Saturday, December 22, 2007


The prevalent practice of contractualization has been the main culprit in the reduction of union membership on a national scale. Without a union, workers’ rights are easily violated.

Vol. VII, No. 46, December 23, 2007 – January 5, 2008

The Ilaw at Buklod ng Manggagawa (IBM or Workers’ Light and Unity) –- the union of workers of the San Miguel Corporation (SMC) conglomerate, the country’s largest food and beverage corporation –- used to be a showcase of what being a strong union was all about. As recently as during the early 1990s, majority of San Miguel’s then 39,000-strong workforce were members of IBM, which is affiliated with the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU or May 1st Movement).

Today, the composition of SMC’s workforce serves as a showcase of what contractualization can do to a union.

Based on an item on the SMC website (, the company now has 26,000 employees. “May 1,100 na lang sa mga ‘yan ang regular” (Only some 1,100 of them remain as regulars), said Ka Neri, 33, a full-time KMU organizer working with the IBM and himself a former contractual employee at SMC, in an interview with Bulatlat.

Ka Neri said SMC was able to reduce the regular workforce through attacks on the union and department closures.

“Kinasuhan ang mga lider ng unyon at tinanggal, para humina ang unyon” (The union leaders were slapped with charges and dismissed to weaken the union), the union organizer said. “Nagsara rin ng mga departamento at natanggal ang mga dating nagtatrabaho doon” (There were departments that were closed down, and workers were laid off.)

Aside from these, Ka Neri said, the company was also able to ‘encourage’ a number of the older employees to accept “early retirement” packages. To ‘encourage’ old employees to avail of the early retirement option, attractive compensation packages are offered while at the same time managers approach employees and tell them that they should avail of these otherwise they might end up getting less if retrenched.

“Y’ong mga natanggal o naalis d’yan ay pinalitan ng mga mas bata...mga kontraktuwal na mas mababa ang suweldo” (Those who were dismissed, got laid off, or had availed of early retirement packages were replaced with younger ones, contractual employees with lower wages), Ka Neri said. “May iba na pinagkontrata na lang ng bago” (Some were rehired as contractuals.)

The Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT) is another showcase of the effects of contractualization on unions. In an interview with Bulatlat’s Karl G. Ombion earlier this year, PLDT Union Council member Ronnie Gedoria said that from a 16,000-strong regular workforce (of which majority were union members) before 1995, the PLDT now has only about 3,000 regular employees.

While before regular employees are divided into departments corresponding to the different processes such as telephone line installation and repair, and maintenance and repair of underground cables, the remaining regular employees are now forced to do all kinds of jobs, under the multi-skill, multi-task scheme for employees, and with higher workloads.

Added to this, certain processes are already contracted out. For example, installations of new telephone lines are now being done by contractuals who are hired by agencies. These contractuals are paid by piecemeal, meaning their pay depends on the number of telephone lines they installed: no installation, no pay.

Contractualization and unionism

Ombion, citing data from both government and labor sources, wrote that between 1995 and 2005, the number of contractual workers in the Philippines soared from 65 percent to as much as 78 percent of the country’s employed labor force.

Companies in the Philippines started going on an orgy of contractualization in the years following Department Order No. 10 of the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE), which was issued in 1997 by then Labor Secretary Leonardo Quisumbing.

The Labor Code devotes only a small section to provisions on contractual employment, and gives the Secretary of Labor the leeway to restrict or even prohibit the contracting-out of labor “to protect the rights of workers.”

But the apparent shift of government policy from its bias towards regular employment, as reflected in the Labor Code, to “flexible” work arrangements can be seen in the issuance of one whole department order, DO No.10, for the purpose of legalizing and legitimizing contractualization. DO No. 10 reads, “Contracting and subcontracting arrangements are expressly allowed by law…”

DO No. 10 also declares, as part of its guiding principles, that “flexibility for the purpose of increasing efficiency and streamlining operations is essential for every business to grow in an atmosphere of free competition…”

While DO No. 10 professed to protect workers’ rights, including the right to self-organization and social benefits, the experience under a regime of contractualization has been that contractual employees are barred from joining unions and are denied the social benefits that are supposedly due them even under DO No. 10.

DO No. 10 opened the floodgates to the mass lay-offs of regular workers, which included the dismantling of unions, and their replacement with contractual workers.

DoLE DO No. 3, issued in 2001 by then Labor Secretary Patricia St. Tomas, revoked DO No. 10 but honored all contracts entered into during its effectivity. The Department’s DO No 18-02, issued the next year also by Sto. Tomas, practically restored DO No. 10.

The prevalent practice of contractualization has been the main culprit in the reduction of union membership on a national scale.

Based on data from the Bureau of Labor Relations (BLR), there was a sharp slide in union membership from 2001 – when President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was catapulted to power through a popular uprising – to 2002. Union membership decreased in the said period from 3.85 million to only 1.47 million. The number of union members decreased by almost half from 2001 to 2002.

From 2002 to 2005, there seems to be an encouraging picture of union membership, as there was an increase from 1.47 million to 1.91 million. What appears to be an upward trend would be broken again in 2006, with union membership decreasing to 1.86 million. From 2006 to June 2007, union membership would rise to 1.89 million.

As of June 2007, union membership in the Philippines has yet to reach even the 2-million mark since 2001.

The sorry state of unionism in the Philippines is further emphasized when looked upon in proportion to the 33.33 million-strong labor force as of June 2007. The total union membership of 1.89 million as of June 2007 means that only 5.68 percent of the country’s employed labor force is organized.

Unions and workers’ rights

This does not bode well for the defense of workers’ rights. Without a union, workers’ rights are easily violated.

