Tuesday, November 29, 2005

A policy of extrajudicial killings

A policy of extrajudicial killings

The pattern of summary executions, official cover-up, impunity for perpetrators of gross and systematic human rights violations and even reward for top military and police officials responsible for such travesty leads to the inescapable conclusion that extrajudicial killings has become national policy under the administration of Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

DILG Secretary Angelo Reyes insults our intelligence when he smugly stands by his men, police operatives of the Traffic Management Group (TNG) Task Force Limbas, accused of executing three suspect carnappers as they lay wounded and dying, after a purported shoot-out with the police last November 7.

Mr. Reyes immediately lauded the TMG team that had conducted the “successful” operation when video footages of the crime scene surfaced raising serious doubts about the police report of a shoot-out and instead pointing to a likely rub-out of the alleged car thieves.

Ten officers were relieved from their posts pending inquiry into whether they followed the rules of engagement during the clash. A day after, PNP Chief Arturo Lomibao reinstated them, saying that he did not want to demoralize the police force by appearing to punish those who were merely doing their jobs.

Subsequently, a TMG investigating team cleared their own men citing police crime lab reports that at least two of the suspects were positive for powder burns and that a slug recovered from one of the injured officers during the shootout came from one of the slain suspects' gun.

Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales also publicly exonerated the involved policemen stating that since the three suspects were already dead anyway when they were shot at close range by the policemen, the latter had done nothing wrong. (Is there a law against making sure that a criminal suspect is deader than dead and can’t shoot back?).

Contrary to Mr. Gonzales’ baseless speculation that the thre men were already lifeless when more bullets were pumped into them, forensic expert Dr. Rachel Fortun and other medical experts opine that at least two could have survived their initial wounds had they been given emergency medical attention after the alleged clash.

Too bad for the 10 cops and their defenders, more video footages show the policemen apparently planting a gun and other incriminating evidence in the scene of the crime.

The cover-up of the extrajudicial execution of the three suspects now clearly goes all the way up to a least two cabinet officials and the chief of the PNP, yet Malacañang continues to defend the accused policemen stressing that they are entitled to be presumed innocent and may have been acting based on “self-preservation”.

Mrs. Arroyo herself is tightlipped about the latest black mark on the PNP. She has not even barked her usual orders to the PNP to carry out a “thorough investigation” and “bring the perpetrators to justice”.

A year has passed since the Hacienda Luisita Massacre and apparently the government considers the matter closed. But what has it got to show in terms of investigating the facts and circumstances surrounding the bloody carnage that involved hundreds of police and military men and private guards of the Cojuangco-owned hacienda?

A 422-page compilation of affidavits, reference materials and other documentary evidence dated January 2005 which the PNP described as the “Final Report of the PNP Investigation Committee on the November 16, 2004 incident at Hacienda Luisita, Tarlac” concluded that the PNP was blameless.

The Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) undertook the task of poring over the PNP report to find out the police version of what happened at the Hacienda Luisita (HL) massacre and who were responsible.

It found the report replete with outright lies and other spurious claims. One is the claim that police forces had exercised “maximum tolerance” and had attempted to negotiate with strikers before they commenced on the use of water cannon, teargas, an armored personnel carrier and gunfire with state forces charging into the strikers’ fleeing ranks with truncheons flailing.

According to Bayan, “Contrary to these claims and exceeding the bounds of their authority, the PNP had in fact already decided on the legality of the strike in Hacienda Luisita long before the DOLE issued the return-to-work order on the Central Azucarera de Tarlac Labor Union (CATLU) on 10 November 2004. The PNP … did this by launching unprovoked and unjustified dispersal operations on the first and second days of the strike, that is, on Nov. 6 and 7, 2004.”

The PNP report also claims that the initial gunfire had come from the ranks of the strikers despite the fact that not a single policeman or soldier sustained any gunshot wounds.

According to Bayan, “The victims’ accounts, their medical certificates, autopsy reports of the dead strikers and other documents show that many of them sustained frontal wounds. They were shot in the chest, arms, and other parts of the body while facing Gate 1 (where the police and military forces were positioned) during the first volley of gunfire.”

The alliance added, “Gunfire also came from the back of the strikers when they turned their back to Gate 1 and scampered away. Several witnesses pointed to snipers --armed plainclothesmen -- pre-positioned …sugar mill compound even before the violent dispersal operation started.”

The report predictably utilized the communist bogey when it insisted that the PNP had gathered evidence that “confirms the presence and participation (of the NPA) in the strike…” without stating what that evidence was and even admitting that such “evidence gathered against alleged members of the NPA will not suffice for their criminal prosecution.”

Moreover, the report reveals the deliberate incompetence of police investigators in the way they allowed unauthorized and unidentified persons to enter the crime scene and tamper with material evidence such as spent bullet shells. Thereafter, such tampered evidence were accepted as basis for their deliberately sloppy investigation.

The PNP report is completely silent about the police barricade and military takeover of San Martin de Porres Hospital before, during and after the dispersal. Bayan investigation turned up this fact and raises questions about whether the PNP and AFP planned the violent dispersal and subsequent mopping up operations way ahead of any so-called provocation by the strikers.

Bayan concludes, “The PNP report is a documented attempt by government authorities to cover up what really happened, exculpate government responsibility as well as support and strengthen the unfounded claims by the Cojuangcos that the strike is illegal and that the concerted actions by the CATLU and ULWU members were instigated and infiltrated by the NPA.”

Yet the PNP remains inutile in addressing the series of crimes perpetrated against the striking workers of and their supporters even after the massacre. We reiterate that no substantial investigation has been made on the assassinations of peasant leader Marcelino Beltran, Tarlac City Councilor Abel Ladera, religious leader Fr. William Tadena and most recently, Ric Ramos, CATLU president. In the latter’s case, several witnesses have implicated military men, members of a Special Operations Team assigned to HL, under the command of Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan but no arrests of suspects have been made.

And the killings continue.

Political killings by government-directed death squads of leaders of progressive party lists and people’s organizations, activists and ordinary folk who government claims are NPA-in-disguise or in-the-making.

Gangland-type killings of supposed armed and dangerous members of criminal syndicates by “overzealous” police task forces. The extermination of leaders and members of “terrorist” bands long pronounced by government authorities as neutralized and moribund, during military and police operations in Moro communities.

And so on.

Meanwhile Mrs. Macapagal-Arroyo, her cabal of militarists and fascists, her retinue of bootlickers and apologists, all vigorously invoke the “rule of law” as they arrogantly kill as well -- the truth, accountability of leadership, and any shred of moral uprightness and decency in government -- as this illegitimate president desperately clings to power, plunging the nation deeper and deeper in irresolvable crisis.#

By Carol Pagaduan-Araullo
*Published in Business World, 17-18 November 2005

What to do in case of fire


Monday, November 28, 2005


In celebration of the Feminist Centennial Year, Communication Foundation for Asia and Shang Cineplex present The F Festival, The Feminist Centennial Filmfest at the Cinema 3, Shang Cineplex, Shangri-La Plaza Mall, Edsa cor. Shaw Blvd., Mandaluyong City.


Nov. 24 (Thursday)
1 p.m. : Say I Do (Canada/Philippines)
& Inang Bayan (Philippines)
4 p.m. : Iron Jawed Angels (U.S.A.)
7 p.m. : A Little Color (Switzerland)
9:30 p.m. : Phir Milenge (India)

Nov. 25 (Friday, FILIPINO DAY!)
1 p.m. : Ang Tanging Ina
4 p.m. : Minsa'y Isang Gamu-gamo
7 p.m. : Bata, Bata, Paano Ka Ginawa?
9:30 p.m. : Moral

Nov. 26 (Saturday)
1 p.m. : She Says: Women In News (U.S.A.)
4 p.m. : A Little Color (Switzerland)
7 p.m. : Te Doy Mis Ojos (Spain)
9:30 p.m. : The Road Home (China)

Nov. 27 (Sunday)
1 p.m. : Everybody Loves Alice (Sweden)
4 p.m. : Say I Do (Canada/Philippines)
& Inang Bayan (Philippines)
7 p.m. : Baran (Iran)
9:30 p.m. : Iron Jawed Angels (U.S.A.)

Nov. 28 (Monday)
1 p.m. : Dahil Mahal Kita (Philippines)
4 p.m. : Manthan (India)
7 p.m. : Frida (Mexico)
9:30 p.m. : Anak (Philippines)

Nov. 29 (Tuesday)
1 p.m. : Tumaini (Tanzania)
4 p.m. : Baran (India)
7 p.m. : The Road Home (China)
9:30 p.m. : She Says : Women In News (U.S.A.)

Some 5 min. films shall be shown before selected feature films.

ADMISSION IS FREE (First come, First served)!!!



This HBO film recounts for a contemporary audience a key chapter in U.S. history: in this case, the struggle of American women to win the right to vote. Stars Hilary Swank, Julia Ormond and Angelica Huston. Directed by Katja von Garnier.


This revealing documentary, made for Canadian television, chronicles the stories of three "mail-order brides" from the Philippines now living in the remote towns of Canada. It also examines the dilemma facing a Filipina considering the same fate. Directed by Arlene Ami.


A documentary film by Nick Deocampo in collaboration with women artists, focusing on the historical and political struggles of the women's movement in the Philippines at the time of martial law.


A collection of 20 short, partly experimental, films by Canadian women, which display an awareness of the feminism of social injustice and everyday life.


Christelle is a hairdresser who runs away from her husband after a violent quarrel. She encounters new friends and acquaintances, and enters a journey of rediscovering herself. Directed by Patricia Plattner.


A Bollywood tale about Tamanna, a charming, 26-year-old woman, who breathes fresh air into the lives of everyone she meets -- until she discovers that she is HIV-positive. Directed by Revathy.


With 3 dead husbands and 12 children to take care of, Ina fights to be both a provider and homemaker. Frustrated between staying out to earn a living and staying in to take care of her children, she desperately hides her hardships. Stars Ai-Ai de las Alas. Directed by Wenn Deramas.


A lady nurse whose family resides near a US military base harbors an American dream. She wants to live and work in the U.S.. With her ambition, she ignores the gross injustices and abuses brought about by the American military presence in the country. Stars Nora Aunor and Jay Ilagan. Directed by Lupita Aquino–Kashiwahara.


Based on the award-winning novel of Lualhati Bautista, the film tells the story of Lea Bustamante, a woman who chooses to live based on her own principles and not upon the dictates of society. She is also a mother of two from different fathers who faces the reality of losing her children to the fathers. Stars Vilma Santos. Directed by Chito Roño


This is a story of a child-woman – Tumaini – struggling to keep her family together following the successive deaths of her father and mother because of AIDS. Written and Directed by Beatrix Mugishagwe.


