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New AFP chief asked: Who’s behind smear campaign against Left candidates?

By Viva Regala-Alonzo and Billy Javier Reyes

MANILA, Philippines-The militant fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) asked on Thursday newly installed Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Gen. Delfin Bangit the reason why despite his order for government troops not to obey unlawful orders from their most senior officers, officers and members of the armed forces are still engage in partisan politics and electioneering against militant party list groups and progressive candidates running in the May 2010 elections.

“If the nationwide hate and vilification campaign against militant party list groups and progressive candidates was not ordered by the AFP chief, then someone that is higher and powerful than The Emperor could be behind this electoral foul play orchestrated by the military”, Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap said in a press statement.

Hicap’s group is supporting the party list of Anakpawis party list and the senatorial bids of Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo and Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Liza Maza. The Pamalakaya leader had earlier asked members of the international community observing the conduct of the May 2010 polls to monitor the involvement of the AFP in partisan politics and electioneering which are directed against activist party list groups and militant candidates.

“We strongly ask Gen. Bangit to set the record straight. Who is behind the smear campaign against progressive party lists and candidates? It is not only unlawful but grossly unconstitutional for AFP officers and state security forces to campaign against progressive party lists and candidates,” Hicap added.

In a speech to a group of marines at Camp Teodulo Bautista in Jolo, Sulu on Wednesday, the newly appointed AFP chief said the soldiers are not bound to obey unlawful orders, stressing that the military are not politicians and therefore should stay out of politics and follow only lawful orders from their superiors.

Leaders and members of Pamalakaya in Sorsogon said the military in the province are conducting house-to-house campaign in the province calling on all voters not to vote for militant party lists like Bayan Muna, Anakpawis, Gabriela, Kabataan Party and Act Teachers party list. The party lists formed Makabayan coalition party that includes Katribu party list, a new party list representing indigenous people and national minority groups in the country.

On Feb.23, Army Major Arnal Manjares hurt one of the campaigners of Makabayan during a house-to-house sortie, while conducting house-to-house campaign for progressive party lists and senatorial candidates Ocampo and Maza.

Based on the report reaching the headquarters of Bayan Muna in Quezon City, Manjares slapped the face of the volunteer and threatened the victim and his companions that they would be killed and harmed if they come back again and campaign for leftwing party lists and candidates in the area.

Pamalakaya said in the last May 2007 elections, cases of partisan politics specifically against Bayan Muna, Anakpawis and Gabriela party lists were also documented Castilla Sorsogon, San Luis, Isabela, Nasugbu, Tanauan and Taysan in Batangas, Dasmarinas, Cavite, Cordon, and Cauayan, and San Luis Roxas, Isabela, Tuburan, Iloilo, Tubod, Lanao Del Norte, Palimbang Sultan Kudarat, Baggao, Cagayan, Burgos, Ilocos Norte, Kolambugan and Tubod Lanao del Norte, Roxas, Mindoro Oriental, Masbate, Guimba, Nueva Ecija, New Bataan, Compostela Valley.

There were also documented cases of military partisan politics against progressive party lists in Gumaca, Lucena, Sariaya, Candelaria, Lucena, Pagbilao, Gen. Luna and Macalelon, all in Quezon province, Alangalang and Tacloban in Leyte, North Cotabato, Marikina City, Makati City, any parts of Camarines Norte, Sa. Rosa, Laguna, Lavenzares, North Samar, Abuyog, Cagayan Valley, Puerto Princesa, Palawan, Marawi City, many polling places in Lanao del Sur and many canvassing areas in Isabela.

Pamalakaya said the forms of military and police involvement include abductions and salvaging of progressive party list leaders and poll watchers, Illegal presence inside canvass areas or roaming around polling places and canvass areas, harassment of voters and forcing them not to vote militant party lists and instead vote for Palace backed party lists like Bantay of Rep. Jovito Palparan, transporting of ballot boxes in canvass areas, banning militant party list poll watchers inside the canvass areas and selecting only those they want to allow to enter, acting as bodyguards of candidates.

Other incidence cited by the militant group to prove military involvement in the 2007 polls included the presence of APC and 6×6 trucks near polling places and canvass areas, police counting the votes in precinct, the shooting and wounding of a Bayan Muna leader, the burning of school rooms, the Illegal arrest of poll watchers and the threatening Comelec official.