All these notwithstanding, those in the unions still suffer the atrocities of violence and harassment. The vulnerability of unions to these atrocities has no doubt been exacerbated by their weakening owing to the bane of contractualization.

Data from the non-government organization Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR) show that from January to August 2007 alone, there were 59 cases of union and human rights violations involving a total of 829 victims. These included the killings of two labor leaders, violent dispersals of picketlines, illegal arrest and detention, torture, grave threats, and enforced disappearances.

CTUHR’s data further show that from 2001 to August 2007, there have been a total of 1,167 union and human rights violations, all in all involving 14,623 victims. The killings of union leaders Renato Pacaide and Charlie Solayao this year have brought the total number of workers extrajudicially killed under the Arroyo administration to 85.

Meanwhile, the economic rights of workers are also not faring well.

Recent data from the National Wages and Productivity Commission (NWPC) show that the national average family living wage for a family of six, the average Filipino family, now stands at P664.87 ($15.91 at an exchange rate of $1:P41.80 as of Dec. 21).

Conversely, the highest regional minimum wage –- which is “enjoyed” in the National Capital Region (NCR) – stands at only P325-362 ($7.78-8.66) daily. The biggest gap between the family living wage and the minimum wage is to be found in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), with a family living wage of P1,087 ($26) as against a minimum wage of only P200 ($4.78) daily.

Resisting the bane

The onslaught of contractuazation since the 1990s has done a lot to weaken unions in the Philippines –- which at various points in history were major forces in fighting authoritarianism.

Last year broke what seemed to be an upward trend in Philippine union membership since 2002. While union membership has risen since last year, an increase of about 30,000 from last year’s 1.86 million as of June 2007 is by no means a drastic leap.

With the present weakness of unions compared to their strength a decade ago, the defense of workers’ rights has become more and more difficult. For this year, there has been no improvement in workers’ economic rights, while union and human rights continue to be violated with impunity.

But not only workers are affected by the trend of contractualization. The trainings contractuals undergo are many times less than what regular employees underwent in years passed. This lack of training plus the pressures being exerted on contractual workers who have no rights and are paid less, sometimes on a piecemeal basis, is already taking its toll on the quality of services of companies such as PLDT and Meralco.

Thus, contractualization is a bane not only to workers and their unions but to consumers as well. Bulatlat

Monday, December 17, 2007

Alexander Martin Remollino

Alay sa mga magbubukid ng Sumilao, Bukidnon

Hindi na "diyan lamang" ang kanilang nilakad
kahit para sa mga paang matagal nang nasanay na magturing
na "diyan lamang" ang tatlong bundok na lakarin.
Hindi "diyan lamang" kundi sanlibo't pitong daang kilometro --
magkabilang dulo halos nitong kapuluan --
ang itinakda nilang haba ng kanilang lakad
sa pagitan ng pag-asa't kawalan ng pag-asa.

At bakit naman hindi?
Layang magtanim at umani --
layang huminga nang maluwag sa kasariwaan ng hangin --
ang katarungang mailap na kanilang tinutugis.

Subalit ang dulo ng kanilang paglalakbay
ay tila lakbayin pa ring higit pa
sa sanlibo't pitong daang kilometro:
lakbaying kung saan dudulo
ay walang nakababatid.

Samahan natin sila sa kanilang paglalakbay,
gaano man kalayo ang lakarin
at saanman umabot ang ating mga talampakan
sa pagtugis sa layang magtanim at umani --
layang huminga nang maluwag sa kasariwaan ng hangin.

Sunday, December 16, 2007


The income of jeepney drivers has plunged miserably since the advent of the Oil Deregulation Law, and more miserably this year owing to the recent wave of oil price hikes.

Vol. VII, No. 45, December 16-22, 2007

The income of jeepney drivers -– the Philippines’ so-called “kings of the road” -– has plunged miserably since the advent of the Oil Deregulation Law, and more miserably this year owing to the recent wave of oil price hikes.

Erelito Mendoza, a jeepney driver plying the Cainta-Taytay-Angono-Tanay route in Rizal province, east of Manila, knows this well.

He has been a driver for 30 years. For most of the last 30 years he was able to make a fairly decent living, and did not particularly mind that to be able to do so he had to be awake even before the sun rose and it would be dark by the time he could go home.

But the last six years have been particularly difficult for his livelihood, he said.

“Dati, malaki-laki pa’ng kinikita ko” (I used to earn considerably well), he told Bulatlat in an interview. “Ngayon, halos wala na akong maiuwi sa pamilya ko. Gasolinahan na lang halos ang binubuhay ko” (Nowadays I end up taking almost nothing home to my family. Almost all of my earnings go to the gasoline stations.)

Mendoza is one of the millions of ordinary Filipinos –- drivers and non-drivers alike –- who are reeling from the effects of relentless oil price increases particularly in the last month. The oil price increases are particularly hard for him, since one of his children –- all of whom he is sending through school as the family’s sole breadwinner –- is now in college.

World oil prices surged to $96 at the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) last month before settling at $95.59 per barrel.

With this, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) was urged to intervene by increasing world supply. But OPEC refused, saying there was no oil supply shortage and blaming speculation for the price jumps.

The deregulated oil market in the Philippines makes the country all the more vulnerable to world oil shocks, as local subsidiaries of oil giants are able to pad pump prices.

The banner story of Business World’s Oct. 31, 2007 issue, citing a recent study by the United Nations (UN), shows the Philippines to be among the countries most vulnerable to oil price jumps -– along with Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Fiji, Laos, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, and Vanuatu. In the report the Philippines’ heavy dependence on imported oil and its high level of poverty and inequality were cited as the reasons for its vulnerability.

