Archive for the ‘ChaCha’ Category

Cha-Cha Proponents: Clinging to an Obsolete Ideology

April 21, 2009

As administration allies push for amendments of economic provisions in the Constitution, research group IBON Foundation says that the resolution seeking to allow corporations to own land and land-based resources in the Philippines are based on an outmoded ideology which believes that liberalizing the economy to greater foreign investment will lead to development.

Posted by Bulatlat

As administration allies push for amendments of economic provisions in the Constitution, research group IBON Foundation says that the resolution seeking to allow corporations to own land and land-based resources in the Philippines are based on an outmoded ideology which believes that liberalizing the economy to greater foreign investment will lead to development.

IBON has long criticized economic liberalization and government economic managers that are dogmatically clinging to this outdated belief. “Investment policy” was even dropped from the World Trade Organization (WTO) agenda because unrestrained investment liberalization is unacceptable to many underdeveloped country governments.

The last two decades have seen an unparalleled opening-up of the Philippine economy and in the face of a global economic crisis, its destructive impact on people’s livelihood is undeniable. The 1990s have seen record increases in trade and investment yet the supposed gains like a strengthening of the economy have not materialized. The Philippines is facing its worst jobs crisis in its history while foreign investors have repatriated more capital than they ever brought in. Government continues to grant fiscal incentives to foreign investors, which have amounted to lost revenues of P96.65 billion $2.01 billion based on the 5 year average exchange rate of $=P48) annually from 1999 to 2003.

It is clear that the problem is not the restrictions on the role of foreigners in the economy. Every country that has achieved any kind of economic development has controlled foreign investment. South Korea, Taiwan and Malaysia strictly controlled foreign investment for decades since the 1950s. China has strict regulations until today and is still selective in liberalizing. The US, UK, France, Germany, Japan and other advanced countries only relaxed restrictions when their big capitalist monopolies were entrenched. These countries are pushing investment liberalization now only because they are powerful enough to dominate underdeveloped economies and overwhelm weak domestic businesses.

Changing the Charter’s economic provisions to further open up the country to foreign investment and capital will further weaken the Philippine economy. It will worsen joblessness, undermine long-term growth, and strip the country of our natural resources as foreign corporations and local counterparts continue plundering the country’s mineral, forestry and marine resources. Opening up land to foreign ownership will drive land prices up and displace our small peasant farmers. Land inequities, land monopolies and rural unemployment will worsen.

Proponents of Cha-cha are those who stand to gain the most: foreign investors and domestic big business. The US has the biggest stakes with some US$4.5 billion worth of investments in the country. Meanwhile, the beleaguered Arroyo administration is using Cha-cha that benefits US corporate monopoly interests to maintain US support for its illegitimate rule.

The Philippines can benefit from foreign investment but only if this is let in on terms of mutual benefit. If the government has not had the political will to assert the nationalist economic provisions as they are, then removing them completely will only worsen the already intolerable economic situation. (Posted by (

On Nograles Cha-Cha Reso: Foreign Land Ownership Has Weak Link To Investment

January 24, 2009

Written by IBON Media
While the committee on constitutional amendments prepares to vote on Speaker Prospero Nograles’s Resolution 737, research group IBON Foundation says that changing the charter to allow foreign business to own land does not necessarily increase foreign investment.
The Nograles bill seeks to amend the economic provisions of the Constitution to allow foreign corporations and associations to own land. Charter change proponents argue that allowing foreign business to own land in the Philippines will increase foreign investment flows which will lead to development.

“The experience of our Asian neighbors proves that the relationship between foreign land ownership and overall levels of investment is weak,” said IBON research head Sonny Africa. “This reinforces the suspicion that HR 737 is a ruse to justify charter change for self-serving political ends.”

With the current constitutional restriction on foreign land ownership, the Philippines had foreign direct investment (FDI) inward stock of US$19.0 billion in 2007 which was equivalent to 13.1% of gross domestic product (GDP). It is made to appear that this is a major factor in the country’s underdevelopment.

Yet Vietnam does not allow foreign land ownership but had inward FDI stocks of US$40.2 billion or up to double or triple the value of foreign investment in the Philippines. Indonesia, meanwhile merely gives land cultivation or building rights but had inward FDI stocks of US$59 billion.

Thailand, with its US$85.8 billion in investment, also prohibits foreign ownership of land as a general principle. Foreign companies can own land only upon approval of its Board of Investment, by ministerial permission or by virtue of treaty provisions.

Singapore, with its massive US$249.7 billion in FDI inward stock, is often cited as underscoring the benefits of foreign land ownership. This “ownership” though is more in the form of long-term leaseholds and not freeholds or title-deeds. Malaysia which has US$76.8 billion in investment also allows foreigners to acquire industrial land only on a leasehold basis.

There are many factors affecting FDI such as domestic market size and prospects, production costs and efficiency, infrastructure, economic stability and extent of corruption, said Africa. Foreign land ownership in itself is neither necessary nor sufficient– while raising the danger of land speculation and greater foreign control of the domestic economy.

It must also be accepted that foreign investment does not necessarily lead to development and the government has to create the conditions for the country to benefit, said Africa. More importantly, Cha-cha proposals such as the Nograles bill undermine national interest, surrender the country’s economic sovereignty, and legalize foreign corporate plunder of natural resources. (end)

Editorial Cartoon: (Cha-Cha) The Congress Resolution

January 12, 2009


New Years Resolution

Puno: Keep off judiciary Kampi solons may back impeachment

January 12, 2009

By Norman Bordadora, Gil C. Cabacungan Jr., Christine Avendaño
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:01:00 01/12/2009

MANILA, Philippines—Chief Justice Reynato Puno wants politicians to spare the Supreme Court from partisan manipulation, the court’s spokesperson told the Philippine Daily Inquirer Sunday amid reports of a brewing threat to impeach him.

“The court and its magistrates as dispensers of justice should be shielded, if not totally excluded from political maneuverings,” lawyer Midas Marquez said in a text message that he said he sent “in behalf of the Chief Justice.”

The threat to remove Puno from his post is reportedly tied to the Supreme Court’s alleged non-promulgation of a decision disqualifying an incumbent House member despite the concurrence in mid-2008 of 14 justices.

An impeachment complaint against the Chief Justice could come from the political party of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino (Kampi).

Kampi is set to hear out details of the disqualification case against Negros Oriental Rep. Jocelyn Limkaichong, who is accused of not being a natural-born Filipino citizen.

“We will give Jing (former Negros Oriental Rep. Jacinto Paras) the time of day in Kampi. He will transmit to the party what transpired in the case involving his wife (who was defeated by Limkaichong in 2007),” said Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez. Both Suarez and Paras are ranking members of Kampi.

“If it is impeachable, we will support it,” Suarez said.

Justices of the Supreme Court, like the Ombudsman and top officials of the Commission on Elections, can be removed from office only through impeachment, which requires the vote of one-third of the 235-member House of Representatives. Once approved by the House, the articles of impeachment go to the Senate for trial.

Charter change

A retired justice said there were reports that moves were afoot to impeach Puno to pave the way for a Supreme Court that would allow Charter change (Cha-cha).

The President will appoint seven new justices to the 15-member Supreme Court to take the place of those set to retire this year, a development that will leave only Puno as the only member of the tribunal not appointed by Ms Arroyo.

Allies of Ms Arroyo in the House, especially Kampi stalwarts like the President’s son Rep. Juan Miguel Arroyo, are pushing for Cha-cha through a constitutional assembly (Con-Ass) in which Congress votes as one body and not as two separate chambers.

Kampi’s claim that Congress could vote as one body on Cha-cha, an interpretation rejected by senators, who believe that the House and the Senate should vote separately on the issue, is expected to be elevated to the Supreme Court.

Threat real

Former Senate President Franklin Drilon Sunday said that Malacañang or its allies pushing for Cha-cha could be behind moves to oust Puno.

Drilon said Jacinto Paras did not have the clout to mount such a move all by himself. Malacañang said it had no hand in moves to oust Puno.

Sen. Francis Pangilinan, a member of the Liberal Party (LP) like Drilon, said he was told by his sources in the Supreme Court that the threat to oust Puno was “real” and “serious.”

Pangilinan said he and Bantay Korte Suprema would divulge “at a later and proper time” those behind the plot.

“We are warning those behind this move that we will not stop until they are exposed and their devious scheme defeated,” he said in a text message.

Bantay Korte Suprema is a coalition of legal luminaries from the academe, law groups and the Makati Business Club that is calling for “transparency” in the selection and appointment of seven members to the Supreme Court.


Pangilinan said he would take up the matter when Bantay Korte Suprema, of which he is a convenor, meets on Monday for a general assembly “and see if the legal community can come up with a united response against this latest attack on the Supreme Court and the rule of law.”

“In the meantime, we urge the greatest vigilance from the public at this time to protect the office of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court from the said attack,” he said.

Like Pangilinan, Drilon said he heard from “legal circles” more than a week ago that there would be an impeachment case to be filed against Puno.

Drilon, LP chair and former justice secretary, said Paras, whose wife may benefit from the promulgation of the supposed high court resolution, “doesn’t have the clout to be able to mount a credible impeachment complaint against the Chief Justice.”

“Only Malacañang has that clout and it fits perfectly into their plans on the consultative assembly (Con-ass),” he said.

Part of grand scheme

Saying the ouster move was “part of a grand scheme,” Drilon said the Palace saw the opportunity to “keep (Puno) off balance because of the expectation he will not toe the line insofar as Charter change is concerned.”

Drilon said “reliable sources” told him the Palace would push for Cha-cha by getting first the House to get the signatures of 197 lawmakers to propose amendments to the 1987 Constitution “to precipitate a case in the Supreme Court on the issue of joint or separate voting of Congress.”

“That is why the Supreme Court becomes a critical judge in the next 12 to 18 months because they will determine the political history of the country,” he said.

Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Satur Ocampo said an impeachment case against Puno would be a serious blow to the independence of the three branches of government and the separation of powers between the executive and the judiciary.

But Ocampo said he didn’t think Malacañang would succeed in a venture tied to Cha-cha because strong public opinion would frustrate it.

Playing with fire

Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay, president of the United Opposition, said administration allies would be “playing with fire” if they pushed through with removing Puno to extend the term of Ms Arroyo, who is set to step down in 2010.

Those conniving to impeach Puno were in “big trouble” if they unseated someone “beyond reproach in his value system and conduct,” said Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz.

In a statement, Cruz said: “Filipinos are, by and large, patient and forgiving. But even long sleeping volcanoes can and do erupt. This is a fair warning.”

The Supreme Court spokesperson said the ouster move “is really totally baseless and achieves nothing but the degradation of the integrity of the court.”

“So fundamental is the societal value that the integrity and orderly functioning of the administration of justice should be maintained at all times,” Marquez said in his text message. With reports from Allison W. Lopez in Manila and Yolanda Sotelo, Inquirer Northern Luzon

Editorial Cartoon: (Cha-Cha) Christmas Gift

January 5, 2009


Pamatay na surpresa!

Bayan-Socsksargen makes noise against Cha-Cha

January 4, 2009

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (Bayan-Socsksargen/13 Dec) — Members of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan – SOCSKSARGEN held a caravan – noise barrage in the streets and public of General Santos City Friday to protest the current maneuvers of the Arroyo administration to amend the constitution.

Edward J. Flores, BAYAN-SOCSKSARGEN spokesperson said that it is important to block Cha-Cha because it will prolong the agony of the people.

“Mrs. Arroyo’s lackeys in the lower house make use of the world financial crisis as justification to amend the constitution. According to Speaker Nograles, economic provisions must be changed to cope up with the crisis, but actually, it will be a total sell out of our national patrimony and sovereignty to foreign monopoly capitalists. It means plunder of our natural resources”, Flores says.

Flores also added that the people cannot simply trust Rep. Mikey Arroyo’s pronouncement that her mother is not interested in extending her term beyond 2010 as Mrs. Arroyo has the habit telling in -your -face lies.

“She promised not to run for presidency but ran eventually and cheated in 2007 elections”, Flores adds.

“What bothers us more is the conspiracy led by Nograles and the Arroyo brothers, Dato and Mikey to circumvent the law on Constitutional Assembly. They say that the Senate is no longer necessary as long as they get the majority of the members of the lower house and make the needed two-thirds, con-ass will take its course”, Flores continues.

The rule says that constitutional assembly will happen only if two thirds of the members of congress endorse it, with Senate and the House of Representatives voting separately.

“Because Senate is now neutralized because Sen. Enrile heads it now, the Nograles might bring the interpretation issue to court. Considering that Mrs. Arroyo appoints seven new justices next year, the Supreme Court might decide in GMA’s favor”, Flores concludes. (Bayan-Socsksargen)

Editorial Cartoon: (Cha-cha) Can we eat that?

January 2, 2009


Paper food

Bayan says MOA-AD is a ploy to extend Arroyo’s term

December 31, 2008

The militant Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) fears the government has not entirely given up on the controversial memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain (MOA-AD), which the group sees as a ploy to change the Constitution to extend the term of the President.

Malacañang lawyers to the Supreme Court (SC) ruling indicates that the government is still planning to pursue the controversial MOA-AD. Bayan believes the MOA-AD will pave the way for constitutional amendments that will extend Arroyo’s term.

The SC ruled as unconstitutional the MOA-AD that would have given the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) authority over territories included in the proposed Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE), which covers a wider territory and an expanded administrative capacity in the present Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM)

Solicitor General Agnes Devanadera filed a manifestation, protesting what she referred to as “a transgression of the doctrine of separation of powers” between the nation’s judicial and executive bodies. Devanadera feared that the Supreme Court decision foreshadowed “a future trend” of the Court’s interference in “areas exclusive to the other branches of the government.”

Devanadera urged the High Court to dismiss the case filed by local officials in Mindanao questioning the MOA-AD just two weeks after the botched August 5 signing in Kuala Lumpur. The solicitor-general later formally urged the Supreme Court to dismiss this case as moot and academic.

Reyes said this move proved that the administration really wants to push through with the MOA-AD. With time running out until 2010, Arroyo cannot afford to lose options to stay in power, said Reyes. Even though she had majority of the members of the House of Representatives, she would still have the Senate to contend with, many of them eyeing for the Presidential elections in 2010 would waylay any of her moves to stay in power.

Militant partylist representatives Satur Ocampo and Teodoro Casiño (Bayan Muna), and Liza Maza (Gabriela Women’s Party) said the SC ruling should not invalidate issue of ancestral domain of the Bangsamoro.

Reyes said Bayan respected the Bangsamoro people’s right to self determination but the proposed signing of the MOA-AD came at the time when the administration is pushing for changes in the Constitution to stay in power. (CJ Cuizon/

OFWs in Hong Kong Protest vs Cha-cha

December 30, 2008

Overseas Filipino workers (OFW) in Hong Kong held a picket protest in front of the Philippine Consulate General office to denounce renewed moves to amend the 1987 Philippine Constitution.


Overseas Filipino workers (OFW) in Hong Kong held a picket protest in front of the Philippine Consulate General office to denounce renewed moves to amend the 1987 Philippine Constitution.

In a statement, Dollores Balladares, chairperson of the United Filipinos in Hong Kong (UNIFIL-MIGRANTE-HK) , said, “Our rejection of charter change is a rejection of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and all that she stands for – corruption, fascism, subservience to foreign power, all-out sale of Filipino migrants and criminal neglect and irresponsibility to the plight of Filipinos abroad.”

Balladares said Arroyo ‘has not given anything to OFWs but lies and obsession with photo-ops [photo opportunities].’

Balladares accused Arroyo of using their remittances, fees and taxes for her ‘self-serving ends, including efforts to change the Charter.’

The migrant leader said the Overseas Worker Welfare Administration (OWWA) Medicare funds have been transformed as ‘Arroyo’s election kitty bank.’

“She [Arroyo] has committed the worst sins in depriving OFWs of genuine services and protection since she came into power,” Balladares added.

The group said that the Arroyo government has ‘never provided enough medical assistance, legal assistance, repatriation funds, shelter services and assistance to victims of illegal recruitment and overcharging.’

Balladares said that amid the financial crisis, the Arroyo government has ‘nothing to offer but empty assurances of support.’

“Worse, they are not merely empty but blatant lies and media gimmickry as shown by what happened to laid off workers from Taiwan who were slyly used for GMA’s media projection,” she said.

Balladares said, “Filipinos abroad shall never support GMA’s [Arroyo’s initials] drive to continue her rule in perpetuity as aimed for by the Charter Change.”

Meanwhile, Norman Uy Carnay, coordinator of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan-New Patriotic Alliance) in Hong Kong criticized the proposals to allow 100 percent foreign ownership of land and public utilities. Carnay said these are tantamount to a sellout of the nation’s sovereignty and patrimony.

She said, “We, OFWs, join the rest of our people in calling for the junking of the charter change and the ouster of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo” “We fervently wish for a GMA-free 2009.”(

Signs of Desperation

December 28, 2008

Confronted by a broad array of forces opposed to Cha Cha, the Arroyo government is gambling with its fortunes. It is banking on the probability that chances for its ouster are getting slimmer as 2010 nears. It is hoping that the broad array of forces opposed to Cha Cha would not be able to muster enough people in mass mobilizations to constitute a threat to its rule.


Even as Malacañang is belittling the December 12 interfaith rally in Makati and the pronouncements of various groups and personalities against renewed moves to amend the 1987 Constitution dubbed as “Cha Cha”, its actions prove otherwise. The Philippine National Police (PNP) decided, on the day itself, to increase the number of its troops that guarded the Makati rally from 3,200 to 4,700. The PNP had to deploy troops from as far as Ilocos, Cagayan Valley, and Bicol. This did not yet include forces from the police and Presidential Security Group that guarded the area surrounding Malacañang, the police that guarded the EDSA shrine and conducted patrols around the area, and those which blocked entry points to the National Capital Region.

Also on the same day, Senate Pres. Juan Ponce Enrile, a staunch Arroyo ally, announced that there was no need for a rally against Cha Cha as the Senate had already passed a resolution blocking efforts of the House of Representatives to convene Congress into a Constituent Assembly. As a sweetener, Budget Sec. Rolando Andaya announced that government employees would receive their P10,000 Christmas bonus on December 15.

Signs of desperation from Malacañang did not only manifest on December 12. Earlier, it belittled the pronouncement of Mike Velarde of El Shaddai that he would muster his forces to hold rallies against Cha Cha but sought him out later.

The deeper sign of desperation of the Arroyo government could be seen in its obstinate efforts at Cha Cha. It knows that a broad section of Philippine society is against it. Different sectors, including the Catholic church, have warned that they would hold demonstrations to derail the Cha Cha train of the Arroyo government. The Arroyo government has been banking on the support of a section of the Catholic bishops and of big business, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the PNP, and the US to stave off calls for its ouster. Now, in addition to the Catholic church, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the pro-Arroyo section of big business, is also against amending the Constitution before 2010, saying that it is untimely and divisive.

Surveys have also shown that majority of Filipinos are against it.

The Arroyo government is now left with its allies in the Lower House and local governments, the AFP and PNP, and the US in its gambit for Cha Cha. Its intransigent stance was further demonstrated when its allies in the Lower House threatened to unseat newly installed House Speaker Prospero Nograles when he expressed his openness to a Constitutional Convention as a means to amending the 1987 Constitution. It would be remembered that Rep. Prospero Nograles was merely a beneficiary of the ouster of Jose de Venecia as House Speaker, which was orchestrated by no less than Arroyo’s son Mikey who is now leading efforts at pushing for Cha Cha through Congress convening itself as a Constituent Assembly.

