Category Archives: Breaking News

News accounted and reported by Pamalakaya information officer Gerry Albert Corpuz as they happened

Aquino told: Submit own corruption case to “truth body”

Gerry Albert Corpuz, Bombshell Moran and Trinity Biglang Awa

MANILA, Philippines- Staunch critics of President Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III on Saturday challenged the 50-year old bachelor president to allow the newly established Truth Commission to investigate not only corruption cases involving former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her allies, but also his own turf in connection with the controversial Subic Clark Tarlac Expressway (SCTex) road scandal.

In a press statement, the activist fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) said the national goverment paid P 170 million for the construction of the interchange in Hacienda Luisita, and there was no closure about the previous expose on this highly irregular deal between the Arroyo government and the Cojuangco-Aquino who agreed on the deal.

“Why not include the SCTex road scandal in the list of high crimes of corruption that happened during the Macapagal-Arroyo administration? If this truth body is after truth, justice and accountability, then it should include the SCTex right of way scandal in the investigation. If President Aquino and former President Arroyo are accountable for flagship cases of corruption that happened from 2001 to 2009, then by all means, subject the two to the Truth Commission and have their grand day for condemnation before the Filipino public,” said Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap in a press statement.

The Truth Commission created through Aquino’s Executive Order No.1 was established to investigate ex-President Arroyo and her allies accountable for irregularities under her watch, including the “Hello Garci” election fraud scandal.

President Aquino signed yesterday Executive Order No. 1 will “investigate reports of graft and corruption of such scale and magnitude that shock and offend the moral and ethical sensibilities of the people.”

The “independent collegial body” chaired by retired Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr. will have four more commissioners. It has until Dec. 31, 2012, to complete its work, with formal hearings most likely to begin next year, according Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.

De Lima said the hearings would be open to the public but that closed-door sessions would be conducted for “matters of national security or public safety,” including the safety of witnesses.

Justice secretary De Lima said EO No. 1 was crafted in such a way that it would be “broad enough” to include cases such as Arroyo’s purported manipulation of the 2004 presidential election.

In seeking closure to controversies that occurred from 2001 to 2009, President Aquino armed the truth commission with the power to subpoena respondents and documents.

The commission is empowered to “collect, receive, review and evaluate evidence related to or regarding the cases of large-scale corruption which it has chosen to investigate, and to this end, require any agency, official or employee of the executive branch, including government-owned and -controlled corporations (GOCCs), to produce documents, books, records, and other papers.”

The EO empowers the commission to “obtain information and documents from the Senate and the House of Representatives’ records of investigations conducted by committees,” as well as those from the “courts, including the Sandiganbayan and the Office of the Court Administrator,” in connection with corruption cases filed before them.

The commission can also “call upon any government investigative or prosecutorial agency such as the DOJ or any of the agencies under it, and the Presidential Anti-Graft Commission, for such assistance and cooperation as it may require in the discharge of its functions and duties.”

“If that is the case of this EO, then it can also summon the President or any members of the Cojuangco-Aquino clan to explain and bare all about the P 170 million SCTex scandal and how the family continues to control Luisita despite legal, political and moral basis for them to surrender their unlawful and immoral claim of the 6,453 hectare sugar estate,” said Pamalakaya’s Hicap.

The Pamalakaya leader the Cojuangco-Aquino family received P 170 million but regular government procedure mandates the landowner should give the property to the government at zero cost.

Hicap said the government does not ordinarily pay private landowners for right-of-way properties in government projects because the private landowner presumably benefits from the construction of a national road.

The Pamalakaya official also noted that the Toll Regulatory Board, which processes applications for interchanges in major road projects, does not normally pay for the construction of interchanges in private lands.

“Because of the SCTex hocus pocus, the value of Hacienda Luisita per square meter increased from P 8 to P 1,000 per square meter. The SCTex scandal deserves another round of scrutiny and the Truth Commission can look into this issue, aside from those high crimes of corruption perpetrated by the ruling Arroyo clique in Malacanang from 2001 to 2009,” Pamalakaya said.