Deregulation, oil price hikes, and drivers’ earnings

Based on data from the socio-economic think tank IBON Foundation, pump prices have increased by as much as 535 percent since Republic Act No. 8479 or the Oil Deregulation Law – a brainchild of then Sen. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo along with other laws pushing for the Bretton Woods agenda of liberalization, deregulation and privatization for Third World Countries -– took effect in April 1996. Under the Oil Deregulation Law, premium oil prices have soared to P45.18/liter ($1.10 at an exchange rate of $1:P41.14 as of Dec. 14) from P16.56/liter in 2001 ($0.32 at the 2001 average exchange rate of $1:P50.99), while diesel prices have climbed to P35.95 ($0.92) in 2007 from P13.82/liter ($0.27) in 2001.

IBON data also show that pump prices have been overpriced by as much as P4.55 ($0.11) per liter since 2000.

This year alone, oil prices have increased more than 10 times, with the price of diesel -– which jeepney drivers use -– hiking by P6.50 ($0.157) a liter.

Ordinary drivers as well as transport-sector leaders interviewed separately by Bulatlat over the past three years have said that a jeepney driver, on the average, takes in some 300 passengers and consumes around 30 liters of diesel a day.

Before this year’s wave of oil price hikes, diesel cost P31.45/liter ($0.76). With the diesel cost increases amounting to P6.50 ($0.157) this year alone, jeepney drivers of late have had to shell out P37.95 ($0.92) for every liter of diesel.

With the minimum fare at P7.50 ($0.18) and an average of 300 passengers a day, a jeepney driver usually earns a gross of P2,250 ($54.69). Taking away the total diesel expenses of P1,138.50 ($27.67) at P37.95/liter and the boundary fee of P900 ($21.87), the driver would be left with P211.50 ($5.14) at the end of the day.

Before this year’s wave of oil price hikes, a driver would usually be left with P406.50 ($9.88) on the average after a day’s work. With the slide in jeepney drivers’ earnings from P406.50 to P211.50 a day, we can see that their daily income has decreased by P195 ($4.739) due to oil price increases.

Data from the National Wages and Productivity Commission (NWPC) show that the national average family living wage for a family of six, the average Filipino family, now stands at P664.87 as of July 2007 ($16.70 based on the current exchange rate of $1:P41.14).

Jeepney drivers’ current daily earnings are P453.37 ($11.02) below the national average family living wage.

This is a far cry from what jeepney drivers earned before the implementation of the Oil Deregulation Law.

Sarbing Repaso, a jeepney driver interviewed by Bulatlat in 2004, recalled that in 1996, just before the passage of the Oil Deregulation Law, diesel cost only P5.50 (then $0.21) a liter. At the end of each day’s work, a driver paid P400 (then $15.38) as boundary fee.

Taking in an average of 300 passengers a day at that year’s minimum fare of P2.50 (then $0.10), the driver was earning a gross income of P750 (then $28.86) daily. Taking from that the P165 (then $6.35) spent on diesel daily (P5.50/liter of diesel multiplied by 30 liters a day), as well as the P400 boundary fee, a driver was left with P185 (then $10.58) a day. This was P128.38 below the then national average daily cost of living of P313.38 (then $12.05).

Things today are vastly different from how they were when he was just starting out as a driver, Mendoza shared.

“Noon, hindi problema ang pag-aaral ng aking mga kapatid” (In those days, I had no trouble sending my siblings through school), he said. “Ngayon, iisa ang anak kong nasa college, hirap na hirap kami” Right now only one of my children is in college and still we are having a very hard time.)


Drivers under the banner of the Pinag-isang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide (Piston) have held two protest actions in the last three weeks against oil price increases –- a rally last Nov. 26 and a transport strike last Dec. 13.They demanded the following: government control of oil prices and a moratorium on oil price hikes; removal of RVAT (Restructured Value-Added Tax) coverage on oil to effect a P4 rollback in oil prices; and the scrapping of the Oil Deregulation Law and state control of the oil industry.

A few days before the Dec. 13 transport strike, Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes announced that there would be no further oil price increases until the end of the year.

In an interview with Bulatlat, Piston secretary-general George San Mateo said Reyes’ announcement is proof that the government can intervene in the oil industry if deemed necessary.

“They can do it, and this is proof,” San Mateo said. “But what they don’t want to do is institutional intervention, which would mean the junking of the Oil Deregulation Law.”

San Mateo said that if the government fails or refuses to heed all the demands of the Nov. 26 and Dec. 13 protests, Piston would not hesitate to stage other actions come next year. Bulatlat

Monday, December 10, 2007

Alexander Martin Remollino

A final tribute to Monico M. Atienza

Your passing opened up the road
to a convergence of contradictions.

It seems as though the entire human race
was there for your stopover
and the march to your final destination.
So many mouths claimed
to have been friends with you,
it seemed like a contest for pouring out
the best testimonial.

Such is the glory of your greatness
that all wish to bask in it,
and the sole consolation lies in this:

that merely doing so does not make them
a single inch greater.

