Monthly Archives: October 2010

Lawmakers asked to stop toll hikes

By Gerry Albert Corpuz and Manila Legarda

MANILA, Philippines – A group of affected rural producers on Saturday urged members of the Philippine parliament to act with dispatch and stop the looming hikes in toll fees, after the Philippine high tribunal declare the recent increases as legal and constitutional.

The activist fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Saturday urged lawmakers from both houses of Congress to cross party lines, call a special session and pass a joint resolution to scrap if not indefinitely suspend the implementation of toll increase at the South Luzon Expressway (SLEx).In a press statement, Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap said Congress can exercise its legislative powers and remedies to spare millions of people in Southern Luzon and the National Capital Region from bearing the brunt of the 250 percent hike in SLEx toll fees.“President Benigno Simeon Aquino III will not stop the toll fee increase at SLEx because he wants to lure foreign investors to takeover SLEx that would promise lucrative business and sure super profits for foreign investments. So the ball is now Congress court to stop this highway robbery in broad daylight,” said Hicap.

The Pamalakaya leader asked Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and House Speaker Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte to lead the authorship and sponsorship of a joint Senate-House resolution that would indefinitely suspend the implementation of SLEx toll hike, which should be followed by a full-blown congressional inquiry on toll hike proposals that would include the Northern Luzon Expressway (NLEx) and South Metro Manila Skyway.

“The 250 percent increase in toll fees at SLEx is not only a case of highway robbery in broad daylight. This burdensome hike in toll fees is tantamount to economic sabotage,” added Hicap.

Following the Supreme Court ruling junking the petition against SLEx toll increase, South Luzon Tollways Corporation (SLTC) president Isaac David said the increase toll rates at SLEx will be implemented by next week or early November.David said the toll increase would enable STLC to pay its debts from creditors amounting to P 1 billion in the past two months. In a decision released Thursday last week, the Supreme Court declared as valid and constitutional the supplemental toll operation agreement (STOA) covering the Luzon Tollway Project between the government and SLEx, as well as the Toll Regulatory Board (TRB) resolutions allowing rate increases.The SLTC had spent P 12 billion for the rehabilitation of SLEx which cover the rehabilitation of Alabang viaduct and the widening of highway. The company which is backed by Malaysia’s MTD Capital holds a 30-year concession to operate SLEx and it is allowed to collect toll to ensure that it gets a 17-percent return on investment every year.

Pamalakaya said the 250 percent increase in SLEx toll fees would further push trade cartels and buyers of agricultural and fishery products in Southern Luzon to cut farm gate prices of farmers and fisherfolk produce in the Bicol and Southern Tagalog regions. “The cartel will further cut prices of farm gate prices by as much as 50 percent. Because of toll hikes at SLEx, fish traders will further reduce the average of fish price of P 50 per kilo to P 30 or P 25 per kilo. To ensure fish cartels would have money for toll fees and still make profits, fish cartels on the other hand will jack up prices of fish products by another 10 to 20 percent at the expense of the fish buying and eating public. This is one of negative impacts of the 250 percent increase in SLEx toll hike,” said Pamalakaya. (With reports from Pepsi Laloma and Sarsi Pimentel)

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World Bank eyes RP as Asia’s begging capital

By Gerry Albert Corpuz, Bb. Tayuman Recto-Yap and Akihira Tatchu

MANILA, Philippines- The plan of the Brettonwoods institution to support the direct cash assistance fund to millions of impoverished Filipinos through an increased fresh loan to Manila government sparked protest from a Philippine group highly critical of the World Bank (WB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The leftist fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Sunday assailed WB over its recent move to double its assistance in the country for 2011 so the national government could fund its conditional cash transfer (CCT) program to poor Filipinos. Impressed by the Philippine government’s initiatives on good governance, WB country director Bert Hofman last Friday said WB will increase the current overall assistance to the Philippines from $ 630 million to $ 1.3 B in total assistance to the administration of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III.Hofman said the aid increase was approved last week at the annual meeting of the WB and International Monetary Fund (IMF)with the Philippines economic team.

In 2007, the WB approved a five year support to CCT with $ 400 million loan as funding support for 2008 as launched by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) then under President Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo administration. This year, Congress passed the national budget for 2011, allotting P 21 B for CCT, an increase of P 9 billion compared to last year. The P 21 B for CCT elicited protest from 100 congressmen.

But Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap said the increase in aid assistance merely suits the political agenda of WB-IMF to turn millions of Filipino poor into beggars and mendicants, transform them into passive political entities highly allergic or hostile to politics of change in the country.

“The WB-IMF supports the CCT program because it sees it as a socio-political instrument that would convert this nation of over 90 million starving Filipinos into a Republic of mendicants and beggars rather than into a progressive nation with critical thinking and struggling people fighting for land, jobs, rights and justice.The increase in assistance with the purpose of supporting the CCT program is mainly a counter-insurgency program in form and in substance,” Hicap explained.

“The WB-IMF backed CCT program is also counter-productive in the sense that it does not create jobs and does not transform people into productive citizens but helpless folks begging for alms,” the Pamalakaya leader added.

The WB country director said the initiatives of the Aquino administration for poverty alleviation were doing well for target beneficiaries and that transparency under the new government made them more comfortable to provide additional assistance to Aquino government.

“It is business as usual for IMF-WB. It will lure the Aquino administration enter into another cycle of debt trap and national death bed due to debt. Behind the triple platinum debt offer of this US-led financial monster is the cruel intention of IMF-WB to get involved in Jurassic public-private partnership (PPPs) economic escapade of the Aquino administration,” said Pamalakaya.

The militant group also slammed the Philippine officials who signed the deal with IMF-WB during a meeting in Washington D.C. Pamalakaya said Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Budget and management SecretaryFlorencio Abad and Socio-Economic planning secretary Cayetano Paderanga Jr. should be condemned to the highest order for what the group called a millennium sell out of the national economy.

“These officials of Noynoy Aquino committed one of the major blunders in the 21st century when they offered the Philippines at the altar of IMF-WB millennium exploitation.They should be remembered in history as modern-day traitors along with President Aquino for undertaking this sell out of national patrimony and grand scam denationalization and privatization of national economy,” said Pamalakaya.

According to Pamalakaya, the IMF-WB aside from raking super profits from interest on loans, would also take part in highly profitable business in the country including but not limited to the expansion of Light Railway Transit system, the improvement of sewerage system of Maynilad and Manila Water.

The militant group said IMF-WB also wants to facilitate PPPs in tourism, food supply chain, construction of airports and other road networks, mass transport, national highways, water, power and other utilities.

Pamalakaya said the P 18.7 B Laguna Lake Dredging Project in Laguna de Bay was one of the PPPs approved by the Arroyo government prior to the May 2010 elections.The group said the project is between the Philippine government and the Fortis Bank of Belgium, which is a private commercial bank based in Brussels. It said around 400,000 lake families or roughly 2 million people in Laguna Lake will be displaced by the Laguna Lake dredging project #

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Big landlords to benefit from P 4-B Akbayan pork barrel

By Roy Morilla, Jay Cuesta and Gerry Albert Corpuz

MANILA, Philippines-Big landlords in the Philippines will get their own pork barrel amounting to P 4-B in total agrarian reform subsidy courtesy of a party list group supported by the camp of President Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III in the last May 2010 elections.

Leaders of various farmer groups from Negros Island and Hacienda Luisita sugar estate in Tarlac province said the P 4-B support fund for bridges and infrastructures clinched by Akbayan party list will chiefly benefit the big landlords across the country like the family of President Aquino who still control the 6,453-hectare Hacienda Luisita and the 11 huge land estates in Negros Occidental own by the President’s uncle Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco Jr.Yesterday, farmer leaders took turns in assailing the P 4.05 B pork barrel fund awarded by allies of the President in the House of Representatives to Akbayan party list, a staunch supporter of the present administration.

The Akbayan party list group said the P 4-B fund they sought from Congress was meant to provide support infrastructures and agricultural support and credit to agrarian reform communities (ARCs) and new farmer beneficiaries of the extended land reform program.

But in press conference held at Serye Café and Restaurant in Quezon City, farmer groups Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), the National Federation of Sugar Workers in Negros (NFSW-Negros), the Luisita based farm worker groups United Luisita Workers Union (ULWU) and Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala) and Unyon ng mga Mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) rebuked Akbayan party list.