The cost of the interchange built inside the Hacienda Luisita complex was shouldered by the government and funded through a loan from the Japan Bank and International Corp. It is a flagship project of President Gloria Arroyo.

The Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA)-SCTEx project engineering chief retired general Eduardo Lena had explained that the government paid for the construction of the interchange because it was part of the original plan for SCTEx.

The hearing failed to directly link Senator Aquino to the allegedly irregular transaction. The BCDA had negotiated with Senator Aquino’s uncle, Pedro Cojuangco.#

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Criminal charges pressed against Manila officials behind rice scam

By Gerry Albert Corpuz, Gegemon Babon and Roy Morilla

MANILA, Philippines- The peasant activist group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), the multisectoral alliance Bantay Bigas, the Katipunan ng mga Samahang Magbubukid ng Timog Katagalugan (Kasama-TK) and the leftwing fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Friday urged National Food Authority (NFA) chief administrator Lito Banayo to file criminal and other appropriate charges against former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and former agriculture secretary and now Bohol Rep. Arthur Yap in connection with the over importation of rice which occurred in 2004 and 2007.

Peasant leaders Willy Marbella, deputy secretary general of KMP, Bantay Bigas convener and Amihan peasant women federation secretary general Lita Mariano, Kasama-TK secretary general Axel Pinpin and Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap led 100 farmers and supporters’ rally outside the NFA outlet in Visayas Avenue in Quezon City asking the NFA chief to charge Arroyo and Secretary Yap before the regular court.

Marbella said aside from Reps. Arroyo and Yap, the charge sheet should include former officials of the Department of Agriculture and NFA who played key roles in the over importation of rice in 2004 and 2007 which cost Filipino taxpayers some 171.6 billion pesos.

In 2004, the Philippine government imported 900,000 metric tons of rice, while the country at that time only lacked 117,000 metric tons to fit the demand of the population, while in 2007, the government only needed 589,000 metric tons to fill the gap in rice supply, but DA and NFA pursued the importation of 1.827 million metric tons or about 1.2 million metric tons more of the required volume to augment the shortage in rice supply.

The rural based groups said aside from bringing the perpetrators of over importation of rice in exchange for fat or juicy commissions, the NFA and the DA should impose a six-year moratorium on the importation of rice and instead pursue measures that would increase domestic rice production, stop land use conversions of rice lands and assure irrigation for more than 3 million hectares of lands devoted to rice production.

They said, instead of reducing rice lands, the government should promote and increase rice lands devoted to rice and food production.

Procurement capacity

For her part, Mariano of Bantay Bigas and Amihan peasant women group urged Aquino government to increase the buying capacity of NFA to 25 percent of the total domestic produced palay by local rice farmers to stabilize rice prices and ensure good dividends for rice farmers.

Mariano lamented that while NFA is mandated by law to buy 10 percent of the locally produced palay from farmers, the authority only managed to buy one percent, and the rest of the funds of the NFA are allocated for unbridled importation of rice.

She said the NFA should increase not only its buying capacity, but also the price of palay per kilo. At present, Bantay Bigas wants the NFA to procure palay at P 15 per kilo, instead of spending taxpayers money to rice importation at the expense of Filipino farmers and consumers.

The groups said rotten and contaminated rice should not be distributed to poor Filipinos, saying the poor do not deserved rotten and unsafe rice for consumption. The groups said it would be grossly insulting and highly revolting to feed the poor with unsafe and health risk rotten rice.

Which is which?

But the groups asserted the unused and undistributed stocks of rice in government warehouses which are sound and still safe to eat should be distributed for free to communities affected by typhoon, including calamity stricken areas hit by Ondoy and Pepeng, and the El Nino and La Nina affected areas.

