Thursday, August 31, 2006

“No” to “Supplemental” Budget for FY 2006

Explanation of “No” Vote to HB 5668 or the “Supplemental” Budget for FY 2006
by Bayan Muna Rep. Joel G. Virador

August 30, 2006

There are several irreconcilable discrepancies – even at face value – in the Supplemental Budget that belies the administration’s ostentatious concerns for public welfare and social service. For if indeed the supplemental budget was for such, why wasn’t there any allocation made to the Health and Housing sectors?

We say this is a Supplemental Budget but does the nature of the appropriation excuse Congress from being less scrupulous, if not from outright servility to the Executive? Transparency, even token, would normally compel the DBM to detail and specify the nature of each appropriation – something we normally see from the three or four thick budget books the department submits to Congress for consideration each year.

Curiously, instead of four thick budget books, what we have here are four pages of appropriations worth P46 billion that Congress is expected to approve without question or benefit of careful scrutiny. On top of that is a late addition of some P2.14 billion for an Oil Spill due to the error of Petron, and expenses for a possible retake in the recent nursing licensure exam due to alleged test leakage.

The proposed P3.25 billion for the DOTC for instance is hard to swallow considering that the bulk of the amount will go to equity rental fee and other maintenance and administration costs. The MRT-3 project contract has been assailed for rendering unconscionable obligations on the part of the government such as the shouldering of rental fees, while conferring little and patently inequitable shares in the project’s income. The MRT-3 contract should be reviewed before we infuse further funds into it.

A “supplement” is supposed to supply a deficiency or reinforce a whole. But take the allocation for the Department of Agrarian Reform for instance, which even exceeds the budget for CARP in the original 2006 budget.

Except the IRA, the highest budget appears to be for the Department of Education. But with its overly ambitious scope, the appropriation is simply not enough. Except funds for textbook and instructional materials, the highest budget item for the department is the “School Feeding Program” at P1.6 billion. An extra half billion has been allotted for DSWD under a similar project, the “Food for School,” making the School Feeding program worth over two billion pesos. With the not too salutary impact and doubtful implementation of this pet project of Ms. Arroyo, the funds could have been devoted to spending on programs that concretely improve the dismal state of education in the country. And it being an election year next year, coupled by Ms. Arroyo’s dearth in credibility and tangible accomplishments, it is deplorable that her administration would resort to funding high profile but low impact projects.

With the allocation for Local Government Units and the IRA being the highest among the items identified in HB 5668, the Supplemental Budget by all appearances is an “election” budget. In the originally proposed 2006 budget, there were certain items dubbed as the “pork” of the Office of the President, notably the Kilos Asenso fund, and the Kalayaan Barangay fund, both amounting to P8 billion. As we are all seemingly resigned to a re-enacted budget this year, these items have been fortunately (or unfortunately) consigned to oblivion. “Or are they?” We are inclined to ask thus since the administration has made certain to make allocations to LGUs anyway, via this supplemental budget.

Given the so-called People’s Initiative and Arroyo’s standing obligation to continually please and appease LGUs in order to sustain her political station, excluding LGUs in the supplemental budget would be counter-intuitive and politically ruinous for Arroyo at this point. The NEDA secretary, Felipe Medalla himself, put it bluntly when he warned that the forthcoming 2007 elections would make it hard to “decompress” spending as funds could be used by politicians to buy political clout. “The worst case,” Medalla was quoted as saying “is if the…budget will be used to make sure anti-impeachment congressmen will get re-elected.”

Mr. Speaker, I therefore vote “No” to HB 5668.

Iraq Isn't the Philippines

Iraq Isn't the Philippines

A decades-long U.S. occupation eventually brought democracy to Manila, but analogies overlook historical American brutality and Iraq's comparative strength.

By Jon Wiener, JON WIENER is professor of history at UC Irvine and a contributing editor to the Nation magazine.
August 30, 2006

DOES HISTORY provide any models suggesting that the unhappy war in Iraq might have a happy ending? Journalists and military experts are pointing hopefully to the U.S. war in the Philippines at the turn of the 20th century as an example of how Americans can fight a tough guerrilla insurgency and eventually win.

Max Boot, an Op-Ed columnist for the Los Angeles Times, has written that the U.S. victory in the Philippines provides a "useful reminder" that Americans can prevail in Iraq. Similar arguments have been made by Robert Kaplan in the Atlantic Monthly and by the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute.

But the same suggestion is also made by writers who are not pro-war Republican pundits. The most prominent exponent of the Philippines model for Iraq is Thomas E. Ricks, the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for the Washington Post, whose new book, "Fiasco: The American Military Misadventure in Iraq," has been at or near the top of the bestseller lists this month. "Fiasco" shows that the war has been a disaster, but Ricks is nevertheless against pulling out American troops — because, he says, the Philippines example proves that a long occupation beginning in military disaster can end with the creation of a democratic and stable state.

Are Ricks and company correct? Is there hope from 100 years ago?

The Philippine war was part of the Spanish-American War of 1898, in which the U.S. promised to bring democracy to the Filipinos by freeing them from the Spaniards. But, as Ricks says, things there "began badly" when a powerful Philippine resistance movement challenged U.S. troops — "like Iraq in 2003." In 1902, after three years of guerrilla fighting, the United States declared victory, although American forces remained in the country for decades, administering it first as a colony and then as a commonwealth. The Philippines was granted independence in 1946 — after almost five decades of U.S. military occupation (interrupted by World War II). Today it's a functioning democracy.

The problem with this version of history is that it doesn't look closely enough at what happened in the Philippines.

First, it neglects the massive differences between the Philippines in 1900 and Iraq in 2006. The guerrillas in the Philippines fought the Army with old Spanish muskets and bolo knives; today's insurgents in Iraq employ sophisticated improvised explosive devices, rocket-propelled grenades and heat-seeking shoulder-fired missiles that can shoot down helicopters. And combat in Iraq takes place in a fully urbanized society where "pacification" is much more difficult than in the mostly rural islands of the Philippines.

Also, the Filipinos who fought the U.S. Army at the turn of the 20th century had no outside allies or sources of support. Today's Iraqi insurgents are at the center of a burgeoning anti-Americanism that has spread throughout the Arab and Muslim worlds, with supporters in Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere.

And of course today there's also the media. Images of resistance fighters in Iraq, and of the victims of American attacks, are broadcast hourly throughout Iraq, Arab and Muslim countries and the rest of the world. Compared with the Philippines guerrillas of 1900, the Iraqi insurgents are much stronger and more capable and have a much broader base of support that extends beyond national boundaries.

There is also the matter of the atrocious "winning" conduct of the U.S. in the four years of the Philippine war. The U.S. did not count Filipino casualties, but historians today estimate 16,000 deaths for the guerrilla army and civilian deaths between 200,000 and 1 million — a horrifying toll. American tactics included massacres of civilians, "kill and burn" operations that resulted in the destruction of entire villages and starvation of the countryside that created the threat of famine, all exacerbated by a cholera epidemic.

Most of those who consider the Philippines to be the "best-case scenario" for the U.S. in Iraq acknowledge that the fight at first was, in Boot's words, "a long, hard, bloody slog" — but they argue it was worth it because democracy followed.

But how successful was it? After the U.S. granted the commonwealth independence in 1946, two decades of instability ushered in the corrupt dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos, whose 21-year rule, from 1965 to 1986, was marked by rampant human rights violations. It took a revolution — albeit a peaceful one — to end his regime.

U.S. history provides a much better model for the future of Iraq: the withdrawal from Vietnam. Yes, that withdrawal was followed by a lot of suffering, but nothing like what came before it, when Americans killed something like 3 million Vietnamese. Because the United States got out in 1975, Vietnam today is a much better place — and so is the United States.,0,7865524.story?coll=la-opinion-rightrail

Altertrade, a multi-million, anti-peasant enterprise!

August 30, 2006

“Altertrade, a multi-million, anti-peasant enterprise!”- KMP

The militant Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) pointed out that Altertrade Corporation is not a small corporation as Rep. Etta Rosales would like us to believe. According to Danilo “Ka Daning” Ramos, secretary general of KMP, “Altertrade was once a people’s enterprise and grew into a multi-million business but was grabbed by non-government organization (NGO) bureaucrats. They are now cashing in on people’s organizations, peasants and sugar workers in Negros,”

“We would just like to make it clear that Altertrade is a large corporation and is not like what it used to be. In fact many farmers have been complaining of the abuse and exploitation they have suffered from this pseudo-people’ s enterprise. Altertrade buys farmers’ produce at very low prices because the farmers are already heavily indebted to the corporation so they cannot sell to other buyers. In essence Altertrade has a monopoly of the farmers produce. It also has exorbitant interest rates on its loans, which is otherwise known as usury. Now if the New People’s Army (NPA) is collecting revolutionary taxes from this enterprise, that is their business, what we want to point out is that Altertrade is not an enterprise by farmers or that we are benefiting from it. Rep. Rosales should stop trying to portray it as being a small business and that it still run for the interest of the poor,” added Ramos.

“In fact Edwin Lopez, the executive director of Altertrade Foundation has close links with Sanlakas and other pseudo-progressive organizations. This was formed so that they can say to their foreign partners that the money is being given back to the small peasants, but in reality this is not happening. The foundation is also being used by Altertrade as a tax shelter from the government. Actually this is the reason why Etta brought the issue out, because their money is involved here,” added the peasant leader.

“Now all we want is for everything to be clear and for the facts to be straight. Demagoguery, truth-twisting and pretending to be the underdog is not fit for a so-called representative,” ended Ramos. ###

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

How much longer will we accept that this world, so in love with death, is the only world possible?

How Much Longer?
by Eduardo Galeano

Friday, July 28, 2006 -- (IPS) -- One country bombed two countries. Such impunity might astound, were it not business as usual. In response to the few timid protests from the international community, Israel said mistakes were made.

