Archive for the ‘politics’ 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.

BY IBON FOUNDATION
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has long criticized economic liberalization and government economic managers that are dogmatically clinging to this outdated belief.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 (Bulatlat.com)

Advertisements

Left Forms New Coalition for 2010 Elections

April 21, 2009

A new coalition has been formed to counter the dirty and traditional politics in the country. It has pledged to advance the politics of change and promote a ‘pro-people’ platform for the 2010 elections.

BY RONALYN V. OLEA
Bulatlat

Progressive party-list groups, people’s organizations, individuals and personalities formed the Makabayang Koalisyon ng Mamamayan (Makabayan or People’s Patriotic Coalition), Thursday, April 16 at the Bahay ng Alumni, University of the Philippines (UP) in Diliman, Quezon City.

In his speech, House Deputy Minority Leader and Bayan Muna (People First) Rep. Satur Ocampo said Makabayan’s primary objective is to advance the politics of change. “Sa esensiya, ang politika ng pagbabago ay naglalayong wakasan at palitan ang reaksyunaryong politika ng status quo na siyang pumipigil sa pag-unlad ng lipunang Pilipino” (In essence, the politics of change aims to put an end to and replace the reactionary politics of the status quo that hinders the progress of Philippine society.)

Ocampo, Mariano Speak During Launching of Makabayan Watch the video

Ocampo said the same politics of change was advanced by Partido ng Bayan (People’s Party) in 1987 and has been advanced by Bayan Muna since 2001.

Ocampo said that while the progressive party-list groups in Congress have achieved victories in the last three elections, the space provided for them remains narrow. “Kung magpapakasya tayo roon, mananatili tayong maliit na minorya sa bilang,” (If we limit ourselves to this, we will remain a minority in number.) he told the audience.

Through Makabayan, Ocampo said, more progressive candidates will run for municipal and even national positions.

Ocampo added that Makabayan will work with local leaders who have stood up against dirty and traditional politics. He cited Pampanga Gov. Ed Panlilio and Isabela Gov. Grace Padaca. “Naghahanap sila ng mga kapanalig…upang isulong ang kilusang pagbabago.” (They are looking for partners …to advance the movement for change.)

Ocampo also said that Makabayan’s politics of change is in harmony with Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato Puno’s moral force. Makabayan, Ocampo said, aims to provide a channel for transformational leaders being sought for by the Chief Justice.

Makabayan’s general platform for the 2010 elections includes fighting for people empowerment, transparency and accountability in governance, uplifting the lives of the poor, developing a strong and self-reliant domestic economy, a more equitable distribution of wealth, saving the environment, defending the country’s sovereignty, upholding human rights and pursuing a just and lasting peace.

In his speech, Anakpawis (Toiling Masses) Rep. Rafael Mariano described Makabayan as“isang koalisyong nakatuntong at nagsusulong sa mga mithiin, tagumpay at kalakasan ng kilusan ng mamamayan at ng kanilang partidong pampulitika” (a coalition that is founded on and advances the aspirations, victories and strengths of the people’s movement and their political parties).

Candidates for Senate

In a press conference, Makabayan co-chairperson and economist Maita Gomez declared the coalition’s support for at least four candidates for the Senate.

“As of now, we are proposing at least four possible candidates for the Senate. (They are) public officials with clean track records in government and a long history of leadership and public service. Patuloy silang pinagkakatiwalaan ng masa dahil itinataguyod nila ang pulitika ng masa,” (They continue to enjoy the trust of the masses because they advance the politics of the masses.) Gomez said.

Gomez revealed the initial four as Ocampo, Reps. Liza Maza (Gabriela Women’s Party), Mariano, and Teodoro Casiño (Bayan Muna).

Ocampo said the coalition is still scouting for other possible candidates who are willing to embrace Makabayan’s patriotic and pro-people orientation.

New party list groups

Ocampo also announced the formation of two new party-list groups under Makabayan – the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Party-List and the Confederation for the Unity, Advancement and Recognition of Government Employees (Courage) Party-List.

In an interview, Courage President Ferdinand Gaite said it is high time that government employees have representation in Congress. While Gaite recognized the support of progressive party-list groups in advancing the interest and welfare of government employees, he said it would be better if government employees themselves articulate their own sentiments.

Genuine representation in Congress, Gaite said, will echo the demands of the sector including the P3,000 ($62.93 at the current exchange rate of $1=P47.67) salary increase, security of tenure, right to union/association and the like. “We will also help in articulating the nationalist demands of the people such as the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and opposition to Charter change,” Gaite said.

Courage has 300,000 members in 200 unions nationwide

‘Strongest opposition force’

In a taped message, Jose Maria Sison, speaking as chairperson of the International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS), said, “Makabayan is a formidable combination of patriotic and pro-people forces in comparison to the fractious state of the traditional political opposition. Even at this very moment, it can be described as the strongest opposition force in terms of being the most principled instrument of the people, having the most cogent patriotic and progressive platform, gathering the most dedicated and most active volunteers in the service of the people and enjoying the strongest and most reliable mass base on a nationwide scale.”

In her solidarity message, Sen. Maria Ana Consuelo “Jamby” Madrigal, said, “Ang tunay na pagbabago ay magmumula sa tunay na progresibo” (Genuine change will come from genuine progressive leaders.)

She said formation of Makabayan was the “first time a real nationalist coalition” will exist in the country. “This is the only party that is willing to die for their philosophy.”

Former House Speaker Jose de Venecia and wife Gina, Senators Mar Roxas and Francis Pangilinan, Quezon City Mayor Feliciano Belmonte, and film director Joel Lamangan also delivered their solidarity messages.

Former Sen. Leticia Ramos-Shahani, lawyers Harry Roque, Evalyn Ursua, Renato Constantino, Jr., National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera,, Reps. Teofisto Guingona III (Bukidnon), Rodolfo Plaza (Agusan del Sur), Del de Guzman (Marikina City), Matias Defensor (Quezon City), Abigail Binay (Makati City), former Ambassador Roy Seneres and wife Minerva, former beauty queen Maria Isabel Lopez, Marichu Maceda, Quezon City Vice Mayor Herbert Bautista, former and incumbent municipal and city officials from different cities and provinces attended the assembly.

Challenges

Maza said that the coalition is ready to oppose all moves to change the 1987 Constitution. “We vow to prosecute Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, First Gentleman Mike Arroyo and top Arroyo officials for plunder and corruption, human rights abuses and other crimes committed under her administration,” she said.

Mariano said Makabayan will be aggressive and strong in the face of big challenges and responsibilities.

In her speech, Maza recalled the political persecution the progressive party lists have gone through, “Maraming hagupit ang hinarap. Walang nagawa ang estado sa tatag ng ating prinsipyo, sa kasigasigan ng ating mga kasama at kaibigan” (We confronted persecution. The state failed to destroy the steadfastness of our principles and the determination of our colleagues and allies.)

“Dinukot, pinatay ang ating kasapian ngunit hindi tayo umatras” (Our members were abducted and killed but we never wavered.)Maza added.

In his message, Sison said, “The electoral form of struggle can be a major part of the movement to arouse, organize and mobilize the people to achieve immediate basic reforms or the ultimate aim of social revolution. There is no error of electoralism or parliamentarism when there is no foreclosing of other forms of struggle that the people have the sovereign right to adopt and wage. There is also no error of reformism when there is no pontification that the struggle for reforms is the sole option of the people.”

Mariano said, “Mahigpit itong tatangan sa mayamang karanasan ng masang nakikibaka at mga nakamit na maniningning na tagumpay” (Makabayan will firmly hold on to the rich experience of the struggling masses and to their glorious victories.)(Bulatlat.com)

Editorial Cartoon: E-Devil

April 20, 2009

new-poll-menace

Wanna bet? Vote!

Editorial Cartoon: TV Show

April 19, 2009

show

Media milage o pampasira ng screen ng tv? 😀

Editorial Cartoon: Southern Campaign

April 17, 2009

kampanya-daw

Abu Sayaff is now a Political Endorser.  A puppet political endorser.

NPA leader: Military behind daughter’s slay

March 9, 2009

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 05:55:00 03/09/2009

ka-parago

DAVAO CITY—If the killers of elementary teacher Rebelyn Pitao wanted to shatter her father, Commander Parago of the communist New People’s Army’s Pulang Bagani Command, they apparently failed.

Parago, whose real name is Leoncio Pitao, said the killing of his daughter might have devastated him but did not weaken his cause—the “revolution of the people who have been suffering from the hands of an oppressive government.”

Pitao granted selected journalists an interview in an upland village known to be an NPA stronghold in southern Mindanao on Sunday—three days after the body of his daughter was found in an irrigation ditch in Carmen town, Davao del Norte province.

Wearing a Mao cap and the NPA’s signature black shirt, Parago appeared calm but his eyes were somber. He exchanged jokes with NPA cadres.

The military has consistently denied involvement in Rebelyn’s abduction and killing.

“What they did to my daughter was painful but we must not stop. I am here not only as a father to her but a father to many other poor daughters and sons of the oppressed. Am I devastated? I am not. I am even inspired by her death to be relentless in fighting for the freedom of the poor,” Parago said.

He added: “I will not abandon the people because of this loss. Instead, I will continue the people’s revolution.”

His oldest son, Ryan, also an NPA cadre, said the death of his sister was unacceptable. But like his father, Ryan said, Rebelyn will now become their source of courage and strength to move forward.

“She is now our inspiration to broaden the democratic people’s revolution. My sister will now always be with all of us as we struggle against a bankrupt government,” said Ryan. He joined his father after surviving an attack of suspected government agents three years ago.

Parago said he had expected the military to target his family as government forces continuously failed to capture him. He claimed that the 10th Infantry Division’s military intelligence group was behind the abduction and killing of Rebelyn.

“No one has the intention, motive and track record of the MIG [military intelligence group]. They did this to my brother. They almost got my son. My other daughter, Rio, was tailed by elements of MIG when she was still studying and this continued even when she was already working. It was the 10th ID who said they wanted to get me … now who has the desire to see me weakened or dead?” Parago said.

But he said the NPA would not retaliate and follow the approach of the military. He, however, said that time will come for those who were behind the killing of Rebelyn to pay for their debts.

Rebelyn, 20, was on her way home on board a tricycle from St. Peter’s College in Toril District when she was snatched by armed men. She was forced into a white van and was overheard by the tricycle driver as screaming for help.

Her body bore torture marks and five stab wounds. Rope marks were also found around her neck, which could mean she was strangled.

The medico legal also found injuries in her genitals, believed to have been caused by a hard object.

The militant women’s group Gabriela took the killing as the government’s gift to them on International Women’s Day.

“She becomes the symbol of the entire Filipino women whose equal footing with men has been undermined by the Arroyo regime,” said Gabriela Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan.

“What made it more outrageous was the fact that Rebelyn Pitao has dedicated her life to teaching, a profession that President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has taken for granted over the years,” Ilagan said.

“Her only fault was being her father’s daughter,” Ilagan said.

In Manila, Anakpawis party-list Rep. Rafael Mariano in a statement blamed the President, specifically her anti-insurgency program, Oplan Bantay-Laya on the murder of Rebelyn. Jeffrey M. Tupas with reports from Germelina Lacorte, Inquirer Mindanao, and Gil Cabacungan Jr. in Manila

Editorial Cartoon: The Recruit

March 5, 2009

anti-drug-move

Govt’s stimulus package mere gimmick–IBON

February 14, 2009

By Rommel C. Lontayao, Reporter

The Palace said the allocation for the economic stimulus package is not an old measure contrary to the statements of the independent think tank Ibon Foundation.

Ibon on Friday said in a statement that the government’s P330-billion stimulus package is a “mere spin” of “existing allocations . . . to create the impression that something is being done to address the crisis.”

“These ‘stimulus’ funds are already there even before the recent descent into crisis . . . There is very little to indicate that . . . government is pouring any substantially new efforts to deal with the economic downturn,” said IBON research head Sonny Africa.

Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Anthony Golez belied the statement, saying the current stimulus package is a genuine allocation intended to finance infrastructure projects and create jobs.

Golez said that besides providing assistance to the marginalized sector, the package is also expected to create three million jobs this year on top of the regular job-generation programs of various government agencies.

The reported stimulus plan, which opposition Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño calls a “simulation package,” includes the P160-billion increase in the 2009 national budget, the P100-billion off-budget infrastructure fund, the P40-billion corporate and individual tax breaks, and alternative livelihood programs, among others.

Africa said that contrary to what government officials claim, the P1.4-trillion budget for 2009 is not a pump-priming budget, and actually is the smallest share of government spending to the GDP (gross domestic product) since 1986.

“The tepidness of the supposed pump-priming is also apparent if the effects of inflation are taken into consideration. In real terms, total non-debt spending in 2009 is only an 8.6-percent increase from the year before,” he explained.

He further said that the tax relief, which refers to foregone revenues from reducing the corporate income tax to 30 percent from 35 percent, is actually already part of the reformed value-added tax law of 2005 and exemptions from withholding tax for those earning P200,000 or less annually.

The research group head also pointed out that the P100-billion infrastructure stimulus package required the Government Service and Insurance System, Development Bank of the Philippines and LandBank to commit P50 billion with the private sector shouldering the other P50 billion.

“All these imply that the administration is not really taking additional measures in the face of the crisis, and leaves the majority of poor Filipinos on their own,” Africa said.

“If it wants the public to believe that it is taking serious steps to address the crisis, it should at the very least preserve current jobs in the public and private sectors, restore real per capita social services spending to at least 1997 levels, free public resources by stopping debt payments, and remove the value-added tax on petroleum products, among others,” he opined.

The economic resiliency plan was announced by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) early this year.

It is intended to upgrade infrastructure and capital stock and expand social protection. NEDA said the plan aims to save and create jobs, protect the poorest of the poor, returning overseas Filipino workers and workers in export industries, ensure low and stable prices to support consumer spending, and enhance competitiveness in preparation for the rebound of the global market.

Golez said the allocation of P330 billion for the economic stimulus package is intended to blunt the impact of the global economic meltdown on the poor and out-of-school youth.
–With Angelo S. Samonte(ManilaTimes)

Workers picket DOLE, SSS P12-B fund release, lay offs protested

February 11, 2009

By Marjorie Gorospe
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 12:21:00 02/11/2009

Filed Under: Protest

MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATE) Some 100 workers from the provinces of Cavite and Laguna picketed the Department of Labor and Employment Wednesday against the massive lay-offs, which employers have blamed on the global financial crisis.

Earlier in the day, a smaller number of protesters went to the Social Security System office in Quezon City to protest the decision of its president Romulo Neri to release P12.5 billion of SSS funds as aid to the government to ease the impact of the economic crunch.

Hermy Marasigan, spokesman of the Pagkakaisa ng Manggagawa sa Timog Katagalugan (United Workers of Southern Tagalog, Pamatnig-KMU), said that multinational companies in the region have been using the “financial crisis” as an excuse to fire their employees without due process.

Marasigan said there would be upcoming movements from the workers of Southern Tagalog against the unjust lay offs by these companies and the continuous corruption in government.

“This is a loss of job security for workers in the region,” Marasigan said in Filipino during the protest in DOLE.

Meanwhile, Joel Palacios, SSS spokesman, said that the protesters’ accusation was “speculative” since the release of the P12.5 billion has not yet been approved.

Palacio said certain criteria have to be met before the money could be released and used as potential investment.

“It is our duty to protect that [money] and make it grow,” Palacio added.

Pinoy Weekly Editorial: Si Arroyo at ang kanyang mga guwardiyang berdugo

February 4, 2009

HINDI nakapagtataka kung bakit tinutulan ng marami ang pagtalaga ni Pangulong Arroyo sa kontrobersiyal na retiradong mga heneral sa burukrasya.

Isang bukas na lihim kung bakit sa kabila ng matitinding kritisismo sa pagtalaga niya – pinakahuli sina Ret. Vice Admiral Tirso Danga sa National Printing Office, dating AFP Chief of Staff Hermogenes Esperon bilang hepe ng Presidential Management Staff at posibilidad na pagtalaga kay Ret. Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan sa Dangerous Drugs Board – ay nagkikibit-balikat lamang ang pangulo.

Unang dahilan ang kredibilidad ng naturang mga heneral. Nasangkot si Danga sa eskandalong “Hello Garci” at pandaraya sa eleksiyong 2004. Ngayo’y inilagay siya sa NPO na siyang nag-iimprenta ng mga balota para nalalapit na eleksiyong 2010.

Ang kredensiyal naman ni Esperon ay panggigiyera sa mga Moro at rebeldeng komunista. Bago italaga bilang PMS, ipinuwesto muna siya bilang presidential adviser on the peace process. Nagresulta ito sa lalong pagsiklab ng antigong digmaan sa Mindanao nang dahil sa panukalang Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain.

Samantala, itinuturong sangkot si Palparan sa napakaraming ekstra-hudisyal na pamamaslang sa mga kritiko ni Pangulong Arroyo. Kahit ang Melo Commission na binuo mismo ng gobyerno para imbestigahan ang malaganap na pamamaslang noon, ay nagsabing may pananagutan si Palparan. Pero hindi ito binalak na panagutin ng gobyerno. Sa halip, pinasalamatan pa ito ni Pangulong Arroyo sa isa nitong state of the nation address. At ngayo’y bibigyan pa ng pwesto sa kanyang gabinete.

Sa bilang ng progresibong mga grupo, mahigit 25 dating militar o pulis ang nasa gabinete ng pangulo kabilang na ang Executive Secretary. Idagdag pa ang mga retiradong opisyal na itinalaga naman bilang mga embahador.

Hindi tuloy maiwasang isipin na ang pagtatalagang ito ay dulot ng pagkatakot ni Pangulong Arroyo na mapatalsik o mawala sa puwesto. Dahil sa pagiging di popular na pangulo, mukhang kailangang lagi siyang guwardiyado.

Subalit gaano man yatang kritisismo ang tanggapin ni Pangulong Arroyo ay tatanggapin nito, maitalaga lamang ang matatapat niyang opisyal. Sukdulang lalong sumadsad ang kanyang lupagi nang popularidad.

Ang masama, baka ang buntot ang nagwawagwag sa aso.

Nagbabayad pa ng utang sa kanila ang Pangulo o naghahanda ng militar na pamumuno? Alinman sa dalawa, tiyak ang mga mamamayan ang talo. (SAS)(PinoyWeekly)

Editorial Cartoon: Drug Addict

February 3, 2009

labay-on-drugs

Hehehehehe! Tsungki!

Ninotchka Roska: Post-Moment

February 3, 2009

After Barack Hussein Obama said “so help me God,” I went outside to check if the earth had been rent asunder, trees had fallen, buildings had sat on themselves and the sky had cracked open.

Nothing. Traffic was normal; children were still running around and dogs had their noses to various small shrubs. All I could think of was: well, Saddam, are you roaring with laughter? Huge karma joke, this one…

Then I watched as George W. Bush was led to a helicopter and flown away – which was a relief, considering how much of the past week had been spent spinning his “legacy.” I’m inclined to believe that people who do this are trying to cover up the inescapable sense that they had made a mistake or something had gone wrong with what they’d done.

People who hold power convince themselves it will last forever. They should read Shelley’s Ozymandias: Round the decay/Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare/The lone and level sands stretch far away…(PinoyPressBlog)

Nuclear Myths Used to Hurry Bataan Operation — Greenpeace

February 3, 2009

Greenpeace today warned that Congress is off to speed up the passage of the Bataan Nuclear Plant revival bill regardless of serious social and environmental costs, and are using myths and abusing scientific data to support their bid.

In a press conference in Quezon City, Greenpeace Southeast Asia Executive Director Von Hernandez and geologist Dr. Kelvin Rodolfo, Professor Emeritus at the University of Illinois at Chicago and Adjunct Professor at the University of the Philippines’ National Institute for Geological Sciences disproved claims by Congressmen Mark Cojuangco and Mikee Arroyo that the mothballed 30 year old Bataan Nuclear Power Plant will yield, clean, safe and inexpensive energy. Cong. Mark Cojuangco, whose family’s business interests include energy, is the author of a House Bill filed July last year seeking to revive the BNPP. House Bill 4631 has already hurdled the House Committee on Energy headed by Cong. Mikee Arroyo, and is currently in the Committee on Appropriations, whose report, according to Arroyo, is expected by mid-February.

“Nuclear energy is not clean, not safe and not cheap. In fact, it is probably the most dangerous and expensive power source there is. To say otherwise is to endorse patent falsehoods for the benefit of the nuclear industry. Greenpeace finds the intent of the bill, as well as the seeming haste with which it is being pushed in Congress highly questionable,” said Hernandez.

“The one billion USD [1] eyed to fund this project which will come from the pockets of ordinary Filipinos will be better spent on safe and cheap renewable energy. And if there must be haste, it should be for the finalization of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Renewable Energy Act, the real solution to energy security and climate change, which in contrast, sat in the Congress for more than a decade before it was passed,” he added.

Greenpeace asserts that nuclear plants are grotesquely capital intensive and expensive at almost all stages of its development. Historically, nuclear construction projects consistently run over budget, so even the 1 Billion USD projected cost for BNPP’s rehabilitation can be exceeded. The plant will also make the country dependent on imported uranium, a resource found only in a few countries. There are further costs for spent fuel storage and security, and should an accident occur, massive costs for evacuation, relocation of communities, health costs, aside from the repair of the plant and the rehabilitation of surroundings. From previous experience of nuclear disasters, these costs amount to hundreds of billions of dollars for a period of decades.

Dr. Kelvin Rodolfo whose study on fault lines and volcanic activity in the area was cited by Cojuangco in the Bill also refuted claims by the congressman that the location of the BNPP is safe. According to Rodolfo, the BNPP is situated on Mt. Natib, a dormant volcano which constitutes the entire northern half of the Bataan peninsula. “People who are eager to reactivate the BNPP are dangerously misrepresenting scientific data. Given the burden the revival of the BNPP poses to all Filipinos, the government owes it to its citizens to vigorously, openly, and thoroughly explore all the ramifications of such a risky energy source,” said Dr. Rodolfo.(PinoyPress)

Green Groups Wary of Atienza’s Landfill Probe; Fear of Moro-Moro Investigation

February 3, 2009

Fears of a Moro-moro investigation worry citizens and environmental groups opposing the San Mateo dumpsite regarding the directive of DENR Sec. Lito Atienza to probe on the controversial landfill project.