“In print media, Banayo of NFA said he will strongly consider the demand of farmers to have these hundreds of thousands of metric tons of rice distributed for free to poor Filipinos. But in TV and radio, the NFA chief said the authority will not give free rice to hungry families and multiple conditions shall be met to have these sacks of rice distributed either through food for work program or other measures,” noted Hicap of Pamalakaya.

” Which is which? Are Banayo and his puppet master in Malacanang taking us to another roller coaster ride?” added Hicap.

The Pamalakaya leader said Department of Agriculture (DA) secretary Proceso Alcala should step into the picture and stop the NFA from talking non-sense , adding that the agriculture department has the last way on what to do with the over imported rice.

“Alcala should tell Banayo to shape up or leave NFA. The demand is as easy as ABC. Make an inventory and proceed with the free distribution of these sacks of rice for free at the immediate, ahead of the next harvest season this coming October. Is that difficult? Mr. Banayo and his benefactor in Malacanang are making things difficult and complicated for the Filipino public.,” said Pamalakaya.

Earlier, the KMP, Pamalakaya and other rural based groups demanded Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and House Speaker Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte to conduct joint or separate congressional inquiry on the over importation of rice in 2004 and 2007.

The groups said in aid of legislation, the rice inquiry will be able to draft policies to stop the government from anarchic importation of rice which are hinged on the liberalization policy and on the agenda of corrupt officials for juicy and fat commissions sourced from over importation and over pricing of rice imports. (With reports from Bombshell Moran and Lollipop de los Reyes)

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Probe rice scandal RP Congress urged

By Gerry Albert Corpuz, Bb. Joyce Cabral in Manila and Gegemon Babon and Sugar Hicap in Tarlac City

MANILA, Philippines-Four of the biggest rural-based organizations in the country– the activist peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), the peasant women federation Amihan, the agricultural worker group Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) and the left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Thursday urged Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and House Speaker Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte to pursue a joint or separate congressional inquiry on the alleged over importation of rice in 2004 and 2007.

“In aid of legislation, the people of rural Philippines hereby order Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and House Speaker Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte to undertake a joint or separate congressional inquiry on rice importation that cost the Filipino people of P 171.6 billion in taxpayers money,” said KMP secretary general Danilo Ramos and Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap in a press statement.

The two activist leaders suggested the “rice inquiry” to open the books of the National Food Authority (NFA), including inventory, records of transactions and financial records of the food authority from 2004 up to June 2010.

Ramos and Hicap, who spoke in behalf of their peers in Amihan women peasant federation and UMA agricultural labor group said all the officials of the Department of Agriculture and the NFA from 2004 up to June 2010 shall be subpoenaed by the rice inquiry task force to be put up jointly and separately by Congress.

KMP and Pamalakaya said those who should be made answerable for the anarchic importation of rice in 2004 and 2007 referring to the 900,000 metric tons of rice imported as against the 117,000 metric tons needed to fill up the gap in supply in 2004, and the 1.827 million metric tons imported by the Philippine government compared to he 589,000 metric tons needed to fill up the gap in rice supply.

“If that is the case, then former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her then agriculture secretary now Bohol Rep. Arthur Yap should take the center stage of the rice inquiry that should be called by Congress at the soonest possible time, maybe next week,” the groups said.

KMP and Pamalakaya also suggested that while Congress is investigating the rice scam jointly or separately, Reps. Arroyo and Yap shall be suspended from performing their jobs as legislators of their respective districts until the investigation is done and concrete legislative and legal actions have been made to address the over importation of rice and the corruption issues which surround the anarchic buying of rice from sources abroad.

The groups said Congress can make proposals out of the results of the rice inquiry like forwarding corruption cases or legislative complaints before the House Ethics Committee which could decide on the expulsion of Arroyo and Yap from Congress.

“The case People of the Philippines vs. Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Rep. Arthur Yap must be pursued at all cost. We are talking here of 171.6 billion pesos drawn against the people’s hard earned taxes. The NFA can’t even buy 10 percent of the farmers’ produce in the nine-year rule of Arroyo, but billions of pesos of people’s money were spent for unwarranted importation,” added Pamalakaya and KMP.

