Author Archive

Smorgasbord: Jesus Christ and Christmas commercialism (2/2)

January 12, 2009


Second of two parts (Click here for the first part)

The booty capitalists of our days are worse than the rich man Jesus encountered.  Not only do they refuse to share their wealth (unless sharing means tax deductions for them), they also exploit the  working class’ labor   to expand their capital. They have resorted to all schemes imaginable to steal the actual pecuniary  cost of the proletariat’s  sweat. Mining companies are raking in billions of pesos  from the muckers’ labor.

Everyday, the workers risk their lives as they descend into the bowels of the earth to look for gold. And the mining companies boast, “We pay the miners more than the minimum wage.” Hah!

The minimum wage  is not necessarily decent wage. What is legal is not necessarily moral. I bet my life that the Philippine minimum wage law would  not impress Jesus especially as it was crafted by an institution protective of  booty capitalism’s interest.

Jesus disdained profiteers.  When he went to a temple, there were so many merchants – money changers and people selling doves.  In those days, doves were sacrificed in the temple by the poor who could not afford sheep and goats. Enraged, Jesus  turned the tables upside down, cracked a whip he made and drove out the merchants while denouncing them for converting the temple into a den of thieves. The merchants must have been reaping more profit than what reason permitted. Why else did the reasonable Jesus call them thieves?

Profiteering in those days is nothing compared to today’s.  For instance, the oil companies keep raising prices to intolerable levels using the fluctuation in the world market as excuse. Then they reduce the price but not back to the previous price level. Consumers feel grateful for the reduction,  not realizing they had been had.

Philippine landlords  just sit around waiting for profit from the peasants’ harvests. The latter  have become prisoners of the land owned by the former. In spite of its deficiencies, the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) could have helped  break, by a little stretch,  the chains of the peasants’ bondage were it not for  lackadaisical if not insincere implementation. Worse,  it  was to end last month. Farmers, with bishops and priests,  went  on hunger strike  to pressure Congress to extend the CARP and reform  the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law. The “Honorables,” however, were  bent on ignoring the call, giving a token extension of only six months.  Many of them are landowners themselves who are too greedy to  even consider parting with a square meter of their hundreds of hectares of land.  They are more interested in concocting ways to extend the Arroyo Regime which fiercely protects their  interests.  This regime does not serve the masses made up of workers and peasants. It serves  the profiteering oligarchy and    their wealth.

Christmas is no longer an occasion to celebrate the life of a man who turned the tables of profiteers upside down. It is the Feast of  Capitalism as we are   pressured to do a lot of spending, even beyond our means. The real winners of the season are the booty capitalists who, through multi-million advertisements make us feel guilty when we do not hit their malls to shop until we drop.  Christmas today, insults Jesus’ teachings.

Che Guevara, a man born to  privilege, chose to spend his life promoting socialism and dismantling structures of capitalism. The profiteers hated him. After his death, they  raked-in enormous revenues  selling his image.

Like Che Guevara, Jesus Christ, the man who disdained flagrant commercialism, is its biggest victim on his birthday. #


Economics and Society 101: US policies under Obama

January 12, 2009


The topic really is on the direction of U.S. imperialism under the presidency of Barak Obama who will assume the US presidency soon. Some readers understandably prefer the current title. Using whichever of the two frameworks or title, however, will not invalidate the content of this column.

The direction of U.S. policies under Obama has four basic characteristics.

Firstly , the country will remain imperialists but this time it will become relatively green as an imperialist nation. Instead of adopting technologies unselectively, American capitalism under Obama will embark on a direction that has been increasingly popular in recent years: green technologies and technologies that protect the environment.

American capitalism will in fact seek more: it will aspire to be the leader in green technologies. In contrast, years earlier, it has continually rejected a mainly anthropogenic explanation of the ongoing global warming.

This should not be strange because not all of capitalism is founded on fossil fuels. There are green capitalists because not all of capitalism derive their profits from non-green capital. In fact, green products and technologies have a market. They represent the new products on the block that have the greatest potentials for earning profits today.

There is even a race among the great country powers for one of them to become the great green super power capitalist.

Secondly , in the face of an economic crises widely described as worse than the great depression, U.S. imperialism will have to repair or build social or national solidarity on its home front. An economic depression can trigger a widespread social unrest. It can even trigger a revolution. The situation today is similar to the great depression of the 1930s when the presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt adopted populist policies. For instance, under the Roosevelt presidency two key laws provided relief to workers under the first great depression: the first one was on social security and the second on trade union rights.

The U.S. Social Security Act created promises of economic security for the elderly and the sick. It is similar to our version of the SSS that makes the same promise and never mind if the government reneged on the promise for several times. At the same time, the U.S. Wagner Act under the Roosevelt administration recognized workers rights to organize unions, engage in collective bargaining and participate in strikes. The latter is consistent with the Barak Obama policy posture today of seeking an increase in the minimum wage, indexing wages to inflation, protecting striking workers, ensuring the freedom to unionize, and the like.

Concern for the survival of the system is paramount over other concerns in a situation of crisis.

Thirdly , wars of aggression will continue under Obama. This column has discussed the matter in earlier issues of Nordis. This time, however, the combatants will don reconstruction clothes and will be more precise in their war against the Al Qaeda and the Talibans. The priority targets are countries like Iran and Afghanistan.

The U.S. in the time of the once popular Franklin Delano Roosevelt continued to occupy semi-colonies like the Philippines. Similarly, there is no reason why it will stop occupying semi-colonies under the equally popular Barak Obama.

Lastly or fourthly , the Barak Obama presidency will enforce pump-priming measures a la Keynesian. There have been statements made by Obama to this effect and this was the same policy framework that the U.S. adopted during the great depression of the 1930s with Roosevelt at the helm of leadership. Pump-priming is the use of government funds to generate employment. Franklin Roosevelt has used this policy and conventional economists have questioned whether or not the policy has been economically effective. However, even if they are not economically effective, the policies will be part of the Obama presidency because they are needed to enhance social cohesion and national solidarity. #

(The writer maintains a blog at Comments can be coursed through,, and +63927-536-8431)

Advocate’s Overview: The national legal system on land and resources

January 12, 2009


Centuries ago, in the period of mercantilism at the dawn of capitalism, two powerful maritime states were emerging: Portugal and Spain. They began to explore and conquer new territories and, with the Pope’s intervention, agreed to divide the world: one division open for colonization by Portugal and the other by Spain.

This led to the “discovery” of the Philippine islands. Invoking the feudal conquest theory, they declared all the lands and resources in their “newly discovered” territories as owned by the Spanish crown. This theory is now known in the legal circles as the Regalian Doctrine.

Through the Treaty of Paris of December 10, 1898, our next colonial master – the United States of America after it paid $20 million to Spain – adopted the Regalian Doctrine with the same motive as its predecessor. The American regime passed laws that legally grabbed vast land and resources within its newly acquired Philippine colony.

We can clearly see that the most basic laws on land and resources were never neutral. Instead, they were enacted to further the basic socio-economic interests of the colonial rulers.

The U.S. colonizers imposed their own concepts of land usage and ownership system to combine with the Spanish colonial land system. Under the Torrens system, land ownership was proven only through a piece of paper called the Torrens Title. Lands not covered by such paper titles were automatically deemed part of the public domain, owned by the State, which has the sole right for disposition.

This colonial land system continued even after the so-called Philippine “independence” from the U.S.A. Even the fundamental laws of the land – the 1935, 1973, and 1987 Constitutions – contained the Regalian Doctrine. Thus, became institutionalized the State’s grabbing of land and resources.

The state ownership of land and resources within the Philippine territory is contained under the 1987 Philippine Constitution. Under Section 2, Article XII it states: “All lands of the public domain, waters, minerals, coal, petroleum, and other mineral oils, all forces of potential energy, fisheries, forests or timber, wildlife, flora and fauna, and other natural resources are owned by the state.”

This is the Regalian Doctrine provision, a legacy of the colonial past.

The Constitution classifies the public domain into agricultural lands, forest or timber, mineral lands, and national parks. Only agricultural lands are alienable and disposable, where the state can grant title to qualified Filipino citizen and after such citizen had undergone the long, tedious, and rigid processes outlined by the government.

Forest or timber, mineral lands, and national parks are inalienable and not disposable, they cannot be owned by anybody. Several and long line of cases decided by the Supreme Court, otherwise known as Philippine jurisprudence supported the above concept. The latest was Gordulla vs. CA (January 22, 1998) where the Supreme Court ruled: “Forestlands, being self-replenishing, versatile and all-important natural resource that they are, need to be reserved and saved to promote the peoples’ welfare.

By their very nature or by executive or statutory fiat, they are outside the commerce of man, not susceptible of private appropriation in any form, and inconvertible into any character less than of inalienable public domain, regardless of their actual state, for as long as the reservation subsists and it is not revoked by a subsequent valid declassification.”

The Supreme Court further stated: “Once again, we reiterate the rule enunciated by this Court in the Director of Forestry vs. Muñoz and consistently adhered to a long line of cases the more recent of which is Republic vs. CA, that forest lands or forests reserves are incapable of private appropriation, and possession thereof, however long, cannot convert them into private properties. This ruling is premised on the Regalian Doctrine enshrined not only in the 1935 and 1973 Constitutions but also in the 1987 Constitution.”

As the final arbiter of any legal controversy, the Supreme Court clears doubt that until now we are still under the aegis of the Regalian Doctrine. #

(Next Issue: Constitutional provisions affecting indigenous peoples.)

Spare us from media gimmicks — Pinoy migrants

January 12, 2009

BAGUIO CITY — Local migrants group hit pronouncements over media that OFWs laid off due to the global financial crisis are being well assisted by the government. They assailed these as media gimmicks or a media blitz of the Arroyo administration to make up for their inability to protect Overseas Filipino Workers.

According to Flora Belinan of the Migrante-Cordillera, Igorot workers have not been spared from the retrenchments. She said she has met retrenched Taiwan workers who came home empty handed at Christmas time and attest to the uncertainty of government assistance.

The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) in the region has yet to receive the returning OFWs who should come for assistance after the retrenchments. Regional Director Manuela Peña said no one has reported yet, that makes it difficult to account the number of Cordillerans affected.

Garry Martinez, chairperson of Migrante International said, “Contrary to the publicity stunt of President Arroyo, the retrenched OFWs from different countries have not received any relief from government and have spent their Christmas worrying how to pay their loans that they left behind.”

Martinez explained that the red carpet treatment at the airport and the assistance package being announced by government has not generated anything but certificates from government which they deemed useless to OFWs who were prematurely sacked from their jobs abroad.

“Instead of using returning OFWs as an opportunity to get a positive media image, Arroyo should heed the advice of its labor attaché in Taiwan, Rodolfo M. Sabulao, to go after recruitment agencies which excessively charged OFW applicants,” chided Martinez.

Sabulao reportedly wrote POEA administrator Jennifer Manalili on December 18 for government “to do something to ease the pain of the workers by requiring recruitment agencies which deployed the workers to Taiwan to refund the placement fee corresponding to the remaining period in the employment contract.”

Under RA 8042 or the Magna Carta for Overseas Filipinos, overcharging is tantamount to illegal recruitment. But instead of denouncing the illegal practice, however, POEA officials now serve as apologists for recruiters by persuading OFWs from Taiwan to accept P5,000 as settlement, out of the P95,000 they have paid for their placement fee, according to Martinez.

The group also claims that the Arroyo administration is in a state of denial when it announced that the Middle East region as a labor market for OFWs is insulated from the massive retrenchment due to the global economic crisis.

On Christmas Eve the Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce stated that thousands of laid off construction workers have applied for visa cancellations.

“This does not include the 3,000 OFWs who were already laid off in UAE as admitted by Secretary Roque himself,” Martinez added.

Migrante also launched on December 28 its petition signing campaign calling for the sacking of Philippine labor officials in Qatar due to its failure to provide legal assistance to OFWs who were forced to beg from fellow countrymen in Corniche and fish market for their daily subsistence.

“The impact of the global crisis will be more severe by next year. With the Arroyo administration opting for media gimmicks instead of concretely responding to the immediate needs of OFWs is an alarming indication that more of our kababayans will be force to become beggars in different countries abroad,” Martinez concluded. # Northern Dispatch

OFWs to brace for harder times in 2009

January 12, 2009

BAGUIO CITY — A global alliance of Filipino migrant organizations warned Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) to anticipate more retrenchments, lower wages and worse working conditions abroad as the government targets to deploy two million Filipinos overseas by 2009.

“We will hold the Arroyo administration fully accountable for being hell-bent at exporting the most number of Filipinos abroad amidst the worsening global crisis,” exclaimed Garry Martinez, chairperson of Migrante International.

The group explained that the series of government announcements of job openings abroad is in line with the 2007 state-of-the-nation-address of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo where she pledged to deploy two million OFWs before her term ends in 2010.

“Time and again, we say that labor exportation is neither a tool for development nor an answer to the present crisis. We agree with Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) President Angel Lagdameo when he lamented about the breakup of Filipino families because of parents working overseas,” added Martinez.

The head of the influential CBCP was quoted as saying he is sad that poverty forced parents to work overseas just to make ends meet, breaking up the family in the process.

Middle East worst destination

“Contrary to Arroyo’s claims, the Middle East region remains to be the worst destination for OFWs in terms of labor rights protection, especially now that it is also being hit hard by the global crisis,” said Martinez.

Migrante cited that in Dubai alone, labor complaints in the Ministry of Labor have tripled since November 2008. Most cases are of illegal termination and non-payment of salaries. The group said the situation is similar even in Saudi Arabia, the top destination country of OFWs in the region.

“It is gibberish for Arroyo to say that Middle East countries remain a haven for overseas employment just to cover up her administration’s inutility at addressing the crisis. The Ittefaq Steel Products Factory, the second largest steel manufacturer in Saudi Arabia, has announced it would send 80 % of its 2,145 workers on leave without salary for three months starting on New Year’s Day,” Martinez revealed.

Martinez added that in the UAE, not only are the real estate and construction industries affected by the present global economic downturn. Big multinational companies like General Electric, IBM and Jeffries International are likewise retrenching their workforce or are totally pulling out operations from the said gulf country.

Access to justice

Migrante urged the governent to concentrate on protecting the rights and welfare of OFWs instead of focusing only on its alleged aggressive marketing of OFWs abroad.

“In this time of crisis the main problem of OFWs is the lack of access to legal protection. Migrant workers are the first ones hit by this crisis and, more often than not, they do not have anyone to turn to in the event of labor disputes. It is unfortunate that our government remains callous to this problem,” Martinez said.

The group cited the case of retrenched OFWs from Taiwan who talked to POEA deputy administrator Hans Cacdac to complain. They alleged their recruiters are overcharging them. Migrante said they got information that POEA mediating officers are siding with the recruiters as they persuade the workers to accept P5,000 as settlement out of the P95,000 they have paid as placement fee.

“This only indicates that OFW victims of unfair labor practices will have no access to justice under the worsening exploitation and abuses brought about by the global economic crisis,” Martinez concluded.

“POEA records show that OFW deployment reached 1.221 million to more than 190 countries from January to November 2008,” said Martinez. # Northern Dispatch

GMA’s joy ride in Sagada and corrupted roads

January 12, 2009


Sagada, Mt. Province – The whirring of helicopters disturbed the stillness of 7:30, the morning of December 29, when these hovered closely over this tourist town.

NEGOTIATING THE RUGGED TERRAIN. The first family walks through the steep pathway leading to Lumiang Burial Caves during her visit in Sagada, Mountain Province last week. Photo courtesy of PIA-MP

An advance party came to prepare the coming of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for a holiday visit. Chopper after chopper ferried the presidential entourage until finally two hours later, Arroyo came.  She alighted from the chopper and greeted officials who were around, including Mountain Province Governor  Maximo   Dalog,  Sagada  Mayor  Edward Latawan,  Presidential  Adviser  for Cordillera Affairs  Tom Killip,  and  Bontoc Mayor  Franklin Odsey.  It seems the ceremonial lei giving to dignitaries is not observed in Sagada.

I saw Ambasing Barangay Captain Francis Kilongan and in jest asked him why he was not at the heliport to welcome the president.  He said, he was  called by officials at  dawn  to  have the tourist  sites  cleaned up  particularly the  Hanging  Coffins and  Lumyang Cave for the Presidential visit.

It would have been better if  barangay officials met with the President to let her know their local concerns  considering  that  their  areas of jurisdictions are the places the  President  actually visited.

Anyway, what else did GMA do in Sagada?

One of the members of the Sagada Police who was then stationed near Yogurt House said  she would be  going to Rock Inn for some coffee, visit  Lumyang Cave,  have lunch at Café St Jo, then leave after that.

The President has visited Sagada three times. The first was on January 02, 2006, when she promoted Mountain Province’s local products including lang-ay wines, woven products and Sagada coffee.

On this visit, she was given a warm reception at the Saint Mary School grounds by the community. She then gave a press conference and lunch at Café Saint Jo.

The second time was in December 2006 when the President dropped by for some yogurt at Yogurt House after she had a look at the much-visited Hanging Coffins in Ambasing barangay with members of the press.

Dilapidated road

This year, somebody also said there will be a press conference at Café Saint Jo but there was none.

It would have been an occasion to know what she can do for the century-old 10 kilometer Sagada-Dantay road, which remains dusty and rugged.

Following the 20 million Bayan Muna project four years ago, and P1 million from the Provincial Government, a long stretch of the dilapidated road measuring some seven kilometers more still needs concreting.

GMA gave P100 million for road improvement when she came in 2005. A part of the P100 million went to the concreting of the Dantay junction. The rest of the sorry-looking road is still dusty and grumpy-looking as ever and commands a P45 jeep fare through the equally rugged way and dusty road to Bontoc.

It would have also been a time to know her thoughts on the unfinished multimillion “state-of-the-nation address” (SONA) projects at the Halsema Road portion from the end of the Baguio- Benguet Road at Sinto, Bauko, vis-a-vis corruption. A long stretch of the road still remains undone despite funds already poured into the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

From the initial P620 million released in November 2006  split among more than 20  individual contracts, the road  still  suffers from  unfinished and expired contracts after the much publicized press releases that only 15% of the road  is  left unimplemented  by DPWH.  A rugged and dusty road still stretches from Bontoc to Sabangan and on to Bauko.

Complaints have reached the office of DPWH head Hermogenes Ebdane and office of the President, on expired contracts which led to an investigation of the road implementation and irregularities noted.

While this is the case, the amount of P684 million has been released last December to winning contract bidders.

Funding the visit

Speaking of funds, a resident asked why GMA does not fund her own accommodations. Two years ago, Sagada’s municipal government spent P80, 000 for this.

“The funds spent on GMA’s trip could have been used for community projects,” one resident said.

Robert , a tourist from Manila said,  “GMA could have given the funds for this trip to Sagada, the chopper and staff  cost for the  improvement of  Dantay-Sagada  road instead.” # (NorDis)

Youth forms HR alliance

January 12, 2009

BAGUIO CITY — The young generation of Baguio is ready to face the new year with the resolve to forge a tough group of human rights defenders come 2009.

“Our resolve to provide avenues for the promotion of human rights by the first quarter of 2009 is as ready as our fireworks for this new year,” said Anjo Rey Cerdeña, member of the committee formed to prepare for the first general assembly of Young Defenders.

He says their generation has read, heard and seen so much about the country’s poor human rights record in the past years. “It is a record too dirty to reflect our generation’s history. We thought, it is about time we forge a wide network of young and fresh defenders who would take on the task of countering this bad record,” he said.

Before going home for vacation, the committee had already mapped out preparations for the assembly. These include the release of promotional materials and the first wave of invitations through campus visits early next year.

“Human rights is a matter of life and dignity. It is everybody’s concern and we aim to involve a broad spectrum of the youth sector in this cause,” Cerdeña said. This spectrum, according to him, includes indigenous youth, students, out-of-school youth, civil society, religious youth and much more.