“Sec. Atienza should put action into his words. Many times he issued statements to investigate anomalous landfill projects but ends up exonerating its proponents and allowing the projects to resume,” remarks Clemente Bautista Jr., national coordinator of Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment.

Bautista was referring to the case of Rizal Provincial Sanitary Landfill located in Rodriguez. Last September 2008, contractor International Solid Waste Integrated Management Service Inc (SWIMS Inc.) was caught red-handed in video, dumping garbage leachate into adjacent river. Sec. Atienza ordered an inquiry but later the findings of the investigative team headed by the DENR absolved SWIMS and allowed the sanitary landfill to continue.

“We could not give our confidence to an investigation, which we believe is intended only to appease the contesting public, worse, has been used to shroud facts that shows clear violations, as the Montalban case exhibits, commented Bautista.

Another reason for the group’s apprehension involves the fact that the people behind Montalban dump were the same proponents of the San Mateo project. In particular, Abelardo Salazar associated with SWIMS is president of San Mateo Landfill and Development Corp.

“It seems that contractor Salazar is in close links with the provincial government, that after trashing the place in Montalban, he managed to get away with it, and even got himself a new deal with the San Mateo project”, comments Tony Balute of Coalition for Garbage-Free San Mateo.

Ka Tony also recommends that “a thorough investigation involving environmental and people’s organizations and not just the usual government-dominated team, should be composed, if Atienza is sincere about his orders of probe”.

He also urge that “the ECC be canceled, and the project be totally stopped”.(PinoyPress)

Palparan Appointment ‘Alarming’

February 2, 2009

By Alan Davis
Philippine Human Rights Reporting Project

Any casual observer of Philippine society wanting to know if the government is sincerely committed to improving human rights probably need only to wait and see if retired major general Jovito Palparan becomes strategic adviser to the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB).

If it happens, it would suggest, to borrow a phrase from US President Barack Obama’s inauguration address last week, that the Philippine government is sitting ‘on the wrong side of history.’

Without a doubt it would be a backward step. The fact that it is even being seriously discussed says a great deal.

Media reports from late last week have been suggesting the chief reason Malacanang Palace is interested in appointing the general to a strategic position in the DDB is because he can try and apply his ‘experience of counter-insurgency’ against the drug gangs.

What might this mean?

Well, one need only look at the human rights charges leveled against Palparan and what happened in Thailand in 2003 when authorities there similarly declared war on the drug gangs. The military were unleashed and the campaign reportedly resulted in the deaths of an estimated 2,500-3,000 people.

Summary killings were rife and the campaign was roundly and loudly condemned by the international human rights community. Bizarrely, the then government of Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat announced a similar new anti-drugs campaign late last year in Thailand. His government however fell before it got around implementing the policy.

The Philippines is not Thailand – but there are creeping parallels here –one being the insidious power of the military. This increasingly seems to be a civilian government led by ex-generals as a glance around the cabinet table clearly shows.

Drugs are a curse on Philippine society as they are elsewhere. An effective drugs policy needs to be developed –and that is no easy thing. But we expect government policy to be more than popular vigilantism. We don’t need the kind of justice doled out by the likes of Dirty Harry. If the government is really serious about human rights it will tackle the drug problem through the rule of law, not the barrel of the gun.

Given the claims against Palparan –claims to be fair the general denies– the authorities should not be considering his reappointment to a position of power. As a simple indicator on the government’s commitment to human rights, it says it all.

Alan Davis is the director of the Philippine Human Rights Reporting Project and a director of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting special projects(PinoyPress)

House panel ends probe on World Bank accusations

January 29, 2009

By BEN R. ROSARIO

The House of Representatives yesterday cleared three Filipino-owned construction firms from accusations of collusion in cornering multi-million peso infrastructure contracts bidded out by the World Bank.

The House Committee on Public Works, chaired by Southern Leyte Rep. Roger Mercado, concluded its probe into the controversy amid suspicion among opposition solons that the investigation merely provided a smokescreen for anomalies in biddings being conducted by the Department of Public Works and Highways.

Opposition Rep. Teodoro Casino of Bayan Muna said Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago’s accusation of a House coverup of erring Filipino contractors was not sufficiently addressed by the committee.

Another opposition congressman cited a complaint aired by the China- based Guandong Engineering Inc. against E.C. De Luna Construction Co. and key DPWH officials of allegedly unfairly disqualifying the Chinese group from a P2.3 billion project in Samar in 2006.

“In 2006, collusion was alleged between De Luna and DPWH officials,” said the opposition solon who requested anonymity.

The E. C. De Luna Construction Co. has been indefinitely disqualified from participating in WB projects after it was tagged as “ringleader” in an alleged conspiracy with five other Filipino and Chinese contractors to corner juicy public works contracts funded by the bank.

During yesterday’s hearing, DPWH Undersecretary Manuel Bonoan denied that De Luna and the two other Filipino contractors, Cavite Ideal International Construction and Development Corp. and CM Pancho Inc., have ever been involved in bidding irregularities in government projects.

Casino expressed disappointment that the House Committee on Public Works terminated its inquiry on the supposed collusion between the WB- blacklisted contractors, saying the probe proved nothing.

“Right from the start of the hearing, we were not hopeful the World Bank would be attending the hearing,” Casino said.

“But as were informed that the World Bank had furnished copies of its confidential report to the Department of Finance and the Ombudsman, I had requested that representatives from the two agencies be invited. However, the committee failed to invite them and terminated the inquiry without giving the members of the committee the chance to ask them regarding the WB report,” Casino said.

The opposition solon said the House committee on good government or on oversight may be asked to revive the investigation.

In an interview after the hearing, committee chair Mercado said the documents submitted by the WB did not provide concrete evidence that the firms were guilty of irregularities.

“There’s no collusion. We do not have the evidence to support the criminal act of collusion. Under our rules, we have to present real evidence that is factual and we need witnesses to support these allegations. Unless those are acquired, we cannot prosecute,” said Mercado.

He justified the termination of the probe after only two hearings because he believed the committee has “properly ventilated the issue,” adding that the panel will issue its report soon.

“The DPWH is playing blind on this issue because the contractors involved are close to politicians,” Casino said, adding that First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo was alleged to have met several times with one of the blacklisted firm’s owners, Eduardo de Luna, in 2002.

Enrile discounts Lacson’s allegations on FG’s role in projects

By MARIO B. CASAYURAN

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile yesterday said the allegation of Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson linking First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo to the reported rigging of biddings for World Bank-funded road contracts is ‘’hearsay, for the moment.’’

He said the basis of Lacson’s allegations linking the First Gentleman were notations on the presidential spouse’s 2002 appointments book but these could not be considered solid evidence yet.

Enrile said that there is a need for Lacson to produce a witness linking Mr. Arroyo to the bid-rigging anomaly to substantiate his claim of bribery.

Lacson said the First Gentleman and Eduardo de Luna, owner of one of three Filipino companies blacklisted by the WB in connection with the alleged bid rigging, met 20 times based on the appointments book given to him on the sly by Dodong Mahusay, a witness in the earlier ‘’Jose Pidal’’ expose of Lacson.

One location where the First Gentleman and de Luna allegedly met was the LTA building in Makati City owned by the Arroyo family, Lacson said.

The senator alleged that during one of the meetings, de Luna carried P70 million in cash but the money fell off a carton, causing the cash to spill out at a ‘’wrong’’ floor at the LTA building.

Administration Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, chairperson of the Senate economic affairs committee that conducted a hearing last Tuesday on the road project scandal, shared Enrile’s view that the P70 million ‘’up front’’ money to link Mr. Arroyo to the questionable road project was hearsay.

‘’It has no probative value as of the moment,’’ Santiago, a former University of the Philippines law professor, said. She said she is giving Lacson time to produce a witness ‘’then we will submit a report to the plenary session.’’

Lacson had alleged that the money represented five percent of the more than P1 billion WB-funded project as upfront’ commission for the eventual awarding of the road contract.

‘’Wala pa naman ebidensya na the money was for the First Gentleman. It was denied by de Luna. We will see in the due course what will happen,’’ Enrile said.

Asked whether it was possible to ask the First Gentleman to appear in the next public hearing of the Santiago committee, Enrile said Lacson must first present his witness before the Senate calls Mr. Arroyo to appear.

On Malacanang’s observation that the Senate was quick to link the First Gentleman to the P70 million bribery, Enrile said that he respects the position of Malacanang.

‘’Let the committees do their work. But I would like to caution them to finalize investigation according to the original purpose and finish without expanding too widely,’’ Enrile said. ‘’The main thrust of the investigation is the problem of the World Bank.

“The chairperson of the committee made this point even as Senator Lacson raised his point. I’m not against investigation about any person by the Senate, even if the person being investigated is the husband of the President. But I think we’ll have to be circumspect in the handling of the investigation so that it will not go into any direction, not necessarily expanding from what it originally was,’’ he added.

Santiago reiterated yesterday her call that Public Works Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane be removed from the Cabinet for stonewalling the WB findings. Santiago was peeved by Ebdane’s testimony that the DPWH allowed the three local construction firms blacklisted by the WB to bid for other government projects.

Santiago likewise said Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez should be impeached for her inaction on the WB recommendations submitted to the Philippine government way back in late 2007.

Sen. Loren Legarda also stood on the Senate floor yesterday to refute the claim of Sen. Joker Arroyo that the Senate did not act on three Senate resolutions filed in November 2007 seeking a public hearing, in aid of legislation, on the controversial bidding of WB-funded projects.

Legarda, then chairperson of the Senate economic affairs committee, maintained that she conducted two public hearings but deferred further action after sending to the National Economic Development Authority the Senate resolutions for comment. The NEDA reply is still being awaited, she said.

Also yesterday, opposition Sen. Panfilo Lacson said he has forgiven First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo for the personal assaults on his character and reputation in the past.

However, implicating President Arroyo’s husband in the World Bank’s accusation of rigged bidding on WB-funded road projects is another matter, Lacson said, saying that the controversy is once again about corruption.

“But as I indicated yesterday tanggapin niya man o hindi, pinapatawad ko na siya sa kanyang kasalanan na ginawa sa akin dahil masakit ang ginawa niya sa akin….only because of his health condition na wala na akong galit sa kanya,” Lacson said.

Lacson accused Mr. Arroyo of interfering in government transactions particularly in road projects.

“Kaya ang dare ko sa Malacanang, sa mga nagde-defend kay FG (Mike Arroyo), I-deny nila entries. Madali naman makita kailan birthday ni PGMA (President Arroyo’s initial). Kailan ang birthday ng individuals na kailangan pumunta siya. Kailan siya nag-golf. Kailan punta Hawaii, kailan punta Japan?” Lacson said.

“These entries are easily verifiable. So kung sinasabi nilang di authentic o validated, that’s their own opinion. Unfortunately for them my own opinion is, that’s valid. That’s authentic. The entries will speak for themselves.” (with a report by Hannah Torregoza)(MB)

P12B SSS ‘stimulus package’ probed

January 28, 2009

SEN. Panfilo Lacson yesterday filed Senate Resolution 850 directing the committee on government corporations and public enterprises to investigate the plan to channel P12.5 billion in Social Security System funds for the government’s “economic resiliency plan.”
“To use the hard-earned money of its members to finance the government’s programs for the poor as well as to help private companies tide over the consequences of the financial crisis is nothing more but a slap in the faces of the 27 million SSS members who are being cheated of what is rightfully theirs,” Lacson said.

Lacson also voiced suspicions that the P12 billion may eventually find its way to administration coffers for the 2010 elections.

Lacson said the SSS’ main function as decreed by its charter is to extend social security protection to workers and their beneficiaries.

SSS president Romulo Neri had said the pension fund will “contribute” P12.5 billion to the P330-billion economic stimulus fund of the Arroyo administration.

Neri said the SSS funds may be allocated to products with sovereign guarantee as provided in its charter.

Lacson reminded Neri that the SSS administration’s “first and foremost” duty is to protect the interest and welfare of its members, who in the first place are the source of its funds.

Lacson noted that Neri’s predecessor, Corazon dela Paz, had urged all SSS members to be vigilant against groups and individuals who may want to use their pension funds especially “for an agenda not legally allowed under the SSS Charter.”

Assistant House minority leader Rep. Liza Maza said Neri is gambling away the hard-earned money of the SSS members in committing P12.5 billion of its reserve funds.

“If indeed Neri thinks the P12.5 billion SSS funds is good investment, he should subject his decision to a vote among SSS members. The fund is from the private workers’ pockets and they have all the right to decide what should be done with their funds,” she said.

Maza said Neri has no credibility in assuring the SSS members that the investment would redound to more benefits for them.

“With Neri’s role in the anomalies behind the ZTE-NBN deal, his moral authority to give such commitments and pronouncements is very questionable,” she said.

Malacañang said it has not yet set up the P100 billion public-private sector infrastructure fund component of the P330 billion economic stimulus package.

The stimulus program was supposed to be implemented in the first half of the year.

Outgoing Press Secretary Jesus Dureza said the Cabinet is just finishing the details on how to implement the P100 billion infrastructure fund with the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry and how to get it going.

House majority leader Arthur Defensor (Iloilo) lashed at critics of the economic stimulus package saying they are using the issue as a political vehicle.

Defensor stressed the economic stimulus is ‘badly needed’ by the country to ride out the adverse effects of the global financial meltdown. – Regina Bengco, Wendell Vigilia and Peter J. G. Tabingo(Malaya)

Plunder evidence vs ‘Joc Joc’ readied for Ombudsman

January 28, 2009

BY JP LOPEZ

THE Senate is readying the transmittal of testimonial and documentary evidence to help the Office of the Ombudsman in filing plunder charges against former agriculture undersecretary Jocelyn “Joc Joc” Bolante and other key personalities implicated in the P728 million fertilizer fund mess.

“We have enough (evidence) to bring this (case) to the Ombudsman. There is a ton of evidence, and we have heard testimony among witnesses that was presented by way of checks and reports. We warn the Ombudsman that there is enough evidence,” Sen. Richard Gordon, chair of the Blue Ribbon Committee, said.

The Blue Ribbon panel is expected to come out with a preliminary report recommending the filing of plunder and other charges against Bolante, alleged Malacañang liaison Jaime Paule, alleged runner Marites Aytona, and others for defrauding the government of an estimated P620 million.

Gordon said money laundering, falsification of documents, and other offenses were committed but these would all be absorbed by plunder which is a capital offense.

Gordon lamented the lackadaisical attitude of the Ombudsman on the findings and recommendations of the Blue Ribbon and the food and agriculture committee in December of 2005 for the prosecution of Bolante whom they tagged as mastermind of the 2004 fund mess.

“It has been 1,056 days since the (Joker) Arroyo and (Ramon) Magsaysay (Jr.) committee submitted its report on its investigation into the fertilizer project but the Ombudsman has yet to file graft charges or take action against any individual in connection with the controversy,” he said.

Gordon said if the Ombudsman does not want the public to lump it together with the evasive, if not downright, lying witnesses, the Ombudsman should take action and stop putting off the filing of appropriate charges.

“I advise the Ombudsman not to tarry any longer because this will just open more questions that demand answers, and above all, demand what we call justice. Indeed, the people’s frustration is evident. People have become cynical and frustrated,” he added.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines and a group of farmers tilling lands owned by the Arroyo family in Negros Occidental backed the possibility of plunder charges against Bolante and company.

CBCP spokesman Msgr. Pedro Quitorio and Task Force Mapalad president Jose Rhodito Angeles said the move of the Blue Ribbon committee is justified considering that it involves public funds. – With Gerard Naval(Malaya)

Prosecutor declines to open bank accounts

January 28, 2009

BY WENDELL VIGILIA

STATE prosecutor John Resado is not willing to open his bank accounts for scrutiny in light of allegations he was bribed to dismiss criminal charges against the so-called Alabang boys.

In a letter to the House oversight committee on dangerous drugs which is investigating the alleged bribery, Resado said he was declining to waive his rights, also invoking his constitutional right to privacy.

Resado, when he returned to testify before the committee last Friday, denied allegations contained in an anonymous letter that he deposited P800,000 on Dec. 2, 2008 in his account with the Banco de Oro SM Bacoor branch in Bacoor, Cavite, the same day he came out with a joint inquest resolution dismissing the drug charges against Richard Brodett, Joseph Tecson and Jorge Joseph who were arrested in September last year.

The same letter said Resado’s wife also received the same amount on the same day but Resado has denied it, saying the P800,000 in his account was a revolving fund from their money lending business.

(Justice Undersecretary Ricardo Blancaflor yesterday said there was no P2.6 million deposited in his bank account, belying allegations he received a bribe to push for the release of the so-called Alabang Boys. Story on Page 3)

Rep. Antonio Cuenco (Lakas, Cebu), senior vice chair of the committee, said Resado’s refusal is “proof that he is hiding something.”

“Resado is afraid that his wrongdoings will be exposed,” he said.

Cuenco also said if the committee would not be able to pin Resado on bribery charges, it will use other options.

He said the committee will go after Resado Al Capone style, referring to what the FBI did to the Italian-American gangster of the 1920s and 30s whose criminal career ended with charges of tax evasion.

He said Resado did not report the income from the money lending business in his statement of assets and liabilities or income tax return.

“There is no permit from the Central Bank on his lending business and his business has been overcharging. The Supreme Court said the interest rates should not be more than 1.5 percent per month,” Cuenco added.(Malaya)

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

My Take:

While I agree that Resado must be tried for any wrongdoing he did, I can not help but raise my eyebrows in mockery to the House of Representatives’ obvious maneuvering to throw in the blanket to protect the PDEA.  Watching the House inquiry on this matter convinces me that the House is not inquiring about the circumstances lying around the “Alabang Boys incident”.  Instead, they busy themselves on ruining Resado’s credibility and not accepting the possibility that Resado is actually saying an inch of truth.

The House panel has obviously reached a verdict.  They believe that GMA’s men Santiago and Gonzalez must be cleaned.  And the only way to do that is to make the public believe that the PDEA and DOJ is clean white and the only dirty being is Resado.

Kawawang Resado.  Tsk tsk tsk!

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)

Arroyo’s Diminishing Options

January 23, 2009

With all remaining options including attempts at another Cha-Cha diminishing the whole nation should brace for some extreme measures being resorted to in 2009.

By the Policy Study, Publication, and Advocacy (PSPA) Program
Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG)

By law, Gloria M. Arroyo steps down from the presidency 19 months from now. Before that presidential elections will be held in May 2010 to elect the new president. The big question foremost in the mind of many Filipinos is: Will Arroyo really voluntarily leave the presidential palace to make way for her successor who will then govern the country for the next six years?

By June 2010 when she is expected to leave, Arroyo, the Philippines’ 14th president, should have been in power for 10 years–the longest tenure after Ferdinand Marcos who became president and dictator for 20 years (1966-1986) until he was ousted by civilian uprising.

If Arroyo clings to power beyond 2010, as dissenting voices from various sectors fear, she would be the third president to attempt so. Marcos declared martial law in September 1972 on the pretext of protecting the republic from Rightist and Leftist forces and ruled as a dictator for 14 more years. During his presidency (1992-1998), former General Fidel V. Ramos called for charter change (that’s where “Cha-Cha” came about) in a bid to restore authoritarian rule and establish a strong republic. His two attempts failed, chiefly because of a stronger public resistance. He ended his term in June 1998.

From the very beginning when she took over as president on the heels of the fall of Joseph E. Estrada in a second civilian uprising in January 2001, Arroyo’s term had been challenged. The whole length of her presidency for the past nine years can qualify as a perfect episode for the popular TV series: “Surviving the Presidency.”

Coup attempts

Arroyo faced at least five coup attempts and mutinies: The first was in May 2001 when civilian supporters of Estrada tried to storm Malacañang. The siege was to climax with a coup fomented, reports claimed, by former Estrada officials and allies. Some of these ex-officials have since been co-opted by Arroyo. Calls for her resignation or removal began as early as 2002 picking up steam after the 2004 presidential race amid strong allegations of rigging the elections. Three impeachment complaints were filed against her at the lower House in 2005-2007 and the fourth complaint was thrown out by Arroyo’s political cronies last week (first week of December, 2008).

Arroyo was wily enough to pick a vice presidential candidate (Noli de Castro) who, despite his claimed popularity as a broadcaster, has no presidential credentials thus making him a no-no in the event of a third civilian uprising.

To stay in power, the beleaguered president used political patronage to the hilt in order to rein in her narrow political base among members of Congress, local governments, senior military and police officials, business cronies, and, in some respects, even among leaders of the influential Catholic clergy. The political support purchased by patronage, allegedly in the form of bribery, distribution of pork barrel, promotions, junkets, and other means has been pivotal to keeping Arroyo in Malacañang.

Patronage

While patronage guarantees support for Arroyo at the most propitious times, such as during impeachments and elections, central to crippling any organized mass movement–key to any extra-constitutional presidential transition–is the neutralization of the Left. A government document underscores a national security strategy against the Left–which includes dislodging progressive Party-list groups from Congress–as vital to the Arroyo presidency. Thus, Arroyo’s presidency has also been propped up by the gun leaving nearly 1,000 activists summarily executed and hundreds of others missing since 2001. Civil liberties are threatened by illegal arrests and detention, trumped-up criminal charges, an anti-terrorism law, and the absence of any legal protection.

To conclude, the greed for power has been sustained at the cost of making the Philippine government the most corrupt in East Asia, based on the latest Transparency International report, and by a culture of impunity making the presidential office unaccountable to alleged election cheating, corruption, and crimes against humanity. Arroyo’s presidency has further reduced Congress into a rubber-stamp legislature and the judiciary tarnished by both alleged corruption and presidential appointees.

As a result, Arroyo has become the most unpopular president of all times based on public surveys. There are scores of issues and charges to settle with the president, something that is much anticipated if and when she steps down from the presidency in mid-2010 and becomes a private citizen. To pre-empt this inevitable scenario, she will be spending the rest of her term to either install a friendly successor or use all possible means to stay in power.

With all remaining options including attempts at another Cha-Cha diminishing the whole nation should brace for some extreme measures being resorted to in 2009. She will be capitalizing on all the conditions she needs, including an anti-Arroyo opposition extremely divided by presidential ambitions and a judiciary dominated by her own appointees.

