Saturday, May 30, 2009

Affidavit of Melissa Roxas

I, Melissa C. Roxas, of legal age, a Citizen of the United States of America, and temporarily residing at Quezon City, Philippines, after having been sworn to in accordance with law, do hereby depose and state that:

  1. I am a graduate of the University of California San Diego with a BS in Animal Physiology and Neuroscience and a BA in Third World Studies with a Minor in Health Care and Social Issues;

  2. I applied for an exposure program in the Philippines being the home country of my parents with Bayan – USA of which I am a member for the purpose of gathering materials for my writing project being also a member of Habi Arts, a community based artist organization based in Los Angeles, California;

  3. Bayan – USA endorsed me to Bayan –National and Bayan – National endorsed me to Bayan – Central Luzon which toured me around the provinces and towns of Central Luzon and on April 2009, Bayan – Central Luzon endorsed me to Bayan – Tarlac where I was to join with their members at La Paz, Tarlac to conduct an initial survey of the place for a future medical mission;

  4. I brought along with me my camera with a memory card, an external hard disk, a laptop, an Ipod, a journal, a blood pressure sphygmomanometer, a stethoscope, thermometers, medicines, my watch, and a wallet with money in the amount of Ps. 15,000.00;

  5. On May 19, 2009, while resting from a survey at a friendly house, the owner of which gladly accepted our request that we rest at his house and while watching a noon time Television program, at around 1:30 p.m., I and my two companions, John Edward Jandoc and Juanito Carabeo, heard a banging on the front door and a voice asking that the door be opened. I immediately went to see what was going on and found about 15 men in civilian clothes armed with high power rifles and wearing ski masks or bonnets surrounding the house and in a little while, the door was forcibly opened and armed men swarmed into the house coming from the front door and the back door and ordered us to drop face flat on the ground;

  6. I did not obey them and I wanted to stand up to protest the intrusion but an armed man held my head and forced it down pushing me to a squatting position then pushed me on the ground. I asked them why they were doing this to us and I saw that everybody in the house was on the ground flat;

  7. They attempted to tape my mouth but I was able to wrench it and they wanted to handcuff me but I resisted and about five of the armed men were ganging up on me, holding my hands and my legs but I continued resisting them and shouting to the owner of the house, “Kuya, help me.”

  8. I then started to shout my name, repeating it again and again, I was punched repeatedly at my right rib cage while my two companions who were already blindfolded and taped at the mouth were herded to a blue van about 15 meters from the house door and I with all my strength tried to stop the armed men from putting me into the van and they instead started to drag me bruising and wounding my arms and my legs wounding severely my left knee cap while I continued shouting my name;

  9. When they started to force me inside the van via the side door, I locked my feet on the door sidings and they needed more than 5 men to push me. But then, they finally were able to push me inside the van; I was made to sit between two of the armed men and was immediately blindfolded and handcuffed to the back. But they could not tape my mouth because I was already retching and vomiting;

  10. When the van started moving, my head was put down so that I could not be seen from the outside;

  11. After more than an hour, we stopped and we were told to step down and because I was still retching, they made me sit or half lie on a kind of lounging chair made of bamboo slats and at that point, I did not know where my two companions were;

  12. After more than 5 minutes sitting down in that bamboo lounging chair, I was brought into a room with a screen metal door and the room sounded like it had a kitchen as there was running water and I could hear cleaning activities but I was still vomiting and I heard a command was made to a woman to clean my vomit and a man asked me whether I was pregnant but I did not answer him;

  13. Another man who I felt was in command asked me if I knew why I was there and I answered him that I knew my rights and that I demanded for my lawyer and he laughed telling me that in the said place there was no availing of a lawyer (walang abogado-abogado dito) and told me that “malinis ka naming nakuha at alam mo naman bakit ka nahuli?” (we got you smoothly and you know why you were captured?)

  14. Then he told me that I was a member of the CPP-NPA and I retorted that I was not and I demanded for my lawyer again and I felt that there were other men inside;

  15. I was made to enter a room which I felt was a jail cell because as I entered the room, they had to open a door with iron bars and for my two days stay inside that cell, I sensed that my bed was a single wooden bed without mattress, with a length of 6 feet and I was always made to lie down with my head positioned on the wall where the iron barred door was located and at my foot was a low partitioned space where a toilet bowl was and after it was a wall where there were holes serving as windows. I discerned that in the room before entering the jail cell was a bunk but I do not know the whole contents of that room;

  16. When I was made to enter the jail cell, I was still blindfolded and handcuffed to the back and I remained in such position until the dawn of the next day when they changed the position of my hands to be handcuffed to the front and because of which my wrists were severely cut and bruised;

  17. It must be stated here that throughout my abduction, I was always blindfolded and handcuffed even in my sleep except for those few times when I was made to take a bath;

  18. During my two days there, I heard construction activities – blowtorching, hammering and the construction bustle – and these stopped in the late afternoon and I also heard gunfiring as though in a firing range and planes taking off and landing and it was loud and I could also hear goats bleating;

  19. Later in the evening, I was brought out of my cell and I was confronted by two burly men in ski mask or bonnet and they shone their flashlights on my face and after a short while, they put me back into my cell and said, “ punta tayo sa kabilang gate.” (let’s go to the other gate);

  20. I slept light that first night, determined to always know the time, and when morning came, I was interrogated and no breakfast nor lunch was given to me and I was asked repeatedly if I knew why I was there and was told by them that I was abducted because I was a member of the CPP NPA and I also repeatedly told him that I have rights and that I demanded for my lawyer and then he told me that even a year will pass, no lawyer would be seeing me and told me repeatedly that it was because of people like me who are the costing the government so much money and people like me are the ones who are making it difficult for the government, so that they are resorting to what they are doing and asked me who my lawyer was and I told him that it was Atty. Romy Capulong and he seemed to be stymied by my answer;

  21. He continued asking me questions which I was not listening to and I was not answering and after 30 minutes of that he stopped and left;

  22. After a while, another person entered and interrogated me along the same lines of questions and I did not listen and did not answer but instead told them that I knew my rights and that I wanted my lawyer and about 15 minutes of that, he left and I was already feeling hungry but no food was forthcoming and in the afternoon, many people were going in and out of the room and in and out of my cell and in the evening, I was made to eat and I ate little and then one of the men asked me if he could bathe me and I of course refused but there was this woman who was kind of assisting the men in attending to me and who I came to know later as Rose and she directed me to take a bath and brought me to another building (passing through a sometimes grassy and sometimes graveled pathway) where I saw through my blindfold two double decked beds and I assumed that it was a female barracks and there was a bath room with a jalousie typed window and I took a bath with one hand free from its cuff but with a hanging cuff on the other and my eyes free from the blindfold;

  23. I was brought back to my cell blindfolded again and handcuffed at the front and I was made to lie down and after a short while, the iron barred doors were banged making clanking sound and I was taken aback and two men entered my cell with one of the man calling the other, “Tatay”, and a man pulled my cuffed hands up raising me on a sitting position and then a fist struck me at my upper sternum and it hurt and then a thumb was pressed strongly to my throat (I heard somebody saying “huh!...huh…huh.”) choking me, making me suffocate for quite a time and when he released the pressure I gagged and I coughed and then he struck me with his fist on my left jaw ringing my ears and numbing my jaw and they were telling me, “Ang tigas ng ulo mo. Sasagot ka na sa mga tanong.” He kept repeating the questions and his pressure on my throat and fists to my jaw. An hour after, they left. But before they left, he said, “matigas ‘to. Barilin na lang natin” and I prepared for the worst;

  24. It must have been very late night or early dawn, when he came back to me and he dragged me to the first room and I sensed that there was a kind of leader of the group who kept on whispering on that person who was manhandling me and two other men and the man who got me from my cell asked me, “handa ka bang mamatay?” and I answered, “Opo” and then he told me, “bago namin patayin ang isang tao, mapapaihi at mapapatae muna namin siya”;

  25. The whispering man kept whispering questions to be asked and the manhandling man kept asking the questions and I told him that I have rights and that I was demanding for my lawyer but when he asked me about my name, I told them but when they asked other questions, I did not answer and he would hit me on the chest strongly and I would lose breath and gasped for air after and then he would press my throat with his thumb and say “Huh…huh…huh!” and I would gag and then he would hit me on my jaws, ringing my ears and numbing my jaws and he repeated this and added another one by holding my head with his two hands and banging the back of my head repeatedly and each time it hit the wall, I would see a flash of white bright light and ringing in my ears and again the pressure to my throat with the “Huh … huh…huh.” And saying to me, “ayaw mo pa din magsasalita” and then punched me in my rib cage and I crumpled but the other men forced me up. This torture continued and every time I crumpled the other men would force me up.

