Monday, June 20, 2011

Korte Suprema inutusan ang military na palayain si Sherlyn Cadapan, Karen Empeño, at Manuel Merino

SC to military: Release student activists
By Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News
Posted at 06/20/2011 8:07 AM | Updated as of 06/20/2011 10:53 AM

MANILA, Philippines - *The Supreme Court (SC) has affirmed a decision of the Court of Appeals(CA) ordering the military, led by retired army general Jovito Palparan, to immediately release University of the Philippines(UP) student activists Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeno, along with Manuel Merino, from their detention.*

In a decision by the court En Banc promulgated last May 31 and penned by Associate Justice Conchita Carpio Morales(ret), the high court directed Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan, Jr.(ret), Lt. Col. Rogelio Boac, Lt. Col. Felipe Anotado, Lt. Francis Mirablelle Samson, Arnel Enriquez and Donald Caigas, who were once assigned to the 7th Infantry Division and the 24th Infantry Battalion, and found by the high tribunal as the "responsible and accountable individuals," to immediately comply with the appellate court's decision on September 17, 2008, acting on a case for Writ of Amparo, for the activist's immediate release.

"Respondents Lt. Col. Felipe Anotado, Lt. Francis Mirabelle Samson, Gen. Jovito Palparan, Lt. Col. Rogelio Boac, Arnel Enriquez and Donald Caigas shall remain personally impleaded in the petitions to answer for any responsibilities and/or accountabilities they may have incurred during their incumbencies," the decision read.

"Owing to the retirement and/or reassignment to other places of assignment of some of the respondents herein... the incumbent commanding general of the 7th Infantry Division and the incumbent battalion commander of the 24th Infantry Battalion, both of the Philippine Army, are enjoined to fully ensure the release of Sherlyn Cadapan, Karen Empeño and Manuel Merino from detention."

Basahin and buong balita

Kaugnay na balita: Raps filed vs Palparan for enforced disappearances

Saturday, June 18, 2011

MAKABAYAN pinuna ang pakikialam ng Estados Unidos sa South China Sea

MAKABAYAN hits US meddling in South China Sea
Rebuffs China’s domineering tactics in Spratly’s

THE Makabayan bloc in Congress led by BAYAN MUNA Partylist Rep. Teddy Casiño assailed the United States for "meddling into the territorial dispute with China and several Southeast Asian countries in the South China Sea."

The coalition also criticized Pres. Benigno Simeon Aquino III for “political mendicancy” in asking US support on the issue.

“It is not surprising that Pnoy is delighted about the statement of US Ambassador to the Philippines Harry Thomas that they will work with the Philippine government on issues including the disputed South China Sea and the Spratlys. What is lamentable is that the US is once again playing interventionist politics and that Malacanang is touting its own political mendicancy,” Casiño said.

He added that “the US should not meddle in the South China Sea dispute. We are no longer the “Little Brown Brothers” from our colonial past with the US. Using the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty as a pretext and invoking “partnership” with us in all subjects as they say do not justify at all US interference in our foreign affairs.”

“In fact, the cold war era treaty with the US should be terminated and the Philippine ambassador to the US should stop shopping for ukay-ukay military surplus from US Foreign Military Sales and Financing,” he pointed out.

The US move, including a US Senate resolution condemning China, Casiño said, “only provokes more tension in the disputed area. The US is indeed engaging and containing China in the region but PNoy should not let our own sovereign country be dragged into their jingoist and hegemonic position.”

“The Declaration of the Conduct of Parties on the South China Sea should be advanced for more cooperation even without the ASEAN or other regional grouping like the APEC where the US has conveniently pushed for its own exploitative interests detrimental to the region. Cooperation in the region, not rivalry and competition, without US interference should be asserted by peoples and nations directly involved in the contested area,” Casiño pointed out.

“The statement of US senators Jim Webb and James Inhofe condemning China on the issue creates more tension. So are the “aggravating words” with China being issued from Malacanang. We should stop this pro-US warmongering,but above all China should stop its domineering and aggressive stance on the Spratly issue” the Makabayan solon said. ###

Friday, June 17, 2011

Tribong Subanen sa Zamboanga del Norte nagreklamo sa United Nations

Subanen to raise mining complaint to UN
16-Jun-11, Rio Rose Uro

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – Notwithstanding the apology of a Canadian mining firm for operating within their ancestral domain, leaders of the Subanen tribe in Zamboanga del Norte said they would continue their efforts to hold government accountable before the United Nations for allowing the desecration of what they consider sacred ground.

The tribe held a “cleansing ritual” in Siocon town last month after TVI Resources Development apologized to them.

But Timuay Noval Lambo of the Seven Rivers Council, a traditional governance setup encompassing several tribal territories, said the atonement of TVIRD does not matter because their complaint before the UN “is for violations of the Philippine government against our rights, customs and traditions.”

In July 2007, two Subanen leaders filed a complaint against the Philippine government before the UN’s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (UNCERD) for taking their community’s rights for granted by allowing the TVIRD mining project on Mt. Canatuan.

Cathal Doyle of the Irish Human Rights Center, which is assisting the Subanen leaders, said the category of discrimination in this case pertains to government policies that are discriminatory to indigenous peoples.

“We are not imposing (any) penalty nor requiring government to conduct a cleansing ritual. We are (only) asking (for) an admission of their fault and commitment to protect the rights of indigenous peoples, first and foremost,” explained Timuay Jose Anoy, one of the complainants.

TVIRD has a 508-hectare gold-silver and, later, copper-zinc mining operation in Canatuan covered by a Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) granted by the national government in 1997.

This mining tenement sits within the 8,100-hectare ancestral domain of the descendants of Apo Manglang headed by Anoy.

Called the Apo Manglang Glupa Pusaka (AMGP), this tribal territory is covered by a certificate of ancestral domain title (CADT) issued by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP).

But TVIRD commenced operation in Canatuan without the AMGP’s consent, which is required under the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA).

Worse, the NCIP allegedly constituted a bogus Siocon Council of Elders (SCoE) to represent the tribe in negotiations with TVIRD, sowing division among the Subanen people.

“The government, through the NCIP, is primarily responsible for the chaotic situation in the Subanon community of Canatuan,” Anoy said.

He claimed the NCIP recognized the bogus SCoE “despite their knowledge that I existed as Timuay of Canatuan.”

“TVIRD recognized and secured the consent to mine sacred Mt. Canatuan from the SCoE on the grounds that NCIP told them to do so,” Anoy added.

The Subanens’ UNCERD complaint is among the 40 documented cases of violation of indigenous peoples’ rights throughout the country, the bulk of which are related to the entry of large-scale mining projects that mostly impinged on the tribes’ ancestral domains, Doyle said.

Indigenous peoples advocate Carl Cesar Rebuta said government is obliged to answer the Subanens’ UNCERD complaint by August this year.

Galit ng mga kabataan at estudyante sa lumalalang krisis sa edukasyon sa ilalim ni Noynoy inihambing kay Simon sa nobelang El Filibusterismo

Rizal to do ‘a Simon’ if he was alive today under Noynoy – Anakbayan
On June 16, 2011

As the nation prepares to celebrate the 150th birth anniversary of National Hero Jose Rizal, a national youth group believes he would have been driven to follow one of the main characters in one of his most important novels, the El Filibusterismo.

“If he was alive today, Rizal would most likely be pushed into emulating ‘Simon’ due to the disgusting lack of social change under the current administration” said Vencer Crisostomo, national chairperson of the youth group Anakbayan.

The character Simon, formerly known as the young reformist named Crisostomo Ibarra, seeked to overthrow the ruling classes of Rizal’s time after his previous ‘peaceful’ plans were frustrated.

“With the deregulated and commercialized tertiary education system under Noynoy, Rizal wouldn’t even have been able to finish his studies in the Ateneo and the UST” said Crisostomo.