How much longer will horrors be called mistakes?

This slaughter of civilians began with the kidnapping of a soldier.

How much longer will the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier be allowed to justify the kidnapping of Palestinian sovereignty?

How much longer will the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers be allowed to justify the kidnapping of the entire nation of Lebanon?

For centuries the slaughter of Jews was the favorite sport of Europeans. Auschwitz was the natural culmination of an ancient river of terror, which had flowed across all of Europe.

How much longer will Palestinians and other Arabs be made to pay for crimes they didn't commit?

Hezbollah didn't exist when Israel razed Lebanon in earlier invasions.

How much longer will we continue to believe the story of this attacked attacker, which practices terrorism because it has the right to defend itself from terrorism?

Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Lebanon: How much longer will Israel and the United States be allowed to exterminate countries with impunity?

The tortures of Abu Ghraib, which triggered a certain universal sickness, are nothing new to us in Latin America. Our militaries learned their interrogation techniques from the School of the Americas, which may no longer exist in name but lives on in effect.

How much longer will we continue to accept that torture can be legitimized?

Israel has ignored forty-six resolutions of the General Assembly and other U.N. bodies.

How much longer will Israel enjoy the privilege of selective deafness?

The United Nations makes recommendations but never decisions. When it does decide, the United States makes sure the decision is blocked. In the U.N. Security Council, the U.S. has vetoed forty resolutions* condemning actions of Israel.

How much longer will the United Nations act as if it were just another name for the United States?

Since the Palestinians had their homes confiscated and their land taken from them, much blood has flowed.

How much longer will blood flow so that force can justify what law denies?

History is repeated day after day, year after year, and ten Arabs die for every one Israeli. How much longer will an Israeli life be measured as worth ten Arab lives?

In proportion to the overall population, the 50,000 civilians killed in Iraq -- the majority of them women and children -- are the equivalent of 800,000 Americans.

How much longer will we continue to accept, as if customary, the killing of Iraqis in a blind war that has forgotten all of its justifications?

Iran is developing nuclear energy, but the so-called international community is not concerned in the least by the fact that Israel already has 250 atomic bombs, despite the fact that the country lives permanently on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

Who calibrates the universal danger-ometer? Was Iran the country that dropped atomic bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima?

In the age of globalization, the right to express is less powerful than the right to apply pressure. To justify the illegal occupation of Palestinian territory, war is called peace. The Israelis are patriots, and the Palestinians are terrorists, and terrorists sow universal alarm.

How much longer will the media broadcast fear instead of news?

The slaughter happening today, which is not the first, and I fear will not be the last, is happening in silence. Has the world gone deaf?

How much longer will the outcry of the outraged be sounded on a bell of straw?

The bombing is killing children, more than a third of the victims.

Those who dare denounce this murder are called anti-Semites.

How much longer will the critics of state terrorism be considered anti-Semites?

How much longer will we accept this grotesque form of extortion?

Are the Jews who are horrified by what is being done in their name anti-Semites? Are there not Arab voices that defend a Palestinian homeland but condemn fundamentalist insanity?

Terrorists resemble one another: state terrorists, respectable members of government, and private terrorists, madmen acting alone or in those organized in groups hard at work since the Cold War battling communist totalitarianism. All act in the name of various gods, whether God, Allah, or Jehovah.

How much longer will we ignore the fact that all terrorists scorn human life and feed off of one another?

Isn't it clear that in the war between Israel and Hezbollah, it is the civilians, Lebanese, Palestinian, and Israeli, who are dying?

And isn't it clear that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the invasion of Gaza and Lebanon are the incubators of hatred, producing fanatic after fanatic after fanatic?

We are the only species of animal that specializes in mutual extermination.

We devote $2.5 billion per day to military spending. Misery and war are children of the same father.

How much longer will we accept that this world, so in love with death, is the only world possible?


* 1972-2002 UN Vetoes by the USA:

Year -- Resolution Vetoed by the USA

1972 Condemns Israel for killing hundreds of people in Syria and Lebanon in air raids.

1973 Affirms the rights of the Palestinians and calls on Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories.

1976 Condemns Israel for attacking Lebanese civilians.
1976 Condemns Israel for building settlements in the occupied territories.
1976 Calls for self determination for the Palestinians.
1976 Affirms the rights of the Palestinians.

1978 Urges the permanent members (USA, USSR, UK, France, China) to insure United Nations decisions on the maintenance of international peace and security.
1978 Criticises the living conditions of the Palestinians.
1978 Condemns the Israeli human rights record in occupied territories.
1978 Calls for developed countries to increase the quantity and quality of development assistance to underdeveloped countries.

1979 Calls for an end to all military and nuclear collaboration with the apartheid South Africa.
1979 Strengthens the arms embargo against South Africa.
1979 Offers assistance to all the oppressed people of South Africa and their liberation movement.
1979 Concerns negotiations on disarmament and cessation of the nuclear arms race.
1979 Calls for the return of all inhabitants expelled by Israel.
1979 Demands that Israel desist from human rights violations.
1979 Requests a report on the living conditions of Palestinians in occupied Arab countries.
1979 Offers assistance to the Palestinian people.
1979 Discusses sovereignty over national resources in occupied Arab territories.
1979 Calls for protection of developing counties' exports.
1979 Calls for alternative approaches within the United Nations system for improving the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
1979 Opposes support for intervention in the internal or external affairs of states.
1979 For a United Nations Conference on Women.
1979 To include Palestinian women in the United Nations Conference on Women.
1979 Safeguards rights of developing countries in multinational trade negotiations.

1980 Requests Israel to return displaced persons.
1980 Condemns Israeli policy regarding the living conditions of the Palestinian people.
1980 Condemns Israeli human rights practices in occupied territories. 3 resolutions.
1980 Affirms the right of self determination for the Palestinians.
1980 Offers assistance to the oppressed people of South Africa and their national liberation movement.
1980 Attempts to establish a New International Economic Order to promote the growth of underdeveloped countries and international economic co-operation.
1980 Endorses the Program of Action for Second Half of United Nations Decade for Women.
1980 Declaration of non-use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states.
1980 Emphasizes that the development of nations and individuals is a human right.
1980 Calls for the cessation of all nuclear test explosions.
1980 Calls for the implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples.

1981 Promotes co-operative movements in developing countries.
1981 Affirms the right of every state to choose its economic and social system in accord with the will of its people, without outside interference in whatever form it takes.
1981 Condemns activities of foreign economic interests in colonial territories.
1981 Calls for the cessation of all test explosions of nuclear weapons.
1981 Calls for action in support of measures to prevent nuclear war, curb the arms race and promote disarmament.
1981 Urges negotiations on prohibition of chemical and biological weapons.
1981 Declares that education, work, health care, proper nourishment, national development, etc are human rights.
1981 Condemns South Africa for attacks on neighbouring states, condemns apartheid and attempts to strengthen sanctions. 7 resolutions.
1981 Condemns an attempted coup by South Africa on the Seychelles.
1981 Condemns Israel's treatment of the Palestinians, human rights policies, and the bombing of Iraq. 18 resolutions.

1982 Condemns the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. 6 resolutions (1982 to 1983).
1982 Condemns the shooting of 11 Muslims at a shrine in Jerusalem by an Israeli soldier.
1982 Calls on Israel to withdraw from the Golan Heights occupied in 1967.
1982 Condemns apartheid and calls for the cessation of economic aid to South Africa. 4 resolutions.
1982 Calls for the setting up of a World Charter for the protection of the ecology.
1982 Sets up a United Nations conference on succession of states in respect to state property, archives and debts.
1982 Nuclear test bans and negotiations and nuclear free outer space. 3 resolutions.
1982 Supports a new world information and communications order.
1982 Prohibition of chemical and bacteriological weapons.
1982 Development of international law.
1982 Protects against products harmful to health and the environment .
1982 Declares that education, work, health care, proper nourishment, national development are human rights.
1982 Protects against products harmful to health and the environment.
1982 Development of the energy resources of developing countries.

1983 Resolutions about apartheid, nuclear arms, economics, and international law. 15 resolutions.

1984 Condemns support of South Africa in its Namibian and other policies.
1984 International action to eliminate apartheid.
1984 Condemns Israel for occupying and attacking southern Lebanon.
1984 Resolutions about apartheid, nuclear arms, economics, and international law. 18 resolutions.

1985 Condemns Israel for occupying and attacking southern Lebanon.
1985 Condemns Israel for using excessive force in the occupied territories.
1985 Resolutions about cooperation, human rights, trade and development. 3 resolutions.
1985 Measures to be taken against Nazi, Fascist and neo-Fascist activities .

1986 Calls on all governments (including the USA) to observe international law.
1986 Imposes economic and military sanctions against South Africa.
1986 Condemns Israel for its actions against Lebanese civilians.
1986 Calls on Israel to respect Muslim holy places.
1986 Condemns Israel for sky-jacking a Libyan airliner.
1986 Resolutions about cooperation, security, human rights, trade, media bias, the environment and development. 8 resolutions.

1987 Calls on Israel to abide by the Geneva Conventions in its treatment of the Palestinians.
1987 Calls on Israel to stop deporting Palestinians.
1987 Condemns Israel for its actions in Lebanon. 2 resolutions.
1987 Calls on Israel to withdraw its forces from Lebanon.
1987 Cooperation between the United Nations and the League of Arab States.
1987 Calls for compliance in the International Court of Justice concerning military and paramilitary activities against Nicaragua and a call to end the trade embargo against Nicaragua. 2 resolutions.
1987 Measures to prevent international terrorism, study the underlying political and economic causes of terrorism, convene a conference to define terrorism and to differentiate it from the struggle of people from national liberation.
1987 Resolutions concerning journalism, international debt and trade. 3 resolutions.
1987 Opposition to the build up of weapons in space.
1987 Opposition to the development of new weapons of mass destruction.
1987 Opposition to nuclear testing. 2 resolutions.
1987 Proposal to set up South Atlantic "Zone of Peace".