The initiative is a brainchild of the Indigenous Peoples Day Youth Coordinating Committee which gathered different indigenous youth groups in the city to learn about the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in line with the celebration of its first year last August 9. Months later and 60 years since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights last December 10, they meet again for the Youth Leadership Training on Human Rights Education and Advocacy. This is where the preparations for a general assembly was formally launched.

“It is amazing to finally have this initiative that will redeem us from the grim record of our country in human rights. With this, we are sure to start the new year with a bang,” Cerdeña claims. # IPDYCC Release

Cordi land issues book off the press

January 12, 2009

BAGUIO CITY — A new book on the Cordillera land question is just off the press.

TI DAGA KET BIAG. The book contains five papers from the first Cordillera Multi-Sectoral Land Congress in March 1983, four papers from the second in July 1994, and four from the third in December 2001. It also features 12 full-color thematic maps of the Cordillera region. Photo by Noel Godinez

The Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) announced on December 20 the publication of Ti Daga Ket Biag (Land is Life), a 232-page compilation of selected papers from three Cordillera multi-sectoral land congresses in 1983, 1994 and 2001.

According to Joanna K. Cariño, CPA Advisory Council member, Ti Daga Ket Biag represents the long-standing “effort being put in by the people’s movement in the Cordillera in trying to clarify and to help in the eventual resolution of various land issues in the region.”

“While the data in many of the early papers may already be outdated, and there has been new research conducted since we decided to publish these in order to put on record and make available to the wider public the CPA’s efforts through the years to study and clarify some of the complicated land issues in the Cordillera,” Cariño said.

With a total of 13 papers from all three land congresses spanning 18 years, the book contains five papers from the first Cordillera Multi-Sectoral Land Congress in March 1983; four papers from the second in July 1994; and four from the third in December 2001.

Said congress papers and proceedings were earlier published in 1984, in the collection Dakami ya Nan Dagami, now out of print.

The book also features 12 full-color 8.5×11” thematic maps of the Cordillera region, which summarizes an immense volume of data such as topography, population density, ethnolinguistic distribution, land classification and natural resources, among others.

Cariño said the book is dedicated “to all the martyrs of the Cordillera peoples’ struggle in the defense of land.” She also said missing CPA leader James Balao had been deeply involved in the past land congresses and that his spirit “pervades this publication.”

A CPA regional officer said Ti Daga Ket Biag is now being distributed to non-governmental organizations and offices, schools, libraries, bookstores and other commercial and non-commercial outlets.

Two formal launch dates for the book are being scheduled for January, one in Baguio City and another in Manila. # Pio Verzola Jr.(NorDis)

DEATH TOLL RISES TO 850 Israel vows to escalate war in Gaza

January 11, 2009

By Sakher Abu El Oun
Agence France-Presse
First Posted 04:19:00 01/11/2009

GAZA CITY – Israel vowed to escalate its war in Gaza on Saturday as it pounded the impoverished territory with air strikes and troops battled Hamas fighters into a third week and the death toll rose past 850.

Israeli planes sent a cloud of white leaflets fluttering across the Gaza City skyline warning residents it would soon step up its war on Hamas and other militant groups despite mounting international calls for a ceasefire.

Ground troops clashed with militants while the airforce said it carried out 60 air strikes targeting arms manufacturing sites, weapons depots and smuggling tunnels, the army said.

The Israeli military said it had killed Amir Mansi, a senior Hamas rocket launcher responsible for many of the long-range rockets fired in recent days. Hamas refused to say where he ranked in the movement’s armed wing.

In a separate incident, eight members of the same Palestinian family, including a 12-year-old, were killed during the shelling of the northern town of Jabaliya.

“We were at home when the bombing started,” one of the attack’s survivors Umm Mohammed told Agence France-Press (AFP) inside a nearby hospital.

“We fled towards another house and the tanks started firing. Several of us were hit.”

An Israeli army spokesman denied the incident took place, and Israel has said from the start of the conflict that it is not targeting civilians.

Israeli forces killed at least 28 people on Saturday including 17 in heavy fighting in the north and around Gaza City, according to Dr Muawiya Hassanein, head of Gaza emergency services.

Since the Israeli offensive began on December 27, at least 854 people have been killed, including 270 children, 93 women, and 12 paramedics, he said.

Another 3,490 people have been wounded, overwhelming Gaza’s beleaguered medical facilities.

Hamas and other armed groups meanwhile fired at least 13 rockets into Israel, wounding four people, according to the Israeli army.

The conflict has sparked worldwide pro-Palestinian demonstrations, including rallies in Europe that drew tens of thousands of war protesters.

In London thousands of protestors clashed with police around the Israeli embassy, while in Paris protesters shattered windows and lit scooters on fire after a rally attended by more than 30,000 people.

Egypt has been spearheading US-backed efforts to end the fighting, with President Hosni Mubarak meeting Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas on Saturday.

A Hamas delegation was also due to hold talks with Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman.

Abbas pressed Hamas to accept the Egyptian plan “without hesitation,” warning that “whoever does not accept (the plan) will be responsible for the continuing aggression and for bloodshed.”

Mubarak’s initiative calls for an immediate truce for a specified period, opening Gaza’s border crossings, preventing arms smuggling and a call for Palestinians to resume reconciliation talks.

Israeli officials said Egypt has proposed that Western-backed forces loyal to Abbas — which were violently driven out of Gaza when Hamas seized power in 2007 — patrol the Gaza-Egypt border to help prevent arms smuggling.

But Hamas’s Syria-based politburo said in a joint statement with other armed factions that it would reject “any security arrangements that undermine the resistance” against Israel, including international forces or observers.

Hamas has also rejected a UN Security Council resolution calling for an immediate truce in a territory, already reeling from an 18-month Israeli blockade enacted when the Islamist movement seized power.

“UN Security Council Resolution 1860 does not meet the demands and interests of the Palestinian people, and harms the resistance,” said the joint statement issued in Damascus.

Israel has also ignored the UN resolution and on Friday vowed to press ahead with its offensive.

The flyers which rained down on Gaza warned that the military “will soon intensify its operations” throughout the Gaza Strip.

“For your security and that of your families, you are asked not to approach terrorists, weapons depots and arms,” added the flyers, printed in Arabic.

Israel launched the war aiming to end rocket fire against southern towns and the smuggling of weapons into Gaza through tunnels under the border with Egypt.

Ten Israeli soldiers and three civilians have been killed in combat or in rocket attacks since the operation began, as Palestinian militants have fired more than 600 rockets, some of them penetrating deeper than ever inside Israel.(PDI)

Israel pounds Gaza, death toll hits 850

January 11, 2009

By Adel Zaanoun
Agence France-Presse
First Posted 13:18:00 01/11/2009

Filed Under: Gaza conflict

GAZA CITY — Tanks and warplanes pounded Gaza City before dawn on Sunday, hours after Israel warned it would escalate its war on Hamas targets, as the death toll in the 16-day-old conflict passed 850.

With the body count spiraling, Hamas remained defiant in the face of Egyptian-led efforts to broker a cease fire, vowing it would not negotiate “under fire.”

Medics said four Palestinians were killed and dozens wounded by heavy Israeli tank fire and air strikes. Some doctors alleged burn injuries were caused by banned white phosphorous shells that Israel denied using.

Witnesses said that at around dawn, tanks had entered the Al Sheikh Ajlin neighborhood of Gaza City, shelling it and another area closer to the city center, Tall al-Hawa.

They said there had also been intense shelling of the city’s Zeitun neighborhood, as well as of Sudaniyah, near the Mediterranean Sea in northwestern Gaza.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad said several people had been hurt during clashes between Palestinian gunmen and Israeli tanks on the edge of Al Sheikh Ajlin.

They said militants were placing roadside bombs to impede the advance of the tanks as they moved into the neighborhood.

An Israeli military spokeswoman confirmed the army had forces in the area, saying they were part of the ongoing operation, but would not say whether their attacks were intensifying or were the beginning of a new push.

Israeli planes on Saturday dropped leaflets over Gaza warning that the Jewish state was about to escalate the campaign it launched more than two weeks ago aimed at halting rocket fire into Israel.

Doctor Yusef Abu Rish at Gaza City’s Nasser hospital told AFP that at least 55 people were injured early Sunday by white phosphorous shells, banned under international law for use against civilians, but permitted for creating smokescreens.

“These people were burned over their bodies in a way that can only be caused by white phosphorous,” said Abu Rish.

A military spokeswoman denied the claims. “There is no use of white phosphorous. Everything we use is according to international law,” she said.

A closed-door briefing was told on Saturday that Israeli troops had killed more than 550 Palestinian fighters since the operation began, a senior military official told AFP.

Army spokesman Jacob Dallal declined to confirm the number but said “several hundred” fighters, most of them from Hamas, had been killed since Israel launched its offensive on December 27.

“There is no question that the military ability of Hamas has been diminished,” he said.

But Hamas supremo Khaled Meshaal, speaking from exile in Syria, said Israel was making no headway.

“I can say with full confidence that on the military level the enemy has totally failed; it has not achieved anything,” Meshaal said in pre-recorded remarks broadcast on Arabic satellite television.

“Has it stopped the rockets?” he asked of Israel’s declared aim in launching the offensive.

Meshaal added that Hamas would not accept any truce without the withdrawal of all Israeli forces and the lifting of the blockade slapped on the territory when the Islamists seized power in 18 months ago.

“With an open mind we will work with any initiative or any resolution but only based on these demands. We will not accept negotiations on a truce under fire,” he said.

Since the Israeli offensive began on December 27, at least 854 people have been killed, including 270 children, 93 women, and 12 paramedics, according to Palestinian medics.

Another 3,490 people have been wounded, overwhelming Gaza’s beleaguered medical facilities.

Meanwhile, Hamas and other armed groups fired at least 13 rockets into Israel on Saturday, wounding four people, the army said.

Egypt has been spearheading Western-backed efforts to end the fighting. On Saturday, President Hosni Mubarak met Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, who urged Israel and his Hamas rivals to accept the plan “without hesitation.”

Mubarak is calling for an immediate truce, opening Gaza’s border crossings, preventing arms smuggling and a call for Palestinians to resume reconciliation talks.

Abbas stressed he wanted an international force in Gaza rather than controlling traffic on the Egyptian side of the border, as suggested by European countries.

But Meshaal said Hamas “will consider any international troops imposed on our people as an occupation force” and Hamas and other groups have said they will oppose any measure that hinders the armed “resistance.”

Both Hamas and Israel have already brushed aside a UN Security Council resolution calling for an immediate truce in the territory.

The conflict has sparked worldwide pro-Palestinian demonstrations, including rallies in Europe that drew tens of thousands of protesters.

Ten Israeli soldiers and three civilians have been killed in combat or in rocket attacks since the operation began, as Palestinian militants have fired more than 600 rockets, some of them penetrating deeper than ever inside Israel.(PDI)

Barangayrp Komix: On Pangandaman

January 11, 2009


Weekly Reflections: Christmas as partnership

January 11, 2009


“She gave birth to her first sone, wrapped him in cloths and laid him in a manger—there was no room for them to stay in the inn.” — Luke 2:7


Pearl and I had the chance to visit and speak to churches while in Australia. One of the questions frequently asked during the interviews had something to do with the challenges of the Christian ministry that we are facing in our country today, especially in the area of theological education. I think one of the most important challenges that ministerial formation centers in our country are facing today is the challenge of preparing servants of God to be prophets and pastors at the same time. They have to be fully equipped to be courageous to proclaim the truth with love.

It is indeed ironic that sometimes it is quite difficult to be truly Christian in a Christian country. It is hard to stand up for truth if everybody is telling lies. It is almost impossible to be honest if everybody around us is corrupt. And worst of all, the Christian faith is used to cover that up or to make it appear good in the eyes of people or even of God.

There are lots of differences between Australia and the Philippines, culturally and physically. The people’s way of life is quite different from ours. They have so much land, but very little rain; while we have so much rain (and floods even), but very little land. They have large houses, but few people living inside these houses; while we have small houses, but so many people are cramped inside.

The common denominator is that we are all human beings, as David said. He was one among young Australians who came to the Philippines in July for exposure. We met him again in his own home church. This is where the partnership between and among various nationalities would come in: we have to partner with each other, because we are all human beings.

No room in the Inn

This reminds us of the story of Jesus’ birth. According to Luke, he was born in a manger, because there was “no room in the inn” (Lk. 2:1-7). Luke wrote in his Gospel, “(Mary) gave birth to her first son, wrapped him in cloths and laid him in a manger – there was no room for them to stay in the inn” (Luke 2:7).

But why there was no room in the inn? Biblical scholars and theologians had various speculations on this matter. Some are saying there might be a lot of people who had come home to Bethlehem at that time for the census. And so, all the inns were already filled up. But I would say that what happened was more of a social rejection.

First of all, Mary and Joseph came from Galilee, and at that time Judeans seemed to have negative attitudes against the Galileans. Galilee was the base of revolutionaries fighting against the Roman Empire.

Thus, coming from Galilee is like coming from a rebel-infested area today, where everyone is treated like a rebel-suspect. That is why there were comments later on about Jesus and his disciples like, “Is there anything good coming out of Galilee?”

Moreover, Mary and Joseph were not like King Herod and the Herodians – the powers-that-be in Galilee. Certainly, it would be different if the Herods were the ones looking for an inn in Bethlehem – there will be room for them, definitely!

Mary and Joseph were just ordinary couple. Perhaps, they would even look like they would not be able to pay the bills.

This reminds me of an incident sometime ago when Aetas from Zambales who were on exposure trip in Metro-Manila were not allowed to see the inside of Manila Hotel, simply because they were not wearing decent clothes!

Luke would interpret the story of Jesus’ birth in a manger theologically. It would mean that God in Jesus Christ identifies with the least in the world. God in Jesus Christ saves not only the Jews but also the Gentiles, not only the righteous but also the sinners, not only the rich but also the wretched poor.

Indeed, Christmas – the coming of God in Jesus Christ in the world – is an affirmation of God’s partnership with the world, which is the theological basis of any partnership between peoples, churches, and nations today. We identify with each other’s sufferings and hopes, because God in Jesus Christ has identified with us.

There is room in the inn for us

Unlike Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem, there is a big “room in the inn” for us in Australia. We have been warmly and graciously welcomed by partners and friends into their homes. We stayed in big and beautiful Australian houses one after another, particularly in the weekends when we go around visiting churches.

For instance, we stayed this weekend in the house of Collin and Lindsay, sister and brother-in-law of Lynn, our host. Collin is a nurse and Lindsay is a freelance skilled carpenter. Their huge house was built in a large property. Inside the house is like a five-star hotel; in front, outside the house is a big beautiful fountain.

If a carpenter in Australia, like Lindsay, has a big mansion; how much more for the rich Australians! Lynn was saying that the rich would own many big and fancy houses and vacation homes. Then, I began to wonder how come in our country a skilled carpenter only have a shanty for a home. #

Smorgasbord: Jesus Christ and Christmas commercialism (1/2)

January 11, 2009


First of two parts

“Jesus is the reason for the Christmas season,” says a message circulating in cyberspace.

December 25 is the presumed birthday of Jesus Christ. This is debatable because when he was born, shepherds were out watching their flocks at night. In those days, flock-watching in the fields was possible from spring to autumn. During winter, the sheep were sheltered in the shepherds’ homes. Israel’s temperature can drop to really low levels in winter. It must have been lower in the old days when global warming was unimaginable. The biting cold could pose an insurmountable obstacle to shepherds attending to their flocks at night.

Moreover, when Jesus’ birth was drawing nigh, Augustus Caesar ordered a census in the Roman Empire and everyone was mandated to be counted. In Jesus’ place and time, you did not wait for census officers to knock on your door. You had to register in the town of your lineage. Which was why the young couple, Joseph and the very pregnant Mary, hit the road to Bethlehem, the town of King David who was Joseph’s ancestor. An important undertaking like a census could not have been scheduled in winter when the weather was harsh for travel.

Historians say that December 25 was deliberately chosen as it was also the day Pagans honored the sun god Mithras. The celebrations were synchronized to accelerate the acquiescence by pagans to Christianity when it was declared as the Roman Empire’s official religion . In other words, choosing December 25 was a calculated political move.

That aside, it remains that Christmas has always been traditionally about Jesus Christ. And yet, it is not about him at all. The crass commercialism characterizing the season goes against everything he advocated.

Jesus is one of the leading figures in human history. Christians believe that he came as God. There are not a few skeptics who doubt this, but no one can deny that he came as a man. In a world of misery and greed such as the one we have today, it is worth looking into his life, at least as a man. He had more than a mouthful to say against greed and oppression.

He lived a life of purpose. “I came,” he said, “that they might have life, and that they might have it abundantly.” By they, he was referring to the poor and the oppressed. To propagate his ideology, he chose members of the working class as assistants. He and his disciples walked the streets and went to all corners their sandaled feet could take them to preach about loving one’s neighbors as loving oneself and doing unto others what one wanted done unto oneself. He exhorted everyone to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, help the sick and share resources. He put the welfare of others above his personal comfort. The issues of the poor and the powerless found a champion in him.

A recurring theme in his speeches was socialism or something akin to it. He said one cannot serve both God and wealth. Once, he delivered a sermon and, at midday, commanded that loaves and fish in a boy’s lunch basket be shared by everyone. At another time,a rich man asked him what he needed to do to have eternal life. Jesus recited the Ten Commandments. The young man said, “I have done all of that. What do I need to do further?” Jesus told him, “Sell your possessions, give to the poor.” The man of immense wealth left with a heavy heart for he could not do as Jesus asked. “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven,” Jesus remarked sadly.

Brutally Frank: Christmas is not Christ’s birth (2)

January 11, 2009


Click here for the first part

Early Europeans believed in evil spirits, witches, ghosts and trolls. As the winter solstice approached, with its long cold nights and short days, many people feared the sun would not return. Special rituals and celebrations were held to welcome back the sun.

In Scandinavia, the Norse celebrated Yule from December 21, the winter solstice, through January. During the winter months the sun would disappear for many days. After 35 days, scouts would be sent to the mountain tops to look for the return of the sun. When the first light was seen the scouts would return with the good news. In recognition of the return of the sun, fathers and sons would bring home large logs, which they would set on fire. The people would feast until the log burned out, which could take as many as 12 days. The Norse believed that each spark from the fire represented a new pig or calf that would be born during the coming year. This great festival was called the Yuletide and the special feast would be served around the fire burning with the Yule log. In some areas people would tie apples to branches of trees to remind themselves that spring and summer would return.

The ancient Greeks held a festival similar to that of the Zagmuk/Sacaea festivals to assist their god Kronos who would battle the god Zeus and his Titans.

In Germany, people honored the pagan god Oden during the mid-winter holiday. Germans were terrified of Oden, as they believed he made nocturnal flights through the sky to observe his people, and then decide who would prosper or perish. Because of his presence, many people chose to stay inside.

The Roman’s celebrated their god Saturn, the god of agriculture. Their festival was called Saturnalia which began the middle of December and ended January 1st. Saturnalia was a hedonistic time, when food and drinks were plentiful and the normal Roman social order was turned upside down. For a month, the slaves would become masters. Peasants were in command of the city. Business and schools were closed so that everyone can join the fun. With cries of “Jo Saturnalia!” the celebration would include masquerades in the streets, big festive meals, visiting friends and the exchange of good-luck gifts called Strenae (lucky fruits). The Romans decked their halls with garlands of laurel and green trees lit with candles.

Also around the time of the winter solstice, Romans observed Juvenalia, a feast honoring the children of Rome. In addition, members of the upper classes often celebrated the birthday of Mithra, the god of the unconquerable sun, on December 25. It was believed that Mithra, an infant god, was born of a rock. For some Romans, Mithra’s birthday was the most sacred day of the year.