The tuition and other fees in the Ateneo De Manila and University of Sto. Tomas, the two schools in which the national hero studied, are among the most expensive in the country at around P40 thousand and P60 thousand, respectively. They are also among the 281 universities nationwide which hiked their tuition rates this year.

In addition, the youth leader noted that Rizal would have empathized with the hundreds of thousands of urban and rural poor who are being evicted from their homes under Noynoy’s Public Private Partnership (PPP) program.

Based on the government’s own research, an estimated half-million families all over Metro Manila are targeted by four waves of demolitions. Many will make way for PPP projects such as the Central Business District and National Government Center in Quezon City, privatization of Intramuros and the North Harbor in Manila, the privatization of the Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa, and the construction of the Laguna Lake Dike.

In rural areas, tens of thousands of farmers and indigenous peoples are being ejected to make way for projects such as a 30 thousand hectare biofuel plantation in Isabela, a Lopez Family-owned plantation in Nueva Ecija, and the Aurora Pacific Economic Zone in Aurora. The planned expansion of the MRT train line into Bulacan is also the alleged reason behind attempts by the Araneta family (related to DOTC Secretary Mar Roxas) to eject farmers in San Jose del Monte, Bulacan.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Ang patuloy na pakikibaka ng mga magsasaka sa Hacienda Luisita

“Hacienda Luisita is not just a peasant struggle, it is a Filipino struggle against the feudal system that keeps our country from moving on and developing. Every freedom loving Filipino citizen should support the call for the distribution of Hacienda Luisita lands to the farmworkers.” -Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luson (AMGL, Peasant Alliance in Central Luzon)

Click for more texts, photos, and videos.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Pangangamkam ng lupa, globalized na rin. Stop local and global landgrabbing!

IBON Features | June 2011


These land deals are unconstitutional and have long-term severe implications to the host country's food security, land ownership and national sovereignty.

*IBON Features--* There is a rising trend in the number of what are called foreign land deals in many countries across the globe, covering up to million hectares of land. The scale and rate at which these deals have taken place, plus the institutions involved in the transactions have made these deals controversial.

The implications of foreign land deals are tremendous, especially on farmers' rights, food security and national sovereignty.

*Land rush*

Foreign land deals refer to purchases or long-term leases or large tracts of productive lands in the poor countries by rich countries and their corporations, which need resources to produce crops either for food, feedstock, or biofuels in commercial and export quantities. These have been referred to as "land grabs" because of the usually unfair terms by which they have been transacted. While most of these deals pass through legal government channels, consultation with the communities of farmers and indigenous people is lacking.

The land rush, which began as early as 2006, is said to be not only due to the rush by "food insecure" nations to ensure food supply or the increasing demand for alternative sources of energy like biofuels, but also by market opportunities from speculation on land value.

Indeed in the face of an intensifying global crisis, land markets have become attractive as they present a new arena for speculation on land prices. According to Oxfam, there are around 120 hedge funds, retirement funds, agribusiness corporations and private equity funds investing in agricultural lands in poor countries. This shows that the land rush is only partly explained by the food and energy demands, and it becomes apparent that investment in soft commodities such as farmlands is about profitability.

*Who are involved?*

According to non-government organization GRAIN, the Philippines is among the leading target countries for land deals, with others like Sudan, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Tanzania, etc. This is despite provisions in the Philippine Constitution barring foreigners from owning land in the country.

Global land grabbing was first noticed with the involvement of China and Middle Eastern countries. So-called food insecure countries have sought to outsource their local food production by gaining land control in other countries. Since 2008, China, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, Gulf countries, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Qatar, UAE, India, Malaysia, Japan and South Korea have been on a land rush to Africa, South and Southeast Asia, South America and Central Asia.

But aside from the "food-insecure" nations, another group of land grabbers are the investment houses, private equity funds, fund managers, and large agribusiness corporations. They enter the picture either through local private partners, the host governments, or through their own governments seeking joint ventures with the taget countries. One example of this disguised group of land grabbers is the Japanese firm Mitsui, which bought 100,000 hectares of land in Brazil for soybean production. This land grabbing is in the form of acquisition of farmlands, where Japanese and Arab trading and processing corporations are involved.

The third group of land grabbers is the host governments. They change national laws, policies, as well as practices on land ownership to accommodate the foreign acquisitions. For instance, the Sudan government, which owns most of the country's land, is issuing leases at cheap prices. Meanwhile the Chinese government introduced rights leasing or trading to farmers.

Other governments that are reluctant to open up and allow foreigners to take over their lands will have to deal with the World Bank. In 2009, World Bank loans, grants, equity investments, and guarantees increased by a record 54% from the previous year, and most of the increases are directed to facilitating foreign land deals.

*The Philippines*

After centuries of colonial land grabs and decades of failed land reforms and globalization, the country is actually set for this new brand of foreign land grabbing.

The Philippine Agribusiness Development Cooperation Center (PADCC), created in 2007 keeps a land bank of supposedly idle lands that may be considered for agribusiness deals. It facilitated a US$300-million worth of investments from the NEH of Bahrain and the local AMA group to establish a banana export project in Davao del Norte.

On the other hand, the Philippine government under former President Gloria Arroyo entered 18 deals with China, letting Chinese companies access 1.24 million hectares of land. These deals, which became controversial together with the NBN-ZTE deal, have already been cancelled.

The Philippine government is also waiting for the follow-up visits from Saudi Arabia to finalize the US$238.6 million fresh investments for cash crop plantations like banana, mango and pineapple, as well as aquaculture and halal food processing. The two governments have actually been discussing the possibility of Saudi food production in Mindanao and other parts of the Philippines for a lease of 50 years or so.

Meanwhile, China has reportedly secured control of over 2 million hectares of foreign agricultural lands from countries including the Philippines, Brazil, Kazakhstan, Laos, etc. There is also a plan by the Republic of Korea of investing in corn plantation in the Philippines involving a large agricultural area.

Moreover, the Philippine government has allocated six million hectares of 'idle lands' for the production of sugarcane, coconut, cassava, jathropa, oil palm, etc. It has also allocated two million hectares for agribusiness development. All these are even bigger than the size of the country's current cereals farms.

*Promised Benefits*

One of the promised benefits of farmland investments is affordable food for all. But land deals are happening in two unrelated markets---the products market and the land market, with the latter operating on too much speculation. With this, the prices of food will continue to be affected not by the supply-demand equations and production ratios but only with the amount of capital invested in the commodity exchanges. In fact, the steep increases in rice prices in 2008 were largely due to the activities of financial investors in the commodity exchanges.

Also, allowing foreigners to own land for food production will not ensure stable food prices because the produce will eventually be exported back to the source countries at the prevailing global market prices. This will benefit agribusiness corporations and their governments tremendously by increased profits from utilizing cheap land and labor in the host countries and reselling at speculation-driven prices.

Moreover, the marginalization and displacement of farming communities from their land will undermine further their capacity to buy food. In the end, because of the foreign land deals, communities immediately lose their rights to be consulted and participate in food distribution programs. Host governments will also lose further the chance to build stocks, implement centralized procurement and develop local markets.

The entry of corporate control in agricultural and food production will eventually destroy small-scale and backyard farming. The small farms, as well as the national capacity to produce its own food, are bound to lose in the foreign land deals by allowing foreign corporations and investors to produce food while the local market relies on imports. Thus in the end, host countries have essentially given up their right to be self-reliant and self-sufficient in food production as well as their economic democracy to determine the sustainable use of their seeds, genetic resources, water resources, livestock and other natural resources.

Lastly, host governments may be held accountable not only for the lack of transparency in transacting foreign land deals and violating the rights of communities, but for surrendering sovereignty to pursue food security and national development. *IBON Features*

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

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Cong. Manny Pacquiao sumusuporta sa P125 wage hike

Pacquiao packs a punch for wage hike bill
By Atom Araullo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA, Philippines - Congressman Manny Pacquiao has joined calls for a "significant wage hike" for workers as he links arms with labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) and Anakpawis party-list on the issue.