  26. I was having a streaming thought that I was going to die there and then, they held my feet and my hands down and doubled up plastic bags were pulled down on my head and face and closed on my neck and I started to suffocate and I could not breath anymore and I was seeing white and thinking I was going to die and then he released the hold and I could breath but I was faint and weak (lantang lanta) and he patted me in the back and several men carried me to my cell;

  27. Several hours later and when it was light, a person entered and although I was still very weak and lying down he started to interrogate me again and I said that I was tortured and I knew my rights and he told me that it was not his responsibility if there were other men who would torture me but I forced myself to sit up to face him and he was asking me what was my position in the organization and I was not answering and he told me, “akala mo ba may magagawa ang Canadian Government sa iyo?” and he called me, “Maita” and I told him that I was not Maita;

  28. This was May 21, 2009 and the interrogation continued non-stop with one interrogator replaced by another after every hour and I was not given lunch although, there was a brief respite from the questions during lunch but it continued after lunch with that man who kept on his way of threatening me by saying, “Huh…huh…huh.” and this interrogation continued to the night and I remembered one interrogator who introduced himself as Dex and he talked about religion and asked me to return to the fold (“bagong buhay”) telling me that they were “kasangkapan ng Diyos para mag-bagong buhay ang mga rebelde” and I told him that I do not believe him and told him that the God I knew did not condone torture and violence and I was tortured and he gave me 24 hours to decide whether I would return to the fold;

  29. After Dex, the religious interrogator, the next interrogator had a Visayan accent and talked about the evils of communism to me and kept on banging the glass on the table and after an hour of lecture, he told me, “maghintay ka na lang mamaya,” and I expected then for the worst to happen and I anticipated that I would be tortured physically again and I called for Rose with the plan that I would talk to her to delay the expected torture they would do to me and I talked to her long into the night and thinking that the only way to mitigate the torture was to play that I was returning to the fold, I told Rose that I would like to return to the fold but despite that after my talk with Rose another interrogator came in and it was this time I heard that there were other units who would like to borrow me and there was no dinner given to me;

  30. I had again a light sleep and on May 22, 2009, at the break of day, the interrogation started and intensified and I was brought to another building to what I perceived to be opposite of the female barracks with the jail cell as the fulcrum and I was given some breakfast and a late lunch at the building, I felt I was in a room used as an office and I was facing a panel of interrogators and I sensed that Dex was one of them and that beside me was Rose and another man and aside from the questions and the lecture on anti-communism and religion, they were asking me to sign a document but which I refused but I asked for Dex and went along with the Religion talk;

  31. Because of my refusal to sign, I was brought into another room (I heard the voice of Juanito Carabeo when I entered the room) where a bright and hot light was shone on my face and the interrogator started to ask me questions and while asking questions he gripped and pressed my right shoulder hard and it was very painful because there was a dislocation and he knew I had that dislocation and when he was telling me that I was hardheaded he pounded his pointer finger on my forehead and it hurt and then suddenly, he changed his tone and tune and told me he believed that I wanted to return to the fold and we started talking about literature and asked me about magical realism of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and he even gave me a Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel, Love in Times of Cholera, and the Bible of the King James Version and I told him that I was in the area because I was looking for and gathering materials for my novels and that was why I joined the Bayan – USA and applied for an exposure program with Bayan – Central Luzon and Bayan - Tarlac volunteered for that initial survey at La Paz, and that I believed in God and I have to insist on that to go along with the Religious talk of Dex and he told me that they were interested in knowing how I got involved;

  32. I was made to drink an orange soda and after a while I started to become groggy and another interrogator came to replace the literary interrogator but Dex was coming in and out of the interrogation and I started to talk about my family, my parents and my address in the United States and I was told that my name was in the Order of Battle and that I told them that I wanted to cooperate in order to return to the fold and later, Dex was again the interrogator and talked to me about religion and it was there that I felt so sleepy and before I could fall asleep I was transferred to the female barracks and was made to sleep in the floor but I was now given a mattress, a blanket and a pillow and I slept heavily and woke up when the light was already bright;

  33. This was May 23, 2009 and I got angry with myself for losing control of the time and by sleeping long and deep and the interrogation continued trying to pry from me information of people I visited when I was with Bayan Central Luzon and Bayan Tarlac but I refused saying that I don’t want to put other people in harm’s way and an interrogator who introduced himself to me as RC took over and he talked about religion like Dex and said that they were merely tools of God for making rebels return to the fold and I told him that my God do not torture people and he told me that those who tortured me came from the SOG, the special operations group, and they were responsible for the “pagdukot” and for what happened to me and he asked me, “let us start from zero, ha?...ha? …ha?” and I realized he was the one who was torturing me and he continued to ask me how I came to get involve with Bayan – USA and I told him about my interest in the third world and poverty therein and I started to search the internet and I came to the site of Bayan – USA and that got me started. Sometime in the afternoon, they forcibly took a photo of me and looked for the mole on the left side of my face;

  34. On this day, the interrogators were Dex and RC and they rotated between themselves interrogating me and I was playing along the religion line and finally I was told that their boss would be making the final evaluation of whether I was really returning to the fold and I slept lightly on the night of the 23rd and in the morning of the 24th, I was interrogated by the a person whom they called Boss and addressed as “Sir” and the interrogation lasted for the day and I answered their questions about me but not about other people and the Boss told me that if I did not cooperate I would be borrowed by other units whose personnel wouldn’t be as nice as Dex and RC and this interrogation and conversations continued until the night; the Boss also said to me that if I saw him, I’d be surprised and that he knew a lot about me and who I was;

  35. At night, RC approached me and told me that I would be going home the next day but I did not believe him and I slept lightly on the night of the 24th; at early dawn of the 25th, I was awakened by Rose who told me to bath and I was given a sim card for use in contacting them and I was given a slip of paper where a new email address RC created for me was written with the password __________and I was given a bag where biscuits were placed and the books that were given were also placed and also the handcuffs used on me and Rose gave me her blouse and shoes for me to use in going home and RC told me that, “hindi tayo magkaaway, gusto ko magkaibigan tayo, ha” and he told me to beware of Karapatan because it will tell you to go against us and will talk with your family and that I should not let Karapatan talk with their family, otherwise, something will happen and that they would like to talk with my uncle and after which, I boarded a different vehicle than that of the van that brought me there as it was more spacious and I was seated on the center with Rose on my left and RC on my right with the driver and a passenger on the passenger side of the front seat and I sensed that there were about more than two people at the back and that I could hear communications with another car which was in convoy with us ordering not to drop me in front of our house in Quezon City as there was an activity but the car I was riding passed by and stopped in front of our house and I was asked to lift my blindfold to take a look at the house and to affirm whether it was my house and I confirmed and my blindfold was placed back and the car turned around and finally I was dropped at the corner nearest the house and I was told to face where I was dropped and to count up to one hundred before walking to my house and RC told me that they will be monitoring all my actions and something bad will happen to me if I do not cooperate that made me more afraid and I did what they told me after they took off my blindfold and I was dropped on the sidewalk and I was facing a wall and I did not move around even just to turn my head as I was very afraid that they would get me again and I did not move even after a count of a hundred until my phone rang and it was RC who instructed me that I could already walk which I did and arrived home to my uncle’s warm and relieved welcome;

  36. But my travails did not end there, RC continued to talk to me through the phone where the Sim card he gave was inserted and I was so afraid to go out believing that they were just around monitoring me that I just stayed inside the room not even going out of that room and because of that my cousin bore upon me to throw the bag and the sim card to the trash which I did but the books, the clothes of Rose, the handcuffs, the slip of paper containing the email address RC created for me and the password I retained thinking of filing a case against them;

  37. I was traumatized and the fear is still in me and I execute this affidavit to state the truth of the foregoing facts and for purposes of filing a Petition for a Writ of Amparo and Habeas Data to protect me and my family and my uncle and his family now and in the future and for possible other legal cases.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Walay pulos nga Philippine Embassy sa Qatar

Duped Filipinos forced to beg for money on Qatar's streets


Nelson Ebreo left the Philippines late last year to work as a tile setter in Qatar, seeking to provide a good future for his three children, the eldest of whom is still in Grade III, and his wife. However, after months of receiving nothing from his employer, he ended up begging on the streets of Qatar and his family went hungry.

Ebreo was recruited by SML Human Resource Inc. and was promised a salary of US$500 a month. According to him, he was asking for a basic contract but the agency instead provided them an offer letter assuring them of jobs in Qatar.

Upon arrival in Qatar, he learned that there is no contract and the salary would be based on production. For two months of work, he was only paid QR800 each month which was lower than what was stipulated.

"We had to shoulder our food, and our water and electricity expenses would also be deducted from our salaries. If you got sick they wouldn’t bring you to the hospital. We had to fend for ourselves. They didn’t care about us. Our food cost as much as QR350, so we would be left with only QR450, and then there would be the many salary deductions. There would be nothing left for our families," Ebreo shared.