The activist peasant leaders asserted only big landlords and foreign agribusiness groups engaged in production of export crops and who control and dictate the operations of ARCs will benefit from the P 4 B pork barrel fund sought by Akbayan party list.

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“And that made the four-billion peso fund a pork barrel for big agribusiness, contrary to claim of Akbayan party list that the funds were meant to uplift the poor condition of new farmer beneficiaries under the extended land reform program,” they said.

The KMP and its staunch allies reminded Akbayan party list that land ownership in ARCs are only nominal and that the landlords and foreign agro-corporations still dictate what kind of crops should be planted in these agrarian reform areas.

They also said Akbayan should be reminded that even family of President Benigno Aquino III who controls the 6,453 hectare Hacienda Luisita and Danding Cojuangco who operates at least 11 haciendas in Negros Island are also exploiting the ARC mode as a supplement to non-land transfer schemes such as Stock Distribution Option (SDO), joint venture and corporative farming to evade free land distribution and keep their lands for lifetime.

“Representatives of Akbayan party list are fooling millions of farmers across the country when they claimed that the P 4 billion infrastructure fund is meant to support fresh agrarian reform beneficiaries under the bankrupt CARPer regime. The ARCs operate under the whims and caprices of feudal lords and big agro-corporations, so it is a pork barrel set aside for these all time greedy entities. There is also no land reform to speak of under CARPer,” leaders of KMP-Negros, NFSW-Negros and UMA said during the press conference.

The KMP and its staunch allies said the ARCs are bogus land reform models, adding that land ownership in these communities are nominal because the farmers who possessed the lands are coerced to lease their lands to landlords and big agribusiness corporations for the production of cash crops and export crops.

For his part, KMP deputy secretary general Willy Marbella dismissed the P 4-B pork barrel fund to Akbayan party list a product of politics of payback to the highest order.

“The P 4 billion in total cash prize for Akbayan party list is an exchange deal for Akbayan support to the candidacy of President Aquino in May 2010 election. It is grandslam prize money for Akbayan for acting as the fourth communications group of Malacanang in the House of Representatives. In a nutshell, the P 4 billion Akbayan pork barrel is another form of government procurement of P 4 billion worth of political loyalty and patronage,” the KMP official said.

Marbella urged the House of Representatives to recall the P 4-B agrarian infrastructure fund to prevent big landlords and other groups with sinister agenda from the partaking fund and instead re-channel the four billion peso fund to support and production subsidies for rural producers across the country.

The KMP leader said the P 4-billion Akbayan pork barrel fund for agrarian infrastructure could be added to the palay procurement program of the National Food Authority (NFA) to enable the food agency to raise its palay buying capacity to 10 percent from the current 4 percent.

“We don’t want that P 4 billion worth of hard-earned taxes to go to big landlords and people with cruel intentions against the farmers. It is only politically, morally and legally correct for Congress to recall the highly questionable

P 4 billion and re-channel it to other social justice measures such as direct production subsidies to farmers and other rural producers,” added Marbella.

The P 4 B fund awarded to Akbayan will be sourced from the P 110.6 B given to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH). According to Cavite Rep. Jose Emilio Abaya, chair of the House Committee on Appropriation, Akbayan Rep. Kaka Bag-Ao lobbied for the P 4 billion pork barrel agrarian fund for fresh beneficiaries under CARPer.

The KMP believed the P 4 billion pork barrel fund for Akbayan party list was in exchange for the support of the party list group to the proposed P 21-B budget of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) for its conditional cash transfer (CCT) program currently being questioned by over 100 congressmen and Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago at the upper chamber of the House.

The KMP also assailed Akbayan for drumbeating the success of CARPer as basis for its agrarian advocacy. Citing a recent study made by independent think tank Ibon Foundation, the KMP noted that last year, the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) only managed to distribute 64,329 hectares of land out of the official target of 163,014 hectares under the extended land reform, and therefore big chunks of agricultural lands are still in the hands of big landlords and corporate groups, asserting further the P 4.05 B agrarian infrastructure fund will go to the hands of landed few.

