Wednesday, May 31, 2006

They are widely successful political organizations with tens of thousands of members and a great deal of influence

The Manila Times
Tuesday, May 30, 2006

By Ernesto F. Herrera
'Enemies of the state'

SEN. Nene Pimentel is right to be afraid. Why pass the antiterrorism bill when right now human-rights violations are being committed left and right in the country (heavily on the Left, in fact, if you know what I mean).

The senator raised the difficulty (perhaps impossibility) of agreeing on what may constitute an act of terrorism. If the recent killings and human-rights violations should serve as indicators, it is very clear which people the government considers terrorists and enemies of the state.

Ninety-five members of Bayan Muna have been killed since 2001 and the Left-leaning political organization has accused Secretary Raul M. Gonzalez, National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales and Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita of "masterminding" the killings.

The citizenry may be too busy trying to make both ends meet to care. But police and military abuses and the "pattern of impunity" for these human-rights violations are now the country's most pressing problem.

The last time human-rights abuses became this alarming was during the Marcos dictatorship. And to think that these abuses are being committed under the watch of a president who was backed by the Catholic hierarchy in the last fraud-ridden election.

The political Left is suffering the most casualties. Everything is being blamed on it—the attempts to overthrow the government, bombings, assassinations. All of those being arrested without the requisite warrants are being called communist destabilizers, including the five members of the Union of the Masses for Democracy and Justice who were allegedly tortured after being tagged as communist assassins.

The administration's main military man or attack dog if you will, General Jovito Palparan, is calling for a new law that would outlaw the Communist Party of the Philippines and the party-list and other nongovernment organizations it is identified with. His main reason? These organizations are supposedly working with the underground Left and other opposition groups out to topple the Arroyo administration.

Make no mistake, working to resolve a political crisis which has left our country in the hands of a president with a highly questionable mandate can be considered a terrorist act, with or without an antiterrorism law. This—tagging political opponents as criminals—is something former President Erap did not consider even during the height of calls for his ouster and/or resignation. Ironically, the anti-Erap protests then were led by the same groups the Arroyo administration now consider as enemies of the state.

Bayan Muna wants an independent commission patterned after the United Nations' Model Protocol for Commissions of Inquiry to look into the unabated killings of activists in the country. This is only fair. The involvement of police and military personnel, and the possible involvement of Cabinet officials in human-rights abuses warrant an independent probe. So far the state has failed to investigate and discipline officers (both military and police) for violations of our people's constitutional rights and it has lagged behind in pursuing the dozens of cases involving the beatings and killings of activists. The GMA administration has failed to address human-rights concerns effectively perhaps because it may have sanctioned or even initiated these problems.

A couple of months ago Amnesty International called on government authorities "to fulfill their obligation to protect the right to life, not least by conducting prompt, thorough, impartial and effective investigations" of the killings of activists. "Such investigations should then lead to the prosecution and punishment of those responsible. In order to combat impunity, the authorities must also send a clear, unequivocal message to all members of the police, military and other security forces that involvement in, or acquiescence to, such unlawful killings will never be tolerated," the international human-rights group added.

The continuing violations of human rights, including killings, disappearances, illegal detention, beatings and other forms of intimidation directed mainly at those who call for a resolution of the political crisis which Mrs. Arroyo herself has engendered make it clear that this administration is not acting to curb politically-motivated violence and has no intention of responding to the systematic repression of political activists.

Make the Communist Party and its affiliated groups illegal? All of them? Broadly defined the list could include such disparate groups as women's rights groups, welfare mothers, militant radicals, civil rights activists, liberals, labor unionists and what have you.

And what about the party list groups? Isn't it unusual that the very same party-list groups Palparan wants outlawed (the likes of Bayan Muna, Anakpawis, Anakbayan, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, Gabriela) are the ones which have suffered the most casualties in the spate of activist killings since Mrs. Arroyo assumed office?

As secretary-general of the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines, I myself have had differences with my left-wing counterparts in the labor movement, but I've always respected how they work tirelessly for their concerns.

The party-list groups I mentioned are no different. They are widely successful political organizations with tens of thousands of members (enough to ensure success in a Pinoy Big Brother competition even) and a great deal of influence.

Regardless of how detractors like Palparan and the two Gonzaleses in the Cabinet label them, these groups have contributed to the passing of significant policies in Congress. Their reform proposals encompass measures that are broad and tangible, including social security, environmental issues, labor rights, public housing, education, consumer rights, progressive taxation, etc. The political system is all the better because of them.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Rep. Beltran to Sto. Tomas: Resign now and good riddance

May 30, 2006

Rep. Beltran to Sto. Tomas: Resign now and good riddance

"If she think she's stressed out, we can only imagine the state of health, mind and welfare of the workers whose rights she has violated by signing all those various memoranda, department orders and case decisions. How many workers have lost not only their jobs but their very lives because of her?"

This was the reaction of activist legislator Anakpawis Rep. Crispin Beltran to reports that labor and employment secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas is mulling over resignation for health reasons.

"She should resign now, and good riddance," said Beltran. "Under her administration, the labor department has become even more anti-worker and anti-poor. She shouldn't expect any compassion from the workers, neither is there anyone willing to step forward and stop her from resigning. To leave the public service would be Sto. Tomas' gift to the hundreds of thousands of workers she helped employers and capitalists abuse, exploit, and kick out of employment."

"Actually, her exit is long overdue. Government employees, labor unions, and private sector workers have long been appealing for her resignation and the rejection of her appointment," Beltran said.

"Pat Sto. Tomas will not be missed even if she leaves the DOLE. How can one miss a labor Secretary who herself has been accused of committing unfair labor practice, violating the Constitutional rights of government employees to self-organization by directly intervening in the affairs of DOLE employees, union-busting, and grave abuse of authority?" Beltran said.

Though still incarcerated, Beltran said that he still closely monitors the developments in the labor front. "The situation of our workers is deplorable. And things keep getting worse. Sto. Tomas has done essentially nothing to help improve the lives and welfare of Filipino workers. Because of her, human rights violations against workers have shot clear through the roof, and the country's unemployment rate has remained at alarming levels. The brutal massacre of the workers and farmworkers of Hacienda Luisita is also something she remains and will always remain partly responsible for," he insisted.

Still, Beltran said that Sto. Tomas' impending resignation would not absolve her of her injustices against Filipino workers. "Sto. Tomas will still be held accountable for the various labor rights violations committed under her term, particularly the Hacienda Luisita massacre," Beltran said.

Justice for Noli Capulong and all victims of state terrorism!

"Noli was Chairman of the Christian Witness and Service Committee of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines in Calamba City (UCCP-Calamba), Spokesperson of the Southern Tagalog Environmental Action Movement (STEAM) and Deputy Secretary General of Bayan Muna in Southern Tagalog.

"A former staff of the NCCP, Noli was an untiring worker of the International Affairs Desk and later on as Coordinator of the Ecology and Environmental Protection Program for Southern Luzon. He served as President of the United Church Men in his church and chaired the Christian Witness and Service Committee for the UCCP North East Southern Tagalog Conference at one time. He was instrumental in promoting ecumenical work and played a key role in the formation of the Southern Tagalog Regional Ecumenical Council. He was a member of the Kapatirang Simbahan para sa Bayan (KASIMBAYAN) and convenor of the Christian Movement for Good Government.

"Noli epitomized what it meant to serve God by serving the people. As a passionate speaker, he used this God-given eloquence to expose and denounce consistently projects in Southern Tagalog that were detrimental to the people and destructive to the environment; if not symbols of mammon."

- National Council of Churches in the Philippines

Death Squads, the CIA and Political Killings in Central Luzon


Death Squads, the CIA and Political Killings in Central Luzon

Stanley Karnow, in his book In Our Image, said the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the U.S. government brought the concept of death squads to the Philippines, specifically in Central Luzon, in the early 1950s through known CIA operatives Gen. Edward Lansdale and Charles Bohannan. These death squads have been known to perpetrate the annihilation of personalities from progressive organizations since then and to this day, and are seen as the culprits in the escalation of political killings in Central Luzon.

Gitnang Luzon News Service
Posted by Bulatlat

Tirso Cruz, 33, officer of the United Luisita Workers’ Union (ULWU), was shot from behind while walking home along with his father and brother in their village in Pando, Concepcion town inside Hacienda Luisita (120 kms. north of Manila), shortly past midnight last March 17.

The two assailants rode a motorcycle and wore ski masks to cover their faces. Cruz died instantly from nine bullets from an M-16 rifle used by the assassins. After committing the murder, the killers poked their guns at Cruz’s brother and calmly drove away passing an army detachment some 100 meters away.

The soldiers and Citizens’ Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) members inside the detachment at the time of the shooting did not bother to investigate or help the victim. They even put out the lights when a barangay tanod (village security) member ran to the detachment minutes after the shooting to report the crime and plead for help.

“Death squads”

The cold-blooded murder of Cruz, the 14th martyr of Hacienda Luisita, bore the trademarks of a “death squad” operation. Aside from the characteristic motorcycle and ski mask, it was carried out with a deadly, surgical precision in a populated area very near a military outpost.

Not one of the perpetrators of the 601 killings and 151 enforced disappearances since Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo assumed the presidency has been tried and sentenced. The public’s verdict: the death squads were let loose and are being protected by the government.

In Central Luzon, at least 98 people have either been killed or abducted and presumed dead since January 2005 to May 17 this year, and almost all are blamed on the government’s death squads, states Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights)-Central Luzon.

The number of victims increased significantly when Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan was designated as commander of the 7th Infantry Division in September last year, says Sr. Cecille Ruiz, Karapatan-CL chairperson.