Critical times call for critical leadership. It is up for the people and their organized forces to be equal to this challenge.

Moral Force and Revolution

January 21, 2009

Since the Arroyo government has shown that it would do anything – lie, cheat, bribe, harass, and kill – to pursue its naked self-interest, only a strong moral force and revolution would be able to make it answer for its crimes, reverse the continuous deterioration of the country’s system of governance, and save the nation from sinking deeper into the depths of infamy and amorality.

BY BENJIE OLIVEROS
ANALYSIS

Chief Justice Reynato Puno’s call for a moral force to save the nation has generated a lot of reactions. It even motivated certain sectors to start a movement to push for his presidency. The honorable Chief Justice, who is the perhaps the only remaining credible high official in the Arroyo government, expressed what majority of the Filipino people has been thinking of all along. In November 2007, Archbishop Angel Lagdameo, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, called for a moral revolution. Malacañang reacted strongly against it. Earlier, former House Speaker Jose de Venecia also called for a moral revolution, albeit with lesser effect because he was then with the Arroyo government and he also has a lot to account for.

The impunity in corruption pervading up to the highest level of government, the debasement of all institutions of governance including the wanton use of the justice system for political ends, and the abhorrent impunity in the commission of human rights violations specifically extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances have shown how warped the morals of the Arroyo government is. This has created an amoral situation where lies are passed off as the truth; self-serving interests are misrepresented as for the common good; and human rights, including the right to life, are trampled upon purportedly in the name of ‘democracy’. Wrongdoings are made to appear as right.

The Arroyo government has sunk the morals of the nation so low that it would take more than the next election to salvage the system of governance from the depths of infamy it is currently in. If the Filipino people would not be able to hold the Arroyo government accountable for its crimes, it would have the temerity to engage in wide-scale cheating to either perpetuate itself in power or to influence the results of the 2010 elections. Impunity would persist. Worse, even if a change of government results from the 2010 elections, the culture of impunity that the Arroyo government perpetrated would embolden the next administration to do the same.

Since the Arroyo government has shown that it would do anything – lie, cheat, bribe, harass, and kill – to pursue its naked self-interest, only a strong moral force and revolution would be able to make it answer for its crimes, reverse the continuous deterioration of the country’s system of governance, and save the nation from sinking deeper into the depths of infamy and amorality. It does not matter who becomes the catalyst of this moral force; what matters is that this moral force materializes in the collective action of the Filipino people, especially that of the basic masses and all democratic sectors in Philippine society. Only then can the nation be saved.(Bulatlat.com)

Not an Empowering Government

January 20, 2009

(Conclusion)

Although calls for greater people participation in governance and development are commonly heard and even “recognized” by the Leonardia administration, in reality, its programs and projects rarely involved, if any at all, the people’s meaningful participation.

BY KARL G. OMBION
SPECIAL REPORT

(Bulatlat.com)

Although calls for greater people participation in governance and development are commonly heard and even “recognized” by the Leonardia administration, in reality, its programs and projects rarely involved, if any at all, the people’s meaningful participation.

All available data show that in most, if not all of the city’s programs and projects, such as health, education, agriculture, fisheries, housing and population, and infrastructure, the people are treated as mere beneficiaries, and have never been allowed to take part in the planning and execution process.

There have been opportunities for the local government to experiment on the participatory approach to development, as in the case of the city’s planning system, flood problem, fishery, housing, transport, vendors, social delinquency and criminality, and even child labor concerns. But instead of drawing the participation of various communities and people’s organizations, the government relies on its executive assistants and staff who not only lack the proper orientation and commitment but also often count their services in terms of the 8 a.m.-5 p.m. official duty and the incentives being offered.

Worse, most of these problems are often viewed mainly as legal and financial in nature, so, if no one complains, or there is no budget allocation, there is no government response – or if there is, at all, it is meager.

Over time, this mindset of top-level officials has been carried down the line, and has become an “accepted culture” in the bureaucracy.

There is a cliché among development managers that any development, be it urban or rural, or both, is only as good as the people who design and implement it.

That means a good development program may end up useless if the implementers did it poorly, or in their individual way, without enabling the people as the main actors and ultimate beneficiaries of development.

On the other hand, a poor development program may deliver surprisingly good results if the actors did it according to their actual grasp and judgment of the changing conditions. But even this will likely be unsustainable.

In a number of evaluations of development projects involving NGOs and LGUs, it had always been a common finding that the chief reason for its failure is the wastage of millions of valuable money and the implementers’ lack of determination, creativity, objectivity and foresight, teamwork, and sense of mission.

In most cases, development programs collapsed because they did not embody the objective needs and aspirations of the people. A major reason for this is that the NGOs and LGUs who managed the program did not enable the people to participate from the planning process to the actual implementation and re-planning.

It cannot be denied though that there are also some government agencies which have well-laid out vision and mission statements, goals, strategies and programs. But because the key people running these institutions have standpoints that do not fit with these goals, or are motivated by self-interests and careerism, and their practices guided by sectarian, patronage and profit politics than commitment to public good – their programs ended in hogwash.

If there were development programs and projects that continue to be implemented despite their negative impact on the people, it is because some LGUs are compelled to pursue these for showcasing, funding purposes, employment and payment of political debts, or use these as milking cows.

Bloated Bureaucracy and Misplaced Priorities

The Leonardia administration bureaucracy is probably one of the most bloated class A city, with misplaced priorities, in the country.

It has 2,652 personnel as of 2008, of which 1,646 are permanent personnel, 1,006 are plantilla casuals or with non-permanent items, and 14 political appointees acting as the Mayor’s executive assistants, with each heading a cluster of divisions.

There are also an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 contractuals and job orders regularly hired for specific services.

In terms of deployment by office, the City Mayor’s Office has a total of 448 employees.

This is followed by City Engineer’s Office (301), Department of Public Services (241), Socio–Economic Services Unit (203), City Health Office (199), City Treasurer’s Office (186), General Services Office (170), Bacolod Traffic Authority Office (146), and SP/Legislative Offices (115);

City Social Services Department (86), Veterinary and Slaughterhouse Office (76), Office of Building Official and City Accountant with 50 each, City Assessor’s Office (43), City Library, City Planning Development Office and Civil Registry with 35 each, City Schools Superintendent (33), Department of Agriculture (31), Bacolod City Council (25), City Population Office (23), Budget Office (21), Human Resources Department (17), Cooperative and Livelihood (13), DILG (11), MIT/Computer (9), City Tourism (5), and City Prosecutor and Register of Deeds with three each.

Overall, 448 are in the Mayor’s office, while 962 are in various administrative support offices, or a total of 1,410 occupying administrative positions. A total of 1,242 are in various social support services, but offices involved in direct social services have only 602 employees.

Comparatively, 55 percent of the City Hall’s regular employees are in administrative offices and 25 percent are in support offices. Only 20 percent are in direct social services.

Data further show that of the total number of employees, 60 percent are civil service personnel, while 40 percent were hired on qualifications other than merit and fitness, as the law requires – in other words, political protégés who failed to meet the qualification standards prescribed for government positions.

All these suggest that political patronage is decisive in the appointment of non-career officials occupying executive positions and a bigger number of casuals.

According to former CSC (Civil Service Commission) chairman Karina David, this is a clear abuse of authority and attributable to the “worsening politicization” and “unprofessional behavior” of the government bureaucracy in general.

A Government of Dynasty, Patrons and Crooks

The stories and reports about “pamilya incorporada”, political patrons, crooks, and liars in the Leonardia bureaucracy are not without basis. They have caused the loss of millions in people’s money, which could have otherwise been directed to economic relief for the majority of Bacolodnons who are wallowing in miserable conditions.

The Commission on Audit (CoA) Region VI has, since 2005, issued countless Official Observation Reports admonishing the Mayor and city officials to account for sundry questionable expenses; for donations for flood and other calamity-prone areas; huge amounts of unliquidated cash advances, loans, travel expenses, issued with questionable processes; questionable purchases of supplies, equipment, and property. The CoA repeatedly reminded city officials almost every year to follow strictly accounting and auditing standards.

Alleged scams and irregularities have not ceased to hound the Leonardia administration. Among the most pronounced and badly-criticized are the 11 Ombudsman cases involving the allegedly overpriced and illegal P395-million construction of the new government center; the multimillion-peso Grade 3 textbooks scam; the multimillion-peso computer sets project scam; the unexplained P262-million traveling and related expenses in 2005; the huge and unexplained P18.9-million personnel cash advances as of November 2007; the P72.6-million cash advances for fuel and gasoline expenses in 2007; the unexplained P68 million in the city’s reforestation project in 2005 and average of P28 million spent in the same program from 2006 to 2007; the P10-million overprice in the bidding for 10 six-wheeler dumptrucks from Manila-based Commercial Motors Corporation in 2007-2008; the P4-million rental of 10 dumptrucks in March 2008; the questionable P4 million in fuel expenses from P10 M fund for dredging project in Barangay Banago in November 2007; and the unauthorized donation of P4 million to the Silver Maskara Festival Organization Inc. in September 2007.

Other on-going transactions clouded with irregularities are the Sangguniang Panglunsod’s approval of P23.4 million for the purchase of the Lopez-owned six-hectare dumpsite in Barangay Feliza at P360 per square meter, when there are other offers at P100 to P150 per square meter only and when the DENR has already issued an evaluation report that the Lopez property is not suitable for use as a dumpsite and is highly hazardous to the community.

There are also the highly questionable appropriation of P50 million for the purchase of fixtures and furniture for the new government center and awarding of a contract to a questionable bidder; the Sangguniang Panglunsod appropriation of P7 million for the new government center’s electric connection to Transco, when the NEA (National Electrification Administration) and Transco have not yet approved the city’s connection proposal.

There are also the proposed repeal of City Ordinance 321 as justification for the removal of the 20-percent ceiling on personnel component of city’s projects; the amendment of city’s Revenue Code to give more powers to the city government to impose higher taxes.

Besides these, there are the reported overpriced construction of the city’s boxing ring under the auspices of the newly organized Association of Bacolod Amateur Boxers; arbitrary disbursement of millions in Pagcor (Philippines Amusements and Gaming Corporation) funds by the executive office; and the suspected inflow of dirty money from STL (small-town lottery) and other big time gambling operators into the city coffers.

Some of Leonardia’s officials are also facing individual administrative and criminal suits for cases of irregularities, unprofessionalism, unethical practices and cheating.

All the alleged scams wracking the Leonardia have deep roots in the culture of patronage, nepotism and clientele-ism practiced by past city administrations, and the semi-colonial and semi-feudal character of Philippine economic and political structures.

Indeed, power breeds corruption, and corruption anesthesizes.

Political or bureaucratic power enables them to ransack public funds and inflate the ill-gotten private wealth that they already possess. Corruption helps increase the power of Leonardia and his officials, and renders the poor Bacolodnons more marginalized economically, socially, and politically.

The poor governance and scams that plague the Leonardia administration exacerbated by the paralysis of internal and external institutional mechanisms against graft and corruption are what make it rotten to the core.

Toward a Democratic Governance

At the rate by which the present administration is losing its credibility, one begins to ask whether a reshuffling, or re-districting of the city, or even a shift in the form of government from unitary to federal, is enough to cure the cancer that afflicts the infrastructures of the Leonardia governance.

The way the Leonardia administration stands now, does not augur well for the general public. It even projects a weak, fractious, anti-people and anti-development administration.

Bereft of visions and programs that address the people’s welfare and democratic interests, they subvert the elections through manipulation, disinformation and the spreading of more myths; and run the bureaucracy like the extension of the private businesses of the Leonardia family and patrons.

The Leonardia administration however does not seem to understand that the people are smarter than they are made to appear – they are always able to sort out the grain from the chaff.

A local political leader recently said, “Let them (the city politicians and their apologists) wallow into believing that Bacolodnons will always go for the thieves in the city government.”

Movements for political and economic reforms are growing in various corners of the city and the province – involving the marginalized folks, business, professionals, state employees, the church, NGOs, and other groups and individuals that believe in a different kind of governance.

It is now becoming clearer in various circles that governance is about who wields political power. Political power should be in the hands of the people.

A truly democratic governance is far from the present realities but it is already taking shape amid the present contradictions.

The city government has still some well-meaning officials and people who are willing to give it another try especially with more push from political figures, sectors and groups who value their stake in the on-going reconfiguration of power.

In due time, democratic governance will emerge with the people bound by one vision, one mission, common goals and strategies, working as one despite divergence in ideas, adoptive to changing conditions, and with a political leadership that is able to unite divergent political forces in a common march towards real and lasting development and peace.

How this can be translated into a common and doable agenda is something that has to be defined and worked out by the major stakeholders and facilitators of change.

A change in city administration in 2010 may cause some improvements. But how significant and beneficial to the people this change will be remains to be seen. ((Bulatlat.com))

Notes:

1_COA 2005, 2006 and 2007 annual audit reports, http://www.coa.gov.ph
2_ Good Governance: The Political Solution to Socio-economic malaise, ESCAP, December 2008
3_ Korten and Siy; Transforming a Bureaucracy: The Experience of National Irrigation
Administration;1989
4_ Larkin; Sugar and the Origins of Modern Philippine Society; Introduction; Epilogue; 2001
5_ Jeremy Seabrook: Victims of Development; 1993; pp 7-19, 21-26
6_ Bacolod City Comprehensive Land Use Development Plan; 2000-2010
7_ State of the City Address of Bacolod City Mayor Evelio Leonardia; 2007
8_ Selected Interviews; 2007-2008
9_ News Clippings; Visayan Daily Star; Sun Star Bacolod; Negros Daily Bulletin; Negros Times;
Agila 2006-2008
10_ Eduardo, et al., Victor ; Ombudsman Cases against Bacolod City Officials on Government
Center; 2007; 2008
11_ Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG); Selected Articles; 2007-2008

A Glimpse of Urban Poverty and Other Basic Problems in Bacolod City

January 20, 2009

(Second of three parts)

The lack of jobs, unstable income, and decent housing, as well as high crime rates – problems exacerbated by the city government’s lack of a pro-people development paradigm – are just among the manifestations that Bacolod is unlikely to grow as a “humane city”.

BY KARL G. OMBION
SPECIAL REPORT

(Bulatlat.com)

The capital of Negros sugarlandia has recently been praised in Manila-based Money Sense magazine as the country’s most livable city, with the article citing as main bases the costs of living, accessibility to basic services, and peace and order situation.

Aside from this, city officials have also boasted of the numerous awards garnered by the city, among them accolades for supposedly being the most business-friendly city and the most developed IT (information technology) center in Region VI.

An assessment however of the basic social and economic facts in the city show a different trend, and seem to prove only the long-standing critique of social scientists and progressive organizations that the leadership of the region’s capital city has failed to address its own internal economic and political problems, aside from failing to alter the prevailing feudal and semi-feudal conditions spurred by the region’s mono-crop, sugar-based economy.

The lack of jobs, unstable income, and decent housing, as well as the high crime rates – problems exacerbated by the city government’s lack of a pro-people development paradigm – are just among the manifestations that Bacolod is unlikely to grow as a “humane city”.

Rampant “Squatting”

Data provided by the Bacolod Housing Authority (BHA) revealed that half of Bacolod’s estimated 41,610 households are considered as “squatters”, or those families not owning lots and houses or are living in “extreme danger zones”, and without stable jobs and income.

According to the BHA, the number could have soared to as much as 60 to 65 percent of the city’s population as the 39,921 listed as “squatters” were still lifted from 1997 database of the city. “If we consider the 1.38 percent annual population growth rate of the city and the pattern and rate of migration from Negros rural areas to Bacolod, the figure of 39,921 “squatters” is already understated as the number of squatters most probably have gone higher considering the city’s present population of 499,497,” the BHA said.

The city officials are thinking of buying 30-60 hectares of land to accommodate the existing over 1,000 “squatters” with pending court cases as well as those likely to be ejected anytime soon, and to around 200 waitlisted household relocatees with pending orders of demolition.

The city’s existing relocation sites in Barangay (village) Handumanan, Fortune town; in Brgy. Estefania, and in Vista Alegre in Brgy. Granada are already filled up and any move to allow more entry of relocatees in the said sites might only cause more troubles to the city and the “squatters”.

But even this would not be enough because the number of “squatters” continues to grow while the jobs available are so far inadequate.

The leaders and representatives of various urban poor associations in Bacolod recently reiterated their demand for an immediate moratorium on all demolitions and ejections while the city government has yet to settle the demands of urban poor for on-site development, or guarantee the provision of viable and sustainable relocation sites for all the affected communities and groups.

In an urban poor conference initiated by the Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay), Negros chapter and its allied organizations led by Bayan Muna, which was held recently at the Redemptorist Convent hall, four workshop groups expressed collective alarm and condemnation over the wave of forced demolitions the city government has carried out the past months, leaving hundreds families scampering for temporary shelters.

Amalia Perez, Kadamay-Negros chairperson, said, “The city government has violated the Philippine Constitution, the Geneva Conventions on the Rights of Peoples, and the Urban Development Housing Act, due to its failure to provide relocation sites and the attendant support services to demolished communities, and also in carrying out violent and inhumane demolitions of houses and ejection of urban poor.

“Right now, more than 4,000 households have notices of demolition and pending court cases of demolition and ejection, and unless the city government orders a moratorium or strikes an agreement with court judges for a moratorium, there would be more homeless persons in the coming months.”

The workshop groups further tackled issues like actual income capacity of urban poor households and their experiences with various housing schemes carried out and partnered by the city government like the Community Mortgage Program (CMP), Miscellaneous Sales (MS), Direct Purchase (DP), Gawad Kalinga (GK). They all concluded that the city government’s housing program is oppressive and anti-urban poor.

“It is clear that the city government has designed its housing schemes with bias for the elites, business, expats, tourists, as shown by its expensive and exorbitant housing units,” Juanito Tanalgo of KAISAHAN, an alliance of local neighborhood associations, said in the local language.

“We could hardly even meet our daily food needs, and they still want to hog tie us with high mortgaging fees and other charges for the housing unit,” he added.

Bacolod Councilor Jocelle Batapa-Sigue aptly said that the huge number of “squatters”, “jobless”, and odd jobbers” in the city reflects the inability of the city government to provide adequate employment and support systems to its people.

“The acute corruption in the city government also exacerbates the failure to provide adequate and sustainable basic services to the urban poor; it’s in fact stealing something that belongs to the people,” she said.

Joblessness.

Official city and labor statistics processed by the author revealed that of the city’s total labor force of 228,000 as of 2007, 74 percent have no stable jobs and incomes and the rate is still growing. The rate of employment is a mere 26 percent and economic trends show that prospects are not getting any better.

Of the 74 percent, 43 percent or 98,700 are underemployed or odd jobbers, while the majority are either self-employed or working in family-based small businesses. Thirty-one percent or 70,664 are unemployed or continue to look for employment.

Only 26 percent or 58,636 are employed as regulars, probationary and under renewable job contracts, or with clear employer-employee relationships. Majority of this section of the workforce are covered by the city’s estimated 21,000 registered businesses as of end-2007.

Of the employed, 30,028 are in general and professional services, i.e. schools, government offices, the communication and transportation sector, and other utility services.

Around 22,854 are in agri-aqua farms, e.g. rice, sugar, fishing, fishponds, vegetables, orchards and coconut plantations.

Commerce and trade accounts for 3,554 of the employed, while processing/manufacturing accounts for 2,200.

The level of unemployment conditions in the city is not surprising given the city government’s slow job generation vis-a-vis the rapid population growth and migration rate.

In fact, this condition is similar to that of all other cities and town centers in Negros.

The city government’s stress on the service sector is problematic because it is the sector with the most unstable employment, while the agriculture sector which still constitutes the biggest resources and labor reserves of the city remain largely neglected.

The city has 16,945 hectares of land, of which 9,101 hectares or 53.7 percent are devoted to agriculture; unless the city does something to address this reality, it can never achieve an all-around development.

It is a must for the city to re-orient its thrust toward spurring growth with jobs and development with equity, or it will be saddled with growing unemployment and population in the long run.

The region’s seasonal, mono-crop, sugar-based economy that serves as the bastion of surplus labor and causes the continuous urban migration to escape widespread and worsening poverty and hunger in the rural areas is another factor to be blamed.

Dole-out social services.

The Leonardia administration reported that from June 2005 to June 2007, the city spent P68 million (P32 million in 2005-2006 and P36 million in 2006-2007) in various social services.

A scrutiny of CSSD (City Social Services Department) projects, however, reveals that most of these “services” were dole-outs: relief services, one-time trainings, meetings and conferences, and printing and publications of materials.

More revealing is the fact that CSSD services went mostly to constituents of the political forces and allies of the Mayor and others in the city leadership. Thus the problem of effectively measuring the impact of these services arose.

Class A city with no hospital.

The Leonardia administration has until now failed to set up a hospital of its own, and is relying for almost everything on its excessively undermanned, poorly equipped City Health Office, which is housed in a small building.

The City Health Office has been catering mainly to first-aid and primary cases, while the rest, especially major medical cases are referred to the Bacolod-based Corazon Locsin Montelibano Memorial Regional Hospital (CLMMRH), or profit-seeking private hospitals.

According to CLMMRH official sources, 75-80 percent of its patients are from Bacolod City, but support from the city government is quite minimal: a few dozen nurses and midwives, and half a dozen doctors rendering part time services.

Ironically, many ask, where do the millions being allocated yearly for health concerns by the city, and the millions more in donations from various local and international humanitarian foundations go? An accounting of the funds is being asked but no report has been made public yet.

What is even more ironic is the fact that the city government has been spending millions on salaries of 199 City Health Office personnel whose presence is hardly felt even in the city’s most depressed and disease-stricken barangays.

Crime surge.

No less than the Metro Bacolod Chamber of Commerce, Inc. had once noted the crime surge in the city, pointing to the rising incidence of holdups, robberies, and numerous petty crimes such as snatching in the capital city.

MBCCI vice-president for external affairs Oscar Zayco noted in one media interview that a crime against persons and property have surged in recent months with incidents averaging three to four times a week.