Of the 64, 329 hectares distributed, 42, 428 hectares are private agricultural lands, but only 1,777 hectares or 4 percent of the total private agricultural lands were distributed through compulsory acquisition, and 96 percent were acquired under the voluntary offer to sell scheme.

Citing the same Ibon study, the KMP argued that only 17,501 hectares were distributed from January 2010 to June 2010, and that only 1,061.51 hectares or 6% were distributed through compulsory acquisition. Meanwhile, land distributed through the voluntary offer to sell mode – which landlords used to their advantage by dictating the price – covered a bigger 7.7% or 1,340.44 hectares.

The activist farmer group also said land distributed through the voluntary land transfer (VLT) mode – which allows landlords to retain control over their landownings by choosing whom to transfer land ownership to – covered the largest percentage at 40.7% or 7,119.14 hectares, all of which are landholdings over 50 hectares.

“The lands are still in the hands of the landed elite based on the own records of DAR. By design, by orientation and by practical means, the P 4 billion pork barrel fund alloted to fresh agrarian beneficiaries is a misnomer, a wholesale fraud and a triple platinum fund raising campaign for near future high crimes of corruption. It will only benefit the 11 haciendas of Danding in Negros and the President’s feudal empire in Hacienda Luisita,” the KMP added.

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Militants declare CARPer a failure

By Gerry Albert Corpuz and Roy Morilla

Manila, Philippines- Eight of the biggest rural based organizations in the country today led by Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), the left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya), the agricultural labor group Unyon ng Mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) and Amihan peasant women federation urged senators and congressmen to repeal the extended Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program with reforms (CARPer) or Republic Act 9700 for its comprehensive and far-reaching failures in delivering social justice to millions of landless farmers across-the-country.

The position of KMP and its allies was supported by the Hacienda Luisita farm worker groups Alyansa ng Mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita (Ambala) and United Luisita Workers Union (ULWU), the Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luzon (AMGL), the Katipunan ng mga Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (Kasama-TK) and the National Federation of Sugar Workers in Negros (NFSW).

KMP secretary general Danilo Ramos said a signature campaign calling for the repeal of CARPer or RA 9700 and the congressional passage of the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB) or House Bill 374 authored by Anakpawis party list Rep. Mariano and 6 other militant party list lawmakers will be launched beginning today to compel lawmakers to correct the grave historical injustice by previous land reform programs including the extended CARP.

On the other hand GARB, which militant farmer groups claimed is a progressive and social justice driven land reform law will put all agricultural lands, including lands leased to multinational corporations under the coverage of land reform and will have these lands distributed for free to agrarian reform beneficiaries.

In HB 374 or GARB, just compensation will be provided to landlords, however lands acquired through coercive and fraudulent means will not receive just compensation from the government. Aside from free distribution, GARB will ensure sufficient subsidies and support to farmer beneficiaries to prevent lands from reverting back to previous and new generations of landlords.

The KMP official did not say how many signatures his group and allied organizations would target for the anti- CARPer, however, Ramos said a memo will be sent to regional and provincial chapters of KMP in 55 provinces and 17 regions to gather signatures at the grassroots level calling for congressional repeal of RA 9700.

Ramos said the signatures would be soon submitted to Senate and the House of Representatives for appropriate legislative action. “We will bring CARPer back to the halls of Congress for extensive debate and discussion. We will assert our previous assessment that this law is a menace to the Filipino farmers. It is time to open the debate once more on why GARB is social justice driven and necessary and why CARPer is a inimical to the collective interest of land tillers and why RA 9700 is undoubtedly a land reform for big landlords,” the KMP leader added.

Citing a study released by independent think tank Ibon Foundation, KMP spokesperson Antonio Flores noticed that CARPer which was passed by Congress last year only managed to distribute 64,329 hectares out of the 163,014 target hectares for disposal in the second semester of 2009.

Of the 64, 329 hectares, only 1,777 hectares were acquired by the Department of Agrarian Reform(DAR) under compulsory acquisition (CA), and huge sum of money were shelled for more than 41,000 hectares of private agricultural lands under voluntary offer to sell (VOS) scheme.