Palparan is one of the main implementors of Oplan Bantay Laya, the government’s counterinsurgency program. The 7th ID covers the seven provinces of the region –Bulacan, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, Tarlac, Zambales, Bataan and Aurora.

Ruiz said 53 persons were killed and 24 were abducted and remained missing since Palparan was transferred to the region. The incidents represent 78 percent or more than three-fourths of all cases monitored in the region by Karapatan-CL from January 2005 to May 2006.

Sixty per cent of all murders and enforced disappearances in the entire country from September 2005 to the present occurred in Central Luzon and coincided with Palparan’s transfer, states Karapatan-CL.


Stanley Karnow, in his book In Our Image said the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the U.S. government brought the concept of death squads to the Philippines, specifically in Central Luzon, in the early 1950s through known CIA operatives Gen. Edward Lansdale and Charles Bohannan.

The death squads were then known as “skull squadrons” because of their practice of beheading their victims who were mostly suspected members or supporters of the Hukbo ng Bayan Laban sa Hapon (Hukbalahap or People’s Anti-Japanese Army) or the Hukbong Mapagpalaya ng Bayan (HMB or People’s Liberation Army).

Col. Napoleon Valeriano of the Philippine Constabulary (PC) supervised death squad operations to suppress local peasant resistance under CIA direction, Karnow wrote.

During the Marcos dictatorship, the PC organized an armed group known as “Monkees” in Tarlac province, and other similar groups in the region, that killed hundreds of suspected members or supporters of the newly-formed New People’s Army (NPA), as well as the political opponents of Ferdinand Marcos.

It is well known that the Marcos dictatorship reigned with covert CIA backing. Human rights records show that 1,166 people, mostly unarmed peasants, were killed at the height of the dictatorship from 1972 to 1983.

After Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino was installed president in 1986, armed vigilante groups and fanatic cults organized by the Philippine military sprouted across the country. They were a component of the government’s “total war” counterinsurgency campaign within the aegis of the “low intensity conflict” doctrine of the U.S. government.

As many as 50 vigilante groups were formed in the entire country. Records show that 1,064 persons were killed, including 135 cases of massacres, during the Aquino presidency.

The groups, like the Alsa Masa and Tadtad in Mindanao, gained notoriety for mutilating the bodies of their victims. Maj. Gen. John Singlaub, a U.S. military adviser and a high profile CIA operative, is widely believed to be involved in the formation of said groups.

Invariably, albeit without public acknowledgement, death squads are an integral part of the government counterinsurgency program.

Oplan Bantay Laya

Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL) is a five-year program of the Arroyo government aimed at eliminating “threats to national security.” It started in 2002 and at first, targeted “terrorist” groups and the armed secessionist movement in Mindanao island.

The OBL was formulated by the Philippine government as its part in the “global war on terror” doctrine of the US.

In 2003, the OBL program was shifted to neutralize and destroy the threat posed by the New People’s Army (NPA) and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). Central Luzon is among the seven regions identified by the military as priority targets in the implementation of the OBL.

In 2004, the Arroyo government received $4.6 billon for military and economic assistance and $30 million for counterinsurgency exercises from the U.S. government.

The gruesome shooting of seven strikers on Nov. 16, 2004 at the picket line at the Cojuangco-owned Hacienda Luisita placed the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Philippine National Police (PNP) and President Arroyo in a defensive posture as the government was blamed for the carnage.


In January 2005, the government declared that the strike of the plantation and sugar mill workers in Hacienda Luisita has become “a matter of national security” through a Power Point Presentation entitled Knowing the Enemy which was made available to the public.

The AFP also came out with a book titled Trinity of War which, like the presentation, deals on how the government intends to destroy the CPP and the NPA basing primarily on their study of the events in Hacienda Luisita.

The book and the presentation has, since then, served as the Bible of the Arroyo government, especially the generals in the AFP and PNP, in the counterinsurgency campaign within over-all the framework of Oplan Bantay Laya.

But the circulation of the materials in the military and police hierarchy, as well as the general public, also signalled the start of intensified killing and grave human rights violations of leaders and members of militant organizations not only in Hacienda Luisita, but in the entire region and the rest of the country.

In the book and the presentation, legal organizations and institutions suspected as “fronts” of the CPP and the NPA are considered “enemies of the state.” Foremost among these are the party-list organizations Bayan Muna (People First) and Anakpawis (Toiling Masses) and the sectoral organizations belonging to the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan or New Patriotic Alliance).

Even traditional groups such as church and media organizations were not spared and listed as “enemies of the state.” The accusations drew widespread indignation from the public.

“Enemies of the state”

At noon on March 3, 2005, a sniper shot and killed Abelardo Ladera, 45, a Tarlac City councillor. Ladera is from barangay Balite, inside Hacienda Luisita, a popular Bayan Muna leader in the province and ardent supporter of the striking Hacienda Luisita workers.

Ladera is third on a list of seven individuals that in the book and the presentation are described by the military as instigators of the Luisita strike and therefore are “enemies of the state.” The assassination of Ladera was followed by a long string of murders and gross human violations of leaders and members of militant organizations in Central Luzon that has not stopped to this day.

The names of most of the people killed in the region appeared in various military “hit list” or “order of battle” before they were killed. The lists are drawn supposedly from intelligence reports.

Luisita union leader Tirso Cruz, who was also an elected council member in his barangay, was tagged by the Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom) as the “secretary of the revolutionary committee” in the village several months before he was murdered.

To be included in the list is has been considered as a sure prelude to a death squad attack in utter disregard to existing laws and basic human rights.

Last month, because of the increasing number and regularity of the murders and the refusal of the Arroyo government to investigate and punish the perpetrators, an editorial of the Philippine Daily Inquirer described the killings as a ”systematic policy of extermination” of the critics of the Arroyo government.

The terms “death squads” and “political killings” have also become part of the popular vocabulary.


Death squads have appeared not only in the Philippines but all over the world.

In a collection of books and articles gathered by author Ralph McGehee entitled CIA Support of Death Squads that was posted in the Internet in 1999, death squads were alleged to have been organized and supported by the CIA in 43 countries, most of them coming from the Third World including the Philippines.

According to the materials, there appears to be several but common patterns on how death squads are born and operate. Among these are:

* Death squads appear whenever there is a strong popular movement against poverty and oppression resulting from “US dominance” in said countries. Death squads also appear when a “progressive” government takes power and resists US impositions.
* The US government, through the CIA, trains, provide arms and finances the death squads in cooperation with the regime in power.
* Death squads are a part of official policies and programs, although not publicly admitted.
* High-profile implementors like Gen. Jose Alberto Medrano of El Salvador, Lt. Gen. Raoul Cedras of Haiti and Maj. Gen Jovito Palparan of the Philippines are employed.
* The killings continue until the objective of weakening the popular resistance is not met or unless there is very strong local and international condemnation and pressure


In the Philippines, as in the case in Central Luzon, the operation of death squads is blatantly used in the framework of Oplan Bantay Laya.

Instead of prosecuting soldiers accused of the crimes, Maj. Gen. Palparan even points the blame on the victims themselves.

In a recent published media interview, Palparan was quoted as saying: “They (the victims) should ask themselves, what are they doing?”

Last week, bowing to widespread indignation and a report from Amnesty International that is critical of the role of the Arroyo government in the killings, a government task force was formed to investigate the incidents. The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has also started its own investigation.

But based on the experiences of other countries, and our own experiences in toppling the Marcos dictatorship, it will take a lot more than investigations to stop the killings. Bulatlat

Monday, May 29, 2006

Another Activist Priest Receives Death Threat

Another Activist Priest Receives Death Threat

REV. FR. RENATO L. RESPICIO, priest of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente received death threat right inside his parish. (details below.)

Fr. Respicio was the coordinator of Patriots' anti-fraud monitoring mission in Nueva Ecija that document cases of election-related fraud and violence during the 2004 elections. He is an active member of the Promotion of Church People's Response (PCPR) and Karapatan. He is often engaged in fact-finding missions regarding human rights abuses in the province.

The death threat clearly came from agents and defenders of the Arroyo government – it is another proof that the perpetrators of the series of political killings and persecution are the armed forces of the Arroyo government!

Summary of Incident

Case: Grave Threat/Harassment
Priest of the Iglesia Filipina

Place of Incident: Pro-Cathedral of St. Jerome, Baloc, Sto. Domingo, Nueva Ecija

May 26, 2006, 4:00 pm – As usual, Fr. Renato Respicio opened the parish collection boxes. Normally, he receives prayer requests from parishioners which he reads during Sunday masses. That day, he received not just prayer requests but a note with the following death threat:

"Mga Kapatid itigil na ang pag-oorganisa sa mga tao hindi maganda ginagawa nio Wag ninyong gamitin ang mga tao. Pag hindi kau tumigil lahat ng pamilya nio ubusin namin pati mga naglilingkod dito sa cimbahan na ito madadamay lahat, minamanmanan namin lahat ng kilos nio, lalu kan fr. mac-mac pati na mga alagad mo sa cimbahan lahat yan damay. Tigil na di nio mapabababa ci presidente arroyo magpatayan lang tayo. Kaya tigilan na yan." (Stop organizing the people, don't use the people. If you will not stop, we will finish all your families and parish workers here. We are watching over your activities, especially Fr. Mac-Mac. Stop what you are doing, you cannot oust President Arroyo so you better stop.")

Promotion of Church People's Response

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Five of the most prominent women lawyers in the US

Five of the most prominent women lawyers in the US arrive in the Philippines to probe into the political persecution, repression and human rights violations in the country.

