October 4, 2008

The scare from contaminated China-made milk products has become real for the Philippines, Russia and Vietnam and caused tempers to flare up violently in Taiwan.

Two milk products imported from China and sold in the Philippines have tested positive for melamine, Philippine health officials said Friday. The officials ordered that the products be removed from store shelves immediately.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque 3rd said authorities suspect that the milk products, under the brand names Greenfood Yili Fresh Milk and Mengniu Original Drink Milk, were illegally smuggled into the country, as they do not have labels in English.

Duque played down any fears of a public-health scare stemming from consumption of the two brands.

He said the government has shut down a Manila supermarket found to be selling the brands.

“There have been no reports coming from our hospitals, whom we ordered to report to us cases of kidney problems that may have some associations with the intake of milk tainted with melamine,” Duque said.

Based on records of the Bureau of Food and Drugs (BFAD), there is no registered infant formula produced in China being imported into the country.

28 brands cleared

The Health department, meanwhile, cleared 28 other milk products being sold in local stores after tests on them for melamine contamination turned out negative.

These milk products are Anchor Lite Milk, Anlene High Calcium Low Fat milk UHT, Bear Brand instant, Chic Choc milk chocolate, Farmland skim milk, Jinwei Drink, Jolly Cow pure fresh milk, Kiddie Soya Milk Egg Delight, Lactogen 1 DHA infant formula, M&M milk chocolate candies, M&M peanut chocolate candies, Milk Boy, Nestogen 2 DHA follow-up formula, Nestogen 3 DHA follow-up formula, Nido 3+ prebio with DHA, Nido Full Cream milk powder, Nido Jr., No-sugar chocolate of Isomalt 2 Oligosaccharide, Nutri Express milk drink, Pura UHT fresh Milk, Snickers fresh roasted in caramel nougat in thick milk chocolate, Vitasoy soya milk drink, Wahaha Orange, Wahaha Yellow, Want Want Milk Drink, Windmill Skim Milk Powder, Yinlu Milk Peanut, and Yogi Yogurt Flavored Milk Drink.

While these 28 products were already cleared, Duque said the temporary ban would continue on Chinese products particularly those that would still undergo tests.

More tests

The 30 milk products were the first ones tested. Some 20 products are still undergoing tests, results of which will be released early next week.

Duque appealed to private laboratories not to conduct their own testing without coordinating with the Bureau of Food and Drugs first.

He said that the bureau has the only authority to release results of tests for possible melamine contamination of milk products.

The bureau said it plans to test about 200 food products imported from China that contain milk.

Health authorities said they would work with other government agencies to stop the importation and sale of contaminated milk products from China. They also plan to file charges against those who will be arrested selling or distributing such products.

Melamine, an industrial chemical, can cause kidney failure and was blamed for the death of at least four children in China and more than 50,000 others falling ill from it.

Lost revenue

The scare from this chemical has cost the Philippine distributor of the popular Snickers chocolate bar millions.

“We’ve lost P30 million in revenues since the melamine scare started,” Henry Azcarraga, the country head of MARS Inc., told reporters during inspection of the company’s imported products at the Bureau of Customs on Friday.

The bureau held release of MARS’ P5-million worth of imported chocolate products from China pending results of laboratory tests and analyses to be done by health offices.

Azcarraga said the chocolates that MARS distributes in the country have been given clearance by the governments of Hong Kong, Malaysia, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand.

The company is also the local distributor of M&Ms and Dove chocolate bars that are highly popular among children and teenagers.

In September, Manila ordered Chinese-made milk products to be removed from grocery shelves after tests revealed widespread contamination with melamine, which also makes products appear to have more protein.

The move of the Philippines’ Health department to take out from stores contaminated China-made products will not affect trade relations between Manila and Beijing, Press Secretary Jesus Dureza said also on Friday.

But Dureza added that China must be more concerned about the issue and should move fast to prevent further exports of the toxic products.

Around the region

In Vietnam, the country’s food-safety watchdog said also on Friday that it had found melamine in 18 milk and dairy products imported from China as well as Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.

The toxin was discovered in milk, creamer and biscuit products, which had all been taken off supermarket shelves, the food safety authority and Health ministry said in statements on their websites.

Chinese milk producer Yili and Malaysian biscuit brands Khong Guan and Khian Guan were among the items containing melamine.

Tropical Vietnam does not have a large dairy industry and imports most milk products from neighboring China and Southeast Asia.

Many parents and kindergartens in Vietnam said they would cut milk from their children’s diet, media reports said.

But the Health ministry said: “Kindergartens and schools are strongly recommended not to cut milk from children’s menu to ensure enough nutrition.”

It has banned milk products of unclear origin and threatened to punish companies violating food hygiene and safety regulations.

In Russia

In Russia, authorities seized 1.7 tons of Chinese milk powder after banning imports over a deadly contamination scandal in the Asian country, Interfax news agency said Friday.

“We found 1.7 tons of dry milk produced in China in [the far eastern city of] Khabarovsk. We are confiscating it,” Russia’s consumer protection chief Gennady Onishchenko was quoted as saying.

The Russian government announced an import ban on all Chinese dairy products on Tuesday.

The restrictions were imposed on reports of the melamine toll on Chinese babies.

Minister attacked

In Taiwan, its Health minister was hospitalized also on Friday after he was allegedly attacked by opposition lawmakers angry over the government’s response to the widening scandal over tainted Chinese milk products, witnesses said.

Television footage broadcast on several networks showed the minister, Yeh Ching-chuan, being surrounded by a group of people, as reporters shouted, “How can lawmakers hit people? Don’t use violence.”

A lawmaker from the ruling Kuomintang at the scene, Chang Sho-wen, said the scuffle erupted when several opposition members of parliament tried to prevent Yeh from leaving the parliament after a meeting with bakery owners and MPs.

Yeh was later hospitalized for heart palpitations and dizziness, said a spokeswoman for the National Taiwan University Hospital.

A public-health expert best known for leading Taipei through the SARS crisis in 2003 as the capital’s deputy mayor, he took over as Health minister last week after predecessor Lin Fang-yue resigned over the tainted milk scandal.

Taiwan has banned all Chinese dairy imports and ordered those products already imported to be tested for traces of melamine.

Yeh said Thursday that six China-produced Nestlé products were pulled from store shelves after they were found to contain low levels of melamine, but insisted the contamination did not pose a significant health risk.

Nestlé Taiwan criticized the move, saying the levels were insignificant and that the government’s decision would cost it at least one billion Taiwan dollars ($31.15 million).
— Rommel C. Lontayao, Angelo S. Samonte, Anthony Vargas And AFP (ManilaTimes)


My Take:

Sec. Duque seems to be building his name for something.  Maybe its 2010 polls, maybe not.  But his recent cries on the Melamine ek-ek shows us that he’s a bit hungry for publicity.  Why don’t he welcome private groups initiative?  After all, the final say will be coming from his office naman eh.  Just asking.

Anyway, he lacks the appeal to win a senatorial race.  If ever he’s doing this for that ends.


MILF homeland deal dead

October 4, 2008

GMA govt still committed to pursuing peace

By Angelo S. Samonte, Reporter

It’s final. President Gloria Arroyo reiterated that her administration would no longer sign an agreement on ancestral domain with the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) whatever the Supreme Court decision on the homeland deal would be.

The President standing pat on her decision to trash the territorial pact came as the European Union backed her so-called paradigm shift in resolving the nearly four decades of separatist conflict in Mindanao in southern Philippines.

A former rebel leader, Nur Misuari of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), on Friday also supported the government’s peace efforts in the South, an apparent turnaround in his past criticism that President Arroyo failed to implement the 1996 final peace agreement between Manila and the MNLF.

“We want peace. We don’t want war, and I am helping [the President] to bring peace to the South,” Misuari said during a meeting with Sulu Gov. Sakur Tan and senior military and government officials on Thursday at the provincial capitol in Patikul town.

In her speech during the 107th anniversary celebration of the Office of the Solicitor General in Fort Bonifacio in Makati City on Thursday night, Mrs. Arroyo said she was firmly closing the door on the controversial agreement “in the light of the recent violent incidents committed by MILF lawless groups.”

Such groups attacked mostly Christian communities in four provinces in Mindanao in southern Philippines in August. Ensuing clashes between government troops and the rebels saw more than 200 soldiers, insurgents and civilians killed and nearly half-a-million residents displaced.

Committed to peace

Despite her decision not to sign the agreement, the President said: “We are committed to doing everything possible to bring lasting peace to Mindanao and end 40 years of fighting that has killed more than 120,000 people.”

“It is in the interest of all Filipinos, Muslim and Christian, to end the violence that has held that part [Mindanao] of our country back and required an investment of hundreds of millions of pesos to support our military presence there,” Mrs. Arroyo added.

To achieve lasting peace in southern Philippines, the President said, all peace talks would be refocused from dialogues with the rebels to direct talks with both Muslim and Christian communities in Mindanao.

She highlighted her new paradigm shift of disarmament, demobilization and rehabilitation, or DDR, which, she said, would be the “overall framework governing our engagement with armed groups in peace talks.”

Under this strategy, Mrs. Arroyo said, rebel forces would be held accountable for all their actions.

“Our people, together with government, will be the primary force in defining the shape and direction of societal change, not the force of arms,” she added.

EU backing

In supporting the President’s new tack against the rebels, Eneko Landaburu, the European Union’s director general for external affairs, offered to study strengthening the government’s new policy through development assistance to Mindanao.

“[We] will help the Philippines find ways to recuperate the situation. The Philippine government already spent enormous amounts of effort and government resources for the peace pact [between Manila and MILF]. They should not go to waste,” Landabaru said.

Mrs. Arroyo dissolved the government peace panel on September 3, or a few weeks after the attacks led by rebel commanders Umbra Kato and Abdurahman Macapaar or Bravo. The two MILF leaders justified the attacks, which they said they launched to protest the aborted signing of the agreement on ancestral domain on August 5.

The deal would have added 721 villages to the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao under the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity, virtually the government for the Muslim homeland.

Philippine Ambassador to Belgium Cristina Ortega said dissolving the Philippine peace panel was necessary to enable the government to realign all peace initiatives with disarmament, demobilization and rehabilitation.

“By consulting directly local communities and holding dialogues with them, the new approach would be more effective and viable,” she added in a statement.

Peace broker

Rafael Seguis, the Foreign Affairs undersecretary for special concerns, said Malaysia is still willing to continue with brokering the peace process in southern Philippines.

The signing of the homeland deal set in Kuala Lumpur nearly two months ago was stalled after the Philippine Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order against it on petitions from local officials in Mindanao.

The Supreme Court is expected to again hear oral arguments on the petitions in the next few weeks.

Hermogenes Esperon Jr., the presidential adviser on the peace process, earlier admitted that Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had expressed disappointment over the collapse of the homeland deal.

Seguis, apparently confirming Badawi’s reaction, said during a chance interview with The Manila Times: “Malaysia did not like what happened, but they are still willing to help and give assistance to the Philippines, provided that the MILF will not resort to violence.”

Esperon on Friday expressed confidence that the government could achieve peace in Mindanao regardless of the resistance of the MILF.

“No matter how bad the damage [inflicted by the rebels] is, there is still hope to achieve peace,” he said during a media forum at Hotel Rembrandt in Quezon City.

Like the President, Esperon insisted that the MILF first turn in Kato and Bravo, plus another rebel commander, Solaiman Pangalian, to show its sincerity in seeing the peace process through.

The three commanders have been issued a total of 44 warrants of arrest and they and other rebel leaders are facing a total of 152 criminal cases.

Supposedly, 16 MILF commands have not joined followers of Kato, Bravo and Pangalian in battling government troops, a sign that the rebel leadership remains committed to an existing ceasefire agreement between the government and the separatist group.

In throwing his support behind Mrs. Arroyo’s peace initiatives, Misuari said he had been asked by the President to help quiet down the rebellion in Mindanao.

He spoke with Tan, Maj. Gen. Juancho Sabban, commander of military forces in Sulu, and Undersecretary Nabil Tan, a presidential adviser, about his role as a peacemaker.

Misuari also met with his loyal forces in Sulu led by Habier Malik, who is wanted by Philippine authorities for previously leading a series of attacks on government troops in Sulu.

In September, he said that the MNLF had nothing to do with the peace talks between the government and the MILF. “We are not involved [in the peace process between them]. We are not a party to that [process]. We are not bound by any consequences of any peace agreement.”

Misuari is facing rebellion charges over a failed attempt of his followers to seize a major military base in Sulu. He fled to Sabah, his former refuge, but was arrested by Malaysian authorities and sent back to Manila. Misuari is currently out on bail.
— Llanesca T. Panti, Al Jacinto And Jefferson Antiporda (ManilaTimes)

Editorial Cartoon: (OFWs) Floater

October 3, 2008

With a big pabigat!

Fact-finding team inspects US troops and facilities

October 3, 2008

By Bong Garcia


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INITIAL findings of the Legislative Oversight Committee on the Visiting Forces Agreement (Lovfa) showed that the presence of the American forces in Zamboanga City is not violating any provisions of the VFA between the US and Philippine government.

This was disclosed Thursday afternoon by Senator Rodolfo Biazon, the co-chairman of Lovfa that is tasked to verify all allegations against the continued stay of the American forces in the country.

What’s your take on the Mindanao crisis? Discuss views with other readers

However, Biazon said they are not yet making a conclusion based on the initial findings, citing they will continue to do the evaluation based on their ocular inspections.

Biazon and other members of the Lovfa arrived Thursday morning in Zamboanga City and inspected the American forces that are stationed inside Philippine military bases.

Some of the American forces are stationed inside Camp Don Basilio Navarro that houses the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) headquarters, Camp General Arturo Enrile and Edwin Andrews Air Base (EAAB) that houses the 3rd Air Division.

Biazon said there are two issues that they are checking and these are the allegations that the American troops are involved in actual combat and whether they are establishing bases in this part of the country.

So far, Biazon said there were no reported American soldiers who were injured or killed in any of the clashes taking place in Mindanao, “but Filipinos, yes.”

He said there is no truth to the allegations that the American troops are establishing bases, citing all of the facilities here are administrative in nature.

“As a former soldier, it is difficult for me to make a conclusion that the Americans have establish their own military base in this part of our country,” Biazon said.

He said all of the US troops’ facilities inside the Philippine military bases are temporary in nature.

He cited that one facility, a barracks inside Camp Enrile has been turned over to the Army’s 1st Infantry Division as stipulated in the Term of Reference (TOR) of the VFA.

The TOR states that all structures of the US forces will be left behind for the use of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Lovfa co-chairman Congressman Antonio Cuenco called on the people or group complaining about violations regarding the US troops’ presence to substantiate their allegations.

“So far we have not found any violation in so far the VFA between the US and RP is concern,” Cuenco said.

Cuenco said that providing information to Filipino troops by the Americans does not tantamount to any violation.

Earlier, Presidential Commission on the VFA Undersecretary Edilberto Adan said the US soldiers only provide technical assistance to the Philippine troops as part of the joint military exercises popularly known as Balikatan.

“We are happy to be able to get information from any source whatsoever so that we can attain our objectives in demolishing these enemies of our state,” Cuenco said.(SunStar)

Photos: Protests on the 36th Anniversary of Martial Law

October 3, 2008


Protest rally in Dumaguete City, Guihulgnan and Escalante City….

News Release —- September 21, 2008


Shouting anti-government chants and carrying placards with anti-militarization slogans, 700 militant members of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Negros (BAYAN), KARAPATAN, September 21 Movement and the Northern Negros Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (NNAHRA) marched in downtown Bacolod yesterday to remind the dark period of Martial Law in the country.

The groups also burned the effigy of Uncle Sam and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, whom the militant activist considered as the brains behind the total war campaign and human rights violations.

More than 300 join the protest action held today in Guihulngan and Dumaguete City while more than 1,000 participate in a rally commemorating the Escalante Massacre was held last Saturday in Escalante.

“Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is comparable to the late dictator in terms of human rights abuses, corruptions and unpopularity. Her regime committed gross and systemic human rights violations with 910 victims of extrajudicial killings and 195 victims of enforced disappearance”, says BAYAN Secretary-General Felipe Levy Gelle Jr.

“The incarceration of Randall Echaniz, Emilia and Maricris Quirante, the poor upland farmers of Cadiz, Calatrava and Cauayan and rising numbers of political of conscience across the country are hallmarks of a fascist regime who considers political dissenters as “subversives and “enemies of the state”. KARAPATAN recorded 19 political prisoners in various jails in Negros Island.”

Randall Echaniz, deputy secretary-general of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) was illegally arrested by plainclothes police and army intelligence operatives in Bago City while attending a land reform conference.

Gelle added that “like Marcos, Arroyo relied on the trusted military and police generals to prop up her weakening and unpopular governance. She made possible the increasing budget for AFP modernization and launch total war campaign against the Moro people and the Filipino masses through the Oplan Bantay Laya 2”.

“The regime answered the people’s struggle for just wages, security of jobs and opposing landgrabbing by mining and biofuel agribusiness with additional army troops, bullets and bombs and the militarization of Negros countryside. The horrors of martial law are coming back”.

The people must courageously resist the worsening repression and oppression as well as to call to an end to the vicious attacks on the democratic rights of the people. We must continue to fight for justice not only for the victims of the Marcos and Arroyo regime but to put an end to the system that breeds this oppression.

BAYAN Press Statement

September 20, 2008

Activists, old and new, mark Martial Law anniversary in Mendiola

Activists spanning several generations converged at the foot of the Don Chino Roces (Mendiol) Bridge today to commemorate the 36th anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law by the dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

The groups are demanding justice for the victims of the Marcos dictatorship and as well as the human rights victims under the Arroyo administration. In particular, the protesters are calling for the release of 218 political prisoners, 198 of whom were arrested under the Arroyo regime according to human rights group SELDA.

“The Arroyo regime has gained the sole distinction of being the regime closest to the Marcos dictatorship in terms of its human rights record, corruption and foreign policy. The Arroyo regime is the best argument that we should never allow a return to a fascist dictatorship, no matter what the pretext is,” said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr.

“Despite its claims of an improving human rights climate in the country, hundreds of victims are still being denied justice. Scores of activists are incarcerated in jails all over the country, a grim reminder that the vestiges of Martial Rule are still here,” Reyes said.

The militant group cited the case of detained peasant leader Randall Echanis who was also jailed during Martial Law and is now facing murder charges under the Arroyo regime. Echanis has been in detention since January.

“It is a basic feature of a fascist dictatorship that all those who disagree with it are treated as enemies and criminals. This explains the huge rise in the number of political detainees under Mrs. Arroyo’s watch,” Reyes said.

Bayan and human rights groups Karapatan, SELDA and Hustisya converged on Mendiola Bridge for a wreath-laying activity and a short program. The veterans of Martial Law marched from Lepanto Recto while the younger generation of activists marched from the Bustillos Church.

“The fear of a return to Martial Rule by any name is not unfounded. We see the desperation of the regime to stay in power at all costs. We see the unrestrained role of the military in government. We see the continued backing of the United States for an unpopular regime,” Reyes said.

“The only thing that stands in their way is the people. Our people have learned enough from Marcos and they will never allow such a monstrosity to return. Our people will resist,” Reyes added.

(Inspired by the works of Amado V. Hernandez, Rio Alma, Jose Lacaba and Bienvenido Lumbera)

Joi Barrios-Leblanc, BAYAN PHILIPPINES Women’s Desk

Never again.
Never again to barbed wires.
A stretch of sky from a prison cell[1],
The constant fear of fascist rule

Never again to the grasshopper queen[2]
Her opulent feasts as the masses starve.
She who thinks she wears a crown,
Hesitates not when she tramples upon the poor.

Never again to the amazing adventures of Juan de la Cruz,[3]
From the rice fields to the factory, he seeks for work
Yet, at each turn, a sign:
“Bawal magreklamo!” “Bawal magwelga”
No complaints, no strikes, no dreams of freedom
nor prosperity allowed.

I gaze at the photographs taken by the lens of my youth[4]
Then and now in my beloved land,
and I ask, what the difference is
Of Martial Law declared
And Martial Law creeping in.

Never again, not today, nor tomorrow[M1] .
Our eyes wide open in the darkness of the night,
We stand guard, learning from the past.
The masses can drive away kings and queens,
Pretenders to the throne
Armed with love for the land,
The people shall never hesitate to revolt.


(Pasintabi sa mga makatang Amado V. Hernandez, Rio Alma, Jose Lacaba at Bienvenido Lumbera)

Joi Barrios-Leblanc, BAYAN (Bagong Alyansang Makabayan) Women’s Desk

Hindi na kailanman.
Hindi na kailanman ang alembreng tinik,
ang bilanggong pulitikal na tumatanaw sa kapirasong langit[5]
ang takot sa pasismo na namamahay sa dibdib.

Hindi na kailanman ang kondesa del tipaklong,[6]
Ang magagarang pista habang mamamayan ay gutom,
Ang pagtapak sa mahirap niyang nag-aakala
na korona ang sa ulo nakapatong.

Hindi na kailanman ang isang Juan de la Cruz na may pakikipagsapalarang kagila-gilalas,[7]
Mula sa bukid hanggang sa pabrika, trabaho ang hinahanap,
Ngunit sa bawat hakbang, ay may karatulang nagsasaad:
“Bawal magreklamo!” “Bawal magwelga!”
“Bawal ang mangarap ng laya at gihhawa!”

Pinagmamasdan ko ang mga kuha ng aking kamera:[8]
ang noon at ngayon sa aking bayang sinisinta,
at nagtatanong: ano nga ba ang pagkakaiba,
ng Batas Militar na hayag at binabandila,
at Batas Militar, na palihim, dahan-dahan
na gumagapang upang sakmalin, ang ating kalayaan.

Hindi na kailanman. hindi ngayon, hindi bukas.
Pagkat tayong ang mga mata’y nakadilat
sa kadiliman ng magdamag,
Tayong nakatanod at handang kumllos,
Tayong naturuan na ng kasaysayan,
Batid nating walang hari o nagrereyna-reynahan
Ang hindi mapatatalaksik ng bayang nagnganalit,
Bayang ang bawat himagsik, ay nakasalig sa lupang iniibig.

[1] From Amado V. Hernandez’s “Isang Dipang Langit.”
[2] From Rio Alma”s “Kondesa del Tipaklong.”
[3] From Jose Lacaba’s “Ang Kagila-gilalas na Pakikipagsapalaran ni Juan dela Cruz.”
[4] From Bienvenido Lumbera”s “Tatlong Kuha ng Aking Kamera
[5] Humahalaw ang imahe na ito sa “Isang Dipang Langit” ni Amado V. Hernandez
[6] Humahalaw ang imahe na ito sa “Kondesa del Tipaklong” ni Rio Alma.
[7] Humahalaw ang imahe na ito mula sa “Ang Kagila-gilalas na Pakikipagsapalaran ni Juan dela Cruz” ni Jose Lacaba
[8] Humahalaw ang imahe na ito mula sa “Tatlong Kuha ng Aking Kamera” ni Bienvenido Lumbera.

Press conference of BAYAN, KARAPATAN and Northern Negros Alliance of Human Rights Advocates announcing the protest actions for the 36th Anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law


September 20, 2008
Reference: Joanne Alcantara, GABRIELA-USA, National Coordinator
(206) 859-7525, email gabrielawomen@gmail.com


Thirty-six years ago, on September 21, 1972, Ferdinand Marcos, the
former US-supported dictator of the Philippines, declared Martial Law
in his country. The political repression, liberalization of economic
policies and social constriction following his declaration claimed the
lives of hundreds of Filipinos. Today, the historical trauma of that
period and the continuation of backwards economic and political
policies still resonate. Filipino American women denounce the ongoing
militarization of the Philippines and the undeclared state of Martial
Law in the Philippines under Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA).

The resonance of Martial Law can be more accurately described as an
extension and continuation of graft and corruption from the Marcos
dictatorship all the way through the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo regime.
While she sits in her stolen presidential seat, GMA has washed her
hands in the blood of over a thousand community leaders, activists and
common people. GMA’s eagerness to bend over backwards to the dictates
of United States politics and its IMF/World Bank appendages have
outdone the assaults of Marcos on his own people.

The increasing conflict in Mindanao, falsely assigned religious
undertones as its source, finds its origins in the years of Martial
Law when Marcos engineered Philippine policies and legislation to open
up to the demands and orders of countless transnational, multinational
corporations and the then emerging IMF/World Bank. These grievances
exacted on the people of Mindanao pushed the Bangsamoro people to
fight against economic and state aggression to protect their land,
life and resources.