“Jo Saturnalia!” was a fun and festive time for the Romans, but the Christians thought it an abomination to honor the pagan god. The early Christians wanted to keep the birthday of their Christ child a solemn and religious holiday, not one of cheer and merriment as was the pagan Saturnalia. In the early years of Christianity, Easter was the main holiday; the birth of Jesus was not celebrated.

But as Christianity spread they were alarmed by the continuing celebration of pagan customs and Saturnalia among their converts. At first the Church forbade this kind of celebration. But it was to no avail. Eventually it was decided that the celebration would be tamed and made into a celebration fit for the Christian Son of God.

Some legends claim that the Christian “Christmas” celebration was invented to compete against the pagan celebrations of December. The 25th was not only sacred to the Romans but also the Persians whose religion Mithraism was one of Christianity’s main rivals at that time. The Church eventually was successful in taking the merriment, lights and gifts from the Saturnalia festival and bringing them to the celebration of Christmas.

The exact day of the Christ child’s birth has never been pinpointed. Traditions say that it has been celebrated since the year 98 AD. In 137 AD the Bishop of Rome ordered the birthday of the Christ Child celebrated as a solemn feast. In 350 AD another Bishop of Rome, Julius I, choose December 25th as the observance of Christmas. #

Advocate’s Overview: Hurling shoes at Bush: a noble act?

January 11, 2009


Muntadhar al-Zeide, an Iraqui journalist of the Cairo-based Al-Bahgdadia, hurled his shoes to USA Pres. George Bush while the latter was having a press conference with the Iraqui president. Muntadhar became an instant hero worldwide despite being jailed in Iraq after that event.

Here in the Baguio City, a friend challenges us – Philippine-based journalists – if we can also do that. Though he made it more as a joke, nobody took his challenge. Of course that is understandable for Muntadhar as Iraq is the number one country on earth where journalists are not safe. Iraq had the most killed journalists while the Philippines came at second.

Muntadhar hurling of his shoes to Bush is a normal a reaction. In front of the journalists, Bush was lying as to the reason why they deployed and continuously had their troops in that country. It must be known that when USA and its allied troops drove out Iraqui troops from Kuwait in 1990, they were justified in doing so as Iraq under then Saddam Hussein violated United Nations policies in its invasion of Kuwait.

The US and its allied troops’ invasion of Iraq in 2001 is another story. US alleged that Iraq was producing and stockpiling weapons of mass destruction. While the UN agencies had not yet wrapped up its report in investigating Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, the US and its allied troops invaded the oil-rich country. It led to the destruction of cultural institutions like museums where materials proving the early civilization of Mesopotamia (the old name of Iraq) were kept. These institutions were number two as to be protected by the allied troops when they launched their war of invasion.

It was proven though that the most protected areas during that invasion were the oilfields. It actually showed the reason of that invasion – oil. After the invasion, the UN found out that Iraq had no capacity to produce and stockpile weapons for mass destruction but US and its allied troops had made the damage – the most to human.

After Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, the UN imposed economic embargo to Iraq. This embargo was criticized as the most affected from that embargo were the civilians, particularly the women and children where at least 250,000 died as a result.

It is from the above background that anybody, regardless of whether you are a journalist, that you may do the act of Muntadhar. Even if he is the president of the world’s advance state, you can hurl your shoes against him if he still lied in front of the people where he led the commission of a crime against humanity.

Back in the Philippines, I got a justification from my friend that the Philippines is just the number two state on earth where journalists are not safe. Maybe hurling shoes is not yet justified.

I withdrew that kind of reasoning however. I pointed to him that I could also do that hurling of shoes if the President of the Philippines will also tell lies that mining benefits the indigenous peoples. Let her try that in front indigenous journalists and she will taste my shoes.

  • * * * *

To all our contributors, readers, supporters and friends, may I take this opportunity to greet all of you of a Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year. #

Editorial Cartoon: Israel’s New Year Extravaganza

January 10, 2009


The New Goliath

Israel attacks continue despite UN resolution

January 10, 2009

GAZA CITY: Israel battered Gaza with bombs and shells on Friday, vowing its offensive on Hamas would go on despite an order by the UN Security Council to stop the assault that has killed hundreds of civilians.

“Israel has never agreed for any outside influence to decide on its right to defend its citizens,” Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said, according to a statement from his office.

“The IDF [Israel Defense Forces] will continue to operate in order to defend the citizens of Israel and will carry out the task it was given for the operation,” said the statement, which was released as the Israeli security cabinet met to debate how to proceed with the two-week-old campaign.

“This morning’s rocket fire against the citizens in the south only proves that the UN resolution is not practical and will not be respected by the Palestinian terror organizations,” Olmert said.

A Hamas official in Beirut, Raafat Morra, said his group was also rejecting the UN resolution, because “it is not in the best interest of the Palestinian people.”

Israel staged more than 50 air strikes in Gaza which Palestinian emergency services said killed 12 civilians, taking the death toll since the campaign began to almost 800.

Hamas and its allies fired more than 15 rockets into southern Israel, injuring one person, the military said. At least four Grad rockets hit Beersheva, about 40 kilometers from Gaza.

UN resolution

Pressure on the two sides increased with the UN Security Council resolution, which demanded an “immediate, durable” ceasefire leading to the “full withdrawal” of Israeli forces from Gaza.

Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas called the UN move an “important step,” but stressed that applying it was key.

“The credibility of the international community is at stake,” his spokesman quoted him as saying. “We need words to be translated into deeds.”

Israel has been strongly criticized by UN agencies, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and other aid groups. The text called for “the unimpeded provision and distribution throughout Gaza of humanitarian assistance, including of food, fuel and medical treatment.”

Fourteen of the 15 council members voted in favor. The United States, Israel’s main ally, abstained but refrained from vetoing the resolution agreed after lengthy negotiations between Arab and Western foreign ministers.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the United States had wanted to see what happened to a peace initiative by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak who has invited Israel and the Palestinians to Cairo for talks on truce conditions.

Israel’s plans

Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, political rivals in the ruling coalition, held a special meeting before starting a security Cabinet with other top ministers and military leaders.

The three key ministers are divided over how to continue Operation Cast Lead.

Olmert is reported to be in favor of pursuing the military offensive, while Labor leader Barak wants a ceasefire. Livni has spoken out against any ceasefire with Hamas because this would give implicit recognition of the Islamist movement which Israel and most Western nations have on their terrorist lists.

Israel launched its war against Hamas on December 27 aiming to end rocket attacks in southern Israel and the smuggling of weapons into Gaza from Egypt. Palestinian medics say at least 785 people have been killed since then.

Ten Israeli soldiers and three civilians have been killed in combat or rocket attacks into Israel over the same time. Hamas has demanded the end of Israel’s blockade of Gaza, imposed after the Islamist group pledged to Israel’s destruction seized power there in June 2007.

Collateral damage

The International Committee of the Red Cross said it is restricting Gaza operations to the territory’s main city after a vehicle was hit, apparently by Israeli forces, a spokeswoman said.

“We had an incident when one of our trucks traveling at the front of a convoy of 13 ambulances delivering medical assistance to south Gaza was shot at,” Red Cross spokesman Anne Sophie Bonefeld told Agence France-Presse. She said one person was wounded.

“We very much believe it was the IDF [Israeli military]” and the Red Cross were temporarily limiting operations to Gaza City to review security arrangements.

There has been mounting criticism of the civilian death toll from Israel’s offensive. The main UN Palestinian relief agency, UNRWA, suspended operations in the enclave on Thursday after a UN convoy was hit by two Israeli tank shells, killing a truck driver.

Hamas position

Hamas criticized the decision by the agency, which distributes food to about half of Gaza’s 1.5 million people as well as running schools and other centers.

The International Committee of the Red Cross has accused Israel of failing to help the wounded after rescuers found four small children clinging to their dead mothers.

Israel has said it was investigating the incidents but has repeatedly insisted Hamas is to blame for civilian deaths because the Islamist fighters operate from densely populated areas.

Thousands of Israeli security forces were deployed in east Jerusalem on Friday after Hamas called for a “day of wrath” over the Gaza offensive following similar protests last week.

The Army also sealed off the West Bank for 48 hours, with movement in and out of the territory prohibited except for emergencies and special cases.

Obama says spending to avert long recession

January 10, 2009

FAIRFAX, Virginia: President-elect Barack Obama Thursday (Friday in Manila) proposed tax cuts and a green energy push to avert economic disaster, but drew a skeptical reaction in Congress to aspects of his huge stimulus package.

“I don’t believe it’s too late to change course, but it will be if we don’t take dramatic action as soon as possible,” Obama said in his first set-piece speech since his election triumph.

“If nothing is done, this recession could linger for years,” he said, in an appeal to both Congress and the public 12 days be fore his inauguration to back a stimulus bill expected to total at least $775 billion.

But top Democratic senators emerged from a two-hour meeting with top Obama aides on Capitol Hill openly questioning whether a $300-million tax cut included in the plan would ignite growth and create jobs.

And Republican lawmakers balked at the costs of the plan and worried about how much it would add to an already huge budget deficit, tipped to hit $1.2 trillion this year.

But without action, Obama warned, “the unemployment rate could reach double digits,” and that an entire generation’s potential might be thwarted and the United States could lose its global competitive edge.

“In short, a bad situation could become dramatically worse,” he told a packed audience at George Mason University in Washington’s Virginia suburbs, an institution that is ironically a bastion of free-market economic theory.

Major spending

Obama has already vowed a nationwide program of repairs to “crumbling” roads, bridges and schools, a rollout of broadband Internet across rural America and federal aid to cash-strapped US states.

In the speech, he pledged a $1,000 tax cut for 95 percent of working families as the “first stage” of a program of tax relief that would extend into the government’s next budget.

Production of alternative energy would be doubled in the next three years, Obama said, and more than 75 percent of federal buildings and two million homes would be modernized to slash billions from power bills.

The president-elect promised a new “smart” electricity grid to cut blackouts and deliver new forms of energy to homes and businesses.

And he said all patients’ medical records would be computerized within five years, saving lives and billions of dollars.

Answering critics

“I understand that some might be skeptical of this plan,” Obama said.

But what he calls the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan “won’t just throw money at our problems—we’ll invest in what works.”

Despite expanded Democratic control of both the Senate and House of Representatives, Obama wants convincing majorities of lawmakers to sign on, and that means mollifying Republican critics.

Republican leaders welcomed Obama’s proposal for tax cuts, which he said would total 40 percent of a final package that some economists say could reach up to $1.2 trillion.


But House Republican leader John Boehner said, “It is very important as we go ahead that we find the right balance.

“Yes our economy needs help, but at the end of the day how much debt are we going to pile on future generations?” he told reporters. “We cannot buy prosperity with more and more government spending.”

Some Democrats also criticized a planned $3,000 tax break for companies that hire new workers and a family tax cut as being insufficient.

The corporate tax break was “unlikely to be effective,” said Kent Conrad, chairman of the Senate budget committee.

“Business people are not going to hire people to produce products that are not selling,” he told reporters.

Other lawmakers also doubted that tax cuts for families of $1,000 would ignite the necessary spurt in consumer spending.

Deficit concerns

Lawmakers from both parties expressed profound alarm when the Congressional Budget Office Wednesday forecast the US deficit would reach a jaw-dropping $1.2 trillion in this fiscal year.

“President Obama is walking into a fiscal disaster of stunning proportion, coupled with an economic downturn of unknown duration and depth,” Conrad said.

In his speech, Obama acknowledged the costs of his stimulus plan would drive the deficit still higher.

“But equally certain are the consequences of doing too little or nothing at all, for that will lead to an even greater deficit of jobs, incomes, and confidence in our economy,” he said.

San Miguel Corp. takes over control of Petron

January 10, 2009

By Chino S. Leyco, Reporter

Southeast Asia’s largest food and beverage conglomerate took control of the Philippines’ largest oil refinery, when it announced Friday that Ramon Ang would be its new chairman and chief executive officer.

Ang is also president and chief operating officer of San Miguel Corp., and he replaces Nicasio Alcantara at Petron, also one of the top-three petroleum firms in the country.

Along with Ang, San Miguel Chairman Eduardo Cojuangco Jr. was voted as one of Petron’s directors.

Luis Maglaya, Petron corporate secretary, said Ang, Conjuanco and other San Miguel executives were elected during the petroleum company’s special board meeting on Thursday.

Also during the election, it was decided that Alcantara would stay on as director but “vice” of Ang, according to the disclosure.

Other San Miguel people who won seats in Petron were Estelito Mendoza, director; Emmanuel Eraña, chief finance officer, and Lubin Nepomu­ceno, general manager.

The positions of Eraña and Nepomuceno are new in Petron.(ManilaTimes)

Millions join feast of ‘Black Nazarene’

January 10, 2009

About three millions Catholic devotees on Friday flocked the streets of central Manila to join in the yearly procession of the image of the Black Nazarene, even as almost 200 of the participants sustained injuries.

The Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC) reported that at least 198 devotees were injured, but none was life-threatening.

By past noon on Friday, there were already at least 60 reported injuries, besides other emergency cases that also required medical attention.

The Red Cross reported that its Emergency Rescue Units rushed a 16-year-old pregnant girl to a hospital after she fainted while waiting for the arrival of the image of the Black Nazarene at Plaza Santa Cruz, Manila.

Some, according to the Red Cross, were treated for various health complaints, like difficulty in breathing, hypertension and dehydration.

Almost every year, the feast is marred by accidents, injuries—even deaths.

Last year, two people died, while 30 others were rushed to hospitals after either fainting or sustaining injuries during the procession that was a colorful display of Catholicism’s enduring popularity in the former Spanish colony.

Petty crimes

Injury is not the only thing common during the Black Nazarene feast. So are petty crimes.

Early Friday, police authorities arrested a man who was caught stealing a cellular phone, as devotees tried to get nearer to the image of the Black Nazarene.

As of 3 p.m., the Manila Police District reported that at least five incidents of cellular phone snatchings were reported.

Despite a number of reports of injuries and theft, the National Capital Region Police Office said the feast of the Black Nazarene yesterday was “generally peaceful.”

Around 1,500 police units were deployed around the Quiapo district in Manila, and authorities said they were able to keep the situation under control.

The Manila city government earlier assured that the entire route to be used by the procession would be adequately secured and ambulances would be ready for emergencies.

Religious ritual

The festivities began with religious rituals at 12:30 a.m. on Friday, followed prayers at the seven last stations of the cross at 2 a.m., and finally Mass officiated by Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales at the Quirino Grandstand in Luneta (Rizal Park) at 7 a.m.

The procession immediately followed the Mass and continued despite a moderate earthquake that struck north of Manila in mid-afternoon. The procession passed through 10 major thoroughfares before reaching Quiapo Church.

A number of devotees, as a part of the tradition, came bare-footed.

The devotees, many wearing scarlet shirts and waving white handkerchiefs and towels, took turns to pull a pair of ropes that hauled the centuries-old Black Nazarene through the narrow streets.

Some 83 million of the Philippines’ 96 million inhabitants are Roman Catholic, and Manila police estimated that up to three million people in this city of more than 10 million had joined or watched the procession.

But some experts worry that the display of devotion borders on idolatry.

History of devotion

The Black Nazarene, a life-sized, dark-skinned statue of Jesus Christ has been enshrined in the minor basilica in the Quiapo Church since the 1787. The wooden sculpture is said to have been carved in Mexico and brought to the Philippines by Augustinian missionaries during Spain’s galleon trade.

The image miraculously survived fires that razed the Quiapo Church in 1791 and 1929, the great earthquakes of 1645 and 1863, and the World War II bombings in 1945.

The image is taken out annually around Quiapo district. But since 1998, only a replica of the original Black Nazarene is paraded during the activity to prevent it from being damaged.

On Friday, the crowd wanted to rub the icon with their handkerchiefs, believing this would bestow miraculous powers of healing and bring good luck.

“The small group that fanatically climbed to get to the Lord,” Cardinal Rosales later told reporters, “that’s the example of what it should not be. That part has to be purified.”

“There are excesses in the devotion and beliefs that we need to change,” said Monsignor Clemente Ignacio, the parish priest of Quiapo.
Rommel C. Lontayao And AFP(ManilaTimes)


January 10, 2009

Rice prices are likely to rise sharply for the second straight year in 2009 as the global economic slowdown hits farmers and consumers alike, the International Rice Research Institute warned Friday.

The worldwide credit crunch would make it hard for farmers to secure cash to purchase essentials, such as seeds and fertilizer, the Philippines-based body said in the latest edition of its quarterly journal Rice Today.

At the same time, it added, the economic downturn may increase demand for rice in developing nations as falling income forces poor people to switch back to less expensive staples.

The price of rice—a staple food for half the world including nearly 700 million poor Asians—spiked to $1,080 a ton last April, triggering fears of social unrest.

It slid to about $575 six months later because of record production and the early effects of the economic slowdown.

But the current rice export prices remain around double those of mid-2007.

Credit crunch complications

But the institute warned that “production uncertainty due to tight credit and declining rice prices combined with strong demand growth points to another rise in rice prices in the coming months.

“Price volatility will remain high.”

Even if they had the cash, farmers burned by the sudden plunge in commodity prices “will likely play safe and reduce input for their 2009 crops.”

The institute pointed to a decision by the Philippines government to lower its 2009 rice output estimate by almost 4 percent, and said a similar move from other rice producers “is likely in the near term.”

While global rice output reached record levels for each of the last four years, this was achieved through increased acreage and obscured the key issue of declining growth in rice yields owing to reduced agricultural investments since the early 1990s, the IRRI said.

As the world consumed more rice than it could produce in five of the last seven years, it forced governments to dip into their reserves to make up the shortfall.

Historic low levels of rice stocks contribute to the volatility, it added.

While rice prices have dropped from their 2008 peaks, the IRRI said, “they are still high relative to 2007 levels, and are likely to remain too high for millions of poor.

“If the yield growth rate does not improve, we can expect rice prices to continue to rise, and at a faster pace than that seen since prices started moving up in 2000.”

The world produced a record rice crop with most of the increase coming from area expansion rather than yield growth, said the expert, adding that the rice yield growth has been slowing down since the early 1990s.

Boost yields

There is no other way out than improving the yield growth to solve the world rice shortage, caused by “fundamental imbalances in supply and demand,” Samarendu Mohanty, an expert of IRRI, said also on Friday.

In five of the past seven years, rice consumption has exceeded production, resulting in frequent dipping into the world’s buffer stocks to cover the shortfall, he added.

The key solution lies in “revitalizing rice yield growth through higher investment in research and infrastructure development,” said the expert.

Mohanty’s opinion was echoed by his colleagues in the research institute.

“The task ahead is challenging but not insurmountable and requires a substantial boost for agricultural research, which remains highly underinvested,” according to another journal article, jointly written by Sushil Pandey, Mark Rosegrant, Timothy Sulser and Humnath Bhandari.

“Increased investments together with policy reforms that make rice markets more efficient will provide the ultimate solution to the rice crisis,” it said.

Amid the crisis

The recent crisis turned the world’s attention back to agriculture, but the credit crunch is likely to further tighten funding for infrastructure improvements and research and development activities, he said.

Mohanty noted that many farmers who in late 2008 harvested a lower-priced crop produced with high-priced seeds and fertilizer.

“Burned once, these farmers will likely play safe and reduce input use for their 2009 crops,” Mohanty said.

The credit crunch will also make it difficult for farmers around the world to secure credit for purchasing inputs.

The Philippines, for instance, has lowered its 2009 rice production estimated by almost 4 percent, because of lower input use as farmers struggle to secure credit to buy seeds and fertilizer.

Production uncertainty because of tight credit and declining rice prices combined with strong demand growth points to another rise in rice prices in the coming months, warned the expert.

Making matters worse, the economic slowdown may increase the demand for rice in developing countries as falling income forces poor people to switch back to less expensive staples.

