Thursday, April 24, 2008

Party list groups push for wider representation in the party list system


[April 23, 2008] Reference Person: Atty. Neri Colmenares [09178350459]

BAGUIO CITY – In a press briefing today, Bayan Muna reiterated its firm resolve to pursue wider representation for the party list system in Congress by asking the Supreme Court to strike down as unconstitutional the first party rule and the 3-seat cap.

The 3-seat cap and the first party rule, which were imposed by the Comelec in the 2007 elections, essentially disallow the filling up of the 54 party list seats in Congress and disenfranchising millions of voters.

Both these issues were raised by Bayan Muna during the Oral Arguments before the Supreme Court yesterday.

Comelec Imposition

The COMELEC, then headed by Chairman Benjamin Abalos, imposed the first party rule which allocates a maximum of only three seats to the ‘first party’ regardless of the votes of the other parties.

Buhay which garnered 7.2% of the party list votes was given 3 seats while Bayan Muna which garnered 6.5% of the votes [Comelec Report No. 27] was only given two seats.

The 3-seat cap provides that any party will only get a maximum of 3 seats even if its vote entitles it to more than 3 seats.

The First Party Rule and the Three Seat Cap rule violate the proportional representation mandated by the Constitution which requires that the party list groups are allocated seats in proportion to their share of the votes.

The First Party Rule and the Three Seat Cap resulted in disenfranchising a total of 5,053,132 voters in the 2007 elections since only 23 of the 54 party list seats are currently filled up.
Thirty-eight seats were not filled up after the 1998 party list pools, while 32 seats remained vacant after the 2001 elections. In 2004 only 24 of the 53 party list seats were occupied.

These Comelec impositions specifically violate Article VI, Section 5 (1) and (2) of the Constitution on the party list system which intends to empower and enfranchise the marginalized majority via party-list representation in the House of Representatives.

During the Oral Arguments, Atty. Colmenares also asserted that the major political parties should not be allowed to participate in the party list elections. The Supreme Court decided in favor of Bayan Muna in 2001 to disqualify those who are not marginalized or underrepresented from participating in the party list election.

The major political parties such as Kampi, Lakas-NUCD, and Liberal Party with their massive resources and machinery are not marginalized or underrepresented and their participation will take seats away from deserving party list representatives of the people. In its petition (G.R. No. 179295) filed by Bayan Muna, A-Teacher and Abono on September 7, 2007 with the Supreme Court, the groups said that the principle of proportional representation, which is an essential feature of genuine people empowerment, has been gravely distorted.

The Bayan Muna lawyer said that to give flesh to the clear intent of the constitution, all that is needed is to adopt the formula outlined in RA 7941, the party list law, so that the 20% allocation for the party-list representatives can be filled up.

The other members of the Bayan Muna legal panel in the oral arguments were Atty. Manja Bayang, Atty. Jonel Torregosa and Prof. Lex Muga of the Ateneo de Manila University Math Department.

We are earnestly hoping that the Supreme Court immediately decide on the petition and correct the current anomaly attending the partylist system. #

Vincent Michael L. Borneo
Political Affairs Officer
(Media and Public Relations)
Office of BAYAN MUNA Rep. Teddy A. CasiƱo
Rm. 508, North Wing Bldg.,
House of Representatives, Quezon City
Telefax no: 931-5911

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Universal Periodic Review (UPR) recommendations to the Philippine Government

As part of the KARAPATAN Submission Related to the Philippines
For the UPR First Session in April 2008

For the Philippine Government
  1. Immediate stop to and abandonment of the implementation of the Oplan Bantay Laya and other similar national internal security plans of the government.

  2. Resume peace negotiations between the parties to the armed conflict to pave the way in addressing and resolving the roots of the conflict and contribute to the achievement of a just and lasting peace.

  3. Effect special laws, procedures, remedies and courts that would effectively protect human rights including the speedy investigation, arrest, prosecution, trial and conviction of perpetrators without regard to technicalities and eliminating opportunities for various delays at different stages.