The very same fight exists today in Mindanao, the violence erupting is
from a people defending themselves and their land. The easy fallback
story of Christians versus Muslims is one of the fables in GMA’s
fictional legacy in her presidency, just like her claims to appease
the poverty and labor situation in the Philippines. US-backed foreign
intervention and the return of permanent US military bases is again a
reality for the Philippine people under the watch and permission of
the GMA administration.

The direct impacts of GMA’s foreign diplomacy results in the
displacement of women and children in Mindanao, beginning with the
arrival of US military occupation in 2001. Family homes, children’s
schools and community spaces have been readily disposed to be replaced by military development and corporate aggression. The “collateral damage” and the lives of women and children taken by these settlements are shocking and continue to escalate.

The entrance of US military bases in Mindanao opens the doors for the
proliferation of bases elsewhere in the Philippines, Zamboanga being a
site for expansion. These conditions, tried and true, leave women more
vulnerable to prostitution, sexual terrorism and rape with the arrival
of military servicemen in the thousands.

GABRIELA-USA, consisting of babae, San Francisco, Pinay Sa Seattle and Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment in New York, unite to call for a serious investigation of the US military encampments in the
Philippines and a restoration of constitutional law and Philippine
sovereignty. GABRIELA-USA demands that respect be reinstated to the
people of Mindanao, that they be granted their ancestral domain and be
able to live with the dignity of their full human rights.

On September 20, 2008, at the Bayanihan Filipino Community Center,
FiRE-GABRIELA USA hosts “On Martial Law.” This event features special guest Bebot Galvan from KABALIKAT, support network for Filipina domestic workers. Together, community members remember the conditions of Martial Law under Marcos, his overthrow during People Power I in 1986 and discuss today’s conditions of ongoing militarization and the call to oust Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.


Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE) is a mass-based women’s organization serving New York City and its surrounding areas. We connect the Filipino diaspora to the women’s struggle in the Philippines. By bringing woman-born and woman-identified people together, we challenge pervading stereotypes and create self-defined Filipina identities. For more information, please visit http://www.firenyc.org

FiRE is a proud member of BAYAN-USA, an alliance of progressive Filipino groups in the U.S. representing organizations of students, scholars, women, workers, and youth. To learn more about the only overseas chapter of BAYAN, and the other organizations in our alliance, please visit http://bayanusa.org

News Release
September 21, 2008
Reference: Berna Ellorin, Secretary-General, BAYAN USA, email: secgen@bayanusa.org

Arroyo Worse Than Marcos, But Undeclared Martial Law Won’t Save Unpopular Administration– BAYAN USA

On the 36th anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law in the Philippines under the US-backed dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos, Filipino-Americans under BAYAN USA are vowing to support the current movement to remove the current “undeclared dictator” Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo from her presidential seat.

“In many ways, she is worse than Marcos,” states BAYAN USA Chair Chito Quijano. “While Marcos imprisoned his opposition, Arroyo’s death squads just kill them in broad daylight in front of the civilian eyes. It is still an undeclared martial law in our country.”

According to the most recent reports from Philippine human rights monitoring group Karapatan, approximately 1000 extrajudicial killings of civilian dissidents have been documented as of June 2008 under the Arroyo administration, while an additional approximation of 200 abducted. In the last nine months alone, more than 230,000 Filipinos have been have been victimized by forced evacuation and massive displacement due to extensive militarization in the countryside, which also spawns other terrorizing acts such as indiscriminate firing at civilians, hamletting, as well as harassment and intimidation by the US-backed Armed Forces of the Philippines on poor farming communities in the far-flung regions of the country.

“The US government is as responsible for the human rights atrocities committed in the last seven years of Arroyo’s regime, as it was guilty for crimes against humanity committed during the Marcos dictatorship,” declared Quijano.

Since 2002, hundreds of millions of US taxes have been allocated to the Philippines. This escalation of US-intervention followed the Philippines’ designation by Bush and his war-criminal cabinet as the “2nd front of the war on terror.”

Corruption is also remains at an all-time high under Arroyo. While the ZTE-NBN scandal has plagued the administration since last year, numerous cash payola bribery schemes and misappropriation of billions in government funds are strongly latched to Arroyo as well.

“It’s as if Arroyo is trying her best to mimic her idols, Ferdinand and Imelda, in terms of lavishness of lifestyle, human rights violations, and government corruption,” Quijano added.

“Now with armed conflict escalating in Mindanao, Arroyo is once again living up to the Marcos legacy,” Quijano continued. “Marcos spearheaded the all-out war in Mindanao by opening it up to the neoliberal dictates of transnational corporations. Arroyo continues the legacy by pitting the conflict as strife between Muslims and Christians. It is not. In fact, it is Arroyo’s and the US military who are the most violent aggressors in the region, seeking to evacuate Muslim and Christian communities alike in favor of mining companies, golf courses, and forced land conversions.”

Arroyo is set to come to the United States for the second time in the past 3 months, with her last visit in June raking in millions in expenses on hotels for herself and her 50+ entourage. She will be in the US again by September 23.

Despite the ongoing economic and political crises, Filipino-Americans are confident martial law tactics won’t defend Arroyo’s seat from a broad opposition movement. As in 1986 and 2001, Filipinos are once again clamoring for another unseating in Malacanang.

“There is a formula that has been proven time and time again in Philippine history. Repression against the people breeds resistance. Arroyo’s repression will be her own undoing, because it is forcing more and more Filipinos into action,” Quijano ended. ###

September 21, 2008
Reference: Valerie Francisco, Chairperson, Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment
(FiRE), (925) 726-5768, email fire.nyc@gmail.com


New York, NY–In the middle of a busy Saturday at the Filipino community hub of Woodside, Queens, a younger generation of Filipino Americans gathered to hear the stories of a different generation. The generation that lived through a dark chapter in Philippine History, Martial Law, helped piece together a story that sometimes is easier to forget.

Bebot Galvan, a member of KABALIKAT Domestic Workers Support, was one of the guest speakers of the event organized by a Filipino women’s organization, Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE). Galvan started the sharing by telling the crowd that we “can’t remember Martial Law without remembering family, friends and comrades.” Galvan recounted the added dangers women had to face under Martial Law, detention meant sexual torture and rape under the hands of the fascist government. She went on to tell about the blatant injustices perpetrated by the Marcos regime to the common Filipino people: the curfews, the lack of freedom of speech and press, constant surveillance, to say the least.

Another invited speaker was Ramon Mappala, a former detainee during arbitrary sweeps of Martial Law, shared his experiences as a student at the University of the Philippines in Baguio City and how activism on campus was an invitation for government scrutiny. He told the younger generation that gatherings like the one we were having would be warrant enough for arrest and detention. As the young people in the audience looked around in disbelief, Mappala insisted that any critical stances of the government was undoubtedly punished.

Thirty-six years ago today, on September 21, 1972, Ferdinand Marcos, the former US-supported dictator of the Philippines, declared Martial Law in the Philippines. And today, the historical trauma of that period and the
continuation of backwards economic and political policies still resonate. Both Galvan and Mappala commented on the state of Martial Law and its continuation throughout the years.

Galvan stated, “Martial law hasn’t ended at all. Martial law has existed through Marcos, Aquino, Ramos, Estrada and especially Macapagal-Arroyo.” The height of the human rights violations in the Marcos
dictatorship has been surpassed by the Macapagal-Arroyo regime in her 7 years in office, GMA’s record has a over thousand violations reported in 2008. GMA’s eagerness to bend over backwards to the dictates of United States politics and its IMF/World Bank appendages have outdone the assaults of Marcos on his own people.

“Martial law still exists because those in power during Marcos’ administration is still in seats of power,” said Mappala, “But the
difference today is the government don’t care to make excuses for
disappearing activists.” The disappearance of 2 young women, students at the University of the Philippines and activists, Sheryl Cadapan and Karen Empeno, doing field research with famers in 2006 is evidence to the brutality of state repression under the Arroyo regime.

This inter-generational exchange ultimately led to the question: how has
Martial Law affected subsequent generations, especially those Filipinos born in the US? Jackie Mariano, the educational officer of FiRE, stated, “Our lives as Filipinos in the US are connected to Philippine history and current struggles as the US-Philippine regimes come closer and closer together.”

GMA’s policy of political repression, foreign diplomacy and economic
strategies mimic the very steps that Ferdinand Marcos to drive the Philippine into unending debt and social unrest. Despite, these odds, in an afternoon commemorating the deaths and disappeared during the Martial Law era, these generations of Filipinos in the US came together to also remember the resilience of the Filipino people.

“Remembering our history through the experiences of members in our
community is the best way learn,” Mariano added, “As FilAms we have
inherited this history and the right to change our future.”


(Arkibong Bayan)

NMYL, Conscience sign recall petition v. Panlilio

October 3, 2008

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO — “We need a politician, not a priest,” a leader of the National Movement of Young Legislators (NMYL) Pampanga chapter said Thursday.

Janus Calara of NMYL-Pampanga issued the statement after he and his members signed the recall petition against Governor Eddie Panlilio the other day.

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He said the priest-turned-governor has lost the confidence of the younger generation of voters and officials.

The signing of the recall petition was done during the NMYL’s general assembly meeting at the Max’s Restaurant here, which was attended by other 70 NMYL and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) officials.

“The NMYL-Pampanga believes in the stand of the Provincial Board (PB) and the Pampanga Mayors League (PML) to push for a recall through a signature campaign,” Calara told media men and other recall supporters.

The NMYL is a group of public officials whose age is 35 years old or below which advocates “for a new breed of politics which is non-traditional.”

“As young legislators, we, too have been advocating for good governance and transparency. It is sad to see the reality that despite the huge collection in quarry fees, no concrete program and projects have been given Kapampangans,” Calara said.

Taking a defensive stand, Calara said they were not paid to sign the recall petition, adding that they are not traditional politicians who only follow the move of the majority of politicians.

Asked who they think would best suit the post of the next governor in case of a recall election, Calara said: “For me, I think Vice Governor (Yeng) Guiao could very well take the post.”

Kambilan president Rosve Henson said they have gathered 200,000 signatures and are doing their own verification of the signatures before filing the recall petition at the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

Panlilio’s camp earlier expressed confidence that the priest-turned-governor will win in a recall election, in case one will be held.

Meanwhile, the Conscience Inc., the good government advocacy group headed by Pampanga’s Best owner Lolita Hizon, also signed recall petition against Panlilio in Barangay Cabalantian in Bacolor town on Thursday.

Crisostomo Martin, president of Conscience, said Panlilio’s administration “merely divided the province” and resulted into the buffering of social services, government programs and the progress of the province.

“Panlilio has made no significant change in this province and has only wasted the opportunity to make his term productive,” Martin said.

Hizon also lambasted Panlilio for being “psychologically incapacitated” in making logical decisions for the province. Chief of which, she said, is the continued “stubbornness” of the governor to remove provincial administrator Vivian Dabu.

In a separate interview with Panlilio, he said supporters of the recall should think well of his achievements before making such a decision.

Panlilio said he has done so much in improving the quarry collection of the province, the removal of corruption in government bidding, and fight against the illegal numbers game “jueteng.”

“It is their right (to support recall) but there should still be respect for both camps in such an endeavor,” Panlilio added. (IOF)

Lawmaker files bill vs suspects’ presentation to the media

October 3, 2008

By Jun A. Malig


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CITY OF SAN FERNANDO — Pampanga Third District Representative Aurelio “Dong” Gonzales Jr. has filed a bill seeking to prohibit the presentation of criminal suspects to the media.

Gonzales, who formally filed House Bill (HB) 1239 at the House of Representatives last July 23, found an ally in newly appointed Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Jesus Versoza, whose first official directive was for police officials to stop such a practice.

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The full title of the lawmaker’s bill is “An Act Prohibiting the Presentation to the Press or Public of Suspects in Criminal Investigations before Cases are Formally Filed Against the Suspects.”

In his explanatory note, Gonzales said law enforcement agencies usually present suspects in a press conference while announcing that the case has been solved. He said such procedure violates some fundamental rights of the suspects.

“While an accused enjoys due process and the constitutional presumption of innocence, a suspect who is presented in a press conference is subjected to unwanted publicity. Even if the charges, if at all filed, are later dismissed, the zeal of our law enforcers in showing they are on top of the case could besmirch the name and reputation of a suspect or his/her family,” the congressman said.

Gonzales said public presentation before formal charges are filed against criminal suspects violates their human dignity.

Under the bill, any person who violates the law will face not less than six months and one day imprisonment or a fine of P20,000, or both. If the offender is a member of a law enforcement agency or a lawyer, the penalty to be imposed “shall be six years and one day to eight years.”

The proposed law only allows the posting of names and photographs of criminal suspects at large in order to facilitate their arrest.

Media interviews will be allowed only “upon the suspect’s written consent with assistance of counsel.” It states that, “no interview shall be allowed without the presence of (the suspect’s) counsel unless the suspect waives such privilege in writing.”

The bill allows law enforcers who have custody of the suspect to inform the public only of the circumstances as regards the suspect’s arrest “but should not include the identity and personal circumstances of the suspect.”

On Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Francis Pangilinan described as “an impressive start” Versoza’s ban on presenting criminal suspects to the media.

“He has hit the ground running. That is exactly the kind of leader needed by law enforcement: Decisive in thought and action. The police should do their jobs first before they put their best forward to the public. Their job is to enforce the law. They should remember that,” the senator said in a statement.

The new PNP chief’s first directive after assuming command last Saturday was to curb persistent abuse of criminal suspects through public humiliation and physical violence.

Though the official memorandum order was still to be issued, two Muntinlupa City policemen were already under investigation for possible violation of the directive.

Versoza said they would be made responsible for tolerating a brawl between an accuser and the accused while being covered by media.

“Such practices must stop. Until proven in court, an individual is presumed innocent by our constitution. This is something that should have been implemented a long time ago. That it has to be covered by yet another rule proves that the PNP truly needs reforms,” added Pangilinan.

Three months ago, Commission on Human Rights (CHR) chairperson Leila de Lima described the law enforcement agency as the prime violator of human rights in the country. Versoza’s first directive is said to be a response to this. (SunStar)

3 lawyers face disbarment over Meralco case

October 3, 2008

THE lawyer of First Gentleman Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo and two Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) counsels are not yet off the hook from the Meralco ownership case before the Court of Appeals (CA).

A complaint for disbarment was filed Thursday against lawyer Jesus Santos, also a member of the GSIS board of trustees, and GSIS counsels Estrella Elamparo and Orlando Polinar for their respective violations of the Code of Professional Responsibility for lawyers.

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Alan Paguia, a former lawyer of deposed President Joseph Estrada, who himself had been suspended indefinitely by the Supreme Court (SC) in a separate case, filed the disbarment case as a taxpayer and lawyer.

In his complaint, Paguia alleged that Santos committed the same violations as Presidential Commission on Good Government chairman Camilo Sabio when the latter called up his brother, CA Associate Justice Jose Sabio Jr., allegedly to influence him “to help the GSIS.”

The SC, in its September 9 decision, ruled that Camilo’s telephone call to relay to his brother the rightness of the GSIS’ cause constituted an impropriety in violation of the law, “prompted by a call from a member of the Board of Trustees of GSIS.”

Camilo’s action was referred by the Court to the Bar Confidant for appropriate action.

According to Paguia, it would appear from the record that Camilo would not or could not have committed the impropriety had Santos not prompted or instigated him to do so.

From that point, there was a “meeting of minds” between Santos and Camilo in conspiring to push for the GSIS’ cause, thus they are similarly situated, said Paguia.

“The impropriety would not have been committed without the instigation of Attorney Santos. Chairman Sabio appears to have been completely ignorant of the material facts until Santos informed him. It would follow that there was a meeting of minds between the two, pursuant to which the act of impropriety was committed,” he stated in his complaint.

Paguia further said that unless the SC treated Santos in the same manner as it applied Canon 13 of the Code of Professional Responsibility in the case of Camilo, the equal protection clause of the Constitution would be violated.

Canon 13 states that: “A lawyer shall refrain from any impropriety, which tends to influence or gives the appearance of influencing the court.”

As for Elamparo and Polinar, Paguia said their actions of personally furnishing CA Justice Vicente Roxas, ponente of the Meralco case, a copy of their motion to defer action on the petition filed by the Lopezes “patently tends to influence or gives the appearance of influencing Roxas.”

He pointed out that under the law, the act of filing any motion is complete the moment it is received by the receiving clerk.

In this case, Paguia said the two GSIS lawyers, instead of being satisfied with such completion of filing, persisted in personally furnishing Roxas a copy of their motion, clearly to impress upon him the urgency of their motion and for the magistrate to take immediate action. (ECV/Sunnex)

Davids vs Goliaths: Face off in Mindanao mines

October 3, 2008

By Edwin G. Espejo


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FILIPINO partners of foreign mining firms are slowly beginning to realize that inviting prospective offshore investors is proving to be more than they could handle than all shades of activists opposed to mining operations in the country.

These differences are taking deep roots in the boardrooms where giants in the global mining industry are slowly building up their interests and investments in Philippine mining companies.

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Asiaticus Management Corporation (Amcor) president Vicente Jayme Jr. said the difference goes beyond clashes over management style and cultural sensitivities.

“We have altogether different objectives which resulted into the delay of our exploration activities,” Jayme said, referring to Australian mining giant BHP Billiton with which he and his Filipino group have a joint venture agreement to explore ore deposits at the Pujada Nickel Project in Davao Oriental.

Trouble began when Filipino partners of Amcor questioned the priorities of BHP Billiton, which owns 40 per cent of the company.

“We have been waiting for them (BHP Billiton) over the last seven years to make good of their commitment to pour in investment for the project exploration,” he said in an interview at the break of the first Mindanao Mining Forum held at the Waterfront Insular Hotel in Davao City two days ago.

His fellow company official, Amcor Vice President Lauriano Barrios, said he is getting the impression that big foreign mining companies are only engaged in “mine banking.”

By claiming stakes in Philippine mining projects, he said these mining giants are already amassing huge profits in the stock markets. “They are building up their capital at our expense,” Barrios said.

While acknowledging that their case is mere microcosm of clashing interests between Filipino and foreign investors, Jayme said each and every mining corporation has its own peculiarities.

He has a point.

At the Sagittarius Mines Incorporated (SMI) in Tampakan, South Cotabato, an internecine corporate war is also brewing.

Xstrata Copper, a subsidiary of Xstrata Plc, is engaged in a bitter and costly war to hold off a bid of investors from taking control over the 34 per cent stake held by its partner, another Australian mining firm Indophil Resources Ltd., after it foiled an attempt by Hongkong-based Stanhill Consortium to get into the corporate picture.

Filipino corporate conglomerate Alsons Group is now trying to buy Indophil’s stake at Tampakan Copper and Gold Project.

With ore deposits of over 12.8 million tons of 0.6 per cent copper and 15.2 million ounces of 0.2 grams per ton of gold, The Tampakan Copper and Gold Project is reportedly the biggest of its kind in Asia. This potential find has sent the share prices of Indophil Resources Ltd., at the Australian Stock Exchange from AUS$0.35 per share to 1.32 per share at the time Stanhill made its offer in June this year.

The corporate war in SMI has spilled over to the corporation itself. The ensuing corporate shakedown following the takeover of Xstrata people in the management of SMI has heightened the opposition to the mining operations of the company.

A former consultant of SMI said, since Xstrata gained control over the project, nothing good has come out for the company in the local media.

Filipino partners of Philex Gold in Surigao are likewise moving to buy out the 50 per cent interest of Anglo American Plc following divergent views with the foreign mining firm “on a number of assumption and conclusions made in (its) feasibility studies such as metal prices, treatment and refining charges, engineering and owner’s costs and capital contingency.”

Jayme, whose father is former public works and finance secretary Vicente Jayme Sr. during the Aquino administration, said some global mining companies are using their “proprietary rights” over mining technologies and stacks off cash to hold Filipino mining interest hostage.

He said they finally decided to rescind their contract with BHP Billiton “because of our commitment to the communities.”

If need be, they will do it on their own sans BHP Billiton, he pointed out.
Technologies, he revealed, are no longer the private domains of these foreign mining firms.

“We have made several consultations with Chinese and Japanese mining firms and they are willing to help us out,” Jayme said.

BHP Billiton is the world’s biggest diversified mining company and holds varying amount of stakes over scores of mining claims all over the world. Xstrata Plc, on the other hand, is the world’s fourth largest mining firm while Anglo American Plc is among the world’s leading mining giants.

Barrios said with BHP Billiton having so much and so many interests in mining all over the world, exploring nickel at the Pujada project has become the least of its priorities.

“What about us? We cannot wait for them forever. Ginugutom nila ang mga (They are starving the Filipino) investors,” he rued.

Jayme refused to characterize the ongoing boardroom wars in many local mining firms with foreign partners as a product of birthing pains following the passage of Republic Act (RA) 7942 or the Philippine Mining Act of 1995.

RA 7942 was crafted to ostensibly resuscitate the mining industry in the country which, during the pre Martial Law era, was Asia’s biggest and most developed.

Until recently, Mindanao has been largely untapped as past mining operations were heavily concentrated in Luzon and Visayas. Since the passage of the law, there are already over 64 mining applications from 26 mining firms in the South Cotabato-Cotabato-Sultan Kudarat-Saragani-General Santos City (Soccsksargen or Central Mindanao Region) area alone.

With the Supreme Court (SC) in 2004 upholding the constitutionality of the RA 7942, which allows foreign corporations to wholly own mining firms and claims in the country, there is no telling where these intra-corporate wars are headed to.

Jayme is not straightforwardly asking the government to intervene and review its policy on the development of the mining industry in the country. But he has these parting words: “Support what is Filipino that belongs to the Filipinos.” (SunStar)

P100M libel suit mulled vs Davao daily

October 3, 2008

By Ben O. Tesiorna


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THE chief executive officer of Dabawenyo Minerals Corporation (DMC) is contemplating on filing a P100-million libel suit against a local newspaper for alleged malicious publication of a story against him.

In an interview, DMC chief executive officer Said Sayre said the Mindanao Daily Mirror story on October 1, 2008 entitled “DMC officers seek TRO vs chairperson” is nothing but “concocted and malicious rumor.”

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He said the writer, Judy Quiros, also failed to get his side of the issue before coming out with the story.

Sayre said the wife of one of his accusers, Rex Gabrido, is also an employee of the local daily, thus fueling his suspicion that the story was out to discredit him and his firm.

Mindanao Daily Mirror editor-in-chief Marietta Siongco said Thursday that their story was based on the facts stated in the complaint of three former DMC officials filed before Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 10.

She admitted that Gabrido’s wife, Marites, is the assistant advertising manager of their company but added that no employee could influence her to come out with the story.

Siongco said they are ready to publish the side of Sayre anytime he wishes to be interviewed by them.

In the Daily Mirror story, Sayre was accused of forgery and fraud by former company officials identified as Habib Mahalail Hassan, DMC vice president for operations; Rex Angelo Gabrido, corporate secretary; and Hadji Nouh Daiman, DMC director for operations.

The three accused Sayre of forgery and falsification of public documents “to collect substantial amount from the entities he entered into contract without authority and resolution from the DMC Board.”

For this, the three complainants are now asking the RTC for a temporary restraining order against Sayre to stop him from entering into any contract or agreement with any investors.

Gabrido claimed that Sayre is planning to liquidate him for refusing to accept the P500,000 offer as payment for Gabrido’s 129,287.50 shares from the company.

Sayre said the three are all lying as he presented documents to prove that he had already paid the three complainants more than what they should get from the company.

In the deeds of sale he presented, Sayre said he paid P500,000 for the 129,287.50 shares of Gabrido. He said this is more than the amount of shares valued at P1 per share.

Another deed of sale showed Sayre paying P1 million for the 21,245 shares of Hassan. Sayre also paid P250,000 for the 21,425 shares of Daiman. The deeds of sale were all executed in July this year.

“So how could they say I have not paid them and that they are still part of my company? I have paid them more than what they deserve and yet ganito ang gagawin nila sa akin? The case they filed in court is ongoing and now nag-una una na sila ug palabas ug story. Kaya karon I will face them because I have all the documentary evidence whereas yung kanila is all rumor,” Sayre said.

Sayre said before the court complaint, the three also filed same complaints before the offices of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB)-Southern Mindanao and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP).