Moral is a landmark film not only because it tackles important feminist issues relevant today, but because it stands as a testament to the shifting sexual and social mores of a turbulent decade in Philippine film history. Stars Gina Alajar, Amy Austria, Sandy Andolong and Laurice Guillen. Directed by Marilou Diaz-Abaya.


This documentary captures the perspectives of ten women in positions of power in the news business, and examines the unique personality traits that make them voices for change. Directed by Barbara Rick.


One winter night, Pilar runs away from home. With her, she takes only a few belongings and her son. Her husband soon sets out to look for her. He says Pilar is his sunshine, but she fears he will return to his violent ways. Directed by Iciar Bollain.


A city businessman returns to his home village in North China for the funeral of his father, the village teacher. He finds out for the first time how his mother had admired and supported his father from the time they first met. Zhang Ziyi. Directed by Zhang Yimou.

BARAN (2001, IRAN)

Set in Iran, it tells the story of an Afghani refugee father whose injury threatens his family's future, a child too weak to fill his shoes, and a native Iranian son forced to trade places with an immigrant. A Sidebar film directed by Majid Majidi.


This drama chronicles the colorful life of Dolzura Cortez, the first publicly recognized AIDS patient in the Philippines. Stars Vilma Santos and Christopher de Leon. Directed by Laurice Guillen.


A peasant woman spearheads a revolt at a milk co-operative when corrupt local politicians and middlemen exploit the farmers. A Sidebar film directed by Shyam Benegal.


Brilliant colors bring famous Mexican artist Frida Kahlo to vibrant life in a biopic with a captivating performance by Salma Hayek. Directed by Julie Taymor.


This is a thought-provoking drama about family and the various effects of parental absence due to overseas employment. The film examines the relationship of OFW parents and their children. Stars Vilma Santos, Claudine Baretto and Joel Torre. Directed by Rory B. Quintos.


Alice is a twelve-year-old daughter who feels a number of different emotions upon her parents' separation. As she competes with his mistress and her son for her father's love, Alice finds that she is surprisingly amenable to her new familial situation. Written and directed by Richard Hobert

Sponsors include ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation, Philippine Daily Inquirer and C2 (Classic Cuisine Philippines)

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Condemn this ruthless act of the State!

November 23, 2005


Houses are torn down as the AFP continued its aerial strike in hot pursuit of the fleeing NPA rebels. News from the areas affected by the encounter that reached KASAMA-TK Human Rights Desk indicated that a child is in critical condition and many others wounded as the residents scurried for safety”, said Guillermo Bautista, Chairperson of Katipunan ng mga Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (KASAMA-TK).

“The implementation of indiscriminate aerial strikes by the AFP over civilian areas to crush their targets is a wanton disregard of the international humanitarian law on the rights of civilians caught in the crossfire in armed conflicts. We strongly denounce the massive disregard of human rights by the AFP in this mindless aerial strike and indiscriminate firing against the civilians” said Bautista.

According to wire reports, classess are now suspended in San Pablo City, Laguna and Tiaong, Quezon.

Orly Marcellana, Secretary General of KASAMA-TK strongly reacted to General Orbon’s statement early this morning stating that the evacuees will not be able to return anymore to their communities as their properties are already destroyed and their livestock taken by the NPAs.

“From the accounts of civilian victims of military operations, for example in Bgy. Villa Minda, Lopez, Quezon, it is the military who take their livestock without permission, destroy and divest of their properties whenever they conduct counter-insurgency operations”, said Marcellana.

“Orbon has no right to say that people can no longer return to their communities as the people have every right to their properties and livelihood. They should be the ones to protect and ensure civilian rights and their safety even during military operations”, insisted Marcellana.

Reference: Katipunan ng mga Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (KASAMA-TK)

Saturday, November 26, 2005

End VAW! End GMA regime's violence!

On the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (VAW)
KARAPATAN calls for end to GMA regime's violence

We, human rights advocates and defenders from KARAPATAN, join the international community in observing the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (IDEVAW), with a call for an end to Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's regime of violence and state terror.

November 25 marks the day that commemorates the lives of the Mirabal sisters, the "Unforgettable Butterflies," for valiantly fighting the tyrannical regime of General Rafael Trujillo in the Dominican Republicbefore they were summarily killed by the dictator's henchmen in 1960.

In the Philippines today, we are outraged by the violence committed against women and men, children and the elderly in all sectors of society, committed by the murderous GMA regime.

We are outraged at the terrorism and violence unleashed by the GMA government on the Filipino people, including the abduction and subsequent murder of former youth activist leader, Maribel Tablang-Supeña and her husband Danilo, who were taken by soldiers from their parent's house in Quezon, Nueva Ecija on October 26. Their lifeless bodies that bore torture marks and placed inside separate sacks were found on November 20 in San Jose City. Maribel was four months pregnant at the time of her death. The following day, on November 21, another woman Eufemia Borra, 51, and an expectant mother Alma Bartoline, 30, were among those killed in the massacre of farmers by soldiers belonging to the 19th Infantry Battalion in San Agustin, Palo, Leyte. Bartoline was seven months pregnant. Just over a month ago, on October 2, Bayan Muna leader Priscilla Esteban of Guimba, Nueva Ecija was abducted and her lifeless body was found on October 5, still hogtied and blindfolded.

Just yesterday afternoon, November 24, Emmylou Buñi, 25 year-old KARAPATAN-Central
Visayas worker was shot by suspected intelligence agents belonging to the 78th Infantry Batallion of the Philippine Army in Tuburan, Cebu. She is being treated in a hospital for a gunshot wound in the right chest.

We decry these brutal attacks of government soldiers, their death squads and paramilitary groups against unarmed civilians and human rights workers like ourselves. Twenty-two (22) KARAPATAN human rights workers have already been killed under the GMA regime, six (6) of them are women. From January 20, 2001 to November 22, 2005, there have been 507 victims of political killings in the country, 154 persons are missing. Thousands still have been victims of forced evacuations, aerial bombardments, illegal arrest and detention, torture and harassments.

We deplore that lives of human rights defenders and journalists are under serious threat from forces most guilty of wanton violations of human rights. By not punishing human rights violators, her acquiescence and silence on the continuing killings of activists, lawyers, priests, human rights workers, leaders of partylist organizations as well as farmers and workers, Mrs. Arroyo tolerates and encourages the continuing impunity of these forces on their systematic and recurring attacks on human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Today is also remembered in Canada and Australia as white ribbon day to signify opposition to VAW. It is a most opportune time for the broad anti-Arroyo alliance in the Philippines called the White Ribbon Movement to hold a liturgical service for truth and justice. KARAPATAN joins the White Ribbon Movement in the fervent prayer that justice would flow like a river for all victims of state-terrorism and that big numbers of people would pour into the streets to end the barbarism of the Commander-in-Chief and her cohorts in the military.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

New Witness!!!


Witness to Subic Rape Case Breaks Silence

A new witness to the alleged rape by six U.S. marines of a 22-year old Filipina has emerged. In an exclusive interview with Bulatlat, the witness narrated how an “almost naked woman” from a Starex van was dumped almost in front of her on that fateful night of November 1. She also said an orange condom thrown from the van landed on her foot. If her statement is true, she would be a very valuable prosecution witness because her account corroborates the statements by other witnesses as well as gives credence to the charge of gang rape because of the presence of another condom.


OLONGAPO CITY – She carried with her a tall frosted bottle of Artic Strawberry Vodka placed inside a plastic bag when she met with Bulatlat around 2 p.m. on Nov. 17.

The woman, who was in her early 50s and for security reasons Bulatlat will identify only as Olivia, placed the bottle on the table and said: “Kung makakapagsalita lang ang boteng ito, marami itong maikukwento tungkol sa nangyari sa loob ng van.” (If only this bottle can speak, it will have a lot to say about what happened in the van.)

She was referring to the dark-colored Starex van where six U.S. servicemen allegedly raped a 22-year old Filipina on Nov. 1 in the Subic Bay Freeport. Subic, located some 138 kms. northwest of Manila, is a former U.S. naval base but has continued to host U.S. naval ships after the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) took effect and paved the way for U.S.-RP joint-military exercises.

She said the bottle was almost empty when handed to her by an American wearing a sando (an undershirt). The man, who was on board a van, opened the window and asked her: “You want this?”

Without hesitation, she took the bottle, said “Thank you” and walked away. Little did she know a crime was being committed at that very moment.

Her testimony

Olivia said she went inside the premises of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) in the afternoon of Nov. 1 to gather softdrink and beer cans for her child’s science project.

“Inisip ko na maraming in-cans duon dahil nabalitaan nga namin na may dumating na barko,” (I knew there would be many cans there because we heard that a ship had just docked) she said. The USS Essex carrying U.S. servicemen came to port on Philippine shores for military exercises on Oct. 22 and left Nov. 2, a day after the alleged rape occurred.

Olivia said she was at the vicinity of Neptune when she noticed a dark-colored van playing loud music. She then saw a woman being escorted by some Caucasians to the van.

She could not however say what time it was because she did not have a watch.

“Yung babae, kung maglakad malagihay na,” (The woman was already walking unsteadily) she said.

The van left as soon as the woman and the American servicemen went in, she said.

As Olivia went around the base to gather more cans, she noticed the same van going around the vicinity. It was still playing music too loudly, she said.

When Olivia was by the church near the Legenda Hotel (around 1 km from Neptune), she noticed the same van, this time parked on the street.

While rummaging through a garbage container beside the van, its window suddenly opened and a Caucasian male offered her the bottle. It was then that she was given the tall, frosted bottle of Artic Strawberry Vodka.

After around 20 minutes, Olivia left and van was still there.

Olivia’s search for cans lasted till late in the evening and took her to the trash cans along the boardwalk. To her surprise, the same van stopped right beside the light post beside which she was standing.

Olivia said she saw a naked woman being dumped from the van. She also saw someone from inside the van threw clothes and what she described as “something sticky.”

That sticky thing, which hit Olivia’s left leg before landing on top of her toe was a used condom, said Olivia. “Naku, kabastos!” (How gross) she said and threw the used condom into the wastebasket. She said she remembers the condom was color orange.

Olivia then heard voices inside the van saying, “Just leave her there. Let’s go! Let’s go! Let’s go! Hurry!”

It was then that the van left hurriedly, she said.