Because of his situation in Qatar, Ebreo was unable to provide money for his family. "My family went hungry because in the five months that we stayed in Qatar we were unable to send money to our families," he said.

Because of this, he decided to stop working and talked to his employer, saying that he wanted to go home. Unfortunately, his employer turned down his request and told him that he could only go home upon payment of US$1500, otherwise he would be imprisoned.

Help arrives

Ebreo, together with his colleagues Edwin Anonuevo and Larry Canlas, were forced to beg on the streets of Qatar to be able to feed themselves to survive as well as to buy plane tickets. There were also Filipinos who took pity on them and gave food and money.

They begged for food from nearby restaurants in Qatar. Ebreo shared that he never begged for food in the Philippines no matter how difficult life is at home.

"I remember one time when we were eating and Indians laughed at us. One Indian said, ‘They eat so many chickens, look how many bones there are.’ They didn’t know we were just picking them up," Ebreo said.

They were able to collect money, amounting to QR1,540, for buying their plane tickets. However, on Feb. 8, he was made to sign a waiver stating that he could not file complaints against the employer or agency. Furthermore, on the day of their flight which was supposed to be on Feb. 12, his passport was turned over to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and they were slapped with criminal charges for running away and stealing a generator and money. This prevented them from going home.

Because of what happened, he approached members of the media for help. He asked Delfin Montenegro of The Filipino Channel (TFC) and GMA 7 to facilitate in seeking assistance from the Philippine Embassy. Montenegro immediately acted and informed the OWWA of the current situation of Ebreo and his colleagues.

In addition, Manny Flores of GMA7 interviewed Ebreo about their situation. This alarmed SML, and the agency acted on the problems of Ebreo and his colleagues and talked to Jassim Decoration and Services Co. Both agencies compromised and agreed that SML would need to pay the employer the equivalent of the amount of passport fees that Ebreo and his colleagues needed to reimburse, or P4,500 for each of them.

Ebreo, along with his colleagues, went to the Philippine Embassy barefooted to seek financial help but the embassy turned them down. Finally, he and his colleagues were able to go home on April 9 with assistance from the Filipino community in Qatar.

"There are 2,500 recruitment agencies and some of these take advantage of our countrymen, some of whom come from remote areas. They apply and are charged fees which they borrow money from lending agencies for, money which they have to refund later on, and then when they get to their destination, they encounter problems such as these," Gina Esguerra of Migrante International said in Filipino.


Ebreo left the country to provide a better life for his family but because of what happened to him in Qatar, he decided to try finding a job here in Manila.

"I no longer yearn for a high salary. When I went abroad, it was because I was aspiring to earn more so that my family could experience a little comfort. But what happened was different, so I thought, it is better that I stay here," Ebreo shares. -

Monday, March 30, 2009

US troops out of the Philippines now!!!

Girl killed, families injured in Balikatan clearing operations
02/21/2009 | 08:58 PM

MANILA, Philippines – A one-year-old girl died on Feb. 19 from wounds she suffered when a grenade fired from a launcher by Army troops hit her family's house in Barangay Balanac in Ligao City, Albay.

The incident, which reportedly happened during "clearing operations," was relayed to GMANews.TV by John Concepcion, spokesman of rights group Karapatan-Bikol, which condemned the incident.

Concepcion identified the victim as Rafaela Polborido, 1 year and 4 months old and said the grenade launchers were fired by troops from the 901st Infantry Brigade, which is based in Daraga, Albay.

"Not only was Rafaela killed but her whole family and others were injured as well," Concepcion said.

He identified the wounded members of the Polborido family as Jocelyn, 30; Eufemia, 28; Ina, 5; Daisy, 4; and Julius, 2.

Also injured were members of the Dalima family – Rose, 31; Roderick, 5; Mary Rose, 10 months.

Two other casualties were only identified as Andrea, 4, and Emerson, 9.

"We are now assisting the families in whatever action they may take to hold the soldiers accountable," Concepcion said.

The Bikolano Alliance for Nationalism against Balikatan (BAN Balikatan) joined Karapatan-Bikol in condemning the incident.

In a statement issued on Saturday, Prof. Jocelyn Bisuña, spokesman of BAN Balikatan, said: "This is unforgivable. A child is now gone because the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is targeting Filipino citizens just to please their US foreign master. This is part of the continuing harassment and the violation of Bicolanos’ rights by the military. Recently they also harassed drivers and people in Guinobatan and Jovellar in the same province threatening them against joining the anti-Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) caravan."

Concepcion said the two groups were worried that more such incidents could happen if the Balikatan exercises were to continue.

"This is the military’s way to intimidate the Bicolano people into agreeing to the Balikatan exercises," Bisuña added. "But we will not be cowed. The anti-VFA caravan will continue and we will further intensify our struggle against foreign intervention and to junk the VFA and Balikatan." - D'Jay Lazaro, GMANews.TV

Thursday, March 19, 2009

kaBATAAN, pag-asa ng bayan

Youth groups join anti-nuke revival movement

Article posted March 19, 2009 - 09:09 PM
BAYOMBONG, Philippines - Activist groups opposed to the planned re-opening of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP), have gained more supporters in the youth sector with the launching of Youth and Students Opposed to BNPP Revival (Youth Stop BNPP Revival!).

Students from different organizations at the University of the Philippines (UP) in Diliman, Quezon City have banded together during an environmental forum last week to voice their opposition to the government’s plan to revive the mothballed nuclear plant.

In a statement, Marjorie Pamintuan, Youth Stop BNPP Revival! spokesperson and Vice Chairperson of Agham Youth (Student Advocates of Science and Technology for the People), said that aside from the great risks that the nuclear plant may effect to a large portion of the population, it is the “youth who will suffer the most.

“Running the plant effectively takes away our chances of having a good future by worsening the economic burdens of our families through imposed taxes and threatening our well being because of its environmental and health effects," said Pamintuan.

Jemimah Garcia, chairperson of Anakbayan UP Diliman and Youth Stop BNPP Revival! co-convenor said the BNPP revival “endangers the youth’s right to education."

“The nuclear plant exposes the government’s abandonment of its responsibility to provide the youth with affordable or free quality education by choosing to invest $1 billion on a dangerous nuclear power plant instead of using it to build new schools, improve public school facilities and sponsor scholarships to poor and deserving students" Garcia said in the statement.

Ram Hernandez of the League of Filipino Students and members of UP’s green group Club EcoTour led by Jonaleen Kris-Ann Argel, joined the youth’s call for the stoppage of the plant’s revival with a statement claiming that “the BNPP puts the Philippine environment in great danger in the event of a nuclear accident."

UP students from Bataan have memorialized their parents’ fight against the BNPP, when the plant was first constructed during the era of former President Ferdinand Marcos.

“Our parents and those who came before us fought against the operation of the nuclear power plant in the 1980s because they knew it will rob their children and grandchildren of a good future. It is by that reason that we youth and students from Bataan will continue the fight that was already won, but disrespected by the proponents of the revival," said student John Paul Gelomina.

The plant’s re-opening has spawned numerous issues and debates among its proponent, Rep. Mark Cojuangco and his allies in Congress, against environmental activist groups NO to BNPP!, Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment, scientist group Agham and other anti-BNPP revival alliances.

The alliance has repeatedly claimed that aside from it being anomalous, defective and corrupt, the project will only be another milking cow of big-time politicians and wealthy families in the country at the expense of the Filipino people.

The accusations were, however, downplayed by Cojuangco who made a statement in Congress that the planned re-opening of BNPP, which is expected to provide cheap energy, will undergo rigid scientific studies to ensure safety and reliability once the project is approved.

Congress has recently authorized P100 million to finance the proposed studies.

Proponents to the plant’s re-opening said the concept of a cheaper power source came in the wake of a looming worldwide energy crisis. - Floro Taguinod, GMANews.TV

Monday, March 16, 2009

Justice for all victims of human rights violations NOW!

A Killing Too Far: Rebelyn Pitao

Rebelyn was wearing her white school teacher’s uniform when she left
home to go to work. “Ma, lakaw na ko (Ma, I have to go now),” she
called out to her mother Evangeline. It was 6:30 a.m. – the last time
Mrs. Pitao saw her 20-year old daughter. It was the last time she ever
heard her voice.

Philippine Human Rights Reporting Project
Posted by Bulatlat

DAVAO CITY – Rebelyn was wearing her white school teacher’s uniform
when she left home to go to work. “Ma, lakaw na ko (Ma, I have to go
now),” she called out to her mother Evangeline.

It was 6:30 a.m. – the last time Mrs. Pitao saw her 20-year old
daughter. It was the last time she ever heard her voice.

Rebelyn usually arrived back home by 6:30 p.m. each school day. But
last week, Wednesday March 4, there was no sign of her. Mrs. Pitao was
worried: An hour and a half later, local police officers and a
tricycle driver knocked on her door and brought news that Rebelyn had
been abducted on her way home by armed gunmen.