It had tried and failed before in 2006. But Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her allies are trying again to ensure its future beyond 2010.

The Arroyo government is playing a gamble. It is banking on the probability that chances for its ouster are getting slimmer as 2010 nears. It is hoping that the broad array of forces opposed to Cha Cha would not be able to muster enough people in mass mobilizations to constitute a threat to its rule.

But the December 12 interfaith rally that gathered 10,000 from a broad spectrum of people is just the beginning. (

Press Release: PANALIPDAN Southern Mindanao

December 22, 2008

Environmentalists to Nograles: stop fooling the people, Charter Change is anti-Filipino and anti-environment

Panalipdan-Southern Mindanao Region, a broad alliance of environmentalists and peoples’ organizations, lambasted today House Speaker Prospero Nograles for pushing the Charter Change which seeks to allow 100% foreign ownership of Philippine natural resources.

Nograles is the author of House Resolution 737, which seeks to scrap the 40% limit of foreign ownership of lands, resources and enterprises and has reportedly gathered 163 signatures of the congressmen/women.

The green group believes that Arroyo-engineered charter change also aims to add more teeth to the already notorious 1995 Philippine Mining (Republic Act 7942), that the Supreme Court again affirmed in 2005.

Amending the 1987 Constitution is to pave way to intensified environment and economic plunder and degradation due to liberalized mining and privatization of freshwater and energy resources.

The full-blown implementation of a liberalized, privatized, and deregulated mining industry will come into reality once charter change has been enacted. The constitutional overhaul will allow 100% foreign-ownership of our lands and the exploitation of our natural resources. Charter change will actually further open the country to unbridled foreign exploitation and plunder.

No amount of touted revenues and compensation can pay for the permanent damage to the environment, the displacement of indigenous communities, and the loss of lives and livelihood that will result from large-scale and foreign mining.

It is very disgusting that the lessons from our people’s tragic experiences with large-scale foreign mining in Boac, Marinduque; Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte; Rapu-rapu, Albay; Didipio, Nueva Viscaya; Masara, Maco, ComVal Province; Diwalwal, Monkayo, ComVal; and Surigao del Norte are ignored by the Arroyo government. It should be noted that mining has insignificant contribution to the domestic economy and employment while no measures have been put in place to reverse the continuing damages to the ecosystems and people of the said areas.

The green group challenged Nograles to go to these areas and see for himself what local communities have lost: indigenous people’s ancestral domain, once productive farmlands, biological diversity, pristine rivers and marine ecosystems.

Charter Change for liberalization will further aggravate landlessness, land-use conversion, whole-sale exploitation of biodiversity and natural resources, food insecurity, and the destruction of environment. Filipino will be deprived of the right to use the country’s resources for their own benefit. Local industry and agriculture, which cannot comprete with big transnational corporations, will also be destroyed.

Environmentalists will heighten the opposition to the Arroyo-engineered Charter Change and join the Filipino people’s struggle for genuine freedom, democracy, just and sustainable society.##

For reference:

Francis Morales
Spokesperson, Panalipdan-SMR

Drilon echoes call vs. Charter change

December 22, 2008

FORMER Senate President Franklin Drilon, on a visit to Dagupan last week, echoed calls for vigilance against moves by the allies of the Arroyo government to carry out Charter changes througha constituent assembly minus the Senate.

Drilon said the move is illegal and unconstitutional and should be condemned by the public.

The Senate on Wednesday voted 23-0 rejecting an amendment of the Constitution by Con-As even as tactical moves are now snowballing in the House of Representative.

Drilon said doing Cha-cha at this time will only exacerbate present political instability and uncertainty.

“This is the last thing that we need in our country given the economic difficulties that we will face next year,” he said, adding any Charter change at this time has “no useful purpose except the selfish motive of those in power”.

Drilon said the next six months will be crucial to the country and so the public must keep watch on crucial events within government.

Among those to be watched is the appointment of new members of the Supreme Court, who in turn, might have to decide on constitutional issues that will be raised by the President’s allies in Congress in pursuit of the latter’s charter change via constituent assembly.

“We are not against Chacha but we are opposing the means used by the administration to change the Constitution,” said Drilon who is chairman of the Liberal Party.

“Their prime agenda is to extend the term of Mrs. Arroyo, remove term limits or change of form of government into a Parliamentary system where the Mrs. Arroyo will run again under the Parliament and become prime minister,” he added.

Drilon said he supports a Constitutional convention where delegates will be elected in May 2010 and the convention shall be held after the presidential elections.

Drilon also sought the active participation of the members of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines in the process for selecting candidates for the four SC justice positions as well as in voicing out their resistance to Cha-cha at this time.(SundayPunch)

Editorial Cartoon: No To Cha-Cha

December 20, 2008


The commandment…

Naked UP students run vs Charter change

December 16, 2008

By Nancy C. Carvajal
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 23:09:00 12/16/2008
Filed Under: Charter change, Protest

MANILA, Philippines—Members of the Alpha Phi Omega fraternity, which included three student council leaders, staged the group’s annual oblation run at the Palma Hall of the University of the Philippines campus in Diliman, Quezon City, at exactly 12 noon on Tuesday.

But this year’s run of naked APO members wearing only bonnets and dark blue masks failed to impress Monica Narisma, a sophomore business administration and accountancy major.

“It was uneventful because there were only a few of them,” Narisma told the Philippine Daily Inquirer at the steps of the Palma Hall where at least 10 naked masked men paraded for a cheering crowd composed mostly of students.

She said she had been a regular spectator of the event, even while she was still in high school at the nearby Miriam College.

But for Tami Evette Reyes, a freshman at the College of Engineering, the event was “terrific” and said she’s happy to be part of the “tradition.”

The runners, who offered roses to the spectators, expressed their opposition to Charter change, particularly to any extension of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s term. They also called for the protection of the environment.

Anti cha-cha rants louder

December 16, 2008

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY — Thousands of anti-Charter change protesters staged rallies nationwide Friday amid moves by Malacanang and its allied congressmen to amend the Constitution.

Militants from Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Northern Mindanao jogged around the city early Friday morning chanting anti Cha-cha protests and carrying placards.

Arroyo Watch: Sun.Star blog on President Arroyo

In Makati, thousands of protesters converged along Paseo de Roxas for an inter-faith rally against Charter change.

The Catholic Church and religious leaders from other faiths said President Gloria Arroyo wants to change the constitution to remain in power.

Former President Joseph Estrada briefly showed up but left after a while to attend to his mother who is in poor health condition, the GMAnews.TV reported.

“Ang ating mga kababayan nagkakaisa isang tinig dito labanan, tutulan, ibasura, patayin itong Gloria forever Cha-cha na ito (Our countrymen are one in saying that we should fight, reject and kill this Gloria forever Cha-cha),” said Senator Mar Roxas in an interview over radio dzBB.

Twenty three senators signed a resolution Thursday declaring unconstitutional any attempt to amend the 1987 constitution unilaterally or without approval of three-fourths of the Senate.

“Any attempt by the House of Representatives to unilaterally propose amendment to or revision of the constitution without the approval of three-fourths of the Senate voting separately is unconstitutional,” the resolution said.

Among the changes included in the ‘charter change’ is a proposal to substitute the current presidential and bicameral system with a single house of Parliament.

Power would then pass to the hands of a prime minister elected by Parliament who would not have a term limit, unlike the president in the current system.

But government supporters claim that the change would streamline political procedures and revive the economy.

Interior Minister Ronaldo Puno denied Thursday that the proposal was a move by Arroyo and stressed that changes are important particularly because of the global financial crisis.

Kristine Lim, Secretary General of Bayan-Nothern Mindanao Region, said the people must not be deceived by the sweet talk of the minions of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

“There is no truth to these statements that the economy will change if the constitution is changed. The country will suffer all the more if the constitution is changed because of the rabid desire of pro-Arroyo lawmakers to cling to power and perpetuate her (Arroyo) stay in Malacañang,” Lim said.

She said the people should always be vigilant of the administration’s dirty tactics whose desperation to” salvage the losing credibility of the Mrs Arroyo is unspeakable.”

“After they trashed the third impeachment complaint, the bootlickers of the Palace in Congress were so dense to resuscitate charter change. The economic reforms that they see and promise if the charter is changed is nothing but lies and illusion…and they eagerly want to feed these to the Filipino people,” Lim said.(SunStar)

House to resume Charter change debate

December 16, 2008

MANILA — Amid widespread opposition against Charter change (Cha-cha), the House committee on constitutional amendments will resume debates Tuesday on which mode to adopt in amending the 1987 Constitution.

La Union Representative Victor Ortega, chairman of the committee, said they would only proceed with the voting depending on the flow of the discussions.

Arroyo Watch: Sun.Star blog on President Arroyo

“I’m just like a driver,” he said. “It’s my passengers who’ll decide where we are going in this ride.”

Ortega said that while the committee will continue deliberations on Speaker Prospero Nograles’s House Resolution 737, he is not sure whether it will be voted upon or not.

Resolution 737 calls for the amendments of Sections 2 and 3, Article 12 of the Constitution “to allow the acquisition by foreign corporations and associations and the transfer or conveyance thereto of alienable public and private lands.”

“It would all depend on the proceedings,” Ortega said of the Nograles resolution, which is signed by at least 163 congressmen.

The Nograles resolution has so far gathered 163 signatures, just 15 signatures short of the constitutional requirement of a three-fourths House vote to propose the amendment and bring it up to the Senate.

Meanwhile, the resolution of Camarines Sur Representative Luis Villafuerte that calls for Congress to convene as a Constituent Assembly (Con-ass) to amend the Charter is yet to be referred to the committee. It has reportedly gathered 167 signatures.

Villafuerte is the author of another resolution, yet to be filed, supported by 167 lawmakers to convene Congress into a Con-ass through its three-fourths votes and force the Supreme Court (SC) to decide on the matter whether or not Congress can meet and vote jointly or separately in proposing amendments to the Constitution.

Bayan Muna party-list Representative Teodoro Casiño called on the Ortega panel to cancel the meeting and “abort” its plan to vote on Nograles’s resolution “so we can focus on more urgent measures.”

Ortega, however, said he is willing to sit down and have a dialogue with senators to iron out differences on Cha-cha.

“You know me, I’m amenable to adopt all avenues that would enable us to come to an understanding on this issue, but I’m only the chairman of the committee. I would have to abide by the committee decision,” he said.

Since the Senate is opposed to Con-ass, Villafuerte insisted the House can do it alone without the upper Chamber once it musters the constitutional requirement of three-fourths vote or 197 signatories of all 261 members of Congress, which includes the 23 senators.

He anchored his arguments on his interpretation of the intent of Article XVII, Section 1 of the Constitution, which provides that “any amendment to, or revision of, this Constitution may be proposed by the Congress, upon a vote of three-fourths of all its members.”

He believed that so long as the constitutional requirement of three-fourths vote is met, it is enough to start the process of proposing amendments because the Constitution does not mention the words “House” and “Senate” and merely states “Congress.” (WV/Sunnex)

Taumbayang ayaw sumayaw sa Cha-Cha

December 15, 2008

PW Staff

Nagmartsa mula tapat ng Rustans ang mga miyembro ng progresibong mga organisasyon sa ilalim ng Bagong Alyansang Makabayan. (Ronalyn Olea)

Nagmartsa rin ang mga pulitikong miyembro ng Liberal Party patungong kanto ng Paseo de Roxas at Ayala Avenue. (Contributed Photo)

Pinangunahan ni Engr. Rodolfo “Jun” Lozada Jr. ang pagpipito kontra sa pandarambong at Charter Change. (Ilang-Ilang Quijano)

Naglagablab ang damdamin ni Armida Siguion Reyna sa pagbabasa ng tula para sa kilos-protestang iyon. (Ilang-Ilang Quijano)

Kinatawan ni Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo (pinaka-kanan) ang progresibong mga kongresistang party-list na sina (mula kaliwa) Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño, Gabriela Rep. Luz Ilagan, Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano at (natatakpan ni Ocampo) Gabriela Rep. Liza Maza. (Ilang-Ilang Quijano)

Nagpupuyos ang damdamin ng isang demonstrador. (Ilang-Ilang Quijano)

Bagong sinisimbolo ng parol: protesta kontra Cha-Cha. (KR Guda)

Garalgal ang boses ni Sen. Loren Legarda sa pagsigaw sa kanyang talumpati sa programa. (Ilang-Ilang Quijano)

Isang ahente ng Philippine National Police ang nahuli ng mga demonstrador na may dalang baril habang nakikihalo sa mga manonood ng programa. (KR Guda)

Matikas ang tindig ni Atty. Adel Tamano habang nagtatalumpati. (KR Guda)

Parang “Donya Buding” ng bagong henerasyon ng kilusang protesta ang sumisikat nang karakter ng artistang si Mae Paner na “Juana Change.” (KR Guda)

Muling inaliw ng Sining Lila, pangkulturang grupo ng Gabriela, ang mga manonood sa kanilang nakakatawang pagtatanghal. (KR Guda)

Nanawagan si Sen. Ping Lacson sa mga obispo na “pangunahan ang anumang kailangang pangunahan”, at susunod ang taumbayan. (KR Guda)

Binasa ng asawa ni Gen. Danilo Lim ang mensahe ng heneral at ni Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV sa mga demonstrador noong gabing iyon. (KR Guda)

Nakiisa maging ang tindero ng sigarilyo sa pag-aalay ng kandila laban sa Charter Change. (Ilang-Ilang Quijano)

Panata ng mga nagsidalo na lalabanan nila nang buong lakas ang anumang tangkang ilusot ng mga kongresista ang pag-aamyenda ng Saligang Batas. (KR Guda)

Davao City: Nagsindi rin ng kandila ang mga miyembro ng progresibong mga organisasyon at taong-simbahan laban sa Cha-Cha. (Karlos Manlupig sa Davao City)


Hindi biro ang mag-Cha-Cha

December 13, 2008

Ilang-Ilang D. Quijano

Mahigit 77% ng taumbayan ang di pabor sa pag-aamyenda ng saligang batas, ayon sa sarbey (Ilang-Ilang Quijano)

Ekspresyon ng pagtutol sa Charter Change: Mahigit 77% ng taumbayan ang di pabor sa pag-aamyenda ng saligang batas, ayon sa sarbey (Ilang-Ilang Quijano)

NAKAKATAWA na nakakatakot ang isang bidyo na kumakalat ngayon sa Internet. Ginampanan ng nagpapakilalang Juana Change ang mahigit limang-minutong komedya hinggil sa ngayo’y mainit muling isyu hinggil sa Charter change (Cha-Cha). “Isang araw, magugulat ka na lang. Matanda ka na pala, kami nandito pa,” sabi ng kontrabida bago humalakhak at i-laser gun ng kanyang sidekick ang isang mananayaw na umaalma sa pambababoy diumano ng gobyerno sa kanyang paboritong sayaw.

Malinaw na tinutukoy ng bidyo si Gloria Arroyo, ang Pangulong pinakamatagal nang nakaupo sa puwesto sunod sa diktador na si Ferdinand Marcos.

Pinaniniwalaang nagmumula pa rin kay Arroyo ang panibagong tulak sa Mababang Kapulungan ng Kongreso na amyendahan ang 1987 Konstitusyon.

Simpatetikong Korte Suprema?

Halos kasabay ng pagbabasura ng Kamara sa ika-apat na reklamong impeachment laban kay Arroyo, sinimulan muli ng House Committee on Constitutional Amendments ang mga pagdinig hinggil sa Cha-Cha. Tinalakay ang House Resolution 737 ni Espiker Prospero Nograles ng Kamara. Pinababago ng HR 737 ang Seksiyon 2 at 3, Artikulo XII ng 1987 Konstitusyon para payagan ang mga dayuhang pagmamay-ari ng mga lupain sa bansa.

Katuwiran ni Nograles, kailangang isalba ang ekonomiya ng bansa sa gitna ng krisis pandaigdig.

Pero agad na sumingaw ang mas kaduda-dudang motibo sa Cha-Cha sa HR 550 ni Batangas Rep. Hermilando Mandanas. Pinahahaba nito ang termino ng Pangulo hanggang Hunyo 30, 2011.

Sa kabila ng iskandalong nilikha ng HR 550 na agad namang ibinasura ng komite, nagpursige sa Cha-Cha ang mga kaalyado ni Arroyo sa partidong Kampi (Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino). Itinutulak nila ang pagbubuo ng Kongreso sa isang Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass).

May 167 kongresista na ang pumirma sa ihahaing resolusyon ni Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Villafuerte, presidente ng Kampi. Balak ng Kampi, mangalap ng 197 pirma sa Kamara na kakatawan sa ¾ ng kabuuang miyembro ng Kongreso o 238 kongresista at 24 senador. Pupuwersahin nitong resolbahin ng Korte Suprema, sa wakas, ang isyung bumabara sa pagbubuo ng Con-Ass.

Ayon sa 1987 Konstitusyon, maaaring amyendahan ang Konstitusyon kung boboto ang ¾ ng mga miyembro ng dalawang kapulungan ng Kongreso. Pero hindi malinaw dito kung boboto nang hiwalay o iisa ang Mababa at Mataas na Kapulungan.

Di tulad noong 2006 na ibinasura ng Korte Suprema ang people’s initiative, naunang tangka ng administrasyon para itulak ang Cha-Cha, paborable para kay Arroyo kung magdedesisyon sa susunod na taon ang korte hinggil sa Con-Ass. Pitong hurado ang magreretiro. Pawang mga appointees ng Pangulo ang matitira. Siya rin ang magtatalaga sa bagong mga hurado.

Mismong si dating Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban, kinatatakutan ang isang “Korte Suprema ni Arroyo.” Umano’y baka mabahiran ng impluwensiya ng Pangulo ang tanging sangay ng gobyerno—sa ilalim ng pamumuno ni Chief Justice Reynato Puno—na may imaheng relatibong independiyente mula sa ehekutibo.

Paliwanag ni Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay, presidente ng United Opposition, “Malakas ang loob ng mga nagtutulak ng Cha-cha sa Kamara na magiging simpatetiko ang Korte Suprema at aalisin nito ang legal na mga balakid sa Konstitusyon hinggil sa term limits ni Arroyo.”

Term extension: ‘Di mapipigilan’

Sa isang birthday party sa tahanan ni Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez noong Nobyembre 15, napabalitang dumalo sina Pangulong Gloria at kabiyak na si Mike Arroyo para basbasan ang Con-Ass. Ngayon, kasama ni Villafuerte sina Romualdez at Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo, anak ng Pangulo, sa pangangalap ng pirma para dito.

Itinatanggi ni Villafuerte na ang lahat ng ito ay para maisalba ang Pangulo, na posibleng kumaharap sa iba’t ibang kasong kriminal kapag natanggalan ng immunity from suit sa 2010. Umano’y walang kinalaman ang Con-Ass sa pagharang sa darating na halalan. Dapat lang umanong resolbahin ang moda ng pagbabago ng 1987 Konstitusyon.