If the land and the wind
that you not just once serenaded with your poems,
the walls and floors and ceilings
of the classrooms and offices and meeting places
that you graced with your presence --
the mute witnesses to your struggles and sufferings --
could speak,

they would cry out one by one to the high heavens
the names of your true friends.
They know that your true friends are they
who fully live the convictions
you embraced to the end.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Alexander Martin Remollino

Sa alaala ni Rene O. Villanueva, 1954-2007

Sa dakong huli, naubusan din ng tinta
ang panulat na tila hindi kailanman mauubusan.
Kayhirap isiping yumao na siya:
paano mamamatay
ang panulat na isang buong panitikan yata
ang naiakda?

hindi niya hahangaring ipagpatayo siya ng monumento.
Ang hindi niya alam ay may monumento na siya,
buhay pa man siya, at ito'y ang katotohanang
napalapit man siya sa mga "nakasuso sa bulok na sistema"

ay manunulat siyang hindi nagbili ng kaluluwa,

hindi kailanman.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Alexander Martin Remollino

In memory of Monico M. Atienza -- revolutionary, writer and teacher (1947-2007)

Death tried thrice to take him:
the first and second attempts were failures,
and the third was the last.
He vehemently refused to just let go of life like that:
twice he stubbornly resisted Death's attempts on him --
even as he had a wound that refused to heal,
even as his consciousness refused to return.

And rightly so, for his
was a life that was worth fighting for to the death.
In a nation grown enamored by the glitter of foil,
his life was not glitter but light:
a bright star, steadfast amidst the dark sky and long night
in this "country of our sorrows."
Alexander Martin Remollino

(Delivered at “An Eye for I: The State and Practice of Investigative Reporting in the Philippines,” a forum organized by the UP Department of Journalism and the UP Communicators for Good Governance and held Dec. 5, 2007 at the College of Mass Communications Auditorium, University of the Philippines)

How best describe the state and practice of investigative journalism in the Philippines?

This is a question for which there are no easy and clear answers. It is a lot easier to try to answer the question of where those who disappear in the Bermuda Triangle end up, or of what happened before the Big Bang.

This is because the very mention of the term “investigative journalism” summons a whole wealth of other thoughts or observations.

First things first: just what in the world is investigative journalism?

The Collin-COBUILD Dictionary of the English Language defines investigation thus: “If you investigate an event or situation, you examine all the details, in order to find out what has happened or is happening.”

This is certainly the method which anyone who can be called an investigative journalist uses to come up with those in-depth reports that are characteristic of the branch of journalism they chose to specialize in.

But with that, should not all journalism, in thrust if not in methodology, be investigative — since the task of any journalist at any time and place is to ferret out and expose the truth about what is happening in the world, that people may be accordingly guided to respond to the challenges of the times? The existence anywhere of a journalistic category described as “investigative” (as distinct from the other branches of journalism) thus sheds light not only on the state of investigative journalism, but on the state of journalism itself.

Jaime B. Ramirez, author of the Philippine Journalism Handbook among other works, defines investigative reporting as “the disclosure of information that is of public value where the subjects would prefer not to be disclosed.” He further observes that

Every reporter should be an investigative reporter — by his or her own instincts and by leave of the publisher. If a reporter is on the trail of a good story, the necessary time should be made available. A serious commitment to investigative reporting is one of the best investments a publisher can make. This will surely and simultaneously benefit a newspaper’s prestige and its readers’ interest as well…

With that, how fares investigative journalism in the Philippines, and how has it been practiced here thus far?

The reports of the PCIJ do not always get to be published in all of the major periodicals. On the small screen, investigative programs like I-Witness, Reporter’s Notebook, and The Correspondents are usually shown in the most ungodly hours, when for the most part the nation is in such deep sleep that a comet could pass by largely unnoticed.

And yet investigative reports always have considerable impact in the country’s public discourse. Though not everyone gets to read investigative articles or view episodes of investigative programs, the revelations made and the questions raised by these get talked about for days — sometimes weeks — on end.

Take for instance the ruckus provoked by PCIJ’s exposes on former President Joseph Estrada’s “Boracay Mansions,” or Bernadette Sembrano’s report on Pagcor chief Ephraim Genuino’s unexplained assets.

The same goes for other publications or outlets in the Philippines that have been identified as placing emphasis on investigative journalism — like Newsbreak or, I could say, the publication I write for — the online magazine Bulatlat.

That investigative journalism exerts such impact on the Philippines, even with its limited exposure here, takes us to one of the glaring characteristics of what poet and literary scholar Gelacio Guillermo has called “our basket case of a society”: that this is a society with a whole universe of secrets waiting — nay, clamoring — to be revealed. It is a society where there are a few who wield vast power — both in the public sphere and in the private sector — who use this power to perpetrate excesses and with the resources at their command strive mightily to keep these from the knowledge of the people.

In any such society, there will always be a considerable portion of the reading and viewing public eager to read or view in-depth reports on the latest scams and scandals, and an even bigger public discussing the contents of these with prolonged interest.

Former UP Mass Communication Dean Luis V. Teodoro describes thus the importance of investigative journalism in the Philippines:

The investigative report is the most logical form for the need to demonstrate and document in all its painstaking detail and sordidness the political and social realities that still define Filipino existence today, towards the historic end of arming the people with the consciousness that will mobilize them. It is also the one form that can repudiate the martial law legacy of secrecy that still haunts us all. Of all the journalistic forms it is the investigative report — with its demand for consummate research and precise attribution — that lends itself to the deepening of public understanding of the way the political, economic and social systems work for the benefit of a handful and to the detriment of the many.

Thus far, the practice of investigative journalism in the Philippines has for the most part limited itself to exposing the scams involving government officials. Because of this, investigative journalism has come to be commonly understood in the Philippines as that branch of journalism that uncovers corruption and other government scams, and seeks to make government accountable to the public.

The Philippine journalistic landscape is thus not wanting in investigative reports on such topics as the fate of the sequestered Marcos billions, or of Corazon Aquino’s so-called “Kamag-anak, Inc.,” or of the anomalous infrastructure projects during the Ramos administration, or of Estrada’s involvement in illegal gambling, or the numerous onerous contracts entered into by the Arroyo regime.