“When I heard she had been taken, I knew I would never see her alive
again,” said Mrs. Pitao from her small house in Bago Galera, Toril
District in Davao City. “I knew they would kill her because they were
angry at her father.”

Rebelyn, who would have turned 21 on March 20, was the third child and
daughter of New People’s Army (NPA) leader Leoncio Pitao, also known
as Commander Parago. Her partially-naked body was found late the
following day, Thursday March 5, in an irrigation ditch in Barangay
(village) San Isidro in Carmen, Davao Del Norte, about 50 kilometers
north from here. She had been bound, gagged, raped and repeatedly
stabbed in the chest.

“There were rope markings around her neck and mud all over her body,”
her mother told the Philippine Human Rights Reporting Project. “She
was like a carabao.”

According to the Scene of Crime Operatives (SOCO) of the Davao City
police, Rebelyn had been dead for more than 20 hours before she was
found by a local farmer. It suggests she was killed very soon after
being taken.

“Her body bore five wounds inflicted by a thin sharp object such as an
ice pick, which pierced her lungs and liver,” according to Dr. Tomas
Dimaandal who conducted the autopsy at a local funeral home. His
report added that her genitals had suffered cuts “possibly caused by a
hard object.” Her mouth had been taped up.

Mrs. Pitao explained how, with the police officers listening, tricycle
driver Danny Peliciano told her that two unknown men had boarded his
vehicle alongside Rebelyn when she climbed in to ride home. As they
neared Bago Gallera de Oro subdivision a white van – a Toyota Revo –
blocked their path and forced the tricycle to stop.

“Two other men came out of the van and dragged her out of the
tricycle. The driver said Rebelyn was screaming for help but he could
not do anything because the men were armed. The driver said he ran
away. Then they dragged my daughter inside the van.”

Mrs. Pitao believes the other two men on the tricycle were accomplices
and all four men climbed in the van.

The abduction site is about 300 meters from the national highway and
is beside a church with the nearest house 50 meters away.

Peliciano is now missing: A fellow driver who did not wish to be named
said that right after the incident he quit working his usual route and
disappeared. “He is no longer staying at home and we have no idea
where he is now. I think he went into hiding because he is a witness,”
said the man.

Mrs. Pitao believes her daughter may have been attacked inside the van
or taken to a place in nearby Panabo City or Carmen where she was tied
up, tortured and killed soon after and then taken after dark to the

It is believed she was dumped there between midnight and 1 a.m.

According to a police report obtained by the Philippine Human Rights
Reporting Project from the Carmen police station, Rebelyn’s body was
discovered by rice farmer Raffy Agres whose signed affidavit says he
found her lying in the flooded ditch at around 5 p.m. that Thursday.

“You could hardly see the body even when you were just beside the
canal because of the grass here and the ridge,” said banana plantation
worker Noel Lanoy who was with Agres when Rebelyn was found.

“He screamed out that a body had been dumped and it was a summary
killing,” said Lanoy. “I first thought it was a banana tree trunk.”

Egles Brieta whose house lies about 100 meters away from the scene,
says she didn’t see or hear any vehicle that would have been needed to
dump Rebelyn’s body. “It is so quiet here, yet we didn’t hear anything
or anybody.”

A makeshift bamboo cross now stands in the knee-deep water where
Rebelyn was found. According to Brieta, the bodies of two men were
also found dumped here in 2004.

Outrage and denials

The abduction, torture and killing of Rebelyn have been met with
widespread disgust and condemnation alongside public pledges to
deliver justice and ensure an open, independent and transparent

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has ordered government agencies to
conduct a thorough investigation, and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte
has called the abduction, torture and murder “a deed most foul and the
work of a monster.”

A senior military officer has called it “a crime against humanity,”
with Senator Richard Gordon calling it a “war crime.”

So far however, Task Force Rebelyn, the group set up to investigate
the crime claims it has few real leads. Davao City Police Chief Senior
Superintendent Ramon Apolinario initially complained his men had only
a few clues to work with – the testimonies of the tricycle driver and
the rice farmer who found her –along with a description of the van
allegedly used.

Rebelyn’s guerilla father claims the vehicle has been spotted parked
outside a “known army safe house in Carmen” –something the military
hotly denies.

Almost from the very moment she was reported missing, the Philippine
Army’s high command has come out vehemently and repeatedly in public
to deny the military was in any way responsible for Rebelyn’s
abduction or her subsequent torture and killing.

But after her own father –Commander Parago – publicly named four
military suspects as his daughter’s killers on Sunday, the Army’s
position has slowly changed. While it still denies any responsibility,
it now admits two of the men Parago mentioned are currently their
military intelligence officers who are now “restricted” to the
barracks at the 10th Infantry Division headquarters in Camp Panacan in

The military is now pledging 100 per cent cooperation with the police
inquiry but insists the investigation also has to follow up all other
leads too.

A few days earlier, Major General Reynaldo B. Mapagu, Commander of the
10th ID, denied any involvement of the military in the killing of
Rebelyn, adding that it was “not the policy of the Philippine Army to
target civilians in its campaign against the communist insurgents.”

And in a separate press statement, Lt. Colonel Rolando Bautista, 10th
ID spokesperson, said they understand the ordeal of the family of
Rebelyn “but it would be unfair to blame the incident (on) the

In the hours after she first went missing, military sources suggested
Rebelyn was probably the victim of infighting between members of the
NPA. They added that she may also have been targeted by relatives of
people who were themselves kidnapped and abused by Parago over the

But Rebelyn’s father is adamant that no other group could be behind
her killing and claims the army “lashed out at her because they
couldn’t get me.”

He does not believe that any government-led investigation will bring
justice for her daughter.

“There were so many investigations for the victims of extrajudicial
killings but none so far have been solved,” he said. “Not just
political killings but also killing of journalists in this country
-what happened to their investigations?”

Ominously, he added: “We (the NPA) will be the ones to investigate and
punish those behind the killing of my daughter.”

Prepared with sacrifices

Chief of the NPA’s 1st Pulang Bagani Command which operates in the
fringes of this huge city, Parago said the killing of his daughter
would “strengthen and intensify the efforts to continue the

“I’m hurt and I’m enraged. Yet even if I cry, there’s nothing I could
do to bring her back. When I learned that she was abducted, I already
knew that they were going to kill her. I’ve been expecting that to
happen not just to my daughter but to my entire family as well.”

Parago’s son Ryan claims he too was attacked by military agents and
now lives with his father as an NPA guerilla. “They tried to stab me
in 2005 and the next day I left to come here. Had I not, I would have
been dead now just like Rebelyn.”

Parago broke his silence three days after her daughter was found dead.
The Philippine Human Rights Reporting Project and several journalists
met up with him at a location in the outskirts of this city.

“Since I joined the NPA (in 1978), I’ve been expecting that something
will happen to my family,” he said. “You have to be prepared with all
the sacrifices in all aspects when you’ll join the revolution.”

Clad in black military uniform, smoking a cigarette and in full battle
dress, the 51-year-old Parago worried that what happened to Rebelyn
may also happen to other members of his family. “There is a big
possibility that they will do my family harm because they could hardly
capture me.”

Parago accused two named sergeants with the Military Intelligence
Group (MIG) and two named officers serving in the Military
Intelligence Battalion (MIB) as those who he says are directly
responsible for his daughter’s death. In a separate interview with a
radio station he also named others –including an Army major.

Parago said that based on the NPA’s “own intelligence information,”
the four intelligence officers were responsible for the killing of his
brother Danilo in June last year alongside others. “My brother was a
provincial guard of Davao del Norte -he was a government employee, and
yet still he was killed.”

A spokesperson of the Army’s 10th ID has confirmed the names Parago
mentioned to the journalists are members of the military. Two of them
he confirmed are being held in the divisional barracks. The Armed
Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) Eastern Mindanao Command spokesperson
Major Randolph Cabangbang said the military would fully cooperate with
the police investigation.

“We are also affected; the military organization is very concerned
about this and by the perception of civilians. We are not looking into
this incident as soldiers but as fathers too,” stressed Cabangbang.

He added they were also investigating the white Toyota Revo with the
plate number LPG-588 that was reportedly used in abducting Rebelyn.
“We verified the plate number to the Land of Transportation office,”
he said – “but apparently it is not registered or found in the LTO’s

Cabangbang was adamant there “would be no whitewash or cover-up” in
the investigation “even if the suspects are from the military.”

He added: “We will give the PNP (Philippine National Police) a free
hand on this. We also welcome an independent body to conduct its own
investigation to help bring justice for Rebelyn. This incident is
already beyond the fighting between the AFP and the NPA, this is
already an attack against humanity.”