Pero marami ang naniniwala na kapag nabuo na ang Con-Ass, hindi mapipigilan ang pagpasok ng probisyon sa pagpapahaba ng termino.

Isa na rito si Sen. Francis Pangilinan. “Kung may humirit at sabihing ayaw ko ng economic provisions lamang, walang magagawa ang sinumang senador o kongresista. Dahil hindi puwedeng ilimita…Oras na magkaroon ng objection, at magkaroon ng proposal, puwedeng pagbotohan iyon. At kung ang pagbobotohan ay term extension, baka matuwa ‘yung napakarami at sabihing, ‘sama-sama na tayong pabor,’” aniya.

Hindi sang-ayon ang mga senador, maging ang kilalang mga kaalyado ni Arroyo na sina Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago at bagong-halal na Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, sa Cha-Cha bago ang 2010 halalan.

Para kontrahin ang Con-Ass, naghain ng resolusyon si Sen. Mar Roxas na nagpapatawag ng isang Constitutional Convention (Con-Con) pagkatapos ng 2010 halalan. Ang mga delegado sa Con-Con na siyang magpapanukala ng mga pagbabago sa Konstitusyon, ihahalal kasama ng iba pang mga opisyal ng gobyerno.

Ayon kay Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr., na nagtutulak ng pagbabago tungo sa parlamentaryong porma ng gobyerno, “makukulapulan ng partisanong pamumulitika” ang paghalal ng mga delegado sa Con-Con.

Pero dahil tila mahihirapan ang Kamara na ilusot ang Con-Ass nang walang kaparis sa resolusyon mula sa Senado, bukas sa Con-Con si Nograles—dahilan para umugong ang balitang patatalsikin siya ng mga taga-Kampi mula sa pamunuan ng Kamara—gayundin si Majority Floor Leader Arthur Defensor ng partidong Lakas.

Walang kinalaman?

Samantala, iginigiit ni Press Secretary Jesus Dureza na walang kinalaman ang Palasyo sa hakbang ng kanyang mga kapartido. Hindi rin umano ito makikialam sa isang kapantay na sangay ng gobyerno.

Gayunpaman, dinedma nito ang hamon ng ilang mga obispo na pumirma ang Pangulo ng isang dokumentong nangangakong hindi siya mananatili sa puwesto lampas sa 2010. “Ipagpapatuloy lamang niya ang dapat gawin bilang Presidente—ang pamumuno (governance),” ani Dureza.

Pero ayon kay Sen. Pia Cayetano, ang pananahimik ni Arroyo at kabiguan nitong sawatahin ang Con-Ass ay nangangahulugang pabor siya rito. “Kung talagang sinsero siyang hindi pahabain ang kanyang termino, bakit hindi niya ihayag ang oposisyon sa mga hakbang ng sarili niyang mga kaanak sa Kamara?”

Nagkakaisa rin ang mga lider-simbahan at ang mga negosyante na anupaman ang moda o ipinapalitaw na dahilan, hindi dapat amyendahan ang 1987 Konstitusyon sa ilalim ng gobyernong Arroyo.

Self-serving” o pakikinabangan lamang ito ng mga nagtutulak ng Cha-Cha, ayon kay Alberto Lim, presidente ng Makati Business Club. Maging si Edgardo Lacson, presidente ng kadikit ng administrasyon na Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, sinabing magdudulot lamang ng “political turmoil” o kaguluhang pampulitika ang Cha-Cha ngayon.

Ayon pa kay Arsobispo Gaudencio Rosales, na kilala ring tagasuporta ni Arroyo, hindi dapat ipagkatiwala ang Cha-Cha sa mga nasa kapangyarihan dahil sa kanila umanong “vested interests” o itinatagong pansariling mga interes.

Kahit ang taumbayan, lumalabas na hindi pabor sa Cha-Cha.

Sa pambansang sarbey noong nakaraang buwan ng Ibon Foundation, mayorya o 77.4% ng mga rumesponde ang nagsabing tutol sila sa pag-aamyenda ng Konstitusyon. Tumaas pa ang rating na ito kumpara sa sarbey noong Abril kung saan 68% ng mga rumesponde nang negatibo sa Cha-Cha.

Laging may duda

Bukod sa posibleng pagpapahaba ng termino ni Arroyo, tinututulan ng progresibong mga kinatawan ng party-list at ng Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) ang iba pang inihahaing mga pagbabago sa Konstitusyon. Pangunahin dito ang pagtanggal sa mga restriksiyon sa dayuhang pag-aari ng lupa, pampublikong yutilidad, mass media, paaralan, at advertising firms.

“Magreresulta ang 100% pagmamay-ari ng dayuhan sa mga lupain ng pinatinding pangangamkam ng lupa mula sa mga magsasaka at pagdambong sa kalikasan,” sabi ni Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano.

Binabantayan din ng Bayan ang pag-aamyenda sa Bill of Rights na nagsisiguro ng batayang mga karapatang pantao, at pag-alis ng mga safeguard o panlaban sa pagdedeklara ng Batas Militar.

Dagdag pa ng grupo, tututulan nila ang pagpapababa sa kinakailangang mga boto sa Kongreso para ratipikahin ang internasyunal na mga tratado na maaaring nasa disbentahe ng taumbayan, gayundin ang mga probisyong magpapabalik ng dayuhang mga tropa at baseng militar sa bansa.

“Sa ilalim ng kasalukuyang sirkunstansiya…laging pagdududahan ang mga hakbang para baguhin ang Konstitusyon. Sa panahong hindi dominante sa gobyerno ang interes ng mga mardyinalisado at inaapi, laging makikinabang sa Cha-Cha ang mga naghahari sa ekonomiya at pulitika, kapwa lokal at dayuhan,” sabi ng Bayan.

Panahon ng oposisyon

Kung paniniwalaan ang mga grupo at indibidwal na nag-oorganisa ng malaking kilos-protesta sa Disyembre 12, “papuntang Ayala Ave. ang lahat ng daan.” Umano’y panahon nang magpakitang-gilas ang mga tumututol sa Cha-Cha at pananatili sa puwesto ni Arroyo.

Kinabibilangan ito ng mga taong-simbahan, negosyante, estudyante, dating nakakataas na opisyal ng gobyerno, at progresibong mga grupong sektoral na kumakatawan sa mga manggagawa, magsasaka, maralitang lungsod, empleyado ng gobyerno, kababaihan, at iba pa.

“Talagang naghahanap ng venue ang taumbayan para maipahayag ang kanilang galit sa Cha-Cha,” sabi ni Renato Reyes, pangkalahatang kalihim ng Bayan.

Kung pagbabatayan ang sentimyento ng ordinaryong mga mamamayan gaya ni Juana Change, magiging makulay at pursigido ang muling pagbuhay ng protesta laban sa hindi birong banta na matapatan o mahigitan pa ni Arroyo si Marcos sa bilang ng mga taon na nakaupo sa puwesto.

(Editorial Cartoon) Cha-Cha de Saya

December 10, 2008


Good Son…

House determined to bypass Senate on Cha-cha

December 10, 2008

By Jess Diaz and Aurea Calica Updated December 10, 2008 12:00 AM

The cat is out of the bag: President Arroyo’s congressmen allies intend to bypass senators on Cha-cha.

Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Villafuerte, principal author of a draft resolution asking the Senate and the House to convene as a con-ass (constituent assembly) to propose Charter amendments, made this clear Monday night during an unscheduled plenary debate on Cha-cha.

Villafuerte is president of Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino (Kampi), the political party Mrs. Arroyo founded in 1997 when she was senator and which has collected more than 160 congressmen’s signatures on his resolution.

The debate between him and Parañaque Rep. Roilo Golez was prompted by Villafuerte’s privilege speech in which he defended his con-ass measure from mounting criticisms.

“We will invite them (senators), but if they don’t show up, that’s not our fault,” he said.

He said individual senators could participate without the consent of the Senate as an institution “because in a con-ass, there is no institutional participation by the Senate and the House.”

He added that the Charter does not require the Senate and the House to vote separately or for each chamber to obtain a three-fourths vote of all its members.

Golez said Villafuerte’s position is “most shocking and most creative interpretation of the Constitution.”

“It negates the fact that our Congress is a bicameral body. It consists of two chambers. One chamber cannot exist without the other,” he said.

He said there are at least two other provisions of the Constitution requiring the vote of a “majority of members of Congress, such as in the grant of tax exemption and of concurrence to a presidential amnesty proclamation.”

But Villafuerte said that there is actually no conflict between his and Golez’s interpretations of the pertinent provisions of the Charter.

He said the two provisions Golez cited refer to the “exercise of legislative power” by Congress, while his own position refers to the “exercise of constituent power or the power to propose Charter amendments.”

Villafuerte claimed that the 1986 Constitutional Commission that wrote the Constitution made Congress a bicameral assembly when it is performing legislative functions and a unicameral or one-chamber body when it is doing Cha-cha.

In his privilege speech, Villafuerte also criticized Nograles for his “confusing” stand on Cha-cha and for “putting the cart before the horse” by filing Resolution 737.

Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez defended Nograles, saying Villafuerte was “misinformed.”

“The position of the Speaker is very clear. He wants con-ass but he is also keeping an open mind for other modes just in case the Supreme Court will shoot it down,” he said.

Cebu Rep. Antonio Cuenco, chairman of House foreign affairs committee, meanwhile called on his colleagues not to ignore the Senate.

“We can never take off if we don’t reckon with the Senate. We should sit down with the Senate and agree with the constitutional convention mode,” Cuenco told the House committee on constitutional amendments.

Nene, Joker hit House initiative

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. and administration Sen. Joker Arroyo dismissed yesterday as unconstitutional an initiative in the House of Representatives to amend the economic provisions of the Constitution through ordinary legislative procedures or by treating them as ordinary bills.

Pimentel said the proposed tack, contained in Resolution No. 737 filed by Speaker Prospero Nograles, was an “invention” of the congressmen, while Arroyo said it was “nonsensical.”

Resolution 737 seeks to amend Article XII Sections 2 and 3 of the 1987 Constitution “to allow the acquisition by foreign corporations and associations, and the transfer or conveyance thereto, of alienable public lands and private lands.”

“Forget it, otherwise they’re only opening themselves to ridicule (because it shows) that they don’t know what the constitutional requirements are for changing the Constitution,” Pimentel said. “They are members of Congress, nakakahiya (it’s shameful),” he said.

“You cannot amend the Constitution, not a single period or comma can be changed without a resolution to effect the change either by way of constitutional convention or constituent assembly or popular initiative. There is no third or fourth method of amending the Constitution,” he added.

“They are really wrong. Maybe they are too desperate already,” he said.

Arroyo said the congressmen kept on “beating a dead horse” even if they were aware that it would not get a single vote in the Senate.

“The fatal flaw in everything that the House does is the idea that it is as if the Senate does not exist. It just cannot be done. So right from the start, it won’t prosper,” Arroyo said. “How can you ignore the Senate?”

“Everything they say is magnified in media even if it’s the most nonsensical thing,” Arroyo said.

“Nobody’s bothered here. We’re not bothered one wit by what’s happening in the House because they know nothing will happen,” he said.

Arroyo said the focus now should be on the economic crisis.

“We’d rather that we don’t amend it or not touch it at all because the end is worse than the remedy,” Arroyo said.

He said now is the best time to build a con-con so that delegates need not be part of any political party, unlike if the selection of delegates is done simultaneously with the 2010 polls.

Arroyo said the president is unlikely to benefit from con-con because her term is only until 2010.

Sen. Francis Escudero also said Mrs. Arroyo should categorically state her position on Cha-cha.

Escudero, who now heads the Senate committee on constitutional amendments, revision of codes and laws, said without a categorical position on Cha-cha, Mrs. Arroyo has indirectly been encouraging her allies to insist on Cha-cha to the detriment of Filipinos.

Meanwhile, opposition groups accused the Arroyo administration of trying to scare away potential participants in the Dec. 12 inter-faith rally against Cha-cha.

“Filipinos may disagree on a number of things, but opposition to Charter change under the GMA administration is an issue that unites and cuts across all political colors, religious groups and sectors,” United Opposition spokesman Adel Tamano said. – With Evelyn Macairan, Michael Punongbayan, Jose Rodel Clapano, Sheila Crisostomo and Delon Porcalla

SAYS PARTY-LIST SOLON Arroyo could go the way of Estrada

December 7, 2008

By Desiree Caluza
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 03:21:00 12/07/2008

BAGUIO CITY—Gabriela party-list Rep. Liza Maza said President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo would suffer the fate of ousted President Joseph Estrada if she insisted on Charter change (Cha-cha).

“GMA (Ms Arroyo) and her allies should not test themselves on Charter change because they might find themselves [facing an] enraged people. They might [follow the path] of their immediate predecessors, like former President Joseph Estrada,” said Maza, who spoke at a women’s rights forum here on Friday.

Estrada was forced out of office by huge street protests in January 2001 after his impeachment trial for perjury and plunder was torpedoed by his allies in the Senate.

Maza’s words seemed a counterpoint to administration-allied Sorsogon Rep. Jose Solis warning Friday that Speaker Prospero Nograles would suffer the fate of ousted Speaker Jose de Venecia if he junked a constituent assembly (Con-ass) in favor of a constitutional convention (Con-con) to effect Charter change.

Nograles, who took over the speakership after De Venecia fell out of grace with the President early this year, said Thursday he would back any mode of Charter change, including the popular constitutional convention which would take longer and be more unwieldy.

Talk of colliding fates, ousters and revolts continued even as Batangas Rep. Hermilando Mandanas withdrew his resolution that sought the extension of the terms of elected officials up to 2011. His resolution, which would have effectively canceled the 2010 elections, triggered many of the negative reactions to Cha-cha in the administration-dominated House of Representatives.

Mandanas said his resolution was misinterpreted—he did not intend it to benefit the President and other national officials.

Maza was unconvinced. “In the midst of crisis, GMA is really serious about pushing Charter change.” She said that the opposition saw Cha-cha as a way to extend the term of Ms Arroyo and her allies and to change the charter’s economic provisions.

She said the alliance of militant groups, religious organizations and civil society was strong and would protest any moves to amend the Constitution. A national protest is scheduled on Dec. 12.

The opposition bloc in Congress, Maza said, was also doubling its efforts to gather support for a resolution against Charter change to counter the administration’s move.

She said the junking of the fourth impeachment complaint against Ms Arroyo in as many years had proven the President’s political tenacity.

But her leadership, Maza said, “is a continuing disaster.”

“This is a lesson to all women who want women as leaders. It is not enough that we have a woman president like GMA. Women should not support her just because she’s a woman; what we need is a leader who has good intentions, who is just and clean,” Maza said.

Meanwhile, lawmakers have begun gathering 197 signatures in support of a draft resolution to convene the Senate and the House into a constituent assembly to amend the Constitution. With reports from TJ Burgonio and Leila Salaverria

Catholic schools ready to fight Cha-cha Focus on more pressing issues, says CEAP

December 7, 2008

By Edson C. Tandoc Jr., Dona Pazzibugan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 03:20:00 12/07/2008

MANILA, Philippines—The biggest organization of Catholic schools in the country is ready to join street protests if the government pushes through with its plan to amend the Constitution, the group director said Saturday.

“We have been approached by many groups (against Charter change or Cha-cha). We are studying their specific objectives,” Msgr. Gerardo Santos, director of the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP), said in a phone interview Saturday.

He did not say if the group would attend the Dec. 12 multisectoral rally against Charter change in Makati City.

The CEAP said that instead of insisting on amending the Constitution, lawmakers should focus on two more important issues: The extension of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) and electoral reform for 2010.

The CEAP has 1,252 member-schools.

“We want to ensure that the Filipino people are able to exercise their fundamental right to choose their next set of leaders as provided for in the Constitution,” the CEAP said in a statement sent to the Philippine Daily Inquirer (parent company of “Thus, we oppose any schemes to cancel, postpone or change the nature of the 2010 national elections.”

“What we need from our leaders is truth, accountability and genuine social and political reform for the majority. We certainly do not need any Charter change that will only serve the narrow interests of the few who are currently in power,” the CEAP said.
Several other groups, including businessmen, have objected to moves to amend the Constitution, especially after the discovery of a House resolution that would extend the term of elected officials, including President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s, to 2011.

Other religious organizations have already joined the anti-Cha-cha movement.

Jesus is Lord Worldwide Church leader Eddie Villanueva warned the government’s insistence on amending the Constitution now would push the country to the brink of the “worst crisis,” a civil war.

He dared Ms Arroyo and her three constitutional successors—Vice President Noli de Castro, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Speaker Prospero Nograles—to take a three-month leave of absence to prove that they were not using Cha-cha to extend their terms.

Villanueva said this was the “ideal solution” to the political crisis triggered by the suspicion that Charter change was aimed at extending Ms Arroyo’s term beyond 2010.

“I want to challenge Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and the leaders of Congress to prove their sincerity, if they really have no intention of extending their terms and are only after economic reforms (in the Constitution) in view of the global crisis,” Villanueva said in an interview.

“We can agree to a constituent assembly provided that both Houses will vote separately, and the political leaders from the President to the Speaker should take a leave of absence and let the nonpolitical successor, the Chief Justice (Reynato Puno) be the caretaker for three months,” said Villanueva, who ran against and lost to Ms Arroyo in the 2004 elections.

He said that by having the President’s elder son, Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel Arroyo, spearhead the signature campaign in the House of Representatives for a constituent assembly, Malacañang has betrayed its real intention to stay in power.

“If they insist on railroading Charter change, we will be forced to go on a nationwide protest. Kung garapalan na, we will entertain other means that are peaceful. If the peaceful avenues fail, then the last resort could be civil disobedience. Just to avoid violence, the people have the sovereign right to resort to civil disobedience,” he said.

Cha-Cha Proposal to Legalize Foreign Plunder of Philippines’ Resources

December 4, 2008

The proposed amendment in the Constitution seeking to allow the foreign corporations to own land will legitimize the all-out and ongoing exploitation and plunder by foreign corporations of the country’s natural resources.

Posted by Bulatlat

The proposed amendment in the Constitution seeking to allow the foreign corporations to own land will legitimize the all-out and ongoing exploitation and plunder by foreign corporations of the country’s natural resources.

Among the various amendments that Charter change (Cha-cha) proponents are pushing for is the removal of so-called restrictive provisions in the constitution, including the proposal to dismantle the 40-percent foreign ownership restriction of public lands.

This proposal aims to amend Art. XII, Secs. 2 and 3 which say that the state should fully control public land and natural resources and may enter into production sharing agreements as long as Filipinos own 60 percent of the capital.

As it is, this constitutional provision has not effectively restricted full foreign control over the Philippines’ strategic natural resources like minerals and petroleum. For example, mining agreements as of January 2008 have reached a total of 294, covering approximately 600,000 hectares of highly mineralized lands around the country.

Another case is the Malampaya oil field, which is under a service contract with oil giants Shell and Chevron. Instead of Filipinos benefiting from its crude reserves, Malampaya has been exporting billions of dollars worth of crude oil since 2001, bringing immense profits for these giant oil firms.

This provision in the Constitution is important since it protects the state from entering into arrangements that would allow the abuse of resources by foreign corporations. Amending this provision and dismantling the restriction of foreign ownership of lands will only worsen the foreign plunder of our national resources and further undermine national interest.