Rachel Lederman (National Lawyers Guild, she won a million-dollar lawsuit against the city of San Francisco for illegally detaining protesters),

Vanessa Lucas (National Lawyers Guild, Children and Family Justice Center),

Merrilyn Onisko (National Lawyers Guild Co-Chair for the Middle East Sub-committee),

Jill Soffiyah Elijah (Deputy Director of Criminal Justice Institute, Harvard Law School)

Tina Monshipour Foster (Counsel for the Guantanamo Global Justice Initiative, Center for Constitutional Research)

With them in the press conference are Gabriela Women’s Party Representative Liza Maza, Gabriela Secretary General Emmi De Jesus.

Please find below, the lawyers’ profiles and their mission statement:


Ms. Elijah currently serves as Deputy Director of the Criminal Justice Institute, (CJI) Harvard Law School. Before this, she was a clinical instructor where she supervised third year law students in the representation of adult and juvenile clients in the Roxbury and Dorchester Divisions of the Boston Municipal Court.

She was also a member of the faculty at the City University of New York (CUNY) School of Law and taught courses in criminal procedure and juvenile rights. Ms. Elijah who specialized in criminal defense and family law, was a supervising Attorney at the Neigborhood Defense Service of Harlem, and before this, worked as a staff attorney for the Juvenile Rights Division of the Legal Aid Society.

Prof. Elijah has authored several articles and publications based on her research of the US criminal justice and prison systems, and has represented numerous political prisoners and social activists over the past 18 years. She has traveled to Cuba and conducted extensive research on the country’s legal system.

Born in Queens, New York, Ms. Elijah earned a Bachelor of Arts from Cornell University and a Juris Doctorate from Wayne State University Law School in Detroit, Michigan.

Ms. Lederman has been practicing law for eighteen years, primarily in the areas of civil rights and tenants’ rights affirmative litigation, and criminal and juvenile appeals.

She currently serves as the co-chair of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) Post-9/11 Committee and was vice president of the S.F. Bay Area National Lawyers Guild chapter. She was one of the authors of the NLG’s Know Your Rights materials. In addition, she was also a steering committee member of the International Human Rights Initiative, a Governing Board member of Bay Area Police Watch and a member of the NLG National Police Accountability Project.

Ms. Lederman was one of the primary attorneys on a legal team that recently won a sweeping overhaul of Oakland Police Department demonstrations and crowd control policies. This was in the context of a federal civil rights class action arising from the shootings of 58 people with “less lethal” munitions during an antiwar demonstration at the Port of Oakland on April 7, 2003.

She also obtained a one million dollar settlement and a significant published decision in a class action for 350 people arrested during a State of Emergency in San Francisco in 1992 (Collins v. Jordan, 110 F.3d 1363 (9th Cir. 1996). She also won a $225,000 settlement for 17 AIDS activists briefly detained in bars and restaurants by the San Francisco Police during the 1989 “Castro sweep”.

Some of her published appellate decisions:
People v. Hilger (2003) 105 Cal.App.4th 202
People v. Chacon (2003) 1 Cal.Rptr.3d 223
Collins v. Jordan, 110 F.3d 1363 (9th Cir. 1997)

From working in the Manhattan Office of Clifford Chance LLP, one of the world’s largest law firms, Ms. Tina Foster gave it all up to become one of three attorneys working at the Center for Constitutional Rights on behalf of prisoners at the US Naval Station at Gunatanamo Bay, Cuba.

As counsel for the Guantanamo Global Justice Initiative, she coordinates more than 400 individual cases and a “John Doe” case on behalf of unnamed prisoners who have been held without charges since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

In August 2005, Ms. Foster together with other Attorneys from the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) worked to secure the release of two detainees held at Guantanamo who have been declared innocent of terrorist related activities yet continued to be detained. The CCR argues that the men, who are of ethnic Uighurs from China, cannot be returned to China where they face persecution.

Ms. Foster got her Juris Doctorate from the Cornell Law School where she was editor of the Cornell International Law Journal and President of the Cornell Law Students Association. Ms. Foster has been deeply engaged in the pursuit of the protection and observance of civil rights for detainees held in US detention facilities all over the world. Before joining CCR, Ms. Foster practiced law in New York, specializing in criminal defense and class action litigation.

Ms. Lucas earned her Juris Doctorate and MA in Business Administration from the University of San Diego in California. Her law practice has primarily focused on the defense of women and children immigrant rights and she has represented clients in various employment, labor law and civil rights cases.

An active member of the National Lawyers Guild, Ms. Lucas supervises the Children and Family Justice Center’s Children’s Immigration Law practice. With law students and volunteers, she provides legal assistance and representation to children and adolescents seeking refuge in the United States. She was involved in the litigation of asylum and Convention Against Torture claims of children fleeing street gang violence, state persecution, homelessness and abuse.

Ms. Lucas has likewise represented women survivors of domestic violence in divorce, custody, visitation, emergency protection and abuse and developed a curriculum for clinical seminar on domestic violence advocacy.

While attending USD she was actively involved in mediation training, the Human Rights Education Programs, and the San Diego Volunteer Lawyers Program "AIDS Team."

Ms. Onisko is the Co-chair of the National Lawyers Guild Middle East Sub-committee. She has led various initiatives to fight the systematic violence and institutionalized war crimes spawned by racism.

A legal worker with extensive experience in refugee camps in Lebanon, Ms. Onisko has reported on the plight of Palestinian refugees in the Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. She has represented the Palestinian Human Rights Organization in petitioning international bodies to urge the Lebanese government to reverse its policies criticized as racist and discriminatory.

Statement of Mission

Disturbed by the persistent accusations of the Philippine government against, among others, Congresswoman Liza Maza of the Gabriela Women’s Party; Eliza Tita Lubi of the Gabriela Women’s Party; the Gabriela Women’s Party itself, and against the GABRIELA National Alliance of Women;

Concerned by the continuing assassinations of activists, 70 of them women, with none of the assailants being brought to justice and, in almost all instances, the assailants being identified as para-military or military elements; and

Disturbed as well by government threats against and vilification of court judges who rule against government petitions;

We leave for the Philippines with the following intent:
· To confer with human rights lawyers to ascertain the viability of due process and evidence in the rebellion cases filed against Congresswoman Liza Maza, her five congressional colleagues and others;
· To discuss with women leaders the continuing threat of murder against activists, especially women organizers;
· To examine the connection between the government policy of exporting women into the international labor market and persecution of organizations and leaders, especially women who organize women, and the serious threats to their life and liberties, as well as to women’s rights, human rights and civil liberties;
· To examine the connection between the Philippines’ involvement in the so-called war on terror and the constriction of democratic space in the country;
· To express our concern both publicly and privately over this continuing persecution and assassinations.
· To seek international venues and actively work for the relief of the persecuted, especially persecuted women activists and leaders, in the Philippines;


May 26, 2006


Independent research group IBON Foundation denounces the order issued by the Department of Justice (DOJ) preventing Bayan Muna Party-list representative Satur Ocampo to travel to Jakarta, Indonesia to speak in an international forum.

Rep. Ocampo is set to speak at the International Conference on the Cancellation of Illegitimate Debts on May 27-29. The conference is co-sponsored by the international non-government network Reality of Aid (ROA), of which IBON is the secretariat.

IBON international head and ROA project manager Teresa Lauron calls the order �pure and absolute harassment�. According to Lauron, �The DOJ order violates Rep. Ocampo�s constitutional right to travel. The DOJ should be castigated for barring him from leaving the country without a court order.�

On Wednesday, DOJ Secretary Raul Gonzales rejected Rep. Ocampo�s clearance to travel and wrote a memo asking Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita and the rest of the members of the Cabinet security cluster to bar him from going to Jakarta. Yesterday, the Cabinet Oversight Committee on Internal Security informed Rep. Ocampo of the travel ban.

According to Lauron, IBON sees no reason how Rep. Ocampo�s attendance in the debt management conference could affect the charges filed against him and the Batasan 5. She added that Rep. Ocampo will be traveling with administration congressman Eduardo Zialcita, who will also speak in the conference.

�Rep. Ocampo is a respected legislator and we are certain that he would continue to face whatever charges filed against him by the Arroyo administration,� said Lauron.

�Rep. Ocampo is an authority in Congress on the issue of debt management and his participation in the conference is significant,� she added. �We extremely regret that he would not be able to speak in the conference because of this unreasonable and illegal travel ban.�

Rep. Ocampo is scheduled to leave for Jakarta this afternoon. The House of Representatives and the Department of Foreign Affairs had earlier issued him a travel authority and travel tax exemption. (end)

IBON Foundation, Inc. is an independent development institution established in 1978 that provides research, education, publications, information work and advocacy support on socioeconomic issues.

The Reality of Aid is the only major North-South international non-governmental initiative focusing exclusively on analysis and lobbying for poverty eradication policies and practices in the international aid regime. It brings together more than 40 civil society networks working in the field of international cooperation in the 22 donor countries, in Asia, the Americas and Africa. The project builds on a 13-year track-record of independent assessment of aid policies and practices, accomplished by constructive dialogue with policymakers at national and international levels.

Another activist murdered

Another activist murdered

The Philippine Star 05/28/2006

Another leader of the militant group Bayan Muna was gunned down by two motorcycle-riding men in Calamba City, Laguna early last night.

Initial reports identified the victim as Noli Capulong, 53, a founding member and regional secretary of Bayan Muna in Southern Tagalog.

The victim was earlier reported to be a younger brother of human rights lawyer Romeo Capulong but this turned out to be false.