“Nagulat ako. Akala ko patay na yung babae kasi malatang-malata sya,” (I was surprised. I thought the woman was dead because she was limp) she said.

Out of shock, she said she could only stare at the woman at first who pleaded, “Tulungan nyo ako.” (Help me.)

Olivia then noticed that the woman was only wearing panties. “Yung harapan ng panty ay nasa pwet tapos nakalilis pa (The front side of the panty was at the back and was halfway down),” she said while demonstrating how the victim’s panty was rolled down to show her buttocks.

“Tapos, may nakita akong palapit na pulis kaya tumakbo na ako,” (Then I saw a policeman approaching so I ran away)” she said. That was the last time she saw the victim.


“Hindi ako nakatulog nang gabing yun (I was not able to sleep that night),” she said. “Naawa ako sa babae.” (I felt sorry for the girl.)

It was only in the afternoon the next day when she heard in the news about the alleged rape involving six U.S. servicemen. It was only then, she said, that she realized she has witnessed a crime.

“Hindi ko akalain na aabot ito sa ganito (I did not realize that it will come to this),” she said. “Naikwento ko naman sa mga kaibigan ko yung nalalaman ko pero ayoko na sanang masangkot dito sa gulo kaya hindi na ako nagsabi sa pulis, (I have told my friends about what I know but I do not want to get involved in this mess so I did not tell the police)” she added.


But Olivia could not hide her anger at the van driver. “Hayop yung driver na yun. Sa kanya ang manibela pero wala syang ginawa,” (The driver is an animal. He has control of the steering wheel but he did not do anything) she said.

“Wag nya sabihin na wala syang nakita kasi kung may salamin siya sa harap, makikita niya lahat ng nangyari. Busog na ang bulsa nya, busog pa ang mata nya sa kakatingin,” (He cannot claim he saw nothing, his van has a rear view mirror. His pockets would be full and he would also have watched) she said.

She said the driver could just have stopped in front of a group of policemen and told them something was going on inside the van. “Napakaraming pulis nung gabi na yun. May naka-bike, naka-motor, naka-patrol, naglalakad at nakatambay,” (There were so many policemen that night. There were some on bicycles, on motorcycles, some were walking and some were simply standing by) she said.

Credible witness

In a separate interview, human rights lawyer Neri Colmenares, spokesperson of the Counsels for the Defense of Liberties (CODAL), said Olivia should consider testifying before the courts.

She is a credible witness on two grounds, said the lawyer. First, she has no interest in the case because she is just an ordinary person who witnessed a fact. Second, her fear for her life shows she is not a rehearsed witness, the lawyer said.

Colmenares also said her testimony is “crucial” as it corroborates earlier accounts of the victim and some other witnesses.

“First, that Olivia saw the victim being dumped links the woman to the van,” he said.

“Second, since the woman came from the van and Olivia saw the van surfing around Subic corroborates that the woman was raped while going around the area,” he added.

Third, Colmenares said the second condom (the first condom being the one recovered by police investigators) proves that it was “gang rape.”

“The second condom would further raise the nature of the crime to gang rape because it shows that it was committed by at least two persons,” he said.

However, Colmenares said the crime committed is still considered heinous “whether or not it was only one of them who penetrated the victim.”

The other U.S. servicemen who rode the van could be considered “conspirators.”

“All of them contributed to the crime,” he said. “And that includes the driver.”

Colmenares has not met Olivia but based his comments on this reporter’s account of the interview with the witness.
Something missing

The human rights lawyer however said there is “something missing”. “I believe the police is keeping something,” he said.

Colmenares said there is a big possibility that the police already had custody of the six U.S. servicemen after the crime had been committed.

He pointed out that nobody could have gotten the full names of the six accused if the police were not able to interview the suspects face-to face.

He said the victim could not have taken all their names because she was drunk. Neither did the driver because nobody registers the full names of his/her companions when renting a vehicle, he added.

A hearing is set at the Olongapo City Municipal Trial Court on Nov. 23.


It took two nights, two days before Olivia agreed to be interviewed. She rejected Bulatlat’s request twice. But after some prodding, she finally agreed to tell what she knew about the biggest rape scandal involving American soldiers to hit the country after the rape case of 12-year old Rosario Baluyot in 1987.

Olivia admitted working as a prostitute during in the 1980s, when the U.S. bases were still here. She agreed to be interviewed on condition of anonymity.

Source: Bulatlat

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


July 1, 2005
Groups Say Terror Lists Are 'Arbitrary'
by Stefania Bianchi

BRUSSELS - Government blacklists that proscribe groups and individuals as terrorists are arbitrary, secretive, and unjust, according to a new report by a network of civil rights groups.

Statewatch, which monitors the civil liberties in the European Union (EU), the Campaign Against Criminalizing Communities, and the Human Rights and Social Justice Institute at the London Metropolitan University say "proscribing" - or labeling groups and individuals as terrorists - in order to "criminalize their activities or impose sanctions against them with no right of appeal" has become an "integral" part of the war on terrorism.

The joint report, "Terrorizing the Rule of Law: The Policy and Practice of Proscription" released by the civil rights groups Wednesday, says the proscription of alleged terrorists raises serious human rights concerns.

"Terrorist lists are a recipe for arbitrary, secretive, and unjust decision-making," Tony Bunyan, director of Statewatch, said in a statement.

Proscription takes various forms and differs according to the jurisdiction, varying from complete bans that criminalize groups' members and supporters, to the freezing of assets of individuals suspected of supporting terrorism.

In the aftermath of 9/11, Statewatch says proscription has been "embraced uncritically" by the international community despite the problems it poses for the application of human rights standards.

To date, hundreds of people around the world have been proscribed, and Statewatch says they often have no legal means to challenge the allegations against them or the legal basis for their proscription.

"The lack of effective judicial remedies at the national level and the minimal jurisdiction of the EU Courts mean that no proscribed group has yet had full access to court and the chance to challenge the underlying matters of law and fact in full, whether domestically or in an international court," the report says.

Britain and the U.S. have so far banned 25 and 41 so-called "international terrorist organizations" respectively, while the U.S. also has a list of over 350 groups that are believed to "support" terrorism and whose assets are frozen.

The EU has a terrorist list of 45 individuals and 47 groups, while the UN has frozen the assets of 322 individuals and 115 groups said to be associated with al-Qaeda or the Taliban.

Statewatch says terrorist lists are frequently drawn up on a basis of secret intelligence, and that the normal judicial process governing such serious accusations, and their prosecution, is "discarded."

Although the British parliament and U.S. Senate are briefly consulted on such lists, the civil liberties group says there is no democratic oversight whatsoever of the EU and UN lists.

Instead, the EU and UN create their lists on the basis of intelligence provided by their member states without any parliamentary scrutiny. These lists and the related sanctions are binding on all member states.

"Recent debates over new anti-terror measures have shown that it is unacceptable to sideline parliaments and exclude the courts. But this is precisely how the lists are agreed - by the executive on the basis of 'intelligence' alone. It is also clear that the UK and U.S. enjoy extensive and unchecked power as far as the EU and UN lists are concerned," the report says.

Statewatch adds that such lists make no allowance for groups and individuals who are engaged in acts of resistance to occupation or tyranny in their countries and warns that as a result, freedom fighters and their supporters are being criminalized.

"Hundreds of groups and individuals have now been criminalized around the world and the various lists are expanding as states attempt to add all groups engaged in resistance to occupation or tyranny. Those exercising what many people around the world see as a legitimate right to self-defense and determination are increasingly being treated - on a global basis - the same way as Osama Bin Laden," the report says.

The effects of proscription can be devastating not only for individuals, but entire communities, Statewatch says.

The human rights group Amnesty International agrees that a wide range of the EU's counterterrorism initiatives, including its terrorist blacklists, are compromising human rights.

"It is clear that the lack of concrete, legally-binding human rights safeguards is not only leading to serious breaches of human rights but has created legal confusion and uncertainty," Dick Oosting, director of Amnesty International's EU office, told IPS Thursday.

"Cross-border cooperation to prosecute and remove people suspected of terrorist involvement is increasing, but fundamental human rights safeguards are being left behind at the borders," he added.

(Inter Press Service)

Find this article at:

Condemn the Palo Massacre!!!

KARAPATAN condemns the Palo, Leyte massacre and the spate of extra-judicial killings, says government is at war with its people

The human rights alliance KARAPATAN condemns the 5:00 AM massacre of farmer residents of Palo, Leyte perpetrated by elements of the 19th Infantry Batallion of the Philippine Army and the spate of extra-judicial killings that have surged once more since September of this year.

Ricardo "Ding" Uy, a broadcast journalist and chairperson of Bayan Muna in Sorsogon City was shot to death on November 18, 2005.

On November 19, Errol Raymund Sending, a member of the urban poor organization KADAMAY and Bayan Muna Pampanga was walking along Burgos Street in Angeles City when an assailant pumped five bullets into his body.

At dawn today, soldiers from the 19th IBPA led by Lt. Louie Dagoy opened fire on the farmers in a tent in San Agustin, Palo, Leyte, killing at least 5 people and wounding many others (as of 11:00 AM today). Wounded were: Ranilo Orseda, 42 years old, Ismael Rigato, 22, Cora Bernabe, 52, Richard Margallo, 30, Narlito Borra , 20, Mark Pansa, 23, Ramy Compio, 36, and Ferdinand Montejos.

In news reports, the soldiers are quoted as having said that there are armed groups among the farmers' group that set up the tent. This is being belied by the farmers.

Initial reports gathered by KARAPATAN reveals that farmers from the San Agustin Beneficiaries Association went on a "balik-uma" on November 20. After receiving a DAR order in favor of the farmer beneficiaries, 46 individuals, many of them representing the six (6) families that were awarded ownership of the land, set up a tent in the area.

Yesterday, Nov. 20, the couple who were abducted by the military in Nueva Ecija on October 26, were found dead. The remains of Danilo Suteña and Maribel Tablang were found inside separate sacks near a highway in San Jose City. Tablang was four months pregnant.

"To date, 128 individuals have been summarily executed since January, and our view is that the Macapagal-Arroyo government is waging a war against its people," said KARAPATAN Secretary General Marie Hilao-Enriquez.

The extra-judicial killings of civilians, among them activists, journalists, priests, lawyers, human rights defenders, judges, peasants and workers continue unabated and the perpertrators, mainly state security forces and paramilitary elements, go unpunished.