He showed documents showing that MGB and NCIP Southern Mindanao have dismissed the complaints of the three for lack of merit last September 23.

Sayre said no less than Gabrido himself, as corporate secretary back then, authorized him (Sayre) to negotiate with any private investors for their mining concession in the boundaries of Mati City and Lupon in Davao Oriental.

The secretary certificate presented by Sayre was dated March 5, 2005 and signed by Gabrido and Sayre.

Sayre said documentary evidences in his hand would dispel all allegations hurled against him by his three former employees. He said the three had long been trying his patience. He said the allegation that he plans to assassinate Gabrido is, however, below the belt and that he would not allow it to pass.

Sayre said a grave accusation as planning to kill another person dictates for the accused to be asked of his side first before publishing such a story.

He claimed the Mindanao Daily Mirror failed to exercise its duty, thus he will seek redress in court against the local daily and his three accusers. (SunStar)

Pangilinan joins calls for surfacing of Balao

October 3, 2008

By Rimaliza Opiña


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SENATOR Francis Pangilinan backed calls of international rights groups calling for the immediate surfacing of missing activists in the country.

The statement was issued over the recent disappearance of James Balao, an activist affiliated with the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA). He was declared missing since September 17.

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“Have we again reached a point in our history when international groups need to interfere for human rights to be acknowledged? What are the military and police doing? Shouldn’t they be searching for James Balao? Their lack of decisive action on his disappearance further confirms suspicions they are involved in this crime,” Pangilinan said.

The independent human rights group, Karapatan, pegs the number of killed activists and journalists at 800 and 200 cases of enforced disappearance since 2001.

The senator said he will support petitions calling for the surfacing of the missing activist.

“If we need to petition the Supreme Court to command the military to open their camps, that is what we will do,” he said.

Members of the City Council filed a proposed resolution supporting the call for Balao’s surfacing. Several militant organizations did the same. They held rallies and sponsored various forums for the purpose.

UN, OIC’s help sought in Mindanao conflict

October 3, 2008

By Richel V. Umel and Malu Cadelina Manar


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MARAWI CITY — Some 5,000 Maranaos took to the streets Thursday their call for the United Nations (UN) and the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) to help end the armed conflict in Mindanao.

It was the biggest anti-war rally in Mindanao since full-scale fighting began in August after the junking of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) initialed by the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

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Waving banners and streamers with calls for a halt in the indiscriminate bombing of Moro communities, the rallyists marched from Bangolo to the Army headquarters in Kampo Ranao in Marawi City.

“We are angry. We want an end to this war,” said Haj Abdullah Lacs Dalidig, leader of the Islamic Movement for Electoral Reform for Good Government.

Dalidig said Moro communities in Central Mindanao and two Lanao provinces have bear the brunt of the military offensive to catch the two MILF commanders — Umbra Kato and Abdul Rahman alias Commander Bravo — accused of carrying attacks in North Cotabato and Lanao del Norte.

“Our communities have been subjected to aerial and artillery bombardment that did not happen anywhere else in the country. Communities in Luzon and Visayas did not suffer like we do,” he said.

Dalidig said the UN and OIC should step in to end the war and bring the failed peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the MILF back on its track.

The peace rally came as new clashes erupted in Maguindanao province killing four soldiers and five guerrillas Thursday.

In a manifesto, the Consortium for the Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS), composed of several non-government organizations, peoples’ organizations, academe, and religious groups, said that with the mediation of the two strong and very influential global organizations, there would be cessation of hostilities in Mindanao.

The group has also called on the UN to investigate and determine the true cause and extent of the war in Mindanao.

The group felt the Moro people are still bereft of their inherent rights as a distinct sovereign nation.

“When, after many decades of so-called peace negotiations, the Bangsamoro people wake up to the harsh truth of the abominable situation of sustained betrayal, manipulation, lying, cheating, and killing by the Government of the Republic of the Philippines,” it stressed.

Meanwhile, International humanitarian agencies have raised concerns over their safety when delivering aid to thousands of people displaced in the southern Philippines, officials said Thursday.

Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro said the issue was aired during a meeting between a special government taskforce on refugee and various UN agencies.

“One of the issues raised was the security of international aid workers and other NGOs (non-governmental organizations) who are helping in the relief operations,” he said.

But providing troops to escort food convoys could also strain soldiers on the frontlines against the MILF, which has been locked in heavy fighting with troops since August.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said Thursday that it is providing emergency aid for thousands of people displaced by fighting with Moro rebels in the southern Philippines.

The P15-million package will provide medicines and medical supplies and ensure safe water for some 38,000 families in evacuation centers in the south, the WHO said in a statement in Manila.

“Evacuees are vulnerable to diseases such as diarrhea and respiratory tract infection that may be acquired because of crowding and less than ideal environmental conditions in temporary shelters,” WHO representative Soe Nyunt-U was quoted as saying.

Journalists covering the war also raised concern of their safety after unidentified gunmen strafed a van carrying reporters and photographers of the Agence France Press in Datu Piang town last Tuesday.

Red Batario, Asia-Pacific regional coordinator for International News Safety Institute (INSI), said no one of the journalists was hurt but the incident was “sobering reminder that the situation in hostile environments can rapidly change, putting lives at risk.”

Batario said new guidelines were emailed to news organizations to ensure the safety of their reporters, TV cameramen and photographers.

“It is important for members of the media to make themselves easily identifiable as such especially when using unmarked, private vehicles,” Batario said. (Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro/Sun.Star Davao/Sunnex)

2 Chinese products tested positive for melamine

October 3, 2008

MANILA (2nd Update 1:53 p.m.) — The Department of Health (DOH) released Friday names of two milk products from China sold in local supermarkets that contained melamine.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque identified Mengniu Original Drink Milk and Green Food Yili Pure Milk as the two China-made milk products that tested positive of melamine content.

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Mengniu Dairy Group Co., manufacturer of Mengniu Original Drink Milk and Yili Industrial Group Co., maker of Green Food Yili Pure Milk are China’s two largest dairy producers.

China’s General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine reported earlier that about 10 percent of liquid milk samples taken from Mengniu Dairy Group Co. and Yili Industrial Group Co. are positive melamine.

The DOH also released 28 milk and milk products that were found negative of melamine contamination.

These products are:
1. Anchor Lite Milk
2. Anlene High calcium low fat milk UHT
3. Bear Brand instant
4. Chic Choc milk chocolate
5. Farmland skim milk
6. Jinwei Drink
7. Jolly Cow pure fresh milk
8. Kiddie Soya Milk Egg Delight
9. Lactogen 1 DHA infant formula
10. M&M milk chocolate candies
11. M&M peanut chocolate candies
12. Milk Boy
13. Nestogen 2 DHA follow-up formula
14. Nestogen 3 DHA follow-up formula
15. Nido 3+ prebio with DHA
16. Nido Full Cream milk powder
17. Nido Jr.
18. No-sugar chocolate of Isomalt 2 Oligosaccharide
19. Nutri Express milk drink
20. Pura UHT fresh Milk
21. Snickers fresh roasted in caramel nogut in thick milk chocolate
22. Vitasoy soya milk drink
23. Wahaha Orange
24. Wahaha Yellow
25. Want want Milk Drink
26. Windmill Skim Milk Powder
27. Yinlu Milk Peanut
28. Yogi Yogurt Flavored Milk Drink

Duque said appropriate charges will be filed against the supermarkets that sold the two Chinese milk products found positive of melamine despite the earlier ban ordered by the health department.

He said the Bureau of Food and Drugs (BFAD) will release on Tuesday results of 30 more milk and milk products that were tested for melamine content.

The DOH is testing more than 200 products from China for any presence of melamine, a toxic chemical, which experts said increases the protein level in the baby formula and since it is insoluble protein, it causes precipitates in the kidney.

BFAD Director Leticia Gutierrez said the two milk products from China that contained melamine were smuggled into the country.

Gutierrez explained that the two milk products bare labels in Chinese character, which means that these two were not registered by BFAD.

She further said imported products registered in their office should have English translations of the label. (Sunnex)

Editorial Cartoon: On the Right to Reply

October 3, 2008

Puentevella’s Revenge

27 aktibista sa Southern Tagalog ‘hinaharas,’ kinasuhan ng arson

October 3, 2008

BAHAGI umano ng “pagkikriminalisa sa mga aktibista” ang “malisyosong” pagkaso ng arson ng Globe Telecom sa 27 lider ng militanteng mga organisasyon sa Southern Tagalog.

Sa isang press conference, kinondena ni Bayani Cambronero, regional coordinator ng Bayan Muna-ST, ang “pagsasampa ng gobyernong Arroyo ng gawa-gawang mga kaso dahil sa kabiguan nitong patahimikin kami sa pamamagitan ng esktrahudisyal na pamamaslang.”

Kinasuhan ang prominenteng mga lider-aktibista ng arson, destruction, at conspiracy to commit rebellion kaugnay ng panununog ng mga rebeldeng New People’s Army sa cell site ng Globe Telecom sa Lemery, Batangas noong Agosto 2.

Kinasuhan sina Cambronero; Rolando Ming, bise-presidente ng Piston (Pinag-isang Samahan ng Tsuper at Operator Nationwide); Noriel Ricafort, pangakalahatang kalihim ng Bayan-Batangas; Atty. Remigio Saladero, founding member ng National Union of People’s Lawyers at kilalang labor lawyer; Agaton Bautista, provincial coordinator ng Anakpawis-Batangas; Renato Baybay, tagapangulo ng Kamagsasaka-Ka (Katipunan ng mga Magsasaka sa Kabite); at Isabelo Alicaya, tagapangulo ng Habagat (Haligi ng mga Batangueñong Anak Dagat), at iba pa.

Kabilang pa sa mga kinasuhan ang walong magsasaka na dinukot at tinortyur ng mga elemento ng PNP (Philippine National Police) sa Silang Cavite noong Agosto 31. Pinakawalan din ang mga ito nang hindi kinakasuhan.

Ayon kay Cambronero, madaling mapatunayan sa anumang tanggapan o korte ang kanilang pagka-inosente kapag sinunod ng gobyerno ang due process. “Marami sa amin, hindi man lang sinabihan hinggil sa kaso at aksidente lang nalaman ito,” aniya.

Samantala, naniniwala si Arman Albarillo, pangkalahatang kalihim ng Bayan-ST, na “nakikipagsabwatan” ang Globe Telecom sa PNP. “PNP pa rin at iba pang mga ahensiya sa ilalim ng COC-IS (Cabinet Oversight Committee on Internal Security) ang may hawak ng mga baraha dito,” aniya.

Bahagi pa rin umano ang ito ng Oplan Bantay Laya 2, programang kontra-insurhensiya ng gobyernong Arroyo.

Magpoprotesta sa Oktubre 6 ang iba’t ibang mga organisasyon sa Southern Tagalog sa harap ng Camp Crame, Quezon City para kalampagin ang bagong talagang hepe ng PNP na si Jesus Versoza hinggil sa diumano’y panghaharas sa kanilang mga lider.

Pagbaybay sa karapatan ng mga marino

October 3, 2008

NITONG nakaraang Linggo ng Mandaragat o Maritime Week, dinagsa ang T.M. Kalaw sa Maynila ng mga nag-aasam na makasakay ng barko para makahanap ng posibleng kabuhayan sa pagmamarino. Doon naghihintay ang ilang kumpanya na bigyan sila ng puwang.

Ngunit alam kaya ng mga nag-aasam na pumalaot ang sasapitin nila sa gitna ng karagatan?

Nagsagawa ng isang seminar ang Centerfils (Center for Filipino Seafarers), ISAC (International Seafarers Action Center), at FSM (Filipino Seafarers Movement) noong Setyembre 25 para talakayin ang karapatan ng mga mandaragat. Dumalo sa seminar ang mga maybahay ng mga mandaragat at mga beterano at baguhang seafarer.

Nagbigay ng paunang salita si Bishop Ephraime Fajutagana ng Iglesia Filipina Independiyente, miyembro ng Centerfils. Aniya, mahalagang malinawan ang mga mandaragat sa kanilang mga karapatan–laluna’t samu’t saring trahedya ang sinasapit ng ating mga kababayang mandaragat, tulad na lamang ng mga na-hostage sa Somalia ilang linggo pa lang ang nakalilipas.

Kasaysayan ng pandaragat

Ipinaliwanag ni Jeremy Cajiuat, project coordinator ng ISAC, ang kahalagahan ng pandaragat.

Aniya, isa sa pinakaluma at pinakaimportanteng industriya ang pagbabarko. “Sabi nga ng International Shipping Federation, kung walang barko, kung walang maritime industry, mamamatay ang kalakalan sa buong mundo,” saad ni Cajiuat.

Dinadala ng mahigit-kumulang 50,000 barko ang 90% ng mga kalakal sa buong mundo. Bagaman hindi lumilikha ng produkto ang pagbabarko tulad ng manufacturing, bahagi ito ng linya ng produsiyon bilang tagapaghatid ng raw at finished products. Aniya, “kung hindi maihahatid ang mga produkto kung saan ito maibebenta, walang value ang mga produktong ito.”

Sa kabuuan, kumakamal ng US$ 380 Bilyon ang industriya ng pagbabarko kada taon. Kontrolado ng iilang maritime power ang nasabing kita, na kumakatawan sa 5% ng kabuuang pandaigdigang kalakalan.

Noong dekada 50, kabilang ang Magsaysay Shipping sa mga maritime power na namayagpag sa industriya ng pagbabarko. Pero humina na ang lokal na kumpanyang ito. Sa kasalukuyan, kilala na lamang ang Pilipinas sa pagluluwas ng mga mandaragat.

Numero-unong pinagmumulan ng mga marino ang Pilipinas. Sa kabuuang 1.2 milyong nakasakay sa barko, 20% o isa sa lima ang Pilipino.

Repleksiyon ang dami ng bilang ng mga nais pumalaot ng kawalan ng disenteng hanapbuhay dito sa Pilipinas, dagdag ni Cajiuat.

Karapatan ng mga marino

Sa kalagayang maraming Pilipino ang nagbebenta ng kanilang cheap labor o murang paggawa, mainam na magtanong kung anu-ano nga ba ang kanilang karapatan at pribilehiyo.

Pinuna ni Atty. Joseph Entero, pangkalahatang kalihim ng ISAC, ang SEC o Standard Employee Contract ng POEA (Philippine Overseas Employment Agency). Unang-una, aniya, “Paano maiintindihan ang SEC kung hindi ito mabasa dahil napakaliit ng pagkakasulat?”

Dapat tumatayo ang SEC bilang kasunduan sa pagitan ng employer at employee o ng manning agency at ng seafarer. Pero sa kalakaran, wala umanong boses sa SEC ang empleyado.

Kinuwestiyon din ni Entero ang hindi pagpirma ng POEA sa kontrata gayong ito mismo ang nagpapatibay ng mga nakasaad dito. Aniya, mahalagang malaman ng publiko na dapat nagsasagawa ng “tripartite consultation” o makalahatang panig na konsultasyon ang POEA.

Inihayag ni Entero ang ilang batayang karapatan ng mga manggagawa. Kasama rito ang karapatang maghabol sa kanilang mga manning agency kung, halimbawa, hindi sila nakasakay sa naitalang barko. Isa pang karapatan ang pagsasaad ng wastong kondisyong medikal. Mahalaga rin, aniya, ang pagbibigay ng manning agency ng kanilang cash advance. Dapat ding walang placement fee na sisingilin mula sa mga sasakay ng barko.

Sa kabilang banda, inilahad din ni Entero kung paano maaaring magamit ng mga manggagawa ang SEC para igiit ang kanilang mga karapatan.

Madalas umanong magmula ang mga kalituhan at anomalya sa maling interpretasyon sa SEC. Kaya dapat wasto, halimbawa, ang pagkakaintindi sa kung kailan ang umpisa ng kontrata. Paano nga naman kung magkaroon ng aberya ang isang nakapirma na ng kontrata bago pa man siya sumakay ng barko? Ang kontrata, ani Entero, ay nagsisimula “upon departure from port” o sa daungang pinagpirmahan mismo ng empleyado.

Ipinaliwanag din niya ang tinatawag na “contract substitution” na ilegal na praktika ng mga manning agency. Isang ehemplo nito ang pagpapalit ng barkong sasakyan ng manggagawa nang hindi nakasaad sa kanyang unang pinirmahang kontrata.

Maling praktika

Isa pang mahalagang karapatan ang pakikipaglaban hinggil sa maaaring maging disability o kapansanan ng mandaragat dahil sa pagtatrabaho. Ayon sa SEC, maaaring maging fit to work pa rin ang isang manggagawa depende sa klase ng pinsalang natanggap nito sa katawan.

Pero sinasandigan ng ISAC ang naunang desisyon ng Korte Suprema na hindi sa grado ng pinsala humihina ang paggawa ng isang empleyado kundi sa kabuuang epekto nito sa kanyang pagkilos. Para kina Entero, hindi sapat na sabihing fit to work pa rin ang manggagawang nawalan kahit na isang daliri lamang.

Kasama rin sa karapatan ng mga manggagawa ang wastong pangangalaga ng kumpanya sa kanilang kalusugan. Nakasaad sa SEC na dapat mabigyan ng lunas ang manggagawa sa pinakamalapit na pagamutan sakaling mapinsala ito. Ngunit sa praktika, naghahanap pa ang manning agency ng pinakamurang pasilidad bago ipagamot ang marino.

Isinaad ni Entero bilang halimbawa ang paghahabol ng isang napinsalang marino. Sa tulong ng ITF o International Transport Federation, nakapag-claim siya ng mahigit US $1 Milyon para sa damages at pagpapagamot sa Europa. Kung hindi pa itinulak ng grupo, aniya’y baka pinauwi na lamang sa Pilipinas ang seafarer at lumala ang kanyang pinsala.

Mahalaga ring malaman ng publiko na mayroong Contract Bargaining Agreement o CBA sa pagbabarko, na “armas ng mga maggagawa sa paghahabol sa ilan pa niyang mga karapatan at benepisyo,” ani Entero.

Sa isang industriyang may limpak-limpak na nakakamal mula sa lakas-paggawa ng milyong manggagawa nito, marapat lamang na malaman ng ating mga kababayan na nangangarap kumita bilang isang mandaragat ang kanilang mga karapatan sa laot.

Photos: Surface James Balao

October 3, 2008


The CORDILLERA PEOPLES ALLIANCE urgently demands that those responsible for the enforced disappearance of JAMES M. BALAO should immediately and unconditionally surface him. We are specifically calling on the military intelligence units of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police to surface James. James’ surveillance leading to his abduction was executed only by means of the joint operations of the military intelligence groups-the Intelligence Security Unit (ISU), Military Intelligence Group (MIG) and the PNP. Balao is not simply a missing person but a victim of enforced disappearance, and this is an urgent issue of the right to life that must be upheld and respected at all times. We challenge the AFP and PNP that if they truly are defenders of human rights and are mandated to serve and protect the Filipino people, they MUST immediately surface James Balao.

Balao is a founding member of the CPA in 1984 and worked in its Research and Education Commission, extending his services and expertise in this area in the Cordillera provinces such as in Ifugao. He is the president of their clan association, the Oclupan Clan Association. He hails from Atok and La Trinidad in Benguet. Balao is the second victim of enforced disappearance in the CPA, with Ama Daniel Ngayaan who was first abducted in October 1987 in Pasil, Kalinga. Balao was first arrested in 1988 for allegedly possessing “subversive” documents. The case was dismissed due to lack of evidence.

Intensified Surveillance and Harassment Towards Extrajudicial Killings
Balao’s enforced disappearance is not an isolated incident. It is part of a systematic and desperate move of the State against members and officers of the CPA in its “counter-terrorism and anti-insurgency” campaign. The ultimate end-all of being unjustly branded as a “communist front” or “terrorist” is surveillance and harassment towards extrajudicial killings. In recent months, our members, including innocent civilians, became victims to the state terror unleashed thru the Oplan Bantay Laya. Through the OBL, the Arroyo regime has mercilessly claimed the lives of CPA members Markus Bangit and Alyce Claver in June and July 2006, and nearly, the life of Dr. Chandu Claver.

In November 2007, human rights worker Vangie Tadeo from the CPA-Abra chapter was abducted and it was very fortunate that Vangie escaped from her abductors. In March 2008, a youth member of our cultural member organization was abducted. She was surfaced after four days when her captors could not probably get anything from her. She was severely interrogated and remains in trauma. In their massive military operations in Tubo, Abra last March 2008, the 50th IB killed 60-year old farmer-hinter Mariano Galisen. In April and June 2008, elements of the 77th and 21st IBs mercilessly gunned down farmer-hunters Rey Logao and Rocky Aboli, both of Lubuagan, Kalinga, in what the military senselessly calls a “legitimate encounter with the NPA”. The circumstances of their deaths show that they are innocent civilians merely attending to their daily routine of farming. If the military can commit such a gruesome act to Aboli who is in fact a councilman of Upper Uma barangay, the ordinary civilians are also subject to the AFP’s mad terror tagging. The 5th Infantry Division has in fact manufactured a list of 25 alleged NPA surrenderees that includes names of civilians like Max Liyang Finmon-as of Tonglayan, Natonin, Mt. Province. The barangay officials immediately issued a resolution, also signed by Natonin Mayor Ana Rafael Banaag and the Natonin PNP Chief Eusebio Aclupen, stating that Finmon-as is NOT an NPA but a local resident whom they know.

Undaunted vigilance is very necessary at these crucial times. The regime is desperate in its attempt to prove that it is successful in quelling the revolutionary NPA, because it cannot. That is why it is manufacturing a list of NPAs which are actually innocent civilians and carries on attacking legitimate people’s organizations like the CPA.

The surveillance never stopped, and now, with James’ enforced disappearance, more suspicious looking drivers, taxi cabs and private vehicles have been parking near the CPA regional office and its network of organizations. The extrajudicial killings came to a lull in 2007 as a result of the sustained multi-level pressure at the extremely isolated Arroyo regime and its OBL, and while the regime underwent review for its human rights record in the Universal Periodic Review. The Philippine government’s report to the UPR contained barefaced lies and half truths about the real human rights situation in the country, claiming credit for the decrease in the number of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances through supposed “measures” undertaken by the Philippine government.

Defy State Terror!

Once an innocent civilian or a member of a legitimate people’s organization such as the CPA is labeled as a front organization of the CPP, an NPA supporter or a terrorist, that is already laying the ground towards surveillance, harassment and extrajudicial killing or enforced disappearance. In James’ case, let the public know that an AFP dossier has actually tagged James an alleged position as head of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Education Bureau in the Ilocos and Cordillera regions. This is outrageous and an outright desperate attempt of the AFP to claim that indeed, the State’s “counter-insurgency” is yielding positive results!

We challenge the AFP and PNP to immediately and unconditionally surface James Balao. Each day that you, the PNP and AFP remain silent and indifferent to the enforced disappearance of James only validates further your accountability in his disappearance.

We, along with the Balao family, appeal to the public for support in our effort to have James immediately surfaced. This is our task as Filipino citizens to always uphold and protect the right to life and not deny it to anyone.

A State that violates basic human rights and brazenly denies the right to life must not be tolerated. We will not tolerate each passing day with passivity nor will we tolerate the impunity bred in this fascist regime. We will heighten our vigilance and most especially, resist and defy state terrorism. We will not be lameducks waiting for prolonged surveillance and harassment and the next extrajudicial killing. We will resist all forms of state terror and if necessary, through self defense as an assertion of our rights to life and self determination!



Beverly Longid
Chairperson, Cordillera Peoples Alliance


22 September 2008

Hon. Leila De Lima
Commission on Human Rights
SAAC Bldg., UP Complex
Commonwealth Ave. Diliman,
Quezon City

Dear Honorable Leila De Lima:

James had been missing since Sept. 17, 2008. Today is the fifth day of his unexplained disappearance – the fifth agonizing day of waiting for our family. We are a family gripped with absolute fear. Each passing moment without knowledge of our James’ whereabouts makes us more hopeless.

James is the eldest of our four children and was born in April 10, 1961. He has remained single into his late 40’s as a result of his dedication to his work. For James, his service to the people has always come first. But regardless of his status, he has always been a family man. His desire to serve extended as well to his clan and James has always been a pillar upholding our family.