  4. Immediate repeal of the Human Security Act of 2007 and other existing repressive laws and issuances and reversal of jurisprudence engendering or providing sanction or impunity for human rights violations (including those authorizing checkpoints, expanding warrantless searches and sanctioning saturation drives, allowing the filing of common crimes with respect to political offenses, restricting and controlling the right to peaceful assembly, authorizing the demolition of urban poor communities, legalizing paramilitary groups, lengthening the allowable periods of detention without charges, allowing the imposition of food blockades, making political offenses as continuing crimes, expanding allowable warrantless arrests, rendering inutile the remedy of habeas corpus). Effectively, seriously and immediately address, prosecute and punish acts of terrorism and human rights violations by agents of the State.

  5. Immediate inventory, review, recall or non-passage of legislative, administrative, executive and judicial acts that either openly violate human rights, disguise their violations or merely formally recognize protection or promotion of human rights but in practice actually contribute to the engenderment of such violations.

  6. Discontinue the practice of criminalizing political offenses and actions for acts in pursuit of one’s political beliefs at the arrest, investigation, prosecution and trial stages and uphold the political offense doctrine by charging the proper political charges instead of common crimes.

  7. Unconditionally free all political prisoners, whether those arrested, charged, prosecuted, tried or convicted of political crimes or, as is the practice by the government, common crimes but with clear or convincing evidence that they are politically-motivated.

  8. Rebuke and discontinue the arbitrary, unfounded and malicious labeling of national liberation movements, progressive nationalist organizations and patriots as “terrorists” both in the national and international forums.

  9. Encourage the meaningful and full participation of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in monitoring and documentation of human rights abuses and effective consultations with them.

  10. Immediate, speedy, meaningful and effective justice to all victims of human rights violations including adequate compensation, indemnification, restitution and rehabilitation and establishing mechanisms for this purpose.

Original Source here

Relevant Links:
United Nations Human Rights Council
UPR Philippines Stakeholder Information

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

US Corporation Aims to Revive Financial Aid to the Arroyo Murder & Corruption Fund

April 3, 2008

Reference: Berna Ellorin, Secretary-General, BAYAN USA, email: secgen@bayanusa. org

US Corporation Aims to Revive Financial Aid to the Arroyo Murder & Corruption Fund
MCC Must Withdraw Philippines' "Compact Eligible" Status-- BAYAN USA

The US Chapter of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, or BAYAN USA, an alliance of 12 Filipino organizations across the United States, is urging the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Board to immediately withdraw its claim that the Philippine government is eligible for it's annual Compact Grant.

Last March 11th, Philippine Finance Secretary Margarito Teves confirmed that the MCC Board had selected the Philippines as "Compact Eligible".

As an eligible candidate, the Philippine government can apply for up to USD300 million in MCC funds for social and economic programs. Malacanang is currently working on a proposal to submit to the MCC Board this year.

The Arroyo government has boasted for years, despite international scrutiny and criticism, of implementing a clean governance and enacting a campaign against corruption and poverty, standards by which the MCC Board selects it annual Compact Grant recipients.

In 2007, the Arroyo government was exposed for involvement in the anomalous ZTE-NBN scam and cash bribery of politicians for favors. In early 2008, the key whistleblower on the ZTE-NBN deal, Jun Lozada, disappeared upon arrival in the Philippines before eventually surfacing to testify.

"The MCC Board should immediately reconsider its position on the Philippines. It must know that any financial aid to the Arroyo government will be funneled towards graft, corruption, and human rights violations," states BAYAN USA Chair Chito Quijano.

Quijano mentioned that the Millennium Challenge Corporation, a Washington DC-based company under the supervision of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, is acting in collusion with the Arroyo government to circumvent growing concern within the US Congress to the repercussions of an increase US military aid to the Philippines. In 2007, wide-scale legislative advocacy and a public US Senate hearing called visible attention to the correlation between an increase in US aid and increase in killings and abductions in the Philippines.

At least 49 influential US lawmakers signed onto a letter calling for restrictions on US aid to the Philippines as a result of these advocacy campaigns.