Enriquez said "the AFP is going after defenseless civilians in its bid to counter rebellion in the Philippines, now being packaged by the regime as counter-terrorism; and it is clearly being sanctioned by the Macapagal-Arroyo government."

Suicide farmer

Farmer suicides over rice market
From correspondents in Pusan, South Korea
17 November 2005

A SOUTH Korean farmer angered by plans to open up the local rice market killed herself by drinking insecticide, police today said as Pacific Rim leaders push at a meeting in the country for freer world trade.

Oh Cho-ok, 40, a farmer from a southern village, urged South Korean politicians in her suicide note not to pass measures which would incrementally open the country's rice markets as part of its World Trade Organisation obligations.

"We can't allow rice imports. We can't, for our countrymen," police said her suicide note read. Oh drank insecticide and died at a hospital in the southern city of Taegu today, police said. She did not mention the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting being held in South Korea's second city of Busan in her note, but tens of thousands of farmers are scheduled to protest in Busan tomorrow against APEC's calls for trade liberalisation.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Even businessmen are being killed

November 18, 2005

Dear Friends,

The attacks against progressive, cause-oriented groups in the country are not stopping. In fact, the attacks have become more frequent and vicious.

After the killings of the last week of October ( labor union president Ricardo Ramos killed on Oct. 25 in Tarlac; partylist group Bayan Muna [People First] coordinator Ricardo Rivera and his two jogging companions, Dr. David and Mr. Maniti in Pampanga; and, transport organization leader Federico de Leon in Bulacan), another wave of killings is now going on in November aimed at leaders of the partylist group Bayan Muna or People First which the military has been vilifying as communist fronts and recruiters of New People's Army rebels. Bayan Muna emerged as the number one partylist organization elected in the 2004 elections despite the military's active campaign against the group.

On November 7, Bayan Muna Ormoc City coordinator Jose Ducalang was shot at the tricycle terminal in Barangay Ipil, Ormoc City, Leyte Island; he died on Nov. 10 at the hospital. On November 13, former Vice Mayor of Maydolong, Eastern Samar and Bayan Muna Eastern Samar chair Bienvenido Bajado was also gunned down and killed in Maydolong, Eastern Samar.

Today, November 18, 2005 at 11:00 AM, MR. RICARDO "DING" UY, 57 years old, Chairperson of Bayan Muna Sorsogon City, President of the Sorsogon Independent Media, Inc. (SIMRI) and Bgy. Kagawad (Village Council Member of Bgy. Basud) was shot dead inside his rice mill (Soledad Corral Uy Ricemill) located at the national highway, Bgy. Basud, Sorsogon City. Mr. Uy is a known businessman in the city.

Reports said that Mr. Uy was alone inside his ricemill when the perpetrator went inside and shot him at the back. Five shots were heard by a helper who was outside of the ricemill. When the shots rang out, the helper ran to the ricemill to see what happened. The perpetrator leveled his gun at the helper and shot him but there was no bullet anymore, so the perpetrator just left and walked to a motorcycle which was parked near the ricemill. The helper said that the perpetrator was a tall man, with long hair, wearing shades and a hat. Mr. Uy had 5 gunshot wounds; 3 in his body, 1 at the chin and 1 in his arm.

Mr. Uy anchored the 5-6 am Monday radio program at DZRS Sorsogon radio named " Kidlat Bareta asin Komentaryo" (News Flash and Commentary which runs at 5-6 am Monday to Saturday; Mr. Uy anchors the Monday slot). He was a hard-hitting critic of the militarization of the towns of Sorsogon and other policies of the government which he considered anti-poor.

Since last year, the military has been vilifying Mr Uy over the military's own radio program titled, "Ugnayan sa Kapayapaan," (Linking for Peace) at DZMS, another radio station, as a communist supporter and recruiter of the NPA. Mr. Uy was even included in the military's leaflets and propaganda materials being distributed in the city demonizing him as a communist supporter. A shadowy group by the name of Kilusan Kontra Terorista (KKT) is signed in the leaflets and statements.

Before his killing, Mr. Uy has been the subject of verbal attacks of the military in their radio program at DZMS for three consecutive Saturdays (the Philippine Army's program runs at 12:30-1:00 PM every Saturday).

Mr. Uy was a very active supporter of KARAPATAN, always participating in the fact-finding missions the human rights group conducted in the province.


From Marie Hilao-Enriquez
Secretary General

Complaint to the PSG Commander

November 17, 2005

Brig. Gen. Delfin Bangit
Presidential Security Group
Malacañang Park, Manila

Dear Gen. Bangit,

I write this letter to protest the action of your soldiers in barring the entry of peaceful men and women to attend the Holy Mass at the National Shrine of St. Michael & The Archangels in the afternoon of Tuesday, the 15th of November. I also strongly protest what the PSG and police did to the priests who came to concelebrate the Holy Mass. One priest was turned away at the Solano gate. Four were held at Arlegui gate and again at J.P. Laurel corner Arlegui.

When I went to fetch them, barriers were placed in front of my vehicle and we found ourselves surrounded by soldiers and policemen who made sure we did not stray one step outside the cordon they formed around us. We were five unarmed priests who could not by any stretch of imagination have posed any threat to anyone, let alone the palace. Yet we were treated in such a high-handed manner. I find it particularly disturbing and unacceptable that I, the parish priest of San Miguel Parish was prevented from going to my own church.

With due respect to you, General, if your only concern is to ensure peace and avoid any untoward incident, I believe that could be achieved by simply frisking the people at the gates and escorting them to church, is you find that necessary, or positioning your gates around the church, or even asking them, if they wish, to join the people inside the church. Pardon me, but I honestly believe that there is no need to deploy truckloads of soldiers and police to secure the church. All we want is to pray. We have neither the capability nor the inclination to assault the palace.

You should have seen the celebration in the church and the procession of the image of Inay Maria of the Magnificat after the Mass. It was a very meaningful celebration by ordinary, peace-loving people. I am sure that the men and women under your command, if they by any chance came close enough, would be able to tell you so.

Respectfully yours,

Msgr. Ernesto P. Cruz
Parish Priest

Archbishop Angel Lagdameo, Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines
Rev. Fr. Jose P. Dizon, Kairos Philippines

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Gloria tuta ng Kano

Rape Case as a Political Issue

Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye’s statement last week calling on President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s opponents and critics to refrain from making a political issue out of the Subic rape case misses the whole point — that the rape of a Filipina by visiting U.S. troops cannot be anything but a political issue.


Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye’s statement last week calling on President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s opponents and critics to refrain from making a political issue out of the Nov. 1 alleged rape of a Filipina in Subic, Zambales (138 kms. north of Manila) by six U.S. Marine soldiers, misses the whole point. The rape case involving visiting U.S. troops cannot be anything but a political issue.

Initial findings from Subic police show that the victim, a college graduate from Zamboanga taking a vacation in Subic, was at a karaoke bar Nov. 1 when she met the six suspects, who reportedly took her with them into a rented van. An eyewitness saw her a few hours later being dumped on the road, unconscious, only wearing panties, from a van.

The six suspects – Keith Silkwood, Daniel Smith, Albert Lara, Dominic Duplantis, Corey Barris and Chad Carpenter – were participants in the joint Philippine-U.S. Balikatan military exercises. They are now under the custody of the U.S. Embassy in Manila. Subpoenas have been served to them, but the U.S. Embassy has yet to surface the suspects.

The U.S. Navy is reportedly conducting its own investigation of the incident. “Currently, the NCIS (Naval Criminal Investigation Service) is investigating from the U.S. side,” said Capt. Burrel Parmer, public affairs officer of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) to which the six suspects belong. “I don’t know exactly what the Philippine side is investigating, but I know there is an ongoing investigation.”


Parmer’s statement sounds reassuring until we look back at the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), which provides for the “rights” of U.S. troops visiting the Philippines for the Balikatan military exercises – which includes exemption from passport and visa requirements.

The VFA provides enough loopholes for the six US soldiers accused of rape to evade justice.

The first loophole is on the question of jurisdiction. Article V of the VFA, which deals with criminal jurisdiction, provides among other things that the U.S. has the primary right to exercise jurisdiction over U.S. personnel in relation to “offenses arising out of any act or omission done in performance of official duty.”

If the NCIS investigation yield the “findings” that the rape was committed while the six U.S. soldiers were “on official duty” by regarding the entirety of the six suspects’ stay in the Philippines for the Balikatan military exercises – including their off-“training” hours – as “official duty.” Then all the Philippines can do is to call for a “review” of the official duty certificate and “mandate” the U.S. side to “take full account” of the Philippine position.

The VFA also provides that the Philippine government may waive jurisdiction over a case if requested by United States military authorities: “Recognizing the responsibility of the United States military authorities to maintain good order and discipline among their forces, Philippine authorities will, upon request by the United States, waive their primary right to exercise jurisdiction except in cases of particular importance to the Philippines. If the Government of the Philippines determines that the case is of particular importance, it shall communicate such determination to the United States authorities within twenty (20) days after the Philippine authorities receive the United States request.”

The said provision practically compels Philippine authorities to give up criminal jurisdiction at the “request” of the U.S. government. Given the tendency of the Arroyo administration to kowtow to any request by the US government such as supporting unjust wars of aggression as what happened in Iraq, then the six US soldiers may as well elude justice in exchange for aid.

Another loophole is the question of custody. While denying the rumors that the six US soldiers have been spirited out to the US base in Japan, US embassy officials claim that there is nothing in the VFA that compels the accused to be held in the country. They said that what was required by the VFA was to ensure that the accused be presented in court whenever necessary.

When criminal jurisdiction over the six suspects goes into U.S. hands, the Philippines may as well kiss all hopes of justice for the victim goodbye. The U.S. also has a long record of spiriting away American soldiers suspected of committing criminal acts in the Philippines before they could be tried in Philippine courts.


The culpability of Macapagal-Arroyo lies in her unwavering support for US military presence in the country.

Upon assumption of office after the ouster of former President Joseph Estrada, Macapagal-Arroyo could have used the powers of her office to call for a termination of the VFA. The VFA provides that either party could give a notice of termination of the agreement. The agreement remains in force until after 180 days from the date when either party notifies the other in writing that it desires to terminate the agreement.

On the contrary, in late 2001, Macapagal-Arroyo actively pushed for the Balikatan military exercises. She even called its opponents “un-Filipino” and “Abu Sayyaf lovers.” Her vice-president and foreign affairs secretary then, Teofisto Guingona, who in 1991 voted for the rejection of the RP-U.S. Military Bases Agreement and remained a staunch opponent of the presence of U.S. troops on Philippine soil, was even forced to resign in late 2002. He would then be replaced as foreign affairs secretary by the pro-U.S. Blas Ople.