In 1981, James, graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from the University of the Philippines (UP) Baguio. In college, he was the Editor-in-Chief of Outcrop, the UP Baguio campus newspaper. After graduation he worked as a research staff for the Cordillera Studies Group (CSG), based in Easter School (1981-1984), then as a staff of Pons Benagen, a member of the 1986 Constitutional Commission. James was especially involved in the drafting of the provisions on indigenous peoples rights in the 1986 Constitution.

James was one of the founding members of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) in June of 1984. Prior to that, James had been working as a research staff of the Cordillera Resource Center (CRC). An expert in research, James subsequently worked as member of the CPA’s Research and Education Commission as a researcher and trainer until 1993. Between 1994 and 1997 he was based in Ifugao, first with the Ifugao Research and Development Center and later with the Ifugao Leaders Forum. He has frequently extended his research and training skills to CPA member organizations in other provinces. James has significantly contributed to the CPA’s research in particular on the issues of tribal war, agricultural liberalization and ancestral land. As an active member of the CPA, James makes it a point to attend the CPA’s Annual Cordillera Day celebration such as in Tocucan, Mt. Province (2004) and Baguio City (2007). At present, he is the president of the Oclupan Clan Association.

In his work with the clan association James has played an even more important role in our family. He was tasked with looking into the registration and documentation of clan properties. He has also served as a mediator in clan and tribal conflicts. His selfless willingness to use his education and skills in the service of his family and his people has greatly contributed to the Cordillera’s collectivity and connectivity.

James’s sudden absence is extremely alarming. Starting the first week of June this year, James and the rest of our family have been under regular surveillance by unidentified people. Vehicles with heavily tinted windows have been regularly seen tailing him and us from our residence to wherever we went during the day. We believe that his years with the legal progressive people’s movement has made James the target of state terrorism.

We absolutely fear for his safety and for his life.

We humbly ask your attention, and request your services. Your assistance in immediately locating James is vital to his survival. If he is still in captivity, we believe that his captors will release him, knowing that you have interceded in this delicate situation. If he is being mistreated, we hope that his captors will cease their actions and spare him anymore harm, knowing that the Commission on Human Rights is behind us.

Please help us find James. We, Arthur and Jane, parents of James, Nonette his younger sister, Winston his brother, and Joni the youngest of the family, will exhaust all efforts and resources to locate our James. Together with his colleagues, all the people he has helped and supported in his life, all the clans and tribes he has been a part of we are calling on you to join our search. We will all be lost unless James is found. We fear that the more time we spend searching the less time he will have. We will not cease until we find our James.

We will not lose hope or faith. Please help us find James Balao.

With utmost respect,

The Balao Family
and the people of the Cordillera


James Balao is a founding member of the CORDILLERA PEOPLES ALLIANCE (CPA) when it was established in June 1984. Before the founding of the CPA, James was concurrently a researcher of the Cordillera Studies Program (CSP), the research and documentation arm of the Cordillera Schools Group (CSG), and a member of the Cordillera Consultative Committee then chaired by Atty. William Claver. The CSG published IGOROT: A People Who Daily Touch the Sky in 1986, and James’ name appears in the acknowledgment to the CSP staff. At present, he is the President of the Oclupan Clan Association and one of his tasks is to look into the registration and documentation of the clan properties.

Even before the founding of the CPA, James was working as a research staff of the Cordillera Resource Center (CRC), then Cordillera Consultation and Research (CCR). His forte and expertise in education and research were reflected in his work as head of the CPA’s Research and Education Commission as a trainor and researcher. He has invaluably contributed to CPA’s Research and Education work, especially in defining the particular manifestations of national oppression and the particular features of self-determination in the Cordillera.

James was with the CPA Regional Office until 1993, and then devoted his skills and expertise to the research and education work of the CPA

chapters and network in the provinces such as in Ifugao from 1994 to 1997, with the Ifugao Research and Development Center (IRDC) and later with the Ifugao Peasant Leaders Forum (IPLF). Then onwards, and up to present, he extends the same services to other provinces in the region, carrying out CPA’s research and education work particularly in agriculture and the Cordillera peasant situation, and his main contribution has been in helping to clarify the features of semi-feudal exploitation in the Cordillera.

At the same time, James has been actively attending to family affairs as clan president of the Oclupan Clan Association. As an active member of the CPA, James makes it a point to attend the CPA’s CORDILLERA DAY Celebrations, such as in Tocucan, Mt. Province (2004) and Baguio City (2007).

Balao graduated BA Psychology from the University of the Philippines Baguio in 1983, with a double major in Psychology and Economics. In college, he was the editor-in-chief of the Outcrop (campus newspaper). James had also worked as a staff of Pons Benagen, of the 1986 Constitutional Commission on the drafting of the 1986 Constitution especially on provisions on indigenous peoples.

He is the eldest child of Mr. and Mrs. Arthur and Jane Balao of Atok and La Trinidad, Benguet and is the eldest of four children. He was born in April 10, 1961. #

Download Profile in PDf format


September 27, 2008


2008 is the Centennial Year of the University of the Philippines. Since January, the entire University System has been celebrating. In fact, in UP Baguio, one of the culminating activities is a Grand Alumni Homecoming on December 5, 2008. But Alas! The preparations to turn this activity into a memorable, major celebration is theatened. One of the University of the Philippines Baguio’s harvests of intelligent minds, of true Iskolars ng Bayan who take to task genuine service to the people, is missing.

JAMES BALAO graduated in1981 with the degree BS Psychology. As a student, he served as editor-in-chief of the official student paper, Outcrop. After graduation, James involved himself into research and writing projects for both academic and non-government organizations. One of his major research outputs has to do with “The Land Problem of the Cordillera National Minorities.”

No one could just disappear in thin air. James could not disappear voluntarily without informing his family and frIends. James loves life. In fact he has been an advocate of the defense of life and land of the Cordillera Peoples, for the protection of his people from oppression and exploitation. James could have only disappeared involuntarily, forcibly.

The UP community appeals to the highest authorities of the Philippines to find the whereabouts of James and send clear signs of the Government’s adherence to justice by surfacing him immediately. If any state agency suspects him of any violations of the laws of the Philippines, James must be allowed to defend himself. The law enforcers must adhere to due process.

We also appeal to all concerned individuals and organizations to sign the on line petition at http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/CPAjamesbalao/

You may also forward letters of solidarity to the Balao family through and through the CORDILLERA HUMAN RIGHTS ASSOCIATION email address (chra@cpaphils.org)



The family of JAMES BALAO, a member of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), has reported that he has been missing since 17 September 2008. He left his residence in Fairview, Baguio City at around 7:00 AM on the said date and since then, has not been in contact with his friends and family; nor can they contact him. This is very unlikely for Balao, who his friends and family know to be conscientious as to informing them of his whereabouts.

James is of medium-built, 5’7”-5’9” tall, is chinky-eyed and was last seen wearing a black jacket, brown pants, visor, black hiking boots and eyeglasses. He was carrying a yellow and blue backpack and red travelling bag. He was going to spend the following days in the family residence in La Trinidad. His absence is very alarming, as he has reported regular surveillance to his family starting first week of June 2008 and has increasingly heightened until his disappearance. He has
even observed white and blue vans that regularly tail him from his residence to his daily chores.

We are urgently calling on the authorities, particularly the Philippine National Police, and the public who know him (former classmates, friends), to aggressively assist the Balao family and us in our search for James.

Any information in relation to James may be forwarded to the Balao family at 09175069404; the offices of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (442-2115); and the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (445-2586 and 09189199007). #

(Arkibong Bayan)

Rights v.2: Higit pang posibilidad

October 3, 2008

NAKABIG, walang duda, ang atensiyon ng Estado at ng marami pa nang bigyan ng MTRCB (Movie and Television Review and Classification Board) ng X-rating ang serye ng mga public service announcement o PSA na Rights noong nakaraang taon. Halos tig-iisang minuto lamang ang mga ito. Pero dahil paksa ang malagim na sitwasyong pangkarapatang pantao—na walang sinabi ang mga pelikulang horror kapag isinabiswal—at nakaturol sa gobyernong Arroyo, hinarang ang premiere ng Rights sa Robinson’s Galleria.

Noong Setyembre 19, inilunsad ang Rights v.2, pangalawang serye ng mga PSA, sa isang auditorium sa University of the Philippines-College of Mass Communications. Di-komersiyal at relatibong malaya ang venue kaya’t hindi hinabol ng mga sensura. Hindi na rin bago ang konsepto. Marahil kalakhan ng audience, pamilyar na sa tipo ng indipendiyenteng mga gawa ng iba’t ibang filmmaker na nababahala sa animo’y Martial Law sa bansa.

Pero hindi nauubusan ng dahilan para likhain at panoorin ang Rights. Patuloy ang mga kaso ng sapilitang pagkawala, ekstrahudisyal na pamamaslang, panunupil sa kalayaan sa pamamahayag at malayang asembliya, tortyur, at ilegal na pag-aresto at detensiyon, litanya ni Ruth Cervantes, public information officer ng grupong Karapatan. Babala pa niya, maaaring sumirit ang mga ito sa oras na maramdaman ng Estadong humihina ang atensiyon at reaksiyong publiko.

Iba’t iba ang pagtatangka ng mga filmmaker na makakuha ng malakas na atensiyon at reaksiyon mula sa audience. Ang Luya ni Ging Flores, close-up na kuha ng dinidikdik na luya para madiing “tao ka…hindi luya” na pwedeng umaray at lumaban. Simple ang metapora, maiintindihan ninuman. Sikreto ng kakapangyarihan nito ang hindi katanggap-tanggap na imaheng malilikha sa laylayan ng imahinasyon, habang pinapanood ang tila inosenteng pang-araw-araw na eksena mula sa kusina,

Sa Terorista Ka Ano? ni Ted Edward Ferras, absurdo naman ang mga eksena. Sa loob ng paaralan, punto-de-bista ng isang may hawak na baril na tila nag-amok. “Terorista” ang mga biktima batay sa stereotype na aktibista: long hair, balbas-sarado, naka-Chuck Taylors, at hindi naliligo. Ayon nga sa isang manonood na nag-react sa palabas, “Nakakatawa, pero naiinis ako na natatawa ako.” Kaparis ito ng natural na reaksiyon sa buhul-buhol na mga katuwiran ng Estado at ng US tuwing may sinusupil nang dahil sa oryentasyong pampulitika. Matatawa ka muna (panangga, marahil, sa pagkagulat) bago magpuyos sa galit.

Dramatikong naratibo na batay sa aktuwal na mga karanasan ng bagong-layang mga bilanggong pulitikal na Tagaytay 5 ang Awit at Tula ng Artists’ Arrest (Artists’ Response to the Call for Transformation and Social Change). Tampok sa mga ito ang kilalang mga aktor na sina Joel Torre, Chin-Chin Gutierrez, at Art Acuňa—mahusay, sa makatuwid, ang acting. Pulido rin ang mga aspektong teknikal. Huli ang tensiyon ng tortyur-interogasyon na patungo sa isang masahol na lundo; at ang tapang na sa sining ibinulwak ng mga pinahihirapan. Ayon kay Axel Pinpin, isa sa Tagaytay 5, sinariwa ng eksena ang mga nangyari sa kanya. Ipinunto ng kritikong si Doy del Mundo, hindi bilang anunsiyo kundi maikling pelikula maikakategorya ang dalawa. Isa pa, emosyunal kaysa intelektwal ang reaksiyon dito, aniya.

Pukaw-emosyon din ang Bakwet ng Southern Tagalog Exposure, head shot ng batang idinadaing sa kanta ang panggugulo ng mga sundalo sa kanilang pinagmulang nayon. Maaalala, mula sa unang serye ng Rights, ang pangongonsensiya ni Adelisa, anak ng pinatay na mag-asawang aktibistang Albarillo. Epektibo ang hilaw na mga tugon ng mga musmos na direktang apektado ng karahasan ng Estado.

Animation naman ang ilang PSA. Itinaguyod ng Warrant ni Bon Labora ang pangingibabaw ng biswal bilang pangyayaring aktuwal (“Hindi marinig ng tenga ang sinasabi ng dilat na mata”). Voice-over ang salaysay ng pulis na umano’y nanlaban ang inaaaresto, habang ipinakikita na natutulog lamang ang isang tila magsasaka kasama ng kanyang pamilya nang siya’y pagbabarilin. Sa Peace ni Emil Jurado, ginamit pang-tortyur ang kuryenteng nag-iilaw sa higanteng billboard na Peace and Stability. Pagtigbak ito sa mito na laging katuwiran ng Estado sa mga paglabag sa karapatang pantao, at may pangiliti pang alternatibong konsepto: “Nasa kamay natin ang tunay na kapayapaan.”

Sa 15 bagong mga likha, makikitang yumabong ang inisyatibang Rights. Mas maraming filmmakers ang natulak na paksain ang di-dapat malimot. Panghihikayat pa ni King Catoy, miyembro ng ST Exposure na prodyuser ng Rights v.2, hindi naman ganoong kalaking trabaho ang paggawa ng PSA at maliit lamang na kontribusyon. Katunayan, tatlo sa mga ito, ang Desparecidos, Puppets, at Cutouts, ay mula sa mga estudyante ng UP na dalawang linggo bago ang premiere lamang nahikayat ng grupo na gumawa.

Sang-ayon ang mga prodyuser sa obserbasyon ni del Mundo na limitado ang mensahe ng anunsiyo o pelikulang mahigit isang minuto. Layon lamang ng mga PSA na maging lunsaran ng mga talakayan hinggil sa sitwasyong pangkarapatang pantao. Kung magpapalalim pa, ani Catoy, maaaring matumbok ang dahilan ng paglaban—ang pagkait ng Estado sa karapatang pang-ekonomiya ng mga mamamayan.

Masasagot sa mga talakayan matapos ang panonood, halimbawa, kung sino at bakit nabilanggo ang Tagayatay 5 at si Eduardo Serrano (pamagat at paksa ng isa pang PSA ng ST Exposure), ano ang ginagawa nina Karen Empeňo, Sherlyn Cadapan, at Jonas Burgos bago sila nawala (mga mukha ng desparecidos sa Desaparecidos at Tagu-Taguan nina Recci Baculor at Zig Dulay), o kung ano ang isyu sa martsang binomba ng tubig sa Quenching Fire ng Kodao Productions.

Posible kayang patungkol naman sa mga karapatang pang-ekonomiya ang susunod na serye ng Rights? (Biro ng aktres na si Bibeth Orteza, baka umabot sa v.15 kapag nanatili sa puwesto si Gloria) Ramdam ang krisis ngayon higit kailanman, lalo ng pinakamahihirap na inalayan ng buhay ng karamihan sa mga biktima ng paglabag sa karapatang pantao. Maantig din kaya ang imahinasyon ng kasing-daming filmmaker sa horror ng kahirapan? Maaasahan kaya sila, partikular ang mga nasa mainstream, na bitbitin ang kasing-ispesipikong usaping pang-ekonomiya? Ipanawagan ang “P125 dagdag-na-sahod ngayon na” mula sa “Stop political killings”?

Sa ngayon, marami pang posibilidad ang Rights v.2. Ipakalat ito sa internet na pinakamabilis at murang paraan (panoorin ito sa google). Ikopya sa DVD at ipamahamagi. Ipalabas at talakayin sa iba’t ibang pagtitipon at pagkilos.

Maaari ring pag-isipan ng mga filmmaker ang higit pang ambag sa ganitong adbokasiya—ang paghikayat sa mga kapwa-filmmaker na sumama, ang paggawa ng mga pelikulang mas masaklaw at mahaba, at ang pag-alay ng sarili sa kilusang masa na tanging nakakapamuwersa sa Estado na itigil,o pahupain man lang, ang mga paglabag sa karapatang pantao.

Ilang araw lamang matapos ang premiere ng Rights v.2, dalawang lider-magsasaka, sina Florencia Espiritu at Nelson Balmania, ang dinukot sa Bataan. Muli, buhay-at-kamatayan ang nakataya sa atensiyon at reaksiyon ng publiko at ng Estado. Malungkot, pero mapanghamon din, na hindi tayo nauubusan ng dahilan na itaguyod ang Rights.

Pinoy deportees mula Sabah aabot ng 200,000

October 3, 2008

MAAARING umabot sa 200,000 ang di-dokumentadong Pilipinong deportees mula sa Sabah, Malaysia ngayong taon, ayon sa DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development).

Ito ang datos na inihayag ng Migrante International na maglulunsad ng ikatlong National Fact-Finding Mission sa Oktubre 2 – 6 sa Zamboanga City para alamin ang sitwasyon ng mga migrante na umano’y “tumakas mula sa kahirapan at giyera sa Mindanao.”

Sa unang walong buwan ng 2008, may 35,000 deportees na ang naitala ng DSWD. Marami sa mga ito ang hindi makauwi sa kani-kanilang mga probinsya at pumupuslit pabalik sa Sabah.

Pangamba ni Connie Bragas-Regalado, tagapangulo ng Migrante International at secretary-general ng International Migrants Alliance, lalong dadami ang di-dokumentadong mga migrante sa Sabah dahil sa pag-igting ng mga opensibang militar sa Mindanao.

Umano’y walang ginawa si Pangulong Arroyo para sa mga migrante mula Sabah “maliban sa panandaliang tulong na ginamit para lamang para sa pagpapaganda ng imahe sa midya.”

Nagsagawa ng crackdown ang gobyerno ng Malaysia sa libu-libong di-dokumentadong mga migranteng Pilipino noong 2005 at 2005. Naiulat ang pang-aabuso sa kababaihang OFW (Overseas Filipino Workers) sa mga bilangguan at pagkamatay ng mga sanggol dahil sa malnutrisyon. Naalarma maging ang United Nations at Amnesty International sa sitwasyon.

Nagtayo ang mga gobyerno ng Pilipinas at Malaysia ng RP-Malaysia Working Group on Migrant Workers. Pero ayon sa Migrante International, hindi epektibong napangalagaan ng grupo ang kapakanan ng mga OFW sa Sabah.

Batay sa mga resulta ng NFFM, gagawa ng mga rekomendasyon ang Migrante International na ihahapag sa International Assembly of Migrants and Refugees o IAMR.

Ang IAMR ay pagtitipon ng mga migrante mula sa iba’t ibang bahagi ng daigdig na ipantatapat bilang protesta sa ikalawang Global Forum on Migration and Development o GFMD.

Gaganapin sa Maynila sa Okt. 29 – 30 ang GFMD, pinangunahan ng United Nations at inisponsor ng gobyerno ng Pilipinas ngayong taon para talakayin ang pagpapaunlad pa ng mga polisiya sa labor export at migrasyon.

Ilang-Ilang Quijano

OFWs dadami dahil sa krisis pampinansiya –POEA

October 3, 2008

BAGUIO CITY—Inaasahang dadami ang mga Pilipinong mangingibang-bansa dahil sa kawalang segurahan sa bansa dulot ng pagbagsak ng global stock market, ayon kay Jennifer Manalili, bagong talagang administrador ng POEA (Philippine Overseas Employment Agency).

Sinabi ni Manalili sa isang talumpati sa Baguio Convention Center na may 1.3 milyong Pilipino na nais mangibang-bansa sa susunod na taon, mas mataas nang 300,000 sa 1 milyong taunang target ng POEA.

Noong 2007, may 1.2 milyong Pilipino ang nangibang-bansa.

Kaya naman sinabi ni Manalili na dapat paigtingin ang kampanya laban sa illegal recruitment dahil tiyak na sasamantalahin ng ilang indibidwal ang kagustuhan ng mga Pilipino na mag-abroad.

Sinabi ni Atty. Melchor Dizon, POEA Licensing and Regulation Officer, na inaaasahan nilang bababa ang bilang ng mga kaso ng illegal recruitment ng 10% sa katapusan ng 2008.

Ipinroseso ng ahensiya ang 4,208 kaso ng illegal recruitment, karamihan sa Metro Manila, ngayong taon.

Ariston Valle

Alam N’yo Ba Mga Mare?: Ang katotohanan sa likod ng migrasyon ng kababaihan

October 3, 2008

Gert Ranjo-Libang

SA PILIPINAS ginanap ang Pandaigdigang Kumperensiya sa “Gender,” Migrasyon at Kaunlaran dahil ayon kay Pangulong Arroyo, ang ating bansa ang ika-anim sa halos 200 bansa sa buong mundo kung saan halos pantay na ang istatus ng babae sa lalaki. Kung totoo yan mga mare, bakit pagkadami-dami pa rin sa ating kabaro ang nagiging biktima ng “human trafficking” o ang pagdadala ng mga tao sa ibang lugar para maging busabos na alipin o prostitute. Ang Pilipinas nga ang ika-lima sa buong mundo pagdating sa insidente ng “human trafficking” kung saan 20% ng nabibiktima ay menor de edad na ipinasok sa prostitusyon.

Kahit na ano ang gawin o sabihin ni Arroyo, lalabas at lalabas ang katotohanang hindi natugunan ng kanyang administrasyon ang mga batayang pangangailangan ng kababaihan para sa kabuhayan at serbisyong panlipunan. Bagkus, lalong pa ngang inilulubog ng patuloy na pagsunod niya sa mga patakarang globalisasyon ang pamilyang Pilipino sa kumunoy ng kahirapan.

Kawalang pag-asa ang nagtutulak sa mayorya ng ating mga kabaro na makipagsapalaran sa labas ng bansa; Desperasyon ang humihila sa kanila para sumuong sa walang katiyakang buhay ng isang migranteng manggagawa.

Dahil sino nga ba sa atin mga mare ang kusang mag-iiwan sa ating mga anak upang mag-alaga ng anak ng iba at ang magpa-alipin sa mga di-kilalang tao na ang ugali ay kadalasang taliwas sa ating kinagisnan o maging aliwang kinukutya’s itinuturing na bagay at hindi taong dapat bigyan ng respeto.

Ang pagiging domestic helper o katulong sa bahay, tagapag-alaga ng matanda at bata, o entertainers, iyan ang kinasasadlakang gawain ng halos otsenta porsyento ng kababaihang lumalabas ng ating bansa. Ang mga trabahong ito ay namumuhunan sa pyudal at tradisyunal na pagkakahon sa kababaihan bilang pambahay o pangkama lamang. At maski sa mga bansang napupuntahan ng ating mga kabaro, ang ganitong mga gawain ay tinitignang mababa at madalas pa nga ay tago dahil hindi itinuturing na tunay na trabahong dapat ibilang sa istatistika ng mga naka-empleyo.Samakatwid, ang mga gawaing pinapasok ng ating mga kababaihang migrante ay lalong naglalapit sa kanila sa pang-aabuso’t karahasan.

Sa ganitong kalagayan ng kababaihang migrante, paano masasabing ang paglabas sa bansa ng dumarami nating mga kabaro ay kaunlaran. Lalo namang malabong ito ang maging dahilan upang ang piyudal na pagtingin sa kanila ng lipunang Pillipino bilang mas mababa sa kalalakihan ay mabago.

Muli, mga mare, nakikita natin ang panloloko’t pambobola sa atin ni Arroyo. Muli, mga mare, dapat nating tutulan ang panloloko’t pambobolang ito.

Husgahan Natin: Sinadyang hindi kunin ang abiso

October 3, 2008

Atty. Remigio Saladero Jr.

ISANG labor case ang isinampa sa tanggapan ng Labor Arbiter laban sa isang kompanya. Upang malaman ng kompanya ang demanda laban sa kanya, pinadalhan ito ng Labor Arbiter ng summons. Hindi natanggap ng kompanya ang summons pero tinuloy ng Labor Arbiter ang pagdinig sa kaso. Nagdesisyon ang Labor Arbiter at natalo ang kompanya. Tanong: Dapat bang sundin ng kompanya ang desisyon kahit na hindi ito nakatanggap ng summons?

Ito ang nangyari sa kasong “Scenarios Inc., et. al. vs. Jerry Vinluan” (G.R. No. 173283) na hinatulan ng Korte Suprema nito lamang Setyembre  17, 2008.

Sa nasabing kaso, nagdemanda si Jerry laban sa kanyang kompanya (Scenarios, Inc.) dahil umano sa pagtanggal sa kanya sa trabaho na walang dahilan. Pinadalhan ng Labor Arbiter ng summons ang kompanya sa pamamagitan ng koreo o mail.

Ibinalik ng post office ang summons. May tatak ang sobre nito na “Return to Sender” at “Unclaimed”. May nakasulat din sa sobre na petsa ng “second notice” at petsa ng “final notice”.