Pamalakaya had appealed to members of the National Democratic Institute (NDI) to also monitor and entertain reports and cases against AFP officials and rank-and-file personnel accused of engaging in partisan politics and electioneering.

The group had asked Jamie Metzl of NDI, Thomas Barry, deputy regional director of NDI for Asia, Sam Gejdenson, former member of US Congress, Nora Owen, former justice minister of Ireland and Sue Wood, former president of the New Zealand National Party to put premium on documented reports that the military are campaigning for pro-administration bets and on the other hand are campaigning against certain candidates and party lists highly critical of the Arroyo administration.

“The pro-GMA clique in the AFP is in command of all these dirty electoral campaign against progressive candidates and party lists. It is blatantly and brazenly violating provisions of the 1987 Constitution that illegalize any kind or form of military partisan politics and electioneering. We appeal to the members of the international community to give proper attention to this militarist agenda of the pro-Arroyo faction in the AFP,” the group said.

Pamalakaya also asked members of the Western electoral watchdog to remain until June 30 to complete their observation and make an objective preliminary assessment of the May 2010 elections. The militant group said the March 12 to March 17 schedule of NDI electoral observers was short and will not give them even a comprehensive overview on how the Arroyo government and Comelec commence the 2010 elections under its stewardship.

The militant group had pressed Comelec chairman Jose Melo to invoke the constitutional provision banning all military officials and government troops from exercising partisan politics in lieu of reports that that some members of the AFP are engaged in campaigning against Makabayan senatorial candidates—Bayan Muna party list Rep. Satur Ocampo and Gabriela Rep. Liza Maza and activist party lists Bayan Muna, Gabriela and Anakpawis.

‘The commissioners of Comelec headed by Chairman Melo should impose an iron hand policy against officials and members of the AFP engaged in partisan politics. The military is violating the 1987 Constitution pertaining to partisan politics and this political-military adventure sanctioned by the ruling party in Malacanang must be put to an end,” the group said. #

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Mikey urged to work as security guard before running as party list nominee

By Lollipop de los Reyes and Queen Shawn Dok

MANILA, Philippines-The militant fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Monday gave presidential son and Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel “ Mikey” Arroyo to work as security guard for at least 2 years before seeking running as party list nominee of Ang Galing Pinoy, a sectoral party list organization representing the “marginalized” interests of security guards all over the country.

“If Rep. Arroyo wants to become the voice of the poor and the oppressed he should undergo a major political overhaul, atone for his grave sins against the people and prove his worth as the real representative of the marginalized group he wants to represent. If he wants to acquire continuing political power and impunity by cannibalizing and bastardizing the party list system, then better forget his sinister plan and consider an early retirement from politics,” Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap said in a press statement.

Arroyo gave up his chance to represent the second district of Pampanga in favor of his mother- President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. He is rumored to be running as the first nominee of Ang Galing Pinoy party list, which Pamalakaya and allied party list groups opposed because it is a party list backed by Malacanang and perceived to be one of the party list machineries to ensure seats that would catapult Mrs. Arroyo to the speakership of the 15th Congress.

“Why not work first as a security guard at least for two to three years. Mikey can work as one of the security guards guarding the Arroyo owned LTA Corp. building in Makati City in various shifts so he could directly experience the ordeals of blue guards and internalize their issues and concerns in the process. Will he accept this challenge?” Hicap asked.

The Pamalakaya leader also said the same applies to Department of Energy (DoE) Secretary Angelo Reyes who is rumored to be running as the party list nominee of the transport party list group 1-UTAK, another Malacanang hatched party list.

“We also advise Secretary Reyes to leave his post and pursue a driving career as a jeepney driver in the next two to three years before joining the party list system as no.1 nominee of that highly questionable transport party list group,” added Hicap.
Pamalakaya argued that Secretary Reyes does not represent the voice of the hardworking transport worker, asserting further that the controversial energy chief is the ultimate and first rate puppet of oil cartel and transnational mining companies over the last five years.

The militant group doubted that Rep. Arroyo and Sec. Reyes would accept their challenge, saying people with cruel intentions and sinister interests will not subscribe to their proposal for political reforms and meaningful change.