Capulong was driving along the Interior Road in Barangay Parian when waylaid by two men who were riding in tandem on a motorcycle at about 6 p.m.

Senior Superintendent Aaron Fidel, Calabarzon chief of intelligence, said Capulong, a resident of Barangay Poblacion in Calamba, was on his way home when he was ambushed. The suspects fled and authorities are still clueless as to the identities of the suspects.

Residents near the site of the ambush rushed Capulong to the St. John Hospital where he was declared dead on arrival.

Capulong’s death is expected to trigger another round of protests from local and international human rights advocates, who are critical of the government’s human rights records and its failure to address the spate of killings of progressive and leftist leaders.

Malacañang, however, yesterday disputed reports indicating that the Arroyo administration was fast gaining a notorious reputation for violating human rights and dared critics to prove their claims.

"Anybody or any institution that wishes to look into the human rights situation in the Philippines is welcome to do so. We have nothing to hide and we are proud of our human rights record," Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said, stressing that the Arroyo administration lives by the rule of law and democratic processes.

"Every day, we see the dynamism of the democratic system at work in the healthy, even if controversial, interaction among our democratic institutions," Bunye said. "Justice and due process are permanent standards and we have an independent Commission on Human Rights to ensure the full protection of human rights under the Constitution."

Sen. Manuel Villar said data from the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) showed that the Arroyo administration had surpassed the combined human rights violations of its three predecessors — the Aquino, Ramos and Estrada administrations. US Ambassador Kristie Kenney had earlier expressed concern over the spate of killings and arrests made recently.

Meanwhile, five women lawyers from the US arrived to assess the human rights situation in the country and to seek help for "persecuted" activists, particularly women. Bunye suggested that, far from fear, there was a climate of confidence and vibrancy in the streets."Filipinos seek the best of life in work and in the freedom to speak, write and travel even if, admittedly, we have to cope with pockets of poverty and deprivation," he said.

"We have a tourist trade that has burgeoned like never before because visitors to the Philippines savor the atmosphere of freedom," he added.

According to Villar, however, the CHR furnished him with documents showing that human rights abuses from 2001 to 2006 were "really very high." He did not provide specific figures to back this claim.

Meanwhile, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada said that based on the CHR report, there had been 1,800 human rights violations under the Arroyo administration and this figure had surpassed the combined number of violations committed under the Aquino, Ramos and Estrada administrations.Villar said the CHR is still compiling reports of human rights abuses during past administrations, adding that a comparison would likely show total abuses have been higher during the current administration.The CHR budget’s of P202 million was inadequate, according to Villar, considering what the commission said was "an emerging culture of impunity in the country.

"But that is all we can afford," he said.

The London-based Amnesty International (AI) earlier released a study on 150 countries’ human rights records and said the "number of attacks on leftist activists and community workers rose sharply (in the Philippines), with at least 66 fatal shootings reported during 2005."

AI said the attacks on political opponents of the administration are usually carried out by unidentified men, possibly vigilantes of the AFP.

"Most of the attacks were carried out by unidentified assailants on motorcycles, at times wearing face masks, who were often described as ‘vigilantes’ or hired killers allegedly linked to AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) members," the AI said.

Most of the targets of political killings, it added, were members of legal leftist parties, but also at risk are other human-rights and community activists, priests, church workers and lawyers regarded by authorities as sympathetic to the communist movement.AI scored reports of arbitrary arrests, unlawful killings, torture and "disappearances" in the context of military counterinsurgency.AI said the fruitless investigations into political killings have given the perpetrators the confidence to believe they can get away with murder. It praised the CHR for issuing a statement that held the government accountable for the spate of killings in the country.

— With Aurea Calica

The Paris Commune of 1871

The Paris Commune of 1871
By Norman Barth
Paris Kiosque - May 2001 - Volume 8, Number 5
Copyright (c) May 2001 Norman Barth - used with permission

The story of the Paris Commune is an important, but complicated one. In this short piece, I hope to communicate the grand lines of what happened, using sources not too far removed from those events. In the 100 plus years since the Commune, communism has both risen to greater heights, and come crashing down. The Paris Commune of 1871 is a major part of understanding what happened. - Norman Barth

Following a miserable defeat against the Prussians late in 1870, Paris refused to accept the surrender negotiated by the head of the national government Adolphe Thiers early the following year. After all, it was the national government that had declared war on Germany in July 1870. Full of confidence that the Prussians would lose, France marched off to war only to find herself quickly on the defensive after initial victories. All of this fanned the flames of discontent with the national government, and Napoléon III, which had already been strong before the war. The French army defeated, the Prussians now on the outskirts of Paris laid siege to the city. The ineffectual national government was in disaray. After months of impotent attempts to break out, the French government signed an armistice on 28 February 1871.

For the citizens of Paris it was all too much. On 18 March 1871, the Commune of Paris was declared. Until 28 May 1871, the Commune reigned in Paris - a worker's insurrection whose red banners hinted at worker's revolutions to come in the early 20th century some 46 years later.

Baedeker's Paris guide 13th edition, published 27 years later, in 1898, later summarized these events as follows:

The siege of Paris in 1870-71 ranks among the most remarkable occurrences in the annals of modern warefare. After the decisive battle of Sedan [near the border with Belgium where Napoléon III capitulated to the Prussians] the victorious German troops pushed forward to Paris without delay, while the Government of the National Defence made the most strenuous exertions to place the capital in a state of defence. Cattle and grain were sent into the city in immense quantities, the roads by which the prussians would probably march were rendered impassable, and the arming of the forst and the Enceinte [the ramparts surrounding Paris] was proceeded with as rapidly as possible. The troops in Paris at the beginning of the siege numbered about 200,000 men, but of these only 60,000 or 70,000 were regular soldiers. The besieging force was composed of six army-corps under the Crown Prince of Prussia and the army of the Meuse under the Crown Prince of Saxony, the full strength of which consisted of 202,000 infantry, 34,000 cavalry, and 900 guns.

By 15 September 1870, the advanced guard of the Crown Prince's army was within 10 miles of Paris and on the 17th a pontoon bridge was thrown across the Seine at Villeneuve-St-George. After a short but severe contest at Sceaux Versailles was reached, and here a few days later, the German Headquarters were established. Meanwhile the army of the Meuse had occupied the ground on the right banks of the Seine and Marne, thus completing the investiture. The aim of the besiegers was the reduction of the city by famine, while the only course of defence practicable to the besieged was to pierce the investing lines and establish communication with the relief army on the Loire [where the French national government had fled in advance of the German armies].

[Numerous sorties attempting to break out of Paris were led between September and the end of December - each ultimately repulsed]

In the meantime the besiegers had decided on a general bombardment of the city ... and from 5 January 1871 onward an active cannonade was directed against the city from almost every point of its environment. The distress of the besieged now reached its climax. The hopelessness of the situation was recognized by all military authorities, but a final sortie was undertaken in deference to public opinion. The Naional Guards, who had hitherto been spared active service, took part in this sally, which was directed against Versailles, under cover of the guns of Mont Valérien. The French were once more driven back, with immense loss, on 19 January.

Resistence was now at an end. On 23 January, Jules Favre went to Versailles to negotiate an armistice, which was arranged on the 28th of January. The following day the Germans were put in possession of the forts. The preliminaries of peace were concluded on 24 February and signed on 28 February. Part of the German army made a triumphal entry into Paris on 1 March, but was withdrawn in two days on the prompt ratification of the treaty of peace by the National Assembly at Bordeaux.

The Communard insurrection entailed a second siege of Paris (April - May), more disastrous than the first, followed by a fierce and sanguinary week of street-fighting. The Tuileries Palace, Hôtel de Ville were burned, the Vendôme Column overthrown and many other public and private edifices more or less completely burned or ruined.
Paris and Environs; Handbook for Travellers by Karl Baedeker 13th ed. published 1898

Having agreed to, and signed the peace accords with Germany, the National Assembly now moved from Bordeaux to Versailles. The Prussians contined to occupy northern France, and to surround Paris. Within Paris however, the Communards remained defient. What was left of the National Guard within the city, and their cannons in particular, became part of the Commune. The National Government at Versailles now attempted to restore order within Paris. The first taste of how hard this would be came early on the morning of 18 March when General Lecomte rode to Montmartre to take control of cannon that had been placed there. As a crowd gathered, the mayor of Montmartre, Georges Clemenceau, berated Lecomte for daring to come for the cannon. The geering of the crowd rose the temperature. Finally Lecomte gave orders to load and fix bayonets. There was no response from his troops. Three times he repeated the order. By now his soldiers were dropping their arms, tearing off their uniforms, and fraternizing with the crowd. The situation was degenerating into chaos, Lecomte and his officers were taken by the rabble and put in an improvised prison in a nearby dancehall [which one might suppose was in/near Place Pigalle].

Yet as things would have it the Commune could not resist the military power of the better organized and provisioned soldiers of the National Assembly in Versailles. The Prussians stood aside as French soldiers marched on French defenders of the Commune. The 600 barricades thrown up throughout the city could not hold them off, and one by one, they fell. Often their defenders were lined up, and summarily shot.

The night of 27-28 May, their last stand took place among the tombs of Père-Lachaise Cemetary. Archibald Forbes, an English journalist, recorded the aftermath at the Mur des Fédérés (Wall of the Federalists) in the south eastern corner of the cemetary.

