry farms, fishponds in Hacienda Zobel in Calatagan, Batangas, and also gave the right to the Ayala clan to land-grab an additional 2,000 hectares of foreshore land to deny agrarian claims of farmers and fishermen in 19 out of Calatagan’s 24 barangays (villages).

• In Carmen and Silang towns, DAR approved the conversion of 2,500 hectares of land into golf courses and residential areas by the Ayala land group of companies, denying farmer beneficiaries of their rights to utilize prime agricultural lands which they tilled for generations.

• In Aguinaldo Estate, Tartaria, Silang in Cavite, 2,000 farming families were displaced from their farmlands, after DAR gave the go-signal for investors to convert the 197- hectare estate to commercial subdivision and a high-end golf course.

• The DAR also facilitated the conversion of 7,100 hectare Hacienda Yulo in Canluibang, Laguna into an array of subdivisions and golf courses, and victimized 457 families, whose CLOAs were cancelled by the agrarian reform agency.

They said from 1994 up to 2007, about 1,302,375 hectares of prime agricultural lands have been placed by DAR under conversion and such terrible act led to the massive land reform reversals with the cancellation of land titles all over the region. The group said around 173,000 hectares of prime agricultural lands in the region have been already been converted for commercial purposes; leaving tens of thousands of supposed to be CARP beneficiaries landless.

In 1993, Pamalakaya, KMP and the Sentro Para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo (Sentra or Center for Genuine Agrarian Reform) held a preliminary assessment of CARP from 1988 to 1993, and one of the most striking results of the program was revealed – a total of 10,958 certificate of land transfers (CLTs), 9,133 EPs and 2,303 CLOAs were cancelled by DAR covering 32, 041 hectares of prime agricultural lands affecting over 22,000 CARP beneficiaries.

The groups said while farmlands belonging to farmers are perpetually targeted for landgrabbing and conversion under CARP, lands leased to foreign corporations like Dole and Del Monte Philippines remained untouched. It said foreign corporations managed to keep 220,000 hectares of agricultural lands because these lands were devoted to production of export crops.

P100 billion for CARP extension

Meanwhile, another GARB co-author, Bayan Muna (People First) Rep. Teodoro Casiño, said the Filipino people will be forced to fund a fatally flawed agrarian reform program to the tune of not less than P100 billion ($2,266,288,951) in taxpayers’ money if CAR is extended.

“Merely extending the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (RA 6657) without correcting its fatal defects will cost the Filipino taxpayer P100 billion ($2,266,288,951) in wasted funds,” Casiño said.

The Bayan Muna party list lawmaker recalled: “ In my interpellation…of Rep. Edcel Lagman, sponsor of HB 4077, he candidly admitted that the so-called “necessary reforms” in the proposed CARL extension bill do not address what even he admits are the flaws and glaring loopholes in RA 6657.”

“Lagman even called said loopholes “congenital defects” that have sabotaged the government’s agrarian reform program for the last 20 years,” Casiño added. The Bayan Muna solon said the most glaring of these defects in RA 6657 that HB 4077 fails to correct are:

1. The limited coverage of agrarian reform:

• The exclusion of lands that are technically classified as either forest, mineral, commercial or residential land even if these are tenanted and actually used or suitable for agriculture (Sec. 3)

• The exclusion of lands devoted to livestock, swine and poultry farms, fishponds, prawn farms, salt beds, fruit farms, orchards, vegetable and cut-flower farms, cacao, coffee and rubber plantations (Sec. 10)

• Allowing the conversion and exclusion of lands already awarded to farmer beneficiaries from the program (Sec. 65)

• Allowing landowners to retain their vast landholdings by instituting open-ended retention limits of five hectares for the owner plus three hectares per child, whether natural or adopted, legitimate or not (Sec. 6)

• Provisions for alternative modes of compliance as outlined in the definition of agrarian reform (Secs. 3 and Sections 29-31) on corporate and commercial farms that allows landowners to enter into stock distribution schemes, leasehold, joint venture,leaseback arrangements and other ways of going around the physical distribution of land to the ownership and control of the farmer beneficiaries. This leaves farmer beneficiaries confused, easily manipulated and exploited by landowners and vulnerable to corporate
backroom maneuvers.