To be sure, corruption is not the only issue for which high government officials should be held accountable to the people.

The nefarious dealings that the Philippine government goes into with its former colonial and now neocolonial string-puller, the U.S., also deserve to be pried into by the investigative journalist.

How complicit, for instance, was the Arroyo administration in the influence-peddling of the U.S.-based and USAID-funded lobby group AGILE (Accelerating Growth, Investment and Liberalization with Equity) on Philippine policy-makers in 2003?

Or where in hell now is L/Cpl. Daniel Smith, who was convicted last year of raping “Nicole” two years ago? Is he still in the custody of the U.S. Embassy in Manila, as Amb. Kristie Kenney claims, or has he been spirited out of the country like many a U.S. serviceman who committed similarly heinous crimes against Filipinos in the heyday of Subic Naval Base and Clark Air Base?

While at that, is it true that the U.S. presently maintains secret basing facilities in Subic, Angeles City, Mactan City, and General Santos City — even with constitutional provisions expressly prohibiting foreign military presence on Philippine soil?

These deserve to be looked into, as does government policy on recognizing — or the refusal to recognize — human rights, which are protected by no less than the Constitution and the various international instruments which the government is constitutionally bound to recognize as “part of the law of the land.”

Beyond that, there are not so many investigative reports, for instance, on the 2001 allegations that the owners of what is now the Power Plant Mall at Rockwell Center buried toxic waste from what was a real power plant under land forming part of Brgy. San Joaquin, Pasig City.

I also do not remember seeing any investigative report on the allegations a few years back that then Labor Secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas went on an all expense-paid trip to Nestle’s main office in Geneva, Switzerland at the height of the strike by the unionized workers of its branch in Cabuyao, Laguna in protest against CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) violations. The trip, it is alleged, was for the purpose of striking a deal between Sto. Tomas and the company’s top-level management to ensure that the company’s local branch would be favored over the striking workers in Cabuyao.

Without passing any judgment on whether the allegations were true or not, I still say that these nevertheless deserved to be probed.

The issue of how big landholders in the country have gone around the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law of 1988 — taking advantage of its many loopholes to evade having their lands subjected to agrarian reform — is another one that has yet to be probed deeply enough by investigative journalism. Investigative reports on such a topic would be timely today, considering that the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program’s second 10-year extension ends next year.

While it is very much laudable to use investigative journalism to help in disclosing corruption and other government scandals, we must never for a moment construe this as the only task of the investigative journalist.

I cannot stress too much my premise that it is power-wielders from both the public and private sectors who typically have skeletons in the closet which investigative journalism may and should unearth.

It is not just high government officials who have those dark secrets that are crying out to be brought into the open; but also, for instance, the big bosses of corporate giants and the landed aristocracy. Investigative journalism in the Philippines has made some attempts at probing the skeletons hidden by entities other than high government, but the secrets of big business and the landed aristocracy are still uncharted territory for most Filipino investigative journalists.

The big bosses of corporate giants and the landed aristocracy, as much as high government officials, deserve to be subject to the intense scrutiny of investigative journalism — since they, like high government officials, affect to a great deal the life of the general public — who are, in the final analysis, the ultimate beneficiaries of the successes of any investigative journalist.

Any issues involving them and how they impact on the lives of the people are necessary subjects of investigative journalism. As Teodoro said:

Whether at the community or national level, all issues that touch upon the way people live are people’s issues. These issues range from the need for day care centers for working mothers to the undeclared martial law in Jolo. Whether by documenting corruption or environmental degradation, child labor or the manipulation of the stock market, the investigative report can help put an end to both the ignorance as well as the legacy of secrecy that are among the instruments that help keep Philippine society what it is for the overwhelming majority of the people — a society of vast injustice and even greater misery…

That having been said, high government, big business and the landed aristocracy are but part of a larger organism which goes by the name Philippine society.

Investigative journalism, therefore, should go beyond uncovering their dark secrets and must also probe into the dynamics of the social forces that make the power-wielders what they are, and that keep them as such. Investigative journalism, in the words of former Bulatlat executive editor Bobby Tuazon, “should be honed and advanced as a tool for social transformation,” and “(should) not confine itself to reporting about corruption and other scandals but (should delve) into the bigger, more socially-relevant issues of the poor and the oppressed.”

To summarize: Investigative journalism is needed in any society like the Philippines. It has to some extent been responsive to the social conditions that make it a necessity in this country, but its practitioners here can and would do well to do more.
Alexander Martin Remollino

Matagal na mula nang maimungkahi sa amin ng kaibigan naming si Axel Pinpin na maisalin namin sa Ingles ang ilang tula niya, lalo na ang mga nasulat sa bilangguan. Ngunit nito lamang naituloy, sa panig namin, ang pagsasagawa sa naturang mungkahi.

Narito ang isang munting koleksiyon ng mga salin ng ilan sa kanyang mga tula. Ang paglalabas nito sa Internet ay nagsisilbi ring ambag namin sa komemorasyon ng International Human Rights Day (Disyembre 10) sa taong ito.

Bago mabilanggo at mahabla sa diumano'y salang rebelyon, nagkapangalan na rin naman si Axel sa larangan ng pagtula. Naging fellow siya para sa tula ng UP National Writers' Workshop noong 1999; at nakapaglabas na rin ng isang libro ng mga tula, ang Tugmaang Walang Tugma.