Pacquiao, who has made no secret of his proletarian background, said it's about time for workers to find a little relief from the rising cost of basic commodities.

"Ako rin ay naging ordinaryong manggagawa. Naging welder, service boy, nagbenta ng balot at sampaguita, nagtra-trabaho sa kakarampot na kita. Hindi naging madali ang buhay kaya naiintindihan ko ang inyong laban," said the fighting congressman of Sarangani province.

KMU and Anakpawis hope Pacquiao can deliver the knockout punch in their quest to pass House Bill 375 or the P125 across-the-board wage hike bill in the 14th Congress.

"Very significant at welcome ang suporta ni Congressman Pacquiao, at pinapakita lang nito na marunong siyang lumingon sa kanyang pinanggalingan," said Anakpawis party-list Rep. Rafael Mariano. "Ang pakiramdam namin hindi lang siya guest kundi kahanay mismo ng masang Anakpawis."

Anakpawis and other progressive party-list groups have been pushing for a legislated wage increase for many years, citing rapid inflation and the huge discrepancy between minimum wage and the estimated daily cost of living.

Mariano insists that based on experience, no significant wage increases have been implemented through the Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board.

Pacquiao said he is one with KMU and Anakpawis in condemning the P22 Cost of Living Allowance that was approved by government recently, as this was hardly felt by laborers.

The People's Champ also scoffed at claims that business will suffer if basic wages are increased.

"Lagi namang panakot sa mga manggagawa yan," Pacquiao said. "Pero kailangan natin pakita na pinapahalagahan natin sila, kasi importante ang mga nagtratrabaho sa pag-unlad ng buong bayan."

Monday, June 13, 2011

Why the NATO powers are trying to assassinate Moammar Gaddafi

Why the NATO powers are trying to assassinate Moammar Gaddafi
Protecting civilians or western oil companies?

June 13, 2011

By Brian Becker

Wikileaks-released State Department cables from November 2007 and afterwards show the real reason for the mounting U.S. hostility to the Libyan government prior to the current civil war.

NATO has been dropping devastating bunker-busting bombs on Muammar Gaddafi's home in an attempt to assassinate him. One son and several grandchildren have died but Gaddafi has survived. The State Department cables give background to the hostility directed against Gaddafi by the United States and other NATO powers.

One State Department cable from November 2007 (Wikileaks reference ID 07TRIPOLI967) sounds the alarm of “growing evidence of Libyan resource nationalism” by the Gaddafi government. This was almost identical language employed by the U.S. and British governments against Iranian Prime Minister Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh when he nationalized Iran’s oil field in 1951. Mossadegh was overthrown by a 1953 CIA coup that restored the Shah to the throne. It allowed U.S. and British oil companies to re-take ownership over Iran’s oil until the 1979 revolution.

The crime of “resource nationalism”

Condemning “Libyan resource nationalism” is diplomatic language. The U.S. government was furious that Gaddafi was moving to rein in and limit the power and profits of the western-owned oil giants that he permitted to come back into the country after George W. Bush in 2004 lifted economic sanctions against Libya.

The same cable refers to an angry speech that Gaddafi made in 2006 which was interpreted as a virtual act of war by the oil companies and the U.S. and western governments.

Gaddafi's speech included these unacceptable words: “Oil companies are controlled by foreigners who have made millions from them—now, Libyans must take their place to profit from this money.”

Oil reserves in Libya are largest in Africa

Libya has the largest oil reserves in Africa and the ninth largest in the world with 41.5 billion barrels as of 2007. The U.S. government and oil industry surveys conclude that Libya has 63 years of reserves at current production rates if no new reserves were to be found. But Libya is considered to have many unexplored reserves. Libya has been a big prize for the western oil giants both because of the quantity of oil and of the particularly high quality of Libyan oil.

In 2008, according to another leaked State Department cable, Gaddafi summoned Conoco-Phillips Chief Executive Jim Mulva to a meeting in Sirte, Libya. There he threatened to expel U.S. oil companies and “threatened to dramatically reduce Libya’s oil production.”

The oil companies and the State Department, as the cables indicate, were increasingly agitated by Gaddafi’s interference with their operations. The Washington Post, which is a big cheerleader for the U.S./NATO bombing campaign, published a story on June 11, 2011, about the leaked Libya cables: “Labor laws were amended to ‘Libyanise’ the economy, and oil firms were pressed to hire Libyan managers, finance people and human resource directors.”

Gaddafi 2009 speech suggested nationalizing Libyan oil

Another Wikileaks-released State Department cable from Jan. 30, 2009, (Wikileaks reference ID 09TRIPOLI71) discusses a January 2009 speech by Gaddafi, stating, “Muammar al-Qadhafi suggested that Libya and other oil exporting states could nationalize their oil production in view of sharply plummeting petroleum prices.”

The U.S. government fully backed the Saudi monarchy and the Mubarak dictatorship, but turned on Libya—not because the regime violated human rights or democracy, but because Gaddafi sought to limit their power. The oil companies, however annoyed they were by having to work with the Libyan government, would have certainly continued their current business operations. The opening of a civil war inside of Libya in February 2011, however, gave a perfect pretext to overthrow the regime and place in power a government that the NATO powers hope will serve as a client regime.

In any country, Libya included, the masses of people can have many valid and legitimate grievances against their government. Even those who support Gaddafi against the NATO bombers probably have grievances. But the U.S., British, French and Italian governments are at war to protect their own interests. Protecting civilians and promoting democracy is of zero concern to Conoco-Phillips, Exxon-Mobil or any of the other oil giants.

The Wikileaks-released State Department cables make it clear that the basis for U.S. hostility to the Gaddafi regime was about who should control Libya’s vast oil reserves. Should it be Libya or should it be the biggest capitalist oil enterprises from western countries?

“Those who dominate Libya’s political and economic leadership are pursuing increasingly nationalistic policies in the energy sector that could jeopardize efficient exploitation of Libya’s extensive oil and gas reserves,” the November 2007 cable states.

Anti-Gaddafi rebels in Washington, D.C.

In mid-May 2011, just six weeks after the NATO bombing of Libya began, leaders of the anti-Gaddafi rebel movement came to Washington, D.C., for “talks.” They spoke at the U.S.-Libya Business Council. The big oil companies were present. The rebels have employed a public relations/lobbying organization based in Washington, D.C., called the Harbour Group.

The principals of the Harbour Group include Hillary Clinton’s staff director from the 1992 presidential campaign of Bill Clinton. Another served as a spokesperson for the presidential campaigns of Ronald Reagan and other conservative Republicans. The third served as a public relations figure in the last three Democratic presidential conventions, according to Reuters.

“Now you can figure out who’s going to win, and the name is not Gaddafi,” Nansan Saleri, the founder of the Houston-based Quantico Reservoir Impact company told the Washington Post. Saleri, former head of reservoir management at Saudi Aramco, explained why the company wouldn’t do business in Libya until now. “Everything in Libya—everything—had to be approved by Gaddafi or one of his sons,” he told the Post. Saleri continued, “Certain things about the mosaic are taking shape. The western companies are positioning themselves.” Within five years, he predicted, “Libyan production is going to be higher than right now and investments are going to come in.”

Libya today is resisting the new colonialism. The colonizers assign noble names such as “protecting civilians” to their military mission. But their role in Africa and the Middle East during the past decades and centuries deprive such propaganda of any credibility. They rely though on the uniformity of the corporate-owned media coverage about their “humanitarian motives” to disguise their crass and cynical plans in Libya and elsewhere.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Mga opisyales ng Romblon tinatakot ng malaking Canadian na kompanya sa pagminina

Romblon local officials unfazed by mining firm’s threats
Source: CBCP News

ROMBLON, June 8, 2011―Local officials in the island province of Romblon are standing their ground against mining exploration in the area despite pressures from mining firms.

The local executives decried what they call utter disrespect to local autonomy by Ivanhoe Philippines, Inc. a subsidiary of a Canadian mining firm, which is pressuring the local government to allow it to explore despite a declared mining moratorium.