1988 Condemns Israeli practices against Palestinians in the occupied territories. 5 resolutions (1988 and 1989).

1989 Condemns USA invasion of Panama.
1989 Condemns USA troops for ransacking the residence of the Nicaraguan ambassador in Panama.
1989 Condemns USA support for the Contra army in Nicaragua.
1989 Condemns illegal USA embargo of Nicaragua.
1989 Opposing the acquisition of territory by force.
1989 Calling for a resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict based on earlier UN resoltions.

1990 To send three UN Security Council observers to the occupied territories.

1995 Affirms that land in East Jerusalem annexed by Israel is occupied territory.

1997 Calls on Israel to cease building settlements in East Jerusalem and other occupied territories. 2 resolutions.

1999 Calls on the USA to end its trade embargo on Cuba. 8 resolutions (1992 to 1999).

2001 To send unarmed monitors to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
2001 To set up the International Criminal Court.

2002 To renew the peace keeping mission in Bosnia.

Samar history: The Battle of Catubig


August 26, 2006

Fought at the turn of the 20th century—between the local militia of Catubig and a contingent of General Vicente Lukban’s incipient Army of the Philippine-American war in Samar and Leyte on the one hand and the U.S. Regular Army on the other—the battle of Catubig(1) brought into focus two aspects of the combatants: raw courage and humanism on the part of the Samarnons, and the penchant of a vanquished, proud U. S. Army to hide the truth from the Filipinos.

Catubig used to be a small town some eighteen kilometers from the mouth of the deep, navigable Catubig River that empties into Lake Lao-ang in the northern section of what used to be the one-province island of Samar. Today, further inland, in the upper source of the river is another town, Las Navas, which regained or was granted its own municipal charter in 1948.

Before the last two decades of the Spanish rule in the Philippines, Las Navas was in fact the set of municipal government in the Catubig Valley. However, toward the close of the 19th century, Kagninipa (now Catubig) started to out-grow Las Navas. This is understandable inasmuch as Kagninipa is located right at the stretches of wide agricultural lands in the vortex of the rich rice-growing Catubig Valley, reputedly the rice granary of Samar. So, ecclesiastical authorities or the Roman Catholic Church built a strong stone church in Kagninipa in 1886. This edifice is stronger in construction and larger in size than the Church in Las Navas even to this day.

The two settlements themselves had a romanticized rivalry, especially when it became apparent that ecclesiastical authorities had its bent on Kagninipa. To avoid a violent confrontation to settle the issue as to where the permanent seat of government was to be located, the two rival chieftains, or capitanes at the time decided it will be a waste of human lives and ugly to fight employing armed men. Capitan Saro of Las Navas and Capitan Mecias of Kagninipa agreed to settle the conflict by staging a carabao bullfight one Sunday. Should the Las Navas bull win, Las Navas will keep the seat of government; should the Kagninipa bull win, the seat of government will, accordingly, be transferred to Kagninipa.

After exhaustive search for the best bulls, the two chieftains were ready to settle the issue. To cut a long story short, it was the bull from Kagninipa that decisively won, in fact chasing the Las Navas bull until it jumped into the Catubig River in fright and pain where it drowned from the wounds gorged in wildly by the strong horns of the more powerful Kagninipa bull.

Thus the seat of municipal government permanently moved to Kagninipa. This took place, however, not without any further enmity.

Then early in February 1900 some Americans started coming in trickle posing as private surveyors. The local church authorities were perceptively more friendly with the visitors than they were with the natives. But the “visitors” were also trying their best to be friendly with the natives. At one point, on a pleasant sunny morning, as two “surveyors” were strolling along Kagninipa Brook, one saw a cat sunbathing by rolling along the grassy edge of the brook. The Americans approached a young lady who was doing her laundry and asked, “What is that, cat?” The lass, hardly seeing the cat which was in higher elevation, and not knowing what the foreigners were asking about, responded, “Tubig,” meaning the water of the brook.

In a short while bystanders gathered around. And they started saying, at the bidding of the Americans, “Catubig!” The Americans thought that “tubig” means cat, and the Filipinos, yes, the Catubignons, thought on the other hand that “cat” means tubig. When this news reached Domingo Rebadulla, the most respected and admired citizen of Kagninipa at the time, he suggested that this “word-compact” or word of friendship be used henceforth as the new name of the town of Kagninipa to signify the friendliness of the Americans and the native populace. Hence, the name “Catubig” today.

In a matter of weeks the “surveyors”, apparently having understood and learned the psyche of the local populace, were already wearing military uniforms, and more men were pouring in, ferried by a gunboat. The priest had left, if temporarily, apparently at the bidding of the Americans, for his safety as well as to make room for the Americans to establish a garrison in the rectory or convent and in the adjacent stone church of Saint Joseph the Worker Parish.

The soldiers, as the surveyors finally turned out to be, were of Company H, 43rd Volunteer Infantry Regiment of the U.S. Army. Their real mission was two-fold. First, on the short term, to deny General Lukban access that year (1900) to the bounty rice harvest of the Catubig Valley. This harvest takes place, until now, during the month of April. Second, to deny the General, on the long-term, from making the lush and rice-rich Catubig Valley as the alternate if not permanent headquarters of the Army he was raising in Samar and Leyte for the Philippine Revolution, which had already metamorphosed into the Philippine-American War.

The people of Catubig naturally resented the deceptive presence of the Americans upon discovering the Americans’ real intentions. The local leaders, hospitable as they customarily were to visitors, started a series of hurriedly-convened secret meetings.

Francisco Fincalero, the local real-estate and rice magnate and adoringly called Taga-ta by his associates, sent out instructions to his tenants that if the Americans commandeered his harvest, his tenants were to resist. Homobono Joli-Joli, a young man from Las Navas, forgot the past rivalry of Las Navas and Kagninipa and volunteered with 25 men, with himself at the head, to join the militia. Domingo Rebadulla, the acknowledged leader of Catubig during the Filipino American War and first mayor thereafter, was the over-all overseer in forming the local militia. Domingo, charismatic by personality, easily counted the assistance of Juan Alaras and Probo Plagata, men who later also became municipal mayors of Catubig.

The people responded quickly and favorably. A 300-man strong, fighting force was easily raised.

Knowing that the men were ill-trained and ill-equipped, well-off families—the Orsolinos, the Tafallas, the Mercaders, the Tentativas, the Turbanadas, etc.—donated their mousers and revolvers. Local blacksmiths worked overnights to make palteks (locally manufactured guns) and baids (the Samarnon’s counterpart of the Samurai blade).

Doubting the military know-how of the militiamen, Domingo Rebadulla dispatched a three-man courier party, overseen by his fourteen-year old son, Pedro, to make contact with General Lukban. The General responded by dispatching for a few days one of his deputies, Col. Enrique Villareal Dagujob, a college-educated native of Bicol. The colonel was to check the terrain of the possible battleground and to give secret military instructions to the militia.

General Lukban likewise assigned one of his chemists to the fighting men of Catubig to ensure that they had adequate and steady supply of gun powder to recycle used cartridges.

Above all, the General assured the “boys” liaison that should hostilities break out, he will immediately reinforce the Catubig militia with at least 500 men.

The success of the “boys’ mission” was quickly apparent. Col. Villareal-Dagujob showed up in a few days incognito. The colonel found the morale of the town’s leadership and the fighting men unusually high. Leaving specific instructions as to what to do upon the start of hostilities, Col. Villareal-Dagujob returned to Blanca Aurora, in the highlands of the Gandara Valley, the headquarters of General Lukban.

Sensing immediate hostilities, the General deputized back Col. Villareal-Dagujob to head a 600-man raiding force. Just a day away of mostly jungle marching to Catubig, the raiding party learned that the battle of Catubig had begun. The local leaders took advantage of the fact that the steamer Tonyik which had been ferrying supplies and men to Catubig was nowhere to be found in Lao-ang, the closest port. Informers reported it was in Calbayog, in the westside of the island of Samar. In the estimation of the leaders in Catubig, this means at least about three days before the garrison in Catubig could be reinforced or rescued in the event of hostilities.

It was a sunny April Sunday morning, typical of April, the rice harvest month in Catubig. The mayas were chirping their songs of joy in the abundance of rice grains, their favorite food, just in the outlying fields.

The date: April 15, 1900.

The longshoremen were piling abaca bales after bales in the street ready, as they appeared to be, for loading to a double-mast parao moored at the pier closeby where the American steamer had also been mooring. The giant out-triggered vessel was unloading earthen wares (pots, jars, etc.), but mostly 20-liter kerosene cans. The kerosene cans were, in the normal course of trade, being readied for delivery to consignees in town.

The belfry boys got their instructions before the fall of night, April 14. They usually were to ring one bell for the customary ringing at 6:00 A.M. on a Sunday of ordinary time. But for the following day they were to stay put and wait for a small-arm gunfire at which instance they were to ring in full blast all three bells, including the giant de ruida. This de ruida bell is rung only on solemn occasions, such as the arrivals of dignitaries, or at the inception and completion of a High Mass during town fiestas or special occasions, or in cases of calamities such as fires beyond control.

But Domingo Rebadulla objected to the small-arm gunfire, for it could in fact mean hostilities. He ordered instead dropping on the concrete street, with the appearance of casual fall from the head of a longshoreman, an empty kerosene can to produce the loud, sharp decibels that were to signal the American garrison did not accept the town leaders’ demand to surrender with their guns and military wares and to vacate the convent and the church vicinities.

At about 7:00 A.M., just before the Americans started their daily morning drills in small numbers, a courier was dispatched by the town capitan to hand in an envelope to the doorman at the rectory containing the demand. As anticipated the garrison turned the demand down. A thumb-down signal from the courier as he emerged from the rectory caused the fall of an empty kerosene can from a husky longshoreman while he was stacking kerosene cans not far from the town square. That sudden fall was the signal that the belfry boys were awaiting. A few bell rings sent the token force of militiamen at the rear of the convent firing to decoy the Americans in that direction.