Land, as well as our other natural resources, plays a strategic role in national economic development, environment, and way of life – and these resources should be effectively controlled by the state. Ultimately, the country’s economic sovereignty and potential for industrialization are at stake with Cha-cha. Posted

Velarde threatens march vs Cha-cha El Shaddai leader urges Arroyo: Stop it

December 3, 2008

By Juliet Labog-Javellana, TJ Burgonio
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:52:00 12/03/2008

MANILA, Philippines—The spiritual adviser of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has threatened to mount one-million-strong street protests against the campaign of her allies in the House of Representatives for the amendment of the 1987 Constitution.

Bro. Mike Velarde, leader of the El Shaddai that counts at least four million members, again aired his warning to Congress not to push Charter change (Cha-cha) and, in the process, extend the term of the President and other elected officials beyond 2010.

But this time, Velarde also directed his appeal to Ms Arroyo, saying she should “use her persuasive powers on her allies” to withdraw their resolutions calling for Charter change and stop their campaign for a constituent assembly (Con-ass).

“Otherwise, if the President will not do it, we will do it in the streets,” he told the Philippine Daily Inquirer on the phone.

Velarde said he would call out a million of his followers “anytime” against House moves to railroad Charter change: “Paparadahan natin ’yan ng isang milyon.”

Even former Senate President Frank Drilon warned that the Charter change drive could spark “people power.”

“I hope this administration will not underestimate the anger of the people. This can be the tipping point. It can unite the entire nation against this administration. People power can be rekindled,” Drilon said Tuesday in a phone interview.

Religious, civil society and militant groups are planning an interfaith rally dubbed “Labanan ang Cha-cha ni Gloria” on Dec. 12 at the Ayala Avenue and Paseo de Roxas intersection in Makati City.

“We will join that one even if I have to walk with my cane,” said former Sen. Vicente Paterno, 83.

Paterno belongs to the group called Former Senior Government Officials (FSGO), which monitors and evaluates the Arroyo administration’s policies.

He said the FSGO had decided to join the rally.

“Despite the congressmen’s assurances, we need to be wary that they could at the last session day insert amendments lifting the limit on the term of the President,” Paterno said on the phone.

‘Stop your children’

Velarde said that while the Palace had repeatedly denied that Ms Arroyo would seek Charter change to stay in power, “she must also show us that she means business by persuading her allies, especially her children, [to drop their campaign].”

“If I cannot stop my children [from doing something], I’m not a good parent,” he said.

Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel Arroyo, the President’s elder son, is said to be pushing a Con-ass resolution for signature in the House. The campaign is expected to be backed by his brother, Camarines Sur Rep. Diosdado Arroyo, and his uncle, Negros Occidental Rep. Ignacio Arroyo.

‘Show leadership’

Velarde said Ms Arroyo would not be interfering with Congress if she persuaded her allies to stop the Con-ass drive.

“The President has persuasive powers over her allies. It will not be interference, just persuasion,” he said.

According to Velarde, Ms Arroyo will step down when her term ends: “I personally believe the President will not stay beyond 2010. But I’m afraid her allies and those around her are trying to convince her to stay beyond her term, and they are the ones orchestrating this Con-ass.”

He said the President “should show her leadership and once and for all end these divisive moves.”

Velarde said the “single act” of stopping her allies from pushing Cha-cha “will once and for all convince the people and erase doubts about her intention, and this will also improve her trust ratings with the public.”

“She needs this confidence so that the people can rally behind her and her programs to lead the country out of the economic crisis,” he said.

In 2006, Velarde expressed strong opposition to a move in the House to push a Con-ass without the Senate’s participation. The plan was eventually shelved.

‘Tatamaan si GMA’

Velarde said Charter change, particularly through a Con-ass that would disregard the Senate, was ill-timed and divisive.

“In this [economically] difficult time, I would like to appeal to Congress to give the country political peace. The Con-ass [move] is very divisive,” he said, adding:

“We don’t trust the congressmen now because their move is suspect; many people think they will push this Con-ass to extend their term. So if they really have no such intention, they should not push this now.”

Velarde also said Congress should let Ms Arroyo finish her term and use her remaining time to lead the country out of the effects of the global economic crisis.

He said the Cha-cha campaign would boomerang on Ms Arroyo: “Tatamaan si Presidente dyan. I don’t want her to be disturbed until 2010 because we need her solid leadership and direction to solve our problems. We cannot afford to have a crisis like [what is happening now in] Bangkok.”

Starting Dec. 12

Velarde said he had aired his appeal personally to members of Congress—including House Speaker Prospero Nograles and Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Villafuerte, the president of Ms Arroyo’s political party, the Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino or Kampi—but that it had apparently been ignored.

“I’m not changing my position. If they will not stop this, I will call for a mass action against this Con-ass. I’m willing to lead the people and go to the streets to send a message to these members of Congress behind this Con-ass how serious we are in opposing this,” Velarde said.

“For that matter, I’ll start going to the streets of Bacolod on Dec. 12 to campaign against this Con-ass,” he added.

Civil, religious and political leaders kicked off protest rallies against Charter change on Friday night in Makati City.

Velarde said he would lead district-by-district “persuasive rallies” in Bacolod, Leyte, Pampanga and other bailiwicks of Ms Arroyo’s key allies and Cha-cha proponents.

“I will even invite the bishops to join me,” he said.

Velarde said he was in favor of Charter change, but only after 2010 and through a constitutional convention (Con-con) whose delegates would be elected simultaneously with candidates for elective posts.

He said those seeking the presidency in 2010 should “be prepared” for possible Charter changes during his/her term.

Remonde scoffs at Drilon

He added that his son, Rene Velarde, the representative of El Shaddai’s party-list group Buhay, had filed a resolution for a Con-con in 2010.

But Secretary Cerge Remonde scoffed at Drilon’s warning. “These are speculations obviously peddled by those who have long wanted to see this administration fall,” he told reporters.

Remonde said Malacañang would respect the people’s right to protest, but appealed to groups not to agitate the public into mounting a rerun of People Power I and II.

“In the spirit of Christmas, and in view of the hard times, we appeal to those who seek to do that, there are better ways of attaining change. That’s not good for the country and our people,” he said.

An October survey of the Social Weather Stations showed that 64 percent of adult Filipinos were opposed to amending the Charter and allowing Ms Arroyo to stay in power after June 30, 2010.

Undersecretary Anthony Golez, deputy spokesperson of Ms Arroyo, acknowledged that any amendment seeking to lift term limits was “doomed.”

“We find it to be doomed because the people will oppose this; they don’t want any term extension,” he told reporters.

According to Golez, the “safety valves” against any term extension are the Charter, which sets the President’s term to six years, and a plebiscite, where the people will vote or reject such a revision of the Charter. With a report from Dona Pazzibugan

MILITANT GROUP WARNS: Thai-like unrest vs Charter change

December 1, 2008

By Thea Alberto
First Posted 13:59:00 12/01/2008

MANILA, Philippines — If administration lawmakers will not stop insisting on Charter Change, “a national confrontation” or something similar to what happened in Thailand is bound to happen, an official of a militant group warned Monday.

Bayan Muna secretary general Renato Reyes issued the statement following the announcement by Camarines Sur Representative Luis Villafuerte that they were getting closer to the target 197 signatures, as 167 lawmakers at the House of Representatives have signed the resolution calling for Charter change deliberations.

“The announcement shows the insistence of Arroyo and her allies to railroad Charter change through sheer numbers and with utter disregard for the law and public opinion. This will inevitably lead to a national crisis and confrontation,” said Reyes in a statement.

“There is now a greater sense of urgency to come together and stop this political abomination once and for all,” he added.

Reyes also seconded the statement by Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago that a push for any constitutional amendment might pave the way for massive protests like those in Thailand.

“We are seldom in agreement with Senator Santiago but on this score she may be right. Pushing for Charter change and scrapping the 2010 polls would result in an untenable situation which the regime may not be able to survive,” Reyes said.

Reyes also said most Filipinos, and not only those from Metro Manila, were not in favor of Charter change.

“The anti Cha-cha [Charter change] sentiments are certainly not confined to Metro Manila. Bayan is working with religious, business and civic leaders even in provinces in efforts to oppose Charter change,” Reyes said.

IN BACOLOD Priests to mobilize vs Charter change

December 1, 2008

By Carla Gomez
Visayas Bureau
First Posted 19:38:00 12/01/2008

BACOLOD CITY — The Catholic church here reiterated on Monday its opposition to renewed moves to amend the Constitution and vowed to mobilize protest actions against it.

“We are against Cha-cha [Charter change], that’s final,” Bacolod Bishop Vicente Navarra said in a text message on Monday in answer to a query by the Philippine Daily Inquirer (parent company of

Fr. Anecito Buenafe, head of the diocesan Social Action Center, said the church would be at the forefront of protests and would use all means against renewed moves for Charter change.

Reacting to the diocese’s position, Representative Ignacio Arroyo Jr. (Negros Occidental, 5th District), brother-in-law of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, said the “church should take care of our souls.”

Arroyo also said that he hoped the Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino (Kampi, Partner of Free Filipinos), of which he is a member, gets the numbers in the House to go ahead with Charter change through a constituent assembly of both houses of Congress.

Kampi president Luis Villafuerte (Camarines Sur) earlier said they had the signatures of 167 congressmen, 30 short of the 197 needed to achieve their goal.

Arroyo said they would push for Charter change to change the system of government from bicameral to unicameral.

“We need a parliamentary form of government to move forward. We are against term extensions,” he said.

Survey Reveals Most Filipinos Reject Cha-Cha

November 26, 2008

Majority of Filipinos continue to reject moves to amend the Constitution or charter change (Cha-cha), according to the results of the latest IBON nationwide survey.

Posted by Bulatlat

Majority of Filipinos continue to reject moves to amend the Constitution or charter change (Cha-cha), according to the results of the latest IBON nationwide survey.

Of the 72.4 percent of respondents who answered that they were aware of the Arroyo administration’s moves to amend or change the 1987 Constitution, 77.4 percent said they were not in favor of such proposals. This is a significant increase from the April 2008 survey round where 68 percent said they were not in favor of Cha-cha, and from the 74 percent in October 2007.

Meanwhile, 18.4 percent said they were in favor of Cha-cha, down from 25.7 percent in April 2008.
The latest IBON survey was conducted nationwide from October 1 to 10 with 1,494 respondents from various sectors. The survey used a multi-stage probability sampling scheme with a margin of error of plus or minus three percent.

Below is the tabulation of results of people’s perception on Charter change.

Do you know that the Arroyo Administration has a proposal to amend or change the 1987 Philippine Constitution?

Are you in favor of the proposal of the current administration to change the constitution?


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‘Presidential’ Resolution to Amend the Constitution: Term Extension to Perpetuate Pres. Arroyo in Power and Avoid Criminal Prosecution

November 26, 2008

The move of the son of President Gloria Arroyo and her Kampi party-mates and allies in the House of Representatives to ram what is nothing more than a “presidential” resolution calling for a convening of a “constituent assembly” to amend the Constitution deserves the most serious objection from members of the legal profession and the people. This sudden push for charter change is nothing more than an attempt to extend the term of office of President Arroyo who is obsessed with fear of being sent to prison once her term ends in 2010 for crimes against the Filipino people.

Posted by Bulatlat

The move of the son of President Gloria Arroyo and her Kampi party-mates and allies in the House of Representatives to ram what is nothing more than a “presidential” resolution calling for a convening of a “constituent assembly” to amend the Constitution deserves the most serious objection from members of the legal profession and the people. This sudden push for charter change is nothing more than an attempt to extend the term of office of President Arroyo who is obsessed with fear of being sent to prison once her term ends in 2010 for crimes against the Filipino people. The latest attempt to change the Constitution is very serious considering the assumption Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, who once filed Senate Resolution No. 580 calling for charter change through a “constituent assembly”, to the office of the Senate President. The plan to convene the House through a Senate-less constituent assembly is now backed up by a possibility that the Enrile-led Senate may legitimize charter change through “con-ass”. It must be stressed that Senator Enrile’s Resolution 580 did not contradict the “senate-less con-ass” proposed by the House but was “deafeningly silent” on the mode of convening the con-ass. The assertion by the presidential son and President Arroyo’s allies that term extension is not in the agenda is misleading because some resolutions being tackled in the House actually proposes extension of the president’s term, the elimination of term limits and the postponement of the 2010 elections. Furthermore, a constituent assembly is a distinct body from Congress tasked with proposing amendments to the Constitution, and can, therefore, insert term extension once convened.

The economic crisis will definitely exacerbate if charter change pushes through because the holding of a plebiscite in 2009 will entail the expenditure of hundreds of millions of pesos by a Comelec (Commission on Elections) which does not even have the budget to hold recall elections, nor the resources to fund the automated 2010 elections. Charter change will not only contravene the will of the people in order to satisfy the self-serving interest of President Arroyo to stay in power beyond 2010, but worse , it will entail massive amounts of expenditures from tax payers money, courtesy of the impoverished Filipino nation.

Term extension and other self-serving proposals in House Resolutions

The pending House resolutions propose many amendments which are completely self serving not only for Pres. Arroyo but for members of the House as well. House Resolution 550 directly proposes the extension of term of President Arroyo and all other elective officials and the postponement of the 2010 elections to June 30, 2011. Another resolution proposes the elimination of the current term limits and another resolution for the expansion of the term of congressmen to four years instead of three years all of which betray the real intent of charter change—perpetuation in power. The proposal of House Resolution 14 taking away the Supreme Court’s judicial power to intervene in cases of grave abuse of discretion under Section 1, Article VIII of the Constitution is an attempt by President Arroyo to ensure a weak and helpless judiciary that cannot be a forum to “restrain” her abuses.

Constituent assembly: a powerful body that can extend terms and perpetuate President Arroyo.

It is expected that Congress will choose the self-serving mode of constituent assembly since it gives the very members who want to change the Constitution the power to draft the specific amendments. Assurances that the Constituent Assembly will not be “authorized” to extend the term of President Arroyo are not only misleading but are self-serving assurances that has no credibility. The “Constituent Assembly”, once constituted is a different constitutional entity from Congress and is therefore not bound by any congressional resolution, much less by “assurances” from certain individual congressmen. The Constituent Assembly, because it has the power to propose amendments to the Constitution, is, therefore, not subservient to a mere legislative body. It is clear from Section 1, Article IX that the constituent assembly is empowered to “revise” the Constitution. This means that it can amend or overhaul the Charter and is, therefore, logically empowered to extend the term of President Arroyo or allow her to run again in 2010.

Members of the House are warned from joining the bandwagon being generated by Malacañang for charter change. Charter change that will perpetuate President Arroyo’s power and eliminate the protectionist economic policies in the Constitution could result in a violent upheaval in the country. The House Committee on Constitutional Amendments and Congress should, instead of rushing the process, conduct consultations with the people especially in the light of the known and admitted resistance of the people to charter change. In fact, it should rather focus on the impeachment complaint and allow the people enough opportunities to present their case against President Arroyo for electoral fraud, human rights violations and graft and corruption.


The NUPL is seriously concerned by the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments’ withdrawal of its previous decision to hold four public consultations in Metro Manila, Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao on the need for charter change. Unless it holds transparent hearings accessible to the people, no amount of Committee hearings in the House will justify any decision of the Committee. The people have previously spoken against charter change and it is the burden of presidential allies in the House to prove that the people are now supportive of charter change. The claim by certain congressmen that there is no need to consult their constituents because they were voted representatives of the people is not only the height of arrogance but is absolutely misleading since they were voted to pass or amend laws but not to amend the Constitution. The failure of members of both houses of Congress to consult the people on “cha-cha” will cause an upheaval and the House will once again reap the wrath of an outraged populace. It will only expose the subservience of the legislators to President Gloria Arroyo who, together with the US, is the main beneficiary of charter change so that she can perpetuate herself in power through the deletion of the “one-term” limit in Article VII of the Constitution. There is no compelling need to change the Constitution today. There is, however, a compelling need to ensure that President Arroyo steps down from office on or before 2010.

Reference: Atty. Neri Javier Colmenares, NUPL Secretary-General

Bangsamoro state eyed under federacy

October 26, 2008

By Vincent Cabreza
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:56:00 10/26/2008

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines — Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. on Friday said the autonomous governments mandated by the 1987 Constitution for indigenous Filipinos of the Cordillera and Muslim Mindanao would not be touched by charter amendments seeking to create a federal government in the Philippines.

Pimentel said the existence of the autonomous governments, particularly the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, would repair the damage caused by a failed government attempt to sign a deal creating a Bangsamoro Juridical Entity with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

In August, a peace panel organized by President Macapagal-Arroyo and its counterpart in the MILF drafted a memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain creating the BJE.

The talks eventually collapsed after the Supreme Court stopped the scheduled signing of the memorandum of agreement in August. On October 14, the Supreme Court declared MOA-AD unconstitutional.

Pimentel presented the 63-page Joint Resolution No. 10, which outlines the creation of 11 Philippine federal states under an amended Constitution, before 500 north Luzon officials who attended a Charter change consultation here on Friday.

Baguio Representative Mauricio Domogan, a member of the House committee on constitutional amendments, organized the forum.

Pimentel said a Bangsamoro federal state would take the place of ARMM in a new bureaucracy to avoid antagonizing former Moro rebels.

But unlike previous political organizations designed for a Muslim community, the proposed Charter reforms would allow a Bangsamoro government to be administered by sharia (Islamic legal system).

Giving the region its own sharia-supervised state means the government is finally acknowledging the Muslim Filipino identity, he said.

The discussion pacified many of the Cordillera delegates, who are trying to revive Cordillera autonomy before legislators push for federalism, Domogan said.

The Cordillera drafted the country’s first law creating an autonomous region but the bid failed to win support during a 1990 plebiscite. A second law was also not ratified in a plebiscite held in 1998.

Some of the delegates, who discussed Charter reforms with Pimentel, were worried that the constitutional amendments would make Cordillera autonomy obsolete.

ARMM remains the only active autonomous region in the country, Pimentel said, but it has its flaws.

“There is a critical element missing [from ARMM] to address the problems of the Moro people…Pinag-aralan ko ito nang mabuti (I studied this thoroughly). That problem is our lack of recognition of their cultural identity,” he said.

“What is the basis of this identity? That element is the absence of the sharia… Without their laws, they could not truly say they are being allowed to live their lives as Muslims,” Pimentel said.

Egyptian, Indonesian and Malaysian legislators have already assured the Philippines that sharia can still be bound to Philippine laws that forbid extreme punishment such as beheading and stoning, Pimentel said.

He said the government has been attacking the Muslim secessionist problem with war when all it needed to do was accept their religion.


My Take:

With the MOA-ADs failure, the MILF will surely be smarter enough not to take Pimentel’s hook, line and sinker.

Charter change possible next year – Miriam

October 4, 2008

By Efren L. Danao, Senior Reporter

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

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

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

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

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

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

No clear answers from Constitution

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bayan to Arroyo: Give Categorical Statement Vs Term Extension

October 2, 2008

The umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan today challenged President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to put in writing that she would not seek to extend her term beyond 2010. The challenge came after a United States think-tank revealed a study that charter change to extend the president’s term remains an option of the administration.

“Many cabinet officials have claimed that the president will step down on 2010. It’s the president who has been vague or silent on the issue. She has not assuaged public fears that she will be seeking a term extension,” said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr.