“Big landlords who want money for their lands made big money from CARPer last year under the financial slogan and condition of “if the price is right” Those landlords who wanted to keep the lands ranged VOS scheme as agrarian instrument to evade land distribution as seen the case of other big land owners who retained control over 99, 000 hectares which were target for acquisition by DAR last year. Now tell us where is land reform and social justice in CARPer. Those who are going gaga with the extended land reform are dreaming in broad daylight,” Flores noted.

The same Ibon study also revealed that from January 2010 to June 2010 only 17,501 hectares were distributed but only 1,061 hectares were acquired through CA, while 1,340 hectares were covered through VOS scheme. Still a huge number of landlords managed to evade land distribution by choosing VOS and imposing their own price on just compensation to FAIL DAR from placing the lands for coverage of pro-landlord CARPer.

KMP said the Landbank of the Philippines from 1972 to 2008 had spent P 289 B to acquire 1.6 million hectares of land from landlords in the name of previous land reform programs including the extended CARP. In the first year of CARPer, the KMP said, DAR only managed to distribute 81,000 hectares of the still undistributed 1.7 million hectares of land which is about 4 percent accomplishment rate and still 96 percent of the 1.7 million target hectares are in the hands of landed monopolies and saved from land distribution under the CARPer law.

Peasant enemy no.1

Meanwhile peasant activists belonging to Kasama-TK, AMGL, NFSW-Negros and Luisita farm worker groups will lead the public burning of President Aquino’s effigy at Mendiola Bridge whom they tagged as Peasant Enemy No.1.

The effigy made of scrap materials shows Aquino as the chief political representative of the Haciendero Republic and no.1 puppet of the United States (US) will be collectively set on fire by 20 leaders of peasant and fisherfolk groups from Southern Tagalog region, Central Luzon, Cagayan Valley, Ilocos region, Bicol, Negros Island and sectoral leaders of the umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan.

Kasama-TK spokesperson Nestor Villanueva said President Aquino is coddling big landlords inSouthern Tagalog like the Ayala-Zobel family which control or maintain majority stake in a number of haciendas in the region particularly the 10,000 hectare Hacienda Zobel in Calatagan, Batangas, the 8,650 hectare prime agricultural estate in Hacienda Looc, Nasugbu, Batangas, 10,000 hectare sugar estate of Don Pedro Roxas also in Calatagan, Batangas and the 7,100 hectare estate in Hacienda Yulo in Calamba, Laguna.

“Aquino’s political attitude on Hacienda Luisita has become the model of land reform denials, land reform reversals and ultimate land reform grabbing by big landlords in Southern Tagalog region. It is only politically and morally correct to brand this 50-year old bachelor president as peasant enemy no.1,” the Hacienda Yulo based leader said.

Akbayan’s P 4 B pork barrel

Villanueva also slammed the P 4.05 B awarded by Aquino’s allies to Akbayan party list, referring to the budget lobbied by Akbayan party list Rep. Kaka Bag-ao for support infrastructure to agrarian reform communities (ARCs) which are members of the moderate and pro-Aquino party list group.

“Akbayan party list acted as partners in crime of big landlords who want to avail of separate pork barrel from Congress. The P 4 billion support fund will go to agrarian reform communities controlled or influenced by big agro-corporations own by landlords and foreign companies. Let me set the record straight, these ARCs are nothing but mere showrooms or token land reform projects just to make it appear that land reform still exists in the country. The four billion peso budget is chiefly pork barrel to all-time feudal exploiters,” the Kasama-TK spokesperson added.#

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CBCP asked to back resumption of talks

By Gerry Albert Corpuz and Trinity Biglang Awa

MANILA, Philippines -The activist fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Friday urged the influential Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) to support the resumption of peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the communist led-National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

In a press statement, Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap said the 117 archbishops and bishops of CBCP are morally and spiritually obliged to support the resumption of the talks between the GRP and NDFP and mobilize all its the justice and peace desks to provide healthy political and moral atmosphere to the talks.

“In the name of our people’s collective and national interest, we appeal to CBCP to strongly endorse and support the resumption of peace talks between the government and the NDFP. The Roman Catholic community has a stake in the peace talks and therefore it is morally and politically proper for the bishops and archbishops to express interest and perform collective action for the resumption of the talks,” said Hicap.

