Sunday, December 24, 2006

Alexander Martin Remollino

They threaten to stop helping the soldiers of this country
because we insist on keeping the rapist of "Nicole"
behind our own bars?
They had better make good on that threat:
they won't be stopping anything to begin with.

What help have they given the soldiers of this republic?
Nothing, except to equip them with enough ammunition and arms
to make them lose in conventional warfare.

To hell with their mutual defense.
Their mutuality is a one-sided affair:
we defend them --
and we defend ourselves.

And they've pulled out of the joint exercises. Good for us!
The joint exercises are just rehearsals,
just rehearsals for the soldiers of this republic
in shooting off the emaciated hands
that feed them
and clothe them.

They won't be stopping anything to begin with,
so they had better make good on their threat
to stop helping the soldiers of this country.

The approval of the P125 wage increase bill by the Lower House is welcome news for workers, who could use even just a little relief from soaring prices of basic goods and services amid rock-bottom income. It is a gain that came at the price of trade union repression and political killings that victimized labor leaders among others.


“The P125 wage (hike) bill has finally been approved by the House on third reading at past 8 tonight by a vote of 151-0!”

Bayan Muna (People First) Rep. Teddy Casiño, a former staff of the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU or May 1st Movement), was evidently elated as he sent around this text message barely three hours before midnight on Dec. 20. And he had reason to rejoice: the bill providing for a P125 across-the-board, nationwide wage increase to private-sector workers had, after all, been pending at the House of Representatives since 2001.

The bill’s main sponsor, Anakpawis (Toiling Masses) Rep. Crispin Beltran, was no less elated, and for equally good reason.

“This is a victory for all Filipino workers who have campaigned long and hard for the passage of this bill,” Beltran said in a statement issued from his room at the Philippine Heart Center in Quezon City, where he has been confined for 10 months under police custody. “This is recognition for all their efforts.”

Beltran has been mightily leading the campaign for the passage of the bill as early as 1999, when the KMU –- of which he used to be the chairperson –- first made the call for a legislated P125 across-the-board, nationwide wage increase. It was he who, as a Bayan Muna representative, introduced the bill at the House in 2001.

Wage discrepancies

That the P125 wage increase bill has finally been approved at the House is indeed welcome news for workers, who have for several years been reeling from low income amid continually rising prices of good and services. Though P125 is no longer enough to bridge the gap between income and costs of living, considering how the prices of prime commodities have jumped since 2001, the working segment of the population can nevertheless use even a little relief.

Based on data from the National Wages and Productivity Commission (NWPC), the daily living wage for a family of six –- the average Filipino family –- now stands at a national average of P674.93 ($13.70 based on an exchange rate of $1:P49.28) as of October 2006. Of the country’s 15 regions, the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) has the highest family living wage, with P1,005 daily.

Conversely, the daily minimum wage has been standing at a national average of P283.67 since mid-2005, NWPC data further show. The ARMM has the lowest daily minimum wage at P170 –- a difference of P835 from its daily family living wage as of October 2006.

The required living wage for an average Filipino family was in 2001 a far cry from what it is now. That year, it stood at a national average of P445.53 ($10.89 at an exchange rate of $1:P40.89 in 2001), based on data from the NWPC. The highest regional minimum wage then was in the National Capital Region (NCR), which was pegged at P250. At a national average, however, the daily minimum wage that year stood at P222.42, based on data from the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE).

Even then, a P125 across-the-board, nationwide wage increase would have been insufficient to bridge the gap between the minimum wage and the required family living wage. An additional P125 would have brought up the 2001 daily minimum wage to P347.42 –- which is P98.11 short of what an average Filipino family needed to survive daily that year.

Should the P125 wage increase bill fare as well in the Senate as it did in the House of Representatives, the national average family living wage will go up to P408.67. That would still be P266.26 short of what the family of six would need on a national average to survive daily, based on October 2006 data from the NWPC.

Just the same, this would be tantamount to relief that workers could very well use. That would still be a significant narrowing of the gap between income and costs of living.

Getting it was definitely not a walk in the park, and yet there remains a considerable obstacle to hurdle.

Repression and violence

The passage of the wage increase bill by the House can also be seen as a political move by the administration-dominated chamber, given that President Macapagal-Arroyo’s political allies led by Speaker Jose de Venecia suffered a monumental setback in their unilateral move to revise the 1987 Constitution. The charter-change (cha-cha) has been popularly perceived as being politically-motivated and its aim was to perpetuate Macapagal-Arroyo and administration allies in Congress in power.

The workers’ gain in their campaign for a legislated wage increase came at the price of trade union repression which took many forms –- not the least of which was outright physical violence against a number of labor leaders.

The passage of the P125 wage hike bill at the House came less than a fortnight after the killing of Jesus Servida, a union leader at the EMI-Yazaki factory in Cavite, south of Manila.

When Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights) presented its 2006 Human Rights Report last Dec. 1, it listed 797 victims of extrajudicial killings from 2001 –- when President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was catapulted to power through a popular uprising –- to November 2006. Of these, 185 were killed from January to November 2006.