“Rep. Arroyo and Sec. Reyes and the party lists they represent are part of the entire ruling syndicate in Malacanang. Their penchant for extreme greed for power and super crimes of corruption are undeniable,” said Pamalakaya.

The militant group said since it is next to impossible for Rep. Arroyo and Sec. Reyes to live up to their challenge, they would join party list groups Bayan Muna, Anakpawis, Gabriela and Kabataan Party in the signature campaign to disqualify alleged party list groups identified and supported by Malacanang.

Pamalakaya said the party list groups that should be exposed, opposed and disqualified to run in the party list elections in the coming May 2010 elections aside from Ang Galing Pinoy and 1-UTAK are Ang Kasangga headed by Maria Lourdes Arroyo, sister of First Gentleman Atty. Jose Miguel “ Mike” Arroyo, Bantay party list of Rep. Jovito Palparan, Agbiag Timpuyo Ilokano, Ahon Pinoy, Akbay Pinoy-OFW, Aangat Ating Kabuhayan-Filipinas (Anak), Babae Ka, Bigkis, Byaheng Pinoy Labor Association, Kalahi and League of Youth for Peace and Advancement (Lypad).

Pamalakaya said these groups are pseudo party lists which are backed or influenced by Malacanang and other political interests identified with President Arroyo. The militant group said there are other party lists which are believed to be funded or backed by the Office of the President which needed by to be exposed and opposed to the Filipino public. #

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GMA urged to confess crimes ahead of May 2010 polls

By Trinity Biglang Awa and Chocolate Moose Fernandez

Manila, Philippines-Lakbayanis staged a picket rally at the headquarters of Southern Luzon Command of the AFP in Lucena City Leaders of the left-wing fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Saturday advised outgoing President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to confess her crimes to the public ahead of the May 2010 national and local elections.

In a press statement, Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap and Pamalakaya Vice-chair Salvador France said instead of embarking on three-month publicity offensive, the President should tell the truth on various issues ranged against her like the 2005 Hello Garci scandal, the extra judicial killings and enforced disappearances of political activists and the long-running high crimes of corruption levelled against her nine-year old administration.

“The election season provides President Arroyo the opportune moment to confess her crimes to the public and declare readiness to accept the consequence of her wrongdoings to the Filipino people. The right time is today or anytime before June 30,2010,” the Pamalakaya leaders said.

The President will step down on June 30 to give way to the new elected president. But critics and political analysts say Arroyo is moving heaven and earth to stop the May 2010 polls and keep herself to power.

Pamalakaya along with militant party list group Anakpawis fired the first political salvo against the Arroyo administration this year, when they filed plunder and other criminal and administrative charges against President Arroyo and other agriculture officials in connection with the
P 455 million ovepriced ice-making machines last Jan.6.

Malacanang dismissed the fresh plunder suit against President Arroyo as ideologically driven harassment.

The militant group also supported the formation of a national commission that will try President Arroyo on her crimes against the people. But Pamalakaya said aside from civil society groups, the commission should also include representatives from the Supreme Court, representatives from the new Senate and House leadership including those from the influential Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) and several human rights and lawyers groups and anti-corruption watchdogs.

Pamalakaya said President Arroyo wasted people’s money when she spent public funds for the publicity ads initiated by different government offices. According to the group, a two-page full page publicity ad will cost not less than P 380,000 per broadsheet per day.

The group said a broadsheet publishing Palace publicity ad will cost taxpayers some P 2.6 million per broadsheet per week. “This is double jeopardy to the people. Imagine Mrs. Arroyo is using taxpayers money for cover up and super road show publicity offensive?”, said Pamalakaya. #

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Farmer marchers say DAR is joking on 200K hectare target for land distribution in 2010

by Kaka Esteban and Trinity Biglang Awa

Manila, Philippines- “It is a joke and a bad one.”

Peasant leaders of the 10-day Pambansang Lakbayan ng Anakpawis Para Sa Lupa at Katarungan on Thursday slammed the announcement of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) that agrarian reform agency is ready to distribute some 200,000 hectares of land to qualified farmer beneficiaries this year under the extended Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program with Reforms (CARPer) with the return of the compulsory acquisition scheme in the five year extended land reform law.