Earlier. Danilo Bonabon, NFA director in Central Visayas, Wednesday said that around 2 million bags of rice were arriving in Cebu City until the end of August for Central and Eastern Visayas and the cities of Pagadian and Dipolog. He said this shipment would be on top of the 2.6 million bags of imported rice stored in different warehouses in Cebu, Bohol, Siquijor and Negros Oriental.

Lito Banayo, newly appointed NFA chief, yesterday said he was asking the Department of Justice to investigate why the NFA under Arroyo had authorized the Philippine International Trading Corp. (PTIC) to import 20,000 metric tons of rice from Vietnam in spite of the surplus. #

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Outrage sparked anew over killing of another RP media

By Gerry Albert Corpuz

MANILA, Philippines- Members of the Philippine media are again outraged with the murder of Nestor Bedolido of the weekly Kastigador in Digos City, Davao del Sur, on Saturday night. Bedolido, according to the media alert dispatched by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) was the 140th journalist killed since 1986. Since 2001 or under the nine-year rule of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration there were 103 Philippine journalists and media workers killed.

In a statement sent to media a copy of which was emailed to http://www.allvoices.com,, the NUJP said “it would be convenient to attribute this week’s murders to a killing frenzy by the enemies of press freedom before this unlamented government steps down.But it is more likely they really cannot care less which administration is in place”.

The NUJP added: “Not with the apathy and official inaction administration after administration – the outgoing one admittedly more than any other – has shown towards attempts to silence one of the cornerstones of democracy, a free press”.

It futher said: “The outgoing administration has, again, excelled at – that nurtures warlords and sundry crooks, allowing them to amass power and pervert public service into personal privilege, in exchange for political favors, like stolen votes”.

The NUJP said Bedolido’s murder followed that of Ilocos Norte’s Jovelito Agustin of dzJC Aksyon Radyo in Laoag City, who was ambushed on his way home Wednesday and died while being treated at a hospital, and Davao Oriental’s Desiderio Camangyan of Mati-based Sunshine FM, killed with a single shot to the head as he sat onstage while emceeing a village singing contest in Manay town.

Bedolido, in his late 40s, was buying cigarettes on the corner of Rizal and Quezon Avenues when he was shot six times by a lone gunman who then “casually walked to a waiting motorcycle driven by another unidentified man.”

The victim was rushed by bystanders to the nearby Gonzales Hospital but died before he could receive treatment.The Philippine Daily Inquirer which ran a story on the killing of Mindanao based journalist, the victim was known to be critical of a prominent politician in Davao del Sur and was suspected of authoring a series of exposés against the official. “It is clear that government’s failure or, and we suspect this is more accurate, refusal to hold accountable those responsible for the killings – especially the masterminds – makes it equally guilty, an accomplice to the bloodbath that has made a mockery of all our claims to being a democracy,” the NUJP said.

The NUJP challenged President elect Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III to put an end to the killings of journalists and resolve previous cases of politically motivated murder of their peers.

The Philippine media group said the search for truth and justice for murdered journalists in the country will be a litmus test of how seriously Benigno Aquino III considers his promise of good governance. So will his resolve to hold accountable his predecessor not only for the corruption that marked her nine years in office, but also for the massive loss of lives for which, she too, should be made responsible for.
The NUJP said these media killings are matter of state accountability asserting these human rights violations were committed under the administration of Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.The group said the business of ensuring justice for all victims weighs just as heavy on Aquino as head of state as it should on all thosewhose sworn duty it is to protect and ensure the life and welfare of all citizens but which, sadly, they still have to do so.
Earlier, international journalist groups have urged Aquino to resolve with dispatch the continuous killing of journalists all over the archipelago.