Consumption projections may, therefore, rise above earlier estimates of around 90 million tons per year of additional unmilled rice by 2020, according to the International Rice Research Institute.
–AFP And Xinhua(ManilaTimes)

Congressmen siding with anti-drug agents

January 10, 2009

By Sammy Martin, Reporter

If it were up to them, lawmakers said Friday, they would have skewered a lawyer of the “Alabang Boys” for making a mockery of the country’s criminal-justice system.

Members of the House Committee on Dangerous Drugs said Friday it was the call of Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez who failed them, and worse said that they were “biased” against him on his handling of the case of the “Alabang Boys.”

Rep. Antonio Cuenco of Cebu City, during an interview, said that Gonzalez should have berated Felisberto Verano Jr., the lawyer of two of the three boys—Richard Santos Brodett and Joseph Ramirez Tecson—but instead accused the House committee of fault-finding in Verano preparing a draft release order for the release of drug suspects Brodett and Tecson and the third accused, Jorge Jordana Joseph.

“I am a little bit surprised with the behavior of our dear friend [Gonzalez],” Cuenco added. “He should have at least reprimanded Verano, who [acts] as if he is a senior staff of the Justice department.”

The Justice secretary, also a former lawmaker, should have “scolded him [Verano], raised hell [against the lawyer] and castigated him. I don’t know why he [Gonzalez] did not do that,” the congressman said.

It was found that Verano, who was not authorized to prepare any such order, had also written the draft release order on pilfered stationery of the Justice department. Gonzalez said that he did not sign the order, although he had seen and read it.

The “Alabang Boys” lawyer also was discovered to have used office facilities of his fraternity brother and Justice Undersecretary Ricardo Blancaflor in writing the draft release order.

Rep. Roilo Golez of Parañaque City, who claims he respects Gonzalez, was shocked at the accusation of the Justice chief that the members of the House Committee on Dangerous Drugs were ganging up on him.

Biased congressmen

During a recent interview with reporters, Gonzalez said members of the committee headed by Rep. Roque Ablan Jr. of Ilocos Norte were all finding loopholes in a resolution signed by Chief State Prosecutor Jovencito Zuño, Senior State Prosecutor Philip Kimpo and State Prosecutor John Resado, who had written the document.

The resolution dismissed the drug charges against the three accused. The dismissal apparently made Verano think of pulling a fast one on the Justice department by preparing the draft release order himself. It spawned charges that Justice officials, state prosecutors supposedly among them, had been bribed with P50 million in exchange for their authorizing the release of the three young drug suspects.

“The problem with some of the congressmen is that they were biased already from the very start . . . Even the grammar of the supposed resolution, they were attacking it,” Gonzalez said.

“You no longer have probity when you make conclusions while you are still investigating. [You] make pronouncements already. That is the reason why I am not happy,” he added. Gonzalez refused to name the lawmakers he was referring to.

‘Attack’ on Marcelino

Golez, in a text message, said the Justice secretary “should not have gone ballistic” at young Marine Maj. Ferdinand Marcelino, whom the congressman said was just doing his job. Marcelino this week testified during a committee hearing on the case of the “Alabang Boys,” insisting, for one, that entrapments of the “Alabang Boys” were carried out according to the law.

Blancaflor also on Friday said that the alleged P50-million bribery scandal rocking the Justice department could be part of a demolition job bankrolled by some influential groups that he had crossed in the performance of his duties.

He expressed belief that he was the primary target of the groups as shown by misinformation that dragged his name in the controversy, “making it appear that I used strong-arm tactics against [PDEA] for the release of the “Alabang Boys.”’

“It [demolition job] could be the handiwork of people or groups affected by my campaign against human trafficking and extra-judicial killings,” Blancaflor said.

As the head of Task Force 211, he added, he had stepped on the toes of many influential personalities and even put in jail some of them.

“In the course of my duties as chairman of Task Force 211, I have sent to jail military and police officers and politicians, among others. They have an axe to grind against me and they could have seized this opportunity to get back at me,” Blancaflor said.

He added that he has some names in mind but refused to disclosed them until such time that he has gathered enough evidence against them.

Task Force 211 was created by President Gloria Arroyo to resolve cases involving political violence and extra-judicial killings.

Blancaflor was linked to the “Alabang Boys” controversy on Marcelino’s diclosure that the Justice undersecretary had called him to inquire why the PDEA had not yet released Brodett, Jo­seph and Tecson, all scions of wealthy families.

He admitted to having made the call but said that “it was a simple query” on his part, nothing more, nothing less.

“The truth of the matter was, I was only performing a valid and legal function by inquiring from PDEA why the December 2, 2008 resolution was not yet implemented three weeks after such was made. I was informed by the staff of Director General Dionisio Santiago that an appeal was being made. So I asked for a copy and I left it at that,” Blancaflor said in an earlier statement. Santiago is chief of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency.

Release order

On December 2, 2008, the Justice department issued the resolution signed by Chief State Prosecutor Zuño ordering the release of the three suspects, citing, among others, illegal arrest and search.

But allegations cropped that some prosecutors and drug-agency officials were bribed with P50 million in exchange for the dismissal of the case. It prompted the Justice secretary to call for an investigation.

Gonzalez said that the three suspects would remain in detention pending clearance and final approval of the dismissal resolution from his office.

The three drug suspects are detained at the agency’s detention center. They were charged with violation of Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensivie Dangerous Drug Act of 2002, a “non-bailable” offense punishable by “reclusion perpetua” or life imprisonment.

Prosecutors slam PDEA

January 10, 2009

19 threaten to join Resado in quitting govt’s drug task force

By William B. Depasupil, Reporter

Another word war has erupted, this time between the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).

It led to the 20-man team of prosecutors from the Task Force on Anti-Illegal Drugs under the Justice department threatening to resign en masse to dramatize their protest over allegations made by the agency that they were bribed with P50 million in exchange for the dismissal of drug charges against the “Alabang Boys.”

The anti-drug agency last week suggested that the alleged bribe money came from the camp of the three boys, all accused of drug dealing— Richard Santos Brodett, Jorge Jordana Joseph and Joseph Ramirez Tecson. The insinuation has led to a “family feud” between two branches of the Brodett clan.

Chief State Prosecutor Jovencito Zuño disclosed the prosecutors’ threat on Friday after the lawyers informed him of their plan to submit their resignations, because “they [prosecutors assigned to the DOJ task force] really cannot work under this cloud of suspicion with all these insinuations [against them].”

Zuño was referring to the allegations made by anti-drug agency officials that money changed hands between the prosecutors and the families of the “Alabang Boys.”

He said that the state prosecutors’ request for relief was relayed to Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez, who quickly turned it down.

“You must stay put,” Zuño quoted Gonzalez as saying.

But the chief state prosecutor said that the Justice secretary did not give any reason for rejecting the request for relief of the prosecutors.

Prosecutors’ dare

Zuño added that they were also willing to face the Ombudsman should it conduct a separate investigation on the matter.

“Yes, we will welcome it. We have nothing to hide,” he said.

According to Zuño, the prosecutors made the threat to quit en masse after State Prosecutor John Resado on Thursday relayed his intention to resign to the task force chairman, Senior State Prosecutor Philip Kimpo.

Resado was the prosecutor who wrote a resolution that dismissed the charges against the “Alabang Boys.” The dismissal triggered the accusations on the P50-million bribery attempt on Justice officials, including the prosecutors.

The “Alabang Boys” were arrested in September 2008 by anti-drug agency agents in separate entrap­ments in Quezon City and Ayala-Alabang, a well-known enclave of the rich and famous in Muntinlupa City, Metro Manila.

According to Zuño, the prosecutors’ morale has sunk because of the accusations.

“They told me that their morale is very low and that they are disgusted with what is happening,” he said. “They are not used to psychological-warfare tactics being used by PDEA.”

Zuño maintained that the prosecutors were innocent and that Resado wrote the resolution based on facts and would stand by it.

He dared the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency “to show concrete evidence” supporting its allegations, saying that “if you cannot name names, please stop making such allegations.”

Prosecutors unite

Joining Zuño in defending the embattled 20-man prosecutors’ team was the State Prosecutors’ Association.

They were “unfair and damaging to the institution in general,” the association president, Crisaldo Rioflorido, said also on Friday, referring to the bribery allegations made by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency.

He vouched for the integrity and competence of Resado, saying that the resolution was a product of careful study and evaluation of evidence.

Rioflorido also challenged Marine Maj. Ferdinand Marcelino, the head of the agency’s Special Enforcement Services, to disclose the names of those who allegedly mediated and also offered him a bribe in exchange for the release of the three drug suspects.

“Name names,” he said, addressing Marcelino and adding that the agency official coming out in the open is the only way for the truth to come out.(ManilaTimes)

Editorial Cartoon: Pangandam ka

January 9, 2009



PDIC to take over 2 rural banks

January 9, 2009

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO — The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) on Thursday placed Rural Bank of Sta. Rita (RBSR) and Rural Bank of Bacolor (RBBR) under the receivership of the Philippine Deposit Insurance Corporation (PDIC).

Receivership “is a form of bankruptcy in which a company can avoid liquidation by reorganizing with the help of court-appointed trustee.”

Arroyo Watch: Sun.Star blog on President Arroyo

The move came as an effect of the self-imposed bank holiday of the two banks before Christmas last year that sent worried clients calling on the BSP to intervene.

“The receivership enables the PDIC to take over the banks’ assets to protect the interest of bank depositors and to start processing deposit insurance claims,” the BSP said in a statement.

The BSP assured that despite the condition of the two banks “the rural banking sector in Pampanga remains strong and healthy.”

“There are now 20 remaining Pampanga-based rural banks with a combined asset base of more than P8 billion, deposit base of more than P6 billion, and close to P1.5 billion in capital accounts,” the BSP revealed.

As a whole, these rural banks have consistently recorded healthy double-digit growth rates in deposits received and loans granted between December 2007 and September 2008 according to the BSP.

The BSP explained that the capital adequacy ratio (CAR) of the present 20 Pampanga-based rural banks is 19.9 percent, nearly double the 10-percent minimum required by the BSP. The said figure is also more than twice the international standard of eight percent. CAR or the ratio of a bank’s capital to its risk reflects a bank’s ability to absorb losses.

“The Bangko Sentral advises the public to avoid making sweeping judgment on the condition of individual banks or to pass on baseless rumors,” the BSP stressed.

Depositors of RSBR and RBBR may call the PDIC’s Deposit Assistance Group at 841-4630 for their deposit-insurance claims. (IOF)

17 Pinoys evacuated from Gaza

January 9, 2009

THE Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said that only 17 Filipinos were evacuated from the Gaza Strip out of the 108 that they hope to be moved Thursday morning.

Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Esteban Conejos Jr. said the 17 Filipinos were among the 250 foreigners that were transported using six buses.

Arroyo Watch: Sun.Star blog on President Arroyo

“The ICRC-led convoy of six buses with 250 foreigners including 17 Filipino nationals has just arrived at the Erez Crossing,” Conejos said.

He said Philippine Ambassador to Israel Petronila Garcia and the embassy team had been on standby at the Gaza-Israel border to meet the Filipino evacuees.

From the Erez Crossing, Garcia will bring the evacuees to the Allenby Crossing which is within the border of Israel and Jordan.

“Ambassador Garcia and the embassy team are at the Gaza border to meet the evacuees and ferry them to the Allenby Crossing at the Israel-Jordan border,” Conejos added.

The DFA official hoped that they would evacuate the 108 Filipinos in Gaza as tension between the two warring parties is expected to escalate further.

He said the planned evacuation of the 108 Filipinos have been coordinated with other countries that are also planning to move their citizens that were caught in the tension.

“All the 108 Filipinos have been advised to join the planned evacuation,” Conejos said. (MSN/Sunnex)

AFP eyes Cammayo’s transfer to intel unit

January 9, 2009

FIRST lieutenant Vicente Cammayo, who was just released by New People’s Army, could be assigned to the intelligence unit of the military after his ordeal with the communist rebel group.

This was the probability floated by Eastern Mindanao Command spokesman Major Randolph Cabangbang in an interview Wednesday.

Arroyo Watch: Sun.Star blog on President Arroyo

Cabangbang said with the throve of information Cammayo could have gained during his capture, he could very well be useful in the intelligence gathering of the AFP.

The EMC spokesman however said it would all depend on Cammayo after undergoing debriefing.

It was learned that Cammayo flew to Metro Manila on Tuesday evening just hours after his release in Loreto, Agusan del Sur in the morning of January 6.

Cabangbang said Cammayo will first undergo debriefing at Fort Bonifacio before he will be allowed to go home to his family in Cagayan Valley where his eight-month pregnant wife, Mariel, is waiting.

Medical examination conducted on Cammayo in Davao City showed he had a perforated eardrum as a result of the November 7 firefight with NPA rebels in Barangay Casoon, Monkayo.

Cabangbang said Cammayo also divulged his experience with the NPA. One of those that he could not forget is the incident where the rebels threw one of their seriously wounded comrades off the cliff.

Cammayo said he feared that the rebels would do the same to him if ever he would no longer have use for the rebels.

Cammayo was with the Army’s 3rd Special Forces Battalion when abducted by the NPA rebels.(With Peng Alino)

Quake rocks Camiguin

January 9, 2009

AN EARTHQUAKE measuring 3.0 in the Richter scale rocked Mambajao town in Camiguin Thursday noon, No fatalities or damages reported were reported.

The earthquake’s epicenter was located 30 kilometers off the coast of Anda town in Bohol, said Marcial Labininay, officer-in-charge of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Philvocs) in Northern Mindanao.

Arroyo Watch: Sun.Star blog on President Arroyo

It was also felt in the cities of Cebu and Dumaguete, and in several parts of Bohol and Negros Oriental—all recording 2.0 in the Richter scale. Intensity 1.0 was recorded in Misamis Oriental and Cagayan de Oro City.

Labininay said the earthquake had a magnitude of 4.5 on its epicenter, lasting seven seconds. It was of tectonic in origin—caused by the movement of a fault-line off the coast of Bohol.

No aftershock was recorded.

Cache of firearms seized from 4 gunrunners

January 9, 2009

DAVAO City – A wild car chase ended in the discovery of an arms cache seized from four suspected gun smugglers late Wednesday evening, a police report said.

According to a report of Davao City police, the suspects were onboard a green Isuzu wagon vehicle when they ran through a police checkpoint in Tugbok town at around 10:30 p.m. prompting the police to run after the suspects and caught up with them in the town of Bangkal.

Arroyo Watch: Sun.Star blog on President Arroyo

The suspects were identified as Ruel dela Torre, 41, a resident of Pantukan, Compostela Valley; Teodilo Pogoy, 41, of Tagum City; Rolando Catapon, 36 also of Pantukan; and Josefino Capuyan, 31, of Cebu City.

Recovered from their possession were homemade guns that include 10 units of caliber .45 STI Edge; one caliber .45 Grand Master; 4 units of caliber .38 revolver snub nose; 6 units of cal .357 revolver Sturm Ruger; one .357 revolver power custom; one .357 revolver SNU; 3 units of .22 caliber magnum revolver Black Widow; 28 magazines for .45 caliber (standard); 2 units of silencer; 6 magazines of caliber .45 (extended); and 2 magazines of 9mm.

One of the arrested suspects squealed that most of their buyers are from the military service.

“Preso gyud sila. (They will be detained) The police were told to file the corresponding complaints. I don’t care kung kinsa pa ilang baligyaan (who their buyers are). The fact is, it is illegal. Possession of firearms without documents is illegal. The word here is “possession”. Sila man naggunit, sila gyud makasuhan (they were the ones in possession of the firearms so they will be the ones who will charged),” Mayor Rodrigo Duterte told Sun.Star.

Duterte said the recovered firearms will be forfeited in favor of the government.

“Paltik man pud na. Sunugon nalang (Anyway, it’s just homemade, we will just have to burn it),” Duterte said.

The mayor also congratulated the joint team of the Tugbok Police station, Regional Intelligence Division, Talomo Police station and the 2nd SCMG of the Davao City Police Office for the successful operation. (Grace L. Plata/With BOT/Sunnex)

Disbarment case filed vs ‘Alabang Boys’ lawyer

January 9, 2009

MANILA — Two anti-crime groups on Thursday asked that Felisberto Verano Jr., lawyer for the so-called “Alabang Boys” who were arrested in drug operations in September last year, be disbarred.

Meanwhile, because of the controversial “Alabang Boys” drug case involving three suspects from prominent families, lawmakers on Thursday said they are open to restoring the death penalty for drug traffickers.

Arroyo Watch: Sun.Star blog on President Arroyo

The Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) filed a disbarment complaint with the Supreme Court (SC) against Verano, while the Citizens Crime Watch (CCW) urged the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) to subject the lawyer to a disbarment probe.

The IBP earlier said it will investigate Verano for possible disbarment after he admitted that he drafted a release order for his clients, Richard Brodett and Joseph Tecson, once a complaint has been filed with the lawyers’ group.

If the IBP finds probable cause for the disbarment, it will then endorse the complaint to the SC as an administrative matter, which will then dispose the case accordingly.

The High Court, for its part, is waiting the National Bureau of Investigation’s report on the matter before taking any action against Verano.

Brodett and Tecson, who along with Jorge Joseph, were arrested by agents of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in two separate buy-bust operations in Cubao, Quezon City and in Alabang, Muntinlupa after yielding 60 tablets of Ecstasy, packets of marijuana, and sachets of cocaine.

According to VACC chairman Dante Jimenez, Verano’s using such kind of tactics should be stopped.

“What Attorney Verano has done is wrong and a grave breach of what we expect a lawyer to do, a grave breach of ethics,” he said.

In seeking Verano’s disbarment, Jimenez said the lawyer committed two “grave mistakes that undermine the public’s trust and view of the profession.”

“The number one violation he committed is when he drafted the release order, he even admitted that, when he has no right or legal authority to do that. And second, when he used stationery with a letterhead of the Department of Justice in drafting the release order. That letterhead is a government property and he has no business appropriating that for his use since he is a private lawyer and not a government lawyer,” he said.

These, he said, are more than enough reason for Verano to be stricken off the lawyer’s roll.

“We will push through with the filing. A lawyer like Attorney Verano is one of the reasons why the people have lost trust in the country’s justice system,” added Jimenez.

For his part, CCW head Jose Malgar-Villegas said the IBP should remove Verano from their list for his act.

“Our complaint before the IBP is ‘conduct unbecoming’ of a member of the bar and ‘unethical practice’,” Villegas said.

IBP president Feliciano Bautista, in a radio interview, explained that any decision they will make is only recommendatory to the SC.

“The Supreme Court has the final say,” Bautista said.

Speaker Prospero Nograles said he is open to reviving capital punishment as a way to stop the drug menace in the country.

“Personally, I am seriously considering death penalty for drug suppliers and dealers,” he said in a text message.

Muntinlupa City Rep. Rozzano Rufino said he would file a bill on Monday (Jan. 12) seeking to impose death penalty on drug traffickers.

“Unlike murderers or rapists who may be reformed, drug lords have the capacity to live comfortable lives in prison while business goes on. They knowingly earn from the misery of others,” he said.

Even Dangerous Drugs Board Chairman Vicente “Tito” Sotto III wants to restore death penalty against convicted drug traffickers.

Sotto said he was constantly lobbying for the reimposition of the death penalty after it was repealed by the 13th Congress.

For his part, PDEA Director General Dionisio Santiago is also pushing for the return of death penalty, but this time against drug pushers.

Santiago said this was “very urgent,” since drug use in the country was a “security threat.”

In June 2006, President Arroyo signed the abolition of the death penalty.

Up to this time, there are still debates between those who want to retain it and those who do not think it is a deterrent to criminality.

There are also lawmakers like Parañaque Rep. Roilo Golez and Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman who are not in favor to revive the death penalty.