In a press statement, Lakbayan organizers Anakpawis party list, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), the Katipunan ng Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (Kasama-TK) and the Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luzon (AMGL) said Agrarian reform secretary Nasser Pangandaman is joking and treating landless farmers and agrarian reform beneficiaries into an outrageous roller coaster ride when he announced DAR target for distribution in 2010.

“Secretary Pangandaman is the point person of landgrabbers and the land speculators in and out of Malacanang and in and out of the agrarian reform department. His statement suggests false hopes and political blackmail rolled into. He wants to convince landless farmers that everything is ok under CARPer which is not true,” said KMP secretary general Danilo Ramos and Anakpawis secretary general Cherry Clemente in a joint statement.

In its website (www.dar.gov.ph) the agrarian reform agency expressed optimism that the department will attain 200,000 hectare land distribution target for 2010 due largely to the restoration of compulsory acquisition as one of the modes of acquiring lands under Republic Act 9700 or the CARPer law. He said the increase in the budget of DAR will hasten the distribution of land to agrarian reform beneficiaries.

“First the target is too low compared to the more than 6 million hectares of prime agricultural lands concentrated in the hands of landed monopolies like big landlords, private corporations and multinational plantations and military landlords in AFP military reservations,” the Lakbayan leaders stressed.

KMP’s Ramos said DAR never mentioned that while the compulsory acquisition (CA) as a mode was restored in CARPer law, it evaded citing the other mode of land acquisition, which is voluntary offer to sell (VOS), which big landlords can range against compulsory acquisition to maintain their control over vast tracts of lands. The farmer leader said the VOS will also be used by landed monopolies to sell their lands at a price acceptable to them.

“Mr. Pangandaman is engaged in massive disinformation. He is not telling the truth about CARPer and the bankruptcy and anti-farmer character of this law,” added Ramos.

Anakpawis’ Clemente urged the House of Representatives to undertake a complete inventory and performance assessment of DAR since CARP was implemented in 1987, asserting that DAR’s accomplish reports were not verified and highly questionable.

The party list official said based on the data provided by the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS), the country has 14.1 million hectares of prime agricultural lands, of said total 9.9 million hectares are farmlands and about 4 million hectares more or less are devoted to livestock production which were exempted from land distribution since 1988.

“There are about 7 million hectares of prime agricultural lands or more are concentrated in the hands of the few, and we DAR has no proof that five million hectares or more of these lands were already distributed to farmer beneficiaries under the reactionary CARP regime” said Clemente.

KMP noted that in the September 2007 report of DAR, that following data were uncovered: 5,049 emancipation patents (EPs) and 103, 092 certificates of land ownership awards (CLOAs) were cancelled by the agrarian department covering 204,579 hectares of land. But think tank Ibon Foundation said at the middle of 2004, DAR cancelled 2,000 land titles of farmers involving 380,000 hectares of land.

Meanwhile, the 87-year old Damasa “Naynay Masang” de Castro, survivor of the 1987 Mendiola Massacre, now on wheel chair, will lead 2,000 marchers from Mindanao, Panay, Negros, Central Visayas, Eastern Visayas, Bicol, Southern Tagalog, Ilocos provinces, La Union, Cordillera, Isabela, Cagayan and Central Luzon provinces will converge at DAR ‘s national office early this evening for the People’s Concert and Vigil for Land and Justice.

The Mendiola Massacre survivor and veteran of numerous fights on agrarian reform led the community of farmers in Barangay Langkaan 1 and Pala-pala in Dasmarinas, Cavite against the Japanese giant Marubeni in the mid 80s and early 90s –whom the old woman and her farmer colleagues accused of landgrabbing and violations of peasant land rights.

Tomorrow, the 10,000 marching farmers , fisherfolk, farmworkers and peasant women will be joined by 8,000 Manila based activists belonging to Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay), Gabriela, Bayan, Bayan Muna, Kabataan Party, League of Filipino Students (LFS) and eight militant party list congressmen—Bayan Muna Reps. Satur Ocampo, Atty. Neri Javier Colmenares and Teddy Casino, Anakpawis party list Reps. Rafael Mariano and Joel Maglunsod, Kabataan Party Rep. Raymond Palatino and Gabriela lawmakers Liza Maza and Luzviminda Ilagan. With reports from Bb. Joyce Cabral and Sugar Hicap

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10-km march highlights 23rd year anniv of Mendiola Massacre

By Gerry Albert Corpuz, Roy Morilla, Rey Manangan and Billy Javier Reyes

Manila, Philippines- 10,000 farmers and Manila based activists will walk 10 kilometer from Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to Mendiola Bridge in Manila to demand free distribution of land and justice to victims of state repression. They will literally and figuratively paint the town red with their slogans for free land distribution and justice. And they will burn 1,500 pictures of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo once they reach the bridge of Mendiola.