In a recent visit to Hong Kong, an ill-received President Arroyo declared US-Philippine relations as "stronger than ever" and that both countries are "working for peace and development. "

"The Filipino people are probably the most pro-American people in the world, maybe even more pro-American than the Americans themselves," she said.

"Underneath the veneer of arrogant confidence lies a very desperate and unhinged Arroyo administration, " Quijano stated.

The 2008 US Appropriations Bill included definitive restrictive language on US military aid to the Philippines after much pressure from churches, community organizations, and human rights institutions. The threat of a cut in financial aid from the US government has caused the paranoid Arroyo government to hire its own lobbying machinery in Washington DC to undo these efforts.

"By using the MCC, the US and Arroyo governments are still acting in partnership to extend the US War on Terror in Asia by way of the Philippines. They will exploit the corporate realm in order to avoid the growing opposition and human rights initiatives of the US legislative branch. Let us not be fooled. The US executive triumvirate of Bush, Cheney, and Gates is intent on funding its surrogate Asian government in Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in any underhanded way it can because Arroyo is performing its dirty work in the Philippines through murderous counter-insurgency and strengthening US military stronghold," Quijano added.

Aside from over 900 documented cases of extrajudicial killings and 300 abductions, graft and corruption is at an all-time high under the Arroyo government. A recent report by the Philippine Ombudsman Aniano Desierto claimed the Philippinhe government has lost over 1.4 trillion pesos (approximately USD100 billion) in Philippine public funds since 1998. Under the Arroyo government, the Philippines continues to lose at least 100 million pesos daily or 36.5 billion pesos annually.

Common practices of corruption under the Arroyo government have included bribery, kickbacks, embezzlement, vote-buying, cronyism and nepotism. This has also included government-sanction ed criminal enterprises of black-marketing and illegal gambling syndicates.###

Sunday, April 06, 2008

There is an Actual Rice Crisis Aggravated by an Artificial One

There is an Actual Rice Crisis Aggravated by an Artificial One
Rice importation fosters crisis


The militant Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) reacted to the statement of Senator Edgardo Angara saying that the rice crisis today is artificial. The group clarified that there is an actual rice crisis in the country and the world and it is aggravated by an artificial one made by the rice cartel.

According to Rafael "Ka Paeng" Mariano, chairman of KMP and concurrent president of ANAKPAWIS party list, "the National Food Authority (NFA) and the Department of Agriculture (DA) themselves know that we are facing a rice crisis. The main cause of this crisis is the backward and feudal state of agriculture in the country and is worsened by neo-liberal policies of the Macapagal-Arroyo regime and trade liberalization that has drastically cut rice lands through land-use conversions and crop conversions. Now this was further aggravated by the rice cartel by their control of the rice industry and their hoarding practices today,"

"Malacanang may not admit it but a February 11, 2008 memo from the NFA shows their analysis of the causes of the rice crisis and they are as follows:

1.) PAGASA forecast, that the country will still experience abnormal weather conditions until the end of the 1st quarter this year. Above normal rainfall will prevail over most of Luzon and the Visayas with near normal to above normal in Mindanao areas;

2.) Neutral conditions will most likely occur during the second half of the year. Around two (2) - five (5) tropical cyclones are expected to enter Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR) until June this year. The abnormal weather condition will more likely result to stress the standing palay crop, more especially during its booting
stage which would result to low yields;

3.) Total palay production for Calendar Year 2007 is recorded at 16.237 TMT, almost 6 percent above the output attained in 2006 at 15.327 TMT, due mainly to area expansion by 2.70 percent and the improvement in yield by 3.16 percent. for the 1st semester of 2008,the January 1, 2008 production forecast of Bureau of Agriculture Statistics (BAS) for the 1st semester of this year (January to June) would reach 7,154 TMT, 6.33 percent higher than the 2007 level because of the foreseen increase in area planted and yield;

4.) the registered growth in palay production is not enough to meet the combined effect of an increase in demand and the need to maintain the required buffer stock by July 1, the start of the traditional lean supply months of July to September of each
year. For 2008 per capita consumption of rice is estimated to increase by 2 kilos from 118-120 kilos per capita per year. Rice supply-use estimates for crop year 2007-08 considering three (3) scenario (high, medium, low) showed that despite projected gains in productivity, the country will still require an import level of 1.6 to 2.2 MMT, to fully meet demand and buffer stock requirement good for 90-day by end of June 30, this year;