Odiongan Mayor Baltazar Firmalo in a letter sent to Ivanhoe, said he remains firm in his stand against mining and that he would not allow any exploration done in his area.

“I am keeping my stand against mining. This being the case, it would appear contradicting if I would allow your company to conduct any presentation of your mining exploration program in the barangays,” said Firmalo.

Msgr. Ernie Fetalino, chairman of Romblon Ecumenical Forum Against Mining (REFAM), an anti-mining advocacy group lauded the local officials for their uncompromising stand against mining despite threats.

“We are disappointed that many of our leaders have been maligned with threats and empty promises by Ivanhoe but we are thankful that they stood firm with the will and conscience of their constituents against mining,” he said.

The Mining Act of 1995 requires mining companies to present its programs and plans to concerned local government units to secure certificates that would lead to the approval of a license to operate.

Odiongan vice mayor Briccio Fajutnao said Ivanhoe Philippines and other mining companies have not been granted a social license because the people have already decided against mining in the province.

“The mining company cannot fool us,” the vice-mayor said.

Municipal councilor Bonbon Fernandez even declared that those “who work for the mining company will soon be declared ‘persona non grata’.”

“The censure becomes imperative as Ivanhoe continues to break the provincial moratorium and insults the will of the people as expressed through numerous anti-mining resolutions at all levels of our local government,” Fernandez said. (CBCPNews)

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Nasaan na ang mga Corystas?

For shame!
Dr. Carol P. Araullo
June 09, 2011

What is there left to do except decry - again and again – the brazen attempts of the country’s political elite to obliterate the people’s victory over authoritarianism, martial rule and the wanton plunder of the nation’s economy and resources, this time by allowing “full military honors” to accompany the burial of Dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos’ refrigerated remains.

After supposedly consulting with “concerned” sectors (foremost of whom were Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr, Governor Imee Marcos and Congresswoman Imelda Marcos) Vice President Jejomar Binay has recommended to President Benigno “Noynoy: Aquino III that “full military honors” be accorded to the dictator should his remains be interred in Ilocos province, his political bailiwick.

Mr. Binay nixed burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, presumably because he wished to avoid any impression that the Aquino government considers Marcos a hero, that being far too controversial.

But to say that the late unlamented dictator deserves “full military honors” just because he was a former Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, no matter that the majority of the same armed forces mutinied against him in the wake of the EDSA people’s uprising, is not at all a “balanced” solution as Mr. Binay claims. Far from it.

Should Mr. Aquino allow such “full military honors”, it would unfailingly lead to the full reinstatement of Ferdinand E. Marcos to the country’s Hall of Fame rather than where he was right after his ouster and where he should remain forever, the nation’s Hall of Perfidy and Shame.

What’s more, it would be another step in the direction of fully reinstating the Marcoses politically and will give his heirs a stab at the highest positions in the land including the Presidency. This is why the Marcoses are delighted at the outcome of the Binay “survey” although they try to appear coy about it.

The proposal is a grave insult even to the Philippine military, at least the remaining decent and upright members of the military.

Marcos used the armed forces to usurp the people's sovereign power. He then dragged it down to the depths of corruption, criminality and human rights abuse,

The Philippine military's reputation was at its nadir when Marcos' power was at its peak and the military has never quite rid itself not only of the stigma but also of the criminal mindset it had acquired under the fascist dictatorship.

It was only when the military abandoned Marcos did its reputation suddenly improve in the eyes of the people to the extent that wily generals like General Ramos jumped at the opportunity to launder its past and started calling it the “New” AFP.

But no real reforms ever took place as the thousands of extrajudicial killings and billions of stolen AFP funds post EDSA I attest to.

Marcos, who was largely responsible for bringing dishonor to the military as well as bringing the military into dishonor and disrepute, is the last person to deserve “full military honors.”

Mr. Aquino acts in so unpresidential a manner by passing on the apparently politically risky decision to his ambitious Vice President (for whom he has no special feelings unlike his bosom friends, shooting buddies and close relatives).

His moronic excuse is that he will be perceived to be biased, being the son of Benigno “Ninoy”Aquino, Marcos’ arch enemy, and Corazon “Cory” Aquino, his political nemesis.

But, like it or not, he is the President of the country. Eventually, it will be his decision whether to accept Mr. Binay’s seemingly harebrained but supremely foxy recommendation.

More likely, the people pushing for this “grand reconciliation” represent the same vested interests that supported both Noynoy’s and Bongbong’s candidacies. These shadowy figures can not fathom any fundamental differences between the two - except for a complex historical thread tying their past and their future together - that cannot be bridged by practical politics.

The Marcos loyalists have also started crawling out of the woodwork, primarily the politicians in Congress who signed on to a House Resolution calling for a hero’s burial for Marcos.

Apart from being a demonstration of crass opportunism, this development provides ample proof that Mrs. Marcos and her children have not only survived their ouster from power, they have retained enough of their ill-gotten wealth to engineer their political comeback and are now skillfully accumulating even more political capital under the Aquino dispensation.

So where is the “Yellow Crowd” in all this? Except for the members of the Makati Business Club who made it their business to condemn what they rightfully called “historical revisionism at its deceitful worst”, we hardly hear any outraged voices from the vaunted “Corystas”.

Does this indicate that those among the privileged classes who celebrated the so-called restoration of democracy via “people power” (and thereby their restoration to positions of pelf and power) are finally done with “people power” and all its messy implications and consequences to the ruling elite?

The sins of omission and commission of those in a position to finally bury the onerous, odious and completely reprehensible legacy of the Marcos era have caused the creeping collective amnesia about it, now to be capped by “full military honors” for Marcos.

But the human rights victims of the Marcos dictatorship who bear the scars of brutal repression have stood up to say NO! and FOR SHAME!

The progressive legislators have countered the impudent House Resolution of the Marcos loyalists and their backers.

Human rights lawyers and advocates, progressive church people, the social and political activists from all classes and sectors and even some patriotic members of the military have also not forgotten and refuse to give up the fight.

In the name of all the martyrs and real heroes who died in the shadow of martial rule, we hope and pray that they shall, in the end, prevail. #

Published in Business World
10-11 June 2011

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Booker prize-winning author Arundhati Roy sumisimpatiya sa mga Maoist guerrilas ng India

Arundhati Roy: 'They are trying to keep me destabilised. Anybody who says anything is in danger'

The Booker prize-winning novelist on her political activism in India, why she no longer condemns violent resistance – and why it doesn't matter if she never writes a second novel

BY Stephen Moss
5 June 2011

This is not an ideal beginning. I bump into Arundhati Roy as we are both heading for the loo in the foyer of the large building that houses her publisher Penguin's offices. There are some authors, V S Naipaul say, with whom this could be awkward. But not Roy, who makes me feel instantly at ease. A few minutes later, her publicist settles us in a small, bare room. As we take our positions on either side of a narrow desk I liken it to an interrogation suite. But she says that in India, interrogation rooms are a good deal less salubrious than this.

Roy, who is 50 this year, is best known for her 1997 Booker prize-winning novel The God of Small Things, but for the past decade has been an increasingly vocal critic of the Indian state, attacking its policy towards Kashmir, the environmental destruction wrought by rapid development, the country's nuclear weapons programme and corruption. As a prominent opponent of everything connected with globalisation, she is seeking to construct a "new modernity" based on sustainability and a defence of traditional ways of life.

Her new book, Broken Republic, brings together three essays about the Maoist guerrilla movement in the forests of central India that is resisting the government's attempts to develop and mine land on which tribal people live. The central essay, Walking with the Comrades, is a brilliant piece of reportage, recounting three weeks she spent with the guerrillas in the forest. She must, I suggest, have been in great personal danger. "Everybody's in great danger there, so you can't go round feeling you are specially in danger," she says in her pleasant, high-pitched voice. In any case, she says, the violence of bullets and torture are no greater than the violence of hunger and malnutrition, of vulnerable people feeling they're under siege.