At 7:30 A.M. all hell broke loose.

The bells of Catubig, especially the giant de ruida that day kept spinning in crescendo, the other two bells were tolling unusually fast. All able-bodied men ran toward the convent even without orders and volunteered to fight. But unarmed they instead ended up rolling the hemp bales around the convent to serve as shields to the militiamen.

At the indication that the Americans were forcing themselves out into their two small motorized boats, the militia, assisted by civilians, poured kerosene on the abaca bales and set them afire. Americans who dared to leave the convent were thus forced to negotiate their way through the towering inferno of abaca bales, then through the baids and guns of the militia. Fifteen of the 36 Americans perceived to be in the garrison tried to flee to safety, and fifteen burnt alive or were cut down by Catubignon fires or bolos to their bloody deaths.

But the Americans were shooting too and in higher volume of fires. After all they had better guns. Their bullets were proportionately taking higher tolls than those of the Samarnons’. Badly outnumbered, however, the American ceased firing. Yet their will to fight echoed in the halls of the U.S. Congress in Washington, D.C., later when one soldier, Cpl. Anthony J. Carson, of Boston, Massachusetts, was given the U.S. highest military award, the Congressional Medal of Honor, for his, according to the citation:

“Assuming command of a detachment of the company which had survived an overwhelming attack of the enemy, and by his bravery and untiring effort and the exercise of good judgment in the handling of his men successfully withstood for 2 days the attacks of a large force of the enemy, thereby saving the lives of the survivors and protecting the wounded until relief came.”

1st Lt. J. T. Sweeney, one of the few survivors of the four-day confrontation, later recounted that they had superior arms than the Samarnons, but when they smelled kerosene from the bales of hemp piled around the rectory and, had the rectory caught fire itself from the burning bales of hemp, they (Americans) could have been roasted and charred alive inside the rectory.

The Americans, however, did not easily surrender. It was discovered later that they were buying time for reinforcement or rescue to arrive. And they had dug trenches at the back of the convent(2).

Then early on the third day of the siege, the 600 men of General Lukban arrived. Intelligence report from General Lukban’s men revealed that American reinforcement or rescuers were steaming up the Catubig River from Lao-ang. The rescuers arrived in the town early on the fourth day, i.e., Wednesday, April 19, 1900.

A great battle immediately erupted after a lull of almost two days when only sporadic fires where heard. The bells of Saint Joseph Church did not stop ringing the entire morning of the final day of the battle of Catubig. The Americans tried to take the bells by scaling the belfry. But they never succeeded for two reasons. First, they were getting killed in their attempt; second, the belfry of Saint Joseph Church was difficult to scale. It is mounted on the highest point of the church frame over the main facade, unlike other churches in Samar, as the one in Balangiga, where belfries are built detached from the church and lower in height.

Sensing disaster because it was trapped from two open sides of the Catubig River by militiamen in their dugouts—as people do now in peacetime during fluvial parades in celebration of Santo Niño—the steamer Tonyik, which ferried in the reinforcement from Lao-ang, suddenly pulled out. But it was chased by the militiamen and by some of General Lukban’s men who captured two motorized smaller American boats.

Some two kilometers down the river, downstream toward Lao-ang, the steamer ran out of control due to heavy fires by some Lukban men who set a sentry at the Irawahan tributary river to the left of the main river. Those manning the steamer were so scared to death because they were also being chased by Catubignon militia and the Lukban men in the main river. The ill-fated Tonyik hit the sharply curving, rocky edge of the Catubig River at a hillside called Kalirukan (a local term for maelstrom because the water in that segment of the river is violent during high floods) and suddenly capsized and went down the deep water, lying on its left side and bringing seven soldiers to their watery graves.

The real estate immediately to the right side of this segment of the river, on the downstream direction toward Lao-ang, was then owned by—and still belongs today to the descendants of—Domingo Mercader(3). In fact the settlement that later sprang from the adjoining real estate is now called Bgy. Domingo Mercader.

After a week the American corps of engineers salvaged the sunken boat, but not without leaving some heavy items like some steel ballasts and anchors to the Mercader household as gratuity of battle and for having given humanitarian aid to the scared and distressed American survivors—with the consent of the Catubig militia and the Lukban men of course.

Cpl. Anthony J. Carson of Company H, 43rd Infantry Regiment (later awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, as aforementioned), one of the survivors, openly admitted that the Battle of Catubig was a total defeat for the American forces.

On board another steamer that picked up the survivors of the capsized Tonyik, Lt. Sweeney, one of the survivors, was so thankful to his Maker for having survived.

The U.S. War Department recorded the event as “…the heaviest bloody encounter yet for the American troops” against the Filipino freedom fighters. This account is so intriguing. This seems to include those in Luzon!

The New York Times called the Battle of Catubig, “horrifying”.

The Americans recorded their casualties at 22, 19 dead and three wounded. But the Lukban forces believed there was a cover up by the Americans of their actual casualties. Other published accounts recorded 31 American deaths(4), which obviously included the fatalities when the Tonyik capsized, as well as those who jumped ship as it was speeding away from the thick of battle almost uncontrolled from the town of Catubig.

For example, Maria Mercader Lambino(5), then a 13-year old daughter of Domingo Mercader and an eyewitness to the battle, used to tell her grandchildren that one American soldier who jumped into the water, as the Tonyik was attempting to pull out, shouted, “Dinamat!” The American while swimming and cursing was hacked to death by a militia boloman who was in a dugout. A Lukban soldier could have shot the American point blank, but to conserve ammo he let a militiaman do the kill with his baid.

Maria’s grandchildren later interpreted dinamat as “god damn it”.

The Filipinos accounted 150 deaths of their own due in large measure to their exposed position when attacking the rectory.

Antonio Hipe (now deceased)(6), who was a clam diver, together with other clam divers, had recovered quite a heap more of steel ballasts that the corps of engineers, in salvaging the Tonyik, had left at the bottom of the waters in Kalirukan. However, local blacksmiths had made most of them into farm implements(7).

Conclusion. The battle of Catubig is an overlooked glory of Filipinos in the Philippine-American war, some say. By the same token, this is attributed to the penchant of the U.S. military at that time for spiriting away immediately to Washington, D.C., any records of combat that gave the American side the appearance of ignominy and total defeat. Hence, Filipino historians doing research in the Philippines—and writing history books with what they had—were left without complete information. The battle of Catubig had not appeared even in footnotes of Philippine history books.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The waiting dark

The waiting dark
By Patricia Evangelista
Last updated 07:12am (Mla time) 08/27/2006
Published on page A11 of the August 27, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

IN Barangay Sta. Clara, Cuyapo, Nueva Ecija, Josie Javier sat in front of her television at half-past eight on a Sunday night. Her husband Armando lay asleep on a bench by the window. That night, the comfortable quiet exploded with the relentless shots of an M-16 fired by a gunman a foot away from the window. Josie escaped with a gash on her arm. Armando, a peasant leader of Anak Pawis, still slept on his bench in a pool of his own blood.

In Barangay Lennec, Guimba, Nueva Ecija, the blindfolded body of Pricilla Esteban was found under a bridge, shot, badly bruised, bound at wrist and ankle and left with a crushed skull. The 55-year-old woman was the widowed mother of seven children. She was an active leader of the local Bayan Muna chapter.

In Barangay Parista, a tiny village in San Jose, Nueva Ecija, midwife Teresita Abellera was washing dishes when three armed men forced their way into her home and accused her of being an NPA member. She was bound from behind, with a rifle butt rammed at her cheek and stomach. They strangled her year-old granddaughter, beat up her husband and thrashed her 25-year-old son Rodel, who the armed men claimed was also NPA. They thrashed him until he begged, and then they thrashed him until he was unconscious. Mother and son were loaded into a waiting vehicle.

I do not know any of this when I wake up in the dark in the back seat of an Inquirer pickup, leg cramping from being curled up for hours. My photographer Jim sits shotgun, and Al, the driver, is hunched against the wheel. All I know is that we were told to go after a story in Nueva Ecija, where a militant leader had gotten shot. My contact confirms it: July Vasquez, KMP member, killed the night before in Culong, Guimba.

Guimba is beyond the border of Tarlac, right inside Nueva Ecija, the province the military calls NPA country. It is the place where a farmer had been electrocuted for not having a cedula. According to the 2000 census, Guimba has a population of 87,295 people in 19,207 households. At 7:56 on a Thursday night, its streets are deserted.

Every few minutes, Jim gets down from the pickup to knock on doors and ask for directions. He calls out from front stoops, or leans over rickety wooden fences. We see the blue glow of television screens and heads peering around curtains, but doors remain shut. Jim manages to cobble together directions from the few people he catches on the street. Al drives on. A set of headlights punches through the blackness ahead—an open jeep, driving slowly toward us, packed with soldiers carrying Armalite rifles.

We are quiet inside the pickup.

Just past a sari-sari store, a man walks out of a gate. Go straight, he tells us. Turn right after the waiting shed. He doesn’t tell us that turning right means turning into a skinny dirt path that cuts in the middle of cogon higher than our pickup. The path through the fields is muddy, pocked with holes filled with water from the last rain. I look over my shoulder, once, twice, but there is nothing but grass and dark and dread.

Jim and Al are calm, but it is the forced cold calmness of experience. Turn here, one of them says. All right, says the other. There is no way to turn back, and no way to know if we’re taking the right turns. I cannot see beyond a foot out the window. The road gets softer, and we move slower. I try to pray, but I can’t remember the words. Al grits his teeth and wrestles the car out of the muck.

We find the Vasquez home in the middle of sprawling fields, brightly lit while all the other homes are dark. Outside, a little more than a dozen people stand on the packed earth or sit on wooden benches. Inside, under the garish glare of funeral lamps that are missing a few bulbs, is July Vasquez in a white coffin.