2. A payment scheme that keeps farmers in a continued life of servitude, paying for the land at 6 percent interest per year for 30 years (Sec. 26). Thus, most farmer beneficiaries end up illegally mortgaging or selling their land just to pay the landowner or the Land Bank
.
3. A valuation and compensation scheme (Sections 17 and 18) that is so contentious and complicated that it opens a myriad of opportunities for graft and corruption. Thus, DAR is seen as of the most corrupt government agencies.

4. A “voluntary offer to sell” and “voluntary land transfer” scheme (Sections 19-21) that gives landowners the upper hand in imposing their will on their former tenants, with the connivance of unscrupulous DAR officials.

“These are the very reasons why the implementation of the agrarian reform program has taken a world-record breaking 20 long years with distressing results. What RA 6657 could not achieve in 20 years it can never achieve through a five year extension as long as these provisions remain. A CARP extension bill that fails to correct these most glaring defects is a bill that is more deplorable than the existing law it seeks to extend,” Casiño said. Contributed to Bulatlat

Cartel, GATT-WTO, Gov’t Polices to Blame for Rice Crisis

June 11, 2008

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP or Peasant Movement of the Philippines) said that the current rice crisis is a result of hoarding by the rice cartel, loopholes in the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law of 1988, and the government’s policy of liberalization, deregulation, and privatization, which is in line with its commitment to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade-World Trade Organization (GATT-WTO).

BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 18, June 8-14, 2008

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP or Peasant Movement of the Philippines) said that the current rice crisis is a result of hoarding by the rice cartel, loopholes in the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law of 1988, and the government’s policy of liberalization, deregulation, and privatization, which is in line with its commitment to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade-World Trade Organization (GATT-WTO).

This crisis, KMP said, cannot be solved neither by the government’s aggressive importation of rice nor by the extension of the CARP.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, early last week, certified as urgent House Bill No. 4077, which provides for a five-year extension for CARP. HB 4077 provides for an allocation of P100 million ($2.27 million at the June 6 exchange rate of $1:P44.14).

The Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law was signed in 1988 and was intended to be in force until 1998. CARP expired in 1998 but was extended for another 10 years. It expires again on June 10 this year.

Based on DAR data, only 3.96 million hectares out of the target 5.16 million hectares, or 77 percent, under CARP have been redistributed.

Usec. Gerundio Madueño of the Department of Agrarian Reform supported the extension of CARP saying that extending CARP will help improve the country’s rice production.

“By completing CARP, it will help in the increase in the production of rice ‘cause the farmers will be given the basic rural infrastructure, technology, the training and support for their cooperatives and training for themselves,” Gerundio said.

But Madueño’s claim was belied by KMP secretary-general Danilo Ramos. He pointed out that the country had experienced rice crises under CARP. This, he said, does not give a promising picture of CARP’s supposed ability to solve the rice crisis.

“When did we first experience a rice crisis?” Ramos said. “That was during FVR’s (Fidel V. Ramos) time (as President). 1994-1995. CARP ended only in 1998, before it was extended for another 10 years. That means that experience shows that CARP is not a solution to rice crises.”

The rice cartel

“In fact, during FVR’s time, rice supply increased by 350 percent, but prices nevertheless soared,” he added. “Why? Because of the cartel.”

The rice crisis of 1994-1995 was largely a result of the partial privatization of the National Food Authority (NFA), which then procured only 0.5 percent of total palay (unhusked rice) production. Private traders took advantage of the situation, creating an artificial rice shortage by hoarding supplies. This caused rice prices to jump by 90-100 percent.

The present rice crisis is also largely traceable to the activities of a rice cartel, known as the Big Seven, whose members, aside from being able to channel production to itself through a network of traders, are also allowed to import heavily.

The members of the Big Seven have been identified in Senate investigations as Joaquin Go Soliman (JOMERCO Trading), Pio Sy Lato (PNS Grains Center), Ramon Ang Syson (Family Native Supply), Gil Go (Jocardo Merchandising), Leoncio Tan/Janet Tiu (Leoneco Merchandising), Santos See (Manila Goodyear), and Teofredo Co (Teofredo Trading).

CARP and GATT-WTO

The depredations wrought by the rice cartel are aggravated by CARP’s loopholes and the government’s implementation of liberalization, deregulation, and privatization policies in accordance with the GATT-WTO (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade-World Trade Organization) framework.