Her time with the guerrillas made a profound impression. She describes spending nights sleeping on the forest floor in a "thousand-star hotel", applauds "the ferocity and grandeur of these poor people fighting back", and says "being in the forest made me feel like there was enough space in my body for all my organs". She detests glitzy, corporate, growth-obsessed modern Indian, and there in the forest she found a brief peace.

There is intense anger in the book, I say, implying that if she toned it down she might find a readier audience. "The anger is calibrated," she insists. "It's less than I actually feel." But even so, her critics call her shrill. "That word 'shrill' is reserved for any expression of feeling. It's all right for the establishment to be as shrill as it likes about annihilating people."

Is her political engagement derived from her mother, Mary Roy, who set up a school for girls in Kerala and has a reputation as a women's rights activist? "She's not an activist," says Roy. "I don't know why people keep saying that. My mother is like a character who escaped from the set of a Fellini film." She laughs at her own description. "She's a whole performing universe of her own. Activists would run a mile from her because they could not deal with what she is."

I want to talk more about Mary Roy – and eventually we do – but there's one important point to clear up first. Guerrillas use violence, generally directed against the police and army, but sometimes causing injury and death to civilians caught in the crossfire. Does she condemn that violence? "I don't condemn it any more," she says. "If you're an adivasi [tribal Indian] living in a forest village and 800 CRP [Central Reserve Police] come and surround your village and start burning it, what are you supposed to do? Are you supposed to go on hunger strike? Can the hungry go on a hunger strike? Non-violence is a piece of theatre. You need an audience. What can you do when you have no audience? People have the right to resist annihilation."

Her critics label her a Maoist sympathiser. Is she? "I am a Maoist sympathiser," she says. "I'm not a Maoist ideologue, because the communist movements in history have been just as destructive as capitalism. But right now, when the assault is on, I feel they are very much part of the resistance that I support."

Roy talks about the resistance as an "insurrection"; she makes India sound as if it's ripe for a Chinese or Russian-style revolution. So how come we in the west don't hear about these mini-wars? "I have been told quite openly by several correspondents of international newspapers," she says, "that they have instructions – 'No negative news from India' – because it's an investment destination. So you don't hear about it. But there is an insurrection, and it's not just a Maoist insurrection. Everywhere in the country, people are fighting." I find the suggestion that such an injunction exists – or that self-respecting journalists would accept it – ridiculous. Foreign reporting of India might well be lazy or myopic, but I don't believe it's corrupt.

She sounds like a member of a religious sect, I say, as if she has seen the light. "It's a way of life, a way of thinking," she replies without taking offence. "I know people in India, even the modern young people, understand that here is something that's alive." So why not give up the plush home in Delhi and the media appearances, and return to the forest? "I'd be more than happy to if I had to, but I would be a liability to them in the forest. The battles have to be fought in different ways. The military side is just one part of it. What I do is another part of the battle."

I question her absolutism, her Manichaean view of the world, but I admire her courage. Her home has been pelted with stones; the Indian launch of Broken Republic was interrupted by pro-government demonstrators who stormed the stage; she may be charged with sedition for saying that Kashmiris should be given the right of self-determination. "They are trying to keep me destabilised," she says. Does she feel threatened? "Anybody who says anything is in danger. Hundreds of people are in jail."

Roy has likened writing fiction and polemic to the difference between dancing and walking. Does she not want to dance again? "Of course I do." Is she working on a new novel? "I have been," she says with a laugh, "but I don't get much time to do it." Does it bother her that the followup to The God of Small Things has been so long in coming? "I'm a highly unambitious person," she says. "What does it matter if there is or isn't a novel? I really don't look at it that way. For me, nothing would have been worth not going into that forest."

It's hard to judge whether there will be a second novel. The God of Small Things drew so much on her own life – her charismatic but overbearing mother; a drunken tea-planter father whom her mother left when Roy was very young; her own departure from home in her late teens – that it may be a one-off, a book as much lived as written. She gives ambiguous answers about whether she expects a second novel to appear. On the one hand, she says she is engaged with the resistance movement and that it dominates her thoughts. But almost in the same breath she says others have "picked up the baton" and she would like to return to fiction, to dance again.

What is certain is that little of the second novel has so far been written. She prefers not to tell me what it is about; indeed, she says it would not be possible to pinpoint the theme. "I don't have subjects. It's not like I'm trying to write an anti-dam novel. Fiction is too beautiful to be about just one thing. It should be about everything." Has she been blocked by the pressure of having to follow up a Booker winner? "No," she says. "We're not children all wanting to come first in class and win prizes. It's the pleasure of doing it. I don't know whether it will be a good book, but I'm curious about how and what I will write after these journeys."

Are her agent and publisher disappointed still to be waiting for the second novel? "They always knew there wasn't going to be some novel-producing factory," she says. "I was very clear about that. I don't see the point. I did something. I enjoyed doing it. I'm doing something now. I'm living to the edges of my fingernails, using everything I have. It's impossible for me to look at things politically or in any way as a project, to further my career. You're injected directly into the blood of the places in which you're living and what's going on there."

She has no financial need to write another novel. The God of Small Things, which sold more than 6m copies around the world, set her up for life, even though she has given much of the money away. She even spurned offers for the film rights, because she didn't want anyone interpreting her book for the screen. "Every reader has a vision of it in their head," she says, "and I didn't want it to be one film." She is strong-willed. Back in 1996, when The God of Small Things was being prepared for publication, she insisted on having control of the cover image because she didn't want "a jacket with tigers and ladies in saris". She is her indomitable mother's daughter.

I insist she tell me more about her Fellini-esque mother. She is, says Roy, like an empress. She has a number of buttons beside her bed which, when you press them, emit different bird calls. Each call signals to one of her retinue what she requires. Has she been the centre of her daughter's life? "No, she has been the centre of a lot of conflict in my life. She's an extraordinary women, and when we are together I feel like we are two nuclear-armed states." She laughs loudly. "We have to be a bit careful."

To defuse the family tensions, Roy left home when she was 16 to study architecture in Delhi – even then she wanted to build a new world. She married a fellow student at the age of 17. "He was a very nice guy, but I didn't take it seriously," she says. In 1984 she met and married film-maker Pradip Krishen, and helped him bring up his two daughters by an earlier marriage. They now live separately, though she still refers to him as her "sweetheart". So why separate? "My life is so crazy. There's so much pressure and idiosyncrasy. I don't have any establishment. I don't have anyone to mediate between me and the world. It's just based on instinct." I think what she's saying is that freedom matters more to her than anything else.

She chose not to have children because it would have impinged on that freedom. "For a long time I didn't have the means to support them," she says, "and once I did I thought I was too unreliable. So many of the women in India who are fighting these battles don't have children, because anything can happen. You have to be light on your feet and light in your head. I like to be a mobile republic."

Roy has in the past described herself as "a natural-born feminist". What did she mean by that? "Because of my mother and the way I grew up without a father to look after me, you learned early on that rule number one was look out for yourself. Much of what I can do and say now comes from being independent at an early age." Her mother was born into a wealthy, conservative Christian community in Kerala, but put herself outside the pale by marrying Ranjit Roy, a Hindu from West Bengal. When she returned to her home state after her divorce she had little money and was thus doubly marginalised. The mother eventually triumphed over all these obstacles and made a success of the school she founded, but growing up an outsider has left its mark on her daughter.

Roy says she has always been polemical, and points to her run-in with director Shekhar Kapur in the mid-1990s over his film Bandit Queen – she questioned whether he had the right to portray the rape of a living person on screen without that woman's consent. It may be that the novel is the exception in a life of agitation, rather than the agitation an odd outcrop in a life of fiction-writing. But has she sacrificed too much for the struggle – the chance to dance, children, perhaps even her second marriage? "I don't see any of these things as sacrifices," she says. "They are positive choices. I feel surrounded by love, by excitement. They are not being done in some martyr-like way. When I was walking through the forest with the comrades, we were laughing all the time."