Tinuloy ng Labor Arbiter ang pagdidinig sa kaso kahit hindi nakakadalo ang kompanya. Dumating ito sa yugtong nagkaroon na ng desisyon ang Labor Arbiter at talo ang kompanya. Sa pagkakataong ito, sumagot na ang kompanya. Inapela nito sa NLRC (National Labor Relations Commission) ang desisyon ng Labor Arbiter dahil hindi raw nito natanggap ang summons kaya’t hindi nito nadaluhan ang mga hearing sa kaso.

Naniwala ang NLRC at pinawalang bisa nito ang desisyon ng Labor Arbiter sa kaso. Hindi raw maaring dinggin ng Labor Arbiter ang kaso dahil walang abiso ang kompanya at hindi nito natanggap ang summons na pinadala sa kanya. Si Jerry naman ngayon ang nagdala ng kaso sa Court of Appeals. Binaliktad naman ng Court of Appeals ang desisyon ng NLRC at sinabing tama lang ang ginawa ng Labor Arbiter. Hindi nag-aksaya ng panahon ang kompanya at dinala ang kaso sa Korte Suprema bilang pinakamataas na hukuman.

Panig kay Jerry ang naging hatol ng Korte Suprema.

Ayon sa Korte Suprema, nakasaad sa NLRC Rules of Procedure na dapat padalhan ng summons ng Labor Arbiter ang kompanya bago simulan ang pagdinig sa kaso laban dito. Maari niyang ipadala ang summons na ito sa pamamagitan ng registered mail o puwede din niya itong ipadala ng personal sa pamagitan ng kanyang mga tauhan. Kung ipadala niya ito sa pamagitan ng registered mail, kailangang aktwal na matanggap ito ng kompanya. Ganumpaman, kung hindi kinukuha ng kompanya ang summons para sa kanya sa loob ng limang araw pagkatapos itong abisohan ng postmaster, Ituturing ng batas na natanggap nito ang summons.

Napansin ng Korte Suprema ang tatak na “unclaimed” sa sobre ng summons. Napansin din ng Korte Suprema na binigyan ng post office ng unang notice at panghuling notice ang kompanya ngunit hindi pa rin nito kinukuha ang summons. Ibig sabihin, sinadyang hindi kunin ng kompanya sa post office ang summons para sa kanya.

Samakatuwid, sabi ng Korte Suprema, tinuturing ng batas na natanggap ng kompanya ang summons. Walang maaring sisihin ang kompanya kundi ang kanyuang sarili. May katuwiran ang Labor Arbiter sa pagpatuloy nang kanyang pagdinig sa kaso. Hindi maaring palusutin ang ginawang pag-iwas ng kompanya sa summons para hindi matuloy ang kaso.

Ibinasura ng Korte Suprema ang apela ng kompanya at dineklarang tama ang ginawang pagdesisyon ng Labor Arbiter sa kaso.

Konteksto: Huwag kang mag-blog kung…

October 3, 2008

Danilo Araña Arao

KAHIT na interesanteng pag-aralan ang iba’t ibang aspeto ng blogging, wala akong intensiyong magpakadalubhasa sa blog monetization.

Mahirap masikmura ng isang abang peryodistang katulad ko na may mga blogger sa kasalukuyan na pumapatol sa kung anu-anong iskema para kumita nang malaki (at dolyar pa) kahit na nakokompromiso na nila ang pagbibigay ng impormasyon sa mga online visitor at minsa’y lantaran pa ang panloloko.

Pero ngayon pa lang, kailangang maging malinaw na ang “panloloko” ay maaaring hindi intensiyonal. Ang mas dapat sisihin sa mga panlolokong ito ay ang mga ad network dahil ginawa nilang customizable ang kanilang mga patalastas para magmukhang bahagi ng laman ng isang blog.

Bagama’t dapat ding sisihin ang mga blogger na nagdidisenyo (o nagko-customize) ng mga patalastas bilang bahagi ng kanilang laman (e.g., blog entries), gusto kong isiping hindi pa nila lubusang naiintindihan ang etika ng blogging at ang dahilan ng kanilang pagba-blog.

Para sa mga hindi nakakaalam, maaaring kumita ang isang blogger kung may magki-click sa hyperlink ng mga patalastas sa kanyang blog. Maraming salik sa pagkompiyut ng halaga ng bawat click (at kahit ang paraan ng pagbabayad sa bloggers). Kung paniniwalaan ang ilang tinaguriang propesyonal na bloggers (o pro bloggers), may mga kumikita ng mahigit sampung libong dolyar bawat buwan (ayon sa 2006 survey ng ProBlogger.net) mula sa Google Adsense pa lang, isang pangunahing ad network sa kasalukuyan.

Ano naman ang masama sa kumita? Wala naman. Lahat naman tayo’y kailangan ng pera sa panahong mababa ang suweldo at mataas ng bilihin. Pero hindi ba’t may problema kung ang pagkita ng pera ay dahil sa panloloko?

Kung susuriin ang tips ng maraming ad network, ang layunin ng paglalagay ng kanilang mga patalastas ay para isipin ng online visitor na ang mga ito ay bahagi ng laman ng isang blog. Kahit na sabihing nakalagay naman ang katagang “Ads by Google,” halimbawa, puwede itong idisenyong hindi masyadong halata o masyadong maliit ang mga letra para hindi gaanong mabasa.

Sa konteksto ng disenyo, inirerekomenda ng mga ad network, halimbawa, na ilagay ang mga patalastas sa itaas na bahagi ng blog, kahit na ito ay nangangahulugang kinakain na ang espasyo para sa blog post. Ang katuwiran kasi ng mga ad network ay mas malaki ang tsansang may magki-click sa isang patalastas kung ito ang unang makikita.

Bukod sa mga patalastas, may mga kompanya ring handang magbayad ng sponsored posts. Siyempre’y gusto nilang positibo ang tono ng mga blog post tungkol sa kanila at kadalasa’y kinakailangang may mga katagang naka-hyperlink sa isang partikular na website. May mga pagkakataon pa ngang ang isang blog post ay dapat na tumugon sa itinakdang keyword density na kung saan ang ilang kataga ay dapat na mabanggit nang maraming beses. Kadalasa’y kinakailangan ding hindi banggitin sa anumang bahagi ng blog na ang naturang post ay “sponsored.”

Salamat sa kapitalismo, maraming mapanlikhang paraan para kumita sa blogosphere. Pero ang mga mapanlikhang paraang ito ay malinaw na tahasang panloloko sa mga online visitor. Dahil ang blogosphere ay bahagi ng public domain, kinakailangang maging responsable ang mga blogger sa pagbibigay ng tamang impormasyon sa publiko.

Hindi sapat na sabihing sila ay gumagawa ng media content para lang sa kanilang sarili, at lalong hindi puwedeng ikatwirang wala silang responsibilidad sa mga online visitor. Sa konteksto ng “panloloko,” hindi rin katanggap-tanggap ang sagot na sumusunod lang sila sa mga ad network hinggil sa epektibong paglalagay ng mga patalastas.

Kailangang tandaang ang panloloko ay hindi kailangang intensiyonal, at maraming kasong hindi alam ng mga indibidwal na hindi pala etikal ang kanilang ginagawa. Hindi porke’t matagal nang kalakaran at may malawak na pagsunod ng mga tao ay nangangahulugang etikal na ang isang gawi.

May mga nagbibitaw ng argumentong walang masama sa isang sponsored post kung gusto naman nila ang kanilang isinusulat. Dagdag pa nila: Ano ang pagkakaiba ng isang sponsored post sa isang artikulong binayaran ang isang peryodista?

Bilang peryodista, maniwala po kayong napakalaki ng kaibahan: Ang isang peryodista’y binibigyan lang ng paksang isusulat (at maaaring itakda rin ang haba ng artikulo), pero bahala na siya sa pagkalap ng mga datos at pagsusuri ng mga ito. Sa konteksto ng responsableng peryodismo, hindi siya dapat magpadala sa presyur mula sa iba’t ibang grupo para bigyan sila ng paborableng publisidad.

Batay sa aking pagsusuri sa iskema ng paid post websites tulad ng ReviewMe.com, ang simpleng pagsang-ayon ng isang blogger na gumawa ng sponsored post ay may awtomatikong pagtanggap ng mga imposisyon ng kompanyang handang magbayad nito.

Ano ba ang mas mahalaga sa isang blogger? Bakit ba siya pumasok sa blogging? Nais ba niyang mangalap ng salapi o magmulat ng nakararami? Intensiyon ba niyang manloko o magmulat ng mga tao?

Maraming dahilan para mag-blog, pero sana’y huwag maging pangunahing layunin ang kumita mula rito.

Para makipag-ugnayan sa awtor, pumunta sa www.dannyarao.com.

Himpilan ng US sa Zamboanga, tanda ng permanenteng presensiya

October 3, 2008

PARA kay Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, hindi nangangahulugan ng permanenteng presensiya ang paglabas-masok ng mga sundalong Amerikano sa bansa. “Just because laging nakikita, akala hindi na umaalis,” aniya sa pagdinig noong Setyembre 26 ng Legislative Oversight Committee on the Visiting Forces Agreement o Lovfa.

Pero isa pang opisyal ng gobyerno, si Hen. Edilberto Adan na tagapangulo ng Presidential Commission on the VFA, ang nagkumpirma sa parehong pagdinig na hindi na nga umaalis dito ang mga tropang Kano. Umano’y may 400 hanggang 600 sundalong Kano na naka-base sa Pilipinas sa “anumang takdang panahon.”

Muling dinedepensahan ng gobyerno ang VFA dahil sa paglabas ng mga ulat hinggil sa umano’y partisipasyon ng mga Kano sa mga operasyong militar sa Mindanao—gaya ng litrato ng isang sundalong may hawak na spy plane na inilathala ng Philippine Daily Inquirer sa kasagsagan ng giyera sa MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) noong nakaraang buwan.

Sinasabi ng gobyerno na naaayon ang VFA sa Konstitusyon, na nagbabawal ng pagbabase ng dayuhang militar sa bansa. Pinaninindigan nitong “bumibisita” lamang ang mga tropang Kano para ayudahan ang pagsasanay at modernisasyon ng AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines), at tulungan ang mahihirap at nasasalantang mga komunidad.

Pero tila permanenteng nagbabase na sa Zamboanga City ang Joint Special Operations Task Force – Philippines o JSOTF-P, isang espesyal na yunit ng US Special Forces – Pacific Command, ayon sa grupong Bayan (Bagong Alyansang Makabayan) at ilang lokal na opisyal ng gobyerno.

JSOTF-P nagbabase?

Noong Pebrero, binisita ng grupong Citizens Peace Watch ang himpilan ng JSOTF-P sa loob ng Camp Navarro ng Westmincom (Western Mindanao Command) ng AFP. Ayon sa grupo, “itinatago ito ng mga dingding, alambre, at sandbag. Hindi makita mula sa labas ang aktuwal nitong laki. Pero nakikita ang communication facilities nito gaya ng mga satellite dish, antenna, at iba pa.”

Itinaboy ang mga miyembro ng grupo. Sa liham na ipinadala ng JSOTF-P, sinabi nitong AFP ang nagbibigay ng awtorisasyon na makapasok. Pero nang makausap ng grupo si Capt. Vicente Enriquez ng Westmincom, sinabihan silang maging ang mga sundalong Pilipino, hindi nakakapasok sa himpilan nang walang paalam mula sa mga kumander ng US.

Ginawang JSOTF-P ang dating Joint Task Force 510 na dineploy ng gobyernong US para ng Balikatan 02-1, unang serye ng ehersisyong militar sa pagitan ng AFP at mga tropang Kano noong 2002. Ang JTF 510, sa ilalim ng US Special Operations Command Pacific, ay bahagi ng Operation Enduring Freedom o kampanya “kontra-terorismo” na inilunsad ng US sa iba’t ibang bansa.

Anim na taon nang inookupahan ng JSOTF-P ang mga istruktura sa loob ng Camp Navarro. Hinala ng Bayan, isa ito sa tinatawag na Forward Operating Sites ng US. Kaiba sa hayag na mga baseng militar gaya ng sa Subic, Zambales at Clark, Pampanga noon, ang mga FOS ay pinananatili diumanong “pleksible” at “sikreto” para hindi maging tampulan ng protesta at kontrobersiya.

Noong Hulyo, nagpulong sa Camp Navarro ang matataas na opisyal ng AFP at militar ng US, sa pangunguna ni Col. Bill Coultrup, kumander ng JSOTF-P. Itinago ito sa mga miyembro ng lokal na midya. Depensa ni Maj. Gen. Nelson Allaga, kumander ng Westmincom, “walang halaga sa midya” ang nasabing pagpupulong.

Binatikos ng CPP (Communist Party of the Philippines) ang pagtatakip sa nasabing pagpupulong gaya ng umano’y “pagtanggi ng JSOTF-P sa partisipasyon nito sa paniniktik, pagpapatrulya, at operasyong militar.” Isa ang CPP sa tinataguriang “teroristang grupo” ng gobyernong US.

Dalawang insidente ng umano’y pakikisangkot ng mga tropang Kano sa mga operasyong militar ang naiulat ngayong taon. Noong Pebrero 4, sinabi ng mga testigo sa lokal na midya na kabilang ang mga sundalong Kano sa yunit ng AFP na nag-opensiba sa Maimbung, Sulu. Ikinamatay ito ng pitong sibilyan. Naiulat naman ng isang pahayagan ng US na sugatan ang isang sundalong Kano sa ambus ng mga bandidong Abu Sayyaf sa konboy ng Philippine Marines noong Agosto 30.

Itinatanggi ang mga insidenteng ito kapwa ng mga opisyal-militar ng US at AFP. Itinatanggi rin nilang naniniktik ang mga tropang Kano laban sa mga kaaway ng Estado. Ang inamin lamang ni Rebecca Thompson, information officer ng embahada ng US, nagsasagawa ng aerial surveillance ang US para alamin ang kondisyon ng mga kalsada at imapa ang tereyn. Gagamitin lang umano ang impormasyon para sa mga proyektong sibiko.

Pinalawak na operasyon

Pero hindi lamang pagsasanay militar at proyektong sibiko ang pakay ng gobyernong US sa Mindanao. Ayon sa ulat ng United States Institute for Peace o USIP noong Pebrero, may ispesipikong mga target ang mga tropang Kano kabilang na ang “tinatawag na lost commands ng MILF.” Nagsasagawa umano ang JSOTF-P ng “pinalawak” (expanded) na operasyong militar para bigyan ng paniniktik, pagsasanay, at kagamitan ang AFP.

Naging posible, ayon sa Bayan, ang operasyon ng JSOTF-P dahil sa “malabong” (vague) probisyon sa VFA hinggil sa dami, dalas at tagal ng pananatili, at sakop ng aktibidad ng mga tropang Kano. Lampas din umano ito sa saklaw ng Mutual Logistical Support Agreement o MLSA, kasunduan para sa pagbibigay ng suportang materyal sa mga sundalong Kano sa Pilipinas.

“Ano ang mga termino at kondisyon sa operasyon ng mga pasilidad na inookupahan ng US? Mayroon bang mga ulat at dokumento hinggil sa tinakbo nito sa nakaraang anim na taon? Paano umiiral dito ang batas ng Pilipinas?” tanong ng Bayan sa position paper na isinumite sa Lovfa.

Maging ang mga lokal na opisyal ng gobyerno sa Zamboanga City, kinukuwestiyon na rin ang mga pasilidad ng US. Kamakailan, sumulat si Cesar Bayabos, direktor ng Air Transportation Office doon, sa mga opisyal-militar ng US para ireklamo ang pagpapalawak sa kanilang istruktura sa loob ng airport.

Bukod sa himpilan ng JSOTF-P sa Camp Navarro, itinayo at pinatatakbo ng militar ng US sa siyudad ang air asset facility sa Zamboanga City International Airport, daungan sa Majini Pier sa Naval Forces ng Westmincom, at training facility sa Camp Arturo Enrile sa Malagutay.

Nananawagan ang iba’t ibang mga grupo na tumututol sa presensiya ng mga tropang Kano sa Mindanao na isapubliko ang ToR (Terms of Refence) para sa Balikatan Exercises. Huling nagkaroon ng kasulatan hinggil sa dami at saklaw ng aktibidad ng mga tropang Kano sa bansa noong 2002. Ayon sa Bayan, bagaman maraming kuwestiyunableng aktibidad ang mga tropang Kano sa bansa simula noon, hindi ito nakokompronta dahil walang malinaw na ToR at puno ng mga butas ang VFA.

Tuloy ang ‘bisita’

Noong Set. 16, dininig ng Korte Suprema ang oral arguments hinggil sa mga petisyon laban sa Konstituysunalidad ng siyam-na- taong VFA. Pero hanggang wala pa itong desisyon, tuloy ang paglabas-masok ng “bumibisitang” mga tropang Kano na tila may regular nang pinaglalagiang mga base sa Zamboanga City.

Sa ika-50 pulong ng RP-US Mutual Defense Board at ikatlong pulong ng Security Engagement Board noong Set. 26, lumagda muli ang gobyernong US at Pilipinas ng mga kasunduan hinggil sa magkatuwang na mga aktibidad ng mga tropang Kano at AFP para sa 2009.

Sa harap ng Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City, ipinrotesta ang pagpupulong ng iba’t ibang mga grupo, pero agad silang itinaboy at binatuta ng mga awtoridad. Galit at disgustado sa dispersal, anila’y sana mga sundalong Amerikano na lamang ang pinalalayas ng gobyernong Arroyo.

Editorial Cartoon: (Local Politics) Rats!

October 2, 2008


Bayan to Arroyo: Give Categorical Statement Vs Term Extension

October 2, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Philippine Military Told: Justify P10-B Additional Budget

October 2, 2008

MANILA, PHILIPPINES — Minority Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today said the minority bloc in the Senate is sympathetic to the request of defense officials to augment the budget of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to beef up its fighting capability against insurgencies and fast- track the goal to attain permanent peace.

Pimentel said they will thoroughly look into the proposal submitted by Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, Jr. for an additional Pl0 billion for the AFP budget for 2009, which amounts to a l7.7 percent increase in the P56.5 billion already earmarked for the military under the national budget submitted by Malacanang to Congress.

He pointed out that the eight-man Senate minority bloc had in fact earlier urged the executive branch to submit a supplementary budget to enable the AFP to purchase much-needed firearms and to recruit additional troops following the outbreak of armed hostilities in several areas in Central and Muslim Mindanao as an offshoot of the government’s decision not to sign the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) last month.

“We want to look at the specific requests of the AFP in terms of the armaments, equipment and other logistics, as well as manpower that they need,” the minority leader said.

According to Secretary Teodoro, the additional funding will be used to recruit more soldiers, repair ships and helicopters and buy more ammunition.

Pimentel, however, said that Pl0 billion is too big an augmentation fund for one department or instrumentality of government. He said it would be very difficult to grant the full amount requested considering that Congress is not allowed by the Constitution to increase the national budget beyond the level proposed by the President.

He pointed out that whatever extra fund that can be infused into the AFP will be derived from the amounts deducted from other agencies or appropriation items in the budget bill.

For this reason, Pimentel said it may be more practical for Malacanang to propose a supplemental budget for the AFP for the current fiscal year. He said the only question is whether the House of Representatives and the Senate can still accommodate the passage of the supplemental budget since they are now both deliberating on the proposed Pl.4 trillion national budget for 2009.

“But if an additional funding is extremely necessary to meet essential expenses of the AFP, I believe that the senators and congressmen will exert extra efforts to approve a supplemental budget. That, I suppose, will depend on the justification to be given by Malacanang and defense officials,” he said.

Pimentel noted for instance, the urgency of providing funds for the repair of some cargo aircraft after one of the two C-130 cargo planes of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) crashed into the sea in Southern Mindanao last month while airlifting soldiers and relief goods for people displaced by the armed conflict.

He said the executive branch will also have to set aside funds for the purchase of a new or second-hand military cargo plane to solve the PAF’s cargo transport problem. (PStar)

Decriminalizing Libel Should Go Hand in Hand With Right to Reply — Pimentel

October 2, 2008

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. today urged Congress to stop dilly-dallying on the bill decriminalizing libel which has been proposed a long time ago to make the law less harsh for journalists who are punished for reports that are unfair and defamatory to certain individuals.

Pimentel said while the Supreme Court has spared journalists from jail terms in its recent decisions involving libel cases, the fate of the measure to decriminalize libel remains uncertain in both the Senate and House of Representatives.

However, he said he is glad that the Senate committee on constitutional amendments and revision of laws has started public hearings on the proposal.

The minority leader said the justification for the decriminalization of libel has been strengthened when Chief Justice Reynato Puno early this year issued a circular advising judges all over the country to refrain from imposing jail sentences on journalists and other persons convicted of libel.

The Chief Justice in his circular noted that in most libel cases, journalists made mistakes with honest intentions. Therefore, he said journalists who commit such offense need not be penalized with imprisonment and the payment of a fine “would already satisfy the intent of the law to punish the culprit.”

Pimentel said Puno stated that the circular was meant to be an “interim measure” to aid members of the judiciary in handling libel suits pending the passage by Congress of the law decriminalizing libel.

“The Puno circular should help legislators in resolving doubts over the propriety of modifying the country’s outmoded libel law,” Pimentel said.

Libel is defined under the Revised Penal Code as “a public and malicious imputation of a crime, vice or defect, whether real or not, tending to cause the dishonor of a person or to blacken the memory of the dead.”

Pimentel stressed that the decriminalization of libel should go hand in hand with a related measure: the right of reply that can be availed of by people who are unduly criticized or maligned by the media.

The measure is embodied in Senate Bill 2l50 which has already been approved on third and final reading by the Senate but is still awaiting passage by the House.

The bill provides that “all persons who are accused directly or indirectly of any crime or offense or are criticized by innuendo or rumor for any lapse in behavior in public or private life shall have the right to reply to the charges published in newspapers and other publications or to criticisms over radio, television, website or through any electrical device.”

Some members of the media are wary of the right to reply proposal for fear that it may infringe on their discretion to decide on what items to publish or air in the newspapers or broadcast networks.

“The bill will in fact widen the freedom of expression by obliging the media to provide space to the response and explanation of persons to media reports or commentaries that are inaccurate, unfair or biased against them and injurious to their reputation,” Pimentel pointed out.

He said the publication or airing of the side of the aggrieved parties will enhance the credibility of the media outfits concerned and at the same time eliminate a source of friction or conflict that will cause troubles to the journalists concerned.

Such conflict, according to Pimentel, usually prompts the aggrieved parties to file a libel case against the defaulting journalists. But in extreme cases, he said the offended persons, especially if they are moneyed and powerful, go to the extent of hiring mercenaries to harass or even kill the journalists.

Ultimately, he said it is the media practitioners themselves who will benefit from the enactment of the right of reply. (PinoyPress)

Arroyo and Bush Share Same Economic Philosophy

October 2, 2008

By Renato M. Reyes, Jr.
BAYAN Secretary General

Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and George W. Bush share the same economic philosophy. “In times of crisis, pass the burden to the people.”

It is therefore no surprise why Mrs. Arroyo is supportive of the $700 billion bailout plan of the Bush administration. The Bush proposal would make the American taxpayers pay for billions of bad debts that have been plaguing and clogging the US financial markets. The Bush regime is unjustly forcing the public to clean up the mess that was created by Wall Street itself.

Not long ago, Mrs. Arroyo employed the same economic philosophy when she pushed for an increase and expansion of coverage of the Value Added Tax. The argument then was that the country was facing a fiscal crisis and so taxes had to be raised. The burden of resolving the fiscal crisis was placed squarely on the consumers, many of whom come from the poor. This happened despite government’s own shortcomings with regards to tax collection and corruption.

Social justice and accountability are concepts lost on Bush and Arroyo. The Bush regime refuses to punish the finance speculators on Wall Street who were themselves responsible for the sub-prime mortgage crisis. The Bush regime has refused to acknowledge the failures of deregulation. It has opted for the easy way out which simply means passing the burden to the people.

The Arroyo regime on the other hand has refused to take responsibility for the failed economic policies that have resulted in a fiscal crisis, on top of massive poverty, unemployment and inflation. It sees that for the Philippines to waddle through the crisis, people have to shell out more in taxes.
The Arroyo regime claims that the Philippines is insulated from the crisis because of OFW remittances continue to shore up the country’s finances. However, this phenomenon has nothing to do with the claim of strong economic fundamentals. If anything, the country’s dependence on OFW’s to provide the much needed foreign exchange shows the domestic economy’s fundamental weakness.