Bacolod City Police Director S/Supt. Ronilo Quebrar also admitted that criminals in the city have not only increased and become more daring in carrying out their illegal activities, but seem to find it easier to stage their crimes.

He attributed the problem though to the city’s lack of police personnel. The city’s police force numbers only 473, thus amounting to a ratio of one policeman for every 1,189 citizens. He said the ideal ratio for a big city like Bacolod is 1:500.

Zayco also believes that the lack in the police force is not the main reason but the grinding poverty stalking the whole sugarlandia, which causes the increase in the rate of rural-urban migration and thus the commission of all sorts of crimes.

“As the city grows without much employment to offer, thousands of people flowing in supposedly to find ‘greener pastures’ here end up engaging in illegal activities just to survive; the city of Bacolod has become a mixture of ‘highly mobile and transient’ people which makes it harder for urban authorities to monitor and control the population,” Zayco noted. (Bulatlat.com)

The High Costs of Bad Governance: Focus on Bacolod City

January 20, 2009

(First of three parts)

On the way to completing its second term, the Leonardia administration is already battered by dozens of accusations of graft and corruption and bad governance. Worse, Bacolodnons are still baffled by what the Leonardia administration is doing, what it is doing to the city’s coffers, and where it is leading the city.

BY KARL G. OMBION
SPECIAL REPORT

(Bulatlat.com)

The Philippines, called the “Pearl of the Orient Seas” by Dr. Jose Rizal, “Oro, Plata, Mata” by cultural icon Peque Gallaga, and “Asia’s golden haven” by Steven Spielberg, has practically lost its glitter and now stands among the cellar dwellers in Asia.

Ironically the only Christian-dominated country in Asia, the Philippines ranks among the most corrupt countries, not only in Asia but worldwide. A recent survey reports the Philippines as being more corrupt this year compared to last year. The World Bank estimates that about 40 percent of government resources are lost to corruption yearly.

This unfortunate and deplorable phenomenon of corruption and bad governance is just as pervasive in our city of Bacolod as it is at the national level.

On the way to completing its second term, the Leonardia administration is already battered by dozens of accusations of graft and corruption and bad governance. Worse, Bacolodnons are still baffled by what the Leonardia administration is doing, what it is doing to the city’s coffers, and where it is leading the city.

Some people keep on saying, “Let’s give the Mayor a chance.” Fine, we have always done that. But the more important thing to know is, what do we give the Mayor a chance for? The Leonardia administration should have clearly informed the Bacolodnons about its plans right from day one, so they would know what they voted for. Unfortunately, its actions keep bringing more questions than answers.

Bad governance and corruption are the primary reasons for the persistence of poverty and underdevelopment in many parts of the country, including Bacolod City. Among the products of corruption and bad governance are massive poverty, increasing rate of under-employment and unemployment, brain drain, inadequate and/or inappropriate production support systems, defective social and physical infrastructure, persistent malnutrition, surging criminality, and social unrest, to name just a few.

These problems emanate from absence of a comprehensive people-centered sustainable development agenda, lack of political will and sense of nationalism among public officials, predominance of vested interests and elitist policies, inefficient bureaucracy, and perverted value system.

Corruption and bad governance in public service have their roots in the semi-colonial and semi-feudal character of the economic and political structures of Philippine society, where the “bureaucracy is nothing but an instrument for facilitating the exploitation of the people by foreign and feudal interests.”

The Case of Bacolod City: Same Old Policy Direction

To better understand Bacolod, it is best to get an overview of the process of the evolution of its policy direction.

The local government of Bacolod has always been a traditional government bureaucracy and its basic policy has focused on traditional functions such as tax collections and revenue generation, repair of roads and buildings, delivery of some social services, giving donations, and promotion and protection of private enterprises in the city.

Its policies and programs have always been the extension of and patterned after those of the national government, i.e. maintaining the social order in the country. Thus, the city government has not contributed toward altering the long-standing local political, economic and social structures dominated and controlled by the few landed and business elites.

In many aspects the city government has been configured to suit the interests of local old-rich families and political dynasties.

Local and non-local private enterprises here are enjoying privileges from the city government without being obliged to render moral, economic and legal responsibility to uplift the conditions of the city’s poor. Meanwhile, the city’s poor majority wallow in poverty and fight on their own to survive, and are always at the mercy of the city government for some token of support services.

None of the existing management systems, programs and projects have been subjected to thorough review to see whether or not they have enabled the local people to take part in the planning and execution of the city’s development programs and projects.

The participatory approach to governance and managing development programs has not been given a serious discussion in the level of policy and decision-makers, nor given a chance in some specific programs and projects.

Instead the city’s programs and projects remain the exclusive turf of government officials and their staff, political appointees and special consultants who commonly see the people as mere recipients or beneficiaries of programs than as co-planners and implementers.

In short, the city’s policy direction remains the same as it has been for decades. It has never gone through a process of transformation to reflect local objective conditions and the aspirations of the people.

Its direction and programs have thus fit the interests of national and local powers that be, and never those of the property-less and powerless.

Problematic City Development Program

If one analyzes the questions raised by different sectors on the Leonardia administration, it appears that the core problem is the administration’s development program and strategy.

This is the main issue that keeps Bacolodnons guessing. This is the same issue that makes the Leonardia administration agonize, albeit in a concealed manner, in pushing for the “rebuilding” of Bacolod, if at all it is sincere in its commitment.

A development program is a blueprint for total human development, and entails not just the usual pump-priming activities like physical infrastructures, and other traditional services; collection of taxes and other revenues; and delivery of some social services, among others.

More importantly, it is where the objective conditions of the people, their needs, anxieties, fears and aspirations, and the ways and costs of realizing them, are clearly and substantially defined.

It also defines the people’s participation in planning and implementation of its programs.

It is true that the Leonardia administration has advanced its platform, loosely labeled as “Rebuilding Bacolod”.

Based on its planning and development documents, the State of the City Addresses (SoCAs), and flagship program, the “Rebuilding” of Bacolod means nothing more than turning it into a “Premier City in the Philippines.” It is no different from Leonardia’s 1995-98 thrust.

The “Premier City” project is a national government thrust of turning cities and other urban centers into havens of big business, expats, big landlords and technocrats. This means more infrastructures, conversion of public lands for commercial and industrial uses, industrial free zones, rising costs of living standards, intensification of labor problems – therefore constricting space for the city’s 260,000 urban poor and the thousands more of would-be urban poor migrating from the poor and war-torn countryside.

The platform however carries mostly motherhood statements, loaded with equivocal meaning and open-ended like “most livable city”, “premier city”, “modern urban center”, and “dynamic center for economic growth”. Some of its parts even look like a shop list, outlining in broad strokes what to do and what not.

Mayor Evelio Leonardia’s local political party in the last elections was called “Partido Progreso” and the party’s battle cry was “Rebuilding Bacolod” and “Fast Forward Bacolod”.

After four years, the Leonardia administration’s battle cry is a far cry from the realities on the ground, a lost voice in the forest.

Bacolod Councilor Celia Flor, head of the City’s Anti-Poverty Council, said, “The city’s development program is confusing, because how can it have a clear thrust and realistic goal when it has not even made a baseline data of the poverty conditions in the city?”

“How can the city chart a development program that will truly benefit the poor when it does not even have clear data on who are the real poor in the city?” Flor also said.

So what happens, Flor lamented, is that the city’s poverty alleviation services are not really given to the real poor; instead, they end up in the hands of the city leadership’s “voting base”.

This is a serious problem that poses pain in the administration’s head, and put its credibility on the line.

Truly “rebuilding” Bacolod requires first and foremost a comprehensive grasp of the objective conditions. A development program follows. A development plan is a critical starter, because it defines clearly the ideas of where to go and how to get there.

Charting a truly comprehensive development program requires not just board work among the city’s executive assistants, hired consultants, doctorates, and technocrats but real consultations with the people: the majority urban poor, drivers, vendors, youth, OFW (overseas Filipino worker) families, and the lower stratum of the middle class as the main forces of development.

If the Leonardia administration is truly committed to be a government that is for the people, then it must offer them not only a new set of dynamic and critical people, but a development program that is from, with and for the people.

The “Premier City” could be a dynamic center and engine of growth, but it can never be for the poor. In fact, Bacolod’s becoming a “Premier City” is going to be at the expense of the poor.

This problem is only going to fuel more contradictions between and among city officials, between the Mayor and some liberal-minded Sangguniang Panlungsod (City Council) members, and between them and the Bacolodnons who are increasingly becoming impatient over their unaddressed demands.

Any seasoned development manager knows that he cannot start something, much less chart strategy, without a good map of the terrain he is going to and without an idea of how to engage in it.(Bulatlat.com)

Lawyer Says GMA to Gain from Puno Impeachment

January 20, 2009

For lawyer Theodore Te, the bid to impeach Chief Justice Reynato Puno smells of “political maneuverings” that would benefit the current Malacañang occupant.

BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
Bulatlat

Does President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo stand to benefit from the impeachment of Chief Justice Reynato Puno?

This is a question that has arisen amid alleged moves to impeach him, which were recently exposed by Supreme Court spokesman Midas Marquez. The impeachment bid against the Chief Justice reportedly stems from the non-promulgation of a ruling unseating an opposition member of the House of Representatives.

For Theodore Te, a law professor at the University of the Philippines (UP) and Metro Manila regional coordinator of the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG), the bid to impeach Puno smells of “political maneuverings” that would benefit the current Malacañang occupant. “At this point, Gloria stands to gain from any measure that would ensure that she is not prosecuted for the crimes she has committed – all the impeachable offenses she would have been found liable for had it not been for Jose de Venecia’s and later Prospero Nograles’ respective Houses,” Te told Bulatlat in an interview.

In a press conference last month, lawyer and businessman Louie Biraogo denounced what he described as an “irregularity” in the Supreme Court’s decision-making process.

He was referring to the non-promulgation of a July 15, 2008 draft decision unseating Negros Oriental Rep. Jocelyn Limkaichong, who had won by over 7,000 votes over her closest opponent, Olivia Paras, in the 2007 elections. The ruling upholds Limkaichong’s disqualification from holding office for being a Chinese citizen.

“My suspicion is the Chief Justice may have a hand in this irregularity,” Biraogo said. “These circumstances led me to believe the Chief Justice may have been dishonest in his dealings … and may prejudice the faith of people in the judiciary.”

Paras is the wife of former Rep. Jacinto Paras, a member of Arroyo’s Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino (Kampi or Partner of the Free Filipino).

Penned by Associate Justice Ruben Reyes, who has recently retired, the July 15, 2008 draft decision on the Limkaichong case had been signed by all justices except Puno himself. But nine of the 14 justices who signed it concurred only “in the result” and did not agree with Reyes’s reasoning. Puno thereafter convinced his colleagues to reconsider the ruling, and subsequently, the Supreme Court “unanimously decided to withhold” its promulgation. The High Tribunal also scheduled oral arguments to be held last August.

“As Chief Justice, (Puno) has the function of ensuring that the decision would be authoritative, meaning it would be followed as law, not only by the parties to the case but also other parties similarly situated,” Te told Bulatlat in an interview. “Under these circumstances, it might have been necessary for Puno to step in considering that the Reyes ponencia did two things: 1. declare a candidate who had been allowed to run by the Comelec (Commission on Elections) as disqualified, and 2. declare a clear winner, by over 7,000 votes, as ineligible to occupy the office to which she was elected and to strike her off the rolls of the House of Representatives. Had the decision been promulgated with majority concurring only in the result, it would have been unclear, at least to Limkaichong’s constituents who had elected her to office, why their duly-elected representative was now disqualified.”

Te also noted that in his reflections on the draft decision, Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said that the Comelec resolutions of May 17 and June 29, 2007 disqualifying Limkaichong were rendered “in grave abuse of discretion” and pointed out his reasons for saying so. These were the same Comelec resolutions affirmed by the ruling Reyes penned.

Te said that a ruling where majority of the justices concur only “in the result” is worthless. “A ruling where majority concurred only “in the result” has no authoritative value. The latter feature is that which makes Supreme Court decisions part of the law of the land and that which makes its Decisions ‘precedent-setting’. Reyes’s reasoning was, to the mind of the majority, so bad that they could not accept it but they all agreed that the result was correct. A ruling that is not binding as precedent is a waste of time,” he said.

Previous non-promulgations

There have been similar incidents where Supreme Court decisions were not promulgated, Te said, citing the cases of Misolas v. Panga and People v. Caruncho.

Justice Abraham Sarmiento (now retired), in 1990, wrote in Misolas v. Panga:

It perplexes me why this dissent should first of all merit what appear to be repartees from the majority. I am but casting a contrary vote, which, after all, is in performance of a constitutional duty.

I am also concerned at how this case has journeyed from ponente to ponente and opinion to opinion, which, rather than expedited its resolution, has delayed it-at the expense of the accused-petitioner.

I was originally assigned to write the decision in this case, and as early as June, 1989, I was ready. On June 14, 1989, I started circulating a decision granting the petition and declaring Presidential Decree No. 1866, as amended by Presidential Decree No. 1878-A, unconstitutional and of no force and effect. Meanwhile, Madame Justice Irene Cortes disseminated a dissent. By July 18, 1989, my ponencia had been pending in the office of the Chief Justice for promulgation. It carried signatures of concurrence of eight Justices (including mine), a slim majority, but a majority nonetheless. Five Justices, on the other hand, joined Justice Cortes in her dissent. The Chief Justice did not sign the decision on his word that he was filing a dissent of his own.

Subsequently, and as events would soon unfold quickly and dramatically, the Chief Justice returned my decision to the Court en banc, and declared that unless somebody changed his mind, he was promulgating my decision. Justice Edgardo Paras, who was one of the eight who had stamped their imprimatur on my decision, indicated that he did not want to “clip the wings of the military” and that he was changing his mind. This sudden reversement under the circumstances surrounding its manifestation, took me aback for which I strongly voiced my protest for a case (although the majority is very slim) that I had thought was a settled matter.

I am aware that similar events in the Supreme Court are nothing uncommon. The following are the ringing words of my distinguished colleague, Justice Ameurfina Melencio-Herrera, but they could just as well have been mine, as far as the instant controversy is concerned, and I could not have put it any better:

“It has taken all of a year and four months to what, I hope, will see the final disposition of this case, notwithstanding periodic reminders for an earlier resolution. It is this delay that has caused me a great deal of concern. It is, to me, a crying example of justice delayed and is by no means ‘much ado about nothing.’ … Nor is the question involved ‘none too important.’ … The bone of contention is whether or not a criminal complaint, which is an offense against the State, may be dismissed on the basis of an amicable settlement between the complainant and the accused, who is a public officer.

“As assigned initially, I was to prepare the opinion of the Court. My original ‘ponencia’ annulling the Order of respondent Municipal Judge Eriberto H. Espiritu dismissing the criminal case against respondent Mayor Emiliano Caruncho, granting the petition for Certiorari and Mandamus, and ordering respondent Municipal Judge to reinstate and proceed with the trial on the merits of the criminal case against respondent Mayor without further delay, was circulated beginning July 30, 1982.”


Te said that stopping the promulgation of a Supreme Court decision does not fall under impeachable offenses – particularly betrayal of public trust, which Biraogo appeared to be alluding to in his statement during last month’s press conference. “I do not believe that the failure to promulgate, for so long as the reason is clear and is not intended to favor a specific party, would be actionable,” Te said.

Malacañang

Considering the legal basis for the non-promulgation of the July 15, 2008 draft decision on the Limkaichong case, the issue of the alleged impeachment moves against Puno has assumed political color. Suspicions are rife that Malacañang may have a hand in the impeachment bid against the highest official of the Philippine judiciary.

Malacañang, through Press Secretary Jesus Dureza, has denied having a hand in the alleged moves against Puno. “In fairness, that speculation is so unfair,” Dureza said in a radio interview last Jan. 11.

Asked whether Arroyo stands to benefit from Puno’s impeachment, Te replied in the affirmative. “At this point, Gloria stands to gain from any measure that would ensure that she is not prosecuted for the crimes she has committed – all the impeachable offenses she would have been found liable for had it not been for JdV’s (Jose de Venecia) and later Nogi’s (Prospero Nograles) respective Houses,” he said.

Te warned that even if Puno survives the alleged moves to impeach him, he should brace for more plots by those who want him out of the Supreme Court.

“Take note that it is not only through impeachment that Puno can be ousted,” Te said. “If he is forced to resign, same effect. If Puno weathers this, expect more to come out in the future because Gloria’s supporters might be hoping that Puno would find it untenable to continue.”

He said Puno should expect his connections with businessman Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco and his closeness to Estelito Mendoza during the presidency of Ferdinand Marcos to be played up.

One of Puno’s sons is a top-ranking executive at San Miguel Corporation, where Cojuangco – a top Marcos crony – is the present chief executive officer. From 1971 to 1974, Puno was a solicitor at the Office of the Solicitor-General (OSG), which was then headed by Mendoza.

Te also said that those who want Puno out will not stop even if he will be the only non-Arroyo appointee in the High Tribunal by the time Arroyo completes her appointment of seven new justices later this year.

“One may ask, why the big deal?” Te said. “It is a big deal because the spectacle of a Puno and Carpio dissent every time would be a great blow to legitimacy. I think Gloria wants what Marcos never got – an exit into history without a cloud. Her last best chance is for a Supreme Court to rewrite history. With Puno and Carpio still there, I don’t think this would be possible.”

He also said the best way to maintain whatever independence the judiciary still has is for Puno to “stay put” until 2010, when he reaches the age of 70 – the mandatory retirement age for Supreme Court justices. (Bulatlat.com)

CamNorte dad wants all males get circumcised

January 18, 2009

DAET, Camarines Norte — It’s only a matter of time that all males, especially those of pre-teen age, in this province will all be circumcised, preparing themselves for manhood, at least physically and emotionally, once a proposed provincial ordinance is passed that requires all sons of Adam to undergo the Filipino rite of passage.

The two-page measure, ‘An Ordinance Launching the Annual Operation Tuli in the Province of Camarines Norte’ and to be otherwise known as “Tunay na Ulirang Lalake Ordinance” or TULI, was authored by Provincial Board Member Joeffrey B. Pandi.

He said that the local legislation, which has triumphantly hurdled its second reading the other day, is meant “to enhance the physical well-being of a boy or pre-teen, preparing him for early manhood and as a good citizen of his community.”

Pandi has asked the different civic organizations here, like the Rotary Club, Lions, Jaycees, and the Camarines Norte Medical Society to lend their support in the implementation of the soon-to-be-approved ordinance.

Lady members of the provincial board, while giggling over the deliberations of the proposed measure kidded Pandi if he was directing the intent of the ordinance to some male colleagues. “Wala ka bang pinatatamaan sa Sangguniang Panlalawigan?” they asked.

==========

My Take:

I found this local legislation funny.  Pandi is trying to call his proposd measure as TULI yet it is rightly acronymed as TULO (Tunay na Ulirang alaki Ordinance).

Funny!   I suppose he’s a doctor or has received commission for doctors who will do the TULI en masse. Sana ibalik ang tuli sa tabing-ilog.  Yung mga dumaan sa ganun ang talagang tunay na lalaki.  Yun ang tunay na ritwal ng Filipino manhood.

Gonzalez remark on Marcelino ‘dangerous’

January 16, 2009

Tamano: ‘It could be used to overturn drug cases’

By Christian V. Esguerra, Jocelyn Uy
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:38:00 01/16/2009

MANILA, Philippines—The political opposition branded as “dangerous” the statement made by Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez questioning the inclusion of military men in the fight against the drug menace.

“If Secretary Gonzalez is right, then it could be a basis for overturning all cases and convictions stemming from anti-drug operations,” opposition spokesperson Adel Tamano said.

If he were a defense lawyer in a drug case, he could use Gonzalez’s statement in asking that the case be dismissed “because the case is unconstitutional. So the statement of the secretary of justice is very dangerous,” Tamano said.

Parañaque Rep. Roilo Golez said Gonzalez had “sabotaged” the operations of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).

“In apparently spiting an agency he now considers a nemesis, he forgot his role in the fight against illegal drugs. With him at the justice department’s helm, PDEA’s operations have been neutered,” the lawmaker said.

After Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecutors dismissed the charges against drug suspects Richard Brodett Jr., Jorge Joseph and Joseph Tecson, the PDEA claimed that it had received information the prosecutors had been bribed.

The agency’s allegation triggered a word war between PDEA and justice officials.

Palace: Constructive opinion

But Malacañang does not find anything wrong with the statement of Gonzalez that Maj. Ferdinand Marcelino’s participation in operations of the PDEA is “unconstitutional.”

Marcelino is the head of the PDEA Special Enforcement Service that arrested the so-called Alabang Boys in separate buy-bust operations in September last year.

Anthony Golez, deputy presidential spokesperson, Thursday said Gonzalez’s opinion was “constructive” and in fact should prompt the PDEA to review its policy of tapping soldiers as narcotics agents.

Reacting to Gonzalez’s statement, the Armed Forces of the Philippines said Marcelino’s assignment to the PDEA was covered by a circular and was in line with Republic Act No. 9165, or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

Lt. Col. Ernesto Torres Jr., AFP spokesperson, said RA 9165 empowered the PDEA to enlist the support of government agencies and other offices, including the AFP, to support the agency’s drive against illegal drugs.

Covered by orders

A day after President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo ordered a ceasefire between the PDEA and the DOJ, Gonzalez came out swinging again, saying Marcelino had no business participating in the agency’s operations.

Gonzalez argued that as a soldier in active service, Marcelino was barred from holding another position in a civilian government agency.

Torres Thursday said the deployment of Marcelino to the PDEA was covered by appropriate orders, including a circular signed six years ago by then Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Dionisio Santiago, now the PDEA chief.

The specific AFP regulations on the assignment of active officers to various government agencies have been incorporated into Circular No. 2 issued on March 12, 2003, according to Torres.

The circular prescribed that active officers could be detailed either as an aide-de camp, a security officer or a military assistant, Marcelino’s designation in the PDEA.

The circular described a military assistant as a commissioned officer of the AFP detailed to a civilian agency for “the purpose of lending professional or technical know-how regarding military matters.”

But not more than 0.5 percent of the total number of active officers and not more than 0.2 percent of the enlisted personnel corps could be deployed outside the military organization.