There are old wooden beams supporting the tin ceiling, and more benches on the cement floor. A toddler sleeps in a corner. July’s widow gets to her feet: Dolores Vasquez, 46 years old, left with five children, the youngest 11. According to her, July had gone to a friend’s nearby wake the night before. At 7:30 p.m., a man wearing shorts and carrying an Armalite and a .45 cal. pistol had come barreling in. “Dapa kayong lahat!” Shots were fired, a dozen in all. Eleven of the bullets were found inside July Vasquez’s bloodied body. July’s killer was not hooded, but nobody will describe him. It was the same night the military set up a detachment near the Vasquez home.

Dolores says she knows nothing. Asked whether her husband was a human rights advocate, she says she did not notice. Asked about why her husband was killed, she says she has no idea. Asked about her suspicions, she says she has none.

The people at the wake are all family. No one else in Culong is willing to risk paying respects. The houses all around the Vasquez residence had been abandoned that same day. July’s sister puts a hand on my arm.

“Bubuweltahan kami kung magsalita kami.”

Dolores’ calm suddenly breaks, and she interrupts, her voice shrill. “Wala tayong alam!” She appeals to me. “Wala kaming alam.”

The murdered man was a barangay officer. His wife says that he was a responsible man, generous to a fault. Did he help farmers, I ask. The sister jumps in and asks what I mean by “help.” If I meant he helped the NPA, no, never, July was a good man. He made sure they had a road. She points proudly at the lights—it was July who pushed for electricity to reach their area in 2004. Their parents, she says, had died without ever tasting the comfort of road or light.

A small unframed snapshot of July is propped over the coffin—the picture of a smiling man with sunburned skin. On the wall is a certificate of attendance in a local seminar-workshop: “Neighborhood Partnership for Anti-Insurgency/Criminality/Terrorism, 2003.”

We walk back to the pickup and drive off, past three uniformed soldiers who stand by the highway, rifles by their sides. It is 9:30 on a Thursday night.

July Vasquez was to turn 50 on Sept. 7, 2006. Now he is just a name, another line in a list that gets longer by the day.

Going Mobile: Text Messages Guide Filipino Protesters

Going Mobile: Text Messages Guide Filipino Protesters

By Mary Jordan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, August 25, 2006; A01

MANILA -- Raymond Palatino's cellphone pinged loudly, and a text message lit up the display: "Other students are already marching. Where are you?"

Palatino and hundreds of others -- nearly all carrying cellphones --were on their way to Manila's gated presidential palace for a protest rally. Palatino and what people here call a "text brigade" were still a couple of miles away, about to board buses in the steamy midday heat.

"No, not ready," he typed, holding his phone in both hands, his thumbs flying across the buttons. "We're 30 minutes away."

In a string of unsolved murders in recent months, trade union leaders, government critics, students, journalists and others have been killed. Students had begun clamoring for President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to do something.

Once they might have called a demonstration by printing fliers. Now, they do it by mass texting. Palatino had spent days getting the word out, banging out text after text on the keypad of his little Nokia phone.

"WEAR RED. BRING BANNERS." The messages -- faster and cheaper than phone calls -- went to thousands of young people, telling them to gather near Morayta Street.

"I didn't talk to anyone," said Palatino, 26, a university graduate who has a contagious smile and aspires to be a teacher. "All the organizing is done through texting. It's affordable and instant."

Cellphones and text messaging are changing the way political mobilizations are conducted around the world. From Manila to Riyadh and Kathmandu protests once publicized on coffeehouse bulletin boards are now organized entirely through text-messaging networks that can reach vast numbers of people in a matter of minutes.

The technology is also changing the organization and dynamics of
protests, allowing leaders to control, virtually minute-by-minute, the
movements of demonstrators, like military generals in the field. Using
texts that communicate orders instantly, organizers can call for
advances or retreats of waves of protesters.

This tool has changed the balance of political power in places where
governments have a history of outmuscling dissent. In April, Nepal's
King Gyanendra ordered authorities to cut cellphone service after
protesters against his absolute rule used text messages to help
assemble street protests by tens of thousands of democracy advocates.

The Philippines, widely called the text-messaging center of the world, has led the way. When President Joseph Estrada was forced from office in 2001, he bitterly complained that the popular uprising against him was a "coup de text."

This country of 85 million people has only 2 million Internet users and 3 million people with land-line telephones. But there are more than 30 million cellphone subscribers here, according to government statistics, more than double the figure in 2002.

Initially, mobile phone companies offered free texting. Today, a text message still costs just 2 cents, a fraction of a call. A typical Filipino mobile phone user sends about eight texts a day, spending far more time texting than talking.

Every major Philippine political party and nonprofit group has a database of its supporters' cellphone numbers. Many use computers to automatically generate mass text mailings to those phones with news about issues or rallies or upcoming votes.

"When Estrada was ousted, we realized the power of texting," said Palatino, the slight, well-spoken president of a national youth party. "Since then we have never stopped using it to advance our causes."

At 1:30 p.m. on a recent day, Palatino and three students lingered near the doughnut case in the 7-Eleven on a congested corner of Morayta Street. They stood in the air-conditioned cool, cellphones in hand, waiting for a text.

Outside in the sweltering sunshine, amid street kiosks selling goods from iced coconut drinks to 1973 National Geographic magazines, other young people stood around, trying to blend in and avoid the notice of a few police officers who walked up and down, watching. Some of the students carried rolled-up banners that said "Stop the Killings." Each clutched a cellphone.

They knew police had been ordered to disperse unauthorized crowds near the presidential palace and would not hesitate to use wooden batons and water cannons to do it. So organizers wanted to make sure that everyone converged at the same time to make the rally harder to break up.

Soon Palatino's phone was alive with a flurry of texts from coordinators and marchers anxious to start.

One asked: "Are the media here?"

About a dozen TV cameramen and newspaper photographers gathered outside. They, too, had been summoned by text.

At 1:45, Palatino's phone pinged again, this time with the message: "ASSEMBLE RIGHT NOW!"

A smile crossed his face. With a few more taps of his thumbs, he forwarded the command down the text brigade ranks. He sent it to those on his phone list, and each who received it did the same. In seconds, about 1,000 students were in the street, stopping traffic and sending cars and bicycle taxis scattering.

Two students quickly hooked up a public address system to the battery of a vehicle. One by one, leaders climbed on top of it to fire up the crowd. Palatino demanded that President Arroyo do more to end the killings and allocate more money for universities.

"Books, not bullets!" he shouted.

The all-at-once strategy worked: The police were caught off guard. Only a few officers were on the scene, and they quickly pulled out their own cellphones to make urgent voice calls. Within minutes, scores more officers arrived.

They lined up to block the demonstrators. Many wore helmets and carried riot shields. A red firetruck arrived at the intersection. It stopped, its water cannon pointed at the crowd.

Palatino looked at the growing confrontation, worry creeping across his face for the first time. "It will be a success if we can stay long enough to get our message out," he said.

As the speeches continued, a police commander negotiated with a female protest leader.

At 2:38, she stepped away and composed a text, which she sent to Palatino and eight other organizers. In a mixture of Tagalog and English, the country's two official languages -- a popular combination known as Taglish -- she called for a meeting to plan their next move.

They huddled in the middle of the street like a football team. It started to rain.

The protest was a success, the leaders agreed. It had lasted an hour already and surely would make the evening news. They worried about the police, but decided to take their chances and keep going. They agreed to press on toward Mendiola Street, historically a popular protest site within sight of the presidential compound.

They knew they couldn't break through the police lines. So they decided to take a different route, Bustillos Street, which the police might not expect.

Then came the next mass text command. "BUSTILLOS!"

At first, the police looked pleased: The students were retreating. Then, they realized the protesters were only changing course. Officers hustled into new positions and cut off the crowd closer to the palace.

At 3:30, violence broke out. The students retreated, police running after them, hitting them across the back, head and arms with batons. Thwack! Thwack!

Caught up in the melee, ducking from the swinging batons, Palatino heard his phone ping loudly.

"GET OUT OF THERE. You are in a dangerous place," warned the text, from a friend who could see that Palatino was about to be pinned between the crowd and a wall.

An officer grabbed Palatino.

"ID! ID! Now!" the red-faced officer demanded.

A small group of officers closed in around Palatino, whose eyes were suddenly wide with terror.

Students who saw it quickly typed a text alert to others, using Palatino's nickname: "Mong is being arrested."

But as suddenly as they had grabbed him, the police let him go and ran off to help another group of officers who were beating a group of students.

Relieved but shaken, Palatino walked quickly toward a Shakey's Pizza on España Boulevard, where earlier texts had instructed everyone to meet once the protest ended. As he walked, his phone pinged loudly with text after text.

Like other leaders, Palatino was responsible for making sure everyone in his group was safe and accounted for.

Texts of "WHERE ARE YOU?" raced through the crowd.

After an hour, 10 people out of the 1,000 had not replied. So organizers dispatched people to police stations and hospitals to check for the missing.

An hour later, students started filtering home in time for the 6:30 news, which was filled with graphic scenes of police officers beating the young protesters.

Just after 7 p.m., Palatino received a text with the final tally: 34 students injured, eight seriously. Ten people detained, then released.

"Before, we had no choice but to keep quiet and listen to the president," Palatino said, still holding his tiny phone. "This is a development for democracy."

A lawyer's opinion on Guimaras oil spill accountability

There is a contract of carriage between Petron and the Bulk carrier.

As a general rule, Petron as the principal pays for the damage that would be incurred. But there are exceptions. The exception would include the requirement of seaworthiness of the vessel and the exercise of due diligence in the transport of the goods.So, pag nag-fail dito ang bulk carrier, solo ang liability niya. Petron is out of the issue.