However, the Pamalakaya leader said the CBCP must be extra vigilant on President Benigno Simeon Aquino III, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and other hardline militarists in Aquino administration because they always wanted to sabotage the talks and prefer the military and total war approach in rooting out the cause of armed conflict in the country

“While President Aquino is churning press releases after press releases regarding his intention to resume the talks with the NDFP, the 50-year old President is doing the exact opposite. President Aquino is sabotaging the peace talks by imposing ceasefire and in bizarre and blatant mode rejected the call to drop the terrorist tag on CPP-NPA-NDFP,” stressed Hicap.

“The resumption of peace talks again will depend on the political attitude and mindset of the Aquino administration, and given the last visit of Aquino the United States where he was able to get $ 434 million counter-insurgency aid and the 89 percent increase in the defense budget for 2011, the government is gearing for another episode of all-out war and the resumption of peace talks is more a political double talk,” the Pamalakaya official added.

Pamalakaya said the CBCP should convince the Aquino administration should proceed with confidence building measures like the unconditional and immediate release of more than 400 political prisoners, including the 43 health workers known as Morong 43, the dropping of criminal charges against political activists.

The gorup said the CBCP should also persuade the Aquino government to work hard for the removal of CPP-NPA in the terror list of the United States, European Union and New Zealand, uphold the Joint Hague Declaration as the main frame work for the peace talks and recognize 16 other bilateral agreements reached from 1992 to 2004.

“The CBCP should actively work for the removal of all legal and political obstacles to the resumption of the talks. We believe that’s their calling as far as the resumption of peace talks is concerned, nothing more, nothing less,” the militant group said.

At a Palace briefing yesterday, President Aquino’s adviser on the peace process, Teresita Deles, announced that the government had reconstituted its panel for the resumption of talks with the NDFP. The government panel will be led by Health undersecretary Alexander Padilla, a known human rights lawyer, peace advocates Atty. Pablito Sanidad of Baguio City, Ednar Dayanghirang of Davao Oriental, Lourdes Tison of Negros Occidental and Jurgette Honculada of Zamboanga.

Deles indicated that the government would no longer demand for a ceasefire with CPP and the NPA, however she admitted that President Aquino cannot do anything with terrorist tag the against the communist guerillas labeled by the US government and the European Union.But Pamalakaya said the first thing the Aquino government should do is to announce to the Filipino people and the international community that the CPP, the NPA and the NDFP are not terrorist groups but belligerent forces engaged in civil war with the GRP and its armed forces.

“It is not tough task to follow. That is easy as ABC because the Aquino government will just tell the truth and that would help in the campaign to remove the CPP-NPA-NDFP in the list of foreign terrorist organizations of the US and the European Union. Ms Deles is missing the point,” the group added. Pamalakaya said it wants the peace talks to resume so that both panels could thoroughly discussed the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Law (CARHRIHL).

The group said the talks should proceed with the second substantive agenda which is the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio Economic Reform (CASER) in which a number of issues on agrarian, agriculture and fisheries would be discussed which are deemed helpful in uplifting the poor conditions of farmers, fishermen and other rural people all over the country.

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US lawyers tell BSA: “Free Morong 43”

By Gerry Albert Corpuz, http://www.allvoices.com MANILA, Philippines-

American lawyers belonging to the National Lawyers Guild on Saturday added their voice to the growing demand of the international human rights and social justice community to immediately and unconditionally release the 43 health workers illegally arrested and detained by the Philippine military last Feb.6 this year in Morong, a municipality east of Metro Manila.

In a resolution approved during the NLG assembly in New Orleans, the American lawyers group put to task President Benigno Simeon Aquino III to free the detained health workers known as Morong 43.

The resolution, a copy of which was emailed to http://www.allvoices.com was dispatched to Malacanang, barely a day after Department of Justice (DoJ) Secretary Leila de Lima said the recommendation on the case will be forwarded to Malacanang anytime next week. On February 6, 2010 a force of 300 Philippine police and military illegally raided and abducted 43 community health workers including doctors and nurses who were conducting health skills training in Morong, Rizal, Philippines.

“These health workers and doctors administer health services to poor communities, and were participating in a week long First Responders Training, sponsored by the Community Medicine Foundation, Inc. (COMMED) and Council for Health and Development (CHD),” the NLG said in a resolution approved by its members during the assembly at New Orleans recently.