Soldiers deployed to civilian offices are placed under the AFP’s Headquarters Service Command, according to Torres.

“As far as the Armed Forces is concerned, our actions in detailing our personnel are covered by the circular,” he told reporters in Camp Aguinaldo.

“So it means that the deployment of Major Marcelino and other officers is covered by a specific regulation of the military,” he said.

The circular, of which only the first page was provided to reporters, was signed by Santiago and then adjutant general, retired Capt. Cesar Carranza, as ordered by the defense secretary.

Torres pointed out that the 2003 circular was issued following the enactment of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

Torres also cited other laws supporting the deployment of active military officers to government offices, which included President Ferdinand Marcos’ Executive Order No. 41 issued in 1966 and President Joseph Estrada’s memo issued in 1999.

The memo, dated Jan. 27, 1999, prohibited the assigning of military personnel outside the AFP without prior approval of the President.

Torres said the appointment of Marcelino to the PDEA post was approved by the President.

He added that it was either the President or the defense secretary who approved the assignment of active officers to various government offices.

Asked if Gonzalez’s comment on Marcelino compromised any legal action against the Alabang Boys, deputy spokesperson Golez said: “The justice secretary just aired his concern on that matter.”

“But in the meantime, government lawyers will be seriously studying the opinion verbally issued by the justice secretary,” he said.

Asked if Malacañang would censure Gonzalez for apparently violating the verbal truce, Golez said: “He knows what he’s doing.”

Drug czar for 2 weeks

Better coordination between the DOJ and the PDEA was among the marching orders of Ms Arroyo when she declared herself the country’s “drug czar” Tuesday until the bribery controversy was resolved.

Golez said Ms Arroyo would remain in that post for two weeks during which she would make sure that the “house is in order.”

“That is the most important thing,” he said, “for the law enforcers and prosecutors to make sure that they are in sync.” With reports from Alcuin Papa and Philip C. Tubeza

Gonzalez: Marcelino’s acts not valid

January 16, 2009

By Dona Pazzibugan, Tarra Quismundo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:49:00 01/15/2009

Filed Under: PDEA-DOJ bribery issue, Illegal drugs, Government offices & agencies, Military

MANILA, Philippines—Marine Maj. Ferdinand Marcelino’s drug-bust operations for the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) could be considered “unconstitutional” since active duty military officers like him are barred from holding position in a government agency, according to Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez.

“As far as I’m concerned the acts done when you’re not authorized should not have any bearing whatsoever (because) you have no authority,” Gonzalez told reporters Wednesday.

He quoted Article XVI Sec. 5 paragraph 4 of the Constitution that provides that no active military officer may be appointed to any capacity in any civilian office including government agencies.

Marcelino said he was appointed to the post by Malacañang when the PDEA was beginning to build an organic staff and rise from an agency of borrowed personnel.

Marcelino said he was only following orders when assigned to the agency in 2007.

“Marines just go where we are told,” Marcelino told the Philippine Daily Inquirer Wednesday.

The soldier, who had seen action in Mindanao, said he got the assignment on the request of the PDEA and that his detail went through the hierarchy of approving offices: The Armed Forces of the Philippines headquarters, the Department of National Defense, and finally, Malacañang.

“It’s not up to us where we will be assigned. We can’t choose where we will be assigned,” he said.

Besides heading the agency’s Special Enforcement Service, Marcelino is also chief of the International Cooperation and Foreign Affairs Service and the Interagency Counternarcotics Operations Network.

Two other military officers, both Marcelino’s “mistahs” (classmates) in the Philippine Military Academy’s Bantay Laya class of 1994, hold key positions at the PDEA—one is acting director of PDEA’s Plans and Operations Service and the other, an army major, handles intelligence.

The soldiers also handle training of recruited agents.

Teodoro brought up question

Gonzalez said Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro brought up the question over Marcelino’s authority to work in the PDEA at the Cabinet meeting Tuesday in which the controversy was discussed.

“Secretary Teodoro mentioned that he (Marcelino) is an active military officer (and) he is covered by the Constitution. That is a specific provision of the law. So if you would analyze that, all his acts are illegal. Unconstitutional and illegal,” Gonzalez said.

It was the PDEA Special Enforcement Service headed by Marcelino that arrested Richard Brodett Jr., Jorge Joseph and Joseph Tecson—the so-called Alabang Boys—in separate buy-bust operations in September last year.

Marcelino disclosed that he was offered bribes ranging from P3 million to P20 million for the release of the suspects. He said he rejected the offers.

Independent probe

The PDEA also claimed that a P50-million bribe led to the dismissal of the drug possession charges against the suspects, prompting a word war between the PDEA and the Department of Justice (DOJ).

Even as the prosecutors vehemently denied the allegation, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo ordered five justice officials and prosecutors to go on leave pending an “independent” investigation.

“I never raised this to the President because if it came from me it would be colored. It came about in the course of the (Cabinet) discussion. It was Secretary Teodoro who reacted,” Gonzalez said.

Asked if the arrest of the Alabang Boys could be considered void because Marcelino was the lead agent, Gonzalez said the matter could be questioned in court by the suspects.

“That’s now the subject of investigation and it has been raised before the Court of Appeals,” he said.

“I’m just saying that under the Constitution, he’s disqualified (from working in PDEA) because he’s an active duty (military) officer,” Gonzalez added.

Resign

“If he wants to stay in the PDEA, he should resign from the Armed Forces,” Gonzalez said.

“All the operations handled by Major Marcelino (in PDEA) could be considered invalid, unconstitutional unless you can consider that as a de facto act,” the justice secretary added.

“I don’t think the President can refuse to accept that because that is the Constitution,” Gonzalez added.

Told that active duty military officers were serving in other government offices, Gonzalez said this was the lookout of the heads of the government agencies involved.

Gonzalez said PDEA Director General Dionisio Santiago, a former military chief of staff, could enlist the assistance of anyone except an active duty military officer.

“He can enlist under him (exiled communist party founder) Joma Sison,” Gonzalez quipped.

He said that at the Cabinet meeting, he confronted Santiago for failing to substantiate his claim that a P50-million bribery took place after the arrest of the Alabang Boys.

Charges of bribery have become a major point of debate after Santiago himself admitted at a hearing in the House of Representatives last week that the PDEA floated the P50-million alleged bribe in the media as part of its “psy-war” tactics against the DOJ prosecutors.

Study procedures

“That’s why they have to be properly educated on all procedures required under the (anti-illegal drugs) law,” the justice secretary said.

Right at the inquest, State Prosecutor John Resado already dismissed the drug possession charges against the three suspects due to lapses in the PDEA’s arrest procedure.

Reveal classmate’s name

The dismissal of the charges was upheld upon review by two more state prosecutors and ultimately by Chief State Prosecutor Jovencito Zuño, who has strongly denied any wrongdoing in the process.

In the House of Representatives, the committee on dangerous drugs is urging Marcelino to expose in public his mistah who offered him “tatlong manok (three chickens)” or P3 million to drop the charges against the Alabang Boys.

“He (Marcelino) has to eventually grapple with his gut in revealing who is this classmate of his who made the proposal. This is the gap in his otherwise brilliant testimony. His continued refusal will crack his credibility,” Parañaque Rep. Roilo Golez said at Wednesday’s committee meeting.

Golez’s proposal for Marcelino to reveal his mistah’s identity to the Office of the Ombudsman was adopted by the committee.

Golez said that it would be better that the Ombudsman take over the bribery probe because Marcelino might have qualms about cooperating with the National Bureau of Investigation, which is under the DOJ.

Marcelino revealed to Golez and other committee members the identity of his classmate in PMA Class of 1994 during an executive session last week.

Senior State Prosecutor Phillip Kimpo, vice chair of the DOJ’s Task Force on Anti-Illegal Drugs, accused Marcelino of “covering up” for his mistah, saying his refusal to name him was “suspicious.” With a report from Gil C. Cabacungan Jr.

NATIONAL POSITIONS Panlilio, Padaca, Robredo eye 2010 polls

January 12, 2009

By Tonette Orejas, Edson C. Tandoc Jr.
Philippine Daily Inquirer, Central Luzon Desk
First Posted 07:47:00 01/12/2009

Filed Under: Eleksyon 2010, Politics, Local authorities

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO—Isabela Gov. Maria Gracia Cielo Padaca, Pampanga Gov. Eddie Panlilio and Naga City Mayor Jesse Robredo have confirmed that they are open to running for national positions in the 2010 elections.

The three officials made the decision after their group, Kaya Natin!, concluded an assessment and planning session Sunday at the Clark Freeport, said Harvey Keh, executive director of the movement.

Kaya Natin!, founded in early 2008, is a national movement espousing good governance and ethical leadership. Padaca, Panlilio and Robredo are founding members together with Keh, Mayor Sonia Lorenzo of San Isidro, Nueva Ecija, and Ifugao Gov. Teodoro Baguilat Jr.

“All three are open as reform candidates,” Keh said.

Reached by phone, Padaca said the prospect of vying for a national post remained open.

“The fact that I will go through a decision-making process means I can go either way,” she said.

If God wills it

Panlilio, in a phone interview, Sunday said: “If God wills it. His indicator is if the people ask me to run for national office… [But] I’m not presenting myself.”

In a forum in Cabanatuan City on Saturday, Panlilio told reporters he was considering running for national office.

“It is not only the moral and political crusade I am personally pursuing, but one that involves the divine aspect,” he said.

He, however, reiterated he would prefer to go back to his duties as a priest and, if possible, be assigned to his hometown of Minalin, Pampanga, and retire there.

Robredo, for his part, said vying for a national position was an “option we should consider in pursuing the goals of Kaya Natin!”

First time

This was the first time the three officials came out with a position on their political plans for 2010.

Lorenzo said her colleagues would finalize their plans after holding several consultations with their constituents and reform groups.

Keh said that in the case of Panlilio, a Catholic priest on leave, “he intends to undergo a personal and communal discernment.”

Panlilio was pushed by concerned Kapampangan to run for governor in 2007 to challenge board member Lilia Pineda and re-electionist Gov. Mark Lapid.

Recall petition

Last year, however, a recall petition was filed against Panlilio, citing loss of confidence in his leadership. Several key allies also resigned from his administration.

Padaca, who defeated the Dy political dynasty in Isabela, and Robredo are recipients of the Ramon Magsaysay Award, considered the Asian equivalent of the Nobel Prize.

LP Senate ticket

On Saturday, former Sen. Franklin Drilon announced that the Liberal Party was considering Padaca and Robredo for its 2010 senatorial slate.

Drilon said the two officials were among eight politicians being considered for the LP ticket, which would have Sen. Manuel “Mar” Roxas II as its presidential candidate.

The other candidates are former Education Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad Jr., Muntinlupa Rep. Rufino Biazon, Quezon Rep. Lorenzo Tañada III, former Rep. Nereus Acosta and beauty and fitness expert Cory Quirino.

Drilon said the party had officially nominated Roxas to be its standard-bearer for the 2010 elections even if Roxas remained coy about his political plans.

He also said that the Supreme Court would play a critical role during the months leading to the presidential elections next year.

Charter change

He said the public would see “in the next 18 months the critical role the Supreme Court will play in the political history of our country.”

Drilon, who had served as justice secretary for about five years, said that among the major issues the high court would be confronted with were the issue of Charter change and the eligibility of former President Joseph Estrada to run for president next year.

He said he was also concerned that the high court would be dominated by appointees of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, as seven justices are set to retire this year. With a report from Anselmo Roque, Inquirer Central Luzon

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.

Vigilance

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

Laid off OFWs in Taiwan Duped by Malacañang

December 30, 2008

Retrenched overseas Filipino workers from Taiwan went to Malacañang hoping to receive assistance from the government. Instead, they were used for Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s photo gimmicks, and went home empty handed.

BY ANGIE DE LARA AND RONALYN OLEA
MIGRANT WATCH
Bulatlat

On December 5, Labor Secretary Marianito Roque and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration official Carmelita Dimson accompanied overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who were laid off in Taiwan to Malacañang. They were hopeful that President Arroyo would give them financial assistance and would order the proper agencies to act on their case. But they were terribly disappointed.

In a press conference, Dec. 11, Cristina de Borja, one of the retrenched OFWs related, “We were expecting to meet and talk with the President. But the President only came when the cameras started rolling. While in front of the cameras, President [Gloria] Arroyo herself handed checks to four of our representatives.”

De Borja said that the checks worth P50,000 ($1,055.408 at the current exchange rate of $1=P47.375) were turned over to the Technological Resource Center after the ceremony. The OFWs were told that the funds were for a livelihood program that the OFWs still have to apply for.

De Borja said, “We want President Arroyo to tell us that the Philippine government would do everything in its power to enforce our valid contracts…But she did not speak to us at all. After the photo gimmick, she left without a word…”

De Borja, 30, is from Angono, Rizal. Her contract is supposedly for two years but she was laid off after eight months of work due to the crisis.

De Borja said that their creditors have been running after them after seeing on television that Mrs. Arroyo handed to them P50,000 ($1,055) worth of checks. She said that each of them owe P85,000 to P120,000 ($1,794 to $2,532) and the amount increases due to the interest.

Meanwhile, the so-called ‘assistance package’ given to the OFWs actually contained brochures of the Social Security System (SSS), PhilHealth, flyers from the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) and referrals to the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA).

May Ruiz, another OFW from Taiwan lamented, “Dismayado kami sa naabutan namin sa OWWA lalo na sa Malacañang. Ang ine-expect po namin ay immediate action na ibibigay nila sa amin at hindi itong laman ng bayong na puro certificate, kasi pag- uwi po namin sa pamilya namin, hindi po ito magta-transform into cold cash para ipambili namin ng pagkain para sa pamilya namin.” (We are dismayed at what happened to us at the OWWA and especially at Malacañang. What we were expecting is immediate action to help us and not this bag, which is full of certificates. Because when we go home to our families, these could not be converted into cash to buy food for our families.)


Assistance package’ inside “Bayong” given by Press. Arroyo at Malacañang during the visit of Retrenched overseas Filipino workers from Taiwan. (Photo by Angie de Lara)

Ruiz added, “Tinatawag nila kami na bagong bayani, ang katumbas na lang pala ng bagong bayani ay isang bayong ng mga papel.” (They call us modern-day heroes. But apparently modern-day heroes are just worth a bag full of paper.)

Ruiz, 23, was an employee of the Advanced Semiconductor Engineering in Taiwan. She is the breadwinner of the family.

A mother of another retrenched OFW who is sill in Taiwan, Annie Redelicia, 52, said that her daughter Reggie left for Taiwan on October 6 this year and lost her job as an electronics worker on November 20.

Annie said the company has ceased supplying food to her daughter since November 30. She said she does not know if her daughter has something to eat.

Annie also said that the P80,000 ($1,688) debt they had incurred from the agency continues to gain interest. By November, the money they owe has increased to P100,000 ($2,110) because of the interest. “Baka po idemanda na kami ng agency e wala po talaga kaming ibabayad sa kanila, kasi kakaalis lang po ng anak ko tapos nawalan na kaagad ng trabaho,” (The agency might sue as because we really do not have money to pay them. My daughter has just left and she is already out of work.) she said.

Elvira Dungca, 25, another OFW from Taiwan, said they were offered a ‘no work, no pay’ scheme. The company would just call them if their services are needed. She said, “Paano kami habang walang trabaho? Paano kami mabubuhay sa araw-araw?” (How would we survive while we are out of work? How would we survive each day?)

POEA response

After the December 11 press conference, the laid off OFWs, along with some Migrante International officials, went to the POEA and sought a dialogue with POEA officials.

Lawyer Hans Leo Cacdac, deputy administrator for licensing and adjudication, talked with the OFWs.

The OFWs told Cacdac their predicament.

Ruiz said that that she was made to pay P85,000 ($1,794) as placement fee to the recruitment agency but the amount written in the receipt was only P25,000 ($527).

Cacdac said the POEA only allows the charging of a maximum of P55,000 ($1,160) for placement fee.

Ruiz said that some OFWs owed a balance of P7,500 ($158) for their placement fee. When they arrived in Taiwan, the amount was converted to 7,500 NT or P10,771.69 ($227).

She related that when the retrenched OFWs insisted that the company pays the remaining amount stipulated in the contract, the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) replied that they just have to follow their employer and abide by the law in Taiwan.

Borja said MECO told them that the government will talk with the lending agencies. When she arrived home, Borja asked OWWA about the matter and the OWWA referred her to the POEA.

Connie Bragas-Regalado, former chairperson of Migrante who also joined the dialogue asked the POEA to punish the agencies collecting more than P55,000 (($1,160) as placement fee.

Regalado also said that the contracts of the OFWs stipulate that the employer and/or the recruitment agency should pay for the ticket in case of retrenchment or repatriation. The retrenched OFWs said their employer only gave them P1,500 NT; the air ticket costs 5,500 NT.

Regalado said the employer should also pay the whole amount of the contract.

Nimfa D. de Guzman, officer in charge of the POEA Welfare and Employment Office said they could only offer to facilitate conciliation meetings between the recruitment agencies and the OFWs. She said the POEA will act as mediator.

Cacdac said the POEA could give the OFWs referral letters for possible employment in other countries. The OFWs retorted they would be referred to the same recruitment agencies they have been complaining about.

Cacdac said recruitment agencies that collect beyond the maximum amount allowed for placement fee could face cancellation of licenses.

Demands

De Borja said, “Ang hinihingi lang naman po naming ay ibigay yung rights naming mga OFWs.” (What are we are asking for is for them to give us what is due to us.)

She said the projects offered by the Arroyo government could not provide an immediate solution to their problems.

Garry Martinez, chairperson of Migrante International said the retrenched OFWs need a financial assistance package.

Martinez said, “Sabi ng gobyerno may inilabas na silang P250 million para sa mga na walan ng trabajong OFWs, saan yon napunta?” (The government said they have released P250 million [$5,277,044] for OFWs who would lose their jobs, where did the amount go?)

Martinez said some of the retrenched OFWs have been charged with estafa by lending agencies.


Retrenched overseas Filipino workers from Taiwan ripped the papers that the government gave them as ‘assistance package’. (Photo by Angie de Lara)

He said that the December 5 incident in Malacañang only shows that the Arroyo government is not ready and not serious in dealing with the crisis. He criticized Malacañang for deceiving the OFWs amid the crisis.

Martinez said the OFWs are demanding for a reimbursement of their plane tickets, financial assistance, payment of the remaining amount of the contract, and the release of the P10 million OWWA ($211,081) funds to help the OFWs.

The Arroyo Government: Struggling to Survive till 2010 and Beyond

December 28, 2008

The probability that the Arroyo government would survive another year and complete a six-year term may be getting higher as we approach 2009; but its concern is no longer limited to staying in power till 2010. With the numerous unresolved issues hounding it, it could not help but try to keep itself in power beyond 2010 to prolong its immunity from suit and to continue accumulating wealth; or at the very least to influence the results of the 2010 elections, which would be very difficult for it to do because of its unpopularity. Thus, the renewed attempts at Cha Cha.

BY BENJIE OLIVEROS
POLITICAL YEARENDER
Bulatlat

Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has survived another year after potentially explosive corruption scandals -both old and new- have again hugged the headlines. The year had just begun when Rodolfo Lozada returned to the country – after earlier trying to elude a Senate hearing – and was kidnapped by government agents after sending feelers that he would be telling what he knows about the National Broadband Network (NBN) deal with ZTE of China. Government officials failed to convince him to keep his mouth shut and the kidnapping only bolstered accusations that the Arroyo family is involved in the shady deal. The removal of Rep. Jose de Venecia as House Speaker made things worse for the government. Even as de Venecia has not sufficiently spilled the beans on the Arroyo government up to now, his sudden removal from the speakership – which was orchestrated by no less than Mikey Arroyo, the President’s son – further tainted the hands of the Arroyo family. The reason for de Venecia’s ouster was clear: he was removed for failing to stop his own son Joey from testifying about the involvement of Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo, the President’s husband, in the NBN-ZTE deal.

What seemed like a stroke of luck for the Arroyo government, but a series of unfortunate events for the Filipino people, came in March when spikes in the prices of rice, flour and bread, and oil distracted the public’s attention from the NBN-ZTE scandal. Prices only began to go down by mid-July. However, by August, the Arroyo government was again embroiled in a controversy when it agreed to sign a Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) without consulting all those who would be affected by the agreement. Instead of explaining the MOA-AD to the Filipino people, the Arroyo government even attempted to again invoke ‘executive privilege’, thereby fueling controversy and raising suspicions that there was something more to the planned agreement than the desire to forge peace with the MILF. Then the Arroyo government began raising the need for Charter Change (Cha Cha).

The controversy over Cha Cha was just picking up when high ranking officials of the Philippine National Police (PNP), starring retired PNP Director for comptrollership Eliseo de la Paz, were caught by Russian customs officials carrying 106,000 Euros as they were about to leave Russia. While the scandal dubbed as ‘Euro generals scam’ did not involve the President, it nevertheless exemplified the corruption prevalent under the current administration. The ‘Euro generals scam’ was still in the focus of the public’s attention when former Agriculture Undersecretary Jocelyn “Joc Joc” Bolante was deported from the US after four years of trying to evade the Senate investigation on the P728 million fertilizer fund scam, an issue in which he was the alleged operator of the Arroyo government. Thus, the P728 million fertilizer fund scam, which was never resolved, was thrust in the limelight again.

This bolstered another impeachment complaint against President Arroyo. Again the Arroyo government had to employ the power of its numbers and money to summarily junk the complaint. The public furor over the junking of the impeachment complaint was just starting to build up when the Arroyo government intensified its Cha Cha offensive, with Mikey Arroyo leading the charge. They were only stopped in their tracks when a broad array of forces converged in Makati to express opposition to Cha Cha.

Before the year ended, the Washington-based Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) announced last December 15 that it is withholding financial assistance to the Philippines until the government undertakes more measures to curb corruption.

Established in 2004, the MCC provides financial assistance to reduce poverty in developing countries. In 2006, it provided $21 million to the Philippines. Another grant could have gone a long way in addressing poverty, which is expected to worsen further in 2009. However, the impact of the punitive measure undertaken by the MCC goes beyond being merely a lost funding opportunity. The withholding of financial assistance by the MCC demonstrated the concern of international agencies over the worsening corruption in the country. The concern over corruption in the Arroyo government was also expressed by business groups earlier. The Arroyo government merely brushed these aside claiming that measures to curb corruption are already in place.