Lagman criticized the move as a “knee-jerk” reaction to the controversial drug case involving the arrest of the “Alabang Boys” and the dismissal of charges against them amid allegations that officials from the Department of Justice (DoJ) and PDEA had been bribed.(AH/PNA/Sunnex)

Ebola virus in pigs may be harmful to humans: expert

January 9, 2009

PANGASINAN — A team of international health experts are in the country for a 10-day research mission to look into the possible effect of Ebola Reston virus strain to humans.

The team said the investigation will determine whether the Ebola Reston virus recently discovered in pigs poses a threat to human health.

Arroyo Watch: Sun.Star blog on President Arroyo

About a dozen experts from the United Nations (UN), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Organization for Animal Health (WOAH) were invited to Manila to help the government investigate the virus, first identified in October in the northern Philippines.

The discovery not only marked the first time the virus has been found outside of monkeys, but also the first time it has been found in swine.

Those factors make the mission “particularly important,” said a joint statement by the investigating organizations.

“We hope to identify the risks certainly for animal health and human health, if there are any,” said Dr. Juan Lubroth of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization and head of the Manila mission.

Authorities said the Ebola Reston virus – first discovered among crab-eating monkeys south of Manila in 1989 – has caused no known illness among humans.

Ebola’s three other subtypes – the Zaire, Sudan and Cote d’Ivoire strains – can cause deadly hemorrhagic fever in humans, according to WHO.

The 10-day research mission, which started Tuesday, will focus on the source of the virus, how it is transmitted, its virulence, its natural habitat, and the best way to identify it, the experts said.

The Ebola Reston virus was discovered in October while tests were being conducted on samples from pigs that died of another swine disease at two farms in the northern Philippines.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the two farms in northern Bulacan and Pangasinan provinces, which have nearly 10,000 pigs, are under quarantine.

Tests in late December on pig samples from the farms were negative of the virus, and no pigs have died of the disease or shown any signs of illness, he said. Bureau of Animal Industry Director Davinio Catbagan said the foreign team would verify the results with the slaughter of about 140 pigs.

“If we do not see the virus on these tissue samples, we can decide to lift the quarantine, and later on (proceed) to a wider surveillance,” he said.

In Lingayen township, another team of the foreign experts proceeded to the Lambino piggery, which was closed by an outbreak of the Ebola Reston virus late last year, located in the village Parian.

The team include William White, senior staff veterinarian of the Foreign Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory at the Plum Island Animal Disease Center in the US; Borris Pavlin, epidemiologist of the WHO communication disease surveillance and response department; and Dr. Kate Glynn of OIE and Mario Musa, communications advisors of the Crisis Management Center-Animal Health Emergency Operations and Rehabilitation Division of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN.

Dr. Glynn told Sun.Star that they will evaluate the country’s capacity to deal with Ebola Reston Virus and other zoonotic diseases, and develop protocols, which will guide national response to similar occurrence. (Liway C. Manantan-Yparraguirre/AP/Sunnex)

Editorial Cartoon: Campus Terrorists

January 8, 2009


Campus Fascism

Ekstensiyon ng Carp, ekstensiyon ng panlilinlang?

January 8, 2009

Soliman A. Santos

Aasa pa ba dapat sa repormang agraryo sa kasalukuyang namamayaning sistema? (Ariston Valle)

Magsasakang Pilipino: Aasa pa ba dapat sa repormang agraryo sa kasalukuyang namamayaning sistema? (Ariston Valle)

PARA sa maraming grupo ng mga magsasaka, walang kabutihang maidudulot ang muling pagbuhay ng Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program o Carp, samantalang para sa kanila’y matagal na itong patay bilang programa ng gobyerno sa tunay na reporma sa lupa.

Bago nagtapos ang sesyon ng Kongreso noong nakaraang linggo, inaprubahan nito sa pamamagitan ng Joint Resolution 19 ang anim na buwang ekstensiyon ng Carp.

Tinawag itong ilegal, depektibo at di-konstitusyonal ng militanteng mga grupo ng magsasaka at mangingisda na tatlong araw at gabing nagbantay sa harap ng Batasan Complex sa Quezon City para iparinig ang kanilang panawagan: “Wag palawigin ang Carp, tunay na reporma sa lupa, ipatupad!”

Sa kabila ng malalamig na gabi ng Disyembre, nagkampo sila sa habang dinaraanan lamang ng mga kongresistang sakay ng magagarang sasakyan.

Insulto sa magsasaka

Insulto para sa mga magsasaka ang katuwiran ng mga mambabatas na sila ring may hawak ng malalawak na lupain. Pinirmahan daw nila ang resolusyong palawigin hanggang Hunyo 2009 ang Carp para masusing rebisahin ang 20-taong programa sa repormang agraryo. Pero hindi na isinama sa ektensiyon ang compulsory acquisition o sapilitang pagbawi ng lupa.

Sa halip, pinalitan ito ng voluntary acquisition. Ayon sa mga magsasaka, isa itong suntok sa buwan dahil walang asendero (na karamiha’y nasa Kongreso rin) ang boluntaryong magbibigay ng kanilang lupain para ipasailalim sa Carp.

Ayon sa Kilusang Magbubukid sa Pilipinas (KMP), ang resolusyong palawigin ang Carp ay isang panlilinlang na lalo lamang naglalantad sa kabulukan ng kasalukuyang programa sa repormang agraryo.

Umano’y isa rin itong hungkag na pangako na layon lamang patahimikin at lalo pang paasahin ang mga magsasakang naniniwala pa sa programa, kahit wala silang dahilan para ipagdiwang ang ekstensiyon ng Carp.

Wala pa ring lupa

Sa kabila ng 20 taon ng pag-iral ng Carp, nananatiling pito sa bawat 10 magsasaka ang walang sariling lupang binubungkal, ayon sa KMP.

Sa katunayan binigyan pa umano ng legal na batayan ng Carp ang pagkakait sa karapatan ng mga magsasaka sa lupa at ang pangangamkam ng lupa ng malalaking asendero.

Halimbawa nito ang dalawa sa pinakontrobersiyal na kaso ng agrarian dispute sa Central Luzon: ang 31, 000 ektaryang lupain sa loob ng Fort Magsaysay sa Laur, Nueva Ecija at ang 6, 453 ektaryang Hacienda Luisita na pag-aari ng pamilya ni dating Pangulong Corazon Aquino.

Hindi naipamahagi sa magsasaka ang mga lupaing ito kahit nakapailalim sa Carp. Sa katunayan, nagamit pa ang iba’t ibang iskema sa Carp, gaya ng Stock Distribution Option sa kaso ng Hacienda Luisita, para mapanatili sa asendero ang mga naturang lupain.

Talamak din ang pagkansela ng mga emancipation patent (EP) at certificate of land ownership award (CLOA) na ipinagkakaloob sa mga benepisyaryo ng Carp.

Ayon sa pinakahuling pag-aaral ng Sentro Para Sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo (Sentra), iniulat mismo ng Department of Agrarian Refrom (DAR) noong Setyembre 2007 na may 5,049 EP at 103,392 CLOA ang pinawalang-bisa. Aabot sa 204,579 ektaryang lupain ang saklaw ng mga ito.

Bukod dito, marami pang nakabimbing mga kaso ng kanselasyon ng EP at CLOA. Hindi pa rin umano natutukoy ng DAR kung gaano karaming titulo ng lupa para sa mga benepisyaryong magsasaka ang kinansela o binawi nito simula nang mag-umpisa ang programa.

Pinagkakitaan ng asendero

Ipinakikita rin ng pag-aaral ng Sentra na kumikita pa ang mga asendero dahil sa Carp.

Mula noong 1972 hanggang 2005, umabot sa P41.6 Bilyong cash and bonds ang kompensasyong ibinayad ng Land Bank of the Philippines sa 83,203 asendero o P500,463 kada asendero. Sumasaklaw ito sa 1,348,758 ektarya. Noong 2005, P4.6-B ang napunta sa kompensasyon sa mga asendero lamang.

“Ipinapakita nito na ang Carp ay isang transaksiyon lamang sa pagitan ng gobyerno at mga asendero sa mahigit 20 taon,” ayon kay Ramos.

Bumababa rin taun-taon ang distribusyon ng lupa sa ilalim ng Carp. Mula sa orihinal na 10.3 milyong ektarya noong 1988, umabot na lamang ang saklaw nito sa 8.1 milyong ektarya o 21.76 porsiyentong pagbaba.

Isinisisi ito ng KMP sa pagtanggal sa saklaw ng programa ng kapwa pribado at pampublikong mga lupain dahil sa iba’t ibang iskema tulad ng pagpapalit-gamit sa lupa at pagpapalit-pananim.

Garb at tunay na reporma sa lupa

Ayaw nila sa Carp, pero hangarin ng militanteng mga magsasaka ang programang tunay na mapapasakanila ang lupa. “Ang dapat gawin ng mga mambabatas ay itapon ang Carp at lumikha ng isang bagong batas sa repormang agraryo,” sabi ni Ramos.

Sinusuportahan ng KMP at iba pang mga grupo gaya ng Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya sa Pilipinas at Amihan ang House Bill 3059 o Garb (Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill). Iniakda ito ni yumaong Rep. Crispin Beltran at isinusulong ngayon ni Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano, kasama sina Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo at Teodoro Casiño at Gabriela Rep. Liza Maza at Luzviminda Ilagan.

Layunin ng Garb na saklawin ang lahat ng lupang agrikultural sa bansa at ipamahagi ang mga ito sa mga magsasakang walang sariling lupa subalit handang magbungkal. Sa panukalang batas, walang pinapayagang eksempsiyon o iskema para makalusot ang mga asendero sa programa.

Kaiba rin sa Carp na pinagbabayad pa ang mga magsasaka para mapasakanila ang lupa, libre ang pamamahaging nais ng Garb.

Hinikayat ni Mariano ang mga nananawagan para sa ekstensiyon ng Carp na abandonahin ang “patay” nang programa at samahan ang mga magsasaka sa pagsuporta sa Garb.

Reklamo ni Ramos, sa mga debate sa Kongreso ay wala ni isa man sa mga kongresista at senador na sumusuporta sa ekstensiyon ng Carp ang bumanggit sa libreng pamamahagi ng lupa na nakasaad sa Garb. “Nanawagan sila ng ektensyon ng hungkag na Carp, pero hindi para sa libreng pamamahagi ng lupa sa mga magsasaka,” aniya.

Nagkakaisang lakas

Kaya iginiit ng KMP na sa lakas lamang ng nagkakaisang mga samahang magsasaka maikakampanya tunay na reporma sa lupa.

Inihalimbawa ng grupo ang laban ng mga magsasaka sa Hacienda Looc sa Batangas, na dahil sa paggigiit ay hindi napaalis sa kanilang lupa nang ideklara itong “di produktibo” at naitakas sa Carp noong panahon ni dating pangulong Fidel Ramos.

Marami pa umanong halimbawa ng paggigiit sa karapatan sa sariling lupa sa gitna ng kabiguan ng Carp, gaya ng paglaban ng mga magsasakang binawian ng CLOA sa Central Mindanao University sa Bukidnon at Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation sa Nueva Ecija. Pinalalayas man ng militar, hindi pa rin sila natitinag.

“Isa lang ang ipinakikita nito: na kapag ang mga magsasaka ay nagkakaisa, sa kabila ng panghaharas ng mga asendero katuwang ng mga ahente ng Estado, makakamtan nila ang lupang pilit na inaagaw sa kanila ng mga mangangamkam,” ani Ramos.(PinoyWeekly)

A story I will tell the world

January 8, 2009

Ilena Saturay

I AM just one of those faceless two thousand Filipinos who left the country that day, one of the two thousand Filipinos who leave everyday, and just one of the seven million Filipinos who had to work overseas. There wasn’t anything special the morning I left: People went to their everyday work, the masses of the poor were still hungry and burdened of poverty while they worked to make ends meet and the small group of rich people were eating breakfast served by their katulong, their maid/s. Beyond my circle of family and friends, my departure was left unnoticed. But I hope the story behind my departure wouldn’t be unnoticed, because it is the story of so many others.

“It could have been me but instead it was you,” my father often sings the song of Holly Near. “And it may be me dear sisters and brothers before we are through.”

He was invited by Friends of the Earth to give a speaking tour to Indonesia and the Netherlands about mining in Mindoro. By that time, the government had sent more military battalions to Mindoro. A few days before my father left, human rights organizations organized a fact-finding mission to investigate reports of abductions, killings, disappearances and burning of properties by the military. A close friend of his, Eden Marcellana, was one of those who investigated. He asked her if he could come with the fact-finding team. Eden Marcellana told him not to go because it was too dangerous, and to just tell their story to world. So my father went to Indonesia and the Netherlands to speak about the situation in Mindoro.

On the day that he left, he received news that Eden Marcellana and Eddie Gumanoy, who was also with the team, were found dead. The Department of Justice dismissed the charges although there are many witnesses that point to the military as her abductors and killers.

“It could have been me but instead it was you,” my father often sings. “But if you can fight for freedom I can too.”

When he was supposed to go home, back to the Philippines from the Netherlands, a friend called him and told him that it was too dangerous for him to go back. The military is looking for him, too. He should better stay in the Netherlands and tell their story to the world.

He applied for political asylum here in the Netherlands. After three years of being away from us and his home, he received a confirmation that he can stay here as a political refugee. After three years, we, too, had to leave the Philippines. More and more political activists were being killed or abducted. During the Arroyo regime alone, there were at least 900 documented political killings.

Life abroad is not as easy and sweet as a lot of people think. There is no easy money for ordinary people like us. You have to work. And in a place like these where you have to learn the language first, you have to work extra hard.

When we arrived here, we had to stay in an asylum center for a week until our papers and documents were processed and until we were allowed to stay here with our father. That place was like a prison for us. We were not allowed to leave the big room for the whole day. When we had to leave the room to get some things from our bags (which were locked up in another room), we had to be accompanied by guards. We stayed with other political refugees. Some of them were allowed to stay here, and some of them were deported to the place where danger impatiently awaits them. We were clearly not the only one. I often wonder what happened to them. What was happening in the Philippines was clearly not happening only in the Philippines.

Last October 26, we attended a commemoration of the Schiphol fire that happened in 2005. There was a fire in a detention center where they keep migrants who were awaiting deportation, locked up like they were criminals just because they don’t or can’t have the proper paper as evidence that they are worthy to live here. Eleven of them died. During the commemoration, I saw a lot of people like me. Behind their faces were different stories of why and how they came here in the Netherlands, waiting to be told to the world.

We are hoping to come back home. But while we can’t, we will do what we can do to improve the world so that the two thousand Filipinos who leave the country don’t have to leave anymore, so that the people of the other countries just like the Philippines don’t have to leave their own countries anymore because of economical and political reasons. Telling our story to the world would be a good start.

“. . . but if you can fight for freedom I can too,” we often sing.

Ilena Rose Saturay is the 15-year-old daughter of Dr. Glorioso “Jun” Saturay, granddaughter of the venerable anti-martial law veteran Louie Saturay. The article was published recently in Munting Nayon, a Filipino magazine in the Netherlands.

Radical Pinoy: Mga kaganapan noong 2008 sa saliw ng pop songs

January 8, 2009

Vencer Crisostomo

PARA sa ilan sa mga kaibigan, “life-changing” daw ang 2008. Ang iba, ayaw pa itong matapos. Marami naman, nalulula sa dami ng mga nangyari, pero bitin pa rin.

Balikan natin ang mga tampok na kaganapan para sa progresibong kilusang kabataan, sa saliw ng mga cool na cool na awiting nakapagpa-LSS sa atin noong 2008.

Soundtrack: Crank That/Superman (Soulja Boy)

Sa pagputok ng kontrobersiyang ZTE at pagbabalik ni Jun Lozada, naging sing-uso ng bagong dance step ang noise barrage, mga protesta sa kampus at malalaking mga martsa sa kalsada. Talaga namang pinanindigan ng mga kabataan ang pagiging soldier boys and girls para sa katotohanan at pagbabago.

Pinanunganahan ng YOUTH ACT NOW! ang masisiglang pagkilos at paglahok ng kabataan, at sinamantala ang iba’t ibang mga mapanlikhang porma para iparating ang paninidigan.

Soundtrack: Susundan (Calla Lily)

Susundan kahit san man magpunta… ng protesta ang mga amuyong ni Gloria Arroyo. Kahit sa mga graduation ceremonies, protesta ang itinambad ng mga kabataang mag-aaral. Tampok ang pananalita ni Eduardo Ermita sa PUP, na binulabog ng protesta ng mga bagong tapos.

Soundtrack: Umbrella (Rihanna)

Pila.. pila.. ehh.. ehh…

Pila kung pila sa NFA rice dahil sa sirit ng pagtaas ng presyo ng bigas. Todo protesta naman ang itinapat sa mga piket sa NFA, paglalantad sa pananagutan ng gubyerno sa krisis at pangangailangan ng higit na pagkilos para sa pagpapatalsik kay Gloria.

Sountrack: With You (Chris Brown)

Boksingero ang Person of the Year ng masa, pero hindi si Manny Pacquiao. Mas mabagsik siya rito. Hindi nagluroy sa kayamanan, at nanatiling matibay ang prinsipyo’t paninindigan para sa interes ng mga mamamayan. Ang pagkamatay ni Ka Bel ay nagpakita ng tunay na paninidigan ng kilusang mapagpalaya para sa masa at bayan.

Tunay na idol ng kabataan at masa, kaya naman sa pagkamatay niya, lahat ay kasama sa pagdakila at pagpaparangal.

Soundtrack: Keep Bleeding (Leona Lewis)

Pagdating ng pasukan, talaga namang duduguin ang mga magulang sa taas ng matrikula sa mga pamantasan. Kaya naman protesta ang ibinungad sa enrolment pa lang. Nagbitiw ng salita ang gobyerno na wala raw magtataas ng matrikula, pero too late na, boladas lang din pala.

Soundtrack: Always Be My Baby (David Cook)

You’ll always be a part of me na ang mga pagtaas ng presyo ng langis. Halos linggu-linggo ang pagsirit ng presyo. Sunud-sunod din na militanteng mga aksiyon ang pinangunahan ng mga kabataan sa mga opisina ng mga kompanya ng langis sa Makati, hanggang sa Oil Depot sa Pandacan.

Soundtrack: Imposible (KC Concepcion)

Hindi na raw para sa henerasyong ito ang malakihang mga pagkilos ng mga kabataan at walk-outs. Wala raw mainit na kontrobersiya na gaya ng noong unang kuwarto. Pero ang inaakalang imposible, nangyari noong Hulyo. Libu-libo ang lumabas sa kanilang klase at nagmartsa sa Kamaynilaan. Bitbit ang panawagan ‘di lang ng mga mag-aaral kundi ng mga mamamayan: pagpigil sa pagtaas ng presyo ng langis, pagtatanggal sa VAT at pagtataas ng sahod ng manggagawa.

Soundtrack: Betamax (Sandwich)

Wala pa noong Myx, wala pa noong MTV…

Tila blast from the past ang pagdiriwang ng anibersaryo ng League of Filipino Students noong ika-11 ng Setyembre, na kinatampukan ng isang produksiyon at pananalita ng mga naging kabahagi ng 31 taon ng liga. At siyempre, nagtapos ito sa isang lighting rally na muling kumalampag sa seal ng US Embassy habang sumisigaw ng “Imperyalismo, Ibagsak!”

Soundtrack: Pare Ko (Eraserheads)

Kasabay ng euphoria ng Eraserheads reunion, mapapakanta ka ng: “O, Diyos ko, ano ba naman ito! Di ba, @#$%!” Dahil sa paglulunsad ni Arroyo ng todong digma sa Mindanao na ang ipinalusot pang dahilan ay ang MOA-AD. Hinarap ito ng mga forum at mga candle lighting protests sa mga paaralan.