He flatly denied the military conducted surveillance on the Pitao
family: “The only subject for our surveillance is Parago - not his
entire family”

Elusive Parago

Parago has long been a wanted man: Former commander of the Philippine
Army’s 10th ID Major General Jogy Leo Fojas last year vowed his troops
would “nail the elusive Parago” before the end of 2008.

Parago has been accused of kidnapping and killing civilians, whom the
NPA suspected as “military intelligence assets.” He admits his
guerillas have killed suspected informers in cold blood: Parago
claimed he knew his “comrades” were responsible for the killing of an
informer, but was “not around when the execution happened.”

”The People’s Court does not kill innocent civilians, we carefully
examine their crimes against the people before we carry out
punishments,” he said.

Yet there is no such recognized court under national or international
law and many people see absolutely no difference between extrajudicial
killings allegedly committed by the military and those said to be
committed by the NPA.

On January 7, the NPA are believed to have killed Saturnino Rizaldo, a
suspected member of the military intelligence group. A month later,
they also reportedly murdered a second intelligence agent in Paquibato
district here.

In a mobile phone interview, Simon Santiago, southern Mindanao
political director of the NPA, told the Philippine Human Rights
Reporting Project that the NPA executed Rizaldo because of his “crime
against humanity.”

“The NPA has standing order against those who have committed serious
crime against the masses,” Santiago stressed.

The other victim he said was “a former NPA member turned military asset.”

Remembering Rebelyn

Parago said he waited until his daughter was 11 before telling her he
was the known Commander Parago of Southern Mindanao. “When they (my
children) asked me where I was, I often told them I was working

Shortly after his release from a prison sentence in 2000 and learning
that he would again go back to join the NPA, Parago recalled Rebelyn
saying: “Pa, abi nako mag uban na ta hangtud sa hangtud (Pa, I thought
we would be together again forever).”

Parago was captured by military agents in 1999 at his home in Toril
district. He was released without preconditions after spending just
under two years in jail.

He also recounted the time when Rebelyn asked for a new pair of jeans
and he couldn’t give her one. “I told her to ask for the old pair of
jeans from her older sister. Rebelyn did it and did not complain. When
her mother was finally able to give her a new pair, Rebelyn was so
happy and grateful. Even for the smallest things, Rebelyn never forgot
to say ‘thank you.’ ”

Mrs. Pitao also recalled that since Rebelyn was still small, she
really wanted to be a teacher. “Since she was small, that was her
dream -and she really fulfilled her dream,” she said.

Rebelyn served as a substitute teacher for five months at St. Peter’s
College of Technology and taught Grade 2.

Her mother recalled how happy Rebelyn was when she had her first
salary of PhP 7,800 (USD 162). “She was so happy because that was her
first time that she actually had some real money.”

Mrs. Pitao added said that her daughter’s fellow teachers were
surprised to learn she was the daughter of Commander Parago. “Yet
their treatment towards us never changed. They even sympathized with
us because they knew we were not part of the conflict -we were not

Held hostage

Mrs. Pitao claimed the military had harassed their family in the past.
In 1999, she insisted, seven military agents came into their house and
briefly held the family hostage to force her husband to surrender.

“They knew my husband was coming down to visit us because it was All
Saints Day,” she recalls. “The children were so scared because we were
all held at gunpoint.”

Parago also claims to remember the alleged incident: “I went there to
visit but was surprised to see the military. I had a grenade with me
but had I tossed it inside my house it would have killed my family as
well as the agents –and so I let myself get captured.”

Mrs. Pitao said the incident was a traumatic experience for the
children: “Trauma has been gone for a long time but now it’s back
again because of what happened to their sister.”

Safety of the family

Davao City Police have been providing 24-hour security during
Rebelyn’s wake and Mrs. Pitao said she was thankful to Mayor Duterte.
While having gone on record as saying he dismissed all allegations
that any military or police officers could be involved in the killing,
the mayor has made a public promise to Parago to find those
responsible. The two have even spoken together on the phone.

For her part, Mrs. Pitao is refusing to comment on her family’s future
security: “We cannot say anything about it now or what are we going to
do now. We have yet to talk about it. But I admit that we are very
affected. I’m worried about my children because two of them are still
studying and they are now worried for their security.”

Rebelyn’s death brings the number of victims of extrajudicial killings
in southern Mindanao since 2001 up to 93 according to Kelly Delgado,
secretary general of the human rights group Karapatan for southern
Mindanao region.

Authorities contest Karapatan’s figure and insist it is much lower.
But it is not known if either figure includes an anti-mining activist
who was shot dead by two gunmen on Monday March 9 in nearby Koronadal

Delgado claims the killing of Rebelyn was intended as a warning: “This
is a message for the family members of not just the NPA but as well
those who are in the progressive organizations that they too can be
targets,” Delgado said. “It is also a message meant to demoralize our

“Since the government has set 2010 as the deadline to crush the
communist movement, extrajudicial killings may even get worse because
civilians whom they suspect as communist supporters will become soft
targets,” Delgado said.

“The killings have become systemic and it is impossible to stop them.
What we can do now is to become vigilant and impose security measures
among people.”

Retired Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff General
Hermogenes Esperon and President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo have set a
2010 deadline to end the insurgency.

But last year, Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Alexander Yano
admitted that the government might not be able to wipe out the
40-year-old communist movement by 2010.

The NPA, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines
(CPP), turns 40 on March 29 –the day before a public hearing on
vigilante killings is due to open here.

Bishop Delfin Callao of the Philippine Independent Church has said
that an independent body needs to be created to investigate Rebelyn’s

“How can you investigate if you are the accused?” Callao asked
reporters in a press conference last week. The investigation, he
insisted, should not allow any representatives from government
agencies, police or military to join.

“This will assure us of complete impartiality and the findings can be
the basis of any criminal charges to be filed against the suspects.”

The investigating body, he said, should be composed of the people from
church and civil society organizations. “Even if the government
authorities snub the results, the most important thing here is we
surface the truth.”

Rebelyn’s funeral and burial is due to be held here on Saturday March
14. Philippine Human Rights Reporting Project / Posted by[1]

*The author is a journalist based in Davao City and one of the
founders of AKP Images, an independent photo agency.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Pilipinas, gising ka na ba?

The Roots of Crisis: A Neo-Colonial State

The sovereign nationhood was pure fiction because the colonial power which supposedly returned to us the independence which it had wrested from Bonifacio's revolution never really left and never really allowed us to exist and act as a free and sovereign people.

Posted by Bulatlat

Any attempt to understand the essence and roots of the nation's crisis must begin with recognition of the nature of the Philippine state. The Philippines isn't - and one must stress that - a sovereign, independent state that it is assumed to be and which its constitution claims it is.

A neocolonial state

The Philippines is a neocolonial state - which, by definition, means a state that is sovereign and independent in theory but which in fact is the colony of another, or of others. As a people, we are the classic victim of what Webster's New World Dictionary calls neocolonialism and which it defines as "the exploitation of a supposedly independent nation as by imposing a puppet government."

This has been so from the day and moment that we assumed the status of sovereign nationhood in 1946. That sovereign nationhood was pure fiction. It was pure fiction because the colonial power which supposedly returned to us the independence which it had wrested from Bonifacio's revolution never really left and never really allowed us to exist and act as a free and sovereign people.

The process by which we have been preserved as a neocolony is a story of its own, and neither time nor space allows that I deal with it in detail. It should suffice to focus on the essentials of that process. We have been preserved as a neocolonial state through the flagrant and systematic intervention of the U.S. government in our political process and in the creation of a collaborator class.

Neocolonialist intervention, of course, hasn't been confined to the political process. You see and feel the hand of that intervention in just about every aspect of Philippine society and the political economy. You see and feel it not only in government and politics but in the business community, in our schools, civil society, media and even the churches.

But the intervention has been most crucial and fatal at the level of our presidential politics. As the late and former President Diosdado Macapagal admitted in an article he wrote for the Bulletin a few years before he passed away, the U.S. government has been a decisive factor in every presidential election since 1935, and no presidential aspirant objectionable to Washington has ever been elected president. By the same token, any sitting president who manages to displease Washington invariably winds up unseated by Washington. That has been generally the fate of all incumbent presidents. They were mounted to office by Washington and eventually unseated by Washington.

That's how puppet governments are mounted and that's essentially how we have been preserved as a neocolonial state.

But that's for another paper. At the moment we are focused on the economic crisis.

The fiscal crisis: a diversionary issue

The fiscal crisis, which you invited me to discuss, is in truth only one of the many facets of the economic crisis that grips the nation. There is the crisis of the peso, the crisis of unemployment and inflation; there is the crisis of the industrial and agricultural sectors, and there is the overall crisis of underdevelopment and poverty.

There is the crisis of the very economic system by which we have lived all these years.