The Philippines is now the world’s top importer of rice, according to the socio-economic think tank IBON Foundation – a far cry from its status as a self-sufficient, rice-exporting country in the 1980s. IBON Foundation’s research also shows that the Philippines devotes only 4 million hectares to rice production – contrasting sharply with Vietnam, with more than 7 million hectares planted to rice, and Thailand which devotes more than 10 million hectares.

Lands planted to cash crops are exempted from CARP. The owners of lands planted to rice and corn, which are subject to CARP, have found a way out of the government’s agrarian reform program through crop conversion. This contributed to the decrease in rice production.

Under the WTO’s Agreement on Agriculture (AoA), which the Senate ratified in 1995, the Philippines has been forced to meet a minimum rice importation requirement, whether or not the country has sufficient rice yields. The Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act (AFMA), which Ramos signed into law in 1997, aims for further privatization of the NFA and increased private-sector participation in rice importation.

The NFA is mandated by law to procure at least 12 percent of palay production. From an average of 7.95 percent of palay production in 1977-1983, the NFA’s procurement dropped to 3.63 percent in 1984-2000 and from 2001-2006 was only 0.05 percent of total production.

Rice imports have increased from 257,260 metric tons (MT) in 1995 to 1.7 million MT in 2006. This year, the government has secured the importation of some 2.2 million MT of rice from Vietnam, Thailand, and the U.S. – the country’s largest volume of rice importation since 1998.

“The government’s ratification to the GATT meant full liberalization of Philippine agriculture, particularly the emphasis on export crops and, on the other hand, rice importation,” Ramos said. “That is why in 1994, when the GATT was being deliberated upon in the Senate, we put forward a position urging them to reject it.”

The government’s Medium-Term Agriculture Development Plan (MTDAP) aims to reduce rice and corn production from 5 million MT to 3.1 million MT. Meanwhile, the Medium-Term Philippine Development Plan (MTPDP) for 2004-2010 aims for “the development of 2 million hectares of new agribusiness lands through multi-cropping, the cultivation of idle and marginal lands, the expansion of fishery production in unutilized offshore and inland waters, and expansion of the product mix through high value crops and value-adding through innovative packaging and agro-processing.”

The reduction of rice production and the country’s increased dependence on rice importation have placed the people more and more at the mercy of private traders, who control rice prices.

HB 3059

The KMP is calling for the passage of House Bill No. 3059, or the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill. Principally authored by the late Anakpawis (Toiling Masses) Rep. Crispin Beltran, the bill provides for free distribution of land to farmers, the expansion of agrarian reform coverage to include all agricultural lands, and government support services for beneficiaries. Bulatlat

EPIRA Cause of High Power Rates, Says Scientist, Consumer Group

June 11, 2008

“Government measures such as the subsidy and failed takeover of Meralco management will not result to lower power rates,” said Dr. Giovanni Tapang of AGHAM.

BY RONALYN V. OLEA
BULATLAT
Vol. VIII, No. 18, June 8-14, 2008

The Arroyo government is locked in a corporate battle to wrest control of Meralco from the Lopez family purportedly to lower power rates.

Also, Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo announced last week, the allocation of a P2-billion ($45,325,779 at an exchange rate of $1=P44.125) subsidy for small power users. An estimated four million lifeline users or those with a 100kwh or lower monthly electricity consumption will receive P500 ($11.33) for their electric bills.

In an interview with Bulatlat, Dr. Giovanni Tapang, chairperson of scientist group Agham and convenor of the People Opposed to Warrantless Electrity Rates (Power) said, “Government measures such as the subsidy and failed takeover of Meralco management will not result to lower power rates. Apparently, such populist posturing is meant to fend off reactions to increasing prices of basic commodities. Mrs. Arroyo seems to be preparing for her next state of the nation address (SONA) in July.”

Tapang described the subsidy announced by the Arroyo government as a “one-shot deal” that can never be sustained.

In a separate statement, Engineer Ramon Ramirez, spokesperson of POWER, said, “There’s some deception here since the electricity subsidy will be coming from the value-added tax (VAT) which is also paid for by consumers. It’s the consumer subsidizing the consumer. Government is desperately trying to justify the existence of the VAT by making it appear that it is helpful for the poor.” The group has called for the removal of VAT on power.

Tapang said that aside from the removal of VAT, their group is calling for the repeal of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA), which, according to him, has put the Filipino consumers at the losing end.

EPIRA

Signed into law by Mrs. Arroyo in June 2001, the EPIRA seeks to restructure the electricity industry and privatize the National Power Corporation (Napocor).