But there is an exception to the execption: that is, if Petron did not exercise the due diligence required of them to check every month the seaworthiness of the dahil sa kapabayaan na ito, nagpabaya rin ang bulk carrier. So, joit or solidary and liabilitry nila.

Crude oil have high insurable interest. Dapat maingat diyan.

Ang double hulled vessel requirement ay implemented pa lang sa Europe at may deadline ito doon until 2010 or 2015 kasi mahal nga ang mga carriers na ganyan. Ang Pilipinas ay mga 2020 pa yata ang compliance.

Now, from my analysis based on news reports, mukhang may palpak na ginawa ang may-ari ng barko kasi parang sirain ito. Sagot niya ngayon ang problema. The insurer should come in now. Pukpukin ninyo kung sino ang insurer ng bulk carrier.

Wag ninyong patayin ang Petron ng todo, although their responsibility is also to exercise due diligence as required of a good father of a family, by checking from time to time, if the bulk carrier is complying with the seaworthiness requirement.

Pag na-prove na pabaya, solidary ang liability nila. Meaning, share and share alike sa gastos.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

People's resistance hands U.S., Israel a stunning defeat in Lebanon

Signs of a 'new Middle East'
People's resistance hands U.S., Israel a stunning defeat in Lebanon

By: Richard Becker, Western regional coordinator of the ANSWER Coalition (

Ten days into Israel’s massive assault on Lebanon, when hundreds of Lebanese civilians had already been killed and hundreds of thousands were refugees, U.S. secretary of state Condoleezza Rice blithely dismissed all the death and destruction as "the birth pangs of a new Middle East."

The outcome of the struggle may indeed be a transformed region, but not along the lines that Rice and her fellow warmakers in Washington had in mind.

Rice’s now infamous July 22 remark was another way of saying "no" to international calls for a ceasefire in the conflict. It came in response to worldwide outrage over the wanton Israeli destruction of Lebanon, supposedly unleashed because two Israeli soldiers had been captured by Hezbollah’s military wing in a clash along the Israel-Lebanon border.

U.S. and Israeli leaders, confident that Israel’s much-vaunted army would soon achieve the kind of smashing victory it had in previous wars, were opposed to any halt in the fighting.

Three weeks later, however, with Hezbollah undefeated, Israeli casualties rising, and anti-U.S. anger spreading across the Middle East, Rice took the lead in speeding a ceasefire resolution through the U.N. Security Council. Resolution 1701 was passed on Aug. 11 and went into effect on Aug. 14.

What are the implications of this stunning turnabout that has altered profoundly the political landscape of the region?

Conflicts immediately surfaced within ruling class circles in both Israel and the United States after the U.N. resolution passed—proof that the outcome is viewed as a defeat for Israel and a severe setback for U.S. policy in the Middle East. Another sign of the victory for liberation forces was the huge and prolonged celebrations that broke out across the Middle East in support of Hezbollah and its leader, Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah.

Speaking shortly after the ceasefire took effect, Nasrallah was exultant. "We are before a strategic and historic victory, without any exaggeration, for all of Lebanon, the resistance and the whole of the Arab nation," he said. "We came out victorious in a war in which big Arab armies were defeated [before]."

The same day, Bush tried to spin the settlement. "Hezbollah attacked Israel," he claimed. "Hezbollah started the crisis. And Hezbollah suffered a defeat." Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made a similarly wishful statement.

But had they truly achieved "victory," intense back-biting and infighting wouldn’t have surfaced in Washington and Tel Aviv. Instead, the leaders would have been toasting each other, even if through gritted teeth.

Defeats and internal struggles within the ruling class can lead to the leaking of secret information to the media, as one faction seeks to indict another for its failures. The setback in Lebanon was no exception.

Capture of Israeli soldiers a pretext for mass destruction

Just after the Security Council resolution was signed, articles began to appear in various world media outlets revealing the truth behind the U.S.-Israeli aggression: The assault on Lebanon had long been in the works. The capture of the two Israel soldiers was a convenient pretext for an all-out war that Israel and the U.S. were determined to carry out.

The news reports confirmed what activists in the ANSWER Coalition (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) and other anti-imperialist organizations had been saying since the war’s beginning.

Within hours of the July 11 border incident, Israel launched a "shock and awe"-style air attack, imposed a naval blockade, and began non-stop shelling of southern Lebanon. The artillery shelling was cover for a new invasion of Lebanon by Israeli armor and infantry. Beirut’s airport was bombed, as were most of the country’s power plants and 90 percent of its bridges.

An oil spill from a bombed coastal power plant resulted in the biggest ecological disaster in Lebanon’s history, polluting Mediterranean beaches and waters and catastrophically impacting wildlife, fishing and tourism. Thousands of homes, apartments and buildings were completely destroyed. Israel pilots flying U.S.-made war planes conducted thousands of uncontested bombing raids against a very small country.

In retaliation, Hezbollah launched an average of 100 rockets per day into northern Israel.

At least 1,100 Lebanese were killed—more than 80 percent of them non-combatants—and thousands more were wounded. Twenty-five percent of the country’s population, nearly one-million people, was forced to flee their homes and communities. On the Israeli side, 156 were reported killed, 118 of them soldiers.

On the war’s other front in Gaza, more than 170 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli bombs, shells and bullets since June 25, with one Israeli soldier fatally wounded.

Without question, a war of such magnitude and sweep as Israeli’s campaign against Lebanon had to have been planned long in advance.

A U.S. initiative, not just a ‘green light’

At a White House meeting on May 23, Bush "conveyed to Olmert his strong personal support" for a military offensive against Lebanon, according to Israeli government sources. Bush also urged Israel to attack Syria in the same operation. (Consortium News, Aug. 13)

A July 30 article in the right-wing Jerusalem Post reported that Israeli defense officials "were receiving indications from the U.S. that America would be interested in seeing Israel attack Syria." The Israeli leaders reportedly were hesitant about an unprovoked attack on Syria and how it might further deepen their global isolation.

Other articles, including one by Seymour Hersh in the Aug. 21 New Yorker magazine, indicate that planning of the offensive had been in the works for at least a year in both Washington and Tel Aviv.

Unable to suppress Iraqi resistance, the Bush administration had decided to widen its regional war. A U.S.-supported Israeli attack on Lebanon and Syria would aim to crush Hezbollah, isolate the Palestinian resistance, overturn or severely weaken the Syrian government, and prepare the way for attacking Iran. The administration thought that accomplishing those objectives would weaken and isolate the Iraqi resistance.

The U.S.-hatched plan didn’t work. "Shock and awe"-style strikes by the Israeli air force, like the U.S. air assault on Iraq, did inflict massive destruction on Lebanon and incalculable suffering on its people. But, as in Iraq, it utterly failed to subdue the population. In fact, the effect was just the opposite.

Despite being an extremely diverse and often divided society, a remarkable degree of national unity soon emerged in support of the resistance and against Israel and the U.S. imperialists. Even Maronite Catholics—historically the most conservative and pro-western sector of the population—overwhelmingly supported Hezbollah and the resistance.

The three pillars of colonialism in the Middle East: Imperialism, the Israeli state and Arab reaction

Despite its vast military superiority, Israel’s expected victory never materialized. This failure sent shock waves through Tel Aviv and Washington, and also through the capitals of the Arab countries aligned with the United States—particularly Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

Early in the war, as bombs rained down on Lebanon, the governments of Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia publicly blamed Hezbollah for the confrontation. By doing so, they drew the wrath of their own people. As the war raged on, and the Lebanese resistance fighters became heroes in the eyes of tens of millions throughout the Middle East, all three governments quickly retreated from their original positions, refocusing their public criticisms on Israel.

The cosmetic change of tone could not hide the fact that all the pro-imperialist governments in the region hoped for the defeat and dismantling of Hezbollah, as well as the Palestinian resistance. While depicted as "friendly governments" and even "democratic" by U.S. officials and the capitalist media, Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia are highly repressive regimes that serve the interests of imperialism and their own elites.

In each country, the Lebanon war spurred festering popular anger not only against the United States and Israel but also against their own rulers. President Mubarak, King Abdullah, and the Saudi royal family hoped that defeat of the Lebanese and Palestinian resistance would set back the anti-government movements inside their own countries.

The war illustrated again in dramatic fashion what the revolutionary progressive forces in the region have long maintained: In the struggle for genuine liberation, the Arab masses confront not only imperialism (particularly, U.S. imperialism) and the militarized settler state of Israel, but also the reactionary, imperialist-aligned Arab regimes.

Technological superiority does not bring victory

Despite a population of some 6 million people, Israel is rated the fourth or fifth most powerful military in the world. Its air force is ranked even higher. Compliments of the Pentagon, the Israeli "Defense" Forces possess a vast array of high tech weaponry, including nuclear bombs. Israel can mobilize more than 600,000 troops.

On the other side, Hezbollah has no air force, no navy, no tanks and no helicopters. Its main force is made of several thousand highly trained and motivated fighters, who have developed very sophisticated guerrilla tactics. They also have acquired advanced anti-tank weapons systems, most likely from Syria and Iran.

At the start of the war on July 12, Olmert and the Israeli chief of staff, air force general Dan Halutz promised quick victory and the swift suppression of Hezbollah’s ability to launch retaliatory rocket attacks through air power. On paper it seemed inevitable that Israel, particularly with full backing from the U.S. government, would win. But wars are not fought on paper.

While causing damage that one Associated Press reporter described as "unimaginable" after the fighting had stopped, the Israeli air blitz ultimately failed to achieve its minimal objectives. The Lebanese resistance was not dislodged and remained deeply entrenched right on the border. Despite Israeli claims that it had knocked out most of Hezbollah’s rockets and missiles, the rockets and missiles never stopped.

The failure of the "shock and awe" operation meant that ground forces had to be sent into Lebanon—something the Israeli military didn’t want to do. Israel had just withdrawn from southern Lebanon in 2000, after a 22-year occupation, because of the losses it suffered at the hands of the Hezbollah-led resistance. The resistance had only grown stronger in the intervening six years.