When I returned the Communists were at their last gasp in the Château d'Eau, the Buttes de Chaumont, and Père-Lachaise. On the afternoon of the 28th, after just one week of fighting, Marshal MacMahon announced, `I am absolute master of Paris'. On the following morning I visited Père-Lachaise, where the very last shots had been fired. Bivouac fires had been fed with the souvenirs of pious sorrow, and the trappings of woe had been torn down to be used as bedclothes. But there had been no great amount of fighting in the cemetery itself. An infallible token of close and heavy firing are the dents of many bullets, and of those there were comparatively few in Père-Lachaise. Shells, however, had fallen freely, and the results were occasionally very ghastly. But the ghastliest sight in Père-Lachaise was in the south-eastern corner, where, close to the boundary wall, there had been a natural hollow. The hollow was now filled up by dead. One could measure the dead by the rod. There they lay, tier above tier, each successive tier powdered over with a coating of chloride of lime - two hundred of them patent to the eye, besides those underneath hidden by the earth covering layer after layer. Among the dead were many women. There, thrown up in the sunlight, was a well-rounded arm with a ring on one of the fingers; there, again, was a bust shapely in death. And yonder faces which to look upon made one sudder - faces distorted out of humanity with ferocity and agony combined. The ghastly effect of the dusty white powder on the dulled eyes, the gnashed teeth, and the jagged beards cannot be described. How died these men and women? Were they carted hither and laid out in this dead-hole of Père-Lachaise? Not so: the hole had been replenished from close by. Just yonder was where they were posted up against that section of pock-pitted wall - there was no difficulty in ready the open book - and were shot to death as they stood or crouched.
The Suppression of the Paris Commune; 23 - 24 May 1871 The Daily News, 26 May 1871

The week of 21 - 28 May became known as La semaine sanglante (The blood-soaked week). Versailles admitted to 17,000 fatalities among the defenders of Paris. Other estimates are as high as 30,000. Losses to the Versailles side are put at about 1000, with 6,500 wounded. All of this within a week, while during the French Revolution, and Terror, 19,000 died in nearly a year an a half. Roughly 50,000 were arrested after the suppression of the Commune. Some of these escaped, many were imprisoned, the worst offenders - some 4,500 - being sent to New Caledonia in the South Pacific.

What is most important about the Paris Commune of 1871? Peter Kropotkin wrote in 1895:

Why is the idea represented by the Commune of Paris so attractive to the workers of every land, of every nationality? The answer is easy. The revolution of 1871 was above all a popular one. It was made by the people themselves, it sprang spontaneously from the midst of the mass, and it was among the great masses of the people that it found its defenders, its heroes, its martyrs. It is just because it was so thoroughly ``low'' that the middle class can never forgive it. And at the same time its moving spirit was the idea of a social revolution; vague certainly, perhaps unconscious, but still the effort to obtain at last, after the struggle of many centuries, true freedom, true equality for all men. It was the revolution of the lowest of the people marching forward to conquer their rights.
Peter Kropotkin, "The Commune of Paris: II How the Commune Failed to realize its true aim and yet set that aim before the world", Freedom Pamphlets, no. 2 London, W. Reeves, 1895.

Fellow ng UP Creative Writing Center dinukot

Southern Tagalog Exposure

Mainit na pagbati! Sana'y nasa mabuting kalagayan tayong lahat kahit na kasindalang ng tubig sa disyerto sa ngayon ang mabubuting pangyayari sa ating bansa.

Noong Abril 28, isang makata -- si Axel Alejandro Pinpin, 1999 fellow ng UP Creative Writing Center at may-akda ng isang koleksiyon, ang “Tugmaang Walang Tugma” -- ay dinukot ng mga elemento ng Philippine National Police (PNP) at Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) sa Tagaytay City, kasama ng apat na iba pa. Pinararatangan silang mga "rebeldeng komunista" at kasangkot sa isang planong "destabilisasyon."

Si Pinpin, konsultant ng Kalipunan ng mga Magsasaka sa Kabite (Kamagsasaka-Ka) at ang kanyang mga kasamahan -- si Riel Custodio, kasapi rin ng Kamagsasaka-Ka; at sina Aristedes Sarmiento, Enrico Yba�ez at Michael Masayes ay papunta noon sa Maynila upang lumahok sa demonstrasyon ng Mayo 1. Ngunit bandang hapon niyon ay hindi na nila sinasagot ang mga text messages at tawag sa kanila, at doon lumitaw ang hinalang sila'y dinukot at nawawala.

Hapon na ng Mayo 1 nang sila'y iharap ng PNP sa midya sa isang press conference -- mahigit sa 48 oras mula nang sila'y "dakpin" -- at noon na lamang nalaman ng kanilang mga kasamahan at kamag-anak ang nangyari sa kanila.

Nang sila'y iharap sa midya, kapansin-pansing may benda ang paa ni Custodio, paika-ika si Sarmiento, at mukhang galing sa isang atake ng hika si Pinpin. Mga palatandaan ito na pinahirapan sila ng mga humahawak sa kanila.

Sila ngayo'y kumpirmadong nakapiit sa Camp Vicente Lim sa Canlubang, Laguna. Magpahanggang sa mga oras na ito'y nahihirapan sa pakikipag-ugnayan sa kanila ang mga kasamahan at kamag-anak nila.

Kung may kasalanan man sina Pinpin upang sila'y ganoonin, iyon ay walang iba kundi ang kanilang pagiging kasapi ng isang ligal na progresibong organisasyon. Hindi iilang batayang karapatang sibil ang nilalabag sa ganitong pangyayari.

Kaugnay nito, ang Southern Tagalog Exposure, sa pakikipagtulungan sa Artists for the Removal of Gloria (ARREST Gloria), ay magsasagawa ng isang poetry at music night sa Mayo 31, 7-10 p.m., sa Mag:Net Katipunan.

Gayundin, ang KM64 sa pakikipagtulungan sa Artists for the Removal of Gloria (ARREST Gloria), ay maglulunsad ng kaparehong aktibidad na may pamagat na “Tugma sa Laya II”. Ito naman ay gaganapin sa Bahandi, J. Nakpil st., Malate, Manila.

Matatagpuan ang mga tula ni Pinpin sa

Sana'y makaisa namin kayo sa gabing ito.

Para sa bayan,

King Catoy
Miyembro, Southern Tagalog Exposure at ARREST GLORIA!

Friday, May 26, 2006

Belong to the Land and to the People, and serve them well

Belong to the Land and to the People, and serve them well

By Dr. Jose M. Tiongco / MindaNews / 22 April 2006

(Note from MindaNews: Speech delivered by Dr. Jose M. Tiongco at the 9th Commencement Exercises of the University of the Philippines in Mindanao, 22 April 2006 ).

Do not listen when they tell you that the crown of laurels you wear is soaked in disappointments and bitterness and the dried leaves hide thorns and maggots. Do not listen when they say that a life dedicated to others is not a life; that it does not bring food and comfort to you and your children; that it brings you no honor and laurels serve not even as condiments for a meal. Do not sell your life of service to your countrymen for thirty pieces of silver.

Were I to introduce myself, I would present a simple country bumpkin of a doctor, a surgeon who was born and raised in Mindanao. And will die here too. And that would probably be soon, if I do not finally learn in my old age to keep my mouth shut.

I have gone around the world a few times and talked to quite a number of people of different races, people of different cultural, economic and educational backgrounds. And this is not the first time that I am speaking to a UP audience. But I get goose bumps every time I find myself in a UP institution. It is not easy to talk to UP people. I should know that. I come from UP myself. You can always tell a UP graduate from those of the other Universities. You would generally be looking at a person who is multi-talented, multi-tasked, interesting, interested, articulate, efficient, effective, competent, self assured, and eager to learn more; even if you understandably would also have to deal with a certain palpable cockiness. Would you agree?

But if there were a Jesuit in the audience today, he will probably rise up to say that I am really describing an Ateneo person as well! I have been with the Ateneo much, much longer than I had been with UP. And I would have to agree, especially on the cockiness part. But I will argue that it is in the University of the Philippines that the student acquires on top of all that I described, a sense of Nationalism, of cultural identity, and a burning sense of outrage at the historical and present oppression of our country and our people.

And this is what UP is really known for. Would you agree?

Yes. I can attest to that, having graduated 35 years ago from the University of the Philippines College of Medicine in Manila. And those were the times in our nation's history when the UP students hurled themselves at the Marcos military in the cities and in the countryside to tell them and the rest of the world that they would rather die than tolerate oppression.

That was 35 years ago. And today I often wonder what happened. How could such a pure and pristine movement that wore the invincible armor of love of country and resistance against fascism degenerate after all those years into the tattered rags of banditry, extortion and opportunism?

Those who were fortunate enough to die in the struggle have remained true to the cause. But that cannot be said for the unfortunate many who survived. For one can now see quite a number of them carving out their opulent lifestyles in USA, paying only lip service to the sufferings here in the Philippines. And those who have decided to stay in the Philippines can now be seen walking the corridors of power, integral parts of the system they had previously fought against and wished to destroy.

What started out with a bang has now ended with a pitiful whimper, if not with the clink and clatter of thirty pieces of silver.

Is our history really meant to be this way?

In a couple of years, the University of the Philippines System, the most venerable educational institution in the country will be celebrating its centennial.

How would history judge UP in the last one hundred years? If the long suffering people of the Philippines were to examine the University of the Philippines System and grade its performance for the country in the last 100 years, would the UP pass or fail the examination?

Or to put it bluntly and more graphically, if the President of the University of the Philippines System were to be dragged kicking and screaming into a people's court to account for the one hundred years the blood sweat and tears of the poor people of the Philippines were used to support UP as the citadel of the True, the Good and the Beautiful in the country, would she be able to give an answer that will be acceptable to the tubercular stevedore in Sasa wharf who eats only once a day and whose children sit in malnourished stupor by the roadside?