Monday, June 06, 2011

Ilegal at monopolistang pagbili ng PLDT ng Digitel tinututulan sa kongreso

On the Illegal and Monopolistic PLDT-Digitel Merger
Privilege Speech delivered before the House of Representatives
by Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy A. Casino
June 6, 2011

Mr. Speaker, dear colleagues.

I rise on a matter of personal and collective privilege to protect the integrity of the House and help prevent the re-emergence of a monopoly in the telecommunications industry.

Around two months ago, telecommunications giant PLDT, which owns mobile phone leader SMART Communications, managed to buy into and gain control of Digital Telecommunications Inc., which in turn owns Sun Cellular, the third biggest mobile service provider. The merger created major tremors in the industry, the business community and mobile phone consumers.

Nagulat po ang lahat nang mabalitaan na ang PLDT-Smart, na nagmamay-ari na ng Red Mobile at Piltel Talk ‘n Text at kumokontrol ng 58% ng telecommunications industry, ay binili ang Digitel-Sun Cellular, na may hawak naman ng 13% ng maket.

Ibig sabihin, sa isang iglap, napunta sa kamay ng PLDT-Smart ang 71% ng buong telecommunications market.

Ang unang reaksyon ng marami, paano na ang unlimited text and call plans na pinauso ng Sun Cellular at matagal nang sakit ng ulo at gustong ipatigil ng Smart at Globe? Isang tanong din, kung ang sarili ngang serbisyo ng PLDT at Smart hindi nila maayos-ayos, iyon pa kayang sa Digitel at Sun?

Hindi kataka-taka ang ganitong reaksyon. May karanasan na kasi tayo sa monopolyo sa telecommunications industry. Noong araw, kontrolado rin ng PLDT ang telekomunikasyon sa Pilipinas. Ang resulta, mataas na presyo at masamang serbisyo. Ayaw na nating bumalik sa ganitong nakaraan.

In fact, Mr. Speaker, dear colleagues, this abhorrence of monopolies is enshrined in the Constitution. Section 19, Art. XII of the 1987 Constitution states: “The State shall regulate or prohibit monopolies when the public interest so requires. No combinations in restraint of trade or unfair competition shall be allowed.”

In the mid 1990s, the telecommunications industry was de-monopolized and telecommunications franchises granted to several companies with a built-in safeguard against any unintended reconsolidation of the industry. Among the said franchises was the one of Digitel, Republic Act 7678, which under Sec. 15 stated that Digitel “…shall not lease, transfer, grant the usufruct of, sell nor assign this franchise or the rights and privileges acquired thereunder to any person, firm, company, corporation or other commercial or legal entity, nor merge with any other corporation or entity without the prior approval of the Congress of the Philippines. Neither shall the controlling interest of the grantee be transferred, whether as a whole or in parts and whether simultaneously or contemporaneously, to any such person, firm, company, corporation or entity without the prior approval of the Congress of the Philippines.”

Essentially the same provisions can be found in the franchises of PLDT, RA 7082 renewed in 1991, Globe Telecom RA 7229 granted in 1992, and Smart Communications RA 7294 also in 1992. This provision was also reiterated in the franchise granted by Congress in 2002 to Digitel Mobile Philippines, Inc., which owns Sun Cellular. Under the said franchises, Digitel, PLDT and Globe – the top three telecommunications companies – are required to get congressional approval before any lease, transfer, grant of usufruct, sale, and transfer of rights and privileges of their franchise.

Bakit po nilagay ng Kongreso ang ganitong mga probisyon? Sa tingin ko’y upang matiyak na hindi basta-bastang malilipat ang prankisa ng mga kumpanyang ito sa kung sinu-sino lang. Na hindi ito mapupunta sa mga fly-by-night operations o kaya’y sa mga nagtatangkang magtatag ng monopolyo sa industriya.

Precisely, Mr. Speaker, this is what happened in the PLDT-Digitel merger. Kinain ng PLDT-Smart ang Digitel-Sun Cellular. The merger now controls 71% of the market. What is wrong with this?

First thing’s first. The merger is illegal because such a buyout or swap and share deal, whatever you call it, requires congressional approval. This is explicit in Digitel’s and Digitel Mobile’s franchises. Proponents of the merger say congressional approval of such mergers and acquisitions have already been waived by virtue of the 1995 Public Telecommunications Policy Act (RA 7925), which ensures equality of treatment for franchise holders. The argument is that since the requirement for congressional approval of such mergers among telecom franchise holders have already been removed in two other franchises, that of RCPI and Sear, then under the principle of equal protection, the same should be waived for the merger involving PLDT-Smart and Digitel-Sun.

But, Mr. Speaker. I don’t think the framers of RA 7925 or other franchises that waived congressional approval ever imagined a situation where PLDT or any entity would once again control 71% of the market. Ang iniisip siguro ng Kongreso noon, kainan ng maliliit na isda, hindi ng mga dambuhala. A deal that would reverse the policy of demonopolization in the telecommunications industry was certainly not contemplated by previous Congresses and should not be tolerated by the 15th Congress. The fact is, congressional approval is explicitly required in the franchises of Digitel, Digitel Mobile, PLDT, Smart Communications and Globe Telecom.

Second, not only is the deal illegal, it will foster a monopoly in the sector and all the ills that come with overwhelming market power. Ngayon pa lang nga, hindi na magawang matino ng PLDT-Smart ang kanilang serbisyo, bibigyan pa natin ng dagdag na negosyo? We are all victims of dropped calls, spam texts, questionable billings, unreliable and slow internet connections from the major players. Shouldn’t they improve their services first before gobbling up the competition?

Let’s be honest for a minute. What will stop PLDT from discontinuing or even disrupting Sun Cellular’s unlimited text and call plans? And with Sun out of the way, what will stop PLDT-owned Smart Communications from conniving with Globe Telecom in raising rates the way they always wanted it to happen?

Unfortunately, the body that is supposed to regulate monopoly practices in the industry, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), cannot be expected to protect the consumer or national interest. Our experience with the NTC is that it is afraid of the giant telcos. Sa halip na pangalagaan ang interest ng publiko, inuuna pa nito ang interes ng malalaking kumpanya sa telekomunikasyon.

I have yet to recall of an instance when the NTC exercised its regulatory powers to rein in the profiteering and abusive practices of the telcos. Palagi hong pinagbibigyan ang telco - pinapalusot ang lousy services at hinahayaan ang mataas na singil - on the pressumption that there is healthy competition.

There are persistent rumors that our NTC commissioners are on the payroll of the telcos. In this light, maybe its about time that we conduct lifestyle checks on the NTC commissioners.

In any case, Mr. Speaker, my fear is that the NTC and SEC will act to approve the PLDT-Digitel deal during our upcoming break. Kung magkabulilyaso sa deal na ito, tayo po, sa kahuli-hulihan, ang masisisi dahil sa atin nanggaling ang prankisa ng PLDT at Digitel. Hindi tayo dapat pumayag na basta-basta na lang itong lalabagin at manunumbalik ang monopoloyo sa industriya ng telekomunikasyon.

Dapat ho magdahan-dahan ang NTC at SEC sa pag-apruba ng merger na ito. Dapat sundin ang nasa batas – na kailangang dumaan ito sa isang transparent na proseso, may public hearing, at dapat dumaan din sa Kongreso para mabusisi natin kung talagang makikinabang dito ang mga konsyumer at ang interes ng publiko.

Yun lang po muna. Maraming salamat po. ###

Friday, June 03, 2011

Mga negosyante sa Makati Business Club malakas ang pagtutol din sa paglibing kay Marcos sa Libingan ng mga Bayani

Makati Biz Club opposes FM burial in Libingan

MANILA, Philippines - The Makati Business Club (MBC) is strongly opposing plans to bury former President Ferdinand Marcos in the Libingan ng mga Bayani. To do so is a “historical revisionism at its deceitful worst.”