Fierce resistance on the ground

The Israeli and U.S. governments knew this, but nothing prepared them for the fierce resistance that they encountered on the ground in Lebanon. In an early ground battle at Bint Jbail, just two miles across the border, the Israeli army was forced to pull back after suffering heavy casualties and equipment losses. The same scenario played out for the duration of the Israeli ground war in southern Lebanon.

Particularly shocking was the loss of so many of Israel’s giant tanks, the Merkava-3, which had been considered nearly invincible. The number of tanks destroyed by the Lebanese resistance is not yet known, but reports mention dozens. Many of the Israeli casualties were tank crew members killed or wounded inside their Merkavas. Countless photos and videos showed disoriented, exhausted, and sometimes weeping Israeli soldiers returning from the battlefront in Lebanon.

In the last three days before the ceasefire took effect, the Israeli commanders rushed many more troops into the country, trying to take more territory as a bargaining chip and also to make it appear to the Israeli public that they had "accomplished something." But this move was a disaster for them, too.

In those three days, 48 Israeli soldiers were killed—nearly half of the Israeli fatalities during the war—and many more wounded. As soon as the ceasefire went into effect, the Israeli forces immediately abandoned the areas they had just seized, such as the key town of Marjayoun, because they were over-extended and in danger.

The failure of the Israeli military to achieve rapid victory created a crisis in the ruling circles of both the United States and Israel, and cries of distress from the Jordanian and Egyptian leaders. To continue the war with no prospect of short-term military success would drive the wedge deeper between the Arab people and the rulers throughout the region.

This problem for the imperialists and their allies was perhaps most acutely felt in occupied Iraq, where the largest demonstration, numbering in the hundreds of thousands, was held in support of the Lebanese and Palestinian resistance. That rally, organized by Moqtada al-Sadr and the Mahdi Army, posed a serious challenge to the puppet government of "Prime Minister" al-Maliki. It also demanded an end to the U.S. occupation of Iraq.

United States and Israel forced to retreat

Thus, the U.S. leaders’ decision to rush a ceasefire resolution through the Security Council on Aug. 11—something they had adamantly opposed a few weeks earlier—must be understood as a retreat. That reality isn’t changed by the fact that the resolution heavily favors Israel. Nor is it changed by the resolution’s unenforceability.

Hezbollah has rejected disarming its military forces, a position supported by a broad section of the Lebanese population. There is a "tremendous sense of pride and defiance" among the returning population in southern Lebanon. (Guardian, Aug. 16) The immediate return of hundreds of thousands of Lebanese to their cities, towns and villages in southern Lebanon despite Israeli threats illustrated this defiance. Israel had warned that any Lebanese would be bombed if they came back before the international "peacekeeping" force called for in the U.N. resolution was in place.

While Lebanese prime minister Fuad Siniora proclaimed on Aug. 16 that "there could be no mini-states, no dual authority," in Lebanon, a dual power situation exists in the country. Coming off their stunning victory, Hezbollah’s power—military, social and political—has increased dramatically. The foundation of any state’s power is its army. In Lebanon, Hezbollah’s military wing is far stronger than the Lebanese army.

The Lebanese army, like the Lebanese government, is fragmented because of the "confessional system" in place since the end of formal French colonialism in 1943. This reactionary system reserves key positions in the government and state apparatus for particular religious groups.

For instance, only Maronite Catholics are eligible to be president. The prime minister must be a Sunni Muslim, the speaker of the parliament a Shiite Muslim. The system was created to protect the interests of French imperialism and the ruling elites of each community.

A clash between the Lebanese army and Hezbollah would likely result in the immediate splitting of the army, as happened in the Lebanese civil war in the 1970s. A Lebanese sergeant told National Public Radio on Aug. 17 that Hezbollah had cared for and protected his family during the Israel bombing, "If Hassan Nasrallah asks for fighters in the south to defend the country against Israel, I will take off my Lebanese army uniform and go."

Washington’s retreat does not signify that political leaders—Republican and Democrat—have abandoned their drive to dominate the Middle East. That will never happen as long as imperialism exists, because the Middle East holds 70 percent of the world’s oil reserves. Meanwhile, the occupations of Iraq and Palestine continue. So does the threat of a wider war.

But there can be no doubt that the 34-day war was a defeat for the U.S. imperialists and their Israeli junior partners. It was a victory for all the progressive and anti-imperialist forces in the region.

Inquirer Editorial: Red-baiting


How 2 distinguish btwn norberto gonzales & raul gonzalez. Surname of norberto ends in S, as in Syet! Surname of raul ends in Z, as in Zzzzzz...
Posted date: August 25, 2006


NORBERTO Gonzales is more mild-mannered than his Cabinet colleague, Raul Gonzalez. Visiting the House Session Hall during the debate on the impeachment complaint against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo Wednesday night, the justice secretary told a government TV reporter: "That's why there's a sergeant at arms and a mace; they should use it. If it were me, I would have refused to enter the session hall and cleared the galleries, then locked the doors." He was obviously mad at critics of the administration. But e en if Gonzales talks more softly than Gonzalez, they both believe in the same thing: the mailed fist.

The national security adviser is concerned about communism. In particular, he suspects that there are communists in the media. "There are big possibilities in the media that there are some practitioners being courted by enemies of the state and probably successfully," he warned. "We are profiling everybody as you are profiling us."

We do not know of any media outfit that keeps dossiers on government officials, unless the newspaper morgue where old issues are filed away can be considered as one. We are more than familiar with the propensity of military and other officials during martial law for compiling dossiers on journalists. Some of our columnists and editors had their dossiers waved at them during interrogations at that time. We thought, however, that the era of intelligence files on writers had passed with the Marcos dictatorship. But apparently, we thought wrong. Dossiers are back, and Gonzales is compiling them.

Gonzales believes that "media practitioners are either mercenaries or sympathizers who will continue to create issues even though they know they are helping the leftist cause." He claims that the media have been infiltrated by communists. Not that everyone in the media is a communist, he says. What's more important "is not ... their numbers or percentage but if they are able to present their views effectively." And he thinks they're doing that.

In case anyone thought Gonzales was just being eccentric, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, a military officer during martial law, did his share to underline Gonzales' message of the day. "It's a cause for concern," Ermita stated. "If we know who they are, we should make sure they do not commit any overt act that violates the Revised Penal Code." Which incidentally also sends the firm message that proposed legislation to purge the Penal Code of its colonial and antidemocratic provisions isn't going to prosper.

The national security adviser unblinkingly said this, too, in expectation of the hackles his statement would raise among media people and the public: "But so far, you have observed that the government has not in any way clamped down on media. Our attitude is that these are additional challenges to us."

It should be pointed out, however, that if the clampdown on the media has not become permanent, it is not for lack of trying on the part of the President's team. Rather it is because the media have been vigilant, the public has expressed its anxiety over attempts to muzzle the press and the courts have restrained the executive from violating the freedom of the press.

What the Palace suggests is an interpretation of the role of the press in a state-controlled environment. Is it the duty of the press to praise and lead the cheering for officials? Is it in the interest of the public for the press to ignore human rights violations, and the "collateral damage" resulting from military activities in the provinces, and the Palace's heightened tendency toward belligerence when it comes to the other branches of government? Must every opinion piece remind us of the days when editorials and columns praised every initiative and project of the government and every news report recalls the infamous headline during Ninoy Aquino's funeral march: "Lightning kills one"?

An administration that protects the national security honorably, conducts military operations humanely and governs well has nothing to fear from the media. Any ideology is toothless if unarmed with the weapons that feed its purposes, and when it comes to the news, the armaments that count are facts. If there are no abuses, there will be no bad news for the media to report.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Rights Groups Say Military Is Behind Killings in Philippines

Rights Groups Say Military Is Behind Killings in Philippines

By SETH MYDANS, International Herald Tribune
Published: August 25, 2006

LUPAO, the Philippines — The two heavyset men with pistols said they had come to buy goats, but it was Beatriz Perido they were after. When her father, a farmer and clergyman, turned them away, she said, they told him, “You will receive the news that she has been killed.”

Beatriz Perido, the local leader of a human rights group, is in hiding because, she says, the military “can kill me at any time.”

Ms. Perido is the local leader of a human rights group, and like many other community organizers and activists around the country she has gone into hiding to avoid what they say is a military-backed campaign of assassinations of leftists.

“I am on their order of battle,” said Ms. Perido, 34, referring to lists of names the military lets slip from time to time. “They can kill me at any time.”

Her organization, Karapatan, says more than 700 civilians, including more than 300 left-wing activists, have been killed around the country by “suspected security forces” in the past five years. Some were local government officials who represent a leftist political party that the military calls a Communist front organization.

In a report issued on Aug. 15, Amnesty International said “a politically motivated pattern of killings” of members of legal leftist groups was spreading, with 51 victims in the first six months of this year, compared with 66 in all of 2005.

“The question is whether the state of human rights in the Philippines is sliding back to a time when political killings were a norm,” said Curt Goering, senior deputy executive director of Amnesty International USA.

The government denies that it is involved, and President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo recently said she was creating a commission to investigate the violence.

“The president has condemned these killings in the strongest terms and is determined to take all the necessary measures to protect human rights and uphold the rule of law,” said her spokesman, Ignacio Bunye.

Amnesty International’s conclusion that the government is implicated is based in part on the similarity of the killings, often involving surveillance and death threats like those that have driven Ms. Perido into hiding. The fact that few arrests have been made also suggests government involvement or complicity, it said.

This sense of fear has succeeded in choking off much of the work — particularly in rural areas like this one — of human rights advocates, farmers groups, labor organizers, church workers, activist lawyers and leftist local officials.

“Before, we could mobilize more than 50 people to conduct fact-finding,” Ms. Perido said, describing her work in investigating and reporting on killings and other abuses. “Now in this area there are only four leaders available to do it.”