During the past years, the Arroyo government has been parrying the issues hurled against it by claiming credit for its supposed ‘good economic management’, and dismissed these as ‘politicking’, which it said was hurting the economy. However, the rice crisis that unravelled in March and its subsequent over-importation of the country’s staple, the suffering caused by the unprecedented spikes in oil prices from February to July this year, the continuing free fall of the stock market and the value of the peso, the worsening unemployment, hunger and poverty, and the onset of a worse crisis in 2009 because of the lay offs of overseas Filipinos, which would affect the economy’s lifeline – dollar remittances- the slowdown in exports and foreign investments, reveal the fundamental weaknesses of the economy and the folly of the liberalization, deregulation, and privatization polices of the Arroyo government.

The Arroyo government – the most unpopular, the most impeached, and widely perceived as the most corrupt administration in the country’s history – has survived another issue-filled year. President Arroyo is the longest-serving president after Marcos, totaling eight years. However, it has been confronted by corruption scandals, human rights issues, and attempts to unseat it from power for most, if not all, of the past eight years.

The probability that the Arroyo government would survive another year and complete a six-year term – in addition to the three years it was in Malacañang for the un-expired term of the Estrada administration – may be getting higher as we approach 2009; but its concern is no longer limited to staying in power till 2010. With the numerous unresolved issues hounding it, it could not help but try to keep itself in power beyond 2010 to prolong its immunity from suit and to continue accumulating wealth; or at the very least to influence the results of the 2010 elections, which would be very difficult for it to do because of its unpopularity.

However, its efforts at paving the way for prolonging its hold to power through Cha Cha is confronting opposition from a broad array of forces. The most recent powerful group to add its voice in the opposition against Cha Cha is the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP). For, perhaps, the first time, the CBCP is united in opposing a move of the Arroyo government. The CBCP did not even issue a unified statement during the height of political killings and enforced disappearances from 2005 to 2007. Only its president Archbishop Angel Lagdameo, as well as the vocal critics of the Arroyo government within the CBCP – Archbishop Oscar Cruz, Bishops Julio Labayen, Deogracias Yñiguez,and Antonio Tobias – did. This time against Cha Cha it did, manifesting its strong unity on the matter.

The Arroyo government and its allies made a tactical retreat in its push for Cha Cha, saying that it shelved Cha Cha for the moment because the Senate was against it. However, Kampi stalwarts have expressed that the fight for Cha Cha isn’t over. It seems that the tactic of the Arroyo government now is to just let the steam cool down then spring a surprise next year perhaps around January, when the protest movement has still to regain momentum after the Christmas break.

It would therefore be prudent for the Filipino people to remain vigilant.(Bulatlat.com)

No regrets for militant solons on EDSA 2

December 24, 2008

By Lira Dalangin-Fernandez
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 14:43:00 12/23/2008

Filed Under: Politics

MANILA, Philippines — Unlike former president Corazon Aquino, militant leaders who played key roles in the ouster of president Joseph Estrada are standing by the military-backed popular uprising in 2001.

EDSA 2, which the event came to be known, was the correct response to the situation; it was Estrada’s successor, then Vice President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who bungled it, partylist Representatives Satur Ocampo of Bayan Muna and Liza Maza of Gabriela said.

“I stand by EDSA 2, the problem is that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo did not learn the lessons of both EDSA 1 and 2,” Maza said in a text message, adding that Arroyo’s “corruption-ridden and repressive regime betrayed the causes that people power stood for.”

Ocampo said he believed that the uprising was an “apt popular response” to the turn of events following the impeachment proceedings against Estrada at the Senate.

“The future, not the present events, will show whether EDSA 2 was correct or not,” he said.

The two lawmakers hobnobbed with Estrada on Monday at the launch of “Global Filipino,” a biography of former Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr.

Estrada was one of the main guests along, with Aquino and another former president, Fidel Ramos.

In a brief speech, Aquino apologized to Estrada for taking part in ousting him in 2001. Her spokesperson Deedee Siytangco, however, said the statement was said in jest.

Ocampo said Aquino’s apology to Estrada was understandable “in the light of the huge public disappointment turned into outrage” over the Arroyo administration.

Speaker Prospero Nograles said the apology might have come too late.

“Personally, I feel that the mea culpa statements or a realization of the same were much too late, the event having occurred in early 2001 and we are soon entering 2009,” he said.

Aquino hit, defended for ‘sorry’ remark

December 24, 2008

By Maila Ager, Thea Alberto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 13:56:00 12/23/2008

MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATE) A day after saying “sorry” to former president Joseph Estrada, ex-president Corazon “Cory” Aquino has been getting the flak from some supporters and militants although her spokesperson insists that the former leader made the remark “in jest.”

“To tell you frankly, maraming tumatawag sa aking mga kaibigan ko [a lot of my friends have been calling me]. They were so disappointed with Cory. Ang tawag sa kanya ngayon ay [they now call her] sorry Aquino,” Senator Richard Gordon told a press conference Tuesday.

Gordon admitted that he was equally disappointed and saddened by Aquino’s apology.

“I don’t agree with the fact that she [Cory] had to say to say sorry to him. Mr. Estrada has committed wrong in our country, he has already been forgiven. But I’m part of that [group] that removed him and I have no regrets about that,” he said.

While he was also disappointed by the present administration, Gordon said he would never use that as an excuse to condone what had happened in the past.

“I should not say but I really feel for Cory because she’s sick right now. But I think she overstated the point. Maybe what she really meant is I forgive you but to say you’re sorry for having removed him, we can’t do that. You have to stand by just as [what Trillanes] did, he stood by it,” he further said.

Gordon was referring to Senator Antonio “Sonny” Trillanes IV, who has been detained for mounting two failed coup attempts against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Being a leader, the senator said, Aquino should have stood by her decision to participate in the ouster of Estrada.

“I have nothing against the former president [Aquino]. I have something against the fact that when we are leaders, we must be called upon to teach our people. Leaders teach. Leaders must form a face for our country, what we stand for,” he said.

“We must be upright and we must be able not to be afraid to say in front of other people what we think of them if they had done wrong. I don’t want to confuse the public where we must stand. Malilito ang tao, malilito ang bata [The people will get confused, so with the children]. We must stand for the right thing,” he further said.

Meanwhile, Bayan Muna and Gabriela partylist Representatives Satur Ocampo and Liza Maza said they were standing by EDSA 2 and that the problem was Arroyo and not the event itself.

On Monday, Aquino said during the book launching of former Speaker Jose De Venecia: “I am one of those who plead guilty for the 2001 [uprising]. Lahat naman tayo nagkakamali. Patawarin mo na lang ako [All of us make mistakes. Forgive me].”

Aquino’s apology was regarded by Estrada as his “best Christmas gift.”

But Deedee Sytangco, Aquino spokesperson told INQUIRER.net in a phone interview that the former president said it “in jest in the context of Estrada joking.”

She described Monday’s event as a “lighthearted affair… where even Estrada was being very lighthearted.”

In a text message, Aquino’s son and Senator Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III also clarified the former leader’s statement.

“I asked my mom about it and her reply is that her comment should be taken in the context of and in the same vein as President Estrada’s humorous quip directed at Speaker JDV,” said the younger Aquino.

But Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. doubts the comment had been meant as a joke.

“No, I don’t think so. Cory naman [of course] will not do that. The subject matter is not one for joking,” Pimentel said over the phone.

“Knowing Cory, she will not say a thing without meaning it,” he further said.

==========

My Take:

These “sorry” events manifest clearly our sorry situation.

Tsk!  Sorry my ass.

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)

Senators scold Atienza for skipping budget hearing for Pacman fight

December 10, 2008

By Christina Mendez Updated December 10, 2008 12:00 AM

Environment Secretary Joselito Atienza caught the ire of senators yesterday for skipping the budget hearing of the P8.1-billion allocation for the Department of Environment and National Resources (DENR) after he chose to watch the “Dream Match” of Manny Pacquiao and Oscar de la Hoya last weekend.

Senators Juan Miguel Zubiri and Jamby Madrigal expressed disappointment over the demeanor of Atienza, who readily defended his actions by saying that attending the Pacquiao fight was his “responsibility” to the RP boxing icon and the country.

During the budget hearing, Madrigal asked Atienza about the connection of the Pacquiao fight to his role as DENR secretary after the latter apparently gave more importance to the boxing match than the ongoing budget hearings at the Senate.

Madrigal wanted to know how Atienza was prioritizing the DENR budget vis-à-vis the celebrated fight.

Sen. Edgardo Angara, who heads the finance subcommittee defending the DENR budget before the plenary, explained that Atienza took the first available flight to return to the country after the fight.

“The visit to Las Vegas is part of a group of Filipinos who want to give moral support to our national idol. We need that kind of boost at this time on the eve of probably one of the worst economic recession that might hit us… and so this victory of our national idol is very much welcome by many Filipinos and number one sports fan like the secretary and many other government officials who witnessed the historic event,” Angara said.

Madrigal also asked the DENR secretary if the Pacquiao fight is part of “a new rescue package of the Philippines – P350-billion knockouts.”

“Maybe not in an economic sense but maybe a spiritual rescue and bailout for many apprising Filipinos,” said Angara.

Angara spoke on behalf of Atienza because it is customary in Senate debates for the finance chairman or his representative to defend the budget before plenary in the presence of officials of the department whose budget is being heard.

“Pacquiao, like Angelina Jolie, will now be coming out and campaigning against global warming,” Angara added.

But Atienza did not make a commitment when asked by Madrigal if Pacquiao – like Jolie – would give up 50 percent of his earnings to charities involving environmental concerns.

Atienza said he can merely use his “persuasive” powers on Pacquiao to help in the government’s environmental campaign.

Madrigal even asked where Atienza had been billeted, to which the secretary revealed that Pacquiao provided for his hotel accommodation.

For his part, Atienza said the department can readily defend the budget even without his presence.

“Our senior officers were ready to defend our budget, I just had to perform also an important task not only as personal thing. It was also for the country,” Atienza said, adding that Pacquiao is “like a son to him.”(PStar)

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

My Take:

Baka malaki ang pusta.

Baka lang…

RP to get $500-M loan for food security, judicial reform

December 10, 2008

By Paolo Romero Updated December 10, 2008 12:00 AM

The World Bank and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) will extend a $500-million facility for food security projects of the Philippines as well as programs that aim to reform the country’s justice system.

President Arroyo approved the loan proposals yesterday.

Press Secretary Jesus Dureza said the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) board chaired by the President approved a $200-million “Food Crisis Response Development Policy Operation (DPO) Loan” of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development or the World Bank, and the $300-million “Governance in Justice Reform Program” also known as “Governance and Justice Reform Program” of the Asian Development Bank during the Cabinet meeting at the Palace.

According to a brief provided by Dureza, the loan aims to support the government in addressing the challenges of high food prices in the short and medium term, “particularly by supporting measures to strengthen social protection and safety net to protect poor and vulnerable populations.”

“The operation focuses on the government‘s policy and institutional interventions in the area of social protection aimed at mitigating the impact of the price shocks and future shocks to the poor,” the paper said.

The operation also responds to the government’s request for quick disbursing budget support to help finance higher than the programmed expenditures for food-crisis-related expenditures.

Among the measures that will be funded by the loan are lowering and stabilization of domestic food prices in the short term; mitigation of high food and fuel prices on poor households; and improved conditional cash transfer program, it said.

The loan will be released in a single tranche and the Departments of Social Welfare and Development, Agriculture, Education, Interior and Local Government, Health, National Food Authority, and the National Nutrition Council will be the implementing agencies.

The ADB loan will support the government “in its effort to create a just and equitable society and enhance the rule of law in the country,” the document said.

The ADB program aims to support the increase of resources available to the justice sector; and improving access to justice of the poor and other vulnerable groups.

The implementing agencies are the Departments of Justice, Interior and Local Governments, and Budget and Management, and Office of the Solicitor General.

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

My Take:

What Judicial Reform?

By appointing news set of justices percieved to be Arroyo allies?  By maintaing Sec Gonzalez as DOJ chief?

By continued lip service on the cases of human rights violations and extra-judicial killings of activists, human rights workers and media persons?

Just asking.

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

Kay Pablo Garcia

December 4, 2008

NI RUSTUM CASIA
Inilathala ng Bulatlat

“Our Lord Jesus Christ lost in the survey and he was crucified and that’s how we’re going to judge President?”

– Cebu Rep. Pablo Garcia (Kampi)

Akala ko, nakita at nadinig ko na ang lahat ng kabulastugan sa Kongreso.
Pero ito at humirit na naman ang isang kuneho.*
Mantakin mong ikumpara kay Hesu Kristo ang lola mo?
Nag-uulyanin na talaga itong si Pablo.
Panahon nang magretiro.

Inilathala ng Bulatlat.com

*Pasintabi sa mga kuneho.

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.

BY IBON FOUNDATION
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 byBulatlat.com

Bishop-Ulama Conference Deemed a Farce

December 4, 2008

Muslim religious leaders, members of the Jamaah (congregation) at the mosque, students, the academe and civil society groups criticized the Bishop-Ulama Conference (BUC) for its ‘one-sided program of activities’ and alleged ‘malicious and suspicious process’ of event organization.

BY LEILA ASANI HALUD
Contributor
Bulatlat

JOLO, Sulu – “Allahu Akbar!” (God is great!)

Thousands of protesters cried in the streets of Sulu for three straight days to protest the simultaneously held general assembly of the 35th Bishop-Ulama Conference (BUC), which ran from November 18 to 21 at the Notre Dame of Jolo College.

Organized by the Apostolic Vicariate of Jolo, the BUC, composed of bishops and Ulama (Muslim scholars), is supposed to bring Muslims and Christians into an inter-faith dialogue and create a harmonious atmosphere, and craft possible resolutions on the prevailing issues between the two religions. It is a program funded by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process (OPAPP).

Muslim religious leaders, members of the Jamaah (congregation) at the mosque, students, the academe and civil society groups in the province, however, criticized the BUC for its ‘one-sided program of activities’ and alleged ‘malicious and suspicious process’ of event organization.

The first day of protest gathered over a thousand participants, based on headcount, from the congregation of Tulay Grand Mosque in Jolo, Sulu. On the second until the last day, the youth and students walked out of their classes to join the Jamaah contingents.

Local government leaders Abdusakur Tan, Sulu Governor, and Hussin Amin, Jolo Mayor, were given the role to welcome the delegates of the assembly.

In a manifesto, Temo-gen “Cocoy” Tulawie, convener of Jamaah Lupah Sug which consists of various sectors in the province, criticized Bishop Angelito Lampon, Apostolic Vicar of Jolo, for his alleged ‘religious arrogance and prejudice against Islam and its Ulama.’

“This lack of decorum and of cultural sensitivity on the vicariate of Jolo is a big insult to the followers of Islam in this island of 95 percent Muslim populace,” the manifesto said,

The manifesto also stated that Lampon’s failure to consult his Ulama counterparts and to recognize Ulama’s contribution to the promotion of Muslim-Christian peaceful co-existence in the province was a ‘classic case of deception and false claim.’

“We cannot and will never allow other religious sects to insult our Ulama,” the manifesto further read.

When confronted with initial protests, Lampon offered an explanation that BUC-Davao actually organized the program. Nevertheless, the Vicar and his group pushed through with the assembly without the necessary modifications in the program.

According to Tulawie, he tried to communicate with one of the bishops to ask why the program was organized as such, “but Father Villanueva did not return my calls and days later, after the Jamaah decided to go on with the protest, he finally replied, ‘di ko napansin ang mga tawag mo’ (I didn’t notice your call)”.

The Jamaah was supposed to hand over their manifesto to the BUC delegates on the second day but was kept from entering the area surrounding NDJC. Tulawie’s contingency and Philippine National Police Sulu Provincial Director Julasirim Kasim had a row when the latter yelled while asking for a Permit to Rally from the protesters.

‘A Farce

“That conference is a farce,” said Alhada Abayan, youth organization Baggut leader, described the controversial event.

“These bishops are using our Ulama to tell the world that they are organizing an “inter-faith” activity but if you take a look at their program, manipulation and control is clearly evident. There is only one unnamed Muslim religious leader in the program who, we later found out, was the Mufti of Sulu Ustadz Jul-azri Abirin who was unable to participate,” the youth Muslim said.

A few days before the assembly, Ustadz Abirin headed to Saudi Arabia for a scheduled pilgrimage.

Protesters also questioned why Fr. Jose Ante and Celina Unding were the ones who gave the brief history of Jolo. “And they have the audacity to lecture on the history of Jolo themselves? Isn’t that ludicrous? We are witnessing the most preposterous history in the making in our province,” Abayan said.

Fired up

A source who requested anonymity said that the people are all too fired up which he believed would be sustained because they are already fed up with all the bogus political solutions to the Mindanao problem.

He also believes that the ultimate end of programs like that of the BUC is ‘to placate the Bangsamoro’s fervor for the real Bangsamoro aspiration and direct their minds into a mere submission to whatever the government and the mainstream Filipino society want.’

“They want to change the way we live our life as Muslims and the way we are as Moros. Certainly, we cannot allow that to happen.” He said.

Jon, a Muslim youth, said of his participation to the demonstration, “Ha supaya magbaynat in pag-pahgang natuh ha pagsud sin satruh mari. Maytah kagausan sin kafir ha Manila mag-demonstrate magkakal iban mga police in kita Muslim dih; in ha Palestine kagausan magpa-shaheed in kitaniyu Muslim dih? (So we may continue our fight to prevent the enemy from coming in [to Sulu]. Why can the non-believers in Manila afford to go in a brawl with police forces during demonstrations and in Palestine, they die fighting, and we Muslims here can’t?).

Jon is one of those who heavily guarded the Grand Tulay Mosque. A tour to the mosque is part of the program in the third day of the assembly. The BUC delegates finally decided not to pursue the tour.

The anonymous source said, “It rearticulates of what has been the desired end of the forefathers of the Bangsamoro struggle. On the other hand, it confirms the failure of attempts to fully realize peace and reconciliation despite the decades of negotiations. We may not represent the entire Bangsamoro people but we are definitely a part of it and we have to have a voice.”

In her comment to the recently-concluded assembly, Mucha Arquiza of Concerned Bangsamoro Muslim in Western Mindanao writes, “As community of believers, it is our religious and moral obligation to support and believe in dialogue and to establish understanding among peoples and cultures as steps towards peace, but only when it is of genuine exchanges between co-equal, imbued with sincere intention, based on mutual respect and aimed at establishing justice.” (Bulatlat.com)

Faux Democracy: A Report on Conditions in the Philippines

December 4, 2008

The basic point that I want to make, and have previously made as a result of serving in Manila and Mindanao as a member of the Peoples’ International Observers Mission to monitor the May 2007 mid-term elections, is that the country has the trappings of democracy but is, in fact, a faux democracy. Using that façade of democracy, the oppressive regime of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA), following neo-liberal policies and with the support of the Bush gang to which she has given loyal support, has been a disaster for the vast majority of the Filipino people.

BY GILL H BOEHRINGER
Division of Humanities
Macquarie University
Posted by Bulatlat

The basic point that I want to make, and have previously made as a result of serving in Manila and Mindanao as a member of the Peoples’ International Observers Mission to monitor the May 2007 mid-term elections, is that the country has the trappings of democracy but is, in fact, a faux democracy. Using that façade of democracy, the oppressive regime of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA), following neo-liberal policies and with the support of the Bush gang to which she has given loyal support, has been a disaster for the vast majority of the Filipino people.

By a faux democracy I mean that the democratic institutions of the state do not function effectively, either individually or as a system, to provide even the minimal democracy we would expect in a liberal parliamentary country. Basically there is a shadow play – in Filipino a moro-moro – in which a quite extensive array of “democratic” institutions go through the motions of formal democracy, but in general produce no democratic outcome, often after an arbitrary and corrupt process. Nor is there adequate accountability/transparency in the decision-making processes of the state. Thus if a democracy is a country in which decisions should be taken in the public interest, and decision-makers accountable to their fellow citizens, then the Philippines does not qualify as a democracy.
Profits for business, bullets for people

The neo-liberal policies of the Arroyo government (super-charging policies initiated by Pres. Aquino and continued by her successors) has meant, basically, open slather for the exploitation of workers and peasants, and the rape of the environment by national, but especially international, capital. And the political form of faux democracy is also good for business. It presents a form of corporatism. The business sector, from where most of the financial corruption emanates, has close links to the state (often through the military eg the “taipan”/tycoon Lucio Tan’s tobacco group with which the late General Abaya was connected). And of course there is little effective government regulation, accountability or transparency viz a viz business. However, if there is a conflict with the GMA clique, as there has been with the Lopez Group (a continuing pattern given that Marcos also was an enemy of theirs) then there will be a wave of measures taken involving measures such as court cases, challenges to ownership or control, media barrages to de-legitimate the opponent eg claiming that the business is over-pricing and /or sucking in super-profits.

The lack of effective representation/participation in governing processes is such that a deep and understandable cynicism exists amongst the people. There is a long tradition in the country of corruption and repression, especially following Marcos’ ascent, and in particular the period of Martial Law and the years following when he tried to hold onto power. Yet there is a widespread belief that corruption is far worse today: financially, more money is involved, and politically, it is all pervasive. The repression is said to be no less, and perhaps is worse, than ever. The fact that President Arroyo is surrounded by Generals she has appointed (some three dozen serving or retired by my count) indicates not only the extent that corruption in the form of patronage is alive and well, but that policies for meaningful reform are constantly seen through a militarist framework which has for a long time opted for “extra-judicial” killings, disappearances, torture and harassment (legal and illegal) instead of the social welfare measures demanded by the people. It is, too, a sign that Arroyo understands that as the most unpopular President at least since Marcos, and given the military rebellions which, along with mass action by the people, “took out” two of her predecessors, plus a number of attempted coups/mutinies in her own tenure, her longevity depends primarily on keeping the military on her side.