One of the purported objectives of the EPIRA is to ensure the reliability and affordability of supply of electric power. After almost seven years, however, what happened is the opposite; the cost of electricity has increased due to numerous charges considered legal under the law.

Sec. 36 of the EPIRA mandates the unbundling of rates. This is consistent with the privatization thrust of the EPIRA wherein the power sector is segregated into generation, transmission and distribution sectors.

Hence, the controversial Purchased Power Adjustment (PPA) has been deleted from the consumer’s monthly electricity bill. However, Tapang said that the unbundling of rates has not removed the PPA; it has merely hidden it.

The PPA stemmed from the onerous contracts between Napocor and independent power producers (IPPs). Even without producing a single watt of electricity, the ‘take or pay provisions’ stated in the contracts guarantee payment for installed capacity of generation plants.

In its paper titled ‘Ever increasing rates from the EPIRA: A closer look at the electric power industry in the Philippines,’ Agham said that the PPA remains to be a large part of electric power rates of end-users albeit under different names. It is distributed in the various line items in the new electric bill such as the generation charge, the transmission charge, system loss charges, subsidies and franchise taxes.

System loss charges include technical losses, pilferages, and company use or electricity used by distribution utilities such as the Meralco.

Moreover, Sec. 32 of the EPIRA paves the way for the national government to directly assume a portion of Napocor’s debt amounting to P200 billion ($4,532,577,903). The so-called stranded cost recovery is reflected as a separate item in the consumer’s billing statement.

Other stranded debts of Napocor in excess of the P200 billion ($4,532,577,903) as well as qualified debts of distribution utilities form part of the universal charge stated under Sec. 34 of the EPIRA.

Other components of the universal charge include missionary electrification, environmental charge, among others.

The missionary charge is a compulsory contribution to a fund to be used for electrifying remote barangays (villages). Agham asked, “But why are we charged for a job the government should be doing? This is also true of environmental charges. Why are we charged for the havoc that the generation plants of Napocor or these IPPs do to the environment?”

Sec. 25 of the EPIRA states as a policy the full recovery of “prudent and reasonable” economic costs of a distribution utility.

The same Agham paper said that this particular provision gives authority to distribution utilities to recover and pass on to consumers currency fluctuations, fuel cost fluctuations and contract obligations. The Generation Rate Adjustment Mechanism (GRAM) and the Incremental Currency Exchange Rate Adjustment (ICERA) are concrete examples of these charges.

Tapang blamed the EPIRA and the privatization of the power industry for soaring prices of electricity rates. He said, “We have lost control over the power industry because it is already controlled by local big business and foreign investors whose main interest is to accumulate huge profits.”

Foreign interests

According to the Agham paper, most IPPs are owned by transnational corporations (TNCs) in partnership with local business tycoons. At least 22 out of 41 IPPs are largely foreign-owned.

Last week, Inquirer reported that the Joint Foreign Chambers (JFC) of the Philippines wrote a letter to Mrs. Arroyo asking the latter not to alter EPIRA and not to ‘tinker with IPP contracts.’ Asked for a reaction, Tapang said that the JFC’s statement only shows that foreign investors and financial institutions benefit from the EPIRA at the expense of the Filipino people.

Sec. 68 of the EPIRA mandates the creation of an inter-agency committee tasked to review IPP contracts. According to Agham, the said committee found that only six out of 35 contracts were without any legal or financial issues. The rest were supposed to be renegotiated by the government.

The privatization of Napocor, along other power sector reforms, is a long-standing recommendation of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). This is part of the structural reform program (SAP) the country has to implement as a pre-condition to the granting of more loans.

Tapang challenged the Arroyo government to stand up against the interests of foreign investors by deleting the ‘take or pay’ provisions in the IPP contracts and to stop the privatization of Napocor. However, Tapang quickly added, “Based on Mrs. Arroyo’s track record, she can not risk foreign investments even as the Filipino people grow angry.”

As a long-term solution, scientist Tapang said, “Power is a strategic utility that should be run by government. We should nationalize the power industry and improve our capacity to produce electricity from indigenous sources of energy.”

He deplored the current thrust of the Arroyo government to sell out the country’s energy resources to foreign investors. “Our natural gas and other indigenous sources should be utilized to serve the Filipino people, not foreign interests.” Bulatlat


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