On one recent mission here, 93 miles north of Manila, she was accompanied by two men who said they had also come out of hiding to visit the sites of recently reported abuses.

“It is difficult now because, even if we are only asking for better prices for rice, we are accused of being communists,” said one of the men, Boy Facunla, 49, who heads a leftist farmers’ group. “For 20 months, I have not been home. There is a rumor that there is a standing order for me to be shot.”

Modesto Reyes, 47, who was with him, said that he had once been an armed fighter in the Communist New People’s Army but that for years now he had worked above ground, particularly in organizing protest rallies.

“They are two methods of struggling for the same goal,” he said. “We are different from them; we are legal organizers.”

But in the eyes of the military, he said: “We are all connected. If you are a supporter of one group, now the impact on yourself is that you are a supporter of the armed group.”

One hamlet they visited, Namulandayan, was the scene of a massacre in 1987 in which the military, frustrated in its pursuit of a unit of communist guerrillas, rounded up and killed 17 villagers, including 6 children. Many others were wounded.

That massacre helped wreck a cease-fire with the communist insurgency that had been declared the previous year when Corazon C. Aquino was swept into the presidency on a wave of hope and reconciliation.

Many in the military had opposed the cease-fire then, just as they have opposed efforts at reconciliation initiated by Mrs. Arroyo when she took office in 2001.

She invited the leftists to form political parties and to bring their contest above ground into a legal arena. But it is these legal groups that now appear to be the targets of the killings.

Like Mrs. Aquino, Mrs. Arroyo has found herself trapped by a debt to the military, which helped bring her to office and has supported her in the face of coup threats and coup attempts.

In June she declared an “all-out war” on the insurgency, and she has praised military officers widely believed to be connected to the killings, who she said had “come to grips with the enemy.”

There are still clashes with armed communist guerrillas here at the foot of the mountain range called the Cordillera. But what the villagers now say they fear are the killings and kidnappings that surround them.

The site of the massacre is abandoned and overgrown with weeds and bushes, but some of the survivors still walk past to work in the rich green rice fields that surround it.

After sundown, the little houses nearby are dark and silent. “The people say, ‘We are afraid,’ ” said the Rev. Arleen P. Tagasa, the parish priest of Lupao. “‘We try to listen to the sounds because maybe the military will come and abduct us.”

Not long ago, a tricycle taxi driver who lived in Namulandayan, Elpidio Gante, 56, was shot and killed by unknown men for unknown reasons. He had not been publicly involved in leftist activities and his widow, Nievres Gante, said he had not received threats or warnings. One night he went out to work; in the morning she was told to collect his body. Just across a hedge lives his cousin, Jovita Lacasandile, 44, who was wounded in the massacre in 1987. Her husband and parents were killed. One younger sister lost a hand.

She still weeps when she is reminded of that day. But now it is the killings by stealth that trouble her sleep.

“We don’t know who did it,” she said of her cousin’s death. “Just like that, he is dead. We are all afraid here nowadays because we never know when we will hear that somebody else has been killed.”

Friday, August 25, 2006

Guimaras oil spill--a case of bad governance

Bad governance
By Carol Pagaduan-Araullo

The images of oil-drenched beaches, mangroves, sea creatures and stoic fisher folk caused by the biggest oil spill affecting the once idyllic Guimaras Island off Iloilo province are heart-wrenching. Not knowing any better, we would be cursing our bad luck or whatever destructive fate the gods have chosen to bestow upon our seemingly hapless country.

But outside of the bad weather, none of the factors that caused the sinking of the Solar I, an oil tanker owned by Sunshine Maritime Development Corp. and chartered by Petron, were natural and uncontrollable. Of course, blame may be assigned to the captain of the ship for having decided to continue the trip despite precarious weather conditions. The same or even more so can be laid on a neglectful and corrupt government, its lax regulatory mechanisms as well as on its gross ill preparedness for handling such man-made disasters.

Prevention is certainly better than cure, more so when it comes to damage to the natural environment. The fact that the tanker hired by Petron to transport 2.4 million liters of oil is a single-hulled one increased the risk of spillage of toxic material once oil containers were breached.

A senator has looked into the financial health of the tanker owner and is unimpressed that it had the necessary capitalization and operating funds to guaranty the safety of its cargo load. Has the highly profitable oil company, Petron, been scrimping on safety measures and the public welfare?

Current shipping routes are not set with the objective of protecting sensitive marine areas such as the Guimaras Strait, home to one of the most productive fishing grounds in the country as well as a popular tourist attraction with its white sand beaches, marine sanctuaries, unspoiled coral reefs and mangrove forests. Has the government been sleeping on the job, as usual, or perhaps their regulatory powers have been effectively neutralized by “consideration” from crass commercial interests.

Most disturbing has been the excruciatingly slow response of government, Petron and Sunshine Maritime with an underlying tendency to finger-point as to who should do what and, most especially, who foots the initial clean-up, the relief operations for displaced coastline communities, not to mention the long-term rehabilitation bill.

It took two weeks and the hue and cry from environment groups, the Guimaras local government and the Philippine Coast Guard before Malacañang stopped dragging its feet and created a multi-agency task force to deal with the national emergency. Petron chose to ignore Coast Guard warnings that the leakage was a continuing one and was very quiet about its liabilities while it trumpeted providing emergency livelihood to farmers turned clean-up crew. The ship owner was nowhere to be found.

But the worst is yet to come. It’s a race against time to plug the leak in the submerged tanker or suck out the remaining fuel from it. Otherwise, the initial serious and long-term damage done to the marine ecosystem in Guimaras could envelope the entire Visayas region. Already three coastal communities in Negros Occidental have been adversely affected and Cebu is seriously threatened.

Times like this, even a staunch opponent of the Arroyo administration would wish that government will get its act together, do whatever needs to be done with dispatch, in an organized way and with maximum effect.

Alas, that may be asking too much if we go by Malacañang track record and the most recent pronouncements of the besieged president, Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Note that we’re not talking here about the recent massacre of the impeachment process against Mrs. Arroyo on charges of stealing public funds, cheating her way to the presidency, lying to the nation through a grand cover-up, and willfully allowing a policy of extrajudicial killings in her “all-out war” policy against the Left in this country.

(As an aside, that apparently, was a lesson in realpolitik courtesy of the grizzled, cynical and highly-rewarded pro-GMA, anti-impeachment House Majority. Here is their superficially erudite line: they had the overwhelming numbers to defeat the impeachment petition; to hell with determining the truth, achieving justice and resolving the political impasse gripping the nation through the only remaining, strictly constitutional means available. Thank you, honorable men and women of the 13th Congress.)

At this point allow us to take some recent examples of what kind of governance the Arroyo regime is capable of.

The evacuation of thousands of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) endangered by the highly destructive Israeli bombardment of Hezbollah-controlled territories in Lebanon was marked by interminable delays, disorganization, recrimination, unavailable funds and a pathetic dependence on international charity and humanitarian aid.

At the end of the day, the OFWs were lucky to be back alive, with nothing to show for their misadventures abroad but their scrappy belongings and forlorn looks. Indeed, the future looks bleak except for Mrs. Arroyo’s promise to retrain them to become “super maids” and thereby up their chances of getting rehired in the war-riddled Middle East. Too bad there are still no jobs for them right here.

As to the nursing board exams leakage, Malacañang decided, after the controversy grew larger and more stinky, that there will be no retake of the tainted part of the licensure examinations because, according to the pragmatic words of Executive Secretary Ermita, the “sin” of a few cheaters should not be visited on the majority of examinees who are honest.

Considering that the leakage appeared to involve several board examiners, the head of the Philippine Nurses Association, a score of deans of nursing schools and several review centers, it is not just the integrity of the last board exams that has been compromised but the future of the bourgeoning industry producing nurses for US and UK hospitals. (Not that such an outcome is necessarily bad but that’s for another column.)

Such a dire scenario should have been a cause for worry to an administration that knows that the Philippine economy is being kept afloat by OFW remittances (including those from hundreds of thousands of nurses).

Unfortunately, the latest Malacañang decision merely reflects the deep erosion of moral values and standards of the current political leadership of this country.

Good fruit cannot come from a rotten tree. ###

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Friday, August 18, 2006

Impeachment killing will prolong the political crisis facing the country

August 17, 2006

Impeachment killing will prolong the political crisis facing the country

It is saddening to note a fact that the House Committee on Justice – dominated by allies of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo – has voted to kill the impeachment complaint and prolong the political crisis facing the country.

The most rabid defenders of the current intolerant and punitive administration used shallow technicalities to protect a Presidentwhos is primarily accused to be command-responsible for the extra-judicial killings of 728 civilians and 128 enforced disappearances since she assumed office in 2001. They wasted the opportunity to set a Congressional function in motion and give Mrs. Arroyo and appropriate venue to rebut the charges against her.

Contrary to what Malacañang spin doctors allege, Macapagal-Arroyo is horrified at the contents of the impeachment complaint that was killed by her allies in Congress since damning evidence backing up the grave charges against her can and will fuel her ouster from office.

What the administration succeeded in doing was to ignore the people’s desire to find out the truth if Mrs. Arroyo is guilty for (1) the illegal diversion of farmers’ fertilizer funds and health care trust funds of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) for her 2004 election campaign kitty, (2) widespread cheating in the elections, (3) the systematic violations of human rights and crimes against humanity, and (4) graft and

The political crisis could have possibly been resolved by the impeachment process. But the administration’s allies in Congress have chosen to shut down this avenue to ferret out the truth if the allegations against the President are true or not.

Mrs. Arroyo and her allies are gravely mistaken. The political crisis will bedevil her administration to the end.

The people are left with no other option except the parliament of the streets. This is where the people will serve the appropriate verdict to a president whose hands are bloodied by her crimes of omission and commission against the Filipino people. #