Soundtrack: Low low low (Waray Version)

Dahil sa pagsigabo ng kilusang kabataan, talaga namang low, low, low na sa kawalanghiyaan ang mga pamamaraan ng rehimen sa panunupil at karahasan. ‘Di makatarungang pinatalsik ang mga mag-aaral ng JRU, nahuli ang mga ahente ng militar na nanghaharas sa PUP, at samu’t saring mga kaso pa ng paglabag sa karapatan ang natala sa mga kampus. Dagdag pa ang pekeng Magna Carta na pinakana ng mga nagpapanggap na progresibo sa Kongreso.

Soundtrack: I’m Yours (Jason Mraz)

Kanilang-kanila talaga ang suporta ng mga kabataan na araw-araw na natulog at dumagsa sa picketline ng Kowloon at dumayo din sa iba’t iba pang mga picketline gaya ng sa Advan, Far East Garments at iba pa, lalo na noong panahon ng bakasyon.

Soundtrack: No Air (Jordin Sparks)

Naubusan man ng hangin sa pagsasalin at pagsasalita ng Ingles, todo ang paglahok ng mga organisasyon ng kabataan sa internasyunal na kaganapang ito na nagpakita na puro hangin lang talaga ang sinasabing ginhawa ng buhay at pag-unlad sa pamamagitan ng pangingibang-bayan.

Soundtrack: I Will Always Love You (Charice Pempenco)

Todo kung todo sa pagbirit ang rehimen sa pagtutulak na makapanatili sa puwesto at maisulong ang interes ng dayuhan. Cha-Cha pa rin ang sayaw ng rehimen, kilusang masa naman ang pantapat ng bayan. At showdown kung showdown ang tapatan, na siya pa ring posibleng maging tono sa pagpasok ng 2009. Pumiyok na ang rehimen, habang papabuwelo pa lang ang mga mamamayan.

Nakakitaan ang kabataan ng sigasig sa pagtugon sa mga isyung pambayan ang mga kabataan noong 2008, at unti-unti, nauunawaan nito ng higit ang kahulugan ng pagiging pag-asa ng bayan. Pero marami pang kailangang pag-aralan, paghusayan at paunlarin para higit pang mag-ambag sa pagbabagong panlipunan.

Mitsa pa lang sa excitement ang 2008, mas malaki pang mga pasabog na tagumpay katapat ng pagsambulat ng krisis ang naghihintay sa susunod na taon.

Maligaya at makabuluhang 2009! Tuloy-tuloy sa pagkilos, paglilingkod at paglaban!

Konteksto: Kultural na epekto ng papalalang krisis

January 8, 2009

Danilo Araña Arao

MARAMING nagsasabing mas mararamdaman ng Pilipinas ang pandaigdigang krisis pampinansiya sa taong 2009. May dahilan ba para mag-alala ang mga mamamayan?

Para sa iyo, maaaring ang sagot ay ”oo” dahil tayong lahat ay apektado ng pang-ekonomiyang kalagayan, mahirap man o mayaman. Pero sang-ayon ka namang may iba’t ibang antas ng epekto ang isang krisis depende sa iyong pampinansiyang katayuan.

Kung mayaman ka’t may sapat na naipon, kayang-kaya mong mapanatili ang nakagisnang marangyang pamumuhay. Pero kung mahirap ka’t walang mapagkukunan ng pera, mas matindi ang epekto ng inaasahang pagtaas ng presyo ng bilihin dahil sa krisis.

Maraming indikasyon nitong mga nakaraang araw ng pangkalahatang pagtitipid ng mga mamamayan. Kapansin-pansin ang matumal na bentahan sa palengke noong Pasko’t Bagong Taon. Kahit na sabihing may epekto ang pag-ulan noong Disyembre 31, ang napabalitang mas mababang bilang ng mga isinugod sa ospital dahil sa paputok ay posibleng bunsod ng mas mababang bilang ng mga taong bumili ng mga paputok kumpara sa mga nagdaang taon.

Maganda mang balita ang pagbaba ng presyo ng mga produktong petrolyo – bagama’t hindi sapat ang mga ipinatupad na rollback kung susuriin ang presyo ng krudo sa pandaigdigang pamilihan – hindi ba’t nakababahala ang napabalitang kakulangan sa suplay ng LPG (liquefied petroleum gas)?

Wala pang malinaw na ebidensiya kung totoo nga ba ito at kung sino ang responsable kung sakali. Pero kailangang tandaang ang isang indikasyon ng krisis ang pagtatago ng mga kapitalista sa kanilang suplay at pagbebenta nito kapag tumaas na ang presyo. Sa konteksto ng pandaigdigang krisis pampinansiya, lubhang kailangang bantayan ang suplay ng mga sensitibong produkto tulad ng LPG.

Alam nating lahat na anumang pagkukulang sa suplay ay magreresulta sa pagtaas ng demand sa produkto. Ang mataas na demand sa isang produkto ay mangangahulugan ng pagtaas sa presyo nito.
Para sa isang mahirap na pamilya, malaking sakit ng ulo ang sitwasyon ng pagtaas ng presyo. Kung ang mga hindi kinakailangang gastusin ay madaling isakripisyo, hindi ganito ang kaso para sa mga batayang pangangailangan tulad ng pagkain at gamot. Kailangang maging mapanlikha ang isang tao para makatipid at mabuhay araw-araw.

Ang pagiging mapanlikha ay may epekto sa kultura ng mahihirap, at ang manipestasyon nito ay kapansin-pansin na.

Sa mga karinderya’t turo-turo, halimbawa, maaari nang bumili ng kalahating kanin at ulam lang. Sa halip na tatlong beses kumain bawat araw, maaaring dalawa o isang beses na lang – narinig mo na siguro ang terminong ”altanghap” na pinagsamang almusal, tanghalian at hapunan. Ang instant noodles ay ginagawa na ring ulam ngayon at hinahalo sa kanin, kahit malinaw na wala itong nutritional value at maraming preservatives. Mayroon namang bumibili ng kanin at nakikiusap na lang na lagyan ng sarsa ng adobo o apritada sa ibabaw. Kahit walang ulam, puwede na kahit sarsa! Aba, kahit ang tsaa ay natitipid na rin sa pamamagitan ng paulit-ulit na paggamit ng tea bag.

Sa konteksto ng krisis, wala sa kultura ng mahihirap ang mabusog. Para sa isang manggagawang kailangan ang lakas para makapagtrabaho, ang kailangan lang ay magkalaman ang tiyan para magampanan ang gawain at makuha ang kakarampot na suweldo.

At kung talagang wala nang pambili ng pagkain, alam mo ba ang ginagawang pantawid-gutom? Sa maniwala ka’t hindi, gin! Mura lang ang tinatawag na ”bilog” at mabilis ka raw tatamaan kahit ilang shot lang nito. Kapag lasing ka na, hindi mo na mararamdaman ang kalam ng iyong tiyan. (Ang alak, tulad ng droga, ay nagsisilbing pangunahing instrumento ng pagtakas sa malupit na realidad ng lipunan.)

Ito ang dahilan kung bakit sa mahihirap na lugar, nakakakita ka ng mga nanay na umiinom ng gin kahit tanghaling tapat. Huwag mo sanang agad na husgahan sila bilang mga lasenggera’t iresponsableng nanay, dahil may posibilidad na bilang ilaw ng tahanan, naubusan na sila ng pagkain dahil inuna nila ang kanilang asawa’t mga anak.
Kung ang pagkain ay natitipid, pati na rin ang gamot. Nagiging gawi na rin ng mahihirap na pamilya na hatiin ang mga binibiling gamot dahil kaya naman daw na mapagaling ang isang may sakit kahit limitado ang dosage.

Ang isang hinating tabletang paracetamol, halimbawa, ay ginagamit para pagalingin ang lagnat ng dalawang tao. Kung may gamot na ang prescription ay para sa apat na araw, ang binibiling suplay ay para lang sa dalawang araw. Hindi man tuluyang mapagaling ang isang may-sakit, may paniniwalang makakaya na niyang makapagtrabahong muli dahil sa limitadong bisa ng gamot na kinuha niya.

Pero ano ang epekto sa kalusugan ng kultura ng limitadong pagkain? Paano na kung lumala ang kalagayan ng isang tao dahil sa hindi pagkuha ng sapat na gamot?

Ang pag-iisip ng kawalang pag-asa ay hindi katanggap-tanggap sa sitwasyong ito dahil higit pa sa pagtitipid ang dapat gawin. Ang pagiging mapanlikha ay kinakailangan sa panahon ng krisis pero hindi ito dapat maging bahagi ng ating kultura.

Para makipag-ugnayan sa awtor, pumunta sa

Husgahan Natin: Kahalagahan ng preliminary investigation

January 8, 2009

Atty. Remigio D. Saladero Jr.

SINASABI ng batas na bago sampahan ng kaso sa husgado ang isang tao, kailangang dumaan muna siya sa tinatawag na preliminary investigation. Napakahalaga ng prosesong ito. Ito ang yugto kung kailan gumagawa ng imbestigasyon ang prosecutor (taga-usig) kung ang isang reklamo ay makatotohanan ba at dapat bang isampa sa husgado.

Ginagawa ng prosecutor ang imbestigasyong ito sa pamamagitan ng masusing pag-aaral sa ebidensiya ng bawa’t panig. Una muna ay tinitingnan niya ang salaysay ng nagrereklamo. Pangalawa ay pinapadalhan niya ng kopya ng demanda ang inirereklamo at binibigyan ang huli ng pagkakataong magbigay ng kanyang kontra-salaysay. Pagkatapos ay pag-aaralan niya ang salaysay ng nagrereklamo at kontra-salaysay ng inirereklamo at kung tingin niya ay may posibilidad na totoo ang reklamo, saka pa lamang siya gagawa ng information o pormal na habla para sa husgado. Pagdating sa husgado, muling pag-aaralan ng hukom ang papeles ng kaso at kung tingin niya ay tama ang prosecutor, saka pa lamang siya maglalabas ng warrant of arrest.

Tulad ng nasabi ko na, napakahalaga ng preliminary investigation. Sa pamamagitan nito ay nasasala ang mga kasong dapat isampa sa husgado at naiiwasan ang pagsampa ng mga kasong walang kabuluhan o walang kaebi-ebidensiya.

May mga pagkakataon na hindi na kailangang dumaan sa preliminary investigation ang isang kaso. Tulad halimbawa, kung nahuli ka ng mga awtoridad sa akto ng pagsagawa ng isang krimen. Dito, puwede nang magsampa ng pormal na habla ang prosecutor na hindi dadaan sa preliminary investigation. O di kaya, kung minor offenses lamang ang habla o iyong mga krimeng hindi lalampas sa apat na taon at dalawang buwan lamang ng pagkakulong ang parusa. Hindi na rin kailangan ang preliminary investigation sa pagkakataong ito.

Subalit sa iba pang uri ng mga kaso, tulad halimbawa ng murder, robbery, kidnapping, o mga kaso sa droga, basta’t hindi sa akto nahuli ang nasasakdal, kailangan ang preliminary investigation. At hindi basta lamang preliminary investigation. Kailangang ang preliminary investigation na ito ay mahigpit na sumusunod sa tamang proseso at hindi “moro-moro” lamang.

Sa kasong “Vicente P. Ladlad, vs. Senior State Prosecutor Emmanuel Velasco,” (G.R. No. 172070-72) na denisisyunan ng Korte Suprema noong Hunyo 1, 2007, hindi sinunod ng prosecutor ang tamang proseso sa pagsagawa ng preliminary investigation. Hindi pinanumpaan ng mga pulis na testigo ang kanilang salaysay sa harap ng prosecutor. Mayroong isang testigo na nanumpa sa harap ng prosecutor ngunit siya ay nakamaskara. Pagkatapos niya manumpa, binigay ng prosecutor ang kanyang salaysay sa mga kasapi ng mass media na nandoon, hindi sa mga akusado.

Nagreklamo ang mga akusado sa Department of Justice kung bakit ganoon ang proseso ngunit hindi sila pinakinggan. Napilitan silang dalhin sa Korte Suprema ang kaso.

Pinanigan ng Korte Suprema ang mga akusado. Sinabi ng Korte Suprema na mali ang proseso ng preliminary investigation na isinagawa ng prosecutor at kung baga, para itong palabas o “moro-moro” lamang. Ito ay lumalabag sa karapatan sa “due process” ng mga akusado. Napakahalaga ng prosesong ito, paliwanag ng Korte Suprema, dahil dito pa lamang malalaman na kung dapat isampa sa kortre ang isang kaso o hindi. Dahil sa pagbabalewala nito ng prosecutor, depektibo ang kasong isinampa nito sa korte at dapat lamang itong ibasura. Kaya, pinawalang bisa ng Korte Suprema ang kasong isinampa laban sa mga akusado.

Bakit ito naman ang napili kong pag-usapan sa ating kolum ngayon, mga mambabasa? Sapagkat tulad ng kaso nina Vicente Ladlad ay hindi rin dumaan sa tamang preliminary investigation ang aming kaso. At tulad sa kaso ni Vicente Ladlad, at iba pang kaso kung saan napahiya ang rehimeng Arroyo ay umaasa rin kaming ibabasura ng husgado ang aming kaso.

Sampung yumanig sa 2008

January 8, 2009

PW Editorial Staff

Pinoy Weekly top 10 stories of 2008

MAKAILANG-BESES nagbago ang klima ng pulitika sa bansa noong taong 2008.

Sa pagsisimula ng taon, laluna noong Pebrero, muling humagupit ang malalakas na mga protesta laban sa administrasyong Arroyo bunsod ng mga imbestigasyon sa NBN-ZTE. Tulad ng inaasahan na tuwing unang kuwarto ng taon (ano ang nasa unang kuwarto at palaging natataon dito ang malalaking kilos-protesta?), bumuhos ang mga tao sa kalsada para irehistro ang kanilang disgusto sa panunungkulan ng nakaupong pangulo.

Pero mahusay maghanda sa panahon ng bagyo ang administrasyon. Muling napahupa nito ang sigwa — kapwa dahil sa hina pa rin ng tradisyunal na oposisyon at kilusang masa, at ng tusong pagmamaniobra ng nasa puwesto para makaiwas sa pananagutan sa taumbayan.

At nang makabawi ang administrasyon, muling bumigwas ito sa mga kalaban: sa mga oposisyon sa Senado at Kamara, at sa progresibong mga organisasyon. Nagpatuloy ang pamamaslang, pagdukot, panunupil at pagkaso sa militanteng mga lider.

Kalagitnaan ng taon, dumating ang balitang inakalang mabuti ng taumbayang Moro. Ito ang pagbuo ng kasunduang gagarantiya dapat sa kanila ng karapatang magpasya sa sariling lupain. Pero lumabas na bahagi lamang ito ng maniobra ng administrasyon. Lalo lamang nasadlak sa ligalig ang Mindanao.

Krisis naman — krisis sa pagkain at mga bilihin, sa presyo ng langis, sa pandaigdigang pinansiya — ang bumayo sa pangalawang bahagi ng taon. Hindi lang nagkataon na sa taong 2008 naganap ang mga ito. Sabi nga ng progresibong mga ekonomista, resulta lamang ito ng deka-dekadang pagpapatupad ng neoliberal na ekonomiya na nakatuon sa interes ng kakarampot na kapitalista.

Krisis, digmaan, korupsiyon, karalitaan at panunupil: Masalimuot ang kalagayan ng bansa at mundo sa nagdaang 2008. Pero sabi nga ng isang pantas,”rehearsal” o ensayo lamang ang nakaraang mga kaganapan sa inaasahang lalo pang malalaking kaganapan sa taong 2009.

10. Pamunuan ng dalawang Kongreso, binalasa

Sukob sa taong 2008, napalitan ng pamunuan ang Mataas at Mababang Kapulungan ng Kongreso. Tulad ng inaasahan, mga kaalyado ng Malakanyang ang ang pumalit sa kanilang puwesto.

Unang pinalitan noong Pebrero 4 si Espiker Jose de Venecia Jr, kilalang alyado ni Pangulong Arroyo. Nagsimula ang paghihiwalay ng landas ng dalawa nang ibunyag ni Joey de Venecia, anak ni JDV, ang overpricing na $200 Milyon sa national broadband network (NBN) deal.

Co-owner ng Amsterdam Holdings Inc. (AHI) si batang de Venecia na aniya’y naisantabi sa bidding dahil sa pagmamaniobra ni Unang Ginoo Jose Miguel Arroyo para mapunta ang kontrata sa kompanyang Tsino na ZTE Corporation.

Matapos ang paghihiwalay na ito, ibinunyag na rin ni JDV ang malawakang dayaan ng eleksiyon noong 2004, ang mga iregularidad sa pagbebenta sa Transco pabor sa malalapit sa mga Arroyo, ang maanomalyang paggamit sa road users’ tax at iba pang korupsiyon sa ilalim ng kasalukuyang administrasyon.

Nagbitiw naman sa pagiging Pangulo ng Mataas na Kapulungan si Senador Manuel Villar noong Nobyembre 17. Ayon sa kanyang pahayag, ginawa niya iyon matapos mapag-alaman na wala na ang suporta ng mayorya ng mga kasama sa Senado. Kagyat na nag-eleksiyon ang kapulungan matapos ang kudeta kay Villar. Sa botong 14-0 at anim na abstention, pumalit sa kanya si Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile. Matatandaan na si Enrile ang arkitekto ng Batas Militar. Kilala rin siyang pabor sa isinusulong na Charter Change ng administrasyon.

Bago ang pagbibitiw, uminit si Villar sa kontrobersiya hinggil sa C-5 kung saan nagkaroon diumano ng “double insertion” sa badyet. Naniniwala si Sen. Allan Peter Cayetano na mayor na dahilan sa kudeta kay Villar ang eleksiyon sa 2010 kung saan mayroon ding ambisyon sa pagkapangulo ang iba pang senador na sina Lacson, Legarda, Roxas at Gordon.

Soliman A. Santos

9. Ang ikaapat na tangkang impeachment at ang Charter Change

Ayon sa mga kritiko ng administrasyong Arroyo, ang magkasunod na pagbabasura ng reklamong impeachment at pagsasalang sa Kamara ng panukalang Charter Change ay magkaugnay na usapin. Anila, minadali ang una upang bigyang daan ang huli. Paano nga ba’ y ang isa ay may kinalaman sa pagpapatalsik sa puwesto sa pangulo habang ang isa naman ay may layon umanong pahabain ang termino nito.

Apat na magkakasunod na taon tinangka ng mga puwersa ng oposisyon na patalsikin ang pangulo gamit ang proseso ng impeachment. Sa pinakahuling reklamo na pinasa sa tanggapan ng House Secretary General noong Oktubre 13, tiwala ang mga nagpasa at nag-endorso ng reklamo na sina Joey de Venecia, Erlinda Cadapan at mga representante ng progresibong mga party-list gaya ni Rep. Satur Ocampo ng Bayan Muna na ito na ang pinakamalakas at pinaka-kumprehensibong impeachment complaint na haharapin ng pangulo.

Kabilang sa mga mga pagkakasala ng pangulo na nakasaad sa naturang reklamo ay ang betrayal of public trust dahil sa mga anomalyang kinakasangkutan ng kanyang administrasyon, malalang paglabag sa karapatang pantao at matinding katiwalian.

Ngunit tulad ng mga reklamong impeachment ng nakaraang mga taon, kaagad itong nabasura sa Kongreso pa lamang.

Samantala, isa sa pinakamainit na usapin ngayon sa bansa ang Charter Change. Duda ang mga kritiko ng pangulo na taktika ito ng administrasyon upang pahabain ang termino ng pangulo. Sa gayon, anila, ay mabibigyan ng immunity ang pangulo laban sa mga kasong maaaring isampa sa kanya na tiyak na hindi niya malulusutan oras na wala na siya sa kapangyarihan.

Tutol naman ang makabayang mga organisasyon sa iba pang laman ng panukalang pagbabago sa 1986 Saligang Batas gaya ng pagbibigay ng karapatan sa mga dayuhan ng magmay-ari ng mga lupain sa bansa.