“We challenge her to put in writing that she won’t support and benefit from any move that will result in a term extension for her and her allies. She must also be the first to stop moves that aim to change the constitution. It has to come from the proverbial horse’s mouth. ,” Reyes said.

Reyes said that declaring her intentions is “only half the problem.”

“Of course we have seen before how the president turned on her word. In 2002 she said she wouldn’t run, only to reverse herself less than a year later. Still, Mrs. Arroyo should make a categorical statement on the matter,” Reyes said.

Bayan said that it will continue to oppose current moves that seek to amend the constitution. “So far there are no indicators that the charter change drive is over. The House of Representatives is trying to push charter change and has brushed aside formal public hearings on the matter. There are also other maneuvers on specific amendments to the charter which could open the way for more changes in the constitution,” Reyes said.

“Charter change is still in play and the people have to be vigilant,” the Bayan leader added.

The House Committee on Constitutional Amendments will vote on the need and manner of charter change as soon as the different congressional representatives finish their “consultation” with their constituents. There will no longer be any formal public hearings after the committee reversed its decision two weeks ago. There is also a proposal for a specific amendment to the provision that bans 100% foreign ownership of land which could be deliberated immediately on the floor.

On the president’s concern that she will be viewed as a lame-duck president if not for charter change efforts, Bayan said that the president should be more concerned with resolving real issues and problems.

“Why worry about being viewed as a lame-duck president? She should be more concerned with the perception that she is the most distrusted and disliked president since 1986. She should be more concerned with the perception that the Philippines in one of the most corrupt countries in the world,” Reyes said.

“The fear of being viewed as a lame-duck president is only important for a leader who wants to maintain political leverage. It is self-serving more than anything else,” Reyes added.### (PinoyPress)

House wants Cha-cha to deal with financial crisis

October 2, 2008

By Delon Porcalla
Thursday, October 2, 2008


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The US financial crisis has given the administration-dominated Philippine House of Representatives another argument to amend the 21-year-old Constitution by way of giving Americans and Filipino migrants the opportunity to transfer their investments here.

Speaker Prospero Nograles, an ally of President Arroyo in the ruling Lakas-CMD party, said now is the best time to “lift equity restrictions” on the prohibitive 60-40 constitutional provision that favors only local businessmen.

“Now is the best opportunity for the government to encourage US-based Filipinos to invest their dollar-denominated savings in Philippine industries like mining and agriculture,” Nograles said in a statement.

“The trend in the global money market is focused on the more stable gold and other mineral-based investments,” he said in the wake of the current global financial turmoil spawned by the US financial crisis.

The House resolution Nograles authored is now supported by 160 of the 240 congressmen, which may then allow the government to amend the restrictive provision, eventually allowing foreign investments like those from the troubled American market, to come in.

The Arroyo government should take advantage of the situation because US investors are now “relocating to safer grounds.” The Speaker said this is one condition where the Philippines can “convert the US crisis (in)to an opportunity.”

Nograles proposed that the government launch an aggressive campaign to bring in more investments to the Philippines, as US investors are either holding back assets or are re-channeling them to safer grounds.

“Our strong economic fundamentals should be our best selling point in offering refuge to relocating American investments. However, we cannot maximize our potential as an attractive destination because of our equity restrictions,” he said.

Nograles added: “Our economic managers should be able to take the crisis as an opportunity to mobilize the country’s sleeping potentials and not just remain in the defensive posture.

“Overseas Filipinos, especially those working and living in the United States, should look at their home country as the best haven for their savings that could be transformed into active investments,” he stressed.

Nograles surmised that even a minimum of $1,000 investment for every US-based Filipino migrant “would be substantial to fuel the country’s economic engine.”

The Speaker noted that Mindanao is just waiting to be tapped for its rich and vast reservoir of natural resources, including gold and other precious metals, aside from its vast potentials in food production.

According to Nograles, his proposed summit can be used as a vehicle to craft a concrete strategy to attract investments from US-based Filipino migrants and formulate measures that will strengthen investor confidence in the Philippine economy.

He said he is willing to put his job on the line when it comes to Charter change. “In my watch, I think I will bite the bullet,” he told members of the Manila Overseas Press Club early last month.

Nograles assured the MOPC that the 240 members of the House will discuss the issue “in public in a transparent manner, with no surprises, with cards on the table… Let’s see how it goes.”

Members of the Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino (Kampi) in the House are not abandoning efforts for Charter change, Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno said.

Puno, also Kampi chairman, said he and his partymates will continuously push for Cha-cha, but these moves will focus on amendments affecting economic reforms in the country.

Puno highlighted the need for the country to amend constitutional provisions on restrictions on corporate and property ownership.– With Christina Mendez (PStar)

Road toward 2010 to be bumpy with Cha-cha–US think-tank

September 28, 2008

By Doris Dumlao
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 20:35:00 09/28/2008

MANILA — The Philippines’ political scene is facing a rough road ahead toward the 2010 presidential elections due to fresh initiatives to tinker with the 1987 Constitution and heightened economic risks from the global financial crisis, according to a New York-based think tank.

But remittances from overseas Filipino workers would continue to keep the domestic economy afloat, Global Source said in a paper titled “Minefields on the Road to 2010” dated Sept. 26.

“The road to the 2010 presidential election is not expected to be a smooth one,” said the commentary written by Filipino economists Romeo Bernardo and Marie-Christine Tang.

Mounting a Charter change (Cha-cha) initiative, even if eventually blocked or pulled back, is seen as a way to save President Macapagal-Arroyo from becoming a “lame duck” during her remaining 20 months in office.

“Thus, this is a no-lose strategy for the leadership,” the paper said.

While local financial markets have been able to shrug off these political developments until now, Global Source said “it would be rash though to discount current moves as mere political noise.”

It reckoned that amending the Constitution would be a difficult process. “This is something that its crafters in all likelihood intended. Several previous failed attempts, going back to the 1990s during the time of President Ramos, attest to this,” it said.

The think tank also noted that the outlook for global growth dimmed since the most recent US financial crisis, which was expected to affect developing countries’ exports and growth prospects.

“Higher domestic inflation can exert pressure on wages anew, which firms may not be able to accommodate at this time given the poor business climate. This may lead to some labor unrest, increasing political tension further,” the report said.

But unlike in the 1980s when a confluence of unfavorable external conditions and internal political turmoil led to a debt crisis and the end of the 20-year Marcos regime, Global Source expressed confidence that remittances would continue to provide “buffer from the storm.”

Right before Wall Street’s crisis hit the headlines, Global Source observed that Philippine dailies dwelt extensively on Cha-cha ahead of the 2010 presidential elections. There are three ways—people’s initiative, constitutional convention, constituent assembly—to introduce amendments to the Constitution.

The last attempt at Cha-cha, in 2006, went for a people’s initiative, purportedly showing the signatures of some 6.3 million voters favoring amendments, but the initiative was junked by the Supreme Court as a “gigantic fraud.”

Global Source said opposition to Charter change appeared to stem from fears that it was a mere ploy to keep the current administration in power, either through term extension or a shift to a parliamentary form of government that would allow the incumbent to run for prime minister.

Suspicions over motives for Cha-cha led a broad segment of society, which recognized the need to adapt various economic provisions of the Constitution to changing global economic realities, to propose postponing any discussion of amendment to post-2010 election, the paper said.

Global Source also observed that the leadership’s unpopularity fanned suspicions that Cha-cha was intended to preserve political power for the President and her congressional allies (many of whom are also legally impeded from running for reelection) rather than to reflect the public’s will.

“While there is disconnect now between political developments and market movements, we think that the line in the sand for people to take to the streets is any obvious move to tinker with the rules to do away with the 2010 elections,” the report said.

The report also noted that the current leadership was accused of trying to engineer Charter change through a proposed peace pact with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. The Arroyo administration earlier announced support for Charter change in order to move to a federal system on grounds that this will lead to more responsive governance at the local level.

Global Source said that while there was much controversy on what was seen as creating a state for the Moro people with all its complications, the principal issue for many was that it would open doors for other constitutional changes, specifically moving to a parliamentary system without term limits that would concentrate power in the Lower House and do away with the Senate.

The peace agreement was in the end set aside, the paper said, leading to “unfortunate” consequences for the peace process.

Global Source, nevertheless, noted that members of Congress, allies of the leadership, already put forward an explicit proposal to amend the Constitution and shift to a parliamentary form of government.

This was to be achieved by convening Congress as a constituent assembly where, through a vote of three-fourths of its members, proposed changes would then be submitted to a referendum.

“Cha-cha moves have since gained momentum and more maneuvers may be expected in the coming months,” Global Source said.

While there are many roadblocks, including getting the nod of the Supreme Court and winning the referendum, some quarters believed that the current move would have a fair chance of passing within the relatively short timeframe before 2010, it said.

Some have even conjured up a Marcosian scheme in which emergency rule or martial law will be imposed to obtain the needed majority in the referendum.

Others have argued that a no-election scenario could materialize should current officials be retained during the transition to a parliamentary system.

“Analysts liken recent exercises to a horse race, with the leadership, seeing limited downside, allowing the race to go on and betting on a preferred horse—until events conspire to eliminate it in the running which would then require switching bets to the next preferred horse,” Global Source said.

“That is to say that if opposition, including from the Church, influential business groups and civil society (the groups that in the past have visibly shown outrage and taken people power action that led to the ouster of Marcos in 1986 and resignation of Estrada in 2001), turn out to be strong, the leadership will shift to alternative maneuvers to keep political influence beyond 2010,” it said.

Arroyo to intensify bid for stay in power in 2009–Drilon

September 28, 2008

By Carla Gomez
Visayas Bureau
First Posted 21:54:00 09/28/2008

BACOLOD CITY — Former Senate President Franklin Drilon warned the public on Sunday of intensified efforts by the Arroyo administration to amend the Constitution and extend the term of President Macapagal-Arroyo in the last 12 months before the 2010 polls.

Drilon said he was challenging Ms Arroyo to say that she was not in favor of any term extension, lifting of term limits and amending the Constitution in the remaining months of her administration.

Drilon, who is also chair of the Liberal Party, also challenged Vice President Noli de Castro, Senate President Manuel Villar and Speaker Prospero Nograles to state that they would oppose any amendment to the Constitution before 2010. “That is the only way by which the people can be comfortable,” he said at a press conference here.

Any Charter change (Cha-cha) should be done after 2010 when the country’s leadership would have a fresh mandate, he said.

Drilon said amending the Constitution before 2010 could only be perceived as an attempt to extend Ms Arroyo’s stay in power.

The people, he said, “will not accept that.”

A House committee on constitutional amendments headed by La Union Rep. Victor Francisco Ortega has started hearing proposed amendments to the Constitution. Drilon said he was informed that the instructions of the Speaker was for congressmen to consult with their constituencies before Nov. 30.

The proposed amendments included a resolution filed by Nograles that purportedly proposed only amendments to the economic provisions of the Constitution, he said.

But Drilon said it would be easy to suspect that this was just a ruse and that the ultimate objective was to amend the Constitution to extend the President’s term.

“I would predict that the issue of whether or not both chambers will vote separately or jointly (on the proposed amendments) when they convene themselves as a constituent assembly will be brought to the Supreme Court by January of 2009,” he said.

Drilon said that with six vacancies in the Supreme Court in 2009, “the temptation to pack the Supreme Court with partisan justices will very tempting because of this issue of amendments to the Constitution.”

“It is up to the people to be vigilant against any sinister move to amend the Constitution next year,” he said.

From Under This Hat: Baguio Ibalois cannot Cha-Cha

September 13, 2008


In 2003 there was a proposed House Bill #2813 which was opposed by members of the Ibaloi organization Aspulan. Today, five years after, is a re-filed version of the same proposed bill, HB#4699, revising, amending or changing the Charter of the City of Baguio.

The original charter of the city was passed on September 1st 1909, therefore the Baguio day and the Centennial celebration of the city. This charter in Baguio’s history created the city and in its implementation with one clean sweep made legitimate the displacement of the city’s original settlers.

The charter to the Ibalois is the law and represented all those directives passed before and after 1909 that “took away their homes and traditional source of livelihood without due process and without due compensation and then even sold the lands to raise revenue for the city,” and still continues to do so.

In that era almost a hundred years ago, that Act must have terrorized communities. Imagine the loss of homes and sources of livelihood of basically agricultural economies.

Today, HB#4699, the proposed bill that if read looks like its objective is to perpetuate the historical injustice or institutionalize the practice of displacing vulnerable communities, but this time not only against the original settlers but also against the poor informal settlers of Baguio today who many among them are also members of the wider indigenous populations of the Philippines.

In that light, any person in his right mind, Ibaloi or not, will not support such a proposed policy designed to their detriment as indigenous peoples, Ibalois, ancestral land claimants or especially as urban poor communities of the city now.

It is a responsibility expected of our politicians and government leaders to be transparent and sincere to their constituents even especially when conceptualizing or drafting laws and directives in the name of the people or their constituents of who in the city are all members of the democratic classes, Indigenous or not.

There is the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act (IPRA) and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; national and international instruments putting focus on the recognition and respect for indigenous peoples’ rights and their contribution to the sustaining life-ways still used until today. Where does this proposed charter stand in relation to these legal instruments? Shall it just remain there blind to the long-running appeal for justice by the Ibalois, the IPs, and now also our urban poor neighbors?

The upcoming centennial commemoration of Baguio will either be significant for celebrating the birthday of the city or be historically significant on the 2nd International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples if the city, at the very least, recognizes the historical injustice committed against the Ibalois of Baguio especially against Mateo Cariño and Bayosa Ortega-Cariño.

The Cariño home (that used to be on the east topside of the present Rizal Park today) was indicated or identified in a colonial government directive as the center of a one kilometer radius area for the beginning of the City of Baguio, taken without due process.

Justice has never been so illusive for one and named Igorot or Ygolotte.#(NorDis)

Senate tackles Charter change

September 10, 2008

Resolution on constituent assembly for discussion

By Maila Ager
First Posted 10:07:00 09/10/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Deliberations on a joint resolution convening Congress into a constituent assembly to propose a federal form of government began at the Senate Wednesday.

Senate Joint Resolution 10 was initiated by Minority Floor Leader Aquilino Pimentel and signed by Senate President Manny Villar and Senators Edgardo Angara, Rodolfo Bizaon, Alan Peter Cayetano, Juan Ponce Enrile, Francis “Chiz” Escudero, Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, Gregorio Honasan, Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, Ramon Revilla Jr., Juan Miguel Zubiri, Lito Lapid, Loren Legarda, and Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III.

Legal experts, led by Father Joaquin Bernas and University of the Philippines Professor Jose Abueva were among those invited at the initial hearing of the Senate committee on constitutional amendments.

At the start of the hearing, Gordon clarified that the committee would not yet change the Constitution but the hearing was only meant to “allow discussion or encourage discussion” on the issue and to provide choices for the people.

The committee chairman reiterated his position that any change in the Constitution should take place after the 2010 elections.

Using a power point presentation, Pimentel explained his proposal, particularly the creation of 11 federal states and conversion of Metro Manila into a federal administrative region.

The 11 federal states will be the States of Northern Luzon, Southern Tagalog, Bicol, Minparon (Mindoro Palawan, Romblon), Eastern Visayas, Central Visayas, Western Visayas, Northern Mindanao, Southern Mindanao, and Bangsamoro.

In proposing the federal form of government, Pimentel clarified that the present presidential system would still be retained.

He said the president and vice president of the Philippines will still be elected throughout the nations but the two should come from one ticket.

The bicameral legislature, he said, would also be retained where members of the House of Representatives would still be elected by district.

As far as the Senate is concerned, Pimentel said, his proposal would be a “little more out of ordinary.”

From the present 24, Pimentel is proposing a total number of 81 senators — six from every federal state, six from Metro Manila, and nine overseas.

Pimentel expressed hopes that the issue of the contested islands in the South China Sea — the Scarborough Shoal and the Kalayaan islands — would also be tackled in the discussion.

After all, he said, the Scarborough Shoal would fall under the proposed federal state of central Luzon while the Kalayaan islands would fall under the proposed federal state of Minparon.

While he was one of the signatories of the resolution, Lacson told the committee that he was now reconsidering his position.

“I’ve been a strong advocate of federalism, however, recent events and developments have made me rethink my position,” he said.

He particularly expressed apprehension on the manner of voting under the constituent assembly and the possibility of extending the term of sitting officials once this resolution was adopted.

Estudyante nag-walkout laban sa Cha-Cha, Batas Militar

August 25, 2008

Ilang-Ilang Quijano

LIBU-LIBONG estudyante sa Kamaynilaan ang nag-walkout sa kanilang mga klase para kondenahin ang umano’y mga hakbang ni Pangulong Arroyo na gamitin ang kaguluhan sa Mindanao para makapanatili sa puwesto lampas sa 2010.

Noong Agosto 22, nagsagawa ng kilos-protesta sa mga kolehiyo at unibersidad ang alysansang Youth ACT Now! (Youth for Accountability and Truth Now!).

Bandang alas-dose ng tanghali, tumungo sa Plaza Salamanca sa Taft Ave. ang mga estudyante ng University of the Philippines, Polytechnic University of the Philippines, De La Salle University, College of St. Benilde, St. Scholastica’s College, Ateneo de Manila University, University of the East, University of Sto. Tomas, Far Eastern University, Adamson University, Philippine Christian University, Colegio de San de Letran, Lyceum of the Philippines University, Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila, Philippine Normal University, Jose Rizal University, at Technological Institute of the Philippines.

Nagmartsa ang mga estudyante patungong Roxas Boulevard para sumanib sa iba pang mga puwersang kalahok sa Truth Festival na inorganisa ng mga taong-simbahan.

Ayon kay Vencer Crisostomo, tagapangulo ng LFS (League of Filipino Students), tumitingkad ang umano’y “game plan” ni Arroyo. “Noong una, (inilako niya) ang Charter Change. Ngayon naman, minamanipula niya at ng kanyang utak-pulbura na mga adviser ang nangyayari sa Mindanao para lumikha ng atmospera ng takot at kaguluhan kahit sa Kamaynilaan,” aniya.

Itinaas ang red alert at naglagay ng mga checkpoint sa iba’t ibang bahagi ng Kamaynilaan nang pumutok ang sagupaan sa pagitan ng Moro Islamic Liberation Front at militar sa Lanao del Norte.

“Saanmang anggulo mo tingnan, Cha-Cha o Batas Militar, parehong nagsisilbi ito sa motibo ni Arroyo na makapanatili sa puwesto at iwasang mapanagot sa patung-patong na mga kaso ng korapsiyon at paglabag sa karapatang pantao,” ayon kay Dion Cerrafon, presidente ng Kabataang Pinoy.

Sabi naman ni Ken Ramos, tagapangulo ng Anakbayan, “Sa halip na mga iskemang makasarili, dapat tugunan ni Arroyo ang krisis sa ekonomiya. Mataas pa rin ang presyo ng langis, humahaba ang mga pila sa bigasan ng NFA (National Food Authority), at kumakamal pa rin ng kita ang gobyerno mula sa VAT (Value-Added Tax) na pinapasan ng taumbayan.”