The government admission of lower growth targets, slower export growth as well as vulnerabilities in foreign direct investments and speculative investments show that the Philippines is not totally shielded from the US financial meltdown.

Mrs. Arroyo has shown herself a supporter of the Bush bailout of bankrupt private banks. We ask her, if the Filipino people should file for bankruptcy, would she bail them out as well? ### (PinoyPress)

PLCPD Cries Foul Over ‘Malicious Attacks’ Vs Repro Health Bill

October 2, 2008

The Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development Foundation, Inc. (PLCPD) took offense to the attacks being peddled by groups and personalities opposing the passage of House Bill 5043 or the Reproductive Health and Population Development bill. “PLCPD is a legitimate NGO made up of members of Congress. We are advocating for the RH bill solely for the improvement of women’s health and to uphold freedom of informed choice,” Ramon San Pascual, Executive Director PLCPD, clarified. “That is all there is to it. There is no hidden agenda behind this campaign.”

Among the false charges hauled against PLCPD is that it is a foreign agent illegally influencing policymaking in Congress. “We would like to reiterate that PLCPD was organized in 1989 by senators and congress members who are committed to pursue pro-poor policies and our track record can prove our commitment for human development legislation,” San Pascual said.

Among the important human development laws that PLCPD supported and championed in recent years are Cheaper Medicines Act, Juvenile Justice Act, Abolition of Death Penalty, Solid Waste Management Act, Solo Parents Act, Anti-trafficking of Persons, Anti-violence Against Women and Children, Clean Air Act, Local Government Code, Anti-Sexual Harassment Law, Anti-Rape Law, Women in Nation-Building Act, Magna Carta for the Working Child, Magna Carta for Senior Citizens, Family Code and Early Child Care and Development Act, Anti-Smoking Act and Clean Water Act, among others.

Like a typical Philippine NGO, PLCPD sources its project funds through foreign grants, particularly from American foundations and European church-related organizations. Although diverse in types and durations, all development projects of PLCPD fall within its mandate of “improved quality of life through human development legislation.”

San Pascual stressed that PLCPD cannot claim sole ownership for what the Reproductive Health bill has achieved in terms of raising awareness among the public and policy makers on the perils that the lack of such policy has brought to the country. “The opponents are giving us too much credit when in fact, the credit for the high success of this campaign is shared among many civil society organizations, represented by Reproductive Health Advocacy Network, and many groups in the business sector, government agencies, academe, interfaith community, women’s organizations across the country, and of course the courageous authors and champions in both chambers of Congress,” San Pascual added.

Despite the intensified counter-advocacy of the anti-RH bill groups, San Pascual is optimistic that the RH bill will see victory in the 14th Congress. “Their savage attacks and misinformation campaign confirm the oppositions are running out of arguments on the issue. It will not be long that more of our policymakers can see their malicious intent and realize the significance and urgency of passing this measure.”=##(PinoyPress)

US Financial Crisis: The Philippines’s Economic Debacle

October 2, 2008

Having produced only disastrous results, economic management can no longer be left in the hands of an elite corps of bureaucrats and technocrats who ape lock, stock and barrel models purposely to make corporate profits bigger at the expense of workers, farmers, and other marginal sectors.

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

September 29, 2008

The opposing views proliferating in the media on whether the U.S. financial meltdown will have an extensive impact on the Philippine economy are expected and time may help settle this debate. By zeroing on the element of “impact”, however, these divergent views – voiced largely by economic authorities, bankers, and financial analysts – only miss the truth about the country’s economic anchors, a core issue that is hardly touched every time a financial crisis in the U.S. happens. They forget that neo-liberalism, enforced in most parts of the world by U.S.-led global capitalism, has left billions of people more marginalized and their lives more miserable by the day.

The Philippine economy has been fettered by prolonged unequal ties with its former colonial master – the U.S. – and by being made an appendage to global capitalism. This imbalanced relationship takes its roots, among others, in post-war onerous impositions, one-sided trade agreements, bitter debt payment programs, and unilaterally-enforced credit arrangements.

At the heart of this historical imposition is the Philippine presidency and its economic generals who have perpetuated this unequal relationship for decades, keeping the Philippines always at the receiving end of global capitalism’s periodic crisis. The current U.S. financial crisis – a result of the unregulated speculative financial sector leading to a housing mortgage mess and credit crunch – should compel everyone to reject this inherently disastrous economic model and work toward an independent, people-oriented economic policy.

“Dark age”

To begin with, the Arroyo government is lying through its teeth when it assures the business community not to fear as the country will ride out America’s financial meltdown even if this has all the makings of a second Great Depression or what European groups call a modern “dark age.” However, as early as January this year, even the International Monetary Fund (IMF) foresaw the Philippines and the rest of Southeast Asia – and other developing regions – as bearing the brunt of the global impact from a major economic slowdown in the U.S. The recession, the Fund said, will trigger a stiffer export competition from China at the expense of the Philippines and other export-driven countries in the region such as Thailand, Indonesia, and Vietnam.

Making a similar forecast, the economic intelligence center Euromonitor projected that the Philippines and other countries in Southeast Asia heavily dependent on exports to the U.S. will be hit by the economic slowdown as the export demand by the world’s biggest economy declines.

Indeed, the U.S. remains a major destination for Philippine exports. About 20 percent of the country’s exports go directly to the U.S. Another 50 percent of the exports go to Japan, China, Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan, and Malaysia but these are actually components assembled into products that end up in the U.S. market. All these mean that cuts on the U.S. export demand could be potentially devastating to 70 percent of the country’s exports.

Aside from export manufacturing, highly dependent on the U.S. market are the information technology-enabled industry and the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector. In 2005 these accounted for 90 percent of BPO export revenues and over two-thirds of foreign equity.

At the receiving end

Each time the U.S. economy tumbles, the Philippines and the rest of the world are bumped aside. Being in the clutches of the U.S. economic hegemony since colonial times, however, the Philippines is at the receiving end of the crisis of capitalism that America passes on to small, developing countries and emerging economies.

To recall, America bought the Philippines from Spain at the end of the 19th century in the period of U.S. capitalist expansion and its conquests for market, cheap labor, and raw materials in Asia Pacific. A strong lobby mounted by U.S. producers against Philippine exports during the Great Depression of the 1930s led to the transition that ended with the granting of independence.

But the grant of independence in 1946 was conditioned upon onerous agreements that tied the Philippines to a “free trade” allowing the unrestricted entry of U.S. exports with parity rights for American citizens to exploit the country’s natural wealth, and own properties and strategic industries. Emerging from the war in control of more than half of the global wealth and awash with trade surpluses, America had to keep the Philippines and other countries in its grip where it could dump its excess commodities, exploit their cheap raw materials, expand finance capital operations, and extend a new-found military hegemony. Accordingly, national security doctrines during the period emphasized the importance of maintaining a pro-U.S. government in the Philippines that would guarantee America’s over-arching economic and military objectives.

Over the next 60 years, the Philippines’ economic dependence on the U.S. gave birth to treaties and policies allowing the entrenchment of U.S. strategic enterprises and investments, the export of raw commodities, heavy reliance on foreign investments, and the elimination of protectionism. This neo-colonial structure maintained the system of landlordism and a bourgeoisie that depended on the plunder of natural resources and export of cheap raw commodities. As a result, the local economy became lethargic and generally backward, unable to shield itself from the rise and fall of an increasingly globalized economy where modern agriculture, a strong industrial base, and protective barriers are the keys to survival.

Bitter prescriptions

Imbalanced trade, a weak manufacturing base, and heavy borrowings further resulted in the accumulation of foreign debt that made successive and corrupt administrations accommodating to bitter economic pills prescribed by the IMF and World Bank. Under the regime of the structural adjustment program (SAP), up to 50 percent of the national budget went to automatic debt servicing, regressive taxes were increased while social services were reduced, and strategic public corporations went to private hands many of them TNCs.

The government’s commitment to globalization and World Trade Organization (WTO) led to the deregulation of the oil industry. Import liberalization displaced the country’s small producers while tens of thousands of workers lost their regular jobs due to labor-only contract system.

These economic policies took shape in the midst of the periodic crisis of contemporary capitalism battering the U.S. and other capitalist countries. Holding neo-liberalism with a sacred aura, the country’s economic strategists laughed off criticisms from progressive groups that this “new” capitalist paradigm was designed to bring relief to the leading capitalist economies at the expense of the Philippines along with other emerging economies.

Champions of neo-liberal globalization have shown no empirical evidence to support their claim of “equal playing field” and economic growth. On the contrary, neo-liberalism has lost its appeal as it has only widened the gap between rich and poor the world over. Today, nearly three billion people – half the world’s population – are living on less than two dollars a day. Conversely, the richest 2 percent of adults in the world own more than half of global household wealth.

Poverty and unemployment

Here at home, claims of economic growth based on GDP cannot hide the unprecedented increase in the number of poor Filipinos by three million (2003-2006), with the total conservative number of poor now 27 million. Current increases in the prices of oil and food products aggravated by the adverse impact of the U.S. meltdown will likely increase the number of poor several times in the coming years. Meantime, about 4.1 million people are jobless with the country facing a 10.8 percent underemployment record in 2007. At least 3,000 Filipinos leave the country everyday in search of jobs abroad. There are other grim statistics about the Philippines human development rating that will make it hard to see any positive signs of success attributed to government’s neo-liberal policies.

The management of the country’s economy is a serious responsibility that should be grounded on the people’s rights and well-being, above all else. Having produced only disastrous results, economic management can no longer be left in the hands of an elite corps of bureaucrats and technocrats who ape lock, stock and barrel models purposely to make corporate profits bigger at the expense of workers, farmers, and other marginal sectors.

Clearly, the most recent financial crisis in the U.S. has dealt a mortal blow to the failed but deadly practices of neo-liberalism the world over and undoubtedly lays the groundwork for the crafting of alternative policies more responsive to the needs of the powerless and marginalized in our societies. We can start right here in our country by working for the end of the destructive and rapacious rule by the elite and building people-centered democratic governance. (PinoyPress)

ADB Grants 12-Billion-Peso Loan to Philippines to Fix Fiscal, Governance Problems

October 2, 2008

MANILA, PHILIPPINES – The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is extending a $250 million loan to strengthen the policy reform initiatives of the Philippine government for fiscal management, investment climate and social sectors.

The loan is a second of a three-part Development Policy Support Program (DPSP) aimed at helping the Philippines achieve its medium-term development goals. The first DPSP loan was approved in February 2007.

Since then, the Philippine government has implemented a series of measures to address the fiscal imbalance, resulting in improvement in the fiscal situation and macroeconomic stability. These measures provided much needed funds for increased spending on the social sector and infrastructure in 2007. The measures also contributed to the Philippines’ best macroeconomic performance in over 30 years.

However, the surge in commodity prices in early 2008, volatility in US financial markets, and the economic slowdown in developed economies have negatively affected the Philippine economy, with a sharper-than-expected slowdown in GDP growth and a spike in inflation to a 17-year high level in August.

“Despite the negative impact, the Philippine economy has weathered the external shocks well compared to some of our other member economies, and also compared to previous external shocks to the Philippines economy,” said Kelly Bird, an Economist in ADB’s Southeast Asia Department. “This resiliency is due to the government’s commitment to fiscal discipline and key reforms including tax reforms, especially on VAT, the absence of fuel subsidies in the national budget, previous trade reforms and synchronized fiscal and monetary policies.”

The external shocks will challenge the government’s resolve to maintain fiscal and macroeconomic stability and performance. At the same time, it is important to protect spending in the social sectors to help poor and vulnerable families, and achieve the country’s longer term development objectives.

“Responding to the recent developments in the global economy, the second loan addresses these issues through greater flexibility in fiscal policy in 2008 and 2009, further enhancement in tax revenue collection, and support for the government’s conditional and targeted cash transfer program currently piloted as a way to mitigate the worst effects of these shocks to the poor,” Mr. Bird added.

The conditional cash transfer program and broader social protection reforms are important as ADB preliminary research shows only about one third of the poor have access to social assistance.

The DPSP also includes a set of measures to strengthen the investment climate with focus on reducing red tape, support for infrastructure policy and rural development.

A policy and advisory technical assistance grant of $800,000 is included in the loan, to support public expenditure reform initiatives at the Department of Budget and Management. This will be a multi-year exercise over a three-year period.

The third DPSP loan is expected to be processed in 2009 and submitted for ADB Board consideration upon the completion of the second loan.(PinoyPress)

3.5-B Peso Contract Prolongs Mindanao Stay of US Forces

October 2, 2008

International think-tank bares: US military base construction unit awards P3.5 billion contract for work in Mindanao; award part of multi-billion peso contract lasting until 2012

MANILA – On the eve of a congressional inspection of US military facilities in Mindanao, Focus on the Global South, a Bangkok-based international research institute, today announced that the US Department of Defense (DOD) has awarded an additional $77-million (around P3.5 billion) for support services to the US Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P) which has been stationed in Mindanao continuously since 2002.[i]

The new contracts have been posted in the DOD’s website: http://www.defenselink.mil/contracts/contract.aspx?contractid=3872

The two relevant entries read as follows:

DynCorp International LLC, Fort Worth, Texas, is being awarded $44,259,606 which provides for exercise of the first option period under a cost-plus-award-fee contract with award options to provide support services for Philippines operations support in the Republic of the Philippines for the Joint Special Operations Task Force – Philippines. The current total contract amount after exercise of this option will be $202,116,113. Work will be performed in the Republic of the Philippines, and work is expected to be completed Sept. 30, 2009. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Pacific, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, is the contracting activity (N62742-08-C-1115).

DynCorp International LLC, Fort Worth, Texas, is being awarded a $34,154,949 cost-plus-award-fee modification to increase the maximum dollar value of a cost-plus-award-fee contract to provide support services for Philippines operations support in the Republic of the Philippines for the Joint Special Operations Task Force – Philippines. Work will be performed in the Republic of the Philippines, and is expected to be completed by Sept. 2012. Contract funds in the amount of $655,223 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Pacific, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, is the contracting activity (contract number N62742-08-C-1115).

As stated above, another $202-million (or around P9.3-billion) more appear to be part of the total contract, parts of which may eventually be awarded later. This amount is about one-fifth of the total 2008 budget of the Philippine military and is more than half of the Philippine’s Department of Health.

The announcement above indicates that the JSOTF-P – for which no exit date has been set – will stay on at least until September 2012.

The US military’s Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) was listed as the “contracting activity”.

According to its own website, the NAVFAC is the unit within the US military that is in charge of providing the US Navy with “operating, support, and training bases.” It “manages the planning, design, and construction and provides public works support for US Naval shore installations around the world.” Among their business lines are “bases development” and “contingency engineering.”

It cannot be immediately ascertained, whether the new contracts are part of or separate from the DOD contracts awarded last June 2007, which Focus on the Global South also publicized.

NAVFAC had then also awarded a six-month $14.4-million contract to a certain “Global Contingency Services LLC” of Irving, Texas for “operations support” for the JSOTF-P.

According to the contractor’s website, this will include “facility operations and maintenance; air operations; port operations; health care; supply and warehousing; galley; housing support; emergency services; security, fire, and rescue; vehicle equipment; and incidental construction.”[ii] Contingency Response Services LLC describes its work as encompassing “operating forces support,” “community support,” and “base support.”[iii] According to the Defense Industry Daily publication, the contract also includes “morale, welfare, and recreation support.”[iv]

In reaction to Focus’ publicizing of the contracts then, the US embassy admitted that the US military was building structures for “medical, logistical, and administrative services,” and facilities for US troops “to eat sleep and work.” The Philippines’ Visiting Forces Agreement Commission also admitted for the first time that the US maintains “living quarters” and stocks supplies in the Philippines.[v]

US troops themselves refer to their facility in Sulu as “Advance Operating Base 920.”[vi] They describe their mission in the South as “unconventional warfare” and “counterinsurgency.”[vii]

{REFERENCE: Herbert Docena, +63 917 887 4372, +63 2 433 0899, herbert@focusweb.org}

[i] US Department of Defense, “Contracts – September 29, 2008,” http://www.defenselink.mil/contracts/contract.aspx?contractid=3872

[ii] Press Release, “DynCorp International and JV Partners Win $450 million NAVFAC Contract,” DynCorp International, November 2, 2006, http://www.dyn-intl.com/subpage.aspx?id=197

[iii] “Contingency Response Services,” DynCorp International, http://www.dyn-intl.com/subpage.aspx?id=204

[iv] Defense Industry Daily, “$14.4M to help US SOCOM in the Philippines,” June 8, 2007, http://www.defenseindustrydaily.com/?s=philippines; Ethan Butterfield, “DynCorp lands $450M Navy Contingency Services Deal,” Washington Technology, November 3, 2006; http://www.washingtontechnology.com/online/1_1/29650-1.htm

[v] “US denies building bases in Mindanao,” GMANews.tv, August 24, 2007; Veronica Uy, “VFACom Chief Denies US Bases in Mindanao,” Inquirer.net, August 24, 2007

[vi] T.D. Flack, “Special Operations Force aiding an important ally,” Stars and Stripes, March 10, 2007, http://stripes.com/article.asp?section=104&article=43138&archive=true

[vii] Col. David Maxwell, “Operation Enduring Freedom-Philippines: What Would Sun-Tzu Say” Military Review, May-June 2005; Members of the 1st Special Forces Group, “The History of the 1st SF Group in the Philippines: 1957-2002,” Special Warfare, June 2002; C.H. Briscoe, “Why the Philippines: ARSOF’s Expanded Mission in the War on Terror’”, Special Warfare, September 2002 (PinoyPress)

US defense deparment awards $77.5-M contracts for Mindanao operations

October 2, 2008

By Jaime Laude
Thursday, October 2, 2008


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The United States government has approved and awarded two defense contracts amounting to $77.5 million (roughly P3.5 billion) to support the continued stay and operations of its forces deployed in the Philippines.

Focus on the Global South, a Bangkok-based international research institute, said the approved contracts also included $202 million (roughly P9.3 billion), which could be awarded later.

On its website, the US Department of Defense said DynCorp International LLC in Fort Worth, Texas was awarded a contract worth $44,259,606 to provide support services for the Philippine operations of the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P).

“The current total contract amount after exercise of this option will be $202,116,113. Work will be performed in the Republic of the Philippines, and work is expected to be completed Sept. 30, 2009,” the website stated.

“Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Pacific, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, is the contracting activity (N62742-08-C-1115),” it added.

The US defense department further said that DynCorp International was also awarded a $34,154,949 “cost-plus-award-fee modification to increase the maximum dollar value of a cost-plus-award-fee contract” to provide support services for the operations of JSOTF-P.

The contract is expected to be completed by September 2012.

“Contract funds in the amount of $655,223 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year,” the website said, adding that the Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Pacific in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, is also the “contracting activity.”

DynCorp International, on its website, described itself as a maritime and avionic specialist with ongoing US-funded military projects in war-torn Afghanistan.

Retired Army general Edilberto Adan, chairman of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) Commission, could not be reached for comment.

The Department of National Defense, for its part, said the contracts are internal between the US defense department and its private contractor.

“(We’re out of it). What is important is they should abide by the rules, pursuant to approved activities while they are here,” lawyer Nelson Victorino said on behalf of Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro.

Focus on the Global South said the contracts only mean that the US government intends to prolong the stay of its troops in the Philippines.

US servicemen are deployed mostly in the Zamboanga Peninsula, Sulu, Basilan, Tawi-Tawi, Davao, Sarangani and General Santos City.

Cause-oriented groups have raised a howl over the continued presence of the US troops, saying this is in violation of the Constitution.

They also accused the US servicemen of being involved in actual combat operations against terror groups such as the Abu Sayyaf and the Jemaah Islamiyah, an al-Qaeda-link regional terror cell based in Indonesia.

But the Armed Forces of the Philippines belied this, saying the American troops are engaged in humanitarian and civil-military operations in depressed communities in Mindanao, aside from providing technical support to ground troops. – With Pia Lee-Brago (PStar)

Plunder raps filed vs Villar over P1.5-B loan

October 2, 2008

Thursday, October 2, 2008


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Senate President Manuel Villar was charged with plunder before the Office of the Ombudsman for the alleged failure of his family’s bank to pay a P1.5-billion loan with the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).

In response, Villar’s office said a similar case had been dismissed “for lack of palpable merit” by the Office of the Ombudsman in 2006.

“Clearly, therefore, this case is a rehash, recycled strategy,” read the statement.

Villar’s lawyer Ma. Nalen Rosero-Galang said this was a case of double jeopardy.

“Imagine, a previously dismissed case resurrected to suit the moment,” she said.

“How can a second plunder case be filed anew by a new set of complainants involving the same property?

“We therefore ask: Who are these people? Who are behind them? What are their motives? Even for the sake of argument that there was merit in the second complaint, the farmers should first establish their ownership of the 483-hectare property before the regional trial court.

“Like any other business concern, the Capitol Bank was not spared by the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s. As a result, the bank was forced to seek an emergency loan from the BSP in 1998.

“In return, the Capitol Bank assigned to the BSP its receivables and other collaterals in the form of real estate properties. This is in conformity with the BSP requirements and existing applicable laws and regulations.”

A group of farmers from Norzagaray, Bulacan said they charged Senator Villar with plunder in his capacity as stockholder of the family-owned Optimum Development Bank (formerly Capitol Development Bank).

Their lawyers said Senator Villar was charged with plunder because the BSP loan to the bank “involved public funds which was more than P50 million and that the securing of the unpaid loan was done through a series of loans and transactions.”

Named co-respondent was Villar’s wife, Las Piñas Rep. Cynthia Villar, ODB president.

Others charged were Anacordita Magno, ODB first vice president; Arturo de los Santos, ODB executive vice president; and Andres Rustia, BSP Department of Loans and Credit, and Asset Management Department managing director.

In their complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman last Sept. 26, the farmers said that Representative Villar and Magno – in their capacity as bank executives – managed to secure a loan from the BSP amounting to almost P1.5 billion – P1.17 billion on April 22, 1998 and P332 million on April 24, 1998.

Based on the promissory notes signed by Rep. Villar and Magno, they promised to pay their loan after six months at an interest rate of 14.957 percent per annum, according to the complaint.

However, the complaint said the bank failed to pay the loan and a deed of real estate mortgage on a 485-hectare agricultural land in Norzagaray, Bulacan was entered into by the bank and Manila Brickworks, Inc., represented by De los Santos, in favor of the BSP, represented by Rustia.

“Records show that Lots 1-9 titles of the real estate mortgage were issued through the relocation plan of Lots 1-9 Sc-11202-D as surveyed for Palmera Homes, Inc. dated April 27, 1995. Palmera Homes is one of the many subdivisions owned by Senator Villar and his wife, Cynthia,” read the complaint.

The farmers are disputing ownership of the 484-hectare land before the Malolos Regional Trial Court.

“But it was only in 2007 that the complainant-farmers learned about the so-called nine transfer certificate of titles (TCT) covering the 484 hectares of land which is now being claimed by the BSP as their property after the foreclosure proceedings it conducted against the CDB,” the farmers said in a statement.

“The complainant-farmer learned about the BSP’s claim when they filed before the Malolos RTC a reconstitution of their land titles after the records of land titles in Norzagaray were burned in a fire that destroyed the building which houses the Registry of Deeds.”

In the case before the Bulacan RTC, the farmers questioned the TCTs in the BSP’s possession since the date of issuance of the sales patent on July 17, 1944 and the date of issuance of the original certificate title on July 25, 1944 “took place when there was no civil government in the Philippines,” which was then under Japanese occupation.

At the Senate, Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, Nacionalista Party secretary-general, said they would like the proper committees to handle the investigation into the charges against Villar.

“I think all the businesses of Senator Villar are declared and they are easy to see,” he said.

“But he will not be the only one to answer all the cases against him but his companies as well.”

‘Palace can’t wash its hands’

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. said yesterday Malacañang could not wash its hands of the issue of double funding for the C-5 Road extension project since it was responsible for the disbursement of government funds.

“When the first appropriation was released out of the two funds for the same project, they said the other one was put on hold, meaning savings,” he said.

“Who uses savings? The one who holds the money. Maybe (we should) ask the President to assure the people she’ll not misuse the money for purposes for which it was not intended.”