Nagkasa na ng iba’t ibang pagkilos ang mga puwersa ng oposisyon gaya ng naganap sa Ayala noon lamang Disyembre 12. Simula pa lamang umano ito ng ‘countdown’ ng sunud–sunod na pagkilos para maibasura ang Cha-Cha.

Jeffrey Ocampo

8. Kontrapelo ng migrante sa GFMD, kahihiyan ni Arroyo

Inisponsor ng gobyernong Arroyo at ginastusan ng milyun-milyong piso ang pagganap sa Maynila noong Oktubre ng ikalawang Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD), multilateral na pag-uusap hinggil sa migrasyon ng United Nations (UN). Layong ibida ang umano’y mga ganansiya sa polisiyang labor export na nagpaluwas sa bansa ng mahigit 10 milyong Pilipino, sa halip ay napahiya ang Pangulo sa pagpugot ng ulo sa isang OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker) at pagdagsa ng mga migrante mula sa iba’t ibang panig ng mundo para iprotesta ang GFMD.

Noong Oktubre 14, pinugutan ng ulo sa Saudi Arabia ang 27-anyos na OFW mula sa Zamboanga na si Jennifer Bidoya, na ayon sa kanyang mga kapamilya ay hindi tinulungan ng Department of Foreign Affairs na translator lamang ang ipinadala sa paglilitis. Nailantad muli ang mahigit 30 pang OFW sa death row at ang pagpapabaya ng gobyerno sa mga migranteng Pilipino. Nailantad ding muli ang kabiguan ng gobyerno na makapaglikha ng trabaho at lalong hikayatin ang pangingibang-bansa sa kabila ng kapahamakan, eksploytasyon, at pagkawasak sa pamilya na dulot nito.

Halos kasabay ng pagputok ng pandaigdigang krisis pampinansiya ang GFMD, kaya’t sa napipintong pag-uwi ng libu-libong OFW na masisibak sa trabaho, hindi na maitambol pa nang husto ng Pangulo ang migrasyon bilang solusyon sa kahirapan ng pamilyang Pilipino at sa naghihingalong ekonomiya ng bansa. Maging ang pahayag sa GFMD ni Ban Ki-Moon, pangkalahatang kalihim ng UN, na migrasyon ang lulutas sa krisis, hindi nakaani ng gaanong pansin at suporta.

Pinutakte rin ng puna ang gobyernong Arroyo at ang GFMD ng International Assembly of Migrants and Refugees (IAMR), alternatibong pagtitipon ng mga migrante mula sa mahigit 100 bansa. Sa pangunguna ng International Migrants Alliance, hindi nagpadala ng remitans ang maraming migrante bilang simbolikong protesta sa umano’y sapilitang migrasyon at kung paano pinagkakakitaan ang remitans ng mga gobyerno at imperyalistang institusyong pampinansiya.

Madaragdagan pa ng dalawang milyon ang mga OFW sa 2010. Magpapatuloy ang migrasyon, pero iigting din ang krisis na magpapatindi sa pang-aabuso at panggigipit sa mga migrante. Mabuti na lamang at nariyan ang IAMR na magsisilbing boses ng mga migrante ng mundo, kontrapelo sa GFMD at iba pang “pakulo” para lalong isistematisa ang umano’y “modernong pang-aalipin.”

Ilang-Ilang Quijano

7. Panunupil sa Southern Tagalog 72: Pinakahuli lamang sa serye ng panunupil ng gobyernong Arroyo

Tinaguriang Southern Tagalog 72 (ST 72), mga lider-aktibista silang sinampahan ng “gawa-gawang mga kasong kriminal” upang bigyan ng “legal na mukha ang panunupil ng rehimeng Arroyo” sa kanilang hanay.

Kasong arson kaugnay umano ng pagpapasabog ng isang cell site ng Globe Telecom sa Lemery, Batangas at frustrated murder at multiple frustrated murder kaugnay naman ng pananambang sa mga kapulisan sa Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro ang ngayon’y nakasampa laban sa kanila. Kasunod nito’y isa-isang dinakip ang mga akusado. Una na sa kanila ang chief legal counsel ng Kilusang Mayo Uno at kolumnista ng Pinoy Weeky na si Atty. Remigio Saladero na dinakip noong Oktubre 23. Dawit umano ang abogado sa parehong kaso sa Batangas at Mindoro.

Sa kasalukuyan, anim ang dinakip at piniit sa Calapan City Provincial Jail at dumaranas ng hirap at pasakit ng pagbibilanggo umano sa kanila ng Estado.

Ayon sa Bagong Alyansang Makabayan sa Southern Tagalog, kung saan kasapi bilang pangrehiyon o pangprobinsiyang lider ang mga akusado, bahagi ito ng panunupil ng administrasyong Arroyo sa kanyang masusugid na mga kritiko sa hanay ng makabayang mga organisasyon. Iba umano itong taktika ng panunupil upang pahupain ang mga batikos sa pamahalaan sa loob at labas ng bansa dahil sa papalubhang estadistika ng paglabag sa karapatang pantao gaya ng pamamaslang, pandudukot at iba’t ibang porma ng harasment sa mga aktibista.

Matatandaang nauna nang sinampahan ng mga kasong kriminal ang mga representante ng progresibong mga party-list na sina Satur Ocampo, Teddy Casiño, Liza Maza, Rafael Mariano, Joel Virador at ang namayapang si Crispin Beltran. At bago ang kaso ng ST 72, mayroon nang tinaguriang Tagaytay 5, mga tagapagtaguyod ng karapatan ng mga magsasaka na sinampahan rin ng mga kaso.

Ayon sa grupong Karapatan, sa kabila nito’y patuloy pa rin ang mga kaso ng pagpatay at pandudukot sa taong 2008. Sa taong ito,nakapagtala ang grupo ng 50 kaso ng pamamaslang at 7 kaso ng pagdukot. Samantala, kasama ang 6 na bilanggo sa bilang ng ilegal na inaresto na may kabuuang bilang na 1,464 mula noong 2001, dagdag ng grupo.

Jeffrey Ocampo

6. Kampeon ng manggagawa, pumanaw

Pumanaw noong Mayo 20 si Anakpawis Rep. Crispin Beltran matapos maaksidente habang kinukumpuni ang tumutulong bubungan sa kanyang tahanan.

Nagluksa ang mga manggagawa at sambayanang Pilipino na kanyang pinaglingkuran. Libu-libo ang nakiramay at naghatid kay Ka Bel sa kanyang huling hantungan. Dumagsa ang mga mensahe ng pakikiramay mula sa iba’t bang panig ng daigdig. Kahit ang Malakanyang ay nagpaabot ng pagsaludo at pakikiramay sa kanya.

Si Ka Bel ay naging unyonista at tagapangulo ng Kilusang Mayo Uno. Naging tagapangulo rin siya ng International League of Peoples’ Struggle. Ikinulong si Ka Bel noong panahon ng Batas Militar. Muli siyang ikinulong noong 2006 sa panahon ni Pangulong Arroyo.

Sa kabila nito ay hindi napatahimik si Ka Bel sa kanyang pagsusulong sa interes ng uring inaapi. Nananatiling buhay ang diwa at mga adhikain ni Ka Bel sa puso at isip ng uring anakpawis at sambayanang Pilipino.

5. Ang pagtaas ang pagbaba ng presyo ng langis

Patuloy na umakyat ang presyo ng krudo sa pandaigdigang merkado. Umakyat ng hanggang US$115 hanggang US$147 kada bariles ng krudo, at dinagdagan pa ng 36% pag-akyat ng buwis para dito.

Ispekulasyon sa presyo ang itinuturo bilang isang malaking dahilan ng ganitong pagtaas ng presyo ng langis sa pamilihan, kaalinsabay na rin ng pahinang halaga ng dolyar ng Estados Unidos dahilan ng nararanasang krisis pang-ekonomiya ng bansa.

Ang dahilan ng ispekulasyon ayon sa isang eksperto ay ganito. Naglalaro lamang sa $70 hanggang $80 kada bariles ang paglikom ng pinakamahal na langis. Nadadagdagan ito ng tinatawag na “market’s risk premium plus speculation”.

Artipisyal na itinataas ng spekulasyon ang presyo dahil hindi naman sa tiyak na merkado (spot market) mismo ang palitan kundi sa pang-matagalang kontrata ng suplay. Dito namumunini ang transnasyunal na mga kumpanya ng langis. Mismong si John Hofmeister, ang presidente ng Shell Oil, ang umamin na magiging (successful) ang kanyang kumpanya sa langis na naglalaro sa presyong $35 hanggang $65 kada bariles.

Mula sa P6 na minimum na pasahe para sa mga dyip sa simula ng taon, umakyat ito ng P7.50 hanggang umabot pa ng P8.50. Kamakailan lamang naibaba ito sa P7.50 dahilan diumano ng ilang pagbaba ng presyo ng krudo sa pandaigdigang merkado. Ilang kilos-protesta rin ang isinagawa ng ilang grupong namamasada tulad ng Piston (Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Operator Nationwide) upang ihayag ang kanilang pagkadismaya sa tuluy-tuloy na pagtaas ng presyo ng langis.

Darius R. Galang

4. ‘Moro-moro’ ni Arroyo sa Mindanao

Magkahalong galak at takot ang naramdaman ng iba’t ibang komunidad sa Moro Mindanao nang ianunsiyo ang paglagda ng gobyernong Arroyo at Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) sa Memorandum of Agreement and Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) noong Agosto.

Galak dahil para sa mga Moro, simula ito ng pagkilala ng gobyerno ng Pilipinas sa karapatan sa pagsasarili sa sariling lupain. May sariling kasaysayan at kultura ang sambayang Moro, anila. Ito ang kalayaang matagal nang ipinaglalaban ng mga kilusang sesesyonista sa lugar, mula sa Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) hanggang sa MILF.

Pero takot sa MOA-AD ang ipinakalat sa hanay ng sibilyang di-Moro ng ilang lokal na pulitiko.Unang ibinalita ng Pinoy Weekly ang “pagpaypay” ng pulitikong pamilyang Piñol at iba pa sa kawalan ng tiwala ng ilang komunidad ng Kristiyano sa North Cotabato at Maguindanao sa mga Muslim. Bago pa lagdaan ang MOA-AD, naghahasik na ng lagim sa mga Moro ang muling-nabuhay na grupong paramilitar sa naturang mga lalawigan. Samantala, nagtalaga na ng mga tropang militar ang Philippine Army dito.

Naibalita sa midya ang nakatakdang paglalagda sa Malaysia ng dalawang panig sa naturang kasunduan. Ginamit ito na oportunidad nina Piñol para ikampanya sa publiko ang ilegalidad diumano ng MOA-AD. Sinakyan naman ng mga pulitikong tulad ni Sen. Mar Roxas ang kampanya para ibasura ang kasunduan. Noong Agosto 5, naglabas ng temporary restraining order sa paglalagda ng MOA-AD ang Korte Suprema.

Naging mitsa ito para muling sumiklab ang matinding bakbakan sa Mindanao. Inatake diumano ng mga puwersa ni Kumander Bravo ng MILF ang Kristiyanong mga komunidad noong Agosto 18. Umabot sa 41 katao ang nabalitang napaslang. Sa mga panayam ng Pinoy Weekly, inamin ng mga lider ng MILF na may “pagmamalabis” sa kanilang hanay na ikinasawi ng ilang sibilyan. Pero binigyang-diin nila na karamihan sa mga napaslang ay miyembro pa rin ng mga grupong paramilitar.

Matapos nito, hayagang nagdeklara na ang gobyernong Arroyo ng giyera kontra sa MILF. Mistulang winakasan ang usapang pangkapayapaan ang nagdeploy ng karagdagang mga tropa para tugisin sina Bravo at isa pang kumander ng MILF sa Maguindanao, si Kumander Umbra Kato.

Ang resulta – walang tigil na digmaan magpahanggang ngayon sa Mindanao. Sa ulat ng Kalinaw Mindanao, aabot na sa kalahating milyong sibilyan ang nagsilikas. Isang humanitarian crisis – matinding kawalan ng kabuhayan at bahay, gutom, malnourishment sa mga bata, sakit – ang sumisiklab ngayon dito.

Samantala, sa kalagitnaan ng mga debate sa publiko hinggil sa MOA-AD, pasimpleng binuksan ng mga tagapagsalita ng Malakanyang ang posibilidad na itulak ang Charter Change para mabigyang legal na batayan ang naturang kasunduan. Agad na nasilip ito ng mga kritiko ng administrasyon: Tila taktika lamang umano ang kunwa-kunwaring planong pagpirma at biglang pag-atras sa MOA-AD ng Malakanyang para lalong mapalawig ang panunungkulan ni Pangulong Arroyo.

Kenneth Roland A. Guda

3. Krisis sa bigas: Marami pa ang kakainin natin

Sa gitna ng pagiging depende ng bansa sa angkat na bigas, nagkaroon ng kakulangan sa suplay ng bigas. Ang 10%hanggang 15% na bahagi ng angkat na bigas para sa pambansang suplay ay kinulang, hanggang umabot sa pinakamataas ng presyo ng bigas sa loob ng 34 taon.

Pandaigdigang kakulangan sa stock ng bigas at iba pang pagkain ang nagsimula ng biglaang pagtaas ng mga presyo nito. Paglamig at peste ang nakaapekto sa mga produkto ng Tsina, habang nakaranas naman ng pagbaha ang Vietnam at ang Pilipinas.

Napilitan na ang ilang bansa tulad ng Vietnam at Cambodia na magpaliit hanggang sa tuluyang itigil ang pag-eeksport ng kanilang bigas. Kaakibat na rin nito ang problemang agraryo ng Pilipinas tulad ng land conversion, subsidiya sa mga magsasaka, sa pagbanggit lamang ng iilan.

Dumoble ang presyo ng bigas. Umakyat hanggang P50 ang isang kilo ng bigas. Tampok sa mga isyu ang pagtatago/pag-ho-hoarde ng ilang rice retailers ng kanilang suplay sa gitna na rin ng spekulasyon ng lalong pataas na presyo ng bilihin.

Naging tampok na pangitain sa pang-araw-araw ang mga pila sa tindahan ng bigas, at pag-lilimita ng mabibiling bigas. May napaulat pa na nagkaroon ng riot sa pila sa ilang pare ng Mindanaw. Naging isyu na rin ang inilabas na bigas ng gobyerno, dahil bagamat abot-kaya ng mahihirap ang inilabas na NFA rice na nagkakahalaga ng P18.75, ay napakababa ng kalidad kumpara sa komersiyal na mga variety na nasa pamilihan.

Darius R. Galang

2. Iskandalong NBN-ZTE at Fertilizer Fund: Ebidensiyang matingkad ng Pangulong korap?

Umalingasaw gaya ng bahong matagal nang itinatago ang pinakamatitingkad na ebidensiya ng pagkakasangkot diumano ni Pangulong Arroyo sa matagal nang bumabagabag sa kanyang iskandalo sa proyektong National Broadband Network at pagbili ng overpriced na pataba.

Sa unang kuwarto ng taon ang dramatikong‘pangingidnap’ ng mga opisyal ng administrasyong Arroyo kay Engr. Rodolfo “Jun” Lozada Jr. para mapigilan o makompromiso ito sa pagtestigo sa Senado hinggil sa overpriced at di-mapapakinabangang $329-M proyektong NBN. Hindi nito napigilan ang pangungumpisal at paglalahad ng nalalaman ng dating adviser ni dating Kal. Romulo Neri ng National Economic Development Authority—kabilang rito, na alam ni Pangulong Arroyo na may suhulan sa proyekto pero inaprubahan pa rin.

Sa Korte Suprema pa dumulog si Neri para lamang manatiling sikreto, o “pribilehiyong ehekutibo” ang utos o tindig ni Arroyo sa proyekto. Gayunpaman, lumabas pa rin ang totoo—naibandera ang mga litrato ng Pangulo at Unang Ginoo Mike Arroyo na nakikipaglaro ng golf sa mga opisyal ng ZTE Corp. noong Nob. 2, 2006. Hanggang sa mapatalsik si House Espiker Jose de Venecia, tumiwalag, at inilahad sa kanyang biography na, oo, kasama siya ng mag-asawang Arroyo sa pulong sa Shenzen, Tsina. Ang Unang Ginoo pa mismo diumano ang nagmungkahi ng transaksiyong gobyerno-sa-gobyerno.

Samantala, bumalik sa bansa noong Oktubre si dating Usec. Jocelyn “Joc-Joc” Bolante ng Department of Agriculture matapos ang apat na taong ‘pagtatago’ sa Estados Unidos. Yayat at namumuti ang buhok, humarap si Joc-Joc sa Senado para itanggi ang papel sa anomalya at ipawalang-sala rito si Arroyo. Sa sobrang paghuhugas-kamay walang senador ang naniwala at nagpapatuloy ang imbestigasyon dito. Mas interesante ang naglitawang mga testigo kamakailan gaya ni Julie Gregorio, presidente ng Feshan na suplayer ng pataba, na umaming mas maliit nang P52-M ang aktuwal na ibinayad ng gobyerno sa kompanya kaysa sa idineklara nito sa papel.

May dalawang bagong testigo sa P728-M Fertilizer Fund Scam na nakatakda sa Enero. Hindi pa rin umano nailalabas ni de Venecia ang lahat ng kanyang nalalaman hinggil sa mga anomalya ng Pangulo. Noong Pebrero nang lumantad si Lozada naganap ang pinakamalalaki at malalawak na kilos-protesta sa Ayala Ave., patunay na pinaka-ayaw ng taumbayan na sila’y pinagsisingungalingan at ninanakawan ng pera, lalo ng pinakamataas na opisyal ng bansa.

Ilang-Ilang D. Quijano

1. Pandaigdigang laban sa panahon ng pampinansiyang krisis sa daigdig

Ramdam ng buong mundo, laluna siyempre ng pinakamahirap na mga mamamayan ng mundo, ang krisis sa pinansiya ng US noong huling dalawang buwan ng taong 2008.

Bunsod ng walang habas na “ispekulatibong pamumuhunan” sa pagpapautang sa subprime mortgage sa bansang iyon, nasadlak sa matinding ligalig ang ekonomiya ng US. Apektado siyempre ang mga ekonomiya ng mga bansa, pero lalong apektado ang mga ekonomiyang nakadepende at tali rito – kabilang na siyempre ang Pilipinas.

“Pinakahuling manipestasyon lang ang kasalukuyang krisis ng pundamental na mga kontradiksiyon ng pandaigdigang sistemang kapitalista na tumitindi sa panahon ng imperyalistang globalisasyon, paliwanag ni Paul Quintos, ekonomistang maka-manggagawa mula sa Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research (Eiler). “Lumalala ang polarisasyong pang-ekonomiya, labis na akumulasyon ng kapital, at labis na produksiyon na nagdudulot ng pagtindi ng mga krisis na pang-ekonomiya at sa dulo’y nagluluwal ng pagkawasak ng produktibong mga puwersa ng lipunan.”

Sa pagdaan ng panahon, ani Quintos, lalo lamang titindi ang krisis ng sistemang kapitalista sa daigdig. Titindi rin ang atake sa karapatan ng nagtatrabahong mga mamamayan bunsod ng pagpupumilit ng mga kapitalista na bawiin ang numinipis na kita dahil sa krisis. Malawakan ang inaasahang tanggalan sa hanay ng mga manggagawa sa iba’t ibang bansa ngayong 2009. At sa kabila ng paniniguro ng mga opisyal ng gobyernong Arroyo na di masyadong maaapektuhan ang bansa ng krisis na ito, pinakamatinding binayo – at babayuhin – nito ang mga migranteng Pilipino.

Di bababa sa 3,000 Pilipino ngayon na nagtatrabaho sa mga bansang tulad ng South Korea, Taiwan at Macau ang nasibak o nanganganib na mawalan ng kabuhayan bunsod ng krisis. Sa United Arab Emirates, inamin mismo ni Labor Sec. Marianito Roque na may 3,000 Pinoy ang nasibak. Naiulat ng Migrante International na marami sa mga ito ang namumulubi na lamang sa iba’t ibang bahagi ng dayuhang bansa para mabuhay at makauwi.