Macapagal-Arroyo would even add to all these by approving also in late 2002 the Mutual Logistics Support Agreement (MLSA), which permits U.S. troops to bring military equipment into the country from any point – thus allowing for some sort of basing arrangements.

By not exercising her powers to bring about a termination of the VFA, by pushing for the Balikatan military exercises and the approval of the MLSA, Macapagal-Arroyo places on her shoulders the responsibility for the consequences of the aforementioned iniquitous RP.U.S. agreements. This includes the Nov. 1 rape of a Filipina in Subic by six U.S. Marine soldiers. This makes it an issue against her administration.

Above all, the issue of the Nov. 1 rape is an issue of sovereignty. The VFA and the MLSA, by their iniquity, can rightly be assailed as affronts against Philippine sovereignty.

All these make the issue of the Nov. 1 rape a political issue. Bulatlat

Gonzales sipsip sa Kano

DoJ chief accused of coddling six GIs
First posted 07:31am (Mla time) Nov 17, 2005
By Juliet Labog-Javellana, Philip C. Tubeza, Tonette Orejas
Inquirer News Service

NO LESS than Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez is protecting the American servicemen accused of raping a 22-year-old Filipino woman, ordering them to be placed under the custody of the US Embassy immediately upon its request, lawyer Katrina Legarda said yesterday.

The only government agency left caring for the rape victim is the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

"We are involved here because it is the DSWD's mandate to provide services to abused children and women. We'll just focus on the psycho-social well-being of the victim and the family," said Social Welfare Secretary Luwalhati Pablo.

Legarda, counsel for the woman allegedly raped by six servicemen on Nov. 1 at the Subic Bay Freeport in Zambales, said Gonzalez received a call from a US Embassy attaché early on Nov. 2.

"On the basis of that call, the DoJ (Department of Justice) secretary ordered the Olongapo fiscal to turn the US servicemen over to the US Embassy," Legarda told the Inquirer.

Because of the turnover, prosecutors failed to conduct an inquest immediately and police were unable to arrest and detain the servicemen who had participated in the recent RP-US counterterrorism exercises in the Philippines, the lawyer said.

During inquest, the prosecutor determines probable cause against the accused immediately after the commission of a crime.

"It seems to me that the DoJ is out to protect the Americans. There was no intent to have these soldiers go to jail. He let them go," Legarda said.

Transfer of case rejected

Yesterday, Gonzalez rejected Legarda's request to transfer the preliminary investigation of the case, scheduled for Nov. 23, from Olongapo City to Manila.

While admitting that he has yet to read her letter-request, Gonzalez described as "illogical" Legarda's fear that her client's case might end up like the other sexual abuse and rape cases that had been dismissed by the Olongapo City Prosecutor's Office.

"The circumstances are different there," Gonzalez said. He added that if the prosecutors showed any bias or other anomalous actions, then he would have the case transferred to the DOJ in Manila.

"Let's have the preliminary investigation first. If there's a good reason (to transfer the case), then we'll do it but let's allow the fiscal to do his job," he said.

'Good luck sign'

Gonzalez again reminded the suspects that nonappearance during the preliminary investigation and not submitting their counteraffidavits would mean that the charge against them before the prosecutors would go unchallenged.

"Strictly speaking, they can waive it but you cannot file your counteraffidavit without swearing before the fiscal," he said.

While rejecting Legarda's request for a transfer, Gonzalez said he was willing to grant her wish that Chief State Prosecutor Jovencito Zuño be appointed as special prosecutor if a case against the US Marines was later filed in court.

Legarda has said that she wants Zuño as a "good luck" sign since he was the prosecutor who helped her convict former Zamboanga Representative Romeo Jalosjos for raping an 11-year-old girl in 1996.

"They can have it if they want it," Gonzalez said.

In Olongapo City, Prosecutor Prudencio Jalandoni said it was "not true" that as many as 3,000 rape cases against Americans had been dismissed when the freeport was still a US naval base.

He said fewer than 30 cases had been filed against US sailors and most had been dismissed for lack of evidence. Others were settled out of court, he said.

To review VFA

US Embassy custody of the alleged rapists is now the subject of a debate and one of the reasons why the Legislative Oversight Committee on the Visiting Forces Agreement will convene this morning to review the VFA.

The committee, co-chaired by Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Cebu Representative Antonio Cuenco, also invited Timoteo Soriano, the driver of the rented van where the Americans allegedly raped the college graduate from Zamboanga.

"We invited the driver as well because from his testimony -- apparently he is the only witness available -- we will have an idea how long the trial will take," Santiago said.

She noted that Legarda had expressed concern the one-year deadline for the resolution of the case stipulated in the VFA was practically impossible to meet.

"Then we'll know if there is a valid ground for the transfer to Okinawa," the senator said.

The senator herself opposed the reported request of the US Marines to be transferred to Japan while the case was pending. She said this would further inflame Filipino passions.

Santiago said that if the testimony of the driver was straightforward and credible there should be no transfer of the accused. However, the driver has not confirmed attendance at the hearing.

She said it was time the committee reviewed the VFA because of conflicting statements by Philippine officials on the custody issue.

Deliberately vague on custody

"In my view as a lawyer, the VFA is deliberately vague on custody before judgment," Santiago said. But she has warned that the Philippines can terminate the VFA if the US Marines were transferred to the US base in Japan.

She said she would ask VFA Commission Executive Director Zosimo Paredes to explain his controversial statement that nothing in the VFA required the detention of the US Marines in the country.

Santiago has said that the United States could only have custody of US personnel facing criminal charges if the Philippine government approves a formal request on this.

She says she wants to know whether the United States has made a request for custody of the Americans and if so why the Philippine government granted it.

Invited to appear in the hearing were Justice Secretary Gonzalez, Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo, Zuño, Legarda, University of the Philippines College of Law dean Salvador Carlota and noted constitutionalist Fr. Joaquin Bernas.

Also yesterday, 50 members of militant groups Akbayan and the Alliance of Progressive Labor-Women staged a lightning rally near the US Embassy in a continuing protest against the Subic incident. With reports from Cynthia D. Balana and Tina G. Santos

Source: http://news.inq7.net/nation/index.php?index=1&story_id=56819

Gloria hates journalists...

Exclusively positive

I was at the Kapisanan ng Brodkaster ng Pilipinas’ (KBP) Top Level Management Conference last Thursday, November 10, and heard and saw Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo urge those present to stop covering “kangaroo courts, lynch mobs and witch-hunts.”

Mrs. Arroyo described those involved in the “kangaroo courts,” etc., as “losers” and herself and her administration as “winners.” The public, 41 percent of whom are tired of negative news, wants winners, she said. Ergo, the media should be reporting on her latest triumphs, among them the boost in the peso’s value and her having saved P37 billion as a result of her supposedly skilful management of the country’s finances.

She was right only about the 41 percent of the public that’s tired of negative reports. The Social Weather Stations survey that said so only confirmed anecdotal evidence in letters to the editor, forums on the press, and “man in the street” interviews that in four cases out of ten lament “media negativism.”

Mrs. Arroyo mistakes journalism for press agentry, like the 41 percent of Filipinos who think the media should paint pretty pictures no matter how ugly the situation. They don’t want the truth; they want to be diverted from their problems, and they think it’s the press’ job to do so.

But never mind how mistaken are the assumptions of those who complain that the media are “too negative.” Mrs. Arroyo and her media crew saw an opportunity to pander to more or less popular belief, and they took it.

Mrs. Arroyo was far from being original, however. Every president from Manuel Quezon on has complained about the press. But it was Ferdinand Marcos who did something beyond complaining about it, while keeping a stable of media hacks in his payroll.

When Marcos declared martial law in 1972 he shut down the media organizations he didn’t like and had selected journalists arrested. He then imposed press censorship and put in place a number of laws to assure media docility.

As a result, the country learned only in 1986 about the growth of the national debt from less than a billion dollars in the 1960s to about 30 billion dollars by the time Marcos was overthrown. From 1972 to 1986 there were no “negative” reports on the overpricing and 3,000 defects of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant, and none on the disappearances, the rapes, the torture and the “salvaging” of suspected political offenders except in the underground and alternative press.

Only perfunctorily did the regulated media mention the rice shortages, the energy crisis, the suppression of strikes, the inflation and the runaway poverty that made the export of labor a key Marcos government policy. Instead, the news media regaled us with such “good news” as the growth of the economy based on statistics no one dared check, and government “victories” in Mindanao, the reports on which were based on AFP press releases.

To this day there are people living in this country then who might as well have been on Mars because they thought martial law was a time of economic prosperity, peace and stability. These are the people dear to the hearts of tyrants, and you can create as many of them as you need by making the press report only on the “positive”–or at least find a positive spin on distressing developments.

Following Mrs. Arroyo’s suggestion, journalists should have ignored and not reported on the formation and subsequent hearings of the Citizens’ Congress on Truth and Accountability, the street protests including their violent dispersal by Mrs. Arroyo’s police, and those hearings in Congress on the Hello Garci tapes and jueteng, no matter what their public interest value.

The media, after initially reporting on them, should not have mentioned either what happened next in the following:

Mrs. Arroyo’s announcing that she wanted a legislated wage increase. Her frantic backtracking later in the face of business’ objections the media should not have reported. Or should it have been her announcement in the first place the media should have ignored? But then, would that have meant that the media was ignoring how well Mrs. Arroyo was managing the economy?

Mrs. Arroyo’s announcing the arrest of the number two man of the Abu Sayyaf. The fact that the police and military, acting on bad intelligence, had arrested the wrong man, had roughed him up and pointed guns at his children should not have been reported later, again following Mrs. Arroyo’s suggestion, because that made her and the police look bad.

And what about that alleged gunfight at Ortigas, in which a video shows the police riddling the bodies of alleged carjackers with bullets the better to assure that they were dead? Shouldn’t the media have kept silent on that, and instead congratulated the country’s incorruptible, professional and well-trained policemen instead?

There’s also the gang-rape of a Filipina by US Marines. Shouldn’t reports on that have been suppressed, since it eventually focused attention on the lop-sided provisions of the Visiting Forces Agreement?

As far as the VFA goes, shouldn’t the media stop providing the public such details as then Senator Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s voting for it? Even more important, shouldn’t the media stop reminding people that it was Mrs. Arroyo who invited US troops back into the country in the first place?