“This is another shining moment, a triumphant class action from the Filipino peasantry. We will grab this political opportunity to strike our demand for free distribution of land and the rendering of justice to all victims of states-sponsored terrorism under the administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo,” said the activist peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and Anakpawis party list –organizers of the 10-day Pambansang Lakbayan ng Anakpawis Para sa Lupa at Katarungan in a joint statement.

The long march will coincide with the 23rd year anniversary of Mendiola Massacre which claimed the lives of 13 farmers when military and police agents peppered protesting farmers with bullets in an intense and politically charged rally 23 years ago.

To highlight the long march, leaders of the Katipunan ng Mga Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (Kasama-TK) will set on fire an effigy billed as “Backhoe Gloria”, which they said symbolizes Arroyo’s crimes to the Filipino farmers like landlessness and political repression. The burning of the effigy will be held in Mendiola once they reach the historic bridge, organizers said.

The 7 ft. tall effigy made of spare woods and other scrap materials was crafted by the Laguna based Southern Tagalog Cultural Network, according to Kasama-TK spokesperson Imelda Lacandazo. “The purpose of this effigy is to remind the people of Gloria’s monstrous reign,” she said.

Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) secretary general Danilo Ramos said the burning of 1,500 pictures of President Arroyo in Mendiola will symbolize the outrage of Filipino farmers against her government responsible for the gross denial of farmers’ rights to land, the brutal killings of 561 farmers and the fabricated criminal charges filed against peasant activists.
“With the burning of 1,500 pictures of Mrs. Arroyo, we figuratively speak the language of letting Mrs. Arroyo perish in the fires of hell for her agrarian crimes and injustice to millions of Filipino farmers. The prop action in Mendiola will also serve as a challenge and warning to the next sitting presidency in Malacanang,” added Ramos.

Ramos said marching farmers supported by 8,000 members of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), Gabriela, urban poor group Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay) and other manila based activist groups will also present the” Peasant Manila Declaration for May 2010 elections”—a political-electoral document composed of set of demands challenging all presidential candidates on issues and demands of farmers like free land distribution.

However, the KMP official said the set of demands will no longer be presented to Senator Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, because the Liberal Party (LP) standard bearer, in all occasions, refuses to give up his family’s immoral and illegal control over the 6,453-hectare Hacienda Luisita.

The Hacienda Luisita based United Luisita Workers Union (ULWU) also turned the occasion into a political bashing against Senator Aquino. ULWU acting president Lito Bais said Sen. Aquino and the Cojuangco-Aquino clan will not give up the sugar plantation to farmer beneficiaries because the senator believes Hacienda Luisita was God’s gift to the Cojuangcos, and that farm workers working for several decades in the 6,453 hectare sugar estate are children of a lesser God for a lifetime.

“Senator Aquino is anti-farmer, a certified class enemy of farmers,” Bais said. According to Bais, around 100 farm workers of Hacienda Luisita joined the North leg of the 10-day Lakbayan. He said farmers from Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union, Pangasinan, Cagayan, Isabela, Tarlac, Zambales, Bataan, Pampanga, Bulacan and Nueva Ecija merged with Luisita farm workers on their way to Manila for the big rally. #

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Luisita workers say Noynoy a hopeless case

By Jayjay Jaiho and Bb. Joyce Cabral

Manila, Philippines- “While Liberal Party presidential standard bearer Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III is no longer a hopeless romantic as far as the affairs of the heart are concerned, he is a hopeless case as far as striking workers of Hacienda Luisita workers are concerned,” according to leaders of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), the Unyon ng Mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) and Anakpawis party list.