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9 presidentiables urged to cross party lines and unite vs. failure of elections

By Bb. Joyce Cabral, Billy Javier Reyes, Sarah Ann Go and Gerry Albert Corpuz

MANILA, Philippines – The activist fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) urged the nine presidential candidates led by Liberal Party (LP) presidential standard bearer Senator Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III, Gilbert Teodoro of Lakas-CMD, former President Joseph Estrada of Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP) and Nacionalista Party (NP) Manuel Villar to cross party lines and forge a political unity to oppose an alleged plot leading to failure of elections to retain outgoing President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in power.

The militant group issued the statement after President Arroyo called her top security officials yesterday to discuss security matters and possible social unrest arising from the May 10 elections. However, Malacanang said the no-election scenario was not discussed during the meeting.

In a press statement, Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap said aside from the front runners in the May 10 presidential race, the rest of the candidates–independent candidates Jamby Madrigal, Nicanor Perlas and JC de los Reyes of Ang Kapatiran, Bagumbayan presidential bet Richard Gordon and Bangon Pilipinas’ Bro. Eddie Villanueva should obliged themselves to join the mass movement against a possible plot to extend Arroyo’s term via failure of elections.

“All presidentiables should cross party lines and prepare for the grueling battle in the streets against any grand design that would lead to declaration of failure of elections by Comelec and serve the hold over presidency in silver platter to Mrs. Arroyo and her ruling political syndicate ,” said Hicap.

The Pamalakaya leader said the first automated election system in the country from the start was designed to fail in accordance with the game plan of Malacanang, adding that the series of “unfortunate and chaotic events” as far as the automated election processes were concerned were staged to convince the public of an Arroyo extended presidency beginning May 10.

Hicap said the presence of four battalions of armed government troops in the National Capital Region, excluding the 900 troops deployed in Manila, Makati, Pasay, Taguig and Caloocan was a clear sign that the Arroyo government is setting the stage for declaration of civilian-military junta with Mrs. Arroyo as its president.

“The National Capital Region is virtually transformed into a police state occupied and ruled by Arroyo and her loyal lieutenants in the AFP,” the Pamalakaya official noted.

Hicap asked the camps of Aquino, Villar, Estrada and Teodoro and the rest of the presidential candidates to immediately set aside partisan politics and focus their political energy against the grand design of Arroyo and the pro-GMA clique in the military to sabotage the polls and keep Mrs. Arroyo in power under civilian-military junta.

Hicap same the same political call applies to vice-presidential and senatorial candidates, congressional, governor and other candidates running in the May 10, 2010 elections.

Pamalakaya said all anti-Arroyo political parties and groups who will oppose the hold over presidency could agree to the formation of transition council that will include people’s organizations, anti-corruption watchdogs, human rights groups, anti-fraud electoral organizations and well respected institutions and individuals.

The fisherfolk group said the transition council can function as a transition government that will prepare the next honest, orderly, peaceful and clean elections in the next three to six months. “Why not explore this politically correct therefore politically viable option in the name of national interest?”, Pamalakaya said. #

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Fishers group asked CBCP support vs. Las Vegas like casino in Manila Bay

By Bb. Joyce Cabral

MANILA, Philippines-A militant alliance of small fishermen on Wednesday revealed a close associate and crony of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was given the franchise to develop portions of a reclaimed area in Roxas Boulevard to construct a Las Vegas type gambling complex in Manila Bay.

In a press statement, the activist Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) and staunch ally Anakpawis party list on Sunday appealed to the influential Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) to join the groups’ crusade against the ambitious multi-billion casino project in Manila Bay.

“To the archbishops and bishops of the CBCP, please hear and support our appeal and prayer against this giant gambling escapade of Malacanang and its cherished cronies,” said Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap.

The Pamalakaya leader said Enrique Razon Jr., head of multinational port operator International Container Terminal Services, Inc. (ICTSI) and a known crony of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has bought a gaming company that will build a casino at the Bagong Nayong Pilipino project.