To be lured into a discussion of the fiscal crisis therefore is to be lured away from a discussion of the totality of the crisis and the nature as well as the root of that crisis. And that I suggest to you is exactly what the enemies of the state intend. They intend to lure us away from an examination of the total crisis and to trivialize that crisis by luring us into a discussion of what they call the "fiscal-debt crisis."

But it is the essence and root of the total economic crisis that we should focus on.

The economic crisis of a neocolonial state

If we have a total economic crisis in our hands - a crisis whose most visible and terrifying manifestation is the mass hunger, and not only the mass poverty, that now grips the land and which government itself has acknowledged - it is because in this post-industrial age, we remain a nation of 80 million mired in the pre-industrial stage of history.

The question is: Why have we remained stuck in the pre-industrial age of history when neighbors once more impoverished and backward than we are have either graduated, or are dramatically in the process of graduating, into the age of science and industry?

And the answer is that it has been planned that way. From the beginning, it was planned in Washington that the Philippines shall remain essentially a raw material economy in order to service the raw material requirements of an industrial Japan.

The Dodds Report

In 1946, the Truman administration adopted the recommendation of the report which proposed that Japan be developed as the primary, if not sole, industrial powerhouse in the Asia-Pacific region and that countries like the Philippines should be preserved as raw material economies, obviously to service the requirements of Japan's factories.

As the Asia-Pacific war came to a close, the U.S. obviously made a fateful decision to utilize Japan as the base from which to project U.S. military power, and that required the development of Japan as an industrial powerhouse. But since Japan is a nation bereft of natural resource, the plan obviously required that countries like the Philippines be preserved as raw material economics to ensure Japan with a continuing and permanent source of raw material.

We owe our knowledge of the Dodds Report to the late Salvador Araneta who, during his self-exile in Canada during the martial law years, uncovered the existence of the document and denounced it in his book America's Double-Cross of the Philippines.

These were Araneta's denunciatory words, as he explained the failure of the nation to industrialize: "The indifferent economic development of the country ... was due to America's policy toward Japan and the Philippines. This policy was the result of the Dodds Report which Truman accepted and which had as its objective to make Japan the industrial workshop of Asia and the Philippines a mere supplier of raw materials."

As Araneta bitterly continued: "We do not argue against the wisdom of providing Japan with the means to rehabilitate herself and allowed to become an industrial country once again, although this was contrary to the prior recommendation of a post-war planning committee headed by Secretary Morgenthau, a recommendation which was in line with the prevailing sentiment at the end of the war. But certainly we can argue against a policy that would make Japan the exclusive industrialized country in the Far East, for such a policy was most detrimental to the Philippines. Indeed, the United States could not justify a policy that provided all kinds of stumbling blocks, to the industrialization of her ally (Philippines) in the war against Japan. As a result of this policy, industrialization in the Philippines suffered severe setbacks…”

It was a division of labor, or of functions, which the Dodds, Report crafted for America's allies in the Far East.

The Dodds Report explains the continuing obsession to this day of U.S. foreign policy to keep the Philippines a free and open market for imports because a liberal import policy - another name for free trade - ensures that this country will never be able to industrialize and take the same protectionist, nationalistic developmental strategy that enabled once poorer neighbors like Taiwan, Malaysia and Thailand, to transform into the newly
industrialized countries that they are today.

The geopolitical plan embodied in the Dodds Report explains what the late Claro M. Recto described as "America's anti?industrialization policy for the Philippines."

Although Recto had no knowledge of the existence of the Dodds Report at the time - its existence would surface only in the 1970s after Araneta exposed it - his enormous analytical power enabled him to deduce from policy statements of U.S. officials that behind U.S. policy in this country was a malevolent design to see to it that we never industrialize.

Conclusive proof of what Recto described as America's "anti-industrialization policy for the Philippines" came when Marcos formally launched an industrialization program in the late ‘70s based on 11 heavy industries led by the steel, petrochemical and engineering industries.

The announcement of that plan was swiftly followed by protest from the IMF and the World Bank and the pro-American technocrats in the Marcos cabinet led by no less than his then Prime Minister.

In the end, after four years of struggle with the IMF, the World Bank and his own technocrats over his industrialization plan, Marcos gave up the plan but not until after he had expressly denounced a conspiracy between his own technocrats and the IMF-WB to keep the Philippines under the heels of the industrial powers.

Soon after his election to the presidency, Joseph Estrada in an interview with Asiaweek confirmed that the U.S. has indeed sabotaged the industrialization plan of Marcos.

The U.S. anti-industrialization policy for the Philippines is what those IMF conditionalities are really about. The anti-industrialization policy has been implemented all these years through the IMF conditionalities and it isn't any coincidence that for the last forty years this country has been under the continuous economic supervision of the IMF. There is no country in the world that can claim to be under the supervision of the IMF for even a fraction of that time.

And it isn't coincidence either that this country, which has been under the continuous supervision of the IMF for 40 years, is the only country in the region that isn't making any headway toward industrialization.

When the Asean was founded in the early 160s by the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore, not a single one of them was an NIC.

Today, only the Philippines remains outside the magic circle of NICs. The four other co-founders of the Asean are now acknowledged NICs.

That should explain why the Philippines has the longest and oldest communist
insurgency in the region.

A nation of 80 million without even the capability to produce a decent hammer or a decent toy gun can't possibly have any future except hunger.

We are today a hungry people in a land so fertile that one can drop a seed anywhere and see it sprout into something he can eat. And we are hungry because we are a nation frozen by design in the pre-industrial age, preserved as a raw material economy.

The essence and root of our crisis, to stress, are to be found in the nature of the Philippines as a neocolonial state preserved by U.S. post-war imperialism as a raw material economy to service the raw material requirements of an industrial Japan.

The treason of the Edsa Constitution

The ultimate tragedy of a neocolonial state is that even its own Constitution becomes an instrument of its own and perpetual enslavement.

And the Philippine case is a classic illustration.

I invite your attention to Art. XII, Sec. 1, par. 2 of the Constitution which reads as follows: "The State shall promote industrialization and full employment based on sound agricultural development and agrarian reform through industries that make full and efficient use of human and natural resources, and which are competitive in both domestic and foreign markets. However, the State shall protect Filipino enterprises against unfair foreign competition and trade practices.”

That provision you will note automatically prohibits an industrial policy based on the heavy industries and the application of protectionist measures against foreign competition, whether fair or unfair.

While the provision stipulates that the "State shall promote industrialization" it simultaneously qualifies that constitutional directive with an entire complex of conditions and limiting reservations which makes it impossible for the State to adopt any industrialization strategy other than one that is specifically and exclusively based on "sound agricultural development and agrarian reform" whatever that means.

For example, the provision literally prohibits an industrialization strategy based on the heavy industries, like steel, chemicals, machine tools and machine production. But that's precisely the kind of strategy that made NICS of our neighbors.

Our neighbors - particularly South Korea and Taiwan - didn't transform into newly- industrialized countries through the industrialization strategy explicitly mandated by the above-cited provision of our Constitution. Those countries, imitating Japan, pursued an industrialization strategy anchored on the development of industries based on and moved by machine power rather than on "sound agricultural development and agrarian reform."

A real industrialization program is one that is based on what is known as the capital goods industry - industries based on machine power and the production of what is known as the means of production.

Any other industrialization program can only be a program based on light consumer industries that are totally dependent on industrial raw material and industrial machines produced by the industrialized countries.

You will further note that the constitutional provision insists that industries should be competitive in both the domestic and foreign markets. With that provision, there is hardly any industry that can qualify for government support and protection, and that is precisely what the provision intends. That provision serves as justification for our reckless entry into GATT and the equally reckless accelerated tariff reduction program of the
government - programs which have contributed heavily to the bankruptcy of National Steel Corporation, the closure of Caltex refinery and the financial problems of an enterprise like Hacienda Luisita, all of whom have attributed their crisis to the flood of imports unleashed by the government's commitments to the WTO.

No country rose from rags to riches through industrialization by exposing its industries to foreign competition the way we have done. Examine the industrial policies of the Asian NICs and you will see how protective those policies are of their basic industries, even if these are not competitive in the foreign markets.

While the constitutional provision does provide that the State shall protect Filipino enterprises against unfair foreign competition, it doesn't define what unfair foreign competition means. For example, we have exposed our agricultural sector to competition from subsidized agricultural imports, but the authorities don't consider that a contravention of the Constitution. The result is that even the agricultural sector has been marginalized. Apparently, the authorities see nothing wrong with pitting our farmers, most of whom hardly made it to sixth grade, with the corporate farmers of the industrial countries, who do their farming with the aid of satellites.

The authorities must be reminded that any underdeveloped economy struggling to industrialize would have to protect its basic industries from foreign competition, whether fair or unfair. To insist that even infant industries should be competitive in the foreign markets would be tantamount to killing these infant industries from the start.