In a joint press statement, KMP secretary general Danilo Ramos, UMA spokesperson Lito Bais and Anakpawis secretary general Cherry Clemente said the refusal of Sen. Aquino to recognize the rights of striking farmworkers and his rejection of the legitimate, lawful and morally upright demand for immediate and unconditional free distribution of the 6,453-hectare sugar estate to more than 8,000 agrarian reform beneficiaries betrayed the collective interest of the Filipino farmers all over the country.

“Noynoy will not give up their immoral claim and blood tainted control of Hacienda Luisita,” the militant leaders said.

The militant groups said the agenda calling for free distribution of Hacienda Luisita to farmworkers and other agrarian reform beneficiaries will be posed to other presidential candidates in the May 2010 elections that include Manuel Villar of Nacionalista Party, the closest rival of Aquino according to various surveys conducted by independent poll groups.

“The issues concerning Hacienda Luisita like the revocation of Stock Distribution Option, the immediate and free distribution of the 6,453-hectare sugar estate to land reform beneficiaries and the quest for justice for victims of the massacre on Nov.16, 2004 will be included in the peasant electoral agenda for 2010,” the groups said.

They said the family of Sen. Aquino failed to address and improve the lives of Luisita workers over the last three to four decades. According to them, daily take home pay of every farm worker in Hacienda Luisita is
P 9.50, which is not even enough to buy a half kilo of NFA rice.

Bais, the UMA spokesperson and acting president of the hacienda based United Luisita Workers Union (ULWU) today announced that Hacienda Luisita will serve as a launching pad of Lakbayan ng Anakpawis Para sa Lupa at Katarungan which will officially start on January 16 in Northern Philippines.

The Lakbayan will gather marching farmers from Ilocos, Cordillera, Cagayan Valley and Central Luzon regions on their way to National Capital Region on the occasion of the 23rd year anniversary of Mendiola Massacre.

Bais said on January 16, thousands of farmers and farmworkers from Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union, Pangasinan, Abra, Benguet, Tarlac, Bataan, Zambales, Pampanga, Bataan, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Nueva Viscaya, Isabela and Cagayan will mass up in Hacienda Luisita Park to signal the 7-day Lakbayan from Northern Luzon to NCR.

The UMA spokesman said farmers will then hold a caravan from Tarlac City to Angeles City and San Fernando City in Pampanga and will stage a vigil near Pampanga’s provincial capitol. From the capitol, farmers will stage a long march on their way to Malolos, Bulacan. They are expected to reach Monumento in Caloocan City on the afternoon of January 20, according to caravan and long march organizers.

Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luzon (AMGL) secretary general Joseph Canlas said aside from Hacienda Luisita, Central Luzon peasants will also expose and oppose the continuing landgrabbing activities by big landlords and the military in San Miguel, Bulacan and Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation in Laur, Nueva Ecija.

Canlas said farmers in Hacienda Sta. Isabel and Hacienda San Antonio in Isabela will also join the caravan and long march to press for the immediate distribution of big landholdings to landless farmers in the province.

In the South, Lakbayan organizers led by KMP and Anakpawis party list said around 750 farmers, fisherfolk, peasant women, agricultural workers and indigenous people from 10 regions in Mindanao, Panay, Negros, the Visayas and Bicol are expected to reach Lucena City by January 17, where they are expected to hold a solidarity vigil, which the Katipunan ng mga Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (Kasama-TK) and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan- Southern Tagalog chapter (Bayan-ST) will host and sponsor.

Kasama-TK and Bayan- ST representing over 1,000 mobilization from the region will later join the marchers on their way to the National Capital region.

“This is history in the making”, organizers added.

“Land monopoly in the country has further aggravated and intensified the exploitation of our farmers. Imagine, because of landlessness, they are perennially subjected to pay 50 percent, or 1/3 or 1/4 of their gross harvest as land rent. But only 19 to 21 percent of the total produce goes to farmers. This sorry state of agrarian reform in the country will be vividly depicted during the 10-day farmers’ march from all over the country,” they said.

Organizers said the Lakbayan will also engage in mobile dissemination and propaganda campaign about the sorry condition of farm workers all over the country. She said daily income of rice farmers for the entire cropping season ranges from P 23 to P 40 per day.

On the other hand, KMP’s Ramos said in defense of their rights to land in pursuit of social justice, farmers are perpetually subjected to various forms of human rights violations, militarization and repression.