In terms of the number of victims, the top three sectors for January-November 2006 were the peasantry, the labor sector, and the professionals. Of the 185 documented victims for the said period, 104 were peasants, 28 were workers and 20 were professionals (mostly lawyers and teachers).

Servida is the 29th worker killed this year alone and the 74th worker to be slain under the Arroyo administration, based on combined data from Karapatan and the Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR). Karapatan and the CTUHR have also recorded four cases of torture of workers from January to November 2006. Likewise, the two groups documented eight violent dispersals of rallies involving workers and trade unionists for the same period –- a jump from one last year.

The repression against the Philippine labor sector this year has also taken forms less than physical but nevertheless equally damaging.

Arroyo’s declaration of a “State of Emergency” on February 24 this year, on the basis of a purported Left-Right conspiracy to overthrow the present administration, took its toll on the labor movement, with Beltran being arrested the very next day after its declaration. With Beltran’s arrest and subsequent detention, the labor movement saw the legislative work of one of its staunchest advocates being derailed.

In several areas in the country, mere membership in the KMU made workers targets for harassment. Several workers’ groups particularly in Central Luzon and in Mindanao reported being harassed by military and police. They reported about their leaders being stopped and interrogated for long hours by soldiers and policemen, and of being told that their “troubles” would stop only if they disaffiliated from the KMU. Karapatan and CTUHR data showed cases of intimidation and surveillance against workers and trade unionists to have increased by almost 73 percent from last year.

Still, a ray of light

With all that the Philippine labor sector experienced in 2006, there almost seems to be no room for bright thoughts. Filipino workers seemed to have been losing an uphill battle this year.

Still, there is a ray of light. The gain that workers achieved in the push for better wages, while still partial, is nevertheless significant. The passage of the P125 wage hike bill at the House meant one less hurdle to overcome in the wage fight –- and a foreshadowing of what may be achieved through determined efforts amid the odds. Bulatlat

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Alexander Martin Remollino

After insults were thrown and heaped upon them
for their being bereft of principles,
a shrill voice rang out,
demanding respect for the "representatives."

But it is the "representatives" who should be asked for respect --
they who are a bunch of serial rapists,
they who arrogantly commit crimes in full view of the nation
and declare that their words are the law.
It is they who should be asked for respect
and not a citizen who pointed his finger
at them who deserve much worse than finger-pointing.

Do not demand respect for them:
there can be no respect for those
whose faces deserve to be doused with the murkiest water.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Alexander Martin Remollino

At nang gabing iyon ay naihayag sa buong daigdig
ang pag-iral ng isang Republika ng Saging sa Pilipinas.

Ganap na naibasura ang pamamayani ng mga batas
at opisyal na pinasinayaan sa isang magarbong seremonya
ang isang rehimen ng mga tulisan.
Batas? At hindi ba't sila ang batas?
Ang sinasabi ng mga batas
ay ang kanilang sinasabi,
sapagkat gayon ang kanilang sinasabi.
A! para ano pang sila'y nasa kapangyarihan?

At ngayo'y ginagawa sa ating harapan
at 'pinangangalandakang naaayon sa batas
ang isang kagula-gulantang na krimen.

The constitutional amendments being pushed by the administration camp at the House of Representatives will make impeachment impossible, the spokesperson of a broad-based group of lawyers, paralegals, and law students says. He also said convening Congress into a constituent assembly to amend or revise the Constitution without the Senate is tantamount to usurpation of authority -- a criminal offense under the Revised Penal Code.


The constitutional amendments being pushed by the administration camp at the House of Representatives will make impeachment impossible, said the spokesman of a broad-based group of lawyers, paralegals, and law students. He also said convening Congress into a constituent assembly to amend or revise the Constitution without the Senate is tantamount to usurpation of authority –- a criminal offense under the Revised Penal Code.

Lawyer Neri Javier Colmenares, spokesperson of the Counsels for the Defense of Liberties (CODAL), was referring to the proposed amendment creating a Commission on Impeachment from among the members of the unicameral Parliament that would replace the present bicameral Congress.

Under the proposed amendments – of which Bulatlat received a copy courtesy of the office of Anakpawis (Toiling Masses) Rep. Rafael Mariano, a member of the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments –- the Parliament would be led by a prime minister to be elected by the members from among themselves. Members of Parliament are to be elected mainly by district and region, and shall have no term limits. Twenty percent of the seats allotted to regional and district members are to be occupied by members representing party-list groups and sectoral organizations.

Commission on Impeachment

The proposed amendment creating the Commission on Impeachment provides that:

There shall be a Commission on Impeachment composed of fifteen Members of Parliament chosen on the basis of proportional representation of the Parties therein. It shall have the sole power of impeachment by a majority vote of all its Members. The Parliament shall try all impeachment cases elevated to it, and a vote of at least two-thirds of all the Members shall be necessary to convict on impeachment.

“You cannot become a prime minister unless you’re elected by a majority of the Parliament,” Colmenares told Bulatlat. “That means if you’re the prime minister, you have the majority in the Commission on Impeachment. So you'd never be impeached. The proportionality issue there is a problem. The prime minister has the majority in Parliament, he can never be impeached.”