“This is ridiculous, very, very ridiculous. Please allow us to inform the bishops that the Supreme Court ruling is clear——-Malacanang should rehabilitate Manila Bay and should not transform the bay into a gambling capital of Asia is contrary to the high court decision,” said Hicap in reference to the Dec. 2008 Supreme Court decision mandating the national government and concerned government agencies to restore Manila Bay back to its historic and proud past.

Hicap learned last week that Razon had acquired a controlling stake in Bloombury investment Holdings Inc from Jose Ch. Alvarez, owner of Columbian Motors Corp. The Pamalakaya leader said Alvarez sold his controlling interest in Bloombury, one of the companies tapped to develop the ambitious $ 15 billion Las Vegas casino project to be installed along the 120 reclaimed area in Manila Bay.

“The bishops are politically and morally obliged to confront this gambling project of the ruling Mafia in Malacanang. That is one their callings as far as the Christian faith and the people’s collective interest are concerned,” the Pamalakaya official added.

According to a news report, Bloombury is one of four companies granted a provisional license by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) to set up and operate gaming and entertainment facilities at the Bay Shore Bagong Nayong Pilipino Entertainment City project at the Manila Bay reclamation area in Parañaque.

The other companies granted licenses were Travellers International Hotel Group, Inc., the partnership between the Andrew L. Tan-led Alliance Global, Inc. and casino-resort operator Genting Hong Kong Ltd., SM Investments Corp. and Universal Entertainment Corp. (formerly Azure Corp.), which makes gaming machines and is a co-investor in the Wynn chain of casino hotels in Las Vegas and Macau.

“The issue of Manila Bay casino project is not only about cronyism and the despicable partnership between Arroyo and his cherished client-Mr. Razon. At stake here is the marine environment, the livelihood of 3 million people in Manila Bay and the national interest of 92 million Filipinos. Sad to say, President Arroyo sacrificed these stakes to make more money and make his crony the happiest and the luckiest guy on earth.

Pagcor president and chief operating officer Rafael Butch Francisco announced on Monday the construction at the Bay Shore Entertainment City was expected to start in the latter part of the year. Sources said the Razon’s entry into the Pagcor project came after his exit from the power transmission business. Last month, Henry Sy Jr.’s OneTaipan Holdings, Inc. bought Monte Oro Grid Resources Corp. from Razon’s group for $350 million.

Pagcor said the construction is expected to start in the third quarter at an estimated cost of $400 million for the first phase. According to the state-run gambling corporation, the complex will include two five-star luxury hotel towers of over 1,000 rooms within a world-class entertainment and convention facility.

The Pamalakaya fisherfolk alliance said the construction of Manila Bay casino similar to first-rate casinos in Las Vegas and Macau will trigger the displacement of 3 million coastal people in Metro Manila and Cavite who are still dependent to fishing as principal source of livelihood, and any move to transform or convert Manila Bay for other purposes like the $15-billion casino project will have a killing impact on the livelihood of small fishermen, aside from the fact that they would be demolished from their communities, once construction of support structures and establishments begins.

“The irrevocable desire of President Arroyo and Mr. Razon to convert Manila Bay into an international gateway for big time gambling addicts both international and domestic is not only blasphemous, but also detestable and highly revolting. This government is sacrificing the future of Manila Bay fishers at the altar of corporate interest and gambling addiction of the international and domestic elites,” the Pamalakaya said.

The militant group said the construction of Manila Bay casino will also trigger reclamation of other coastal shores along Manila Bay that will result to eviction of fishing communities and coastal villagers along the bay.

Pamalakaya recalled from 1992 to 1995, the demolitions of coastal shanties became an everyday ordeal in Pasay Reclamation area. Houses were uprooted on almost day-to-day basis. Small and big time bribery to divide the communities were conducted to facilitate the demolition of homes as if the words and orders of Malacañang were the words of God in this country.