Finally, shouldn’t the media stop talking about the Hello Garci tapes and the flawed process that proclaimed Mrs. Arroyo president, and instead nod its collective heads together to say yes, indeed, she was “elected fair and square”?

If journalists had acted as Mrs. Arroyo wants, they would be getting accolades from the government now rather than brickbats. But that would have meant looking for a name other than “journalists” for themselves and a term other than “journalism” for what they do.

Source: http://www.luisteodoro.com

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

US Troops Out Now! Bitayin ang mga rapists!

Source: http://news.inq7.net/nation/index.php?index=1&story_id=56667

Katrina Legarda: This is more difficult than Jalosjos case
First posted 01:01am (Mla time) Nov 16, 2005
By Juliet Labog-Javellana
Inquirer News Service

SHE SENT a powerful congressman, Romeo Jalosjos, to prison on two life terms for raping an 11-year-old girl in 1996, but Katrina Legarda sees her newest case as a formidable challenge.

Unlike in the celebrated Jalosjos case where there was only one accused, the 22-year-old college graduate from Zamboanga who was allegedly raped by six US servicemen in a rented van in Subic on Nov. 1 is up against six defendants, each of whom "can have his own lawyer and can set up his own defense," Legarda told the Inquirer.

The complaint signed by the woman named five US servicemen and one John Doe. But Legarda said the woman recalled only five servicemen.

"This is not as easy as the Jalosjos case. This is much more difficult," Legarda said.

Legarda, head of the Child Justice League (CJL), has been tapped by the Department of Social Welfare and Development to represent the 22-year-old.

She will be backed by five fellow lawyers from the CJL and the Accra Law Firm, one of the leading law offices in the country.

"I'm not saying I'm pessimistic [about the Subic case], but this is going to be a long slog," said Legarda, who is providing pro bono or free legal services to the victim.

In the Jalosjos case, she said, it took all of 450 days from the arraignment to the sentencing in December 1997. And this involved daily hearings four times a week.

This is why Legarda is concerned about the one-year deadline under the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) to resolve the case. She said it was hardly possible for a Philippine court to hand down a verdict in one year.

Political factor

And then there is the political factor, Legarda said.

While the 11-year-old girl went up against a wealthy and well-connected Zamboanga del Norte lawmaker, the woman from Zamboanga is fighting members of the military of the world's only superpower.

"What I told the family of the girl is that whatever happens, whether there will be a conviction or acquittal, the political fallout will be great," Legarda said.

She said Philippine officials would always protect RP-US relations, preserve Subic as a tourist haven and place for R&R (rest and recreation) of American military personnel -- and "allow the Bush administration to have anything [it wants]."

"In fact, the [police] in Subic are having difficulty in filing cases in the prosecution office [in Olongapo] because it tends to dismiss cases [against Americans]," Legarda said.

In a statement yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Francis Pangilinan expressed concern over the Subic case, saying 3,000 rape cases against Americans had been dismissed in the Olongapo City court.

This is why Legarda has requested the transfer of the hearings of the case from Olongapo to the Department of Justice (DoJ) office in Manila.

"We are all here in Manila, including the accused, so why should we have the case heard in Olongapo?" she said.

Formal request

Legarda formally asked Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez yesterday to transfer the case to the DoJ main office. But Gonzalez said on Monday that he was not inclined to do so.

"This request is being made in view of our previous experience with the Office of the City Prosecutor of Olongapo which culminated in the dismissal of rape and other sexual abuse cases," Legarda said in a letter-request.

She added: "To obviate this unfortunate turn of events, it has been our policy and practice to have the preliminary investigation of such cases conducted in the [DoJ]."

Legarda said she hoped Gonzalez would approve the request before the start of the preliminary investigation in Olongapo on Nov. 23.

She also pointed out that the Olongapo prosecutor could have conducted an inquest to immediately find out if there was probable cause against the suspects, but that the latter instead set the case for preliminary investigation.

"So this is going to be delayed, and [the process] would take longer," said CJL executive director Cristina Sevilla, who delivered the letter-request.

But earlier, Olongapo Prosecutor Prudencio Jalandoni said an inquest could not be conducted because when he and his staff arrived at the Subic Bay Freeport, the US Embassy had already taken custody of the servicemen.


Legarda told the Inquirer that Philippine officials did not seem to know what rights the woman had and what help she could get under the terms of the VFA.

She said it was not even clear when the one-year deadline would begin.

Legarda also said some officials in Subic were protective of the Americans and were helping pressure the woman to drop the case.

"I heard -- and this is probably gossip -- that when [the woman] went to complain, someone [at the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority] said she should just settle the case," Legarda said.

But Legarda made it clear that it was not SBMA administrator Arman Arreza who had made such overtures.

"When [the woman] heard there were witnesses coming forward to help her, she rejected [the offer to settle]," Legarda said.

She said that as in other rape cases, she would not blame the woman if the latter decided to settle.

"But as of now, the [woman's] family is determined to fight," Legarda said.

She said the woman and her family were grateful for the support of many witnesses and sectors.

"I think she might [pursue the case], except that this is not an easy case," Legarda said.

On the basis of evidence

Asked if she felt that her client's case was strong, Legarda said: "All cases can [be lost or won] only on the basis of evidence. I don't want to say I will win or lose in this case."

She said one good aspect was that there were many witnesses who had come forward and who could still be tapped, unlike in the Jalosjos case where there was no witness.

The difficulty in the Subic case also comes from the fact that Legarda came in 10 days late, after the woman had submitted her sworn statement.

"In the Jalosjos case, we had the girl from Day One," Legarda said, adding:

"I'm OK with [the woman's] sworn statement, but she needs witnesses. There are certain things she did that needs corroboration."

Legarda said she had asked the women's and children's desk of the Subic police to do follow-up investigations and get the statements of at least nine more witnesses.

DNA samples

Legarda said she would also ask for DNA samples from the five identified servicemen for comparison with the sample from a used condom recovered from the scene.

She also said she was not certain whether she would get the help of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) in securing the DNA samples.

She noted that despite her request, she had yet to get photocopies of the identification cards and passports of the servicemen.

"The US will have to cooperate," Legarda said.

As in her other cases, Legarda is determined to apply all her legal skills to help the woman from Zamboanga.

She will be assisted by other female CJL lawyers: Minerva "June" Ambrosio, Cristina Sevilla, Diana Lee, Sheila Bazar and Amy Arellano.

But it won't be an all-woman legal team.

"What's good now is that the IBP (Integrated Bar of the Philippines) has instructed Rogelio Vinluan of Accra Law to assist us. He is one of the best litigators in the country," Legarda said.

She said she was also hoping for one good-luck sign -- that Chief State Prosecutor Jovencito Zuño would be assigned special prosecutor for the Subic case.

Zuño was the state prosecutor for the Jalosjos case.

Not inclined to transfer case

On Monday, Gonzalez said he was not inclined to transfer the case to Manila unless the prosecutor handling the case in Olongapo showed any bias.

"There seems to be no reason [to transfer the case]. The prosecutor in Olongapo, so far, has shown that he is up to the job. So it would be unfair to just relieve him and transfer the case here," he said.

"As a general principle, it has got to be in Subic because that is where the supposed incident took place. That is jurisdictional according to the Rules of Court. Right now, I don't see why we should transfer. But we are not saying that it cannot be transferred," he said.

Gonzalez said he would remove City Prosecutor Jalandoni from the case only under "certain extraordinary situations," like "a show of bias one way or the other," or "some other reasons."

He said transferring the case to Manila at this time "would seem to indicate that we have lost confidence in him or whatever... " With a report from Philip C. Tubeza

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Sa Dubai nga ba o sa Iraq?

Para sa MIGRANTE at lahat ng nagmamalsakit sa mga kababayang OCW.

Bawal daw magtrabaho sa Baghdad, sabi ng gobyerno, kuntodo tatak pa sa passport na no travel allowed to Iraq.

This is on top of last night's report about OFW conditions in Dubai (yes, Dubai) where our kababayans are bearing a 38 percent hike in house rent. Some are now paying an equivalent of P1M a year for a house.

Maghandang magalit.


Blood, Sweat & Tears: Asia's Poor Build U.S. Bases in Iraq
by David Phinney, Special to CorpWatch
October 3rd, 2005

Jing Soliman left his family in the Philippines for what sounded like a sure thing--a job as a warehouse worker at Camp Anaconda in Iraq. His new employer, Prime Projects International (PPI) of Dubai, is a major, but low-profile, subcontractor to Halliburton's multi-billion-dollar deal with the Pentagon to provide support services to U.S. forces.

But Soliman wouldn't be making anything near the salaries-- starting $80,000 a year and often topping $100,000-- that Halliburton's engineering and construction unit, Kellogg, Brown & Root (KBR) pays to the truck drivers, construction workers, office workers, and other laborers it recruits from the United States. Instead, the 35-year-old father of two anticipated $615 a month – including overtime. For a 40-hour work week, that would be just over $3 an hour. But for the 12-hour day, seven-day week that Soliman says was standard for him and many contractor employees in Iraq, he actually earned $1.56 an hour.

Soliman planned to send most of his $7,380 annual pay home to his family in the Philippines, where the combined unemployment and underemployment rate tops 28 percent. The average annual income in Manila is $4,384, and the World Bank estimates that nearly half of the nation's 84 million people live on less than $2 a day.

"I am an ordinary man," said Soliman during a recent telephone interview from his home in Quezon City near Manila. "It was good money."

His ambitions, like many U.S. civilians working in Iraq, were modest: "I wanted to save up, buy a house and provide for my family," he says.

That simple dream drives hordes of low-wage workers like Soliman to travel to Iraq from more than three dozen countries. They are lured by jobs with companies working on projects led by Halliburton and other major U.S.-funded contractors hired to provide support services to the military and reconstruction efforts.

Called "third country nationals" (TCN) in contractor's parlance, they hail largely from impoverished Asian countries such as the Philippines, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Pakistan, as well as from Turkey and countries in the Middle East. Once in Iraq, TCNs earn monthly salaries between $200 to $1,000 as truck drivers, construction workers, carpenters, warehousemen, laundry workers, cooks, accountants, beauticians, and similar blue-collar jobs.