“That’s a formula for unaccountability,” added the CODAL spokesperson, who has taken doctoral units in Law at the University of Melbourne. “Their impeachment rule is very disastrous and is really not conducive to accountability.”

Asked whether he thought the proposed creation of a Commission on Impeachment as a parliamentary body is a reaction of the administration camp to the political crisis that sprang from the 2004 elections and the two failed attempts at impeaching President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo at the House, Colmenares replied in the affirmative. “It’s designed to ensure that the prime minister will not be impeached,” he said.

Even during her continuation of the term of ousted President Joseph Estrada (January 2001-May 2004), Arroyo had been facing calls for her removal from office for what cause-oriented groups described as her government’s “anti-national and anti-people” policies. These calls intensified in mid-2005 following the surfacing of the so-called “Hello Garci” tapes -- in which a woman with a voice similar to Arroyo's is heard instructing an election official, widely believed to be Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), to rig the polls.

The controversy generated by the “Hello Garci” tapes led to big rallies calling for Arroyo's resignation or removal from office, and two impeachment complaints against her being filed at the House –- one in 2005 and another earlier this year. Both complaints were dismissed on technical grounds.

Constituent assembly

The proposed amendments to the Constitution are to be put forward in Congress through a constituent assembly. The administration-dominated House approved at dawn on Dec. 7, through viva voce or voice voting, House Resolution No. 1450 by Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Villafuerte, convening Congress into a constituent assembly to amend or revise the Constitution.

Congress as a joint assembly is set to convene on Dec. 12 to begin the process of constitutional amendments or revisions –- amid indignation from the progressive party-list congressmen and the traditional opposition at the House, the Senate with the exception of Sens. Ramon Revilla, Jr. and Miriam Defensor-Santiago, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), the El Shaddai, and even the Makati Business Club.

Colmenares decried the manner in which the majority at the House pushed for Congress to convene as a constituent assembly.

He said that convening Congress into a constituent assembly without the Senate is a usurpation of authority. HR 1450 had no Senate counterpart, but was passed anyway.

“You change street names and you need two Houses of Congress,” the CODAL spokesperson said. “You change the Constitution and you do it with only one House going through the motions? It doesn’t seem logical.”

Article XVII of the Constitution provides that:

Any amendment to, or revision of, this Constitution may be proposed by:

(1) The Congress, upon a vote of three-fourths of all its Members; or

(2) A constitutional convention.

“They say the Constitution doesn’t specify that both Houses are to vote separately in the Constituent assembly,” Colmenares added. “But what is the rule? The rule is that we have a bicameral Congress. That is enshrined in the Constitution. Meaning to say, everything has to be done by both Houses voting separately. The exception is if the Constitution says jointly. If the Constitution does not say they have to vote jointly, the assumption is that they are to vote separately.”

He also said that the representatives who pushed for Congress to convene into a constituent assembly without the Senate are criminally liable.

“That’s usurpation of authority under the Revised Penal Code,” Colmenares said. “If a public official misrepresents himself and claims, ‘I have this authority and function,’ when in fact he does not, that’s usurpation of authority. That makes him criminally liable.” Bulatlat
Kasaysayan ang Magpapawalang-sala sa Akin
Filipino translation of Fidel Castro’s History will Absolve Me by Carl C. Ala
Published by AMISTAD
63 pages

2006 carries a double significance for AMISTAD. Aside from marking the 80th birthday of Cuban president Fidel Castro, it is also the 60th year of diplomatic relations between the Philippines and Cuba. AMISTAD chose to celebrate what its president George Aseniero calls “milestones” by publishing Kasaysayan ang Magpapawalang-sala sa Akin, a Filipino translation of Cuban President Fidel Castro's famous five-hour speech History will Absolve Me by Carl C. Ala.



2006 carries a double significance for AMISTAD, a solidarity organization aiming to forge and promote friendship, unity, understanding, and solid relations between the Filipino and Cuban peoples. Aside from marking the 80th birthday of Cuban President Fidel Castro, it is also the 60th year of diplomatic relations between the Philippines and Cuba.

AMISTAD chose to celebrate what its president George Aseniero calls “milestones” by publishing Kasaysayan ang Magpapawalang-sala sa Akin, a Filipino translation of Castro's famous five-hour speech History will Absolve Me by Carl C. Ala.

Delivered in 1953, History will Absolve Me was Castro’s piece in his own defense as he stood on trial for the botched siege on Moncada Barracks.

Ala's achievement in translating Castro’s speech lies in his being able to give it a tinge of greater familiarity within the Philippine context.

The attack on Moncada Barracks was intended as the culmination of the uprising by the Castro-led revolutionary forces against the U.S.-sponsored dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, which had wrested power through a coup backed by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) the previous year.

The uprising that is the subject of Castro’s speech aimed at seizing Moncada Barracks without bloodshed. The revolutionary forces had no plans of shooting it out with the soldiers at the barracks. What they intended was to seize the arms and ammunition through a surprise attack and peacefully convince the soldiers to abandon the dictatorship.