Former budget secretary Benjamin Diokno said the funds could even be used for the 2010 national elections.

“Like what they did in public works in the 2008 budget, P17 billion was added by the congressmen and senators, while P9 billion was cut from foreign-assisted projects,” he said.

“You can release that in the last quarter of 2009 in time for the first quarter of 2010,” he said.

Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago said she would file a bill to promote transparency and accountability in passing the budget.

“In 2009, President Arroyo may release these P11.5-billion insertions,” she said.

“By 2010, each project may continue to be implemented. Hence, I strongly suspect that most of these secret projects are going to be used by incumbent legislators for the 2010 elections.”

At Malacañang, Press Secretary Jesus Dureza and Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya Jr. debunked claims that the Palace could benefit from the double allocation, since the P200 million added on could become part of President Arroyo’s discretionary funds.

Andaya said the controversy should be kept in the Senate and that the charge that Mrs. Arroyo would use the savings for other purposes was pure speculation and an attempt to muddle the issue.

“While the search for truth on the C-5 issue touches on aspects of budget execution, it is, however, unfair to make the Office of the President part of collateral damage of an intra-chamber dispute,” he said.

Andaya said DBM did not release the P200 million after discovering the double allocation.

Malacañang could not use the “impounded” P200 million for political gains, he added.

Those responsible “should face the music and must not bail out by blaming others for the mistake they committed,” Andaya said. – Edu Punay, Aurea Calica (PStar)

House wants Cha-cha to deal with financial crisis

October 2, 2008

By Delon Porcalla
Thursday, October 2, 2008


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

COA says Northrail contract signed without public bidding

October 2, 2008

By Christina Mendez
Thursday, October 2, 2008


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State auditors have revealed that the contract for the 63-kilometer railway project from Caloocan City to Malolos, Bulacan was signed without any public bidding.

The Commission on Audit (COA) said since the contract for Northrail’s Phase 1, Section 1 was not supported by a Certificate of Availability of Funds (CAF) – a basic requirement in the execution of a contract – the North Luzon Railways Corp. must explain why there were incomplete provisions in the contract and why the contract deviated from the Terms of Reference.

“Explain why this contract should not be considered null and void in the absence of a CAF covering the whole contract price,” read the report.

The COA report said the absence of a CAF was not in accordance with section 86 of Presidential Decree 1445.

“No contract involving the expenditure of public funds by any government agency shall be entered into or authorized unless the proper accounting officials of the agency concerned shall have certified to the officer entering into the obligation that funds have been duly appropriated for the purpose,” the report quoted PD 1445.

The COA said without a CAF, there is no assurance that the project will be implemented on time and Northrail might face the same problems previously encountered in Phase 1, Section 2, particularly the incurrence of higher commitment fees.

Initial review of the contract revealed that no CAF was issued by Northrail for the local counterpart funding amounting to $86.91 million, added the report.

The COA said the $421-million is a loan to the government, and that after the loan contract has been concluded, the amount should have been deposited to the account of the Republic of the Philippines.

Part of the amount advanced by CNMEG intended for right of way expenses and the relocation of public utilities amounting to $22.109 million – used by Northrail to pay for its loans in 2005 – remained unavailable, added the report.

Review of other payables in previous years showed that the $22.109-million was used to pay for Northrail’s loans with Banco de Oro, Metrobank and Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp., the COA reported.

The supply contract was signed by North Luzon Railways Corp. and China National Machinery and Equipment Corp. (CNMEG, now known as SINOMACH), and endorsed by the National Economic and Development Authority in July 2004, according to the report.

The COA said the Department of Finance and Export-Import Bank of China (China Eximbank) signed a $400-million Buyer’s Credit Loan Agreement (BCLA) in February 2004.

“As provided in the BCLA, the lender agrees to make available a loan facility to the borrower in an aggregate principal amount not exceeding $400 million or 95 percent of the contract price for the purpose of financing the construction of the Northrail project,” read the report.

“The remaining five percent or $21.05 million shall be the Philippine counterpart.”

State auditors said their review of the supply contract agreement revealed it was “granted to CNMEG without the benefit of a public bidding.”

“The contract agreement with CNMEG includes design,” read the report.

“However, said design has not been prepared and submitted before the implementation of the contract agreement, hence, said provision may be considered disadvantageous since Northrail is deprived of the option to determine whether the design conforms with the requirement of the Northrail vis-a-vis the contract cost.”

State auditors also questioned provisions of the BCLA that are “disadvantageous” to the government:

• The “no tax deductions” clause that prevents the imposition of taxes required by law;

• The one that cancels the right to immunity of the borrower; and

• The assignment of rights by the borrower requires the prior consent to the lender but the assignment of rights by the lender requires a mere notice to the borrower.

The agreement between Northrail and SINOMACH was signed in November 2006 to develop, rehabilitate, construct and supply the equipment and multiple units for Northrail Project Phase 1, Section 2 with a contract price of $586,910,000.

The DOF and the China Eximbank signed a $500-million Preferential Buyer’s Credit Loan Agreement in January 2007 to fund the project.

“Initial review of the contract revealed that no CAF was issued by Northrail for the local counterpart amounting to $86,910,000, as required under Section 86 of PD 1445,” read the COA report.

“It was noted that despite the existing problems in the implementation of Phase 1, Section 1 of the project, particularly the inability to secure loans for the local counterpart fund, Northrail proceeded with the execution of the contract for Phase 1, Section 2,” read the COA report.

State auditors also questioned why a portion of an amount advanced by CNMEG supposedly for right-of-way expenses and relocation of public utilities worth $22.109 million but used by Northrail to settle its loans in 2005 remained unavailable.

State auditors said the company’s budget for operating expenses was spent to pay for billings for project management, an item under capital expenditure that was contrary to the intent of the budget.

When they checked the Northrail project’s accomplishments against its targets, they found out that there was a delay of 3.33 percent for pre-construction activities and 7.11 percent for civil and track works, the state auditors added.

The Northrail project’s first phase, a 32-kilometer stretch from Caloocan to Malolos, was originally funded by a $400-million loan from China’s Eximbank and $103 million counterpart funding from the government.

The second phase is another 32-kilometer project from Malolos to Clark, involving another $500-million loan from Eximbank. – With Reinir Padua (PStar)

JIL joins INC, backs RH bill

October 2, 2008

By Delon Porcalla
Thursday, October 2, 2008


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It’s a battle of churches as the moderate Jesus is Lord (JIL) movement joined other religious groups in support of the controversial reproductive health (RH) bill, which the Catholic Church opposes.

JIL leader Eddie Villanueva expressed support for House Bill 5043, entitled “Reproductive Health, Responsible Parenthood and Population Development Act of 2008,” provided some provisions, particularly those raised by Couples for Christ, are deleted.

“We should not sacrifice this very important legislation. However, there are objectionable provisions. So why not omit these, amend and improve the bill but not sacrifice this landmark legislation aimed to address the root of poverty in this country,” he said.

The five million-strong JIL joined the pro-choice position taken by the influential Iglesia ni Cristo, which rejected natural family planning that Catholic leaders promote, including the rhythm method, which they considered as “really contrary to nature.”

“INC accepts modern family planning methods or the use of what others call contraceptives as long as they are not abortifacient in nature and they do not impose prolonged abstinence from sexual intercourse among married couples,” spokesman Bienvenido Santiago said.

“I’m in favor of any method for as long as these are not designed to kill life. I’m against abortion. Abortion per se is murder,” Villanueva said.

Rep. Edcel Lagman of Albay, main proponent of the reproductive health bill, and co-author Rep. Janette Garin of Iloilo have repeatedly rectified the misconceptions that they are pro-abortion.

“We are strongly against it (abortion). We are pro-life and we are pushing for a good quality of life,” Garin said.

“The bill is not about condoms and pills and neither is it about religion. It is primarily about health and rights,” Lagman reiterated.

Lagman emphasized that reproductive health is a “basic human right that the government must promote and protect” and that it would be “an indispensable development tool given that rapid population growth impacts negatively on all aspects of human development.”

The Catholic Church opposes the bill that they believe would promote the use of contraceptives and increase abortion, which is illegal in the country.

JIL and INC are now pitted against the ultra-conservative and dominant Catholic Church, which counts at least 85 percent of the 83 million Filipinos, including the 10 million members of El Shaddai led by their charismatic leader Bro. Mike Velarde.

Villanueva personally believes in responsible parenthood. “It is important to address overpopulation but we must not sacrifice morality. Why not produce anexcellent, if not perfect, measure? The intention (of the bill) is very good.”

“We really need a no-nonsense population policy. However, we should not sacrifice morality. Why not improve this said bill, eliminating undesirable provisions that are offensive to the morality of the Filipino people,” he added.

Garin earlier revealed that 106 House members support the bill, which makes them confident the measure may be passed.

“There are now 106 signatories. We have already reached the numbers. This bill will pass unless there will be (House) members questioning the quorum to delay the passage,” she said in a text message.

But while deliberations have suffered a little delay, like the objections raised by pro-church advocate Deputy Speaker for Visayas Raul del Mar, Lagman insisted that “delay is not victory. It is merely postponing the eventual defeat of those opposed to the reproductive health (RH) bill.”

The RH bill proponent discredited the “patently dilatory tactics” of those opposed to it, following what he called the “long winding interpellations, baseless procedural objections and irrelevant attacks on the funding and motives of NGO advocates.”

Lagman pointed out that the alleged “technical defects” Del Mar raised were approved unanimously and without any appeal from four House committees – Health, Population and Family Relations, Appropriations and the committee on Rules.

Social Welfare Secretary Esperanza Cabral said at least seven government agencies are now backing the RH bill.

Cabral said aside from the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the Department of Health, the Department of the Interior and Local Government, the Department of Education, the National Economic and Development Authority, the Commission on Population, and the National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women (NCRFW) also support the measure.

Cabral said the agencies submitted their position papers during the House and Senate hearings on the controversial bill.

She said a clear majority of Cabinet members now support the bill.

Cabral clarified that this is not the position of the government, saying President Arroyo has remained consistent in her advocacy for natural family planning methods.

The DPWH chief is one of the signatories in the online petition of the Reproductive Health Advocacy Network, which has so far gathered 3,968 signatures.

“It is my personal conviction and everybody is entitled to his own opinion,” Cabral stressed.

The bill, which among others promotes the use of artificial contraceptives, has passed deliberations in the committees on health, population and family relations, appropriations, and rules.

A party-list representative said that the Catholic Church should also come up with its own manifesto to be circulated among congressmen to determine the number of pro-life supporters.

A Teacher party-list Rep. Mariano Piamonte Jr., who was once the executive director of the Catholic Education Association of the Philippines (CEAP), made the suggestion during the weekly media forum at the Ilustrado Restaurant in Intramuros.

He said the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) should do more than just pray. “Prayers can move mountains but you have to push it also, you have to do something concrete. You cannot solve your problems by prayers alone.”

He also suggested that the bishops should also consider inviting the members of Congress to dinner to discuss the RH bill and get their commitment that they would withdraw their support from the proposed legislation. “I believe that the bishops have great persuasive powers.”

CBCP spokesman Monsignor Pedro Quitorio III said he liked the idea because by requiring them to sign, they would be able to document their support.

“I will relay to the CBCP-Episcopal Commission on Family and Life (ECFL) chairman Pampanga Archbishop Paciano Aniceto about Congressman Piamonte’s request that a manifest to gather signatures be circulated,” said Monsignor Quitorio.

He also assured the public that the bishops are doing everything to block the passage of the bill but many of them chose not to divulge it to the media. – With Helen Flores, Evelyn Macairan (PStar)

Canada has 30,000 jobs for Pinoys

October 2, 2008

By Mayen Jaymalin
Thursday, October 2, 2008


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About 30,000 jobs are awaiting skilled Filipino workers in Canada, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) reported yesterday.

Labor Secretary Marianito Roque said most of the workers needed in Alberta, Canada are professionals for the oil and gas industry as well as construction workers for various infrastructure projects.

Aside from the oil and gas workers, Alberta would also require workers for its food counters such as food attendants, food processors and butchers as well as nurses and care givers.

“Initially 10,000 Filipinos may immediately qualify for this recruitment program, but Alberta said they have a shortage of 30,000 workers for their oil and gas,” Roque disclosed.

Roque and Alberta Ministry of Employment and Immigration chief Hector Goudreau forged an agreement yesterday for the recruitment and deployment of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in one of Canada’s largest provinces.

DOLE previously forged similar agreements with Canadian provinces Manitoba, British Columbia, and Saskatchewan, where a combined 30,000 to 40,000 OFWs are needed.

Roque expressed hope that the country would be able to fill Canada’s job orders.

He said a monthly salary of 6,000 Canadian dollars will be provided for highly skilled welders, C$3,800 for the pipe fitters. The salaries are much higher than the monthly pay of welders and pipe fitters in Saudi Arabia.

Aside from the agreement, Roque said, DOLE is also negotiating to set up training for Filipinos to be deployed in Canada.

He said the implementing rules and regulations for the skills upgrade have been drafted and will be reviewed by both parties.

TESDA is likely to implement the upgrade and training skills but it will also be implemented in selected schools that will be identified by the parties.

More OFWs

The number of Filipinos wanting to work abroad will continue to rise because of domestic uncertainties following the global plunge in stocks, according to newly designated Philippine Overseas Employment Administrator (POEA) Jennifer Manalili.

Speaking at the opening of the Baguio City Charter Day Jobs Fair at the Baguio Convention Center, Manalili said some 1.3 million Filipinos want to work abroad next year, surpassing the 1 million POEA yearly deployment target.

In 2007, some 1.2 million Filipinos went abroad for work.

Manalili said this is the time to be on guard against illegal recruitment because unscrupulous individuals will certainly seize the opportunity to deceive people.

“We need to see to the welfare of Filipino job seekers, and involving local government officials up to the barangays is part of the preventive mechanism,” she said.

The POEA administrator urged local government units to inform jobseekers how to detect illegal recruiters.

“There is a need to intensify this campaign,” Manalili said after forging ties with Baguio officials to fight illegal recruitment.

Lawyer Melchor Dizon, POEA Licensing and Regulation Officer, said there had been a decrease in illegal recruitment incidents since last year because of the intensive campaign of government agencies.

“There was a seven-percent decrease of illegal recruitment cases last year and maybe a 10-percent decrease by the end of 2008,” Dizon said.

He added POEA already “processed” some 4,208 cases this year, with Metro Manila still the hotspot of illegal recruitment in the country.

Manalili and Baguio City mayor Reinaldo Bautista Jr. signed a Memorandum of Understanding in an effort to free Baguio of illegal recruitment in the future.

The Baguio MOU is the 94th MOU forged by the POEA with cities around the country. – With Artemio Dumlao (PStar)

US Senate votes on new bailout

October 2, 2008

Thursday, October 2, 2008


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WASHINGTON – In a surprise move to resurrect US President George W. Bush’s $700-billion Wall Street rescue plan, Senate leaders scheduled a vote on the measure for Wednesday but added a tax cut plan already rejected by the House of Representatives.

Sen. Harry Reid, leader of the Democratic majority, who sets the Senate agenda, and Republican leader Mitch McConnell disclosed the plan Tuesday. The Senate plan also would raise federal deposit insurance limits to $250,000 from $100,000 per account, as suggested by both presidential nominees a few hours earlier.

The move to add tax legislation – including a set of popular business tax breaks – risked a backlash from House Democrats insisting they be “paid for” with savings elsewhere.

By also adding legislation to prevent more than 20 million middle-class taxpayers from feeling the bite of the alternative minimum tax, the step could build momentum from House Republicans for the Wall Street bailout. The presidential candidates, Sens. John McCain, the Republican, and Democrat Barack Obama, intend to fly to Washington for the votes, as does Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware, the Democratic vice presidential candidate.

The alternative minimum tax was created in the 1970s to bring in money from very rich people who avoided heavy taxes through legal loopholes; inflation and escalation in salaries over the decades have put millions of middle-class wage-earners in the range of the increased tax unless it is changed.

The surprise move to have a Senate vote on Wednesday capped a day in which supporters of the imperiled multibillion-dollar economic rescue fought to bring it back to life, courting reluctant lawmakers with a variety of other sweeteners, including the plan to reassure Americans their bank deposits are safe.

Wall Street, at least, regained hope. The Dow Jones industrials average rose 485 points, one day after a record 778-point plunge after the US House rejected the plan worked out by congressional leaders and the Bush administration.

Before Reid and McConnell’s move, lawmakers, Bush and the two rivals to succeed him all rummaged through ideas new and old, desperately seeking to change a dozen House members’ votes and pass the $700-billion plan.

The tax plan passed the Senate last week, on a 93-2 vote. It included the alternative tax relief, $8 billion in tax relief for those hit by natural disasters in the Midwest, Texas and Louisiana, and some $78 billion in renewable energy incentives and extensions of expiring tax breaks. In a compromise worked out with Republicans, the bill does not pay for the AMT and disaster provisions but does have revenue offsets for part of the energy and extension measures.

That was not enough for the House, which insisted that compensation from other expenses be supplied to offset the energy and extension parts of the package.

The Senate move seems aimed at “jamming” the House into accepting the deficit-financed tax cuts. Conservative Democrats will not like the idea, but some Congress-watchers suspect most Democrats might be willing to go along.

Still, the House is where the problems are, and leaders there were scrounging for ideas that might appeal to a few of the 133 Republicans and 95 Democrats who rejected the proposal on Monday.

Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd, a Democrat, told reporters, “I’m told a number of people who voted ‘no’ yesterday are having serious second thoughts about it.” He added, however, “There’s no game plan that’s been decided.”

The idea drawing the biggest support was to raise the federal deposit insurance limit, now $100,000 per account, to $250,000. Several officials, including presidential nominees John McCain and Barack Obama, endorsed the change.

So did the agency that runs the program.

Within hours of the candidates’ separate statements, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. chairman Sheila Bair asked Congress for temporary authority to raise the limit by an unspecified amount. That could help ease a crisis of confidence in the banking system, Bair said.

She said the overwhelming majority of banks remain sound but an increase in the cap would help ease a crisis of confidence in the banking system as well as encourage banks to begin more lending.

Other ideas include extending unemployment insurance benefits, typically a Democratic goal, but one that appeals to some Rust Belt Republicans. Another Democratic-backed idea would double the property tax deduction taken by people who do not itemize their taxes. And another calls for more spending on transportation infrastructure projects, which would create more jobs.

Monday’s House vote was a stinging setback to leaders of both parties and to Bush. The administration’s proposal, still the heart of the legislation under consideration, would allow the government to buy bad mortgages and other deficient assets held by troubled financial institutions. If successful, advocates of the plan believe, that would help lift a major weight off the already sputtering national economy.

The proposal ignited furious responses from thousands of Americans, who flooded congressional telephones. The House voted 228-205 against the plan. Some lawmakers reported a shift in constituent calls pouring into their offices Tuesday after the record stock market decline. Many callers, they said, want Congress to do something without “bailing out Wall Street.”

Bush renewed his efforts, speaking with McCain and Obama and making another statement from the White House. “Congress must act,” he declared.

Though stock prices rose, more attention was on credit markets. A special rate that banks charge each other shot higher, further evidence of a tightening of credit availability.

Bush was talking about everyday Americans on Tuesday, not banks or other financial institutions. And no supporters were using the word “bailout.”

The president noted that the maximum $700 billion in the proposed bill was dwarfed by the $1 trillion in lost wealth that resulted from Monday’s stock market plunge.

“The dramatic drop in the stock market that we saw yesterday will have a direct impact on retirement accounts, pension funds and personal savings of millions of our citizens,” Bush said. “And if our nation continues on this course, the economic damage will be painful and lasting.” – AP (PStar)

Senate approves RE bill

October 2, 2008

By Dino Balabo and Katherine Adraneda
Thursday, October 2, 2008


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Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri said yesterday the Senate passed Tuesday night the Renewable Energy bill and the President may sign it into law by November.

Speaking at the opening of the cooperative month celebration in Malolos, Bulacan, Zubiri said the Senate and the House of Representatives will soon hold a bicameral session to finalize the proposed bill before President Arroyo signs it.

“Iyan ang Christmas gift namin sa ating mga kababayan. (That’s our Christms gift to our fellow citizens),” Zubiri said.

At present, he said there are at least 20 business groups which expressed interest to invest in the renewable energy sector, including the use of solar, biomass, hydro, and power.

He also predicted that power rates would drop by 12 percent once renewable energy is used.

Environmental organizations lauded the Senate for finally approving the RE bill after “a whopping 19 years in limbo.”

Voting 18-0, senators Tuesday night approved simultaneously on second and third reading the Palace-certified RE bill, which aims to accelerate the development and use of the nation’s vast renewable energy resources through fiscal and non-fiscal incentives for investors.

The measure also assures investors in wind, solar, ocean, run-of-river hydropower, and biomass premium rates in electricity generated from clean sources through feed-in tariffs. Other incentives include duty-free importation of equipment, tax credit on domestic capital equipment and services, special realty tax rates, income tax holidays, net operating loss carry-over, accelerated depreciation and exemption from the universal charge and wheeling charges.

The bill, principally sponsored by Sen. Edgardo Angara, also seeks to institutionalize a Renewable Portfolio Standard requiring the country’s electric utilities to obtain a certain portion of their electricity from clean, homegrown renewable energy sources.

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), a conservation group, said the Senate’s passage of the bill is a milestone in the country’s energy sector’s reforms and overall sustainability.

It described the action of the Senate as “a grand display of solidarity against climate change.”

“In passing this landmark legislation, the Senate has just paved the way for the country’s drive toward energy independence and low-carbon growth,” said Raf Senga, manager of WWF’s Asia Pacific Energy Policy.

Based on a joint study by the WWF and the University of the Philippines, the country can save over $2.9 billion from “avoided importation” of fossil fuel by merely increasing renewable energy share in power generation mix from 0.16 percent to 41 percent.

Today, 26 percent of the country’s power comes from burning imported coal, while 23 percent comes from burning oil, the WWF said.

Only last year, the WWF pointed out, the country imported 101.4 million barrels of oil alone, costing the government $7.5 billion.

The Renewable Energy Coalition said renewable energy sources can reduce the Philippines’ oil imports by half, and the savings can be used for social and infrastructure programs.

REC spokesperson Catherine Maceda said the amount of money that can be saved from reduced oil imports could send 17 million children to school, build 250,000 classrooms, establish 135,000 health centers, feed three million families, and build 38,000 kms of farm-to-market roads.

With the RE Bill only a step closer becoming a law of the land, another environment organization, Greenpeace, however, stressed that the next challenge for the lawmakers is to implement strict energy efficiency policies and begin the process of phasing out harmful coal-fired power plants.

October 2, 2008

Farmers nabbed for jeering
GMA MassKara speech

BACOLOD City – “Oust GMA! She’s fake!” Five farmer-activists hollered these defiant words, stunning President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who was delivering a speech during yesterday’s opening of the 2008 MassKara Festival at the public plaza here.

Plain-clothed Presidential Security Guards and policemen immediately swarmed the placard-bearing hecklers who managed to position themselves near the stage.

A visibly astounded Arroyo stopped speaking for about three minutes, but she continued after the farmers and their placards have been removed from the plaza by the policemen and her guards.

The hecklers were farmer-members of Task Force Mapalad (TFM), a peasant organization espousing agrarian reform. They were brought to the Bacolod City Police Station 1.

Before the heckling, members of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan-Negros) and the human rights alliance Karapatan marched along Araneta Street. They tried to breach the police security around the plaza, but were overpowered by anti-riot policemen.

Felipe Gelle, chairperson of Bayan-Negros, condemned the arrest of the TFM members. He urged the police to release the protesters immediately and without charges.

In a press statement, Task Force Mapalad claimed that six were arrested, not five as the Bacolod City Police Office (BCPO) reported.

It said the hecklers belonged to a group of 20 protesters who were demanding the distribution of the Arroyo-owned 157-hectare Hacienda Bacan in Brgy. Guintubhan, Isabela, Negros Occidental.

The task force also claimed that the farmers were “manhandled” by policemen while being brought to Police Station 1.

The protesters will be charged for inciting sedition, resisting arrest, illegal assembly and alarm and scandal.

The city police identified the five arrested as Ederlito Algona, 40; Bonifacio Algona, 20; Noel Estaris, 21; Gerardo Batalla, 56; and Herminigildo Padilla, 41.

Task Force Mapalad named another one — Romeo Pidoy. It denounced the arrests, saying that the farmers have a very legitimate demand.