In a statement, the business leaders took exception to statements included in House Resolution 1135 that “as the longest-serving president of the republic, Ferdinand Marcos built the modern foundations of the Philippines,” and that he “remained a Filipino patriot to the end of his life and in death deserves to be honored as such.”

Such claim “is a gross distortion of the late dictator's true legacy of autocracy, ruined democratic institutions, violent political repression, unprecedented wholesale corruption, shameless nepotism, crony capitalism, a crushing debt burden, and widespread social inequity and marginalization,” the MBC said.

The group took note, in particular, the effect of the dictatorship on the business sector.

“We particularly remember the near bankruptcy of the government and the need for a moratorium on debt payments because of the burden of unpaid crony loans and the gross mismanagement of the economy in general. Our country struggled with the payments for those onerous loans long after Mr. Marcos had been deposed,” the group added.

The group said a hero is not distinguished by his titles and medals.

“No hero would deliberately bring suffering upon his people and ruin to his country. For these reasons, the Makati Business Club believes that, by virtue of his profoundly tainted record as the leader of our country, Mr. Marcos forfeited whatever rights he had to being buried at the Libingan ng Mga Bayani,” the MBC said.

Demolisyon at paglaban

Demolition and resistance
Dr. Carol Pagaduan-Araullo

The protest march last Monday called by the urban poor alliance KADAMAY, to denounce a rash of violent demolitions of urban poor communities in Metro Manila, was quite daunting, what with the sweltering heat under the noonday sun. Nonetheless, my activist instincts impelled me to walk with the diminutive but fiery urban poor leader, Ka Mameng Deunida who, at 80-something, remains at the forefront of their uphill struggle.

What struck me immediately was that many of the rallyists were scrawny women who had even scrawnier babies, toddlers and pre-teens in tow. Even the leaders were mostly women, a testament not so much to women’s liberation it seems, but to the extent of desperation that had taken hold of their households and was forcing the mothers to take a stand.

The protesters’ placards showed that things hadn’t changed much since I began as an activist organizing in urban poor communities some 40 years ago, except that it had obviously gone from bad to worse. The demands remained to be “No to demolitions! Yes to jobs, decent wages, affordable housing, education and health care!” and a fairly new one “Stop urban militarization!”

President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III had signed a 10-Point Covenant with the Urban Poor as a presidential candidate and had promised an end to forced evictions. According to the pro-Aquino Urban Poor Advocates, Mr. Aquino was also committed to “decent relocation” that meant “relocation with quality housing, adequate basic services and sustainable livelihood support.”

The return to the practice of forced evictions under the Aquino watch jolted many urban poor communities back to the harsh reality that after elections, they were back to being “eyesores” and “hazards to public safety”.

Six months into his term, Mr. Aquino was forced to grant a four-month moratorium on demolitions after the valiant defense by residents of their sprawling urban poor settlement in North Triangle, Quezon City. Their homes were being wrecked by the National Housing Authority to give way to a public-private-partnership with a real property developer, Ayala Land, whose owners had supported Mr. Aquino’s presidential bid.

The urban poor have shown that pushed to the wall, they can and will fight back. Stopping the demolition teams by sheer street fighting is a valuable lesson that the urban poor have learned instinctively. As they learn about the roots of their poverty and insecure existence in the cities, their true empowerment begins.

Last April, DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo filed a report to Mr. Aquino on the problem of “informal settlers”, using the more politically-correct term in place of the pejorative one, “squatters”, that is still in use by government, mass media and private property owners.

To his credit, the report forthrightly acknowledges the extent of the problem – 556,526 families, whose total members comprise 25% of the projected 11.5 million population in the National Capital Region for 2010 (NSO).

It also candidly states that the “current and projected government shelter programs are inadequate to fully and effectively address the challenge”. The current shortfall is a whopping 523,765 units.

The Robredo report bats for making shelter a top priority of the national government with the requisite mobilization of financial resources from both the national government and LGUs. It highlights the fact that the average Philippine annual expenditure on housing from 2001-2007 was only .089% of GDP, far below what other southeast Asian countries were spending, from a high of 2.089 in Singapore to a low of .383 per cent in Malaysia.

It also calls for “socially inclusive urban redevelopment schemes” or those that provide poor, working people, whose labor is necessary to any society, a decent place to live.

This translates to a policy wherein “on-site housing solutions shall be exhausted first before considering in-city resettlement, then near-city resettlement and as a last resource, off-city resettlement.” And in order to accomplish on-site or in-city resettlement, the report advocates medium-rise or high-rise buildings to increase density of the population using a “vertical solution”.

A critical point is underscored: while initial capital outlay for such vertical housing is higher than current estimates of off-city relocation, most planners fail to take into account the latter’s attendant social and economic costs.

These include additional government costs in providing basic services (eg water systems, schools, hospitals); costs to the urban poor such as loss of livelihood or hiked transportation expense to commute to and from work or school; and separation of breadwinners from their families because livelihood opportunities are absent in relocation sites.

Of course, government has a habit of dislocating slum dwellers from their already difficult and precarious living conditions only to throw them out into the streets or cart them off to unlivable, far-away relocations sites, hidden from view. That way, they don’t have to bother about any added costs to the government. Moreover, who cares about how the urban poor fare.

The Robredo report, though a welcome departure from previous anti-people government approaches to the “challenge” posed by the urban poor, still fails to address the “push” and “pull” factors underlying the relentless mass migration of rural folk to the cities and the exacerbation of urban poverty and blight as a consequence.

In an earlier column, I tried to summarize these factors; to wit: “The underlying causes of this ever increasing rural to urban exodus are deeply rooted in landlessness (farmers dispossessed, evicted from land they till by land grabbers, land conversion, etc.); entrenched rural poverty and agricultural backwardness (aggravated by neoliberal policies of import liberalization and deregulation, e.g. the removal of agricultural subsidies); landlord and state suppression of peasant struggles against feudal oppression and exploitation; and the continuously deteriorating and overall stultifying living conditions in the countryside.” (See “No titles”, Streetwise 30 September 2011.)

This month the Reciprocal Working Committees on Socio-economic Reforms (RWC-SER) of the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) meet again to thresh out the provisions of a bilateral agreement that, if inked, could lay the basis for a negotiated political settlement of the armed conflict that has been raging for more than four decades.

The plight of the urban poor is squarely addressed in a fundamental and thoroughgoing way by the NDFP in its proposals for a Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-economic Reforms (CASER).

The NDFP calls for abolishing land monopoly in the rural areas and redistributing land to the tillers for free; establishing rural industries and supporting agricultural production in order to squarely address the rural poverty that drives mass migration to urban centers.

National industrialization on the other hand is recognized as “the key to a modern and diversified industrial economy” that can ensure livelihoods for the people, guarantee the satisfaction of their basic needs, bring about rapid and sustained economic growth and achieve economic independence from unwanted foreign domination. In this way decent jobs and other livelihood sources are generated for a burgeoning population, greater social wealth is created and government resources are beefed up as well to be used for the common good.

The Robredo report has been sitting on Mr. Aquino’s table unacted upon for more than two months.

Meanwhile the heartless demolitions are back with a vengeance; so too, the people’s growing resistance. #

Published in Business World
3-4 June 2011

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Isang dekada ng pagsasapribado ng kuryente nagpapakita ng kapalpakan ng neoliberalismo

Power Failure: Ten Years of EPIRA
The Manila Times

IT will be ten years to the day by next week when Republic Act No. 9136 or the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) of 2001 was enacted into law. Its passage was railroaded through Congress amidst a very strong lobby from the creditors of the National Power Corporation (NPC) led by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). These power sector reforms and the sale of state-owned power assets to private business were part of the pre-conditions of the IMF for the country to obtain more loans and funds from its creditors.