Latest data from Karapatan human rights group revealed that 561 farmers were victims of extrajudicial killings, 119 of them were leaders and members of KMP, while scores of internally displaced peasants due to all-out war, militarization and massacre; and cases of abducted farmers and falsely charged rural activists continue to flood the monitoring bulletins of human rights groups and the concerned public. #

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Agri chief urged to recall overpriced ice-making machines

by Gerry Albert Corpuz and Billy Javier Reyes, senior reporters, The Pamalakaya Times

Manila, Philippines- Leaders of the militant fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) and Anakpawis party list on Monday urged Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap to recall the department’s purchase of 98 units of ice-making machines, which the group said was overpriced by P 2.3 million per unit.

Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap said the agriculture department through the National Agribusiness Corporation (NABCOR) awarded the government contract to a lone bidder—the Integrated Refrigeration System and Services (IRSS) on September 2, 2009, which will sell the ice-making unit at P 4,650,000 per unit, or about P 2.3 million higher compared to prevailing industry price for the ice-making machine.

“In the name of national interest and public trust, Secretary Yap should immediate revoke the contract because it is highly disadvantageous to the national government and to the taxpaying public. Imagine we will pay more than P 233 million of hard-earned taxpayers’ money to the preferred client of Malacanang. This is too much and super corruption to the highest order,” added Hicap.

The Pamalakaya official said the government will pay IRSS the sum of P 455,700,000 for 98 units of ice-making machines with liquid freeze capability which will be supplied to selected municipal fish ports nationwide. But the group said the government can obtain 98 units of ice-making machines for P 225 million to P 230 million, or half of the quoted and agreed price with IRSS.

“P 225 million is P 225 million. That sum of money can be used to finance any kind of sinister agenda or cruel intention by the present power holders in and out of Malacanang. The money might also be used to finance the electoral campaign of Mrs. Arroyo’s national and local bets in 2010 elections. This is money making in aid of electoral campaign for 2010 polls,” added Hicap.

Anakpawis secretary general Cherry Clemente said Secretary Yap is lawfully and morally bound to explain why the agriculture department entered into a contract that is disadvantageous to the government and to the Filipino public.

“Do we really need these ice-making machines? Our fisherfolk members all over the country were not even consulted on these projects, but these ice-making machines had already their icing on the cake status as far DA and its’ favored contractor are concerned. Secretary Yap owes the public a honest-to-goodness explanation, nothing more, nothing less,” the Anakpawis official said.

According to information gathered by Pamalakaya and Anakpawis party list, NABCOR conducted a preliminary bidding last August 26, and IRSS which won the bidding, was only incorporated on August 25, a day before the preliminary bidding was conducted.

The groups said under Republic Act 9184 (Procuring Law), Section 37.1, the bidder must submit a copy of its single largest completed contract over the past 3 years, and such condition is impossible for IRSS, which was only incorporated on August 25, this year, a day before the preliminary bidding. The contract was finally awarded last Sept.2.

Pamalakaya gave at least Secretary Yap a week to issue a memorandum calling for the revocation of what the group a highly irregular and extremely anomalous contract, adding that the agriculture secretary can do it even in one day.

The militant group threatened to file a plunder case against Secretary Yap and other officials of NABCOR if they fail to cancel the contract with IRSS in connection with the corruption tainted procurement of 98 units of ice-making machines pegged at P 4.6 million per unit.

“They have a week them a week or two to correct this multi-hundred million peso mistake. If they will not do their job, then we will take this case before the Office of the Ombudsman and have them charge of plunder and violations of anti-graft and corrupt practices act along with their private clients,” Pamalakaya said.

Aside from Secretary Yap, Pamalakaya said it will include in the plunder charge sheet the top officials of NABCOR namely Alan A. Javellana, President; Romulo A. Relevo, Chairman of the Bids and Awards Committee; Dennis Lozada, Winston Azucena, Melody de Guzman and Encarnita Cristina Munsod, all members of Bids and Awards Committee, and owners and operators of IRSS.

Earlier, Allan V. Ragasa, a complainant had filed charges against Sec. Yap and officials of NABCOR and officers of IRSS headed by its chairman Alexander Leung before the Office of the Ombudsman in relation to the questionable awarding of contract to IRSS. The complaint in violations of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and RA 9184 was filed on Nov.18, 2009. #

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