Iyong mga manggagawa namang lumalaban para ipagtanggol ang karapatan ay inaatake rin. “Ipinapakita ng huling Taunang Sarbey ng mga Paglabag sa Karapatang Pangmanggagawa na inilathala ng ITUC [International Trade Union Conferedarion] ang nakakaalarmang pagdami ng mga pinatay dahil sa mga aktibidad na pang-unyon, mula 115 noong 2005 patungong 144 noong 2006, ani Quintos. “Sa Pilipinas, di bababa sa 87 unyonista at mga organisador ng mga manggagawa ang pinaslang simula noong 2001.”

Ngunit inaasahang lalakas pa ang hanay ng mga manggagawa at mamamayang lumalaban ngayong 2009. Para sa ekonomistang si Edberto Villegas ng Unibersidad ng Pilipinas-Manila, “Dapat magsimulang mamalayan ng lahat ng indibidwal na wastong mag-isip na ang solusyon sa di-maiwaksing pampinansiyang mga krisis ng kapitalismo, na dulot ng labis na produksiyon nito, ay hindi ang ireporma ang sistema tulad ng gustong gawin ng mga gobyernong kapitalista, at lalong hindi ang piyansahan ang sakim na mga institusyong kapitalista.”

Kenneth Roland A. Guda at Soliman A. Santos

Mga larawan nina Arwin Doloricon, Ariston Valle, King Catoy, AKP Images, Arkibong Bayan, KJ Rosales, at KR Guda


Editorial Cartoon: Sorry Aquino

January 7, 2009


Big Catch ni Erap

Congress Hearing on PDEA-DOJ Bribery Scandal(6)

January 7, 2009

Santiago claimed that Mrs Brodett texted one of his men saying “ano pa ba ang problema ng Gen. Santiago na yan e nabayaran na siya.”

Casiño asked Brodett if where did she get the idea the Santiago is already ‘paid’.

Brodett requested for her legal adviser, and so the solon allowed Mrs Brodett to skip answering his query.

Brodett’s relative attended the hearing too to clarify that they are not into drug pushing.  They confirmed that the Brodett in Alabang Boys is really a drug pusher and drug user.

Nagyabang na rin si Santiago sa kanyang intel work service, in his attempt to strengthen up his credibility.  He claimed that he’s the one who took the CPP purge ‘document’ seriously back then and it gave way, according to him, of the creation of the Operation Zombie.  He even cited the case of ABB then that he is the operator of its (ABB) ‘downfall.’

Congress Hearing on PDEA-DOJ Bribery Scandal(5)

January 7, 2009

General Santiago said that they opened the car in PDEAs compound and claimed that the one who opened the car was Brodett’s parents, and in th process of opening the car, a package of suspected drugs was discovered.

Resado countered that according to a report filed by the security agency of Ayala-Alabang, the car was opened there and the PDEA agent discovered a suspected package of drugs there.  He raised this point as he points at santiago’s statement as contradictory to the security agency’s report.

Congress Hearing on PDEA-DOJ Bribery Scandal(4)

January 7, 2009

Casiño is asking.

cases with automatic review procedure is smuggling and drug cases, said gonzalez.

Asked verano is if he has a slight idea that gonzalez may favor his resolution.  verano said that gonzalez gave him hope by saying that gonzalez said that he may study it.

Gonzalez countered it.

it is now a he said-she said case.

verano reiterated that he is just taking a chance.

on his remark that he cannot act on the resolution because it already made the headlines, gonzalez stressed that his main reason is because he has not read just yet the said resolution.

zuño reiterated the lapses in pdea.  the pdea brought the evidence to their compound and conducted the inventory there, not in the scene of arrest.

pdea lawyer stated that it is not illegal.  no law is saying that its not proper to do the inventory of evidence away from the scene of the arrest.  but gonzalez earlier said that this act put some question marks to the motive of the law enforcers doing this kind of trick.

prosecutor resado pointed out that pdea concucted a story.  resado said that its just a one-man bust because according to him, the other team was held for questioning at the subdivisions gate.

resado earned some solons hire because of his belief that there is no legitimate buy-bust operation happened.

casiño interjected by questioning zuño about resado’s actions.

Congress Hearing on PDEA-DOJ Bribery Scandal(3)

January 7, 2009

The frat relationship between blancaflor and verano was raised by Rep Teodoro.

Verano admitted it.

verano sent the controversial resolution into blancaflors office hoping maybe that blancaflor can deliver it to gonzalez.  blancaflor is the bridge here, as i see it.  verano used his frat relation with blancaflor for the usec to deliver it to gonzalez’ table.

unfortunately for verano, blancaflor is not around so the lawyer asked payoyo, blancaflors secretary, to deliver it to gonzalez.

that’s the scene floating at this very point.


payoyo contacted blancaflor, and her boss advised her to follow up prosecutor resado, in a way giving me an insight that blancaflor in a way, acted as a good frat brod.

blancaflor is guilty here.

gonzalez denied talking to verano, regarding the controversial resolution.  gonzalez is steering clear here, and he’s clear, as far as the investigation is going now.

Congress Hearing on PDEA-DOJ Bribery Scandal(2)

January 7, 2009

Atty Verano attended the hearing too as a resource person and not as a legal counsel of the Alabang boys.

Gave a backgrounder of the case first.  Generally stating that the PDEA abused their power.  So he drafted the controversial resolution for the release of the Alabang Boys.

Admitted that its not a normal procedure and explained that he only did it to speed up their case.  He added that if he can convince the DOJ Secretary that day, the secretary can readily sign the order, and made it an official document.  Astig!  This shows an existing kutsabahan between the top honcho of the departments and abogado de kampanilya’s.  The missing link here is the outright admittance of it.  I dare say that Verano is not the only lawyer doing this, and gonzalez is not the only gov’t officer signing it (I think Gonzalez signed some same-natured draft resolution in the past — this government is corrupt for chrissake.)   And that’s my opinion.

You see it was all stage-prepared!  A presscon is to follow.

But Gonzalez said that he did’nt sign the said resolution.

Verano can kiss goodbye to his name and profession with this.

But the lawyer stood his ground.  He maintained that he is just a bit overzealous.  Golez countered that overzealousnes put some gov’t law enforcers in trouble because it causes human rights violations and legal blunders .

Congress Hearing on PDEA-DOJ Bribery Scandal(1)

January 7, 2009

Raul Gonzalez attended todays hearing.

Declared that he’s not there to defend their prosecutors, but in a way lambasted the PDEA for not arresting the bribers Marcelino has stated yesterday.

Gonzalez proposes a tight coordination within the different legal units of government institutions.


Editorial Cartoon: (CARP) Reviving the Monster

January 6, 2009


Death certificate: Travolta son killed by seizure

January 6, 2009

By VANESSA ROLLE, Associated Press Writer

FREEPORT, Bahamas – Jett Travolta‘s body shows no sign of head trauma and his death certificate says he was killed by a seizure, an undertaker said Monday, after doctors performed an autopsy on the 16-year-old son of the U.S actor.

The remains of John Travolta’s son were being cremated and his parents planned to return to the United States with the ashes on Tuesday, said Keith McSweeney, director of the funeral home handling the body.

Jett Travolta had a history of seizures and was found unconscious in a bathroom Friday at a family vacation home on Grand Bahama Island.

Glen Campbell, assistant director of the funeral home, told The Associated Press that the body is in “great condition,” despite police officials who had said the teen hit his head on a bathtub.

Authorities didn’t release the results of an autopsy performed Monday, but Campbell saw the body and the death certificate, which was based on its findings.

“The only cause of death that was listed was ‘seizure’,” he said.

Late Monday, a black hearse traveled from the funeral home to the airport after the family indicated they were bringing Jett’s remains to Ocala, Florida, where they own a home. Two white jets waited as police in dress uniforms blocked access to the tarmac.

But the hearse was dispatched as a ruse, McSweeney told a news conference later Monday. He said he could not explain the reason for the decoy.

In a public statement released Sunday, John Travolta and wife Kelly Preston said they were “heartbroken that our time with him was so brief.”

Travolta tried CPR to revive his son, who may have died in his arms before an emergency medical technician took over, reported, citing Travolta attorneys Michael McDermott and Michael Ossi. They did not respond to calls from the AP on Monday.

Travolta, 54, and Preston, 46, have said Jett became very sick when he was 2 years old and was diagnosed with Kawasaki Syndrome, an illness that leads to inflamed blood vessels. Preston has blamed household cleaners and fertilizers and said a detoxification program based on teachings from the Church of Scientology helped improve his health, according to People magazine.

Police said in a statement that Jett had not been seen since Thursday when a caretaker, Jeff Kathrain, found him unconscious late Friday morning. But McDermott said that wrongly left the impression that Jett was unsupervised. He said two nannies were with Jett throughout the evening, and he does not believe the teen was in the bathroom for very long.

About a dozen security guards and Bahamian police officers patrolled around the luxury Old Bahama Bay resort community Sunday where the Travoltas have their home. The white-sand beach in front of the suites was closed.

The couple also has an 8-year-old daughter, Ella Bleu.

Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham sent condolences to the Travolta family and said the autopsy is a formality the country requires in cases of sudden death to rule out foul play.

Anti-Mining Activist Gunned Down in ComVal

January 6, 2009

An anti-large scale mining activist was killed by unidentified men yesterday, 23 December 2008, at New Bataan, Compostela Valley Province, environmental activist group Panalipdan-Southern Mindanao Region (SMR) today reported.

At around 7:00 in the evening, an unidentified men brutally killed 39-year old environmental activist leader Fernando “Dodong” Sarmiento, Secretary General of Panalipdan-New Bataan, at Purok 1, Barangay Cabinuangan, New Bataan, Compostela Valley Province, said Panalipdan-SMR spokesperson Francis Morales, citing reports from the field.

“Dodong Sarmiento sustained 5 gun-shot wounds that resulted to his death”, Morales said.

“We condemn in the strongest term the brutal killing of Dodong Sarmiento, who is known for leading the rural folks of New Bataan in calling for the stoppage of the operations of PhilCo Mining Corporation, the planned exploration of other mining corporations and mining-instigated militarization under the command of 10th Infantry Division, citing as reasons for their resistance on the destruction that large-scale mining operations brought on people’s livelihoods and local ecosystems”, Morales stressed.

“The environmental group believes that Sarmiento was killed by military elements due to his advocacies. Last 16 July 2008, Sarmiento was interrogated by the elements of 28th Infantry Batallion, Philippine Army (IBPA) under Lt. Wendel Ariola for his active involvement in environmental campaigns and was accused as rebel supporter. Then on 22 July 2008, the military posted on its website falsely claiming that Sarmiento was a rebel surrenderee”, Morales divulged.

“This is a typical mode of operation of the military in implementing the Oplan Bantay Laya 2 in the rural areas of Compostela Valley wherein activist leaders were maligned and demonized first before being killed”, Morales furthered.

The Panalipdan-SMR leader said that Sarmiento is the first environmental activist in Southern Mindanao killed after the Arroyo administration formed the Investment Defense Force (IDF) and when the 10th ID chief Major General Leo Jogy Fojas declared that New Bataan is the rebel’s center operations which is actually meant to wipe-out all types of opposition against mining aggression.

Under the Arroyo regime, 24 environmental activists have been killed which indicate the rise on human rights violations in relation to opposition to mining projects, based on the documentation of Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment.

The Arroyo administration and the 10th ID should be held accountable the killing of Sarmiento. This is an administration which aggressively promotes plunder of mineral resources and sell-out of our national patrimony to foreign firms at the expense of people’s welfare and fragile ecosystems, Morales said.(PinoyPress)

Why Rizal Did Not Deserve to Be the Philippines’s National Hero

January 6, 2009

Today, Dec. 30, is Rizal Day, the commemoration of the death anniversary of Jose Rizal, the national hero. As usual, Filipinos will be subjected to hagiographic stories about him. To be sure, Rizal was a great man. But, as Renato Constantino explains in his classic “Veneration Without Understanding,” he did not deserve to be the Philippines’s national hero.

“In the histories of many nations,” Constantino writes, “the national revolution represents a peak of achievement to which the minds of man return time and again in reverence and for a renewal of faith in freedom. For the national revolution is invariably the one period in a nation’s history when the people were most united, most involved, and most decisively active in the fight for freedom. It is not to be wondered at, therefore, that almost always the leader of that revolution becomes the principal hero of his people. There is Washington for the United States, Lenin for the Soviet Union, Bolivar for Latin America, Sun Yat Sen, then Mao Tse-Tung for China and Ho Chi Minh for Vietnam. The unity between the venerated mass action and the honored single individual enhances the influence of both.

“In our case, our national hero was not the leader of our Revolution. In fact, he repudiated that Revolution.”(PinoyPress)

Can Philippine Economy Withstand Crisis in 2009?

January 6, 2009

By IBON Foundation

IBON Features— The global economic situation is expected to continue deteriorating until 2010 and even beyond, and the Philippines is going to be severely affected by the worsening crisis. Yet it is still possible to mitigate the effects on the country, and more importantly, to emerge from this period of crisis with a genuinely strengthening and forward-moving economy.

Various factors will come into fuller play by next year and action must be taken as soon as possible. The economy has been deteriorating steadily in recent years despite government hype and, as it is, growth has been slowing since the start of the year. The onset of global financial and economic turmoil however now pushes it into a deeper crisis that it is poorly equipped to deal with.

Economic distress

The slowdown that begun in 2008 and will carry through until next year is clear. Growth this year and next year could easily turn out the slowest in a decade. Joblessness will increase and add to the 4.1 million unemployed – estimated to include the jobless statistically removed from the labor force to lower officially reported figures – and 6.8 million underemployed as of 2007. The number of jobless and underemployed next year will very likely rise to well over 11-12 million.

Retrenchments and closures will be most immediately felt in the goods and services export sectors. Particularly affected will be the major sub sectors of electronics (67% of exports in 2007), apparel and clothing (5%), and furniture and woodcrafts (2%). The US in particular is the largest buyer of Philippine garments and furniture and receives 80% of total garments exports and 60% of total furniture exports. The crisis will weaken global demand for laptops, cameras and cellular phones which are the primary users of the semi-conductors and microprocessors that the country exports. As it is, the country’s export-oriented electronics sub sector employs some 500,000-600,000 workers. The US is also the world’s largest end-consumer of electronics.

The business process outsourcing (BPO) industry will also likely be badly affected with the US accounting for over two-thirds of foreign equity and 90% of BPO export revenue. The grand target of 940,000 BPO jobs by 2010 is even more impossible especially with employment at most at just 320,000 now. Similarly with local tourism and business travel outfits where hotels and restaurants will feel the pinch of less foreign and domestic visitors.

The jobs situation has clearly started to worsen in 2008. The number of jobless Filipinos drastically increased by 279,000 in October from the same period last year and increased the unemployment rate by 0.6 percentage points. Rough approximations correcting for the government’s recent maneuver of underestimating unemployment place the number of jobless Filipinos at around 4.3 million and the unemployment rate at over 11 percent.

The important manufacturing sector lost another 159,000 jobs from the year before, the transport, storage and communication sector lost 10,000 jobs, and financial intermediation lost 4,000 jobs. These trends are likely to continue until next year and be aggravated by deteriorating jobs in construction, finance and wholesale and retail trade. Small and medium enterprises in particular will have a harder time borrowing with creditors preferring perceived “safer” large borrowers.

Filipinos working overseas in distressed countries and sectors face layoffs or at least lower incomes. This is not just in the US where the crisis first erupted but also wherever in the world they might be and no country is untouched by the tumult. The US is notable though in that over half of all remittances– reaching 52% or US$7.6 B of US$14.5 B in 2007– come from the US or via US-based banks.

Overseas Filipinos will do their best and be making even greater sacrifices to maintain remittances to their families in the country. But remittance flows are still certain to weaken in 2009 and perhaps even significantly. At the very least there will be a slowdown in deployments to the US, Europe, Middle East, East Asia and seaborne work where the overwhelming number of overseas Filipinos go and a corresponding drop in growth of remittances from abroad. The corresponding drop in household incomes will have repercussions on domestic sales of consumer goods and services and even of residential real estate.

The job losses and squeeze on wages, benefits and remittances will combine with rising prices and have an immediate impact on household incomes that will cause poverty to rise. But the spending will also have further depressing effects – possibly beginning with domestic wholesale, retailing and food services as stores and restaurants face lower consumer spending. Additional pressure comes from the generalized slowdown due to overall economic uncertainty, lower consumption, tighter credit and depressed investments. The poorer business sentiment and tightening of capital flows is already reflected in steep stock market drops and much higher interest rates.

External financing for the country is dropping steeply. The US$912 million net outflow of foreign portfolio investments in the January-October 2008 period is a drastic reversal from the US$3.7 billion inflow in the same period last year. Net FDI is going in the same direction and fell by more than half to US$1.1 billion in January-August 2008 from US$2.5 billion in the same period in 2007. There is also a strong possibility that the rate at which official development assistance (ODA) is declining will worsen in the coming years as donor governments prioritize domestic financing needs. As it is ODA has already fallen 30% to US$9.2 billion last year from US$13.2 billion in 2001.

Immediate relief and strengthening the economy

There are two stages in coping with the crisis. The first stage is to arrest the slowdown in economic activity and the corresponding worsening in unemployment, incomes and poverty. This is critical especially since the country has already been suffering record unemployment, falling incomes and rising poverty in the last few years.

The effects of the economic downturn must be countered by stimulating the economy through expansionary and, importantly, equity-building policies. This includes:

1. Providing immediate emergency food, income and work relief.
2. Increasing public spending on health care, basic education and housing for the people and restoring real per capita social services spending to at least 1997 levels.
3. Increasing public spending on labor-intensive and rural infrastructure projects that will directly improve people’s livelihoods.
4. Public resources can be freed by:
· Suspending debt payments. This can begin with, but not be restricted to, debt to foreign creditors receiving bail-outs from their governments.
· Drastically reducing military spending.
· Cracking down on corruption. This is especially critical to prevent leakages into politicians’ electoral war chests for 2010.
5. Giving priority to Filipino producers in government procurement and aid-funded projects.
6. Implementing a P125 across the board nationwide wage hike and a PhP3,000 increase in government salaries.
7. Removing the VAT on oil products and increasing taxation of wealth, luxury goods and services, and on unproductive assets and transactions.
8. Reducing interest rates while ensuring that credit remains available.

There is also a need to immediately stabilize capital flows with capital controls, especially against outflows right now, and supporting the exchange rate. Capital controls must be used to defend against speculative attacks or financial transactions not related to trade and production.

The advanced capitalist countries are pushed to become all the more aggressive in pushing to open up neo-colonial countries as vents for their crisis. There are two particular areas of concern. The first is how the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank and other creditors will exploit the situation to leverage further policy conditionalities through their loans and aid. The second is how free trade agreements (FTAs) will be packaged as solutions for slowing domestic economies. This includes not just FTAs between vastly unequal parties but also those packaged as intra-Third World deals that merely create regional production lines for the benefit of the big powers. All maneuvering such as these must be vigorously opposed.
The second stage involves laying the foundations for economic development and reducing internal and external vulnerabilities to inevitable crises.

The economy’s problems are far beyond piecemeal solutions. A radical change in socioeconomic policies is needed if there is going to be any hope of lifting the tens of millions of poor Filipinos out of their deprivation. This much is clear from the Philippine’s poor development experience and chronic poverty over the last six decades: the stubbornly elite-biased and increasingly “free market”-oriented policies are a development dead-end. Alternative socioeconomic policies must be geared towards what is strategically necessary to improve the economy and people’s welfare. In the concrete economic and political conditions of Philippine society today this can only mean genuine agrarian reform and national industrialization.