The question is: Why did the authors of the present Constitution feel it necessary to qualify the industrialization mandate with the kind of restrictions they placed on it?

And the answer is that the authors of the cited provision were the very elements who had opposed the heavy industrialization program launched by Ferdinand Marcos in 1979. The Marcos industrial program was based the establishment of industries driven by machine power and not - repeat, not - by "sound agricultural development and agrarian reform" as stipulated by the present Constitution.

In brief, no less than the Constitution has become the barrier to the real industrialization of our economy. Under the "industrialization" provision of the Charter there isn't any way that this country can transform into a newly industrialized country or NIC. Which means that there isn't any way we can get out of the poverty trap which has now mutated into a hunger crisis.

Article XII, Sec. 1 Par. 2 of the Constitution is the best evidence of our status as neocolonial state. It is also the ultimate weapon which ensures that the anti-industrialization agenda of the Dodds Report will remain unchallenged by any government elected under the present charter.

If by some miracle we should have a government tomorrow bent on industrializing the economy by adopting the same industrial policies that have made industrialized countries of our neighbors, such a government would run afoul of the Constitution.

What then is to be done?

Complete the unfinished nationalist revolution of Bonifacio.

What needs to be done is clearly to forge a national coalition of forces committed to recovering the sovereignty which American imperialism wrested from Bonifacio's revolution and to transform the Philippines from the neocolonial state that it is to the truly sovereign and independent state that it claims to be and should be.

Only when the Philippines becomes a truly sovereign and independent state can it then proceed to pursue the kind of developmental policies necessary to lift the economy out of the pre-industrial age of history and to catapult it to the ranks of newly industrialized countries.

Three processes that should be unleashed if social peace is to be achieved.

Such a coalition could be forged on the basis of a program that would unleash three vital processes, namely: The process of decolonization, the process of industrialization and the process of economic democratization.

Only when these three processes are unleashed simultaneously, through a program of government crafted specifically for that purpose, can the nation begin the journey towards social peace. The reason is that social peace can only come with social justice and economic democracy. But social justice and economic democracy can come about only if there is economic development, and economic development can come about only with an industrial revolution which in turn can come about only with national independence.

I propose accordingly that no time be lost organizing a national coalition based on a program that would unleash the three processes of de-colonization, industrialization and economic democratization.

In 1986, I proposed such a program to the then ongoing Constitutional Commission - which that body completely ignored. I now propose that that program be adopted as a working basis of dialogue among all elements in Philippine society determined to transform the Philippines into a truly sovereign and independent state so that it may proceed with the war on mass poverty and thereby pave the way for the much longed social peace which has long eluded us.

That program is embodied in a slim volume I authored titled Towards a New
Economic Order and the Conquest of Mass Poverty, and which I incorporate by reference in this paper. That program, incidentally, is a synthesis of the basic principles found in the program of the Movement for the Advancement of Nationalism and the Vatican encyclicals which condemn laissez-faire capitalism and justify on moral grounds the principle of state activism in the economy.

Along with the program outlined in Towards a New Economic Order and the Conquest of Mass Poverty, I recommend the adoption, as a working basis of dialogue, an emergency program of government proposed by the Citizens Committee on the National Crisis last January, which I also incorporate by way of reference.

We must complete Bonifacio's unfinished revolution if we are to face up to the crisis that has made this only Christian nation in Asia a humanitarian disaster, where 80 percent of Filipino households live under hunger conditions. The imperatives of national survival and the revolution against hunger which has now overtaken us call for nothing less than the revolutionary nationalism which forged Filipinos into one nation.

Only when the country commits itself to a program of government that would unleash the three processes of de-colonization, industrialization and economic democratization can it begin the march toward social peace because only a government committed to the unleashing of those three processes would have the credibility to deal with the insurgents and the secessionists.

That is one way of saying that the road to social peace begins with the struggle to regain the sovereignty and independence which U.S. imperialism stole from Bonifacio's revolution.

That sovereignty and independence should be recovered at all cost if we are to survive as a viable society.

One final and concluding note.

Debt repudiation

There isn't any way we can proceed to retrieve our sovereignty and independence unless we first repudiate the foreign debt. The repudiation of that debt should be the starting point of any genuine effort at national independence and sovereignty.

I have written the Senate a letter-memorandum outlining the case for unconditional debt repudiation and I incorporate that letter-memorandum to this paper by way of reference.

I suggest that the Pilgrims for Peace initiate a signature campaign urging the Senate to adopt the letter-memorandum for debt repudiation. Such a campaign could well serve as the catalyst for a nationwide coalition that would complete the unfinished revolution.

The principal contradiction

The contradiction between colonialism and nationalism remains the principal contradiction of Philippine society. To the resolution of that contradiction all other contradictions should be subordinated.

The road to peace starts with that. It starts with the drive to eliminate colonialism in all its forms and from whatever source.

Recto, the consummate Filipino nationalist and Mao, the consummate Chinese Communist, will shake hands on that.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Isa pang dagok sa press freedom

For whom the bill talks: A primer on the Right of Reply Bill

Prepared by the College Editors Guild of the Philippines

February 2009

This primer seeks to shed analysis and explain in detail why the College Guild of the Philippines is steadfastly rejecting the Right of Reply Bill.

What is the Right of Reply Bill?

In June 2004, Senate Bill (SB) 1178 was filed by Senator Aquilino Pimentel during the 13th Congress. The said bill, however, passed the third reading but failed to get approved due to lack of time. When Congress resumed sessions in June 2007, Pimentel immediately re-filed his bill and gained Senate approval by June 2008. SB 1178 was then effectively substituted by SB 2150.

On July 29, 2008, the Senate passed SB 2150, otherwise known as: “An Act Granting the Right of Reply and Providing Penalties for Violation Thereof,” on its third reading. It was supported by Senators Ramon Bong Revilla Jr., Francis “Chiz” Escudero, Mar Roxas, Loren Legarda and Pimentel, among others.

Meanwhile, Bacolod City Representative Monico Puentevella filed House Bill (HB) 1001 and Aurora Congressman Juan Edgardo Angara filed HB 162 as counterparts of SB 2150 in the Lower House. These two bills were combined and were substituted by HB 3306. HB 3306 is currently being heard in the Lower House, with Congressmen Bienvenido Abante, Angara and Puentevella as main sponsors.

It is interesting to note that although SB 2150 and HB 3306 were filed in different houses, they bear identical titles and has a hair strand difference.

The Right of Reply Bill would mandate media companies, outfits and entities to provide “equal space or airtime” to anyone who is a subject of critical reports, to reply or react as form of the latter’s freedom of expression, thus, the right to reply. The bill, furthermore, stipulates that this be done within three (3) days of a news item’s publication or airing.

The House measure furthermore seeks to punish the publisher and editor-in-chief of a publication or the owner and station manager of a broadcast outfit if they fail to comply or give “equal treatment” to a complainant’s reply to a specific report.

The Senate approved the passage of the bill by a vote of 21-0. Congress, on the other hand, has delayed the hearing of the bill following strong opposition from media organizations and civil society groups. Supporters of the bill in the House of Representatives, however, are preparing a so-called ‘watered down’ version of the said bill following strong opposition from various media organizations.

Senators Escudero, Legarda and Roxas have also retracted their signatures on the Senate version, while Malacanang has vowed to veto the bill if and when Congress approves it.

This initial triumph of exposing the Right of Reply Bill can only be attributed to the overwhelming unity of campus press, media practitioners and concerned groups over the bill’s threat to press freedom and freedom of expression.

Why reject the Right of Reply Bill?

1. The Bill is unconstitutional. It violates Article III, Section 4 of the 1987 Constitution, “No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances,” as well as several principles of criminal law.

National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) secretary general Neri Colmenares cited the overly broad and vague provision in the bill mandating the right of reply of all persons “who are criticized by innuendo, suggestion, or rumor for any lapse in behavior in public or private life” in saying that the elements of a supposed crime are “not clear.” “Who decides what is ‘innuendo, suggestion, rumor or lapse in behavior’?” Colmenares said.

Moreover, once the bill is signed into law, Filipinos will also, directly or indirectly, be denied of their right to information which is the building block of any sound judgment that will lead to actions meant to preserve the rights and welfare of the citizenry.

2. The Bill is repressive. Should the bill pass into law, many journalists and/or media outfits will be hindered from performing their prime tasks as watchdogs of society out of fear of paying sums of pesos as punishment for not printing the reply of a “ridiculed or maligned” person.

The Guild believes the bill, which requires or mandates media outfits to publish or air replies in the same space, be it front page or inside story, encroaches on the right of the editorial board to determine the content of publications according to the relevance of issues.

With this bill, the prerogative of the press to determine what to publish or broadcast is undermined for it compels the media to print or air the reply of the “aggrieved” person who does not even have the burden to prove that he has been affected by a report.