Can she answer for the fact that up to 90% of the graduates of the UP College of Medicine are serving the Americans and not the Filipinos who sacrificed for their education and training?

Can she answer for the fact that even as the graduates of UP College of Law top the Bar every year, the halls of Congress in the Philippines are filled with UP lawyers who use their legal gobbledygook to pass laws favorable to the multinational business industries in the country and detrimental to the poor in the Philippines? Can she justify why justice in the Philippines is officially and unofficially for sale and is out of the reach of the ordinary Filipino who lives below poverty level?

Can she answer for the fact that the graduates from the UP College of Agriculture in Los Banos devastate hundreds of thousands of hectares of prime land in Mindanao growing bananas, pineapples and oil palm for the transnational industries while the Philippines must still import the Filipinos' basic needs in rice and sugar?

Can she answer for the fact that UP Geologists and Mining Engineers ravage our mountains and soil our pristine streams, our rivers and our seas and irreparably harm the environment and the health of our indigenous tribes and people as they extract minerals and precious metals for foreign business concerns?

Can she answer for the fact that while UP College of Mass

Communication supposedly teaches the loftiest principles of information dissemination and the responsibilities that come with the freedom of speech and ___expression, her graduates lead big Media organizations in the Philippines that are active and willing servants of big business interests and political pressure groups? The Philippine Media is a world wide marvel for its prattle and irresponsibility and for the naked arrogance of its power over our people. It has become more predatory, mercenary and corrupt than the government institutions it denounces every day in print and in lurid broadcast coverages.

I could go down the line and pile up quite a lot of indictments against the UP system. But my time here as a speaker is limited.

Of course, it could be argued that UP's role is that of Education and is different from that of the Government of the Philippines that makes the policies and enforces the laws of the land.

But UP's role as the country's premier institution in education and training precedes that of the government; because it uses the Filipino taxpayers' money to train the leaders who eventually control the reins of government and private enterprises in the Philippines.

If the University of the Philippines takes great pride that her graduates easily top the government examinations in any professional undertaking, the University of the Philippines must also bow its head in shame and sorrow because it cannot shirk the accountability and responsibility for her graduates who raid the coffers of the country, corrupt the morals of our people, and turn the Philippines into an international basket case and permanent laughing stock of the nations of the world.

I am a simple country doctor. And I do not have claims to be part of the academe. But I do not believe in Education and Training for the sake of Education and Training themselves. I do not believe that Education does not have anything to do with Moral Duty and Accountability. I believe that UP, as an educational institution, must have something to do with the clouds of unmitigated materialism and greed that darken the cultural horizon of the Philippines today. I believe that a University education, especially in UP has to do with the constant search for what is Good, what is True and what is Beautiful, no matter how polluted these concepts may have become through their constant prostitution for personal motive and gain.

What makes a UP student momentarily flash the bright colors of Nationalism and love of country, and then upon graduation, promptly fall into the grey colors of compromise and conformity just to be able to exist in a way of life that forces him to suppress the shame and the painful voice of conscience within himself, shut himself inside his own ego, praise with bitter half-smiles the oppression and exploitation of his own people so he can beg with his eyes for a small part of the loot to be thrown his way? What dulls the edge of his seething outrage?

I came back to Mindanao from my studies in UP Manila to seek the answers to these questions.

Mindanao is the second largest island in the Philippines . It comprises thirty percent (30%) of the country's land area and is home to twenty percent (20%) of the population. Seventy five percent (75%) of the Mindanawons are of migrant stock, from the different areas in the Philippines who came to escape the cultural, political and economic baggage that burdened them in their places where they were born. They came prepared to bear the new burdens of adjustments with and consideration for others of different cultures, traditions and religions. They came prepared to work. And work hard for their children and for their children's children as well. They came prepared to respect others and be respected in their own right.

Mindanao is the richest island in the Philippines. It produces 54% of the Gross National Product but gets only 7% of the national Budget. One senator from Mindanao once describe it as the National Cash Cow that gets only dog food � crumbs from the tables of the rest of the country. But without Mindanao, the entire Philippines would starve to death.

The Philippines is a typical example of external exploitation by the G-7 countries, and Mindanao is the typical example of internal exploitation by the central government in Manila.

But it is here in Mindanao where the real heart of the Philippines beats.

The average Mindanawon is multi-cultural and multi-lingual. He lives in his community, comfortable in his culture, his own way of life, even when his next door neighbor and friend dresses differently, eats differently, talks to his children in another language, and adores another God. His children play happily with the children of people in his community whom his ancestors used to be afraid of and hated and waged continuous wars against.

It is here in Mindanao where the people consider diversity not as a divisive factor but the key to Unity and progress. It is here where we respect the rights of others to their own thinking and culture. Here where the central government is physically and administratively distant, the people have learned that working together in mutual respect and consideration is the key to save our families, our communities and our country.

For generations, your fathers and mine, products of different cultures in the Philippines, have worked hand in hand and side by side in peace and brotherhood with each other and the indigenous peoples here in Mindanao. We belong here.

It is only when the Manila government makes moves in Mindanao that devastating wars happen among the inhabitants of our island. It is a past and present government practice that the undesirables in the military and civil services in Luzon and the Visayas are punished for their transgressions by sending them to Mindanao - where they usually wreak havoc on our lives.

Generations of hard work and carefully nurtured goodwill among peoples in our island have been erased by thoughtless and exploitative laws that are passed in Congress in Manila by people who have never been to Mindanao and are even afraid to visit it.

Twenty years or so ago, a group of UP graduates here in Mindanao visited the other sites of UP in other areas in the Philippines like, Baguio, Diliman, Manila, Los Banos, Iloilo and Cebu. And they wondered why there was no UP in Mindanao.

Thus was born a dream. And the dream was brought to a reality ten years later. I have watched UP Mindanao's development through the years as the youngest, least funded and most neglected institution in the UP system. And I have cheered your valiant efforts. I knew in my heart that you would be different from all the other UPs in all the other places in the Philippines because of the legacy of cultural belongingness, respect and tolerance you have been exposed to. And I never doubted your success.

I do not believe that the majority of your students use UP Mindanao only as a jumping board to UP Diliman. Only the most calloused and unseeing students would not swear to the vision and mission of UP Mindanao.

The University of the Philippines in Mindanao is committed to lead in providing affordable quality education, scholarly research, and responsive and relevant extension services to diverse, marginalized and deserving sectors in Mindanao and neighboring regions through its programs in the sciences and the arts inculcating a passion for excellence, creative thinking, and nationalism in the context of cultural diversity in a global community.

As you graduate from the youngest UP institution, aware of your role in community building in Mindanao, you are sending a dare to the older institutions in the University of the Philippines System. Here is UP Mindanao's answer to the failures of the University of the Philippines System: Belong to the Land and to the People, and serve them well!

From here onwards you have crowned yourself with the laurels of commitment to service.

Do not listen when they tell you that the crown of laurels you wear is soaked in disappointments and bitterness and the dried leaves hide thorns and maggots. Do not listen when they say that a life dedicated to others is not a life; that it does not bring food and comfort to you and your children; that it brings you no honor and laurels serve not even as condiments for a meal. Do not sell your life of service to your countrymen for thirty pieces of silver.

Because if you do, then deep in the night, years and years from now, when your remaining hair has turned to silver, a small voice will speak to you, just before you fall asleep. And you will have to listen to it. Or break apart.

And it will be in Spanish. Because it was said by a man who died young, twelve years before the University of the Philippines was born in 1908. He was a man who spent the last years of his life here in the service of our people in Mindanao. And he said it to an old man like me, who had white hairs on his head. And this may well have been spoken by you, the graduates of a young and dynamic UP Mindanao to the old and failing University of the Philippines System.

Cuando tenga canas come esas, senor, y vuelva la vista hacia mi pasado y vea que solo he trabajado para mi, sin haber hecho lo que buenamente podia y debia por el pais que me ha dado todo, por los cuidadanos que me ayudan a vivir, entonces, senor, cada cana me sera una espina y en vez de gloriarme de ellas, me he de avergonzar!

Ug sa ato pa:

Sir, pagabut sa panahon nga ang akong ulo, maora sad kadaghana ang uban susama sa inyo, unya balikon nako ug lantaw ang akong kinabuhi, unya Makita nako nga ang akong mga paningkamut diay, alang lang sa akong kaugalingon ug walay kalabutan sa mga maayong butang nga ako untang nabuhat u di kaha kinahanglan buhaton alang sa lungsod nga mao'y naghatag sa ako sa tanan, alang sa akong mga isigkatao ng mitabang sa ako arun manginabuhi; nianang panahuna, Sir, ang tagsa-tagsa ka uban nga anaa sa akong ulo mahimo ug maidlot nga tunok nga muduksak sa akong panghunahuna ug inay nga mahimayaon ako sa akong katigulangon, iduko hinuon nako ang akong ulo sa tumang kanugon ug kaulaw!

So if there is anything then, that Mindanao has taught you here in University of the Philippines, it is to belong to land, to belong to others, especially those who have made you what you are; to be sensitive to their needs, to constantly consider the other person's way of thinking, in much the same way as you considered everyday, what language to use to talk to the little child of a jeepney conductor who took your fare, or to the daredevil habal-habal driver who took you over the butt breaking roads to your refreshing little UP Mindanao campus.

Look up to the mountain that you see everyday. Breathe in the pure air of Mindanao. This may be your last day in the campus. Take it all in. And remember it well. Most of you will wander far over yonder, but you will never find anything more beautiful.