After seizing power, the revolutionaries would have enacted five revolutionary laws that would declare the legitimacy of Cuba’s 1940 Constitution and effect industrialization, land distribution, and reforms in foreign relations, education, housing, and labor and industrial relations. These were the same objectives that the Castro-led revolutionary forces went on to attain after finally succeeding in toppling the Batista dictatorship in 1959.

The 1953 siege on Moncada Barracks was botched because the revolutionaries were vastly outnumbered and were traversing unfamiliar territory. Castro and his companions were arrested and many were tortured and summarily executed. Those who survived, like Castro himself, faced rebellion charges.

In his speech Castro, a lawyer who had opted to defend himself in court, questions the legitimacy and even legality of the Batista regime:

Saang bansa ba nakatira ang Kagalang-galang na (Tagausig)? Sinong nagsabi sa kanya na nais naming mag-aklas laban sa konstitusyunal na kapangyarihan ng Estado? Dalawang bagay ang malinaw. Una sa lahat, ang diktadura na umaapivsa bansa ay hindi isang konstitusyunal na kapangyarihan, ito ay hindi konstitusyunal. Ito ay itinatag laban sa Konstitusyon, kshit na may Konstitusyon at lumalabag sa Konstitusyon ng lehitimong Republika. Ang lehitimong Konstitusyon ay direktang nakaugat sa soberanya ng mamamayan. Patutunayan ko ang puntong ito (nang) buo mamaya, kahit may mga panlolokong gawin ang mga duwag at traydor upang bigyang-matwid ang di makatarungan. Pangalawa, ang tinutukoy ng artikulo ay hinggil sa kapangyarihan na pangmaramihan at hindi pang-isahan. Dahil isinasaalang-alang nito ang kalagayan na ang Republika ay pinamumunuan ng lehislatibong kapangyarihan, ehekutibong kapangyarihan, at hudisyal na kapangyarihan na nagbabalanse at (nagkokontrabalanse). Na (inagaw) at pinag-isa ang lehislatibo at ehekutibong kapangyarihan ng bansa, na siyang nagwasak sa buong sistemang pinagbabatayan ng artikulo sa Kodigo na ating sinusuri, na siyang dapat nitong pangalagaan. Ni hindi ko na babanggitin ang kasarinlan ng hudisyal na kapangyarihan matapos ang Marso 10 dahil ayokong magbiro ... kahit anong paghatak, pagpapaikli o pagkumpuni sa Artikulo 148, hindi ito aangkop sa mga pangyayari noong Hulyo 26. Iwan muna natin ito hanggang lumitaw ang oportunidad na maaari itong gamitin laban sa mga talagang nagsulong ng pag-aalsa laban sa konstitusyunal na kapangyarihan ng Estado.

(In what country is the Honorable Prosecutor living? Who has told him that we have sought to bring about an uprising against the Constitutional Powers of the State? Two things are self-evident. First of all, the dictatorship that oppresses the nation is not a constitutional power, but an unconstitutional one: it was established against the Constitution, over the head of the Constitution, violating the legitimate Constitution of the Republic. The legitimate Constitution is that which emanates directly from a sovereign people. I shall demonstrate this point fully later on, notwithstanding all the subterfuges contrived by cowards and traitors to justify the unjustifiable. Secondly, the article refers to Powers, in the plural, as in the case of a republic governed by a Legislative Power, an Executive Power, and a Judicial Power which balance and counterbalance one another. We have fomented a rebellion against one single power, an illegal one, which has usurped and merged into a single whole both the Legislative and Executive Powers of the nation, and so has destroyed the entire system that was specifically safeguarded by the Code now under our analysis. As to the independence of the Judiciary after the 10th of March, I shall not allude to that for I am in no mood for joking ... No matter how Article 148 may be stretched, shrunk or amended, not a single comma applies to the events of July 26th. Let us leave this statute alone and await the opportunity to apply it to those who really did foment an uprising against the Constitutional Powers of the State. Later I shall come back to the Code to refresh the Honorable Prosecutor's memory about certain circumstances he has unfortunately overlooked.)

Translated into Filipino, this paragraph in large part bears similarities with what is happening in the Philippines today. There is something particularly in the reference to an “unconstitutional” dictatorship "that oppresses the people" that sounds extremely familiar. The paragraph could very well have been lifted from a testimony by any of the opposition leaders –- whether Left or traditional –- who were cracked down upon in the wake of the foiled Feb. 24 attempt at withdrawal of support by soldiers led by Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim.

Castro goes on to elaborate on the siege itself: How it was done, why it was done in the manner that it was, and what the revolutionaries sought to accomplish had they succeeded. This is all summed up in the following paragraph:

Kaya ng (Cuba na) pangalagaan ang populasyong tatlong beses ang laki kaysa sa ngayon. Walang dahilan para sa kahirapang nararanasan ng kasalukuyang naninirahan dito. Ang mga palengke ay dapat na umaapaw sa mga produkto, ang nga eskaparate ay dapat na puno, ang lahat ay dapat na may trabaho. Ito ay hindi pangarap lang. Ang di kapanipaniwala ay may mga taong natutulog (nang) gutom, samantalang may masasakang lupa, ang mga bata ay namamatay dahil sa kakulangan sa medikal na pagkalinga; ang di kapanipaniwala ay 30% ng mga magbubukid ay di man lamang kayang isulat ang kanilang pangalan at 99% sa kanila ay walang alam sa kasaysayan ng Cuba. Ang di kapanipaniwala ay kalakhan ng mga pamilya ng mga magbubukid ay nabubuhay sa mas masahol na kalagayan kaysa sa mga Indian na natagpuan ni Columbus sa pinakamagandang lupa na nakita ng tao.