Prof. Danilo Arao of the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communications states, “As it is, the bill has negative repercussions on the workings of the press. Editors, normally referred to as the gatekeepers of information, should be allowed to choose which stories get published, aired or uploaded and which stories are given due prominence based on the time-tested elements of news.

Instead of coming up with bills that seek to legislate how the media should function, it would do well for legislators to help strengthen self-regulation in media by creating an environment conducive for the effective practice of the media profession.”

Consequently, Section 3 of the Right of Reply Bill is sure to undermine especially the campus press. Due to lack of resources and its common operations, it is impossible for majority of campus publications to comply “not later than one day” as prescribed by HB 3306 or “not later than three days” according to SB 2150. Never has there been a daily student publication in the entire history of campus press.

Also, advocacy press, which includes student gazettes, would certainly fall victim to this bill due to the nature of their writings. It does not appease at all that the status quo of politics and press freedom in the country has been known to favor politicians and other prominent individuals in legal venues. Suffice to say, under such conditions that press people are working in, the Right of Reply Bill is not democratic at all, it is ultra democracy at the expense of press freedom and freedom of expression.

3. The Bill is pointless. There is no need for the Right of Reply Bill at all. The “aggrieved” person/s that the bill claims to protect has long been valued by the media in its practice of always getting two sides of the story.

While the Guild relents that media’s record is not entirely spotless, it echoes the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) sentiment that “we cannot allow the sins of the few to be an excuse for the wholesale muzzling of a free press and the suppression of free expression. To do so would to allow bad governance to triumph.”

There are, also, inevitable reasons why sometimes only one side is aired or published: the person either refuses interview and/or the person is out-of-reach.

Moreover, as a practice, the media accommodates not just replies but even criticisms and statements through spaces such as the letter to the editor and opinion sections.

Furthermore, if the claim that this bill seeks to mitigate journalist killings in the country is to be believed, there is no reason, still, to discuss the bill at all. In resolving the culture of impunity, what the Philippine press needs is political will, not a mere bill.

What can we do?

1. Publish opposition to the Right of Reply Bill in campus papers, blogs and websites, emails and forum threads, or you may re-post this material. Write letters to the editors and opinion columns.

2. Organize fora and/or small group discussions in campus publication offices and other venues on the Right of Reply Bill. This primer may be reproduced or reprinted.

3. Email or send a letter rejecting the bill to offices of congressmen and senators, especially the bill’s sponsors.

4. Sign the petition against the Right of Reply Bill. (Attached herewith is CEGP’s petition.)

5. Join protest actions against the Right of Reply Bill.

Gag us NOT! Reject the Right of Reply Bill!

Defend Press Freedom! Uphold Campus Press Freedom!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Madre ug tulo ka environmental advocates gidakup!



Justice for Sr. Stella Matutina, OSB and environmental advocates!

It is disturbing that Church people are persecuted for their work with the poor and for Creation.

Sr. Stella Matutina of the Missionary Benedictine Sisters and three environmental advocates Maria Fe Matibo, Wenceslao Mapa, and Gil Sentinales were illegally arrested, arbitrarily detained, and harassed by the 67th IB in the Brgy. Hall of Taytayan, Cateel, Davao Oriental last February 16.

They have committed no crimes; they have committed no acts that make them deserve detention and being suspected as rebels. Sr. Stella and her companions were in Taytayan on the invitation of local officials to talk on environmental awareness and protection.

But still, the 67th IB officials insist on doing things their way. They blame officials for not coordinating with them in holding the forum. They have conveyed a "veiled threat" to Sr. Stella that she should have rather stayed in the convent than work in a "critical" area where NPAs thrive. They have raised the specter of "fake nuns" roaming the rural areas "to organize the people and turn them against the government."

What shameless insolence towards human rights, the rule of law, and the mission of the church!

These statements disturbingly show that in the communities, the military rules over the people. It is a culture that has remained with the military since Martial Law. It is a culture that disturbs the peace of the community and tramples upon the rights of individuals. It is a culture that does not tolerate freedom of speech, freedom of movement, freedom to organize, and for us religious, the freedom to evangelize. It is a culture too that looks at people who serve the poor, marginalized and oppressed with suspicion, derision, and hatred. It is a culture that currently takes the form of Oplan Bantay Laya 2.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines is sending out the chilling message that no religious can disrupt their plans of protecting the interests of logging, mining, and big business interests. When shepherds of the flock are themselves the ones under attack, the wolves scatter the flock and make them easy prey. Yes, if they could do it with impunity to Sr. Stella and environmental advocates, they care less about violating the rights of ordinary Filipinos.

Church people, including our members who serve and live with the farmers and Lumads in Mindanao have faced this persecution. Sr. Mary John Dumaug of the Religious Good Shepherd had been harassed for her missionary work with the Banwaon in Agusan del Sur. Mateo Morales, an RGS lay worker also from Agusan del Sur, was killed by Cafgu men in 2006. The convents of the Missionary Sisters of Mary and the Contemplative Sisters of the Good Shepherd in Butuan City were raided by police in November 2006 without any basis at all and without search warrants.

We are afraid that Sr. Stella's case is another example of the Arroyo government's tacit, if not direct, approval of state-sponsored human rights violations including extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, and displacements.

It is disheartening that today, while those who stand their ground to protect the environment are being intimidated and killed, the First Family --- Mrs. Arroyo and First Gentleman Mike Arroyo--- is embroiled in mining interests including those in Mt. Diwalwal, Compostela Valley.

Amidst this state of oppression, we remain steadfast to fulfill the mission of the Church which is to assert the dignity and rights of people and the integrity of Creation. We carry this task to care for the environment as "a matter of common and universal duty." (Compendium of Social Doctrine # 466).

As we work to protect the integrity of Creation, we also call for Justice for the people. The Arroyo government must stop militarization in the communities, and stop the plunder of large-scale mining and other aggressive destruction of the environment.

Justice for Sr. Stella Matutia, OSB and environmental advocates!
Stop Military Persecution of Church People!
NO to large-scale Mining and Militarization!
Uphold the Integrity of God's Creation!

For reference:

Sr. Elsa C. Compuesto, MSM
Executive Secretary
Mobile No.: 09174350089

February 19, 2009

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Ipagdasal natin na matanggal na sa puwesto si Gloria

Philippine President Arroyo’s Attendance at National Prayer Breakfast Draws Demand for Human Rights in the Philippines

Contact: Katrina Abarcar, Katarungan: Center for Peace, Justice, and Human Rights in the Philippines, katarungan@comcast. net

February 5, 2009--Outside the National Prayer Breakfast at the Hilton in the U.S. capital, Filipino-American and American human rights advocates assembled to project the message, “Pray for the victims of injustice and human rights violations in the Philippines.”

The contingent, organized by Katarungan: Center for Peace, Justice, and Human Rights in the Philippines, targeted their message to President Obama, US lawmakers and global leaders, including Philippine President Arroyo, who attended the breakfast.

“Arroyo’s presence at the Prayer Breakfast gives us the opportunity to call attention to the ongoing problem of military involvement in political killings, abductions, illegal arrests, and harassment of government critics,” said Redante Asuncion-Reed of Katarungan. “I think it’s important that a concerned contingent expose President Arroyo’s brazen unwillingness to seriously address the Philippines’ human rights crisis whenever she makes an official visit to the U.S.”

United Nations Special Rapporteur Philip Alston has specifically criticized the Philippine government’s policy of identifying and neutralizing these fronts, integral to the Arroyo administration’ s counterinsurgency program, for the extrajudicial killings, disappearances, and other human rights abuses. Other independent human rights watchdogs such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have also published reports documenting these abuses and putting responsibility for them to the Philippine military.

In addition, President Arroyo’s administration has been widely criticized for its failure to convict any military personnel for involvement in the killings and abductions of over 1000 government critics, despite credible evidence. In fact, the President has praised and rewarded one of the most notorious suspects behind the political killings, retired Major General Palparan. He is currently being considered for a post on the Dangerous Drugs Board.

“US Public Law No: 110-161 placed three conditions on a portion of military aid to the Philippines with one of them being the prosecution of those in the military and others responsible for the human rights violations. President Arroyo’s administration failed to meet any of the conditions but still received the full amount of aid in 2008,” explained Katrina Abarcar of Katarungan. “We hope President Obama’s administration will more thoroughly scrutinize President Arroyo’s actions with regards to human rights than the previous administration.”

“In fact as US taxpayers, we believe we should be calling for a complete cut in military aid to the Philippines given its abysmal track record in obtaining justice for the thousands of human rights victims,” added Ms. Abarcar.

“The Philippines received a massive increase in US military aid when President Arroyo gave her unconditional support for former President Bush’s 'War on Terror.' It is pork barrel spending on an international scale that should be cut out,” ended Ms. Abarcar.##