Pinangunahan ng mga grupong National Union of Students of the Philippines, College Editors Guild of the Philippines, Student Christian Movement, Kabataang Pinoy, Anakbayan, LFS, Karatula, Liga ng Kabataang Moro, Youth Revolt and Kristiyanong Kabataan para sa Bayan ang walkout ng mga estudyante.(PinoyWeekly)

Atake sa sibilyan sa Mindanao: sino ang may kagagawan?

August 25, 2008

Kenneth Roland A. Guda

Lumikas, nangangamba (Contributed Photo)

Mga sibilyang Moro sa Pikit: Lumikas, nangangamba (Contributed Photo)

NOONG nakaraang buwan pa, pabalik-balik na si Santukan Salikula at ang pamilya niya sa samu’t saring relokasyon. Nangamba sila sa pagdami ng insidente ng misteryosong pag-atake sa mga sibilyang Moro sa Pikit, North Cotabato. Pero noong nakaraang dalawang linggo ang pinakamalupit.

Sa kabila ng balitang pagharang ng Korte Suprema sa paglalagda sa MOA (Memorandum of Agreement) on Ancestral Domain sa pagitan ng gobyerno at ng MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front), napansin nilang dumarami ang nagtitipong sundalo ng Philippine Army sa kanilang lugar. Nagbakwit na siya at ang mga kapitbahay, patungong evacuation center sa Dalingawin sa Pikit. Dito, nagsisiksikan ang halos 30,000 katao – karamiha’y Muslim – mula sa iba’t ibang bahagi ng Pikit.

Agosto 9, nabalitaan nila ang sagupaan sa pagitan ng MILF at Army sa lugar. Agad nilang nilikas ang Dalingawin para pumunta sa isa pang evacuation center sa Batulawan. Nagpatuloy ang mga engkuwentro – ang mga pagsabog, naririnig at nababalitaan nila sa kanilang mga lugar ng ebakwasyon.

Sa lahat ng panahong ito, bakbakan ng MILF at Army ang naganap. “Walang inatake ang MILF sa amin,” sabi ni Santukan.

Pero sa nalalapit na probinsiyang Lanao del Norte, noong Agosto 18, ibang balita ang sumingaw. Matindi na ang sagupaan sa pagitan ng rebelde at puwersa ng Estado nang mabalitaan ang pagpatay sa mga sibilyan sa limang bayan ng probinsiyang ito, pati sa Saranggani. Tinatayang 41 sibilyan ang namatay sa ataking ito – 30 mula sa Kolambugan.

Sa pahayag ni Brig. Gen. Hilario Atendido, hepe ng 102nd Brigade ng Army, kahindik-hindik ang mga detalye. “Pinatay sila na parang mga manok,” paglalarawan ng heneral. Hindi agad nakapasok sa Kauswagan, Kolambugan, Bacolod at Maigo sa Lanao del Norte ang mga tropa ni Atendido. Pero may agad silang paliwanag sa mga pagpaslang: “Mga MILF ang may kagagawan.”

Sila nga ba?

Hindi makapaniwala si Santukan na MILF ang may kagagawan sa mga pagpaslang. “Labag kasi sa Islam ang ganoong pagpatay,” aniya.

Sa lahat ng ulat ng midya sa insidente, pawang Army ang pinagmulan ng impormasyong mga MILF ang pumaslang sa 41 sibilyan. Umani ng matinding pagkondena ang MILF sa naturang insidente. Kinondena ito ng mga pulitiko kapwa mula sa administrasyon at oposisyon. Noong Agosto 21, nagdeklara na ang gobyernong Arroyo na hindi nito lalagdaan ang MOA – at ipinangakong paiigtingin ang atake sa mga kampo ng MILF, hindi lamang sa Lanao del Sur at North Cotabato, kundi sa mga probinsiyang may presensiya ng MILF.

Lahat ng opensibang militar na ito, ayon kay Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, ay may layuning hulihin ang dalawang kumander ng MILF na saklaw mga lugar kung saan naganap ang mga pagpatay. “Magpapatuloy ang mga operasyon natin para mahuli sila at mapasailalim sa saklaw ng batas,” sabi ni Teodoro.

Tinutukoy ni Teodoro sina Ombra Kato at Abdurahman Macapaar, mas kilala bilang Kumander Bravo. Ayon sa gobyerno, si Kato, at lalung laluna si Bravo, ang may pakana ng mga pagpaslang.

Pero itinatanggi ito ng MILF. Sa panayam sa telepono ng isang estasyon sa telebisyon, sinabi ni Bravo na hindi siya ang may kagagawan ng pagpatay, kundi ang isang “probationary” na sundalo ng MILF na si Alvin Canto. Hindi umano Muslim o Kristiyano si Canto. Bagamat saklaw ng responsabilidad ni Bravo, hindi niya inutusan si Canto na atakihin ang mga sibilyan, laluna’t nasa Maguindanao raw siya noong panahong iyon.

“Noong nalaman kong sila ang pumatay sa mga sibilyan, bata at babae, tumakbo sila sa gobyerno ng Pilipinas,” kuwento ni Bravo. Noong Agosto 20, sumuko si Canto sa Army at nagsabing si Bravo umano ang nag-utos sa kanyang patayin ang mga sibilyan.

Patas na imbestigasyon

Sa panayam ng PINOY WEEKLY kay Mohagher Iqbal, punong negosyador pangkapayapaan ng MILF, inamin ni Iqbal na mga kumander ng MILF sina Bravo at Kato. Pero hanggang nang makapanayam siya noong Agosto 22, hindi pa rin umano nila nakakausap si Bravo at naitatanong ang tunay na nangyari.

“Nasa pinakaloob (ng kabundukan) si Bravo at hindi namin agad makausap,” sabi ni Iqbal. Hindi rin umano uubrang makausap siya sa telepono dahil sa matinding paniniktik ng militar ng gobyerno sa kanilang mga negosyador.

Gayunman, may inisyal na pagtingin si Iqbal na hindi kasing-simple ng iniuulat ng Army ang naganap sa Lanao del Norte. May tatlong uri umano ng biktima roon. Una, ang mga sibilyang napatay ng mga grupong paramilitar at militar (Basahin ang kaugnay na artikulo). Pangalawa, ang mga sibilyang nadamay sa putukan sa pagitan ng militar at MILF. Pangatlo, ang sibilyang walang kalaban-labang pinaslang – si Bravo man o si Canto, hindi pa matukoy.

“Kaya naman nananawagan kami ng impartial investigation,” sabi ni Iqbal. Ipinanawagan nilang itigil muna ang pag-atake ng militar ng gobyerno at imbestigahan ng isang niyutral na grupo ng mga imbestigador ang mga insidente. Sa paraang ito, matutukoy ang salarin sa bawat kaso ng 41 pagpatay na aniya’y tila pinagsabay-sabay at ibinibintang lahat sa MILF.

Pabor dito ang Suara Bangsamoro, organisasyong nagtataguyod ng karapatang ng mga Moro. Ayon kay Amirah Ali Lidasan ng Suara, maaaring buuin kapwa ng mga Muslim at Kristiyano ang naturang investigating team. Kung anuman ang mapapag-alaman nila ay dapat tanggapin ng dalawang panig.

Ayon kay Teodoro, nais lamang ng AFP na mapasailalim sa batas ng gobyerno sina Bravo at Kato. Pero sabi ni Iqbal, labag sa ceasefire agreement ng dalawang panig ang pagsuko sa isang miyembro ng isang panig sa kalabang panig. May sarili umano silang sistema ng hustisya na dapat sundin sang-ayon sa ceasefire agreement. Yun nga lang, hindi na nila agad mapatupad nang maayos dahil sa mga opensibang militar ng AFP.

Titindi pa?

Inilinaw ng Malakanyang na hindi naman nila inaabandona ang usapang pangkapayapaan. Sa harap ng matinding pagtutol sa MOA – kahit na masasabing malakas ang suporta para rito sa hanay ng mga Moro – nagdesisyon lamang si Arroyo na huwag lagdaan ang kasunduan.

Pero habang inihahayag ito, tumitindi ang pag-atake sa MILF. Nanawagan na ang maraming opisyal ng gobyerno na armasan ang mga sibilyan. Para kay Lidasan, napaka-mapanganib ng ganitong hakbang. “Titindi ang giyera, at gagamitin pa ng maraming pulitiko para iraos ang pag-atake sa mga kalaban sa pulitika,” aniya. Ipag-aaway umano ang mga Kristiyano at Muslim sa ngalan ng kakarampot na lupa sa ilalim ng MOA, habang namamayani pa rin ang mga ito sa malalaking lupain sa Mindanao.

Nanganganib na hindi agad makabalik sa kanilang mga tahanan ang mga tulad nina Santukan. At kung makakabalik man, kailangan pa niyang problemahin ang napakasamang pagturing sa kanilang mga Moro matapos ang atake sa mga sibilyan noong Agosto 18.(PinoyWeekly)

‘Cha-cha dead under GMA watch’

August 24, 2008

By Aurea Calica
Sunday, August 24, 2008

No matter how good it should be for peace and development especially of the economy, moves on Charter change die a natural death under the Arroyo administration apparently because of its unpopularity – and  senators are advising Malacañang never to revive the issue again before 2010.

Senators Loren Legarda and Francis Escudero expressed belief Cha-cha had always been dead under President Arroyo’s watch even as they acknowledged the importance of having the Constitution amended for the country’s development.

“It must no longer be resurrected,” Legarda said.

Escudero, who earlier described the Palace’s latest call for Cha-cha as a diversionary tactic with its botched peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, said Cha-cha moves could only go as far as debates and consultations so that people would become aware of it once pushed after 2010.

Revising the Constitution was needed to implement the memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain that was supposed to be signed by the government with the MILF.

But senators, the business sector, the Catholic Church, former Presidents Corazon Aquino and Fidel Ramos as well as other groups have all opposed the move citing the Arroyo government’s lack of credibility.

In particular, they said the President and her allies might only extend their term of office by changing the country’s Charter.

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr., whose Joint Resolution No. 10 was backed by the Palace for the establishment of a federal system of government, said he would just continue with his advocacy, believing that giving regions, especially Mindanao greater autonomy, would be better for the country.

“I don’t give a damn about GMA’s (President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo) Cha-cha. I fight for revising Constitution for federalism,” Pimentel said.

He said his resolution could not be used to extend anybody’s term because it had safeguards and though it sought Congress to convene as a constituent assembly, the two chambers should vote separately on provisions to be amended. This way, the allies of the Palace in the House of Representatives would not be able to flex muscles and insist on the changes they would want being higher in number.

Pimentel lamented that the issue on Cha-cha would always have to take a back seat because the current administration could not be trusted. He said the federalism issue should be separated from the MOA-AD earlier entered into by the government with the MILF.

Malacañang announced it would continue to push for Cha-cha and federalism for the sake of peace in Mindanao.

Senate President Manuel Villar Jr. had earlier expressed belief the people surrounding Mrs. Arroyo would not stop in their efforts to amend the Charter so they could perpetuate themselves in power.

“It’s a big group, it’s not just the President. Of course, there are people around her who have this belief and we cannot stop them from advising the President not to step down in 2010 because they don’t want to, ” Villar said.

Villar said Joint Resolution No. 10 that he and other senators signed was only meant to discuss the possible establishment of a federal system of government and in no way did it express a Senate position because it had not even been tackled in the committee.

Legarda scored the deceit seemingly employed by the government in its recent push for Cha-cha, citing a number of promises it made to the MILF like the MOA was a “done deal” when in fact, it would need Congress approval, an enabling law and a constituent assembly and finally, the approval of the people through a plebiscite in 12 months.(PhilStar)


My Take:

Chacha is not dead.  The only dead is tha pgma version of it.  Whoever will succeed la gloria will still be pushing for it.  Its a Philippine politician thing.

They will change the charter without even putting into place first  the needed mechanism to the effective reform that would follow immediately after the chacha.  They would change the charter because of their politicians mindset that a mere change to the constitution is a reform itself.

Stupid stupid stupid!

MILF camp falls; 30 killed

August 23, 2008

Biggest air strike launched in a decade

By Inquirer Mindanao, Tarra Quismundo, Nikko Dizon
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:43:00 08/23/2008

SHARIFF AGUAK, Maguindanao, Philippines — Backed by the biggest aerial bombardment in nearly a decade, government forces Friday drove out Moro rebels from one of their camps in Maguindanao province, and fighting raged on elsewhere in rice fields and marshlands, officials said.

About 30 rebels and one soldier have been killed since Wednesday and more than 70,000 villagers have fled their homes, the officials said.

And Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Commander Ombra Kato is on the run.

Some 30 aircraft, including OV-Bronco bomber planes, MG-520 rocket-firing attack helicopters, a pair of Italian-made S-211 jets from Basa Air Base in Pampanga province, north of Manila, and rescue choppers, have been thrown into the battle, Philippine Air Force chief Lt. Gen. Pedrito Cadungog told the Inquirer.

“We have bigger operations now in terms of assets and area covered than in Abubakar in 2000,” Cadungog said, referring to the all-out military offensive eight years ago that led to the capture of Camp Abubakar in Maguindanao, the biggest base of the MILF.

No space to breathe

“We deemed it smarter this time not to give them space to breathe,” the Air Force chief said. “We were a bit soft at first assuming that it will not escalate. We are ready for any escalation of action.”

An Air Force source said Friday’s air strikes delivered a total of 25 bombs and 12 rockets on six targets around Shariff Aguak. They included a dozen 500-lb bombs, nine 260-pounders and four 110-pounders.

“The results are good based on reports of our ground troops,” Cadungog said. “They are happy that we’ve had direct hits.”

Kato on the run

In Friday’s clashes, soldiers captured a satellite camp of Kato in Datu Piang town.

Kato is one of two most wanted MILF commanders whose surrender has been demanded by the government, blaming them for the killing of dozens of civilians in attacks in the provinces of North Cotabato, Lanao del Norte and Sarangani.

The MILF has refused to hand over Kato and Commander Bravo—each wanted for P5 million—and clashes have continued despite appeals from politicians, and Christian, Muslim and civil society groups for an end to the fighting.

Col. Marlou Salazar, commander of the Philippine Army’s 601st Infantry Brigade, said air strikes had resumed against Kato’s forces and ground troops pressed their advance.

Journalists rescued

Two broadcast journalists and three civilians, including a pregnant woman, who had been trapped since Thursday evening, have been rescued and brought to Cotabato City, the military said.

Radio Mindanao Network station manager Bong Talamba and GMA Network stringer Ferdinand Cabrera were covering a firefight in Datu Piang but MILF snipers fired on them as they were about to leave the area, according to Lt. Col. Julieto Ando, spokesperson of the military’s 6th Infantry Division.

Ando confirmed the situation had worsened and that MILF rebels had been conducting ambuscades.

“They were trying to take control of the highway. The highway was closed to motorists Friday morning but was reopened after having been cleared of rebels,” Ando said.

Dozens wounded

Salazar said the rebel casualties came from air strikes and clashes on the ground. Dozens of other rebels have been wounded since the hostilities broke out on Wednesday in the towns of Guindulungan, Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Datu Piang, Mamasapano, Shariff Aguak in Maguindanao and Kabuntalan in nearby Shariff Kabunsuan province.

On Friday alone, 10 rebels were killed, he said.

Salazar said the number of rebel casualties was based on intercepted radio conversations among the guerrillas.

“The group of Commander Kato has abandoned their satellite camp in Datu Piang and our soldiers have taken over,” he said.

More fighting feared

Eleven soldiers were injured when rebels waylaid a military convoy in Guindulungan town on Thursday evening, said Maj. Randolph Cabangbang, deputy spokesperson of the Eastern Mindanao Command.

Cabangbang said the military had met strong resistance and “expected more clashes.”

“Our ground troops are penetrating their main objectives and we will be deploying additional soldiers from Davao City,” he said.

He identified the wounded soldiers as Sgt. Renato Jaime Canuto; Corporals Alfredo Isidro and Edgar Gulerno; Privates First Class Elire Guaro, Jogie Dumon, Ricky Encluna, Bonn Dumaguing, Albert Velasco, Arlan Moanes, Mark Anthony Cabañog, and Pvt. Boni John Tilad.

Salazar said it appeared that Kato’s group was being reinforced by other MILF units.

“We have shelled the rebels’ position since Thursday night until Friday morning. The enemies are getting stronger,” Salazar said.

Brig. Gen. Jorge Segovia, acting chief of the command center of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said the 601st Brigade under Salazar “has been engaging the enemy heavily” in the towns of Shariff Aguak, Mamasapano, Datu Piang, and Crossing Salbo in Maguindanao.

Rice fields and marshlands

Segovia described the battlefield as rice fields and marshlands.

He said artillery and planes had been hitting the MILF’s temporary shelters or satellite camps, which were fortified with foxholes and trenches, and sending the guerrillas “running around in places right now.”

“Some are not so sure where they are going,” Segovia said.

Segovia said that in North Cotabato, the 602nd Brigade under Army Col. Alex Estomo were engaged in “sporadic firefight” with other guerrillas under Abdullah Macapaantar, alias Commander Bravo.

Military targets

Segovia warned other MILF commands not to provide sanctuary to Bravo, Kato and their men.

“Their positions will be military targets,” he said, adding: “Our orders are to crush these groups. This is what the AFP will continue to do. We can’t allow ourselves to be hostaged by their actions.”

Segovia said that since most MILF satellite camps were near populated communities, thousands of residents had evacuated.

Elsewhere, four civilians were rushed to the Cotabato Regional Hospital after they were reportedly hit during the military bombardment.

It was not clear why the civilians were still in their village when most of the people had already evacuated.

Food aid

Based on figures released by the health department of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), more than 70,000 people had fled the besieged areas.

Segovia gave reporters in Manila seemingly different figures. He said that according to the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC), there were a total of 84,669 evacuees from Lanao del Norte and Maguindanao staying in 92 different evacuation centers.

Another report from the NDCC, however, placed the affected/displaced people at nearly 200,000.

The NDCC said that the atrocities in North Cotabato and Lanao del Norte had resulted in 40,138 families or 199,692 people affected.

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) said it had agreed with the government to provide an additional 250 metric tons of rice to help feed the thousands of evacuees.

Fireworks banned

In Koronadal City in South Cotabato, Mayor Fernando Miguel has banned fireworks and public gatherings as the Maguindanao situation appeared to be worsening.

“We want to ensure the safety and security of our constituents amid MILF warning of more rebel attacks and destabilization activities in Mindanao,” Miguel said.

In Sarangani province, Gov. Miguel Dominguez ordered the reactivation of the civilian defense force in the villages as a protection against further MILF attacks.

Dominguez said he would rather that the situation be resolved peacefully.

“I’m just hoping that the government and MILF could find a way to stop the armed fighting and resume the peace process,” Dominguez said.

Third party needed

Abhoud Syed Lingga, executive director of the Institute of Bangsamoro Studies based in Cotabato City, said the participation of the Malaysian-led International Monitoring Team (IMT) was badly needed.

“Recent events showed once again the urgency of third party monitors to sustain the ceasefire in order to keep the peace process on track,” Lingga said.

In North Cotabato, education officials said classes had to be conducted in evacuation centers, especially in the town of Pikit, so that children would not miss their lessons.