5.) The reported tight global rice situation has been lately reported to worsen with the reported purchase of 1.0 MMT milled rice by China from Vietnam. Further, Vietnam was reported to have already suspended its rice export activities for 2008 due to limited supply. Also Vietnam wrote DA they will only assure 1 MMT rice exports to the Philippines;

6.) World market price of rice remains volatile, increasing at significant levels. The latest report from the International Surveillance & Consultancy Co. Ltd (ISC) at US$ 440/MT, FOB showed that as of February this year, FOB prices of 25 percent BKN rice is 52 percent higher than their levels the same period last year of US$ 289/MT, FOB.

Further, the report from ISC indicated that to comply with NFA's specs, the ISC quoted price will have to be adjusted upward by US$ 6.7/MT. The NFA last December 21, 2007 purchased 422, 702 MT of 25 percent BKN rice at an average price of US$ 409.52/MT, CFR. The following month, January 29, 2008, the NFA again purchased 454,000 MT of the same quality rice at an average price of US$ 474.41/MT, CFR, significantly higher by 16 percent from the December purchases;

7.) To date NFA has procured a total of only 1,658 MT palay (1,077 MT in rice equivalent) or 88 percent less than the volume procured same month last year. Prevailing farm price of palay in major palay producing areas in Luzon (region 2, 3, 4 & 5) ranged from a low of P11.00/kg (Isabela & Quirino) to a high of P14.50 in Nueva Ecija. In the Visayas, prices averaged at P11.50-P12.00/ kg while in Mindanao , prices were higher at P11.00-P14.00/ kg," read Mariano.

"There is also a DA memo dated February 27, 2008 that highlighted the world rice crisis and its price. It is as follows:

1.) In Thailand, palay harvest will be on March –April but the volume is only very limited estimated at 6MMT (roughly 30 percent of their annual production) since their main harvest will still be on November where harvest is estimated at 20 MMT. Ex-farm price of paddy is 9,500 bath/MT or P12.25/kg. Bulk of their palay inventory is still in the hands of the farmers as they are waiting for higher prices. Around 1.6 MMT parboiled rice is exported yearly to Europe and Africa but this year they are expecting this to significantly increase. Price of rice brokens shipped by Thailand to Africa is $430/ MT FOB. Also, Thailand has initially sold 60,000 MT to Iraq and may sell more rice to Iraq. The Thai government is still holding around 1.5 MMT two-year old rice but the new government is still adamant to touch the volume;

2.) Vietnam will still assess their targeted 4.5 MMT palay harvest. Part of Vietnam and China were hit by snow affecting their projected palay harvest. They now imposed
volume limitations on their rice exports.

3.) In Indonesia, palay harvest will still be on April-June and price of rice is at 4,000 Rupiah per kilogram or US$0.45. Estimated annual production of Indonesia is 50 MMT and import volume will still be determined by July – August.

4.) World rice prices are expected to continue its upward trend despite the palay harvest starting next month. This is due to the aggressive stance of some governments rushing to build up their inventories and pests damaging rice crops in the Delta Province in Vietnam. The steady population growth in the Middle East and Africa is also boosting demand for rice. In sum, rice is now a sellers market," added the peasant leader.

"It is crystal clear that there is an actual crisis that is why Malacanang is trying to increase our rice stock through importation. The rice cartel or the Binondo 7 knows this and that is the reason why they are hoarding and increasing their prices. Now, importing more rice from other countries will only make matters worse because there is no more rice supply in the world market available for export and second a food security program based on imports is not food security at all. It will only make us more dependent on other countries and hold our food security hostage to other interests. What we need now are immediate rice price controls and at least a 25 percent increase in the local procurement of rice of the NFA, so that the cartel cannot get their hands on the April-June harvest. These are our only chance to stave off the rice crisis until we implement genuine agrarian reform, so that this will not happen again," ended Mariano.###