(Cuba could easily provide for a population three times as great as it has now, so there is no excuse for the abject poverty of a single one of its present inhabitants. The markets should be overflowing with produce, pantries should be full, all hands should be working. This is not an inconceivable thought. What is inconceivable is that anyone should go to bed hungry while there is a single inch of unproductive land; that children should die for lack of medical attention; what is inconceivable is that 30% of our farm people cannot write their names and that 99% of them know nothing of Cuba's history. What is inconceivable is that the majority of our rural people are now living in worse circumstances than the Indians Columbus discovered in the fairest land that human eyes had ever seen.)

Again, an eloquent passage that, when translated into Filipino, could have been an indictment –- if not condemnation –- of the Philippines’ own wretched conditions, were it not for the direct references to Cuba and to statistics particular to the Cuban experience.

Ala’s shortcomings in the way this book was done lie chiefly in his having fallen prey to the grammatical errors most commonly committed by non-native speakers of Tagalog, on which Filipino is largely based -- as can be found, for example, in his frequent interchanging of "nang" and "ng." There are also some parts where his translation gets too literal, as in his having translated “edible oil” as "nakakaing langis" –- a phrase that is absent from the Filipino lexicon – when he could have easily used "mantika." There are a few hyphens where there should be none, as in "Taga-usig" which should be written as "Tagausig."

These shortcomings, which could easily be corrected for the next printing, are however small compared to his success in translating the most important parts. By and large Ala’s main achievement in this translation is in making a 1953 Cuban speech hit closer to home for today's Filipino readers.

Ala is an alumnus of the University of the Philippines (UP) in Manila, where he was an active member of the National Network of Agrarian Reform Advocates (NNARA) Youth. He is now the public information officer of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP or Philippine Peasant Movement). Bulatlat

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Alexander Martin Remollino

"The people wanted the blood of a young man, and that's what swayed the decision."

--- L/Cpl. Daniel Smith, on Makati RTC Judge Benjamin Pozon's decision convicting him of the rape of "Nicole" in Subic, Zambales last year

Of course he didn't say why his blood was wanted,
and that has made us look
like a big bunch of bloodsuckers.
Lest it be erased from the pages of the mind,
it has to be said again:
his blood was wanted because the dirt
with which he and three others smeared the honor
of a young woman and an entire nation
cried out to the ends of the earth
for his blood to cleanse it.

Of course it was a derogatory remark.
But in deprecating us,
he complimented us.
He acknowledged with his insult to the nation
that there's still a sense of justice in this land.
His calumny was a tribute.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


Posted 6:25 p.m., Dec. 4, 2006

The victory is only partial, as the decision falls short of what the verdict should have been.

This was how the leaders of the militant groups that rallied outside the Makati Regional Trial Court today described Judge Benjamin Pozon’s decision on the Subic rape case.

Pozon found the principal accused Lance Cpl. Daniel Smith guilty of raping “Nicole,” the court-assigned name of the Subic rape victim, on Nov. 1 last year. His co-accused S/Sgt. Chad Carpentier, Lance Cpl. Keith Silkwood, and Lance Cpl. Dominic Duplantis were acquitted.

“We could have been happy that at least one was convicted,” said Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan or New Patriotic Alliance) secretary-general Renato Reyes, Jr. “But this only showed our limited ability to prosecute offending U.S. soldiers for as long as we have the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).”

“For as long as we have difficulty getting custody of offending U.S. soldiers, it becomes harder to file and pursue charges against them, it becomes harder to haul them to prison,” Reyes added.

The VFA, which was ratified in 1999 by the Senate and grants extraterritorial and extrajudicial privileges to U.S. troops visiting the country for joint military “exercises” with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), provides that Philippine authorities shall waive their primary right to exercise jurisdiction upon request by U.S. authorities, except in cases the government considers to be of particular importance to the Philippines.

“We feel a limited satisfaction (with the decision), as there was one who was found guilty,” said Gert Ranjo-Libang, spokesperson of the women’s group GABRIELA. “But it’s limited, because the three others were not found guilty as charged. We think all four of them should have been convicted.”

“We are also demanding the abrogation of the VFA,” she added. “Because under this agreement, even if Smith was found guilty, there is a question on where he is to be jailed. Under the VFA, the Philippine and U.S. governments still have to confer on where the guilty party is to be jailed.”

Reyes expressed a similar view. “That is what is sad about the whole thing: whatever will be agreed about with the U.S. will depend on the political will of the Arroyo administration, and that is not the justice that we want,” the Bayan leader said.

Meanwhile, former Vice President Teofisto Guingona, Jr., a noted nationalist, hailed the decision as a “partial victory,” but stressed that the Philippines should have custody of Smith as the crime of rape, he said, “is of particular importance” to the Philippines.