The NLG added that “these health workers were being trained to go to rural areas where the government does not provide medical services and who are most vulnerable during devastating typhoons which have been hitting the Philippines and devastating many rural communities.

“But, because people in many of these rural country side areas are considered enemies of the state, the government as part of its “counterinsurgency plan” targets people such as these health workers claiming they are in fact part of the insurgent movement in the Philippines and if the work is of a progressive nature they are assumed to be members of the New People’s Army,” the NLG resolution added. According to NLG, the training took place at a conference center owned by a renowned Doctor in the Philippines.

The workers were rounded up and taken to the central conference room while the military conducted an illegal search of the cabins and grounds, and claimed to have found a gun and some explosive materials. “The workers deny any connection to such materials and believe that the evidence was planted. Their personal belongings, as well the training m materials used, were all confiscated by the military,” it said.

The NLG said the lawyers for the workers immediately filed a petition for habeas corpus, claiming the search warrant was defective and the arrest illegal. “Marcos era law indicates that if those arrested are charged within 36 hours the illegality of the search and arrest cannot be attacked in a habeas petition. . In this case the charges, of possession of explosives, a non bailable offense, were not filed until 5 days later,” it said. The NLG also took note of the Supreme Court action on the Morong 43 case where the habeas was initially filed referred the case back to the court of appeal.

The court of appeal at first split 2-1 in favor of granting the habeas, but the government then added two more judges to the appeals panel making resulting in a 3-2 denial of the habeas.The NLG said it was shocked to learned that the 43 health workers were held in military camps until May 1, 2010. For days they were deprived the right to counsel during interrogation and there are many reports of sleep deprivation, beatings, electrical shock and the like. “Although they were transferred to jails near Manila in May their cases are in limbo.

They cannot be arraigned and tried while the habeas is pending because under Philippine law, if they are arraigned they lose the right to challenge the illegality of the search and the arrests through a habeas and a potential trial of all 43 would take years,” it said. On September 15, 2010 members of the IADL bureau met with the new Secretary de Lima, and urged her to conduct a review of these cases.

De Lima according to IADL lawyers agreed before her meeting with the IADL bureau to review these cases, and render an opinion on whether the cases should go forward. The IADL at its bureau meeting in Manila on September 16-17, 2010 decided to launch a world wide campaign to continue the pressure on the government to rescind the charges against these health workers and in particular to ensure that the Justice Secretary will act quickly to review the charges and withdraw them.

IADL is asking that National Affiliates such the NLG join in this effort.Officials and members of the NLG said they had decided to send a letter to the Justice Secretary to express the lawyers’ concern for the rights of these health workers, and requesting her to review and rescind the charges.

The NLG is also planning to send a delegation and meet the Philippine Ambassador in the United States to talk the case and launch a global campaign to pressure President Aquino and the military to free the 43 health workers. Meanwhile, the Philippine foreign affairs department announced President Aquino will be in Hanoi, Vietnam on October 28-30 to talk on human rights in East Asia and the Pacific.

The East Asia summit will be attended by members of Association of Southeast Asian Nation (ASEAN), Russia and the US, China, New Zealand, Japan, Australia, India, South Korea and Australia. The Manila foreign affairs department said the President is expected to call for vigilance over Myanmar’s first democratic elections which has been ruled by military dictatorship over the last thirty years.

But critics of Aquino argued the 50-year old president has no political and moral ascendancy to talk about protection of human rights in the East Asia conference.

Rural based groups such as the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), the biggest peasant group in the country and staunch ally Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) in a joint statement said Aquino is bound to emulate and surpass the brutal human rights records of previous President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.KMP and Pamalakaya said in the first 100 days in office of President Aquino, the AFP backed death squad had already claimed 16 lives of political activists in the country, about 11 to 12 of them are farmers affiliated with chapters of KMP all over the country.

The government under the extended counter-insurgency program Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL) continues to file fabricated charges against leaders of activist rural organizations in the country.

Recently, a leader of Pamalakaya in Negros, Western Philippines was charged with arson and other criminal charges in connection with the Oct.5 attack at Victorias Milling Corporation compound where a milling equipment amounting to P 600,000 was burned by the Maoist guerillas operating in the hinterlands of Negros Island.