Because you will never find the True, the Good and the Beautiful in the world, no matter where or how you search, unless you find them first here on that mountain where the gods of our beloved Mindanao dwell, here among your people who made you what you are now, and finally, here in your own heart.

(Dr. Jose M. Tiongco is a graduate of the University of the Philippines College of Medicine Class 1971. He writes a column titled "Child of the Sun" for MindaNews and is the author of "Child of the Sun Returning," a book about the early years of the Medical Mission Group Hospitals and Health Services Cooperative-Philippines Federation, where he is chief executive officer).

RP, US sign new anti-terror pact

RP, US sign new anti-terror pact
First posted 04:31am (Mla time) May 25, 2006
By Nikko Dizon, Dona Z. Pazzibugan*

THE PHILIPPINES and the United States yesterday formalized a new security arrangement to bolster their battle against terrorism and other threats, according to officials from both countries.

The accord involves setting up a new joint panel called the Security Engagement Board (SEB), described in a joint statement by Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo and Defense Secretary Avelino Cruz Jr. as a "new consultative mechanism for cooperation on nontraditional security concerns," including terrorism, transnational crime, maritime safety and security, natural and man-made disasters, and pandemic outbreaks.

The SEB, co-chaired by the US Pacific commander and the Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff, will develop measures to enhance cooperation between the two allies.

"The establishment of the SEB further strengthens our partnership," the statement quoted US Ambassador Kristie Kenney as saying, noting that Manila is Washington's longtime friend and major non-NATO ally.

US Embassy spokesperson Matthew Lussenhop said the creation of the SEB was a Philippine initiative and "it will provide a clearer framework for consultations and planning to address nontraditional security concerns."

Other members of the SEB from the Philippine side are the major service commanders of the AFP and representatives from the foreign and defense departments. Other board members from the US side are other major commanders of the US Pacific Command, the US Embassy chief of mission, and representatives of the US Department of Defense.

"The SEB is not a new treaty as it merely implements existing bilateral treaties with the US," Romulo and Cruz said in their joint statement.

Manila and Washington signed the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty that calls for cooperation in battling external security threats in either country. The two countries have also signed a Visiting Forces Agreement that allows US forces to join large-scale military exercises in the Philippines.

Officials said the SEB would allow both nations to jointly deal with terrorism and other threats not falling under the Mutual Defense Treaty.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, one of Asia's most vocal backers of US President George W. Bush's global war on terror, has allowed US forces to train and arm Filipino soldiers battling al-Qaeda-linked militants in Mindanao.

No US bases

At a news conference in Camp Aguinaldo, however, Cruz stressed the new security agreement would not allow US forces to reestablish bases in the country or to join local military operations. The Constitution prohibits foreign troops from engaging in local combat.

"That's very clear in the agreement, no American troops will engage in combat, no basing. We have to approve their every move. That's clear," Cruz said.

The bicameral Legislative Oversight Committee on the VFA shall also exercise oversight powers over the SEB.

Gilbert Asuque, spokesperson of the Department of Foreign Affairs, said Manila and Washington agreed to set up the mechanism in April when the two sides agreed to expand their partnership to address emerging security threats.

Although both Manila and Washington have justified US military presence in Mindanao as part of authorized joint military exercises, left-wing groups have questioned the legality of the presence of American troops near battle zones in Mindanao and have demanded their withdrawal.

"It's a very blatant way for the US to intervene in our domestic affairs," said Renato Reyes, head of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan, New Patriotic Alliance), the largest left-wing group in the country.

"They want to broaden that intervention. And this can be used by Mrs. Arroyo to get US support to stay in power. It's very dangerous," Reyes said.

Focused responses

Cruz said the SEB "affords us the opportunity to develop focused and comprehensive responses" to security threats.

He said the SEB was an emerging model for bilateral cooperation with neighboring states in Southeast Asia to address nontraditional military concerns.

*With reports by The Associated Press and Agence France-Presse*

Gumagawa ng teorya para pagtakpan ang kasalanan

Killings just part of rise and fall of crime, says PNP
First posted 02:45am (Mla time) May 25, 2006
By Norman Bordadora, Luige A. del Puerto

SHORT OF saying that the killings of activists and journalists cannot be stopped, a ranking police officer yesterday said that crime had its cycles of ups and downs.

Tough luck, it is now on the upswing.

"You know, there is a trend in crime. Sometimes it falls, sometimes it goes up …" Philippine National Police spokesperson Senior Superintendent Samuel Pagdilao said.

When crimes go up, the PNP action is to address "this sudden and temporary rise," Pagdilao said.

"It is really a fluctuating thing that follows the sine curve," he said, referring to the graph on cyclical behavior.

The unchecked killings of militants have alarmed human rights groups, including the London-based Amnesty International (AI), which said many victims of human rights abuses and even common crimes in the country failed to get redress because of intimidation from people in authority and a weak witness protection system.

In its 2006 world report, AI also said there was such little confidence in authorities to solve human rights violations and other crimes that public tolerance for vigilantism had gained ground in the country.

Pagdilao said a rise in the crime rate did not mean the police had failed in their job.

'Not a perfect world'

"We are not blaming anybody, and I hope people will not also blame the police, because crime fighting is a shared responsibility," he said.

Told that the creation of one task force after another had not stopped the killings, Pagdilao said that was the "dynamics of the system."

"We are not in (a) perfect world. Even in the US, in most advanced countries, there is rise and fall of crime," he said.

At least 220 political activists have been killed since President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo took office in 2001, according to an Inquirer tally based on its own reports and on reports from militant groups Bayan Muna and Karapatan.

Media help needed

The country's unsavory international image as a dangerous place for journalists also suffered a further blotch earlier this week when radio commentator Fernando Batul was gunned down in Puerto Princesa City -- the 79th media fatality since democracy was restored in 1986.

Director Isidro Lapeña, chief of the PNP directorial staff, asked media groups to sit down with the police to discuss measures to minimize the killings.

The police will also discuss the killings with the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), Lapeña said.

Citizens' civic duty

Asked about the statement from a CHR official that, no matter who was doing the killing, it was the state's job to protect people's lives and secure their homes, Lapeña said: "Giving protection to citizens is the responsibility of government."

"Maybe we can minimize these happenings if everybody will join hands to address this problem, not only the government," he said.

Pagdilao said that going after criminals and maintaining peace was not the job of the police alone. Citizens must also perform their civic duty by helping the police, he said.

One-strike formula

He said the police were studying the possibility of adopting the so-called "one-strike policy" to stop the killings in the same manner it was being implemented to stop "jueteng" or illegal gambling operations.

This would mean that a town or city police chief would be immediately relieved of his command if an activist, journalist or local executive was assassinated in his area.

In its report, the AI said that "implementation of a fair trial and custodial safeguards remained weak, and criminal suspects were at risk of ill-treatment or torture by the PNP during extended periods of 'investigative' detention."

The AI mentioned the case of alleged senior communist rebel Elmer Osila who complained he was tortured during interrogation.

Pimentel's choice

An investigation by the CHR revealed marks on Osila's body consistent with torture, AI said.

"Intimidation, aggravated by a lack of effective witness protection programs, undermined the ability of victims of human rights abuses to gain redress, especially when they were members of poor or marginalized communities," it added.

Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye called the AI report "unfair."

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. proposed that Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez head the body that would look into the killings of activists.

During the Senate's national budget debate, Pimentel argued that it would be better for a civilian rather than an official with a military background, such as Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, to head such a probe.

Gonzalez cool

"I would be more confident in the ability of a purely civilian bureaucrat, like the secretary of justice, who in his younger days was known for his firm advocacy of human rights. I don't know about now," he added, eliciting chuckles from the audience.

Gonzalez turned down such an idea, saying that Ermita headed the Cabinet security cluster which had jurisdiction over such matter.

Gonzalez also said critics of the administration should not be too hasty in blaming the killings on the military.

"I will not make a prejudgment because these are all stories," he said.

*With a report from TJ Burgonio*


24 May 2006


"The Arroyo regime is earning international condemnation for its human rights record, rendering it a source of national shame, unworthy of its position in the United Nations Human Rights Council and unworthy of staying in power."

Thus said Gabriela Women's Party Representative Liza Largoza Maza, following the Amnesty International report which raised alarm on the human rights situation in the country, "which gets worse everyday."

According to Maza, "Just today, we have received initial reports that former Gabriela Ormoc Chair Teresita Posion and Clarita Centino, Gabriela regional staff were abducted by the 19th Infantry Batallion in Kanagga, Leyte last May 20 and April 28 respectively. They surfaced only yesterday. Posion was transferred to PNP custody and has been charged with rebellion while Centino has been released." Since the beginning of the Arroyo regime, 70 women activists and rights defenders have been slain.

Maza also said that the relentless killings and political persecution have alarmed the international community so much that it has prompted more of them to come and see for themselves the worsening human rights situation in the country.

According to Maza, aside from Amnesty International, five of the most prominent women legal luminaries in the United States are set to arrive in the country this weekend as part of the international response to the human rights action alert raised by Gabriela Women's Party and Gabriela Network USA.

Maza said the all-women lawyers' delegation from the US particularly expressed concern over the rate with which activists, specifically women have been attacked.

The delegation is composed of Jill Soffiyah Elijah (Deputy Director of Criminal Justice Institute, Harvard Law School), Tina Monshipour Foster (Center for Constitutional Research, legal counsel for several detainees held in US military facilities worldwide), Rachel Lederman (National Lawyers Guild, she won a million-dollar lawsuit against the city of San Francisco for illegally detaining protesters), Vanessa Lucas (National Lawyers Guild, Children and Family Justice Center) and Merrilyn Onisko (National Lawyers Guild Co-Chair for the Middle East Sub-committee). #

Thursday, May 25, 2006


May 24. 2006


Environmental groups and militant activists dumped dead fish, sludge and slurry in front of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to remind the government agency of its own lapses in dealing with Lafayette Philippine Inc., an Australian owned mining company operating on Rapu-rapu Islands, and to demand retribution. The protesters held a program criticizing the government's indecisiveness on Lafayette and denouncing President Arroyo's pro-foreign mining policy.