“All they wanted was to remind President Arroyo of her promise, declared publicly last May, that Hacienda Bacan would be distributed to the farmer-beneficiaries,” said TFM President Jose Rodito Angeles.

Pastor Emmanuel Alano, convener and spokesman of the multi-sector group Negros CARP Reform Movement (NCRM), said the arrest of the farmers reflected the intolerance of the Arroyo administration to legitimate protests and grievances of the people.

Angeles said the farmers wanted to call the attention of Arroyo to the continuing delay in the distribution of Hacienda Bacan, owned by the family of her husband, Mike Arroyo, despite the fact that it had already undergone property valuation by the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP).

Last July, the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) ordered the LBP to issue a certificate of cash deposit in favor of Rivulet Agro-Industrial Corp., which holds the title to the hacienda, but the bank did not comply.

DAR said it needed the certificate of deposit to generate and issue certificates of landownership award (CLOAs) to the farmer-beneficiaries.

The task force had earlier accused Finance Secretary Margarito Teves, the concurrent LBP chairman, of intervening to prevent the issuance of the certificate of deposit.

The other day, TFM had urged the DAR to proceed with the issuance of CLOAs to some 60 farmer-beneficiaries of Hacienda Bacan.

Angeles said DAR is morally and legally bound to issue the CLOAs because considerable time had already lapsed since it ordered the bank to issue a certificate of cash deposit.

“There is no legal basis for continuing to hold back the issuance of the CLOAs, and even the DAR legal department says, there is no legal impediment to distributing the land to the farmer-beneficiaries,” said Angeles./PN – Bacolod

Photos: Bacolod Stuns Gloria

October 2, 2008

Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was stunned to hear the chants “Oust Gloria” from members of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN-Negros). She has just began her speech at the opening of Masskara Festival 11:00 am today at Bacolod Public Plaza.

The lightning rally was carried out in the face of the imposition of the “No Permit, No Rally” by S/Supt. Ronilo Quebrar of the Bacolod City Police. The police were augmented by elements of the Philippine Army.

= from the press statement of Bayan – Negros

Press Statement — October 1, 2008
Reference: Felipe Levy Gelle Jr.
Secretary-General, BAYAN-Negros
Mobile landline: (034) 457-5021


Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was stunned to hear the chants “Oust Gloria” from members of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN-Negros). She has just began her speech at the opening of Masskara Festival 11:00 am today at Bacolod Public Plaza.

The lightning rally was carried out in the face of the imposition of the “No Permit, No Rally” by S/Supt. Ronilo Quebrar of the Bacolod City Police. The police were augmented by elements of the Philippine Army.

At Araneta Street, BAYAN-Negros main contingent of 50 protesters faced and resist the dispersal by the combine police and army anti-riot team. They push us a few meters towards the intersection of Luzurriaga and Araneta. Several members of BAYAN were hurt during the attempted dispersal of BAYAN contingent.

We clarify that the protest is not meant to embarrass City officials and organizers of the Masskara Festival but is directed against Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, whom we refuse to recognize as a legitimate president. Alongside, we bring the issue of creeping martial law, militarization, charter change and the call to scrap the value-added taxation.

Protest actions will always be present every time Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo arrives in Bacolod and in Negros. That is how the people express their disgust and disapproval of the corrupt and inept governance of Mrs. Arroyo.

Aside from BAYAN, small sugar planters lead by Fr. Arman Onion and sugar cooperatives were also holding protest during the arrival. They brought the issue of unjust imposition of advanced VAT

We also express our solidarity with the members of the Task Force Mapalad who were nabbed by members of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) at the Bacolod Public Plaza. We call on the police to immediately release the illegally arrested members of TFM without charges. ###

(Arkibong Bayan)


Movie Review: Dr. Jekkyl and Mr. Hyde

October 2, 2008

Movie Review: Dr. Jekkyl and Mr. Hyde

Cast: Dougray Scott, Krista Bridges, Tom Skerrit, Danette Mac Kay

Director: Paolo Barzman

Alam nyo naman siguro kung ano ang kuwento ng pelikula kapag mababasa niyong ang pamagat nito ay ay may kaugnayan kina Jekyll and Hyde.

Iyon po ay dahil sa napakalumang kuwento na nito. Sa totoo lang, marami nang bersyon ang lumabas sa pinilakang tabing na naglalahad sa kuwento ng isang doktor na nagkaroon ng matinding sakit sa utak dahilan para maging isa siyang mamamatay-tao pagkagat ng dilim, at mabait na manggagamot pagsapit ng umaga.

Ang “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” ang pinakabagong bersyon.

Kaiba sa mga unang bersyon, ang DJAMH ang may pinakamagandang twist. Medyo hindi nga lang nila ito nagamit ng wasto pra ma-transform ang DJAMH bilang siyang pinakamagandang pelikula ng Dr. Jekyll and Hyde franchise.

Sa DJAMH, ang naisip na paraan ni Jekyll para mapigilan si Hyde ay ang makasuhan siya, mahatulan, makulong at kung maaari ay mabitay.

Dahil basically ay alam na ng mga manonood na guilty si Dr. Henry Jekyll, at give-away na ang ending kung ibabatay ito sa paraang naisip ni Jekyll, sinadya ng pelikula na gawing gullible, bobo, emosyonal at walang kapartner, ang manananggol. Gayundin, sinadya ng pelikula na maging bobo ang mga imbestigador, sa pamamagitan ng pag-file ng mga ito ng report na nagsasabing dalawang magkaibang DNA ang narekober nila sa mga crime scene (which is impossible, and scientifically not true), kahit pa alam ng mg manonood na isang tao lang naman ang umaatake at pumapatay. Sinadya rin ng pelikula na magkaroon si Jekyll ng bestfriend na sobrang tanga para magtapon ng isang potensyal na ebidensya nang dahil lang sa tiwala nito sa kanyang kaibigang si Jekyll.

Gamit ang mga ito bilang rekado, matagumpay na nakalusot sa korte si Dr. Jekyll na ngayo’y ganap na palang si Mr. Hyde. Tiyak na maaalala ninyo ang Primal Fear na ginampanan ni Eduard Norton, at hindi ninyo maiiwasang ipagkumpara ito dahil mas napanatili ng Primal Fear na mag-isip ang mga manonood hanggang sa huli, kumpara ditto sa DJAMH.

Sa story-line naman, sumubok at nabigo ang DJAMH na bigyang linaw ang sakit ni Jekyll. Nais sana nilang ipaliwanag na ang problema ni Jekyll ay epekto ng ineksperimento niyang gamot na sinangkapan niya ng bagay galling sa isang bulaklak na ginagamit s mga voodoo rituals sa kagubatan umano ng Amazon. Pero, simpleng adiksyon sa droga lang ang naging problema ni Jekyll. Uminom siya ng droga, naging adik, hanggang sa masira ang kanyang utak at mula dito ay lumabas si Mr. Eduard Hyde.

Over-all, disappointed ako sa “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”. Ok na sana, naging bato pa.  Naisip ko na lang yung ilang mga opisyal ng gobyerno.  At natawa ako.  Nakakatakot!

Editorial Cartoon: Magnanakaw

October 1, 2008

They’re both the same.

Gov says US gov’t has helped Sulu more than Phil gov’t

October 1, 2008

Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews
Saturday, 27 September 2008 14:54
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PASAY CITY (MindaNews/26 September) – Sulu Governor Sakur Tan wants American soldiers to “stay longer” in his province, claiming the United States government has been helping Sulu more than the Philippine government.

st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) } In defending the presence of American military forces in Sulu, Tan enumerated the assistance the US has given his province.

“With these (forms of assistance), I really do not see why we should discourage the presence of the US forces in my area. In fact I would like to invite them to stay longer and stay on in my province because we need the help that they are providing,” Tan said, adding, “no other government, in fact I think they’re (the United States) doing even better (for Sulu) than, with due respect, than the Philippine government.”

Tan issued the statement at the committee hearing Thursday (September 25) of the Legislative Oversight Committee on the Visiting Forces Agreement (LOVFA) at the Senate’s Senator Pecson Room, triggering laughter from members of the committee chaired by Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago and co-chaired by Rep. Antonio Cuenco, staff and guests, including Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita.

The Committee hearing was on the “alleged participation of American troops in the Mindanao armed conflict.”

Tan defended the American forces against issues about alleged human rights violations. “I would think that it is these American forces who are providing the human rights for the people (sic). Now to object to the presence of the US forces would be a violation or obstruction to the delivery of these basic services which is the human rights of every individual or every Taosug (sic).”

Tan said that when he assumed the post of governor last year, he met with various sectors from civil society and the military, including Colonel David Maxwell, commander of the Joint Special Operations Task Force, and asked him the purpose of the US military in his area.

He said Maxwell told him they were there “to bring peace and development,” to which he replied, “if your purpose is to bring peace and development, you are most welcome even if you were Israelis. But if your purpose is to bring chaos and disorder, we have enough and even if you are Arabs, we do not welcome you.”

As governor, he said, he has “seen how the American forces in my area have been helping me in my governance, especially in civic, economic and social activities such as construction of bridges, construction of schoolbuildings, repairs of rural health units, including district hospitals, providing us with medicines, including surgical missions.”

“They are also providing us with Area Coordination Centers for all the18 towns including the provincial (center). These are structures that we have envisioned to be the catalyst to bring about coordination of all efforts of all government agencies, including the military, because in the ARMM, the provincial governments do not have control over other offices especially the national offices in the province so we have the Area Coordination Centers which we intend to organize down to the barangay level for the purpose of empowering the communities.”

The US military, he said, is “very supportive.”

“They are also going to construct a fire station in the capital town of Jolo because this is one of our principal problems now in Sulu and very soon, starting construction of the runway of the Jolo airport which should be able to land now, after construction, a 737,and we already have the funds ready, we signed already the memorandum of agreement,” he said.

“Likewise our water system, another very important commodity for everybody, we start the improvement by next week this is also partly funded by the US government and likewise the US forces are also learning from our Philippine soldiers in the matter of their strategizing their counter-terrorism and in fighting the criminal elements in our areas,” Tan said.

He explained that his administration has an agreement with the Philippine military that operations will be 80% civil-military and “only 20% purely military but it should be surgical and intelligence-driven operations to avoid collateral damage on the part of the civilians.”

Tan said the US government is “monitoring the implementation of projects and every now and then we open and inaugurate projects (with the US) more frequent than we do in the local government units.”

On the reported presence of the US military in the Ipil Massacre in Maimbung, Sulu, Tan said there was “no presence of American forces in the area because I was the first one to visit the families and I was the first one to condemn the Ipil massacre.”

In his statement to the Committee, Bishop Felixberto L.Calang of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, main convenor of the US Troops Out Now Mindanao Coalition, cited the February 4, 2008 Ipil Massacre as one of the cases.

Calang said U.S. military spy plane (US P-3 Orion) “provided intelligence for an assault that led to the killing of eight civilians and four US military personnel were seen aboard military ship where victims’ bodies were taken after the incident.”

Eight persons, two of them children aged 4 and 9 were killed in what the military claimed was a “legitimate encounter” allegedly with the Abu Sayyaf in Ipil, Maimbung, Sulu on February 4 but which the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) found to be a “wanton carnage” of civilians.

The CHR on April 18 forwarded its April 14 resolution and investigation records to the Ombudsman for the Military, recommending the filing of criminal charges and the application of command responsibility “to maintain justice in the country.”

Tan also cited the order to close down the hospital in Panamao and said the American soldier in charge of Sulu, Major Eric Walker “apologized to me” and to the doctor, Silak Lakkian.

Lakkian told MindaNews that they “were ordered by American soldiers to shut down the generator the night of December 2 (2007). However, we decided to close the hospital because they told us that they will shoot us if we go out of the hospital at night.”

The kitchen and generator set were located outside.

“It took 28 days to resolve the issue. That’s why the hospital was closed for 28 day because we couldn’t sacrifice the lives of our people,” Lakian said.

Tan said: “I thought it was a matter of miscommunication. Theirs was for the purpose of cautioning civilians in the area but I made it clear to American forces through Walker that they should not impose on any individual in my province but course it through AFP in the area so they do not get their message directly but course it through authorities like Task Force Comet,” he said.

“So with these, your honors, I would think if there are human rights violation in my area , I should be the first one to condemn it but I would think that it is these American forces who are providing the human rights for the people (sic). Now to object to the presence of the US forces would be a violation or obstruction to the delivery of these basic services which is the human rights of every individual or every Taosug (sic). [Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews]

Adan: US military presence is “beneficial to our people”

October 1, 2008

Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews
Sunday, 28 September 2008 20:19
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DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/27 September) – The executive director of the Presidential Commission on the Visiting Forces Agreement says the presence of US troops in the Philippine is “beneficial to our people,” citing in dollars and cents the benefits.

Contrary to reports of alleged basing by the US military, Adan said, “we believe that it is through the Visiting Forces Agreement that our country can better protect its sovereignty as it lives up to its obligations under the Mutual Defense Treaty with the United States.

The American soldiers, Adan told the Legislative Oversight Committee on the Visiting Forces Agreement Thursday at the Senate’s Pecson Room in Pasay City, are “like guests who lend assistance to repair a house and were invited by the host owner to stay and live with them for the duration of the project very much in the traditional spirit of Bayanihan.”

“Necessarily, the owners have to offer them space to sleep, work and eat, they need some privacy. In the process, they will leave marks on the floor, cause the rearrangement of furniture, and leave some footprints. The footprints of these visitors are big. Because they have big planes, big ships. The host children may complain about these discomforts. However, these are minor and tolerable,’’ he said.

Adan concluded by saying the VFA “continues to serve the national interest, is beneficial to our people and is conducted with due regard to Philippine laws.”

From the first to third quarter this year, the Philippines has already benefited from two million US dollars’ worth of American medical civic actions programs (medcaps), 165,000 US dollars’ worth of engineering and civic action programs (encaps).

Adan cited the 400 helicopter sorties by the US Air Force to assist in search and rescue and delivery of 300 tons of food in Panay Island, then devastated by Typhoon Frank.

Adan said the American soldiers number from “400 to 600 at any one time or less than the size of an Army battalion.”

He said 25,000 persons have benefited from medical civic action programs in Central Mindanao, Western Samar and Palawan and that in Sulu and Tawi-tawi, 390 projects have been done, including road repairs, building of classrooms and that these have “greatly contributed to the quest for peace in the province.”

The US government has allocated 16 million US dollars as military assistance for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in 2007 and 3.6 million US dollars for 2008.

Local communities, he said, are also earning. Zamboanga City earns an average of “5.5 million pesos every six months in employment and supply contracts on account of the US military presence.”

Adan enumerated four implementing guidelines on the US troops’ presence: that no US troops shall be engaged in combat operations; the Armed Forces of the Philippines commander shall have control over operations all the time; that ownership of facilities temporarily used by US troops will remain with the Armed Forces of the Philippines; and that US troops can only use weapons in self-defense.

Adan also noted that what is “difficult to quantify” is when an Army commander in

Cotabato last August asked a US mobile training team to help recover and disarm an unexploded bomb dropped by the Philippine Air Force.

“In saving the lives of Filipinos who were potentially endangered from the bomb, the American bomb experts risked their lives as well together with our brave Filipino soldiers in neutralizing the bomb,” Adan said.

Asked after the hearing who actually asked for assistance, Adan said “the commander in the area.”

When MindaNews told him the Army commander there said he had “no idea” about the operations, Adan said it must have been “the commander from the EOD.”

MindaNews asked Lt. Col. Diosdado Carreon, commanding officer of the Army’s 40th Infantry Battalion, on August 17, the day the US-RP team detonated the bomb, if he sought the assistance of American soldiers to look for unexploded ordnance or unexploded bombs and he said, “no idea.”

He said the Army Division had control over the EOD.

A soldier who identified himself as Lt. Hermosura, intelligence officer of the 40th IB, asked the MindaNews team and the other soldiers and paramilitary elements to vacate the area as the bomb would be detonated.

MindaNews chanced upon the US-RP team searching for unexploded bombs in Barangay Baliki, Midsayap, North Cotabato on August 17.

August 17 was a Sunday and MindaNews went to the interior parts where armed clashes were fierce days earlier, to look for the area where houses were reportedly burned, when the MindaNews team chanced upon the US-RP team.

Carreon, commanding officer of the Army’s 40th Infantry Battalion, had told MindaNews early that morning that the area had been “cleared.”

As it turned out, it wasn’t really “cleared” as the US-RP team was still looking for bombs.

Fortunately for the US-RP team, very few of the evacuees, who were already advised by their mayors and barangay captains to return home as the area had been “cleared” by the military, had actually returned home. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

Bishop: Make public the TORs on VFA

October 1, 2008

Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews
Sunday, 28 September 2008 20:21
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DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/27 September) — Bishop Felixberto Calang, lead convenor of US Troops Out Now! Mindanao Coalition has proposed to the Legislative Oversight Committee on the Visiting Foces Agreement (LOVFA) to require “full disclosure to the public” of all the Terms of Reference “governing every form of US military presence in the country.”

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The last time a TOR was made was during the Balikatan 02-1 in 2002, as protests mounted against the holding of the military exercise without it.

No other TOR has been made after that and since July 2002, when the American troops were supposed to have left the country, some were left behind allegedly to finish humanitarian projects but their presence in the country, particularly in Mindanao has been continuous.

This as Senator Rodolfo Biazon, committee vice chair who once served as Armed Forces Chief of Staff, demanded a copy of the “rules of engagement,” adding he “objected to certain provisions of this in 2002.”

“If those objections of mine were not considered and were adopted and still in existence today are the same rules of engagement, then we are going to be in deep trouble,” he said at the LOVFA hearing at the Senate’s Pecson Room in Pasay City last Thursday.

Calang made five recommendations to the committee, on top of which is the “abrogation of the VFA, Mutual Logistics Support Agreement and the Mutual Defense Treaty, and the eventual pull out of all US military personnel from the Philippine territory.”

In the meantime, he said, “require full disclosure to the public of the Terms of Reference governing every form of US military presence in the country, past and ongoing, such as the USS Vandegrift tours of duty, the participation of US military ‘experts’ in the investigation of bombings incidents, the intelligence gathering activities of US military personnel and their presence in conflict areas.”

Calang also urged the LOVFA to “conduct onsite visits and inspection of facilities, with accompanying civil society organizations, where US military personnel and/or their equipment and infrastructure are established, requiring the US government to open said facilities for inspection.”

He also urged the committee to “conduct onsite public hearings and investigations regarding the presence of US military personnel in the country so as to determine the scope, involvement and intervention of the US government in the Philippines affairs” and to “establish a mechanism to involve civil society organizations’ participation in the LOVFA.”

On the civil society participation in the LOVFA, the bishop urged the committee to “provide political and material support to said organizations engaged in the monitoring and advocacy for national sovereignty, and opposed to all forms of foreign intervention.”

Then US Ambassador to Manila Francis Ricciardone told MindaNews in a February 2005 interview that they had “established a semi-continuous, not permanent, but semi-continuous (military presence), that is to say, some number of our personnel, rotate, at the pleasure of the command, your command…It’s a high-priced consultancy, only we’re doing it for free. And the second your command says it’s not useful, we leave.”

Retired General Edilberto Adan, now executive director of the Presidential Commission on the Visiting Forces Agreement, says the presence of US troops in the Philippine is “beneficial to our people,” citing in dollars and cents these so-called benefits, and that it is through the VFA “that our country can better protect its sovereignty as it lives up to its obligations under the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) with the United States.”

But Senator Miriam Santiago, Committee chair, asked during the hearing Undersecretary Teresita Domingo of the Department of Justice “how do you reconcile the VIFA with the MDT?”

Santiago said the VFA “is based on the MDT but MDT allows American military presence on Philippine territories in cases of external armed attack only.”

“But under the VFA, the American military presence is apparently being justified on domestic counter-terrorism effort. How do you reconcile the VFA with MDT?” Santiago asked.

Domingo, citing Supreme Court rulings, said the VFA “is based upon the Mutual Defense Treaty and insofar as VFA is concerned, this allows the presence of US military. It is the one that controls the entry that determines the entry and the stay of…”

“But MDT speaks only of an external armed attack. Is it the position of DOJ that there is an external armed attack on Philippines at this time?” Santiago asked.

Domingo replied, “It is not the position of the DOJ that there is external attack on the Philippines at this time.”

“If there is no such thing since VFA is based on the MDT, there is no legal basis for the American military presence, you see,” Santiago pointed out.

“The American military presence here is now based on the VFA,” Domingo responded.

“But the VFA is based on the MDT,” Santiago said.

She suggested that the issue be resolved in closed-door session. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

4 children, 3 others hurt in Friday clash

October 1, 2008

Sittie Sundang/MindaNews contributor
Tuesday, 30 September 2008 08:57
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DATU PIANG, Maguindanao (MindaNews/29 September) — Four children and three other persons were wounded in a reported clash Friday near the evacuation center in Sitio Nimao, Barangay Balanaken, of this town.

Merpat Mohammad, 9, Abdullah Mohammad, 6, Datumanong Taculanga, 3 and Mohaguira Montano, 8 were in Datu Gumbay Elementary School’s room 22 when blasts erupted allegedly from the military detachment near the evacuation site.

Kabiba Mohammad, father of Merpat and Abdullah, told Mindanao Tulong Bakwet that the shrapnel that hit the children came from the first blast from the detachment.

Kabiba said the clash lasted from 6:00 to 8:00 pm.

He said the incident showed that they could not be safe even in an evacuation center.

Families displaced by the resumption of hostilities between the military and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front have been living in evacuation centers for several weeks now.

Montano, one of the child victims, said she might be unable to return to school because of the continued fighting between the two groups.

She is a grade two pupil in Balanaken.

The blast also wounded Waras Abdulmaguid, 25, Narex Taculanga, 32, and Mustapha Kalusiang, 36.

Sarah Anabal, 35 and two months pregnant, reportedly had a miscarriage owing to the incident.

Lt. Col. Julieto Ando, spokesperson of the 6th Infantry Division said he had not received a report on the incident. (Sittie Sundang/MindaNews contributor)

Barricades down in mining firm compound but…

October 1, 2008

Tuesday, 30 September 2008 09:14
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GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/29 September) –The barricades put up by tribal residents of Tampakan, South Cotabato seeking employment in a mining firm may have been gone, but the possibility that it will happen again is not remote because the solution offered by the management was “short term,” a municipal official said on Monday.

The protesters had given Sagittarius Mines Inc. until September 25 to heed their demand. They warned they would reinstall barricades on the road leading to the base camp of the company in Barangay Tablu if the company did not give in.

Dismayed tribal residents seeking employment at the company lifted the road blockade on September 8, which they set up several days earlier, forcing the company to suspend exploration activities then.

“It’s a temporary, short-term solution…to accommodate the residents’ demand for work, some were even hired for road maintenance, using sticks and shovels,” acting Tampakan Vice Mayor Relly A. Leysa said in an interview.

“The residents did not reinstall the road blocks, as they warned earlier, because they were given employment. The company now even has operations during night time,” he added.

The official feared the road blockade will recur and other problems will arise once the temporary jobs end.

Leysa said the local government unit will consider the solution offered by the company on the residents’ demand for work in the ongoing review of the principal agreement.

The mining project is controlled by Swiss miner Xstrata Copper with Australian firm Indophil Resources NL as junior partner.

The local government unit targets to finish the review of the principal agreement with the company before the end of the year.

John B. Arnaldo, Sagittarius corporate communications manager, defended the company by claiming that “it is doing its best to foster good relationship with the communities.”

“We’re trying to find short, medium and long-term solutions [to the problems grappling us],” Arnaldo said.

He confirmed that they have employed the disgruntled residents but failed to identify what kind of work was given.

He said all is “normal” and that the firm has resumed its 24-hour operation.

Some of those who took part in the recent barricades were alleged illegal sluice mining workers arrested by the police last month.

Sluice mining, or banlas in the vernacular, requires the pouring of large amounts of water on a mountain’s surface to extract the rocks containing the gold ore.

They participated in the road blockade to demand work in the company since they have been deprived of their source of income following their arrest, although they were later on freed.

In October last year, Christian residents also set up road blockades and padlocked the facilities of the company in Tampakan town. They demanded regular positions at the company.

Last New Year’s Day, New People’s Army rebels stormed the firm’s base camp and burned facilities worth at least P12 million. (MindaNews)