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Rebel priest says US aid meant for war

By Gerry Albert Corpuz, http://www.allvoices.com MANILA, Philippines-

Rebel priest Fr. Santiago Salas, spokesperson on the communist led_national Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) in Eastern Visayas said the $ 200 million US Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) grant will bring militarization and human rights violations and not genuine development in the highly militarized island in Eastern Philippines.

Fr. Salas tagged 8th Infantry Division chief Gen. Mario Chan a barefaced liar for denying the sinister agenda of US funded projects currently undertaken in Samar as part of the counter-insurgency program of administration of Philippine President Benigno Simeon Aquino III and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) under the extended Oplan Bantay Laya.

“It is sheer duplicity for Gen. Chan to deny Samar’s militarization,” the NDFP-Eastern Visayas spokesperson said in a press statement, a copy of which was sent to http://www.allvoices.com. Salas added: “Victims of human rights violations have publicly denounced widepread and extended military operations since August in Jiabong, Motiong, San Jorge, Catbalogan, Gandara, Paranas, San Jose de Buan and Matuguinao in Western Samar, as well as several adjacent towns in Northern and Eastern Samar.

The rebel priest said it only shows the Aquino government is enamored with the militarist solution and Gen. Chan is implementing this by militarizing Samar.He said is already clear the present government is dragging its feet in the peace process with the NDFP, extending the widely condemned (national security program) Oplan Bantay Laya until January 2011, and carrying out the US Counterinsurgency Guide in plotting its own counterrevolutionary war.

Anti-development?

The NDFP-EV spokesperson also rebuked Gen. Chan for maliciously accusing the revolutionary movement of being against development in opposing the US-funded Samar Road project.

“Without basic socio-economic reforms, the MCC project will be a mere publicity and psywar gimmick to glamorize the Aquino government and to justify militarization in the name of securing this project,” Fr. Salas said. The NDFP-Eastern Visayas maintains that to assure genuine economic development, land reform and national industrialization are needed.

But Samar reflects the backwardness and imbalance under semifeudalism in Eastern Visayas.The democratic front argued the crops planted do not benefit the people and over 60% goes to commercial crops for export such as coconut and abaca, while less than 20% is left for rice and other basic foodstuffs.The agricultural conditions are also dire in Eastern Visayas with the number of irrigated rice fields is drastically declining, farmlands continue to be divided into smaller and less productive parcels, and the use of agricultural machinery or even farm animals is woefully inadequate.

“Such is the explosive situation where the peasants are becoming increasingly landless, desperate and hungry,” the NDFP-EV added.Meanwhile, other economic activities such as mining and logging have not resulted in industrialization but the plunder of the island’s rich natural resources as raw materials for export.”Thus it is Gen. Chan who is against development, for pushing a project that will not solve the island’s economic ills, but will hasten the exploitation and oppression of the people,” the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-led NDFP-EV added.

Bureaucratic loot

The NDFP-EV likewise charged Gen. Chan of hustling for the US-funded project in his greed to ensure his share from the bureaucratic loot.

“The NDFP-EV is aware that civilian contractors in Samar have been complaining in recent years that they are being muscled out by the 8th ID in construction projects,” it said. ” High-ranking military officials not only back certain contractors to share the kickbacks, but also use the army engineering battalions to grab corruption-tainted projects that should have been done by the civilian government,” the NDFP-EV asserted.
“Isn’t it strange otherwise why Gen. Mario Chan makes vulgar demands to the local government to rush the US-funded project, when he is out of line in doing so, as a military official who should be subordinate to civilian authority?” it asked.

Oppose MCC in EV

The NDFP-EV spokesperson called on the people to express their grievances and expose the real situation in opposing the US Millennium Challenge Corporation project.

“We call on the peasantry and the people to press the demands for land reform and national industrialization against a grandiloquent but deceptive project. We call on the Church and the human rights and peace activists to expose and oppose the ‘counterinsurgency’ scheme behind the MCC project based on the US COIN Guide,” Salas said. The NDFP spokesperson also rallied anti-corruption activists to study and criticize the US-funded project that will surely be undertaken by the same thieves responsible for the neglected state of Samar’s roads and other public works.

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