Invisible Army of Cheap Labor

Tens of thousands of such TNC laborers have helped set new records for the largest civilian workforce ever hired in support of a U.S. war. They are employed through complex layers of companies working in Iraq. At the top of the pyramid-shaped system is the U.S. government which assigned over $24 billion in contracts over the last two years. Just below that layer are the prime contractors like Halliburton and Bechtel. Below them are dozens of smaller subcontracting companies-- largely based in the Middle East --including PPI, First Kuwaiti Trading & Contracting and Alargan Trading of Kuwait, Gulf Catering, Saudi Trading & Construction Company of Saudi Arabia. Such companies, which recruit and employ the bulk of the foreign workers in Iraq, have experienced explosive growth since the invasion of Iraq by providing labor and services to the more high-profile prime contractors.

This layered system not only cuts costs for the prime contractors, but also creates an untraceable trail of contracts that clouds the liability of companies and hinders comprehensive oversight by U.S. contract auditors. In April, the Government Accountability Office, an investigative arm of the U.S. Congress concluded that it is impossible to accurately estimate the total number of U.S. or foreign nationals working in Iraq.

The GAO's investigation was prompted by concerns in Congress about insurance costs that all U.S.-funded contractors and subcontractors in are obligated by law to carry for their workers--costs which are then passed on to the government.

"It is difficult to aggregate reliable data," said the GAO report, "due in part to the large number of contractors and the multiple levels of subcontractors performing work in Iraq."

The menial wages paid to TCNs working for the regional contractors may be the most significant factor in the Pentagon's argument that outsourcing military support is far more cost-efficient for the U.S. taxpayer than using its own troops to maintain camps and feed its ranks.

But there is also a human cost to this savings. Numerous former American contractors returning home say they were shocked at conditions faced by this mostly invisible, but indispensable army of low-paid workers. TCNs frequently sleep in crowded trailers and wait outside in line in 100 degree plus heat to eat "slop." Many are said to lack adequate medical care and put in hard labor seven days a week, 10 hours or more a day, for little or no overtime pay. Few receive proper workplace safety equipment or adequate protection from incoming mortars and rockets. When frequent gunfire, rockets and mortar shell from the ongoing conflict hits the sprawling military camps, American contractors slip on helmets and bulletproof vests, but TCNs are frequently shielded only by the shirts on their backs and the flimsy trailers they sleep in.

Adding to these dangers and hardships, some TCNs complain publicly about not being paid the wages they expected. Others say their employers use "bait-and-switch" tactics: recruiting them for jobs in Kuwait or other Middle Eastern countries and then pressuring them to go to Iraq. All of these problems have resulted in labor disputes, strikes and on-the-job protests.

While the exact number of TCNs working in Iraq is uncertain, a rough estimate can be gleaned from Halliburton's own numbers, which indicate that TCNs make up 35,000 of KBR's 48,000 workers in Iraq employed under sweeping contract for military support. Known as the Logistics Civilian Augmentation Program (LOGCAP), this contract – by far the largest in Iraq -- is now approaching the $15 billion mark. Citing security concerns, however, the Houston-headquartered company and several other major contractors declined to release detailed figures on the workforce that is estimated to be 100,000 or more.

High Risks, Low Benefits

"They do all the grunt jobs," said former KBR supervisor Steve Powell, 54, from Azle, Texas. "But a lot of them are top notch."

Powell returned home from at Camp Diamondback in May this year. He was disillusioned, he said, with the high staff turnover of KBR employees and the treatment of TCNs that a KBR subcontractor from Turkey had hired as mechanics.

"The Filipinos were making $600 to $1,200 a month. That's good money for them, but there was tension from time to time. They sometimes thought they were doing all the work," says Powell who drove trucks for 30 years before working as a KBR truck maintenance foreman in Iraq for a year for $6,000 to $8,000 a month. "We weren't supposed to get our hands dirty."

The TCNs not only do much of the dirty work, but, like others working for the U.S. military, risk and sometimes lose their lives. Many are killed in mortar attacks; some are shot. Others have been taken hostage before meeting their death. In particularly gruesome set of murders on August 30, 2004, the captors of 12 Nepalese cooks and cleaners working for a Jordanian construction company beheaded one worker and posted a video of the execution on the internet with the message: "We have carried out the sentence of God against 12 Nepalese who came from their country to fight the Muslims and to serve the Jews and the Christians . . . believing in Buddha as their God."

The murders led Kathmandu to bar its citizens from working in Iraq, although companies doing business there continue to employ Nepalese workers.

The Pentagon keeps no comprehensive record of TCN casualties. But the Georgia-based nonprofit, Iraq Coalition Casualty Count, estimates that TCNs make up more than 100 of the estimated 269 civilian fatalities. The number of unreported fatalities could be much higher, while unreported and life-altering injuries are legion.

Soliman was one TCN who barely escaped death on the night of May 11, 2004, when his living trailer at Camp Anaconda was blown apart by a bomb attack. Sardonically dubbed "Mortaritaville," the camp sits 42 miles north of Baghdad. Some 17,000 US soldiers and thousands of contractors have dug into the former Iraqi airbase for a long-term occupation.

Three others were injured along with Soliman that night. One roommate, 25-year-old fuel pump attendant Raymund Natividad, was killed. Soliman flew home to the Philippines in a wheelchair days later because he wanted medical treatment in his own country. But even after surgery and skin grafts, he sometimes feels nagging pain in his leg, he says. Doctors tell Soliman he will walk with a piece of shrapnel lodged in his left leg for the rest of his life.

"It was too deep" to remove, he explains.

The attack ignited shock waves of fear among the 1,300 Filipino workers at Camp Anaconda. Some 600 PPI employees immediately quit over safety concerns. "Filipinos don't want to work anymore in the mess halls, laundry and fuel depot," a Filipino embassy official in Baghdad said at the time. "There's a paralysis of work."

By mid-July, 2004, the Philippines would resign from the "Coalition of the Willing" and withdraw its modest military presence of 43 soldiers and eight policemen from Iraq one month earlier than scheduled. The precipitating event was a threat by Iraqi militias to behead Filipino hostage Angelo de la Cruz, a 46-year-old truck driver for the Saudi Arabian Trading and Construction Company. One day after the withdrawal, his captors released the father of eight. He returned home to the storm of media attention hailing his safe return and offers of a free home and scholarships for the children.

Only fleeting headlines in Manila greeted Soliman's homecoming just months earlier. Now jobless, he speaks fondly of the U.S. troops to whom, he says, he was forbidden to speak to by his company supervisors at PPI.

"The Army treated us like friends," he said, boasting of a certificate the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers awarded him in recognition of his service as a warehouse worker who handled and received food supplies for the camp.

His memories of PPI are less congenial. His managers were foul-mouthed and verbally abusive and lunches served on the job sites were unfit to eat, Soliman said. PPI restricted employees to two 5-minute phone calls home a month and deducted the cost from their paychecks.

"They were $10 more expensive than at the PX (the retail store on the military base), but if they see you making a call at another location, they would send you home," Salomon said.

A number of former KBR supervisors say they don't know why TCNs continue working in Iraq when they face much more brutal working conditions and hours than what their American and European co-workers would tolerate.

"TCNs had a lot of problems with overtime and things," recalls Sharon Reynolds of Kirbyville, Texas. "I remember one time that they didn't get paid for four months."

The former KBR administrator, who spent 11 months in Iraq until April, says she was responsible for processing time sheets for 665 TCNs employed by PPI at Camp Victory near Baghdad. The 14,000 troops and the American contractors based at this former palace for Saddam Hussein have use of an Olympic-sized swimming pool and a manmade lake preserved for special events and fishing.

But TCNs have to make do with far less . "They don't get sick pay and if PPI had insurance, they sure didn't talk about it much," Reynolds recalls. "TCNs had a lot of problems with overtime and things. ...I had to go to bat for them to get shoes and proper clothing,"

As for living conditions, TCNs "ate outside in 140 degree heat," she says. American contractors and U.S. troops ate at the air-conditioned Pegasus Dining Facility featuring a short-order grill, salad, pizza, sandwich and ice cream bars under the KBR logistics contract.

"TCNs had to stand in line with plates and were served something like be curry and fish heads from big old pots," Reynolds says incredulously. "It looked like a concentration camp,"

And even when it came to basic safety, the TCNs faced a double standard. "They didn't have personal protection equipment to wear when there was an alert," Reynolds said. "Here we are walking around with helmets and vests because of an alert and they are just looking at us wondering what's going on."

Contractors Respond
PPI in Dubai has failed to respond to numerous phone calls about the accusations of mistreatment. "I don't think anyone will want to comment." said a representative who answered the phone and decline to provide phone numbers or e-mail addresses of company executives.

There is little public information about PPI, but other contractors say the company's leading officers boast of a close association with Halliburton and say that it was formed by staff who previously worked with local firms sponsoring Halliburton's business activities in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Several sources say PPI was active as a major Halliburton subcontractor in Bosnia and at the high-security prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Halliburton spokesperson Melissa Norcross denied that the company has ownership or investment ties with PPI. The Halliburton unit is proud of its employees and subcontractors "who daily face danger to support the troops serving in Iraq and the Middle East," said Norcross, adding that Halliburton requires all subcontractors to provide acceptable living and working conditions for its workers.

"KBR operates under a rigorous code of ethics that describes not only its standards of integrity, but its commitment to treat all of its employees and subcontractors with dignity and respect," Norcross wrote in an e-mail. The company "is aware of past disagreements between subcontractors and their employees, and KBR has interjected itself into the situation as appropriate and worked with the subcontractors to address these concerns."

Norcross did not offer details of past problems involving working conditions for TCNs, nor did KBR's project manager for Iraq and Kuwait, Remo Butler, when contacted by e-mail. But if allegations of wrongdoing or contract violations are found, Norcross said, Halliburton would address them, and "would also report any wrongdoings to the appropriate authorities, including our customer, the U.S. military."

The military, however, is apparently either unaware of the conditions or has simply chosen not acknowledge them. Margaret A. Browne, spokesperson for the U.S. Army Field Support Command which manages KBR's LOGCAP contract, confirmed that the company is expected to fulfill health, security and life support requirements for
subcontractors in the LOGCAP agreement.

These are "serious issues and we are presently investigating the specific incidents you've addressed," she said referring to problems outlined by former KBR supervisors and TCN workers. "We are concerned about employment conditions for all employees," Browne said in an e-mail, adding that KBR is expected to fulfill a number of requirements outlining the health, security and life support requirements for subcontractors under the LOGCAP agreement, but that oversight for those requirements is under the purview of Halliburton and its subcontractors.

Diverted to Iraq

Challenging Halliburton and Army assurances, former KBR supervisors say they frequently witnessed subcontractors failing to meet required conditions , while some TCNs share horror stories with claims that they were falsely recruited, believing they were signing up for work in Kuwait and then having their contract changed to Iraq.