Those who pushed the bill repeatedly promised that the price of electricity would go down and that there would be no more crisis in power generation once the EPIRA takes effect. The bill sought to restructure the electricity industry and privatize the assets of NPC in order to cut its losses from outstanding loans and pass on the burden of power infrastructure investment to the private sector. On the side, the government will be earning revenues from the sale of generation plants that were owned by the NPC.

Yet contrary to what had been promised, the EPIRA has failed to bring power rates down. We continue to read about impending power crises as electricity generation failed to keep up with demand. There is now a trend towards the concentration of ownership and control in the power sector to only a few families and corporations. Worse, consumers and small businesses carry the burden of ever increasing power rates with the pass-on provisions of the Act and the embedding of the infamous power purchase agreement (PPA) into everyone’s unbundled electricity bill.

From the time EPIRA was passed until 2009, effective residential electricity prices per kilowatt hour rose by around 50 percent. From an ffective rate of P5.76 per kWh in 2001, it has risen to P8.65 by 2009 with a high of P8.98 in 2007. Looking at our own 300 kWh usage, our household effective rate hovered around P10.5 this year. That translates to a little bit over an eighty percent increase in effective rates since 2001. Part of this rise is due to increases in power generation charges from NPC. NPC’s effective rates increased from P2.39 kWh in 2000 to P4.67 this year. Other increases were due to recoveries (a.k.a. pass-on costs) of transmission and distribution utilities. On top of these is the value added tax that is imposed across all the components of your bill—including local and franchise taxes and systems losses.

The initial, and fleeting, 30-centavo Power Act reduction in 2001 has already been erased several times over due to these pass-on provisions in the EPIRA. The EPIRA has also hidden away the PPA which came from the contracts entered into by the NPC with independent power producers. The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) instituted various cost recovery mechanisms over the years such as the Generation Rate Adjustment Mechanism (GRAM) to allow the continued collection by the NPC of charges similar to the PPA. For distribution utilities, there is the Automatic Adjustment of Generation Rates and System Loss Rates (AGRA) where fuel and contract costs are passed on to consumers. The AGRA is automatically passed on to consumers without hearings from the ERC.

The establishment of the wholesale electricity spot market (WESM), which purportedly would be the leveling mechanism to bring down the prices of electricity, was partly the reason why rates rose to ridiculous levels in 2010 due to speculation and lack of generation capacity. The ERC also opened the doors for a new way to set electricity rates. From the return on rate base (RORB) system, it instituted the performance-based regulation (PBR) for distribution utilities and even in the transmission rates of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP). Under the PBR, rates are set based on promises of operation performance, costs and capital outlays planned by the company. Consumers are thus paying for something that has not
happened yet.

These are just examples of how the privatization and deregulation of electric power by the EPIRA resulted in high electricity rates for consumers. We shall detail other aspects of the EPIRA in succeeding columns and propose solutions that can push rates down and secure our energy supply.

After seeing its effects for one decade on everyone, neoliberal power reform has to be reversed. This is important since energy utilities are strategic in nature to the development of the country. If these industries are left to monopoly capital, whose interest is to recoup their investment and rake in profits—it will result in an unending increase in utility costs and our national interest will not be addressed.

Dr. Tapang is the chairperson of AGHAM and a convenor of POWER (People Opposed to Warantless Electricity Rates).

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Isang taon ng patay na lider magsasaka, sinampahan ng gawa-gawang kaso ng Aquino government

Press Release: June 1, 2011

Aquino administration still filing trumped-up charges against dead militant

Silang, Cavite – On the first year death anniversary of Rogelio Galit, a peasant leader and activist from Cavite received a subpoena instead of prayers.

Galit, popularly known as Mamay to his family and comrades in the peasant movement in Southern Tagalog died on June 1 last year succumbing to diabetes and heart ailment.

Galit was part of the 72 activists and leaders charged with murder and frustrated murder in Mindoro last 2007. The group was allegedly involved in a New People’s Army ambuscade.

He was arrested on November 6, 2008 in spite of being sick and bed ridden and was only released the following year when the court in Mindoro ruled in favor of the detained activists.

Galit was imprisoned along with other 6 co-accused including Remegio Saladero, a labor lawyer.

“This is a blatant abuse of power of the state. This is ridiculous,” an angered Axel Pinpin, secretary general of the Katipunan ng mga Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan stated during a tribute activity for Galit in the latter’s home.

“No one in his right mind will do this to a dead person. This is a product of dirty imagination of the armed state elements” added Pinpin, referring to the new murder and multiple charges gainst the “ST-72” filed before the Provincial Prosecutor’s office in San Pablo City

Kasama-TK condemned the latest attempt of the government to persecute the leaders and members of progressive organizations.

After a mass celebration that signaled the end of mourning for Galit, the group proceeded to Silang Town Plaza and hold a condemnation rally and call for the junking of the new trumped-up charges against the “ST-72”.

Meanwhile, militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan - Southern Tagalog (BAYAN-ST) asserts that this recycling of trumped-up charges attests the state’s fascist character. “As we pay our highest tribute to Ka Mamay, we condemn in harshest possible terms the re-affirmation of Aquino of its predecessor Arroyo’s wrong-doings by extending Oplan Bantay Laya II and now pursuing Oplan Bayanihan,” in a statement by XL Fuentes, BAYAN-ST’s spokesperson.

“Natatapos sa babang-luksa ni Mamay ang pagdadalamhati namin, at ngayon din nagsisimulang muli ang pakikibaka namin para itaguyod ang mga karapatang sibil ng mamamayan,” said the wife of Galit.#

9 sundalo ng AFP nahaharap sa kasong pagpatay sa isang myembro ng Bayan Muna sa Bikol

9 Army soldiers face charges for militant’s death
By Shiena M. Barrameda
May 23, 2011

PILI, Camarines Sur—Nine Army soldiers, including two officers, are facing murder charges for the death of a member of Bayan Muna party-list in Bicol in February.

Maj. Angelo Guzman, spokesperson of the 9th Infantry Division (ID), confirmed to reporters here Saturday that a case of murder has been filed by the police at the Camarines Sur Prosecutor’s Office on Friday against Maj. Danilo Ambe, Lt. Mariel Bonilla, S/Sgt. Deogracias Sarmiento, Pfc Edgardo Tala, Pfc Zander Aler, Pfc Suege Tubig, Pfc Casiano Belangel Jr., Private Alvin De Villa, Pfc Jessie Villareal and several John Does for the death of Rodel Estrellado on Feb. 25.


The case was filed after a special police investigation concluded that contrary to the claim of the Army unit led by Ambe, Estrellado did not die in an encounter between soldiers and communist rebels, but was abducted and killed.

Karapatan Bicol spokesperson Vince Casilihan said on Sunday that his group and the local members of Bayan Muna initiated the filing of the complaint against the soldiers on behalf of Estrellado who was reportedly abducted from his residence in Malilipot, Albay, and killed in a “fake” encounter in Bato, Camarines Sur.

The case was filed immediately after reports and investigations regarding the killing of Estrellado conducted by a special task force of the Philippine National Police unearthed discrepancies in the pieces of evidence presented by the Army.

Senior Supt. Edwin Diocos, regional director of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group in Bicol, said they have gathered enough evidence to set the wheels of justice moving.

Casilihan said the “John Does” should have been named. He said the immediate superiors and other officers mentioned in the case should also be charged. “They are more liable of the crime than these rank-and-file soldiers,” Casilihan said. “These soldiers were just following their superiors’ orders.”

Tip of the iceberg

“(The killing of) Estrellado is just the tip of the iceberg here. There are more (like) him, victims of human rights violation in Bicol perpetrated by the soldiers,” Casilihan added.

Guzman said the military welcomed the development on the Estrellado case as it would give their soldiers the chance to defend themselves properly in court.

Although he admitted that while the 9th ID inspector general, Col. Colina de Lima, had also noted discrepancies in the statements provided by the soldiers involved in the case, the Army remains firm in its claim that Estrellado died in a legitimate encounter in Bato.