Human rights and wrongs

The human rights record of all Filipino Presidents from Marcos onward has been shocking (surprising to many, this includes Cory Aquino). But the Arroyo regime is setting new records. The Extra-Judicial Killings (EJK) continue to mount almost daily (as I write news has reached me of the murder of a KMP peasant leader in Eastern Mindanao). Extra-Judicial Disappearances (EJD) also continue, as do torture and harassment This has all been documented by Karapatan, by Human Rights Watch, by a number of foreign lawyers groups eg American, Dutch, Japanese. The UN Human Rights Committee has recently condemned the Arroyo government, sheeting home to it responsibility for abductions and the failure to act to investigate, compensate or provide remedies for the victims and/or their survivors. And most notably the UN Special Rapporteur on Extra-Judicial killings, Philip Alston, an Australian Professor of Law has held the government responsible for the massive violations of human rights which, in the main, he attributed to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP).

Who are the people being killed, disappeared, tortured and harassed? ( The latter can be both “legally” eg false charges and detention for long periods, which is currently being stepped up; or a variety of “surveillance’ tactics, as well as invasive techniques eg search and seizure without legal authority. Or a combination of all over time!) A majority of the victims-numbering in the thousands- are peasant and labor leaders. But it also includes anyone who attempts to resist the repression of the masses, or who disagrees with government policies, or who is a social activist, including human rights proponents. Notably, this regime also targets bishops, priests/pastors (mainly Protestant-probably because the regime relies on the support of the Roman Catholic Church, which so far has given it though with some wavering and a few notable exceptions); others are journalists; and judges/ lawyers. With regard to these last three categories, the Philippines is near the top in world rankings as a dangerous country to work in. Much of the repression is done by AFP secret “death squads” or PNP undercover operatives. This savage onslaught on cadres of workers and professionals reminds one of the Phoenix Program in Viet Nam, for which the USA has been rightly condemned. There are also similarities to the work of government “death squads” in many of the formerly fascist Latin American countries during the long dark half century after World War II. (These were, of course supported by the US and the operatives and implementers were in large numbers trained at the notorious School of Americas, at Fort Benning, Georgia, USA.)

Not an honest answer to be had

It is, however, the all pervasive corruption of state institutions (as well as private ones) which I believe is highly significant, and perhaps more deleterious in daily experience than even the fear of violence etc from the military forces. While the violence and other human rights abuses should be condemned, of course, they are the direct result of government policy and could be lowered substantially by an honest, determined, progressive and therefore popular regime. Under pressure from the UN after the Alston report, and a number of countries including even the US (Australia has been largely silent) because of the attention EJKs (nearly a thousand now) have attracted, the Arroyo government shifted somewhat to harassment and intimidation; thus EJKs slowed for a time in late 2007 and early 2008,although they have begun to mount again.

However, the corruption of the state cannot be changed without a reconstruction of Philippine society and thus both state and private institutions. For too long the Filipino culture has been eaten away by cynicism at the corruption which fills-and cruelly distorts-everyday social relations.

I offer a brief example of the way in which corruption operates at the basic levels affecting human existence in the Philippines. Fire is the cause of much tragedy, including the loss of life and, of course, homes and other personal assets. Just this week 6 workers and a child died in a Manila factory fire, caused it seems from the poor electrical wiring which is endemic to structures of all kinds in that country. Wiring is often illegal because in violation of various codes, and often not approved nor inspected by an official paid to ignore them, or approved after a bribe has passed. Note that these deaths were of “sleep-in workers”, probably homeless. It is an illegal phenomenon, but typically unregulated, and certainly the result of the massive poverty and exploitation which is rampant, much of it based on corrupt practices and a lack of enforcement of codes and laws, which allows 14-16 hour working days, six days a week. Many employees are lucky even to get paid regularly!

But my example is of a specific fire which I was able to observe from my unit about 2 kilometers away. Our unit overlooks a mixed semi-industrial, poor working class area of highways, shops and factories, and one of the older Shopping Malls in the city, nestling in the shadow of an elevated Metro line. One early morning not long after dawn, we noticed a wisp of brownish smoke rising from the Puregold Mall. In the next hours the fire raised a pall of smoke over a substantial part of Manila, a sprawling city of about 11 million. For hours there was no response to the fire. Subsequently we could hear sirens as slowly, and at lengthy intervals, fire trucks went to the scene. The smoke continued to pour forth, sometimes sending huge plumes skyward, but at other times nearly disappearing. Many residents were evacuated; shops and factories were closed and the commuter trains were halted. This pattern went on into a third day. Even beyond that there were still smoke plumes. This was one of 4 similar fire episodes during the 3 months I was in Manila. It was said in each case that it was probably not arson, but there could have been problems with the wiring. (Arson, of course, is another area in which corruption exists on a significant scale I was told.)

This story illustrates much that is wrong in the Philippines. First, endemic, pervasive corruption directly affects the lives of the mass of people. There is virtually no social intercourse involving government and business which is not tainted by corruption. International surveys, eg Transparency International, continue to rank the country as one of the most corrupt in the world and the most corrupt in Asia. In the Puregold Mall case, a local government official with experience of dealing with fire stations, explained to me that fire-fighting is often preceded by negotiations: is the owner of the property willing to make a “special payment” to the stationhouse chief (which may or not be split with lower ranks) and if so, how much? Not surprisingly, where such behavior is the norm, property owners tend to pay-up sooner or later. It depends on a “cost-benefit” analysis I learned. As a result of the negotiations, delay occurs and damage is increased. In addition, firefighters who, like other public officials, are poorly paid, will take the opportunity to help themselves to property which is moveable and for which they have use, or can later sell. Again, this is standard practice, a wage supplementation.

Second, there is a lack of proper equipment. I was told by a senior fire official that there was a serious lack of essential equipment ranging from gloves and boots to breathing equipment. This last explains why the smoke which we saw continued for several days. The firefighters were unable to get to the core fire because of the smoke hazard (we saw on TV a fireman who had taken the risk in a fire and was hauled out nearly dead from smoke inhalation). Obviously the delays necessitated by a lack of safety equipment puts at risk large areas surrounding such fires. Not only is firefighting handicapped by lack of funding , in part because Budgets are always white-anted by those who “skim” a % for themselves, but this happens in other departments where lives are directly at stake. Thus the AFP is also under-resourced because of massive corruption in procurement. The same is true of the health sector. Similar problems bedevil education where there is a huge shortage of schoolrooms, texts as well as teachers (30,000 more are needed, the Secretary of Education recently announced); money is literally “disappeared”, and students, teachers and buildings suffer.

Third, state institutions with “oversight” responsibility- supervisory, regulatory, investigative-and those with sanctioning powers, fail to perform effectively to ensure that operational agencies of the state perform their duties properly. And where they do act against corrupt and other illegal practices, there is always another agency, or higher level venue, or a friendly politician who can “speak” to someone. Thus those few culprits who have been successfully pursued for wrongful behavior have a good chance to get the result they want. Often cases brought successfully in one body just disappear for years in another agency. So even though someone dares to make a complaint (often putting their life at risk), corrupt practices are not adequately dealt with even if they are dealt with at all. Thus even though there is an array of such agencies-courts, Ombudsman, Commission on Human Rights etc. to supplement an array of local and national policing agencies, there is a poor record in dealing with corruption and associated illegalities and in fighting human rights abuse.

The recent scandal involving a number of Judges of the national Court of Appeal indicates the heights to which corruption goes. As in previous cases, several judges were found to have been approached to fix an important civil case. It illustrates a number of problems within the state-business nexus. The bribing of Judges or improperly attempting to influence their decisions are well known and common practices, seemingly at all levels. In this important and bitterly fought case, both sides (one a governmental agency, the other the Lopez group’s hugely profitable Manila Electric Co) tried to fix the result. On the Lopez side, a businessman offered a huge amount of money to one of the judges. But note who was involved in improperly approaching another judge, who happened to be his brother. It was the Chair of the Presidential Good Government Commission, an Arroyo appointee. And this illustrates the depth and intractable nature of the problem. The President has power to appoint hundreds of people to positions where they can manipulate results in cases brought before any of these agencies. The process of appointment is itself corrupted. One example: in appointing to the Supreme Court the President has to select from a list which has been prepared by the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC). In one instance, when Arroyo got the list her favorite was not on it. In violation of the Constitution, she sent the list back with instructions that the name should be put on the list. It was, and she got the judge she wanted. She can appoint 3 more next year and 4 the year after. There will be almost no one then who has not been appointed by her. This has been a serious problem in the fight against corruption. In several recent cases where hundreds of millions of dollars were alleged to have been involved and corruption by senior members of the government, including the President and her husband, the Supreme Court, in a split decision, protected the suspects by making the concept of “executive privilege” so broad as to allow it to cover corrupt/criminal behavior. The non-Arroyo appointees, including the admirable Chief Justice Reynato Puno, dissented. (It was he who, in the face of government inaction, convened a national “Slays Summit” in 2007, in order to get some action on reducing the rampant human rights violations.)

Fourth, even though there is a lively media, it suffers from several significant limitations, and recently the country has been down-graded in international ranking (by Freedom House) of countries with a free media. First, there is a draconian law of criminal libel. If a publisher publishes defamatory material (eg about a corrupt judge) and cannot prove its truth, they will probably receive a prison sentence of about 5 years, as well as a substantial fine (as happened recently to the publisher of an anti-Arroyo daily, though it is under appeal). In another case, the charges were brought about 9 years after the original publication. Thus there are legal weapons which hang over the heads of media people and organizations, ready to be used when deemed strategically useful. Second, the government may organize harassment of the owners, directly eg as in the Marcos successful seizure of control of the Lopez media empire, or indirectly as in the more recent Arroyo attacks on the Lopez group’s Manila Electric Co. (see above). This was an action which effectively challenged control of the Group’s ownership of Meralco, but it is widely believed it is a campaign indirectly targeted against the Lopez controlled media (newspapers and TV) which is anti-Arroyo. (In the Martial Law period, Marcos wrested control of its media interests from the Lopez Group which was a rich prize for him, and cronies, and was also anti-Marcos by then.)

Third, in 2006, the regime declared an “emergency” and closed down for some weeks the same paper whose publisher was this year sentenced to prison( see above). Under Martial Law, Marcos closed all non-government media.

Fourth, journalists who are critical of the regime can be murdered as 6 have already been this year and over 50 during GMA’s tenure. Many are threatened with murder, and many are tortured, disappeared, and harassed. The Philippines is one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists to work. (So far as I know, unlike Iraq and other countries high on the list, it is only Filipinos who are targeted.)

To sum up, although the country is rich in natural and human resources, the life experience of an over-whelming majority is far from what it would be if those resources were not systematically and corruptly siphoned off by an incredibly predatory elite and, in a minor role, middling business and government opportunists. Across a wide spectrum, state institutions which should provide justice, fairness, security and opportunity do not operate effectively for ordinary people; they do operate arbitrarily in favor of the wealthy and powerful; and they operate abusively or in violation of the law against the working class, and are shielded from effective sanction-or reform. Corruption, of various kinds, operates to favour the top and distort the lives of those below.

Contemporary political issues

Many Filipinos consider the Arroyo regime the most corrupt they have experienced, even more than the Marcos “crony capitalism” of 30 years ago. Increasingly it is being seen as more brutal than its predecessors, including Marcos’ regime. Surveys such as Social Weather Survey (SWS) and Pulse Asia indicate that Filipinos dislike their President, do not think she can be trusted, that she lies, and that her Presidency is illegitimate. She was never properly elected ie she took power in a coup organized with others while she was the Vice-president, and she cheated-demonstrably- to get the Presidency in the 2004 elections. Being in office by fraud is bad enough. But no one has been punished for that flagrant illegality, with one telling exception-the whistleblower on her election fraud, an Army Sgt who revealed incriminating tapes of her arranging the “padding” of her votes with a Commissioner for Elections.

There is a strong feeling in the country that the Arroyo regime must be ended by one means or another, but no later than the elections in 2010. Even sections of the RC Church have begun to express the view, in guarded terms, that she has been a disaster and should be removed. A majority view in the country is that the neo-liberal policies which were originally imposed by Presient Aquino, then super-charged by her successor Fidel Ramos, followed by President Estrada until he was removed, and taken further with relish by Arroyo, have been a nightmare for ordinary Filipinos while a bonanza for the rich and politically powerful. These policies have brought a social crisis which in turn has called forth the repressive policies which have seen about 1000 activists and others killed, hundreds disappeared and widespread torture and harassment. This is the classic combination “free market, strong state” as Andrew Gamble expressed it decades ago. In view of such a crisis and the coming worsening of the economy, some of the rich and powerful are weighing their options!

One option is impeachment. This has been tried three times, but Arroyo’s allies in Congress have blocked it. A current attempt is being discussed in Congress at the moment. My view is that it will not succeed as Arroyo has the numbers and should be able to hold them as she is busy passing out bribes up to 500,000 pesos to ensure survival. This is on top of similar amounts which were passed out to about 150 loyalists last year, seemingly for the same reason. Given that she and her husband have been party to every major scam in recent years, amounting to hundreds of millions of US dollars, it is fair to say she can easily spend her way out of impeachment trouble. It is that blatant. Recently a new name for the country appeared in the press: SCAMDINAVIA

In the past 20 years, military mutinies and People’s Power deposed two Presidents. But a third attempt-against Arroyo’s ascent, failed, as have subsequent “mutinies” by largely junior officers of the AFP. It would seem that there is little chance of such a revolt today. The military repression has been a significant factor in deterring such an action. Leadership cadres have been killed etc and the masses in a sense “de-mobilised”, not least because their struggle for existence is intensifying. And after two successful changes at the top, nothing much has changed except that conditions are worse. The result has been a deep cynicism which I discuss in a later section.

Blunder in Mindanao

The one development which could bring the people back onto the streets, and possibly with military intervention is the anticipated Arroyo coup ie achieving Constitutional Change which would allow her to stay in office beyond her legal limit of 2010. Here I discuss the situation in Mindanao as a way of indicating the high stakes she is willing to play for. In a flank maneuver to achieve her goal of Constitutional Change and thus her term extension, she seemed willing to see part of her country effectively separated. The story takes us to the Morolands of southwestern Mindanao.

Arroyo’s Peace Team (led by two former Generals) negotiated a settlement with the MILF with which it has been fighting,, sporadically, for many years. The Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) provided a very considerable degree of autonomy to the Bangsamoro people, going well beyond that achieved by the Moro National Liberation Front in the mid-90s. Dissatisfaction with the limits imposed in the then newly created Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, caused the MILF to split away and take up armed struggle. They thought they had achieved a great deal with the 2008 MOA. It seemed to be very close to sovereignty, and it could be seen as only a small step away from independence That may not have been their immediate, or even long term goal, but in the current context, it looked extreme to many Filipino commentators when the MOA was leaked to the public just before it was to be signed (in Malaysia with many dignitaries-Filipino and foreign, not surprisingly including the US Ambassador). There was a political firestorm in the rest of the Philippines. The matter was temporarily enjoined by the Supreme Court on issues of possible unconstitutionality. Arroyo’s allies were in disarray, and in view of the outrage the MOA caused even amongst her supporters, she began to back-track. It would not be signed, and the final disposition would have to wait for the Supreme Court’s decision on the broader issues. The MILF , of course, was outraged. The document had been initialed after many months of negotiation. They thought they had been shabbily dealt with. Several of their field commanders went on the attack. War had commenced as the AFP-aided by the Americans- counter-attacked. The result was about a hundred and fifty civilians killed, dozens of soldiers on both sides killed, and about 500,000 civilians displaced at least temporarily.

Arroyo announced that the MILF would no longer be a negotiating partner. There would be a continued hunt for the two MILF Commandants who had started the fighting. She was insisted, to no avail, that the MILF give them up. Twenty million pesos were put on their heads. In future, the government would enter into consultations, presumably leading to negotiations for a new MOA, with community groups and other, non- MILF, leaders. It was made plain that the new MOA would be less generous to the MILF than the one they thought they had in the bag.

What was going on with the MOA process? There are different interpretations. It may have been an elaborate scheme by which the wars in Mindanao could be finally brought to an end, and the Philippine government would try to ensure that the least liberal reading of the final agreement would be imposed, and thus like the previous arrangement with the MNLF, the area would remain in the control of the Republic. The goal was also to try to achieve Charter Change. Others argue that the priority was always an extended term for Arroyo (and Congress, provincial governors, etc.) and that Arroyo and her clique dreamed up a scheme to ensure, in a roundabout (some would say ham-handed and/or deceptive) manner, Constitutional Change. That is, if the MOA was pushed through Congress it would require a change in the political structure of the country (essentially a Federation would emerge) and with that opened up, the Arroyo goal of term extension could easily be rammed through on the numbers. It was a daring, even breath-taking scheme. It was also hare-brained. And proof to many Filipinos that their President was not only illegitimate, but extremely dangerous. She was willing to trade her own interest in remaining in office to further accumulate riches, and probably out of fear of prosecution if she was no longer President, for what to many appeared to be a step toward the dismemberment of the country. Whatever it might have led to, the MOA failure also, importantly, showed what a deceptive and arrogant regime, one lacking in political judgment and any semblance of morality, was in charge of the nation.

Political cynicism and response

With good reason, most Filipinos have become cynical about the game of politics which has been played over many years. It is a game in which powerful families known as dynasties, and other elites vie for power. In that competitive game, they all get richer from their access to funds which are then siphoned off from budgets intended for schools, hospitals and health care, roads and other infrastructure projects.. Their “constituents” have gotten poorer as a result. Indeed, since the traditional politicians or trapos (in Tagalog, trapo means that cloth or rag which you wipe your feet on before entering a house) switch allegiances, parties, alliances with no regard to loyalties, policies or the interests of the people who have followed them or voted for them. There is only self-interest-thus no constituents in the normal sense. The cynicism is fueled by the realization that when previous Presidents were removed having lost the support of some elements in society, the problems of ordinary people did not go away. The main difference in the longer term was that different elite snouts were in a trough full to over-flowing with state monies.

The result of such cynicism differs. Many people are simply not interested in politics and play no role in it. At elections some may vote as there is a very strong culture of participation, abstracted from the reality of the game that is being played out. They are also often paid or intimidated, or even directed to vote (in a certain way). These people just try to get on with their difficult and fraught life.

Others, about 10%, have chosen to go overseas either to get employment (estimates of real unemployment in the Philippines suggest it is 25%, far higher than the government is willing to admit), or to get better pay and conditions. This is a difficult choice for a number of reasons, and many have very bad experiences. Nevertheless, the flood outwards continues. Because the remittances from these Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) at US$17million ranks 3rd in the country’s sources of income, many aspects of government policy militate towards increasing the number of OFWs. Indeed, recently GMA has been bragging about these labor “heroes”. She points with pride to the top world ranking the country has achieved in the diabolic scheme to ease pressure on her regime by effectively forcing people to leave the country, often at great risk and danger to themselves, deprivation of parental relations for their children, and the sorrowing down-grading of their hard earned occupational achievements and qualifications. A majority of OFWs are women. They especially are vulnerable to being exploited terribly, and abused, perhaps because of the domestic work so many obtain. Others fall into criminal and other behavior which can result in severe sanctions, public or private, including death. Some, thinking they are going to ordinary domestic or entertainment jobs, are instead “trafficked” into sexual exploitation.

A third response is, of course, to take advantage of the corrupt environment to make a living, sometimes a very good living, from crime. This can be tax evasion, smuggling, the top two areas where the state leaks revenue, much of it aided by corrupt officials and largely involving businessmen who appear to be law-abiding. Other kinds of rackets include drugs, gambling (especially the numbers game jueteng (which is dominated in many areas by political clans who use the proceeds to stay in power, buying votes etc; this is the game which President Estrada was supposed to have made millions from), and human trafficking. A number of books have been written by investigative reporters dealing with a number of these types of activity and establishing not only the widespread involvement of business and government officials from top to bottom, but the consequential loss of finance for much needed pro-people projects.

There are many other forms of criminal operations which directly effect Filipinos in their everyday life. One particular aspect is widespread criminal activity engaged in by police. This includes a wide range of activity including corrupt relations with criminals, especially gangs. But it also involves a high incidence of police violence, often injuring/killing innocent bystanders. Admittedly some of the violence may be in the process of “law enforcement”, for there are many armed desperadoes willing to shoot it out with the police. However, a very worrying phenomenon is police shootings of what are alleged to have been “suspects”. There are few serious investigations and almost no court cases brought against the police in these cases. That this is so, and that such shootings are almost a daily event in Manila, suggests that the police effectively have carte blanche to “rub-out” members of the “underclass” who may be acting suspiciously or committing a crime. It seems there are a large number of officially sanctioned “Dirty Harrys” cleaning up the streets. This is certainly the accusation which has been leveled at the mayor of Davao in Mindanao, where vigilantes have been at work for a number of years. In recent years there have been some big “rub- outs” in Metro Manila which seem to indicate there is truth in this analysis. In the most recent, after a sensational bank robbery wherein all the bank staff were murdered, the police shortly thereafter raided a working-class area and killed 10 “suspects” in or around their homes. A previous bank robbery case a few years ago involved the killing by police of 12 “suspects” in similar circumstances. There were police claims, as there always are, that the victims fired at them first. Relatives and neighbors deny this. The widespread shooting of “suspects” would seem not only to involve widespread violation of human rights, but also a crude symbolic demonstration of the power, and even more scary its arbitrary use, which the Philippine state is prepared to unleash on anyone-especially working class people- who does not conform. It also suggests that the police, or some elements in it could be prepared to shoot those who they “know” are engaged in criminal-or other-activity. It is easy to go across the line-why wait until the crime is or has been committed. In the past week, five trussed-up bodies have been found dumped in garbage mounds, victims of “executions” which even one police spokesperson indicated may have been the work of police.

An amazing example of the arbitrary, repressive and anti-working class “law and order” mentality in a country where corporate and white collar crooks act with a large degree of immunity, concerns the case of a disabled, poor defendant who was given six years of imprisonment for selling five “sticks” (cigarettes, often sold singly on the streets) containing marijuana.