“There are imbalances that should be corrected,” Guingona said when asked how he expected the decision to affect RP-U.S. relations. “The sovereignty should belong to the Philippines in crimes of particular importance.”

Pozon also decided that Smith should be temporarily detained at the Makati City Jail. However, as of 4 p.m. –- more than an hour after the verdict was promulgated –- Smith had not been brought to the said detention facility. Bulatlat

Monday, December 04, 2006

Alexander Martin Remollino

Dito lang yata sa Pilipinas maaaring mangyaring kapag ang isang mamamayan ng bansa ay ginahasa ng ilang sundalong Amerikano ay ang mga opisyal pa ng pamahalaan ang kauna-unahang magbubuhos ng asin sa kanyang sugat.

Nakita natin ito sa kaso ng dalagang tinatawag ngayon ng “Nicole,” na ginahasa ng ilang sundalong Amerikano noong Nobyembre 1, 2005 sa Subic, Zambales. Sa usaping ito’y walang kahiya-hiyang ipinamalas ng matataas na opisyal ng ating pamahalaan ang pagiging “gulugod-dikya,” sa wika nga ng manunulat na si Rogelio L. Ordoñez, sa harap ni Tiyo Samuel.

Mula nang pumutok ang balita hinggil sa panggagahasa kay “Nicole” walang isang linggo matapos ang insidente hanggang sa mga araw na ito, wala tayong naririnig na anuman mula sa Pangulong Arroyo hinggil sa bagay na ito.

Kahit sa Hapon, na bagama’t nakalaban ng Estados Unidos noong Ikalawang Digmaang Daigdig ay napakalaki ng ipinakinabang sa Marshall Plan — na ang ibinunga’y ang pagiging higante ngayon ng mga korporasyong Hapones sa pandaigdigang ekonomiya, ilang dekada matapos na malumpo ang kanyang ekonomiya — ay hindi nangyayari ang ganitong mga kasalarinan nang walang naririnig na matitinding pananalita mula sa punong ministro, kundi man sa mismong emperador.

Ang nagsalita para sa Pangulong Arroyo hinggil sa usaping ito ay si Sekretaryo Ignacio Bunye, tambulero ng Malacañang, na ang sabi’y “huwag gawing pulitikal” ang naturang pangyayari. Ito lamang ang sinabi ni Bunye — na nanguna pa naman sa klase nang magtapos sa Muntinlupa High School maraming taon na ang nakalilipas — hinggil sa isyung ito, at wala nang iba pa.

Ni kapirasong dura man lamang na magtatangkang ipaliwanag kung paano hindi magiging pulitikal ang isang kaganapang nakukulayan ng di-patas na ugnayan ng Pilipinas at Estados Unidos ay wala tayong narinig mula sa mahusay na kalihim sa pakikipag-ugnayan sa pabatirang-madla.

Kung ano ang katahimikan ng Pangulong Arroyo hinggil sa pangyayaring ito ay gayundin ang katahimikan tungkol dito ng noo’y pinuno ng Hukbong Sandatahan ng Pilipinas na si Hen. Generoso Senga, at ng ngayo’y namumuno ritong si Hen. Hermogenes Esperon — na kayhusay pa namang magmalaking naging “aktibista” siya bago pumasok sa militar. Gayundin ang naging pananahimik ukol dito ni dating Sekretaryo Avelino Cruz ng Kagawaran ng Tanggulang Pambansa.

Si Sekretaryo Raul Gonzalez ang salita nang salita kaugnay nito, ngunit sa bawat buka ng kanyang bibig at ito ang napag-uusapan ay wala naman tayong marinig kundi ang tunog ng bunganga ng isang abugado para sa Estados Unidos.

Noon pa mang una’y pakawala na nang pakawala si Gonzalez ng mga pahayag na nagpapahiwatig na hindi siya naniniwalang ginahasa nga si “Nicole.” Ito’y kahit may malakas na ebidensiyang nagpapatunay na siya nga’y ginahasa.

Nang sina Carpentier, Silkwood, at Duplantis ay maisakdal bilang mga pangunahing akusado kasama ni Smith, nagwika pa itong kagalang-galang na Sekretaryo Gonzalez na dapat sana’y higit na mababa ang sakdal sa tatlo, subalit siya raw ay yumukod upang “papayapain ang nagwawalang madla” — kahit pa may sapat na batayang ligal upang ituring silang pangunahin ding akusado.

Samantala, niluwagan nang husto ng pangkat ng mga tagausig na itinalaga ng gobyerno — sa pamumuno ni Senior State Prosecutor Emilie de los Santos at, ayon sa ina ni “Nicole” at sa kanilang pribadong abugadang si Evalyn Ursua, liban kay State Prosecutor Hazel Valdez — ang pagtatanong sa mga nasasakdal na sina Lance Cpl. Daniel Smith, S/Sgt. Chad Carpentier, Lance Cpl. Keith Silkwood, at Lance Cpl. Dominic Duplantis. Dahil dito, nahirapan ang kampo ni “Nicole” na basagin ang palusot ng depensa na si “Nicole” diumano’y kusang nagpagalaw kina Smith.