Habang nagsusulat, aktibo rin si Axel sa aktibismo bilang isang mananaliksik at konsultant para sa Kalipunan ng mga Magsasaka sa Kabite (Kamagsasaka-Ka). Sa ganitong kapasidad ay naging masikhay siya sa mga kampanya laban sa imperyalistang globalisasyon at para sa tunay na repormang agraryo.

Noong Abril 28, 2006 ay dinukot siya ng mga pulis at militar -- kasama ng mga aktibista ring sina Riel Custodio at Aristedes Sarmiento, ng dating seaman na si Rico Ybañez, at ng kristo sa sabungan na si Michael Masayes -- sa Tagaytay City. Silang lima'y patungo sa Maynila para sa paglahok nina Axel, Riel at Aris sa rali ng Mayo 1: napakiusapang magmaneho para sa kanila si Rico, na sinamahan naman ng kapitbahay nitong si Michael.

Ilang araw silang hindi malaman kung nasaan at pinaghanap nang husto ng mga kamag-anak at kasamahan at kaibigan. Di nagtagal ay napilitan ang Philippine National Police (PNP) na ilitaw sila't iharap sa midya -- bilang mga "rebeldeng komunista." Ang paratang sa kanila: sila raw ang nag-ayos ng kanlungan ni 1Lt. Lawrence San Juan, pinuno ng rebeldeng Makabayang Kawal Pilipino, sa Padre Burgos, Batangas at sila raw ang nag-ugnay sa kanya sa pamunuan ng Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army (CPP-NPA).

Bago mahuli ang lima, abala sina Axel at Riel sa kampanya para ipagtanggol ang mga magsasaka sa Cabangaan, Cavite na inaagawan ng lupa ng mga Revilla.

Mahigit nang isang taon ngayong nakakulong ang tinatawag nang Tagaytay 5 sa Camp Vicente Lim sa Calamba City, Laguna.

Marami-rami na ang tulang nasulat doon ni Axel, at sa koleksiyong ito -- na ang disenyo'y kagagawan ni Jason Valenzuela -- ay nilalaman ang mga salin sa Ingles ng ilan sa mga iyon.

Ilan kaming nagsalin ng mga tula -- bukod sa akin, "idinamay" ko ang aking kapatid na si Aris (Carlo Aristotle, hindi Aristedes); samantalang dumating naman sa akin ang ilang salin mula kina Gang Badoy at Melflorence Aguilar. Si Axel mismo'y may salin ng tula niyang isinalin ni Gang, at ang dalawang salin ay isinama sa koleksiyong ito.

Ang mga tula sa partikular na koleksiyong ito ay naglalarawan ng buhay sa bilangguan.

Download: verses.pdf

Wednesday, December 05, 2007


By Lira Dalangin-Fernandez
Last updated 08:31pm (Mla time) 12/05/2007

MANILA, Philippines -- Philippine arts and letters lost two stalwarts on Wednesday with the deaths of Rene Villanueva and Monico Atienza, both writers and professors.

Villanueva, a professor at the University of the Philippines (UP) and an award-winning writer of poems, children's stories, and essays, died at around 2 p.m. at the Philippine Heart Center after suffering a stroke on Tuesday. He was 53.

Atienza, who also taught at the UP, was also known as an activist. He died in his home at UP at 5:20 p.m. after being comatose for almost year. More known as “Ka” (Comrade) Nic, Atienza was president of the First Quarter Storm (FQS) Movement, an organization of activists from the 1960s and 1970s.

Bonifacio Ilagan, FQS Movement chairman and one of Atienza's closest friends, confirmed his death to

Friends sponsored a mass for Atienza Tuesday in what Ilagan sensed could be the last for his friend. He said Atienza's health had been deteriorating very fast over the past two weeks.

Ilagan said they are still making arrangements for the venue of the wake which could either be at the UP chapel or at the faculty center.

Atienza has been comatose since December 23, 2006 after an undetected mass in his throat gradually blocked his air passage, leading to successive heart seizures, according to an entry by Ilagan in the website

"His friends and relatives described Monico Atienza's stubborn will to live, in the face of a most life-threatening debilitation, as very characteristic of the man. This kind of courage, they say -- together with the man's extraordinary conviction and abilities -- enabled him to live the kind of life he has chosen, unmindful of the obstacles that came his way," wrote writer Alexander Martin Remollino in his blog

The had this entry on Villanueva:

“…Villanueva, a playwright, was among the leading figures in children's literature in the Philippines. He was in the hall of fame list of the Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature. He graduated with a degree in history at the Lyceum of the Philippines in 1975.”

According to his profile on Villanueva was awarded the Gawad CCP Para sa Sining (Literature) in 2004 and the Gawad Chanselor sa UP in 2005.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Alexander Martin Remollino

For Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV

There are those who would salute your failed attempts
at leading a changing of the guard,
and there are those who would thumb them down.

But that is beside the point --
the point being that you definitely had a point
in those instances you wondered aloud why people
have repeatedly failed to rise to the occasion
at crucial points
in our recent history of benightedness.
Have their souls become so thoroughly callused
by repeated dehumanization
that they now think like beasts of burden?

Sunday, November 25, 2007


"The NDFP remains open to the resumption of formal peace talks... But the current anti-national and anti-people policies, the gross human rights violations, the scandals of corruption, do not provide grounds for optimism." -- Luis Jalandoni, chairman, NDFP Negotiating Panel.

Vol. VII, No. 42, November 25-December 1, 2007

National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales’ recent pronouncement that the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) should agree to a “mutual ceasefire” as a precondition for the resumption of peace negotiations does not sit well with the leadership of the revolutionary organization, which has been waging an armed struggle against the government for more than three decades.