Fourth, many Filipinos join with others in a very dense civil society, one of the world’s leading examples I should think of the determination to collectively oppose an undemocratic regime and to seek to build a better society. The extent and nature of civil society organization and activity is most impressive. In every sector-labor, peasants and fisherfolk, media, law (e.g. the National Union of People’s Lawyers with which I was particularly concerned), church, education, social welfare and others – there are organizations committed to resisting the neo-liberal policies and the consequent human rights abuses of the current regime (and its predecessors). There is a commitment in most of these groups to educating the masses in a socialist direction and bringing them into participatory activity. Much of this work, perhaps the greatest part, is organized by organizations allied with Bayan and associated groups such as Anakpawis and Gabriela which are legal segments of the National Democratic movement. That movement also includes 1) the semi-legal National Democratic Front (though it is recognized by the Arroyo regime for peace negotiating purposes, its members have been harassed, arrested and disappeared in violation of the agreed peace protocols) , and 2) the illegal Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army. While the Party/Army have continued to operate for nearly 40 years, which indicates it retains residual support from the masses, particularly in rural areas where they operate on many of the islands, it has been labeled “terrorist” and targeted by the regime for elimination by 2010. There is no indication that the military forces of the AFP and PNP have the capacity to achieve such a result, even after 2010. Recent indications are that the NPA is gaining in strength and holding its own, even becoming more aggressive in its operations. The military is really stretched as it carries out a war against three sectors: first, the “ dark war” against civil society which is no longer secret, as it was formerly; second, the war against the NPA; and third, the war against the MILF in Mindanao, which I discuss elsewhere.

Dancing the dictator Cha-Cha

At the present time it appears that this most distrusted and disliked President is seeking, once again, Congressional support for a Constitutional Change (Cha-Cha) which will allow her to stay on as Prime Minister for an indefinite period. With her dominance of Congress and having appointed a substantial majority of the Supreme Court justices who have since been loyal in their decision-making, it appears that Cha-Cha may be on. In that case, we are very likely to see very serious civil society resistance. ( A recent SWS survey indicates that 2/3 of Filipinos oppose an extended term) And, very possibly, military intervention; this has been signaled by Senator/former Lieutenant Trillanes who remains in detention despite receiving 11 million votes in recognition of his leadership role in several “mutinies” in recent years.

Australia’s role

That Australia is the second largest Aid donor to the Philippines, and an increasingly significant military ally, means that Australia has given important support to a corrupt and brutal regime which has plunged its people into a nightmare of grinding poverty (in the midst of luxury for the elite), widespread hunger, homelessness and joblessness etc while using the military forces to suppress opposition. At the same time, the Aid is very likely to be “skimmed” by corrupt bureaucrats, politicians and other elements in the chain of distribution and implementation. For this is a regime in which people have no scruples in diverting funds away from the public interest into private pockets. In most cases, with impunity. And as with its Aid to other countries in the region, Australia runs the risk of getting entangled in conflicts that we ought not to be in, a pattern which of course does not go unnoticed by our neighbors. It is bad enough that the American military and secret forces are there, still intervening in Filipino affairs and supporting Arroyo (which brings suspicion and hostility towards the USA). Our government should not be involved in that way.

It is imperative that Australia’s governmental, NGO and, to the extent possible, business relationships, with the Philippines be reassessed and redirected. Military relations should be halted. Aid programs should be very carefully scrutinized to see that funds are not misdirected on the ground. All Aid should, from now on, be conditional on the cessation of human rights abuse by military forces (and others operating in vigilante style). Even the US has made a few halting steps in this direction by formally linking military Aid to improvement in human rights protection.

Australian progressive organizations must make serious efforts to develop the consciousness of people in this country as to what is being done to the Filipino people under the Arroyo regime eg most children are not in school, while those who are attend in 3 shifts; a substantial and increasing number of Filipinos suffer from hunger; a large majority are poor and this figure is increasing; health is a disaster area for ordinary Filipinos who cannot pay for medical services, who have to bring their own (folding) beds into many hospitals, and who suffer death from dengue, diarrhea and dysentery, cholera, tuberculosis, malaria and other illnesses that can be controlled or eradicated.

Their environment is being destroyed by urban pollution, legal and illegal logging and mining (both of which in turn contribute to pollution and health risks, as well as to the risk of deadly mud/ land slides and flooding). Trying to protect the environment in the Philippines is a very dangerous activity-activists and local people are killed off or in other ways “discouraged” from asserting their rights, often by AFP and PNP squads. It is in this sector where Australian capital is most closely involved with the trauma inflicted on the Filipino people, through the mining which is taking place or is projected, in many parts of the country. Pressure should be brought on these companies in this country to desist from activities the local people see to be destructive of their environment and/or sacred land (much of the mining effects indigenous people).

Finally, civil society sectoral groups should be supported with an array of traditional solidarity relations, and leading alliances such as Bayan, Gabriela and Anakpawis should continue to be supported with even more vigour, especially in the coming campaign to prevent Cha-Cha and what could become Arroyo’s indefinite dictatorship (she and her cronies fear losing office and having to defend criminal charges for corruption and human rights abuse). We are entering a crucial period in the history of the Philippines. Australia, and Australians, should play a positive role in the fight for social justice and against transition from a faux democracy to fascism.

A major constraint on the Arroyo regime is the knowledge that the CPP and the NPA were greatly strengthened by the Marcos turn to dictatorship. They certainly had hoped to be able to destroy them by the time Cha-Cha was implemented and the terms of Arroyo and her cronies extended. The presence of the CPP and the NPA continues to be a major brake on the government’s freedom to choose its course of action. This would explain its recent exploration of opening peace talks with the NDF, in the hope that as with the MILF, it could reach some kind of deal (possibly the offer to seek a de-listing of the organizations from the “terrorist” ranks) which would allow the government to try to defuse the weapon of the people. There is every reason for Australians to support the Filipino people in their continuing struggle – be it by mass action or force of arms- against the illegitimate Arroyo regime. Posted byBulatlat.com

* I was recently in the Philippines for 3 months doing research on several projects. I am writing up what I think is important for outsiders to consider when thinking about the current regime there and the manner in which international solidarity can best be expressed This report is based on my observations in Manila, several provinces of Luzon and (in 2007) Mindanao; extensive coverage of print and TV media; interviews with progressive activists working with many different social movements; conversations with poor and working class Filipinos; attendance at conferences, meetings, lectures dealing with social, political and economic issues of the present period; my reading, historical and contemporary, analyzing Philippine state and society and its neo-colonial location, as well as its present neo-liberal condition.

‘86 Con-Com Delegate Says Party-List System Hasn’t Served its Avowed Purpose

December 4, 2008

Has the Philippine party-list system served its avowed purpose of providing representation for the country’s “marginalized and under-represented” sectors? Dr. Wilfrido Villacorta, a co-sponsor of the 1987 Constitution’s party-list provision, together with Christian Monsod, does not think so. His views are expressed in this interview with Bulatlat.

BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
Bulatlat

Has the Philippine party-list system served its avowed purpose of providing representation for the country’s “marginalized and under-represented” sectors?

The inclusion of a provision for a party-list system was one of the hotly-contested issues during the sessions of the 1986 Constitutional Commission. This provision was so bitterly opposed by some delegates of the Commission that its proponents considered its inclusion in the 1987 Constitution as a miracle.

This provision is Art. VI, Sec. 5, which states that:

The party-list representatives shall constitute twenty per centum of the total number of representatives including those under the list. For three consecutive terms after the ratification of this Constitution, one-half of the seats allocated to party-list representatives shall be filled, as provided by law, by selection or election from the labor, peasant, urban poor, indigenous cultural communities, women, youth, and such other sectors as may be provided by law, except the religious sector.

The intent behind this provision was to provide a space in which “marginalized and under-represented” sectors of society could have congressional representation.

In accordance with the said provision, from 1987 to 1998, 10 percent of the seats at the House of Representatives were occupied by representatives either selected or elected from the sectors enumerated.

In 1995, Republic Act No. 7941 (An Act Providing for the Election of Party-List Representatives through the Party-list System, and Appropriating Funds Therefore) was passed. It serves as the enabling law for Art. VI, Sec. 5 of the Constitution.

Under the party-list system, a party-list group can have a maximum of three seats in the House of Representatives. Sec. 11 of RA 7941 provides that:

The parties, organizations, and coalitions receiving at least two percent (2%) of the total votes cast for the party-list system shall be entitled to one seat each; provided, that those garnering more than two percent (2%) of the votes shall be entitled to additional seats in proportion to their total number of votes; provided, finally, that each party, organization, or coalition shall be entitled to not more than three (3) seats

.

The first party-list election was held in 1998. Since then, voters have been allowed to fill their ballots with one district representative and one party-list group.

Ten years after the first party-list elections were held, has the party-list system served its avowed purpose of giving voice to the voiceless?

Dr. Wilfrido Villacorta, a co-sponsor of the 1987 Constitution’s party-list provision together with Christian Monsod, does not think so. His views are expressed in this interview with Bulatlat.

The interview was conducted after a Nov. 18 forum on ten years of the Philippine party-list system, organized by the Center for People Empowerment in Governance, in which he was the keynote speaker.

Villacorta, aside from being a delegate to the 1986 Constitutional Commission, is a former secretary-general of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). He is professor emeritus of political science and international relations at De La Salle University (DLSU), where he was the dean of the College of Liberal Arts from 1983 to 1986 and senior vice president from 1987 to 1992.

Following is the full text of the interview:

What is the intent behind the constitutional provision for a party-list system?

Our objectives were:

(a) to empower and articulate the interests of the marginalized sectors of Philippine society who don’t have the political base nor the financial resources to be represented in our legislature;

(b) to strengthen the party system and make Philippine politics more issue-oriented;

(c) to consolidate the national consensus and genuine democratization of the electoral process by bringing to the legislature the marginalized and the under-represented groups of our country; and

(d) to ensure peace and unity throughout our nation by reinforcing people’s trust in peaceful change.

What hurdles did the advocates of the party-list system go through during the sessions of the 1986 Constitutional Commission?

It was difficult to persuade our conservative colleagues that the party-list proportional representation system was not a wild innovation but one that has been adopted by such developed democracies as Germany, Spain, Israel and New Zealand.

What, in your view, are the factors behind the successful inclusion of the party-list provision in the 1987 Constitution?

Like in any deliberative body, the party-list provision was one of the compromises reached in the Constitutional Commission.

Representatives of people’s organizations held vigil inside and outside the halls of the Batasan Pambansa and actively campaigned for their advocacies. The media were also very supportive. Of course, the progressive group of Constitutional Commissioners asserted themselves and upheld their principles.

We were only 12—one fourth of the Commission, but we succeeded, with God’s grace, in pushing for pro-people provisions.

Do you think the present Party-List Law reflects the intent of the constitutional provision on the party-list system?

No. The Party-List Law does not mirror the intent of the Constitution. Party-list representatives are regarded as second-class legislators and not all of them are bona fide representatives of marginalized and under-represented sectors.

Ten years after it came into being, do you think the party-list system has served its avowed purpose?

For the reasons I mentioned, my answer is “No.”

What do you think are the reasons behind the failure of the party-list system?

Most district representatives do not or pretend not to understand the concept of party-list. Neither do voters nor much of the media.

Many party-list representatives are not doing their job well.

They are divided among themselves.

What are your recommendations for the improvement of the party-list system?

Amend the Party-List Law to make it live up to the spirit of the 1987 Constitution. The Comelec (Commission on Elections) should be more earnest in promoting voter awareness on the party-list system. It should be strict in accrediting party-list groups to make sure that those who qualify are truly deserving. (Bulatlat.com)

Arroyo’s House allies bury impeach rap

December 3, 2008

By Leila Salaverria, Gil C. Cabacungan Jr., Lira Dalangin-Fernandez
INQUIRER.net, Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:18:00 12/03/2008

MANILA, Philippines—Allies of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo saved her anew from an attempt by opposition forces to impeach her, finally sealing the fate of the complaint with an overwhelming vote at the House of Representatives early Wednesday which the minority described as a funeral done with “indecent haste.”

Through nominal voting that started at 9 p.m. Tuesday, 183 were in favor, 21 against, and three abstained from voting on the report of the justice committee that last week dismissed for lack of substance the fourth impeachment complaint against Arroyo.

The lawmakers argued not only on the causes of action filed against the President by a group led by businessman Jose de Venecia III, namesake son of the ousted House Speaker, but also on what was excluded—a deal on an expanded Bangsamoro homeland.

The committee had rejected a last-minute intervention by a group of bloggers to include as a ground for impeachment the memorandum of agreement (MOA) on ancestral domain with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) calling for the establishment of a Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE) to govern an expanded Moro territory.

Minority Leader Ronaldo Zamora cast the vote for the minority who decided to no longer speak on the floor to explain their vote.

“Is this the way to treat a serious impeachment complaint?” he said.

In dismissing the complaint, Bukidnon Rep. Teofisto Guingona III said the administration lawmakers have caused “damage on the faith of the Filipino people and political and government institutions.”

“So what, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo does not care as long as she remains n power through whatever means, even through the barrel of a gun,” Guingona said.

Former Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr., one of the seven endorsers of the complaint, was not present during the voting.

Nueva Ecija Rep. Rodolfo Antonino said the Constitution has made it easy for the pro-impeachment advocates to send the complaint to the Senate for trial with just one-third vote of the House membership.

Eleven members of the opposition bloc left the session hall after registering their “no” vote.

Zamora and South Cotabato Representative Darlene Antonino-Custodio said they saw no reason to still explain their vote.

“It is the administration allies who should explain to the people their vote, why they are killing the impeachment,” Custodio said. “The people know our stand.”

But the endorsers of the complaint, mostly party-list lawmakers, remained in the hall to defend their position against junking the complaint.

Leaving the hall with Zamora and Custodio were Representatives Rufus Rodriguez, Roilo Golez, Joel Villanueva, Cinchona Gonzales, Justin Marc Chipeco, Mujiv Hataman, Mar-len Abigail Binay, Maria Laarni Cayetano, and Benjamin Asilo.

Earlier, Bayan Muna party-list Representative Satur Ocampo, interpellating Quezon City Representative Matias Defensor, protested the impeachment complaint’s dismissal.

Ocampo said the charge of human rights violations could not be labeled an old issue because there have been new cases added in this year’s complaint that were not in previous cases.

Makati Representative Teodoro “Teddyboy” Locsin Jr. said the Memorandum on Agreement on Ancestral Domain between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front should have been included in the charges against the President.

Loscin said the MOA-AD could have easily been the “one viable” charge that could send the President into trial.

Locsin said that “the firm exclusion as an article of impeachment of the MOA carving the BJE from the body of our sovereign nation in violation of our Constitution and the Bill of Rights, makes everyone who subscribes to this impeachment an accessory to high treason.”

“The BJE would be an independent, anti-Christian, Islamic, fundamentalist, antidemocratic, misogynist but pro-American sultanate,” Locsin said.

“That is a pity because even if this train contains the corpses of an unviable complaint, it will still look like a victim of assassination given a funeral with indecent haste.”

The group of bloggers, led by Philippine Daily Inquirer columnist and television host Manuel Quezon III, had filed the motion for intervention to include the MOA-AD in the dismissed complaint.

Accept defeat

In his opening statement as chair of the justice committee, Defensor presented his panel’s report at the start of plenary debate at 5:30 p.m. and asked his colleagues to accept the decision of the House “without rancor or misgivings” if they fail to get the numbers in the chamber.

Defensor said the Constitution has been “liberal” in requiring only a one-third vote of the total membership of Congress to impeach the President.

“It is but right, therefore, that if the one-third vote of all members of the House is not garnered despite this liberal Constitutional concession, those for impeachment must accept the result without rancor or misgivings,” Defensor said in his sponsorship speech of the justice committee report 1551 dismissing the complaint for lack of substance.

“Impeachment, as many would say, is a question of numbers. True. Nonetheless, a more relevant question is ‘how do you achieve the numbers?’ To say that personal and partisan considerations are the bases to achieve the numbers is to simplify the issue beyond recognition.”

Defensor said the complaint failed to prove the grounds of impeachment that would merit a trial for the President. He said the committee has been transparent in determining the sufficiency in form and substance of the complaint.

“Culpable violation of the Constitution as a ground to impeach a President contemplates a wrongful intention or willful disregard of, or scornful remarks against the fundamental law. It must be deliberate and motivated by bad faith. A mere mistake in the proper construction or application is not tantamount to a culpable violation of the Constitution,” Defensor said.

“Other grounds such as bribery, graft and corruption, and other high crimes or betrayal of public trust must be at the level of treason and culpable violation of the Constitution and go beyond the ambit of ordinary crimes,” he said.

Defensor dismissed as evidence a photograph presented during the committee hearing last week by De Venecia. It showed the former Speaker with the First Couple and ZTE officials in the Chinese firm’s headquarters which secured the scuttled $329-million contract to set up National Broadband Network (NBN) to link digitally the country’s bureaucracy.

“The President went to Shenzhen, China, played golf and had lunch with Shenzhen executives. No culpable overt or personal acts were alleged with only a picture to show. It is not a criminal pose or a mug shot and does not portray a criminal act,” Defensor said.

De Venecia cleared the President

Defensor said that in effect De Venecia cleared the President when he said that only former Commission on Elections Chair Benjamin Abalos spoke during the meeting with ZTE executives.

Committee report 1551 was submitted earlier on Tuesday by the justice committee.

The justice committee earlier voted 42-8 to dismiss the complaint as “grossly insufficient” in substance. This could have been reversed had the pro-impeachment lawmakers gathered one-third vote or at least 80 members of the House.

Laguna Rep. Maria Evita Arago, who voted to dismiss the complaint, said the President should be allowed to finish her term with just 17 months to go.

Ms Arroyo was in Hong Kong attending the annual Clinton Global Initiative, a two-day conference on education, climate change and energy. She is to return Wednesday.

President firmly in saddle

Secretary Cerge Remonde, Presidential Management Staff chief, conceded that the dismissal would augur well for the country’s political stability and economy.

“It will show the world that democracy and democratic processes are working in the Philippines. And that the administration is firmly on the saddle, and therefore we can continue the important business of governance,” he said.

Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Teodoro Casiño warned that the decision to dismiss the complaint bode ill for future attempts to hold the President accountable for her actions.

He said the committee’s ruling that the issues could not be tackled because they were already ruled upon in previous impeachment cases was dangerous.

“The problem here is you will forever insulate the PGMA from the charges. Now, even if the complaint is meaty, you will just say [the charges] were already dismissed last year,” Casiño said.

“Doesn’t this interpretation of the rules set a bad precedent?” he added.

Enough is enough

Shortly before the plenary, Bacolod Rep. Monico Puentevella accused De Venecia of being behind the government’s projects with China, including the Northrail project and the NBN-ZTE deal.

“Enough is enough. To many Filipinos, PGMA may not be the best President ever but to blame her for everything is just something I cannot swallow anymore, especially when her trust was exploited by the highest official of this House for seven long years,” Puentevella said.

He said it was De Venecia who should be charged because he helped his son try to acquire the NBN deal. The former Speaker had alleged that Ms Arroyo decided to make the NBN project a government-to-government undertaking after a golf game with officials of China’s ZTE.

As for De Venecia’s allegations that he was bribed P500,000 to kill the sham impeachment complaint last year, Puentevella said it was the former Speaker who masterminded it. He also taunted De Venecia for failing to return the money in a year.

Wrong culprit

“Do not throw stones if you live in a glass house. And to all my friends in the minority, well done for your effort but you chose the wrong culprit and the wrong witness,” Puentevella said.

Saying the integrity of the House is at stake, Gabriela party-list Representatives Liza Maza and Luzviminda Ilagan Tuesday filed a resolution calling for an investigation into alleged bribes given in 2007 and 2008 to kill the impeachment attempts.

Maza pointed out that De Venecia, erstwhile ally of Ms Arroyo, had alleged that Malacañang spent about P100 million to kill the 2007 “sham” complaint to afford her a year of political immunity.

Ilagan said her colleagues could take this investigation as the chance to speak up.

Ilagan and Maza also said the alleged bribery of lawmakers to junk the 2008 complaint, as reported in another newspaper, should be looked into as well.

Earlier, running priest Fr. Robert Reyes visited the House of Representatives to pray that the lawmakers see the truth in the impeachment case against the President and to not fool the people.

“What the people need is not a Congress of numbers but a Congress of truth,” Reyes said in his prayer in Filipino.

The complaint was filed on October 13 by De Venecia’s businessman son and namesake, Joey de Venecia III, Iloilo Vice Governor Rolex Suplico; Leah Navarro of the Black and White Movement; the mother of three victims of enforced disappearance, and human rights victims.

The complainants raised the national broadband network agreement with China’s ZTE Corp., human rights violations, the Northrail project, the Mt. Diwalwal project, fertilizer fund scam, alleged bribery of members of the House, the swine scam under the Rural Credit Guarantee Corporation, and electoral fraud in the 2004 election as among the impeachable offenses committed by Ms Arroyo.

The committee earlier junked two other complaints filed by lawyers Oliver Lozano and Guillermo Sotto, and the motion for intervention filed by a group of bloggers to include the MOA-AD. With a report from TJ Burgonio

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

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 INQUIRER.net).

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.

BY IBON FOUNDATION
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?

Posted byBulatlat.com

<!–
google_ad_client = “pub-5962114384898220”;
/* single post link ad bottom 468, created 9/18/08 */
google_ad_slot = “1657286094”;
google_ad_width = 468;
google_ad_height = 15;
//–>

window.google_render_ad();Free Software Foundation&lt;/a&gt;, Inc. &lt;br&gt; Gnash comes with NO WARRANTY, to the extent permitted by law. You may redistribute copies of Gnash under the terms of the &lt;a href=”http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl.html”&gt;GNU General Public License&lt;/a&gt;. For more information about Gnash, see &lt;a href=”http://www.gnu.org/software/gnash/”&gt; http://www.gnu.org/software/gnash&lt;/a&gt;. Compatible Shockwave Flash 8.0 r99.&amp;u_h=864&amp;u_w=1152&amp;u_ah=864&amp;u_aw=1152&amp;u_cd=24&amp;u_tz=480&amp;u_his=1&amp;u_nplug=10&amp;u_nmime=40&amp;dtd=22″ marginwidth=”0″ marginheight=”0″ vspace=”0″ hspace=”0″ allowtransparency=”true” scrolling=”no”&gt;

‘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.

BY THE NATIONAL UNION OF PEOPLE’S LAWYERS (NUPL)
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.

Consultation

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
Posted byBulatlat.com