"I had no idea that I would end up in Iraq" says Ramil Autencio, who signed with MGM Worldwide Manpower and General Services in the Philippines. The 37-year-old air conditioning maintenance worker thought he would be working at Crown Plaza Hotel in Kuwait for $450 a month.

He arrived in Kuwait in December 2003, only to discover that First Kuwaiti had bought his contract. The company, which now holds U.S.-funded contracts valued in the neighborhood of $1 billion, threatened that unless he and dozens of other Filipino workers went to Iraq, the Kuwaiti police would arrested them, he says. "We had no choice but to go along with them. After all, we were in their country."

Once in Iraq, Autencio found that there were no air conditioners to install or maintain, so he spent 11 hours a day "moving boulders" to fortify the camps, first at Camp Anaconda and then at Tikrit.

Food was inadequate and workers were not getting paid, he says. "We ate when the Americans had leftovers from their meals. If not, we didn't eat at all."

Working and living conditions were so bad, that in February 2004 Autencio escaped with dozens of others. A U.S. soldier born in the Philippines helped them leave the camp, and sympathetic truck drivers working for KBR offered them rides through the country. By the time the Filipinos reached the Kuwaiti border, Autencio said the number of fleeing workers was so great that the border police let them pass through without proper papers.

First Kuwaiti general manager Wahid al Absi says Autencio is lying. His proof is a working agreement, purportedly signed in the Philippines by Autencio. Al Absi admits that unscrupulous recruitment agencies do sometimes misrepresent jobs and take money from people eager to work, but he provided Autencio's undated contract with First Kuwaiti that identified the job site as both Kuwait and "mainly" Iraq.

The agreement also lays out salary: $346 a month for 8-hour days, seven days a week, plus $104 a month for a mandatory 2 hours overtime every day.

Al Absi insists that Autencio was paid in full.

"He sued me in court over this, and he lost," Al Absi said. "He doesn't have a case against us."

First Kuwaiti holds $600 million in Army contracts, Al Absi said. The company is also a leading competitor for $500 million contract to build the U.S. embassy in Baghdad and presently holds contracts for more than $300 million for preliminary work on the project.

Pattern of Recruiting Abuses

Autencio is not the only former TCN worker with a grievance against Halliburton subcontractors and the layers of third-party recruiters.

The Washington Post lays out an intricate recruiting scheme involving dining service workers from India who were lost in a maze of five recruiters and subcontractors on several continents. The Indians claimed to have been falsely recruited for jobs in Kuwait, only to end up in Iraq. During their time at a military camp in the war zone, they lacked adequate drinking water, food, health care, and security, according to the July 1, 2004 article.

"I cursed my fate -- not having a feeling my life was secure, knowing I could not go back, and being treated like a kind of animal," for less than $7 a day, Dharmapalan Ajayakumar told the newspaper.

Ajayakumar's case is a study in the convoluted world of Iraqi contracts: Workers were reported to have been first recruited by Subhash Vijay in India to work for Gulf Catering Company of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Gulf Catering was subcontracted to Alargan Group of Kuwait City, which was subcontracted to the Event Source of Salt Lake City, which in turn was subcontracted to KBR of Houston. And KBR, of course, is a subsidiary of Halliburton.

Nepalese worker Krishna Bahadur Khadka told a similar story of false recruitment in a September 7, 2004 news report in the Kathmandu Post. After being recruited for a job in Kuwait, he says, he arrived only to be told by First Kuwaiti Trading that if he and 121 other workers they refused work in Iraq, they would be sent back to Nepal.

"I was not happy at first as my contractors did not provide me a job as heavy vehicle driver as pledged. But they had offered Rs 175,000 [$2,450], and one would not be able earn half that amount in Kuwait. So I signed the papers," Khadka said, adding that he had already invested $1,680 as payment to an agent in Nepal.

First Kuwaiti's general manager claims that this allegation, too, is a lie and that Khadka misrepresented his skills. Again al Absi presented a contract identifying the work site as "mainly Iraq." It bore Khadka's signature and fingerprint.

"Khadka is a troublemaker who was trying to organize the workers," al Absi said, noting that thousands of TCNs working for First Kuwaiti have renewed their contracts with raises. "We treat our workers with excellent care," he said.

Labor Strike, You're Out

But cared for or not, hundreds of Filipinos in Iraq face being fired for staging labor strikes and sickouts to protest their treatment at military camps. In May 2005, 300 Filipinos went on strike at Camp Cook against PPI and KBR. The workers were soon joined by 500 others from India, Sri Lanka, and Nepal to protest working conditions and pay, according to the Manila Times. The dispute was settled with intervention from the Philippines Department of Foreign Affairs.

At the time of the strike, the Philippines offered the strikers free flights back to the Philippines, an invitation first made in April when the Philippines reiterated its ban on work in Iraq. The offer sparked concern at the U.S. embassy in Manila, according to news reports, because a loss of Filipino workers threatened military support services in Iraq.

The U.S. embassy then clarified its position on April 27. Embassy spokesperson Karen Kelley acknowledged that while Filipinos "play a crucial role in the allied effort to bring peace and democracy to a people who have been too long deprived of both," embassy officials also "recognize the government of the Philippines' concern for the welfare of its citizens."

Other strikes have gone unreported, recalls former KBR employee Paul Dinsmore. Hired as a carpenter, he later transferred to Logistics as a heavy truck driver at Camp Speicher, a sprawling 24-square-mile installation near Tikrit in northern Iraq. Dinsmore says the work crews he supervised at the former Iraqi airbase were made up of Hindis, Pakistanis, Nepalese, and Filipinos working for First Kuwaiti.

Working at Camp Speicher for seven months before returning home in May 2005, Dinsmore said he knew of three different instances of TCN construction workers who refused outright to work or showed up only to sit out most of the day. Asked what was going on, TCNs told him that First Kuwaiti had not been paid them for several months and that they didn't want to be treated that way.

"I heard that several hundred Filipinos were fired in September 2004 before I got there because of labor problems," Dinsmore said. After discovering that the TCN assistants were not paid any overtime, he was careful to get them back to their compound after their 10 hour day.

Like Powell and Reynolds, Dinsmore recounted dismal working conditions. "One of the construction Filipinos told him that they were treated like human cattle by some of the Western employees there and that they did not receive enough medical treatment when they were ill."

Many times, Dinsmore said, he would buy non-prescription drugs from the PX for his crews, especially when a very bad virus was going around during the winter of 2004-2005. If the case was bad enough, he would take the workers to the KBR clinic. His supervisor and the clinic medics told him that treating TCNs violated company policy. "We were told that First Kuwaiti was supposed to take care of them," Dinsmore said.

Dinsmore also turned to the Army for food. He says the food First Kuwaiti served was so poor, that he and other KBR employees would hand out military field rations – known as "meals ready to eat" or MREs. "When the Army stopped that practice, many of us KBR people would pick up "to go" plates from the DFAC [dining facilities] and hand them out to the TCNs we were responsible for. If you want them to work well, you've got to feed them."

Despite these conditions, TCNs finished jobs ahead of schedule, says Dinsmore. He credits these workers for personal praise he won from KBR and the military for his own performance. "The reality was that without the TCNs, very little construction would get accomplished on time on Speicher," said Dinsmore adding that "I heard that eventually KBR took care of the pay issue."

First Kuwaiti manager Wadih Al Absi insists that his company provides the same quality of living and food that the U.S. Army provides to its soldiers and that the company has received commendations from the Army. "We have no problems with our employees; they get excellent care," he said.

Let Them Eat Sand

Randy McDale, who rose to be a KBR foreman for heavy construction equipment at Camp Victory and other installations near the Baghdad International Airport, confirmed many of the other contractors' and TCN's charges of miserable conditions and inadequate safety.

"Everyday was like T-bone steaks for us, but I would starve to death before eating what they had," he said of the workers with PPI. "Guys would just go and get lunch for them and bring it to the work site. The TCNs couldn't get it fast enough."

McDale, a KBR foreman for heavy construction equipment at Camp Victory and other installations near the Baghdad International Airport, spent 15 months in Iraq before returning home in April to an eight-year-old trailer house on 35-acres of land in cattle ranch country outside of Bogata, Texas, "halfway between Paris and Texarkana."

Earning about $7,500 to $8,000 a month before his promotion, McDale said many American workers saw a clear line between themselves and the TCNs. "There's a prejudice among some Americans that they are not equal and just labor force," he said. "Americans are supposed to be the experts."

The division was made all the more clear to McDale by TCNs' lack of protective armor for threat alerts and boots and hard hats for construction work. "Some were wearing sandals walking in the mud when it was winter and 40 degrees," he said of the Indians, Sri Lankans and Filipinos he worked with. "One guy didn't even have a coat."

KBR gave McDale grief after he requested 20 hard hats for his workers, he said. "I don't know why KBR wasn't giving PPI a hard time for not getting the right equipment. That's the way it works in the States. If a subcontractor isn't ready, you fire them."

Willing to Return

Although Filipino passports now explicitly ban entry into Iraq, the ranks of Filipinos sneaking over the border from neighboring countries has as swelled from an estimated 4,000 before the 2003 ban to 6,000 today.

Filipinos "believe it is better to work in Iraq with their lives in danger rather than face the danger of not having breakfast, lunch, or dinner in the Philippines," said Maita Santiago, secretary-general for Migrante International, an organization that defends the rights of more than a million overseas Filipino workers.

Despite complaints about First Kuwaiti, Autencio said he would return to Iraq if he had guarantees for proper food and pay. "I would take my chances abroad if I couldn't find a decent job here," he said during an interview at his home in Pasig City, an urban area in metropolitan Manila "But I'd take any job here that pays enough to buy me a second hand car and start my own business."

Soliman, now finds his problems with PPI and injuries in Iraq pale in comparison to life back in the Philippines. Jobless, he sees his life teetering on the edge. He may be splitting up with his wife, and plans for providing a new home to his family are on hold. He says he doubts that PPI will be sending money for his final medical checkup or even the several months salary he says he is still owed But those things don't matter so much.

What really matters now is finding another job. "If you hear of anything, let me know," Soliman said at the end of the interview. "I would even go back to Iraq."

David Phinney is a journalist and broadcaster based in Washington, DC, whose work has appeared in The Los Angeles Times, New York Times and on ABC and PBS. He can be contacted at: phinneydavid@yahoo.com.

Lucille Quiambao and Howie Severino reported from the Philippines for this article. Additional research by Pratap Chatterjee.