Nang sa isang bahagi ng paglilitis ay waring nakalamang sina Smith, muli sanang isasalang si “Nicole” upang makapagharap ng rebuttal evidence, ngunit ang hakbang na ito’y kinansela ni De los Santos, ayon kay Valdez. Sa magiting na pagbubunyag na ito, gantimpala ni Gonzalez kay Valdez ang pagtatanggal sa kanya mula sa lupon ng mga tagausig.

Dapat silang mahiya roon sa gobernador ng Okinawa na noong dekada 1990, nang gahasain doon ng isang sundalong Amerikano ang isang lalabindalawahing taong gulang na babae, ay nanguna pa sa pananawagan ng mga higanteng kilos-protesta.

Tunay na isang malaking kahihiyan sa ganang atin ang tayo’y madaig ng Hapon sa ganitong mga bagay. Bagama’t matapos ang Ikalawang Digmaang Pandaigdig — kung saan napilay ang kanyang ekonomiya — ay malaki ang ipinakinabang niya sa ayuda ng Estados Unidos, hindi pa rin siya nangiming panindigan ang dapat panindigan.

Malayo roon ang Pilipinas. Kayrami nating kababayang nagbuhos ng dugo noong Ikalawang Digmaang Pandaigdig alang-alang sa “alyansang Pilipino-Amerikano” at ngayon, ilang dekada na ang nakararaan matapos ang giyera, ay wala tayong nakikita ni anino ng kagaya ng Marshall Plan, at sa halip ay natali pa nga tayo sa isang bungkos ng mga kasunduang hindi makatarungan. Sa kabila nito, ang ating pamahalaan ay pangunahing pandaigdigang tanghalan ng pamamanginoon kay Tiyo Samuel — sa ngalan ng isang katawa-tawang “natatanging ugnayan.”

Dito lang yata sa Pilipinas maaaring masaksihan ang ganitong antas ng pangangayupapa ng mga opisyal ng pamahalaan sa mga dayuhan at lalo na’y sa mga Amerikano.

Sunday, December 03, 2006


Posted 8:55 p.m., Dec. 3, 2006

“Ensuring justice for our aggrieved fellow Filipino should come first before what President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo perceives as good relations between the Philippines and the U.S.”

This was what Joan Salvador, chairperson of GABRIELA Youth, told reporters on the eve of the promulgation of the verdict on the Subic rape case. Salvador was the main speaker in a brief rally and candle-lighting activity held by members of the women’s group GABRIELA early evening today at the Boy Scouts’ Circle along Timog Avenue, Quezon City.

The GABRIELA members mounted candles on the sidewalk, arranged to form the word JUSTICE. “Jail the rapists!” they chanted as they brandished placards calling for justice for “Nicole,” the court-assigned name of the Subic rape victim.

“Nicole,” the daughter of a prominent family from Zamboanga, was raped allegedly by four U.S. Marines on Nov. 1 in Subic, Zambales last year. Her case is expected to bear implications for RP-U.S. relations as it is said to be the first against U.S. soldiers to be brought to any Philippine court.

Judge Benjamin Pozon of the Makati Regional Trial Court, Branch 139 is set to promulgate the verdict on the case of “Nicole” tomorrow afternoon –- a week after the original schedule he had committed. GABRIELA will be joined by other groups under the banner of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan or New Patriotic Alliance) tomorrow in a rally in front of the Makati RTC.

Salvador also chided the Arroyo government for not asserting custody of the principal accused Lance Cpl. Daniel Smith and accomplices S/Sgt. Chad Carpentier, Lance Cpl. Keith Silkwood, and Lance Cpl. Dominic Duplantis –- as she said it could have done.

“The Philippines made accommodations and compromises favoring America,” Salvador said. “We have seen how the government, especially Gloria, shied away from asserting the dignity and rights of our fellow Filipino and showed more concern over protecting the relations between the Philippines and the U.S.”

“Our assertion is whatever happens, justice should come first,” Salvador added. Bulatlat

The Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) has called for a “complete pullout” of Army troops from the Bicol Region amid what he described as “the alarming number of tortures and extrajudicial killings” in the area. This call comes in the wake of the torture and killing of a Bicol peasant accused by his Army captors of being a member of the New People's Army (NPA).


The Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) has called for a “complete pullout” of Army troops from the Bicol Region amid what it described as “the alarming number of tortures and extrajudicial killings” in the area.

Dante Jimenez, who hails from the Bicol Region, said this in an interview with Bulatlat last week. “Instead of winning the hearts and minds of the people, they are the problem,” the VACC leader said of the Army troops in the Bicol Region.

His call comes in the wake of the torture and killing of Toribio Mesa, a Bicolano peasant accused by his Army captors of being a member of the New People’s Army (NPA).

The VACC leader said Mesa's case had been reported to the VACC’s office. He also told Bulatlat that one of Mesa's children is a former student of his.

In a Nov. 23 letter to Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff Gen. Hermogenes Esperon, of which Bulatlat was given a copy, Jimenez narrated the details behind the case of Mesa, a resident of Jamorawon village, Bulan, Sorsogon. Wrote Jimenez:

Mesa died while in the custody of the 92nd Recon Company, 9th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army, under extremely dubious circumstances last Nov. 16, 2006.