"We warn President Arroyo and DENR Sec. Angelo Reyes not to allow the law breaker and environmental offender Lafayette to operate again. Allowing Lafayette to continue its operations is sending the wrong message that mining TNCs may foul up our environment, violate laws, falsify legal documents, understate their revenues and taxes, deceive the people about their mining operations, and not fear much retribution. Lafayette, along with several government officials, is liable. They must be held accountable and be sent packing not only from Rapu-rapu but from the whole country," says Clemente Bautista Jr., national coordinator of environmental activists group Kalikasan-PNE.

Mr. Bautista expounds, "Until now officials of Lafayette deny that their mining operations caused any heavy metal contamination, posed danger to the health of the local populace of Rapu-rapu. They claim no culpability on the fish kills and mercury contamination that happened in the island. They have shown no remorse in their offenses and now pressure the government to allow them to operate again."

Lafayette brands the RFFC report and recommendation as unscientific and emotional. Lafayette claims that they already completed their environmental safety infrastructures and now demands for a test-run.

"There is no point in allowing Lafayette Philippines to do a test run to show that their operation has improved. The technology that Lafayette is using to control acid mine drainage (AMD) in the mine site is not appropriate and has been proven to be ineffective in a hilly terrain as in Rapu-rapu island," slams Frances Quimpo, Executive Director of the Center for Environmental Concerns-Philippines (CEC).

"The mining technology of Lafayette will enhance the production and leaching of acid products. With the situation in Rapu-rapu, being a small island ecosystem and where heavy precipitation is a normal occurrence, acid and toxic metal contamination of the water systems within and around the island would be a definite outcome." Ms. Quimpo adds.

The RFFC recommends an environmental rehabilitation on Rapu-rapu, permanently closed the Lafayette mining operation, and a mining moratorium implemented on the island. Malacanang ordered the DENR to review the findings of the Commission and stated that mining moratorium does not conform to the current mining policy of the government.

"President Arroyo will be dammed if she goes against the RFFC recommendations, forsake the people and environment of Rapu-rapu, and allow Lafayette to operate again. We will surely exhaust all means to close down Lafayette and her immediate ouster," ended by Mr. Bautista. ###

Address insurgency through poverty alleviation

I remember Bayan Chair for Central Luzon saying that what is happening now in the countryside is not an insurgency but a people's movement.

Address insurgency through poverty alleviation -- LCDE

By RANDY ANTONI, LCDE Advocacy Officer
May 23, 2006

LCDE giving relief goods to the affected families

TACLOBAN CITY, Leyte- A top official of a non-governmental organization here has raised concern over the intensifying armed conflict in the region and called on the government to address insurgency through poverty alleviation.

Jazmin Jerusalem, Executive Director of the Leyte Center for Development, Inc. (LCDE), said that they are alarmed over the intensifying clashes between government troops and the communist rebels as these affect the livelihood of the farmers.

"Due to the intense armed conflict in the region, many peasant communities are forced to flee their homes and sources of livelihood," she said. Jerusalem added that the poor situation of the affected communities aggravated after their displacement.

"This is very alarming considering the fact that they were already in economic difficulties even before the evacuation," she said.

Jerusalem issued this statement following the relief mission they conducted last May 19 in Brgy. (village) Calapi in Motiong, Western Samar where they served peasant families from three villages affected by armed conflict.

The LCDE is a non-governmental organization assisting natural and man-made disaster-stricken communities in Eastern Visayas.

Mass evacuation

More than a hundred families from the villages of Beri, San Andres and Sto. Ni�o in Motiong (about two-hour travel by bus from Tacloban City) were forced to descend from their barrios on March 6 and sought refuge in Brgy. Calapi.

The villagers had reasons to evacuate.

On the evening of March 5, a farmer in Brgy. San Andres identified as Noel Labong, was shot dead in front of his family by three unidentified men believed by the villagers to be soldiers.

According to the account of the victim's wife, it was about 9:00 p.m. when the assassins wearing bonnets and plain clothes barged into their house and dragged the victim out where he was shot on the head.

A villager testified that he saw a man in military uniform standing in front of the house of the victim just before the shooting incident.

Shortly after the murder of Noel, unidentified men abducted his brother Levi Labong. The victim remains missing to this day.

Prior to the killing and forced abduction in Brgy. San Andres, incidents of abuses had been reported in Brgy. Sto. Nino.

On March 2, a farmer identified as Antonio Mabilog, was beaten by three unidentified men while he and his wife were working on their farm. The suspects, clad in military uniform, were asking the victim to point to them where the communist rebels are camping.

On the same day, alleged soldiers set the house, owned by a certain Segundo Gabane, on fire. About 30 sacks of kalinayan, a good variety of upland rice, with an estimated market value of Php 24,000 were also burned down.

Although there were no direct witnesses, the villagers believed the arson was perpetrated by the military.

Village chief Alnario Gabane said they (villagers) reported to him that just before the incident, army troopers arrived in the barrio and headed to the direction where it happened.

In Brgy. Beri, residents reported that on February 23, they heard successive gunshots interspersed with big explosions coming from the forested area of the village; it lasted for about one minute.

More hardship

Gabane lamented that the situation of the affected villagers worsened after their displacement.

"The villagers are having more difficulties in meeting their daily needs, food especially, since they were not able to attend to their farms from March 6 until 23, the day they started returning to their barrios," he disclosed. He added that their newly grown crops were also destroyed by tropical storm "Caloy," which hit the region just two weeks ago.

To date, the majority of the villagers already returned to their communities after a certain Lt. Agoy ordered them to go back. About 15 families, however, opted to stay permanently in Brgy. Calapi and nearby barrios for fear of their lives.

Meanwhile, Roni Mabanan, village chief of Brgy. Beri, disclosed that those who refused to go back to their villages have become either tenants or farm workers.

"Before the evacuation, these villagers could at least get a daily income of more than a hundred pesos from tilling their own farms. As tenants, they now only get a daily income of more than Php 27 since they have to give the landowners 75 percent of their harvest as payment for land rent," he said.

Mabanan said that those who work as farm laborers are paid Php 50 a day, however, they do not have regular income since they are only hired during cropping season.

"To get additional income, some of them would offer their services to farmers such as helping the latter in delivering their produce to the market once or twice a week in which they are paid Php 30," he further said.

Economic security, not bullets

Jerusalem said that the armed conflict would only intensify and continue to devastate the lives of the peasant communities if the government continues to launch military offensives against the communist rebels instead of striking down the root cause of insurgency.

"The government could put an end to the long running armed conflict by addressing insurgency through poverty alleviation," she said.

She added, "The government should recognize the fact that there is insurgency because of social injustice and the inequitable distribution of economic resources in the country. It can only be solved by providing the poor long-term economic security," Jerusalem said.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Activists groups press for the implementation Rapu-rapu Commission's recommendations

May 22. 2006

*Activists groups press for the implementation Rapu-rapu Commission's recommendations*

"Malacanang will be doing a greater disservice to the country if it would not swiftly implement the recommendations of the Rapu-rapu Fact Finding Commission. By issuing statements negating the findings and conclusions of the Commission, it exposes itself to be a mere lackey of Lafayette Philippines Inc (LPI) and other transnational mining companies in the country," says Trixie Concepcion, spokesperson of Defend Patrimony (DP). DP is a broad multisectoral alliance campaigning against the large-scale mining projects of the should not dilly-dally on the mining issue in Rapu-rapu island.

The Commission interviewed key officials of the mining company, the government, academe and NGOs. It scrutinized the mining related studies of the UP-Natural Science Research Institute (NSRI), the Center for Environmental Concerns- Philippines (CEC), the Philippine Institute of Pure and Applied Chemistry (PIPAC), the UP-PGH Pharmacology and Toxicology Department, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic resources (BFAR), the Institute for Environmental Conservation and Research (INECAR), Department of Health and other government agencies.

"What is it in the report that is unscientific and without basis? Is it not enough for the Arroyo administration that Lafayette was found willfully violating environmental safety standards, falsifying legal documents and cheating the government of taxes to revoke their mining agreement?," asked Concepcion.

"The anomalies the Commission discovered in the operations of Lafayette Mining, is enough grounds to review the Mining Act of 1995. The commission is not out of bounds in its recommendation to review the law. It is in fact, another reminder for it to finally make real the public commitment made by President Arroyo, House Speaker Jose de Venecia, and Executive Secretary Michael Defensor to the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) last February. The fact that the Mining Act's 11-years of implementation failed to revive the ailing industry, rehabilitate and
or prevent several mining disasters like in Marinduque, Negros, and Rapu-rapu is a basis not only for its review but for scrapping it," says Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of environmental activist group Kalikasan-PNE.

"The permanent closure of Lafayette and moratorium of mining in Rapu-rapu will eliminate the "clear and present" danger obtaining in the island. It is high time for the government to put first the welfare of the environment and the people before the interest of foreign mining companies. It should likewise put into motion the other recommendations of the Commission,
particularly, setting up of a People's Health and Environmental Protection Fund, conducting comprehensive health impact assessment, compensating the mining disaster victims, and rehabilitating the island ecosystem, added Bautista," ###