In Cagayan de Oro City, Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said he had asked Speaker Prospero Nograles to order lawmakers to donate at least P100,000 for the needs of displaced residents of Maguindanao. With reports from Jeoffrey Maitem, Edwin Fernandez, Charlie Señase, Nash Maulana, Aquiles Zonio and Grace Albasin, Inquirer Mindanao, and Agence France-Presse


My Take:

1. MILF camp “falling” is not a big news.  MILF is waging now a guerilla war, so, camps, especially the empty ones will easily “fall.”  The reporter must understand this in order for them to present the correct perspective of the news they are presenting.

2. On air strikes.  Air strikes are not the best form of military offensive.  Air strikes are politically weak.  Another point, the most important point, is this, the Philippine government is pushing air strikes inside their own territory, effectively putting innocent civilians (citizens) in harm’s way.

Editorial Cartoon: On Mindanao War

August 22, 2008

Hostaging Peace

Controversy rages over MoA-AD

August 22, 2008

MANILA, August 21, 2008─ The debate over the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front rages on with another Catholic bishop joining the fray.

Speaking at “The Forum,’ a weekly Church-organized media discussion, Marbel Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez lamented the inability of the government to consult the public and the lack of transparency from the Arroyo administration.

“The people’s right to participate and the people’s right to know were violated by the government,” Gutierrez said.

United Opposition spokesperson Adel Tamano, for his part, regarded the current deal as “immoral, un-Islamic and un-Christian” adding, “We cannot tear this country apart.”

Senator Richard Gordon who sits Chairman of Philippine National Red Cross said “there’s too much categorization” of the problems in southern Philippines.

“We should always remember we are one nation,” Gordon said.

The agreement was supposed to be signed by panels of both parties in Malaysia last August 4 if not because of a temporary restraining order issued by the Supreme Court.

The deal was aimed to bring lasting peace in the war-stricken Mindanao.

Gutierrez claimed that in his diocese, crimes against property were significantly reduced when sustainable agriculture was introduced to the community composed of Moslems, Christians and Lumads.

“The place was well-known for hold-ups but in 2001, all these crimes stopped because they were honestly earning a living,” the prelate said.

He added for farmers had little profit but “they were already free from debts.”

This means, the 69-year old prelate said, that peace and progress come into areas where “people meet their basic needs in life.” (Melo Acuña)(CBCPNews)

AMRSP urges people to join ‘Truth Fest’

August 22, 2008

MANILA, August 21, 2008— The Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines is calling on the people to join the “Truth Fest,” which seeks to expose the “untruths” in the society today.

AMRSWP chairperson Sr. Mary John Mananzan, OSB, said the gathering at the Plaza Rajah Sulayman on Roxas Boulevard in Manila on August 22 will also raise political issues such as renewed calls for Charter change and the ongoing conflict in Mindanao.

Mananzan said activity is expected to gather around 50, 000 people, which will also serve as a venue for “creative and innovative ways to encourage truth-telling and to search for truth.”

She further said that more “expose” would be made during the event, which kicks off at 3 p.m. and end at dawn of August 23.

“I invite everyone to attend this gathering and let us all defend the truth,” Mananzan said.

The highlight of the program will be the “litany of truths” around 9 p.m.

She said tomorrow’s activity will also feature street art, drum lines and musical performances.

“We have already solicited Mayor Alfredo Lim’s permission to use the part of Roxas Blvd., for the event which will gather well-meaning citizens,” she further said. (Melo Acuña)(CBCPNews)

Impeachment seen as option to find truths behind MoA-AD

August 22, 2008

MANILA, August 22, 2008— A Catholic bishop said an impeachment process against President Arroyo is one way of finding truths behind the controversial memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain between the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

If there are people who are thinking that such procedure could be one venue to resolve the issue, Kalookan Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez is surely one of them.

“It’s (impeachment) one way to uncover truths and that is a constitutional process that maybe we should push,” he said.

But the bishop admitted the chances of Mrs. Arroyo getting through an impeachment procedure may still that dim as usual.

“As whether this will succeed or not, from what we have observed before and in the way the executive office is handling the Congress, I doubt it,” Iñiguez said.

The Church official is apparently referring to the three-rejected opposition attempts to impeach Mrs. Arroyo.

Iñiguez added several bishops already made similar sentiments against the said agreement over lack of transparency. (CBCPNews)

Pretense at Generosity with Full Malice by US Imperialism and the Arroyo Regime

August 21, 2008

Chief Political Consultant
National Democratic Front of the Philippines
Posted by Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 28, August 17-23, 2008

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) has consistently supported the Moro people’s right to self-determination. This ranges from the right to regional autonomy in a non-oppressive state to the right to secede from the oppressive state that exists in the Philippines. Even an individual who finds himself or herself oppressed by a state has the right to separate from it.

In a manner of speaking, the Filipino people and revolutionary forces within the framework of the NDFP and the growing revolutionary organs of political power have seceded or separated themselves from the oppressive semicolonial and semifeudal state system that is ruled by the comprador big bourgeoisie and landlord class and are striving to build the new people’s democratic state system that is based on the alliance of the toiling masses of workers and peasants and the middle social strata.

When I read the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) that was supposed to be signed by representatives of the MILF and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) in Malaysia on Aug. 5, 2008, I thought immediately that the contents which appeared to recognize and concretize the Bangsamoro’s right to self-determination and ancestral domain were too good and too generous to be true. The MOA was so contrary to the greedy and brutal character of the GRP, whose presumptions and actuations I have long known in the course of revolutionary struggle and the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations.

It was almost predictable that the signing of the MOA would be aborted. The public release of the draft only a few days before the date of signing was clearly meant to stir up a controversy big enough to cause the abortion. Had the Arroyo regime really meant to push through the MOA, it should have worked it out with the MILF and other interested parties at the latest within the first half of the year or even late last year. But the MOA was never meant to be, either to be signed or to be realized, as GRP officials would reveal.

Top subalterns of the fake and mendacious president such as Ermita, Esperon and Dureza declared that the MOA was just a piece of paper, subject to existing GRP laws, further legislation and constitutional amendment. Fr. Joaquin Bernas, S.J. , whom they had consulted all along, also confirmed that the MOA was nothing more than a piece of paper, despite the regime’s rather expensive much ado about it.

The patriotic and progressive forces and the people are reasonably concerned that the MOA had been devised by the untrustworthy and sneaky Arroyo as a way for pushing a charter change to allow her to stay in power beyond 2010, without really having to give substantial concessions to the MILF. But they must look further into the obnoxious joint objectives of the US government  (together with the Japanese and Australian governments) and the Arroyo regime in seeming to be for the MOA and making the MILF believe that the GRP was serious about signing this.

Under the direction of the US State Department, the US Institute of Peace has been busy in carrying out the Philippine Facilitation Project since 2003 in order to help produce something like the MOA.  It is obvious that the US has been out to sidle up to and ingratiate itself with the MILF and the Bangsamoro in order to further strengthen its position in exploiting the human and natural resources of the Bangsamoro and deploying US military forces in  Mindanao.

At this point, the question is: with the signing aborted, is the MOA still useful to the major parties directly involved in drafting or facilitating it? The MILF can continue to use the MOA as a standard or minimum basis for negotiating with the GRP. The GRP or the Arroyo regime can also use the same thing for putting off serious formal negotiations with the MILF and for hyping the need for charter change. Unilaterally or in cahoots with the GRP, the US can use the  high expectations raised by the MOA among the MILF and Bangsamoro to justify US military presence and advance US hegemony in Mindanao.

Certainly, such expectations can never be realised through the kindness of the US and the GRP and without the persevering struggle of the Moro people.The GRP and its imperialist masters are merely using the MOA as a device of pretended generosity to MILF in order to seize the propaganda initiative, to prolong GRP-MILF informal talks and ceasefire and to deploy larger  US and Philippine military forces against  the MILF and the Bangsamoro.

The pretense at generosity is full of malice. It is calculated to outwit and outflank the MILF and the Bangsamoro and to facilitate frontal military attacks against them. They are being left no choice but to wage revolutionary struggle in order to advance their cause of national self-determination. There is a heightened need for the unity, cooperation of the MILF and the NDFP in their distinct and common concerns and causes against the same adversaries. Posted by Bulatlat

More than 60 Years After World War II: Filipina Comfort Women Demand Justice, Reject Arroyo’s Cha-cha

August 21, 2008

Sixty-three years after the Second World War ended, the Japanese Imperial Army’s “comfort women” are still fighting for justice despite their age.

Vol. VIII, No. 28, August 17-23, 2008

Sixty-three years after the Second World War ended, the Japanese Imperial Army’s “comfort women” are still fighting for justice despite their age. They are reiterating their demand for the Japanese government to recognize its atrocities and to give the victims not only financial assistance.  More importantly, they are asking the Japanese government to publicly apologize to the women who are still being haunted by their horrible past in order to restore their dignity.

Last Aug. 15, members of Lila Filipina and GABRIELA rallied in front of the Japanese Embassy in Manila to commemorate –  and remind the Japanese government of – the hostilities of the “imperialist” war, which claimed not only lives and the livelihood of the Filipino people during that time, but also the dignity of women, most of whom were very young then.

“The war may have ended more than half a century ago, but for many of the lolas (grandmothers), wartime is no different from so-called peacetime. They may have been violated and abused during the war, but until now they are being victimized by Japan’s unchanging stance and denial of justice,” said Retchilda Extremadura, Executive Director of Lila Pilipina, an organization of survivors of Japanese military sexual slavery and advocates of justice for women victims of foreign military sexual violence.

This author, once interviewed a survivor of the comfort women system four years ago and can still recall the sadness of that lola, who was raped almost nightly by soldiers from the Japanese imperial army. She was 14 then.

Extremadura is saddened for the said Philippine government’s accession by virtue of its continuing silence on the issue. She said, “It is very unfortunate that while other countries are backing the fight of the lolas, our very own government is caught with nary an observance of its responsibility to exercise political will in urging the Japanese government to finally recognize the violations it committed during World War II (WW2).”

The U.S., Canada, and the Netherlands, as well as the European Union, have already passed resolutions supporting the demands of Asian comfort women for justice. Even the Japanese Diet and the city councils of Takarazuka and Kiyose in Japan have also issued their support for the comfort women, but the Philippine government remains mum on the issue, said Extremadura.

From more than 170, the survivors’ numbers have been reduced to only 57.

“The Arroyo government has misplaced priorities on when and where to flex its political muscle. There is already a draft resolution filed in the Lower House calling for the Japanese government to formally apologize and accept responsibility over the comfort women case, but this has been shelved since April,” says Joms Salvador, GABRIELA’s spokesperson, in reference to House Resolution No. 124 filed by Gabriela Women’s Party (GWP) Reps. Liza Largoza-Maza and Luzviminda Ilagan.

“It is utterly vile that instead of pushing Congress to immediately pass the resolution, the Arroyo administration would rather train its dogs on how to secure benefits for Arroyo’s own selfish interests by pushing for Charter change,” Salvador added.

No to another generation of comfort women

Since Japan did not abandon its militarist policies after the end of WWII and has regained its pre-war eminence in world politics, GABRIELA members fear that the resurgence of the U.S.-Japanese military alliance, which promotes foreign intervention, wars of aggression, and permanent military presence in foreign lands will be spawning another generation of comfort women.

“The military’s culture of sexism and violence that victimized the lolas continues to this day. Women are especially vulnerable to abuse during times of actual war and even with the mere presence of the military,” Salvador further said.

She cited as an example the case of the 19-year old “Hazel,” the Filipina who has been raped by a US soldier in Okinawa in February this year. Japanese prosecutors dropped the case in May.

Salvador said the Philippine government has not raised any diplomatic protest against the dropping of the case.

“Like in the case of the lolas, the Philippine government also wavers in its stance to seek justice for ‘Hazel,” she stressed.

“By continuing to turn a blind eye to the violence committed against its women by foreign troops, whether recent or in the past and by perpetuating its culture of subservience to foreign superpowers such as Japan and the US, the Philippine government serves as an accomplice to the sexual abuse of Filipinas everywhere,” Salvador said. Bulatlat

Critics Tell GMA: Don’t Use BJE Issue to Push for Cha-Cha

August 21, 2008

Critics say that it is saddening that a landmark agreement, like the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), is now being used as a tool to revive Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s charter change drive.

Vol. VIII, No. 28, August 17-23, 2008

QUEZON CITY – As the issue of the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE), which the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) supposed to have been signed Aug. 5 by the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), stirred a controversy, Malacañang moved to resurrect its proposal for charter change.

The Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the signing of the MOA-AD following petitions by North Cotabato Vice Gov. Emmanuel Piñol, Zamboanga City Mayor Celso Lobregat, and other local politicians. In the Aug. 10 oral arguments on the petition, Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio said some of the MOA-AD’s provisions violate the Constitution.

Malacañang has meanwhile expressed support for Sen. Aquilino Pimentel, Jr.’s Resolution No. 10, seeking to establish a federal form of government in the Philippines, saying that it is all systems go for Cha-cha and that Cha-cha is all for “genuine and lasting peace” in Mindanao.

Meanwhile, firefights in North Cotabato between government troops and the MILF since the second week of this month have left 35 dead and resulted in more than 135,000 evacuees.

cha-chaMrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has been criticized for using the issue of the BJE to advance its own interest, which is the extension of her term.

In a television interview conducted by Umagang Kay Ganda’s (A Very Beautiful Morning) Anthony Taberna last week, Sen. Francis Escudero said that the MOA did not mention anything about federalism.

“Now, the government is using the peace process as an ad lib (to push for Mrs. Arroyo’s term extension),” said Escudero in Filipino.

Different sectors denounce Cha Cha

The Confederation for the Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (Courage) lambasted Malacañang’s renewed attempt to push Cha-cha, coming as it does after the signing of the MOA-AD, which failed to push through.

“Malacañang is railroading the Cha-cha train by riding on Senate Resolution No. 10, introduced by Senate Minority Floor-leader Aquilino Pimentel, Jr., which seeks the creation of 11 federal states in the country. Mrs. Arroyo is hell-bent on staying in power beyond 2010. So it is not surprising that she will grab every opportunity to justify Cha-cha. I’ve never seen a president that is so power hungry,” says Ferdinand Gaite, Courage’s national president.

“What really makes us furious is that they’ve even used the quest for self-determination of our Muslim brothers and sisters…in advancing their selfish interests,” Gaite said.

Since the beginning, the Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KAMP or National Federation of Indigenous Peoples of the Philippines) had doubted the sincerity of the Arroyo government in finally recognizing the rights of the Bangsamoro to their homeland.

Himpad Mangumalas, Lumad leader and KAMP spokesman, said in a statement that the government wants to project itself as recognizing the Bangsamoro’s right to their lands but GMA’s track record alone contradicts this self-portrayal.

“The GRP is in no place to claim that they have accepted and re-established their recognition of the rights of the Bangsamoro, we see it as a mere ploy to re-introduce Charter change,” Mangumalas added. Bulatlat

Satur: Domain Pact Could Lay Trap for MILF

August 21, 2008

The Memorandum of Agreemment on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) that was supposed to be signed by the GRP and the MILF has a trap laid by the U.S. for the Moro revolutionary group, a progressive legislator said.

Vol. VIII, No. 28, August 17-23, 2008

The Memorandum of Agreemment on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) that was supposed to be signed by the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has a trap laid by the U.S. for the Moro revolutionary group, a progressive legislator has said. Rep. Satur Ocampo of Bayan Muna (People First) said the MOA-AD’s provisions on exploitation of resources in the areas that are to comprise the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE) as part of the deal could lead to U.S. economic control over the region.

Ocampo expressed this view in an Aug. 14 media dialogue on the MOA-AD jointly organized by the Center for Community Journalism and Devopment (CCJD), Mindanao Peoples Caucus, National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), and the Philippine Human Rights Reporting Project in Quezon City. He was among the speakers in the forum, together with Prof. Rudy Rodil, vice chairman of the GRP Peace Panel in the negotiations with the MILF;  Atty. Musib Buat, MILF Peace Panel member; Atty. Mary Ann Arnado of the Mindanao Peoples Caucus; and Froilan Gallardo, editor-in-chief of Sunstar Cagayan de Oro.

The Bayan Muna representative was referring specifically to the portion of the MOA-AD that states:

“Jurisdiction and control over, and the right of exploring for, exploiting, producing and obtaining all potential sources of energy, petroleum, in situ, fossil fuel, mineral oil and natural gas, whether onshore or offshore, is vested in the BJE as the party having control within its territorial jurisdiction, provided that in times of national emergency, when public interest so requires, the Central Government may, during the emergency, for a fixed period and under reasonable terms as may be agreed by both Parties, temporarily assume or direct the operations of such strategic

The MOA-AD, of which copies were distributed during the Aug. 5 forum, was to be signed by the GRP and the MILF last Aug. 5, but the Supreme Court on Aug. 4 issued a temporary restraining order on its signing following a petition by North Cotabato Vice Gov. Emmanuel Piñol, supported by another petition filed by Zamboanga City Mayor Celso Lobregat and two congressmen.

The MILF, which originated from a faction that broke away from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in 1978, has been engaged in peace negotiations with the GRP since 1996 – the same year that the MNLF inked a Final Peace Agreement with the GRP.

Most contentious issue

The ancestral domain issue, which was first discussed only in 2004 or some eight years after the talks started, has turned out to be the most contentious issue in the GRP-MILF peace negotiations.

The MILF last year was proposing a Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE) that would be based on an ancestral domain claim of the Bangsa Moro over Mindanao, Sulu, and Palawan.

The GRP had insisted that areas to be covered by the BJE other than the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) should be subjected to a plebiscite. This repeatedly led to an impasse in the peace negotiations with the group.

The impasse was broken only in November last year, when the GRP and the MILF reached an agreement defining the land and maritime areas to be covered by the proposed BJE.

Things seemed to be looking up after that, prompting lawyer Eid Kabalu, MILF spokesperson, to make media statements to the effect that they expected a final agreement to be signed by mid-2008.

But all hopes for forging a peace pact between the GRP and the MILF were dashed last December, when the peace talks hit a snag following the government’s insistence that the ancestral domain issue be settled through “constitutional processes” – a phrase which, according to MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal, had been inserted into the agreement without their consent.

The December deadlock on ancestral domain was followed by a series of clashes between government troops and the MILF, as well as a partial pullout of the Malaysian contingent from the International Monitoring Team (IMT) which is tasked with monitoring the implementation of agreements related to the peace talks, as well as development projects in the areas of conflict.

Even as the GRP-MILF conflict showed signs of re-escalation, however, both sides were talking about the possibility of signing an agreement on ancestral domain sometime this year.

On Aug. 5 both parties were to sign the MOA-AD, which seeks to establish a BJE encompassing areas predominantly inhabited by Moros – including the ARMM, which was to serve as the core of the new region. The residents of the areas sought to be covered by the BJE were to vote in a plebiscite sometime in 2009.

But the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order on the signing of the MOA, following petitions filed by Piñol, Lobregat and other local politicians.

“We were wondering why the GRP allowed (in the MOA-AD) provisions on changing the (country’s) legal framework to make possible the establishment of the BJE,” Ocampo said.

U.S. role

The Bayan Muna representative then made reference to the U.S. role in the GRP-MILF peace negotiations. “The U.S. has had a big role in the GRP-MILF peace talks since 2003,” he pointed out.