The said Mesa –- father of 13, had been forcibly taken from his family without warrant of arrest, and his home was arrogantly searched without any valid search warrant on Nov. 15, 2006. The following day subject was declared dead and found sustaining two gunshot wounds and deep cuts on his left arm.

“We found that extremely suspicious, so we requested Sorsogon and Bulan police to re-autopsy the victim’s body,” Jimenez told Bulatlat. “It turned out his captors had performed a live autopsy on his arm and then they shot him.”

“We are calling for the complete pullout and replacement of the Army in the Bicol Region because of the alarming number of tortures and extrajudicial killings there,” the VACC leader also said.

In his letter to Esperon, Jimenez said the VACC calls for the “immediate relief” of the unit's commanding officer, as well as the preventive suspension of Pfc. Warren Mangubat and Pfc. Jonathan Ongog pending investigation of the case.

“We suggest that the Philippine Army be replaced by the Philippine Marines of the Navy, or Philippine Air Force until such time that Army soldiers in the region learn the basic knowledge of due process, rule of law and above all, respect for human rights,” Jimenez wrote to Esperon.

Not the first time

This is not the first time that Army soldiers have been directly identified as perpetrators of extrajudicial killings in the Bicol Region.

On May 7, 2004, Mylene and Raymond Golloso –- then 13 and 6 years old, respectively -- were killed by armed men within the sanctity of their own home in Brgy. Recto, Bulan, Sorsogon.

Mylene and Raymond, together with brother Resty, had hid in their parents’ bedroom upon hearing gunshots near their house that day. In the end that failed to protect them: they were later found dead, their heads shattered by gunshots.

In a written and signed statement, a copy of which was received by Bulatlat, 11 officials and 42 other residents of Brgy. Recto said no other armed group was in the village that day except seven soldiers from the 2nd Infantry Battalion, 901st Infantry Brigade of the 9th Infantry Division; and two members of the paramilitary Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU). The Brgy. Recto officials and residents specifically identified among them Cesar Luares, a CAFGU member.

Adelia, Mylene and Raymond’s mother, identified Luares in a sworn statement as a native of Bulan. Bulatlat received a copy of her sworn statement.

Army soldiers were likewise positively identified by no less than the municipal police of Daraga, Albay as the perpetrators of the killing of Methodist Pastor Isaias Sta. Rosa last Aug. 3.

Based on sworn statements and affidavits by Sta. Rosa's wife Sonia, his brothers Jonathan and Ray Sun, and neighbor Alwin Mirabona, a number of hooded armed men barged into the house of Jonathan and Ray Sun, at around 7:30 p.m. that night, and took them hostage.

After a few minutes, Jonathan was dragged at gunpoint to Isaias’ house nearby, where the pastor was watching videos on a laptop computer with his daughter. Jonathan was brought to a room together with Sonia and her children, while Isaias was dragged into another room and beaten up. A few minutes later, they saw the armed men dragging Isaias out. Sonia called for help from her sister Madelyn, who lived nearby. Madelyn roused the neighbors with her cries for help.

After a while, nine gunshots were heard nearby. Isaias’ corpse was found about 50 meters from his house, beside one of the assailants.

A responding team from the Daraga Municipal Police Office recovered from the hooded man's body an ID card revealing him to be Cpl. Lordger Pastrana; as well as a mission order issued to the ID card bearer by the 9th Military Intelligence Battalion of the 9th Infantry Division, authorizing him to carry a firearm outside the headquarters. The mission order – of which Bulatlat received a copy – was issued by Maj. Ernest Rosal, commanding officer of Pastrana’s unit, which is based in Pili, Camarines Sur, and referred to a “secret mission” with duration from July 1 to Sept. 30, 2006.

A news item from the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) and data from military sources show that the 9th Infantry Division has been under the command of Maj. Gen. Ricardo Nobleza since December 2004.

Killings in Bicol

Based on data from Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights), there have been 797 victims of extrajudicial killings from January 2001 –- when Arroyo was catapulted to power through a popular uprising –- to November 2006. Of this number, at least 340 are confirmed to have been affiliated with cause-oriented groups.

The total number of extrajudicial killings for this year alone, Karapatan data further show, is 185. Of these, 53 were perpetrated in Central Luzon, 30 in the Bicol Region, and 20 in Southern Tagalog –- making these the top three regions in terms of the number of extrajudicial killings.

Last June, Arroyo declared “all-out war” against the Left and directed the AFP to finish off the “communist insurgency” in two years. Arroyo named Central Luzon, the Bicol Region, and Southern Tagalog as “priority areas” in her directive to the AFP.

“Perhaps there is a plan, or it’s part of the strategy,” Jimenez said when asked whether he thought there was any connection. “But you cannot win the hearts and minds of the people that way.”

“It’s worse than the death penalty because in the death penalty, they follow due process,” added the VACC leader, a known capital punishment proponent. “In extrajudicial killings there is no due process, that’s why they are called extrajudicial killings.” Bulatlat