In an interview with Bulatlat, NDFP Negotiating Panel chairman Luis Jalandoni said Gonzales’ ceasefire demand betrays what he described as the Arroyo regime’s thrust of “securing the capitulation or pacification of the revolutionary movement.”

Gonzales’ pronouncement was reported in the news just as the NDFP and Sen. Maria Ana Consuelo “Jamby” Madrigal had come to an agreement that the NDFP would provide the Philippine Senate with information on the peace talks, for the purpose of inquiries in aid of legislation. Madrigal met with the NDFP Negotiating Panel in the wake of the recent arrest of NDFP Chief Political Consultant Jose Maria Sison on trumped-up criminal charges.

Following this meeting, Jalandoni and Sison both issued follow-up statements expressing the NDFP’s willingness to work with the Philippine Senate in pursuing the peace talks.

Sen. Aquilino Pimentel, Jr., one of the legislators noted for interest in seeing the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations move forward, has however urged the NDFP to agree to the ceasefire “proposal” as a way of building an “atmosphere of trust and goodwill.”

Meanwhile, the Council of Europe recently proposed to the European Union that it revise its guidelines for listing personalities and organizations as “terrorists.”

The GRP-NDFP peace negotiations have been stalled for the last five years, following the listing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA) as “terrorist organizations,” and of Sison as a “terrorist.”

The NDFP’s observations on these developments, and on the prospects for the peace talks in the remaining three years of the Arroyo administration, are articulated in Jalandoni’s interview with Bulatlat.

Following is the full text of the interview:

What can you say about Sec. Norberto Gonzales’ demand that the GRP and the NDFP agree to a “mutual ceasefire” before peace negotiations could resume?

Sec. Norberto Gonzales’ demand for “mutual ceasefire” as a precondition to the resumption of formal peace talks grossly violates The Hague Joint Declaration of 1992 and the Agreement on the Formation, Sequence and Operationalization of the Reciprocal Working Committees (RWCs) of the GRP and the NDFP Negotiating Panels of 1995 and the Supplemental Agreement thereto of 1997. In these agreements, the end of hostilities or ceasefire is the fourth and last item in the substantive agenda, after the roots of the armed conflict have been adequately dealt with in agreements on socio-economic and political reforms.

Gonzales’ demand for a ceasefire blurs the need to address the roots of the armed conflict through social, economic and political reforms. It reflects the objective of the Arroyo regime of securing the capitulation or pacification of the revolutionary movement.

This precondition of Gonzales is unacceptable to the NDFP. Moreover, Secretary Gonzales is not really for genuine peace talks. In fact, he is a saboteur of the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations. As head of the Inter-Agency Legal Action Group (IALAG), he has fabricated numerous trumped-up charges against Prof. Jose Maria Sison, the NDFP Chief Political Consultant, the NDFP Negotiating Panel members, consultants and staff, in gross violation of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG).

In late 2004, at a top level GRP national security meeting, he made the outrageous proposal, in order to solve all of GRP’s problems, to just assassinate Professor Sison. Secretary Gonzales has publicly admitted that he is responsible for the false and politically motivated charge which has been used by the Dutch authorities to persecute Professor Sison. The viciousness of Gonzales is a real obstacle to the peace negotiations.

Sen. Aquilino Pimentel, Jr. appears to be supportive of the GRP’s ceasefire “proposal,” saying it would create an “atmosphere of trust and goodwill,” which he described as “the key to any negotiation.” What is your view on this?

Unlike Sec. Norberto Gonzales who acts in bad faith, Senator Pimentel’s progressive stand for the people on various issues is appreciated by the NDFP. In this case, however, we would suggest a deep-going exchange of views with Sen. Pimentel regarding the necessity of making sure that the roots of the armed conflict are not set aside and a review of the experience in the 1986-87 GRP-NDFP talks which got bogged down on ceasefire talks without being able to go to the substantive agenda on social, economic and political reforms.

It is important to look into the major agreements mentioned above, the history of past talks, and also the motive of Secretary Gonzales, Gen. (Eduardo) Ermita and other GRP officials. We would also suggest taking up the NDFP’s Proposal for an Immediate Just Peace of August 2005, which brings up the possibility of a truce while both sides sign an agreement on the fundamental demands of the people.

What were the immediate factors that brought about Sen. Jamby Madrigal's meeting last month with the NDFP Negotiating Panel, in which the NDFP agreed to provide the Philippine Senate with information on the peace talks for the purpose of inquiry?

Sen. Maria Ana Consuelo Madrigal, as a very patriotic and intelligent person committed to the well-being of the people and to work for a just and lasting peace, saw the possibilities of the Senate Committee on Peace, Unification and Reconciliation, which she chairs, to cooperate with the NDFP in effectively pushing forward the resumption of GRP-NDFP peace negotiations, either with the current administration or the next one. She also wanted to get from the NDFP what was the impact of the arrest and persecution of Professor Sison and the police raids on the NDFP office and residences of NDFP panelists, consultants and staff on the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations. She wanted the views of those affected by the raids for the hearing of her Senate Committee on Peace.

She creatively proposed the setting up by the aforementioned Senate Committee of a Technical Working Group which would work with the NDFP Committees of Experts to forge tentative agreements on socio-economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms and end of hostilities and disposition of forces. The NDFP proposed the setting up of Committees of Experts comprising five persons each to work with the Technical Working Group to forge the tentative agreements within one year.

The successful drafting of such agreements will serve to strengthen the political will of the GRP, particularly the executive branch, to go into serious peace negotiations aimed at addressing the roots of the armed conflict and not just aim for capitulation. This initiative taken jointly by Senator Madrigal and the NDFP has the great potential to get the enthusiastic support of other peace advocates from the church, human rights organizations, the people’s organizations and various sectors.