The setting up of casino and resorts, including SM’s Mall of Asia was all in the master plan of the government known as Manila Bay Master Development Plan that officially started during the time of President Ramos and projected to end between 2020 and 2025.

Pamalakaya said 3,500 small fisherfolk and their families in Pasay Reclamation Area, and another 3,000 coastal and urban poor families along the coastal shores of Parañaque were evicted by the government of former President Ramos to pave way for the construction of the proposed casino that would make the Philippines the Las Vegas of Asia.#

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“There’s money for Italian planes, but no funds for fishers’ subsidy”- Group

By Gerry Albert Corpuz and Kremlin Montenegro

MANILA, Philippines-The left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) assailed on Monday the $ 13 million contract the Department of National Defense (DND) inked with an Italian aircraft manufacturer, while it continues to ignore the demand of El Nino stricken fisherfolk for a four-month production and economic subsidies to mitigate the impact of the prolonged drought in the country.

“Malacanang and the defense department allocated 13 million in green bucks or roughly P 598 M of taxpayers’ money for the purchase of 18 SF-260 planes from the Italy while ignoring the fact that thousands of El Nino affected fishermen are in dire need of support funds to resume production and mitigate the economic impact of extreme heat besetting the country,” said Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap said in a press statement.

The contract between the Italian manufacturer Alenia Aermacchi S.p.A was approved in 2008, but the firm started assembling SF-260 planes only late last year due to undisclosed complications. According to Teresa Parian, chief operating officer of Aerotech Industries Philippines Inc. (AIPI), the Italian manufacturer’s local partner, said the DND agreed to reconstitute the project and to obtain fresh mandate from government in late 2009.

“Can we use the training planes to fish for livelihood? Can it perform miraculous cloud seedings that would soon produce heavy rainfalls of economic subsidies and hunger mitigation measures? The people’s hard earned taxes are spent on white elephant projects like the 13 million dollar Italian training planes,” Hicap lamented.

The procurement of 18 SF-260 planes from Italy is part of the long-delayed modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). According to the executive summary of the AFP modernization plan, in order for the Philippine Air Force (PAF) to have respectable air defense system, the PAF has to acquire a minimum of two squadrons of multi-role fighter aircraft. The SF-260 will cost the government $ 700,000 each P 32 million each.

“This Republic of war freak officials like President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and defense Secretary Norberto Gonzalez is engaged in avant-garde wastage of people’s money in the name of bureaucratic corruption and in the service of their militarist agenda and obsession for bloody war. This 13 million dollar plane deal is grossly inimical to national interest, people’s welfare and strong cry for social justice,” said Pamalakaya.

Pamalakaya last month submitted to the Department of Agriculture (DA0 and the Laguna Lake Development their demand for a P 10,000 per month economic and production subsidy to fishing families affected by the El Nino phenomenon.

The group had said the government should mobilize the P 1.7 billion El Nino budget allotted last year and the calamity funds of provincial and local government units to provide relief to red tide and fish kill stricken areas all over the country. The Pamalakaya fisherfolk alliance had also urged senators and congressmen to donate their remaining salaries from March 1 to June 30, including unspent portions of their pork barrel to fisherfolk and farmer victims of El Nino.

The group said the public could generate P 40,425 each from each district congressman. If there are 220 district congressmen, the fund which could be raised would be P 8,893,500 per month or P 35.57 million for four months. There are 23 senators at present, and each senator also receives
P 40,425 per month or P 929,775 for all senators. If they senators decide to donate their salaries to El Nino victims, the amount that can be generated from senators’ salaries for next four months would be
P 3,719,100.

“If there are 243 congressmen and senators who will donate at least P 20 million of their remaining pork barrel for the year, that would amount to P 4.86 billion, excluding their salaries. All in all, the combined salaries and donated pork barrel would amount to over P 5-billion which could be of big help to affected farmers and fishermen,” Pamalakaya said.

Long marchers assailed landlessness and the war policy of GMA

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