This statement by Ocampo is confirmed by no less than a report of the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), a U.S. quasi-government group, on the peace talks. A report written by G. Eugene Martin, executive director of the USIP’s Philippine Facilitation Project (PFP), and Astrid S. Tuminez, the project’s senior research associate, titled “Toward Peace in the Southern Philippines: A Summary and Assessment of the Philippine Facilitation Project, 2003-2007” – states that:

“In 2003, the U.S. State Department, seeking to prevent international terrorist groups from exploiting the conflict in the Philippines, engaged the (USIP) to facilitate a peace agreement between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the MILF. The State Department felt that the Institute’s status as a quasi-governmental, ‘track one-and-a-half’ player would allow it to engage the parties more broadly than an official government entity could. To accomplish its mandate, USIP launched the Philippine Facilitation Project…”

The report by Martin and Tuminez contains references to a May 2003 exchange of letters between then MILF chairman Salamat Hashim (who died July 2003) and U.S. President George W. Bush.

When Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo visited the U.S. in May 2003, Bush declared that “the United States will provide diplomatic and financial support to a renewed peace process if the MILF will “abandon the path of violence . . . and addresses its grievances through peaceful negotiations.” (The MILF was then resisting government offensives that were part of an all-out war declared by the Arroyo administration.) U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage added that while “the United States absolutely supports the territorial integrity of the Philippines…we also recognize that the people of Mindanao have legitimate aspirations and some grievances.”

Hashim, in response, wrote to Bush on May 20, 2003 stating that the MILF “has repeatedly renounced terrorism publicly as a means of attaining its political ends,” to which U.S. Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly replied that the U.S. “recognizes that the Muslims of the southern Philippines have serious, legitimate grievances that must be addressed” – while at the same time reiterating that his government “is concerned about the links between the MILF and international terrorist organizations and asks that those links be severed immediately.” Kelly added that if these alleged links were severed, the U.S. would be ready to politically and financially support the GRP-MILF peace talks.

“The U.S. offered the MILF economic assistance to entice them into the peace talks with the GRP,” Ocampo said.

Ancestral domain workshop

The report by Martin and Tuminez relates how the PFP organized and facilitated a workshop on ancestral domain for members of both the GRP and MILF peace panels. States the report:

“PFP Senior Research Associate Astrid S. Tuminez undertook extensive research on the history, substance, and likely trajectories of negotiations over ancestral domain. She wrote a white paper, which was submitted to members of the GRP and MILF peace panels. Subsequently, PFP conducted a three-day workshop on ancestral domain in Mindanao, bringing together members of the GRP peace panel, MILF-designated representatives, and a small group of Mindanao experts and observers to listen to, and interact directly with, international scholars and practitioners who had dealt firsthand with conflicts in their own countries related to ancestral domain (e.g., land, resources, and governance). International participants shared the cases of Native Americans, Maoris, Sri Lankans, Sudanese, Inuits, Northern Irish, and the Bougainvillean peoples. Each expert underlined common threads of conflict over ancestral domain, highlighted successes and failures in negotiations, and analyzed arrangements reached in their respective case studies. None suggested a ‘right way’ of addressing ancestral domain, but all attested to the difficulties associated with negotiations over land, resources, and governance. Several experts also emphasized the need to buttress any ancestral domain agreement with institutions, procedures, and other forms of support toward effective implementation…

After the ancestral domain workshop, Dr. Tuminez wrote a USIP Special Report, ‘Ancestral Domain in Comparative Perspective,’ which became a reference document for the GRP and MILF teams. Copies were provided to the negotiating panels, and discussions were held with panel members and advisers. PFP also sponsored subsequent visits to Manila and Mindanao by international experts on ancestral domain, conflict resolution, and comparative autonomy… PFP also shared with the peace panels analyses, literature summaries, and materials pertinent to ancestral domain, autonomy, and self-determination. When members of the negotiating panels requested assistance on specific issues or source materials, PFP responded promptly. USIP’s initiatives on ancestral domain also motivated the Canadian embassy in Manila to sponsor a visit to Manila and Mindanao by Canadian government officials and leaders of indigenous groups to share their experience on land claims agreements with the government, Moros, and civil society.”

Ocampo said the U.S. involvement even in the issue of ancestral domain, the negotiations for which led to the drafting of the MOA-AD, explains why the Arroyo administration allowed provisions seeking to establish the BJE. “The Arroyo government allowed this agreement because it has the support and involvement of the U.S.,” he said.

Roots of conflict

Moro historian Salah Jubair traces the roots of the present conflict in southern Philippines to the U.S. annexation of Mindanao and Sulu into the Philippine territory in 1946. Jubair argues that the Bangsa Moro is a people with a socio-political, economic, and cultural system distinct from that of the Filipino people.

The inclusion of Mindanao and Sulu in the scope of the 1946 “independence” granted to the Philippines paved the way for large-scale non-Muslim migration to the two islands. This large-scale migration, which began in the 1950s, brought with it the problem of land grabbing.

At some point the government even instituted a Mindanao Homestead Program, which involved giving land parcels seized from Moro peoples to landless peasants from the Visayas islands and Luzon and also to former communist guerrillas who availed of amnesty.

This was intended to defuse the peasant unrest and the revolutionary war that was staged in the late 1940s and early 1950s by the communist-led Hukbong Mapagpalaya ng Bayan (HMB or People’s Liberation Army), which was basically a peasant army.

The Jabidah Massacre triggered widespread outrage among the Moros and led to the formation of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) that same year. The MNLF, led by former University of the Philippines (UP) professor Nur Misuari, waged an armed revolutionary struggle against the GRP for an independent state in Mindanao.

The Marcos government, weighed down by the costs of the Mindanao war, negotiated for peace and signed an agreement with the MNLF in Tripoli, Libya in 1976. The pact involved the grant of autonomy to the Mindanao Muslims.

Conflicts on the issue of autonomy led to a breakdown of talks between the GRP and the MNLF in 1978, prompting a group led by Hashim to break away from the MNLF and form the MILF. Since then, the MILF has been fighting for Moro self-determination.

In 1996, the MNLF signed the Final Peace Agreement with the GRP. That same year, the MILF began peace negotiations with the GRP.

While the peace agreement with the MNLF supposedly holds, armed skirmishes between the AFP and MNLF did not stop. On Nov. 19, 2001, Misuari declared war on the Arroyo government for allegedly reneging on its commitments to the Final Peace Agreement. The MNLF then attacked an Army headquarters in Jolo. Misuari was subsequently arrested in Sabah, Malaysia for illegal entry and was turned over to the Philippine government by Malaysian authorities. He is currently under house arrest.

Liguasan Marsh

Among the main areas claimed by the MILF as part of the Bangsamoro’s ancestral domain is Liguasan Marsh, the country’s biggest wetland, of which they occupy a significant portion.

Covering 288,000 hectares, Liguasan Marsh cuts across four provinces: North Cotabato, South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, and Maguindanao. The area is rich in oil and natural gas reserves that as yet remain untapped. MNLF founding chairman and former ARMM Gov. Nur Misuari, citing estimates by American oil engineers, said total earnings from the natural gas reserves of the Liguasan Marsh could amount to $580 billion.

Tuminez stressed the importance of the Liguasan Marsh in a USIP presentation she delivered in 2005. “Because of the marsh’s tremendous actual and potential resources, it is likely going to be a focal point of ancestral domain talks,” she said.


Ocampo stressed that the MILF needs to be vigilant in its negotiations with the GRP particularly on ancestral domain.

“There is a trap for the MILF, laid by the U.S., in the MOA-AD,” he said. “The MILF should be on guard because the gains it expects from the MOA-AD may end up being plundered.” Bulatlat

‘U.S. Envoy Lying’; Critics Hit U.S. Hand in GRP-MILF Peace Talks

August 21, 2008

After a High Court justice branded as “patently illegal” the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain, the U.S. Ambassador was quick to deny any involvement in the aborted signing of the pact.

But critics have pointed to the prominent role that the U.S. had played in the GRP-MILF peace negotiations.

Vol. VIII, No. 28, August 17-23, 2008

After a Supreme Court (SC) justice declared as “patently illegal” the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD), United States Ambassador to the Philippines Kristie Kenney was quick to deny any involvement in the aborted signing of the agreement.

Based on news reports, Kenney said she was merely invited to witness the signing of the MOA-AD by the peace panels of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).


In a statement sent through email, Prof. Jose Maria Sison, chief political consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), said that Kenney was “blatantly lying” when she said that the U.S. government had nothing to do with the GRP-MILF peace negotiations nor with the controversial MOA-AD.

Sison said that Kenney has worked closely with the Philippine Facilitation Project (PFP) of the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) in “steering the course of GRP-MILF peace negotiations for the sake of US interests.”

The USIP is a quasi-government institution funded by the U.S. House of Representatives. The chairman of the board is J. Robinson West who is chairman of PFC Energy, Washington. Members ex-officio are Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. The executive director of the Philippine Facilitation Project is G. Eugene Martin, a retired diplomat who once served as the deputy chief of mission at the U.S. embassy in Manila.

Sison said that the Special Report 202 by the USIP, titled “Toward Peace in the Southern Philippines” proves that Kenney is lying. The said report is a summary and assessment of the USIP Philippine Facilitation Project (PFP). The report declares, “In 2003 the US State Department …engaged the USIP to facilitate a peace agreement between the GRP and the MILF.”

The report states, “Despite the challenges, USIP managed to build productive relationships with both the GRP and MILF, helped the parties come up with creative solutions to stubborn issues of ancestral domain, and started dialogue between disparate Moro ethnic groups… Through its activities, USIP introduced concepts and approaches that were useful to both government and MILF peace panels.”

In a separate statement, Renato Reyes Jr., secretary general of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan or New Patriotic Alliance) said the USIP used examples of ancestral domain conflict resolutions of the Native American Indians, the Inuit tribes in Canada, the Maori in New Zealand and other experiences that did not require secession from an oppressive regime. He said, “The USIP advocated an ancestral domain arrangement that would remain friendly with U.S. interests.”

U.S. interests

Sison slammed the U.S., saying it is not interested in a just and lasting peace in either the Bangsamoro land or the entire Philippines. “It is interested solely or mainly in advancing U.S. interests amidst conditions of armed conflict. It merely pretends to facilitate the GRP-MILF peace negotiations when its sees big advantages in doing so.”

Sison noted that the USIP report is quite frank in admitting the selfish interests of the U.S. The report states, “Today’s complex diplomatic landscape increasingly requires new tools and techniques of conflict management, including quasi- and nongovernmental actors, to accomplish U.S. foreign policy goals. Because of its ability to deal with non-state actors and sensitive issues underlying civil conflict, USIP can be a useful instrument for advancing U.S. interests.”

Sison said that Kenney frequently travels to Mindanao and oversees U.S. interests there, including U.S. direct investments, military forces and pseudo-development projects. “The Filipino people know that the U.S. covets the oil and other natural resources of Mindanao and wants to establish U.S. military bases there to protect U.S. imperial interests,” he said.

Bayan’s Reyes cited the $100-million off-shore oil exploration in Sulu by American oil giant Exxon Mobil as an example of the interests being protected by the U.S.

Reyes also noted that the USIP report also states that the U.S. embassy coordinated with the U.S. Pacific Command in counter-terror training and in ensuring high visibility of US troops in Mindanao.

The report, Reyes said, describes U.S. policy instruments in Mindanao to include ‘diplomacy, conditionality of U.S. economic and military assistance programs, and more punitive measures on the counterterrorism front.’

The Bayan leader said that this could mean that the U.S. government is also open to direct military intervention.

Arroyo, liable

Reyes said that the Arroyo regime welcomed and fully-supported U.S. intervention in peace talks between the GRP and the MILF.

Reyes said, “Arroyo and her subalterns must be investigated and held accountable for their actions.”

Citing the USIP report, Reyes said Arroyo had three meetings with the USIP officials.

Based on the report, a PFP delegation met with Arroyo in August 2003. It also states that when Arroyo visited the United Nations in September 2003, several senior advisers and USIP staff members met with her and her delegation to review the status of the peace process and the role of the Institute.

The report also cites that Ambassador Frank Wisner and USIP representatives also met with Arroyo in California after her 2004 election “to encourage a renewed GRP-wide effort to conclude an equitable settlement with the Moros.”

”The Arroyo government is guilty of allowing such brazen intervention,” said Reyes.


He deemed, “Arroyo and U.S. interests likely intersected on the issue of charter change and the prospect of U.S. investments in Mindanao.”

Reyes said the USIP report already anticipated the issue of charter change. The report states that some provisions in the MOA-AD might be declared as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

Reyes said, “The Arroyo government pounced on the opening for cha-cha as an opportunity to advance its own self-serving agenda of term extension.” Bulatlat

MOA deal off, SolGen tells high tribunal

August 20, 2008

By Jerome Aning
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 07:22:00 08/20/2008

MANILA, Philippines—The deal’s off.

A day after guerrillas of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rampaged in Mindanao, Solicitor General Agnes Devanadera Tuesday told the Supreme Court that “circumstances have changed” since the aborted deal with the rebel group two weeks ago.

Devanadera noted the outbreak of fighting in some areas of Mindanao and the MILF’s occupation of towns in Lanao del Norte province that had led to the deaths of 40 civilians.

In a six-page statement, she urged the court to dismiss the case filed by local officials in Mindanao questioning the memorandum of agreement (MOA) on ancestral domain with the MILF.

“The issuance by the honorable court of a temporary restraining order, coupled by present conditions in some areas in Mindanao dictate that the MOA, in its present form, must undergo a thorough review. In fact, the executive department will pursue further negotiations with the MILF to address the issues hurled against the MOA,” Devanadera said.

She said that the administration was “clearly not insensitive” to the views aired by some justices during the oral arguments on the case on Friday.

Justice Antonio Carpio said that several provisions in the MOA clashed with the Constitution. Justice Adolf Azcuna described the accord as “patently illegal.”

Devanadera said that further negotiations with the MILF would “necessitate consultation with various stakeholders, including those who will be affected by the expansion of the present Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.”

Petitioners told to comment

In an en banc session Tuesday, the court ordered the petitioners to file their comment on Devanadera’s manifestation not later than 4:30 p.m. Thursday. The court, which on Aug. 4 stopped the signing of the MOA in Malaysia, resumes hearing oral arguments for the case on Friday.

Local officials in Mindanao, later joined by senators and concerned groups, had petitioned the court to stop the agreement aimed at ending four decades of civil strife in Mindanao that had left more than 120,000 people dead and 2 million uprooted.

The officials said they were not consulted on the deal, hammered out in secrecy in talks under the auspices of Kuala Lumpur. They also feared that the expanded Moro homeland envisioned in the accord amounted to the dismemberment of the Philippine republic and the creation of an independent state.

Devanadera noted that the administration had been consistent in its position that the MOA was “merely a codification of consensus points reached between both parties and the aspirations of the MILF to have a Bangsamoro homeland.”

She said this could only be achieved “by complying with the existing legal processes such as the enactment of appropriate legislation, amendment of the Constitution itself as well as the holding of a plebiscite,” she added.

Following the scuttled signing on Aug. 5 of the MOA, the MILF said that the draft accord was a “done deal.” Moro rebels went on the offensive. Guerrillas pillaged towns in North Cotabato, ambushed an Army convoy in Lanao del Sur, and raided five towns in Lanao del Sur and Sarangani provinces.

MILF spokespersons said that raids were launched by commanders disenchanted by the government’s failure to carry out the accord.

Special meeting

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo called a special meeting of the Legislative-Executive Development Council on Friday to discuss the situation in Mindanao and the peace process, Press Secretary Jesus Dureza said Tuesday.

He said that the opposition and sectors that would be affected by the expanded Bangsamoro homeland would be invited to the meeting.

“I think the situation is serious enough for the President to call for a multisectoral, and a wide-ranging group of leaders who can advise on this particular problem that is currently afflicting Mindanao,” said Dureza, a former peace adviser.

Dureza took exception to the statement by MILF vice chair for political affairs Ghazali Jaafar that the MILF could not control its men after the MOA was stopped.

“It shows it is a possibility that they are also using this as a pressure tactic on government,” he said. “So if it’s a pressure tactic on government, we should never allow it.”

“We want to know if we are to sign a peace agreement, if this is for real or maybe just a game,” Dureza said.

MILF: No to renegotiation

Jaafar Tuesday rejected talk of renegotiating the MOA “even if it means an indefinite postponement of the 11-year-old peace process.” He said that the agreement was an “acceptable” product of hard work and not of overnight negotiations.

He said that the attacks in Mindanao by MILF commanders were an expression of impatience over the stalled accord.

“This angered some of our field leaders, they thought that the efforts to bring about peace in Mindanao had been lost,” Jaafar said.

But he said the MILF was not justifying the wrong doings of Commander Bravo and Commander Ombra Kato who led the attacks in Mindanao.

“We will discipline them, we will punish them after due course,” Eid Kabalu, MILF civil-military affairs chief, said in a separate interview.

Presidential Peace Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. told reporters Tuesday that the peace process could only be sustained by developments on the ground, “if we can say we can still enforce the laws.”

“But if these [attacks] continue, it might be hard to sell the idea of peace if they can’t control their people,” said Esperon in a brief interview at the airport on his return from an undisclosed mission in Malaysia.

“Despite all these things, we must never give up on peace. The peace process must continue,” Esperon said.

Speaker Prospero Nograles said that the conduct of the peace talks should be thoroughly reviewed, “especially the aspect on whether the people they are negotiating with are in full control of the forces they represent.”

“The way it appears some factions do not follow the cue and just go on rampage on their own. So we may be talking peace but they may have another agenda,” Nograles said.

Senate President Manuel Villar said that it would be impossible to hold the peace talks in view of the MILF’s attacks.

“It is clear that the MILF has no hold on its men, so who will the government talk to for peace?” Villar asked. As far as he was concerned, Villar said the ceasefire was not in effect because the AFP has to fight back and show who was in control in Mindanao.

Sen. Rodolfo Biazon said the government should abandon the peace process and hunt down the MILF guerrillas. “The only remaining act of government is to officially declare that the MILF is now categorized as terrorists, like the Abu Sayyaf,” Biazon said.

Biazon and five other senators issued a statement urging the Arroyo administration “to immediately restore law and order, taking a proactive stand to degrade the military capability of the rebels and thereby prevent further loss of lives of the innocent as well as of our troops.”

The statement was also signed by Senators Aquilino Pimentel Jr., Benigno Aquino III, Panfilo Lacson, Jamby Madrigal and Manuel Roxas II.

Sen. Allan Cayetano also said the government should now reexamine how to categorize the MILF. “Are they rebels fighting for a political cause? Are they terrorists?” Cayetano said.

Sen. Francis Escudero said the government should not resume negotiations until the status of the commanders behind the rash of violence in the MILF hierarchy was clear.

$25-M US aid stands

Also Tuesday, US Ambassador Kristie Kenney told reporters that Washington’s $25-million peace assistance to the Philippines was still available.

“It’s my strongest hope that no one sees violence as a way to peace. An important thing for all of us in the Philippines is to find the right framework for lasting peace in Mindanao,” Kenney said. With reports from Christine O. Avendaño, Gil C. Cabacungan Jr., Edson C. Tandoc Jr., Norman Bordadora, Tarra Quismundo and Cynthia D. Balana and Inquirer Mindanao


My Take:

I told you so.

The Mindanao war initiated by the gvernment is their way out of their very own MOA-AD mess.