During the meetings with Senator Madrigal, prior to and after the signing of the Joint Statement on Oct.14, the NDFP presented the list of impediments that the GRP has put up to the peace negotiations. The senator has pledged to work for the removal of these impediments during and after the Arroyo regime.

What does the NDFP hope will come out of the inquiries that may be conducted by the Senate, in aid of legislation, on the peace negotiations?

The NDFP hopes that the Senate will undertake legislation that will help to remove the impediments to the peace talks and for it to take a more active role in the peace negotiations. For example, the Senate can help in pushing for a stop in the spate of extra-judicial killings and disappearances and stop the GRP’s military operations which uproot millions of civilians in the countryside. The Senate can find ways and means for assisting in the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).

The Senate and the Technical Working Group of the Senate Committee on Peace can help in the research that will facilitate the forging of agreements on social and economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms, and end of hostilities and disposition of forces.

How would the Council of Europe's recent proposals to the European Union to overhaul its current rules on blacklisting "terrorist" suspects affect the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations?

The proposals contained in the draft resolution presented by Swiss parliament member, Dick Marty, can certainly help the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations. These would show that the “terrorist” listing of the CPP, the NPA, and Prof. Jose Maria Sison is a violation of their fundamental right to due process and their right to defense and such listing is unjust and must be done away with. These proposals will also recognize the right of Professor Sison and the CPP and NPA to claim compensation for moral and material damages.

How optimistic is the NDFP that the stalled peace talks could be revived under the present administration?

It is difficult to be optimistic, because hardline militarists like Gen. Eduardo Ermita and rabid anti-communists like Norberto Gonzales, and Mrs. Arroyo herself, want the complete destruction of the revolutionary movement through capitulation, prolonged ceasefire, and an all-out war policy. They do not wish to address the root causes of the armed conflict.

The NDFP remains open to the resumption of formal peace talks, if the regime shows it has the political will to address the root causes of the armed conflict and seriously negotiate with the NDFP on the fundamental socio-economic and political reforms. But the current anti-national and anti-people policies, the gross human rights violations, the scandals of corruption, do not provide grounds for optimism. But if we cannot have serious peace talks now, we can prepare for the possibility of such peace talks with the next administration. Bulatlat

Sunday, November 18, 2007


This is the second year a People’s Impeachment Complaint was filed against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Although the first impeachment complaint against President Arroyo was filed in 2005, the first filed by individuals and organizations identified with the “parliament of the streets” was submitted last year. But the two People’s Impeachment Complaints suffered a similar fate: junked by the president’s men.

Vol. VII, No. 41, November 18-24, 2007

The People’s Impeachment Complaint against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, filed Nov. 12 by former Vice President Teofisto Guingona, Jr. and the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan or New Patriotic Alliance), was returned by House Deputy Secretary-General Artemio Adaza to the complainants just two days after it was filed. It did not even reach the House Committee on Justice.

In returning it to the complainants, Adaza, citing the constitutional ban on the initiation of more than one impeachment complaint against the same official within the same year, said that the impeachment complaint filed by lawyer Roel Pulido was already deliberated on by the House Committee on Justice..

Art. XI, Sec. 3 (5) provides that: “No impeachment proceedings shall be initiated against the same official more than once within a period of one year.”

The Pulido complaint

Pulido had filed on Oct. 5 an impeachment complaint against Arroyo, citing her for betrayal of public trust in relation to the controversial National Broadband Network (NBN) deal.

The NBN project is a $329-million contract that aims to connect government agencies throughout the Philippines through the Internet.

The deal was signed in Boao, China on April 21 –- when the government was not allowed to sign contracts because of the then-upcoming senatorial and local elections. It has become controversial for allegedly being overpriced and for supposedly having been signed without going through the proper bidding process.

Jose de Venecia III, son of House Speaker Jose de Venecia and co-founder of Amsterdam Holdings, Inc. which is one of the losing bidders in the NBN deal, accused former Commission on Elections (Comelec) chairman Benjamin Abalos of offering him $10 million in exchange for backing out of the NBN deal –- an accusation the former Comelec chief has denied.

In a privilege speech on Aug. 29, Nueva Vizcaya Rep. Carlos Padilla said it was Abalos who brokered the deal between the Philippine government and ZTE Corp. Padilla also said Abalos was seen playing golf with ZTE officials in Manila and Shenzen. He also accused Abalos of receiving money and women in exchange for brokering the NBN deal.

In his three-page complaint, of which Bulatlat received a copy courtesy of Anakpawis (Toiling Masses) Rep. Crispin Beltran’s office, Pulido said:

“During her incumbency as President of the Republic, the Secretary of the Department of Transportation and Communications, Sec. Leandro Mendoza, on April 21, 2007 entered into an agreement with the ZTE for the latter to provide equipments, construct and install the same for the National Broadband Network Project under terms and conditions apparently disadvantageous to the Filipino people.

“It appears that entering into such contract was actually dictated by the illegal and corrupt machinations undertaken by high government officials, including but not limited to Chairman Benjamin Abalos of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), House Speaker Jose de Venecia, Jr. and the Speaker’s son, Jose de Venecia III. In fact, in an affidavit executed by Jose de Venecia III, he admits that a breakfast meeting was organized by House Speaker Jose de Venecia to allow the two proponents of the National Broadband Network Project, ZTE and AHI, to consolidate their proposals and corner the broadband project...

“That these corrupt and illegal negotiations were being undertaken was not unknown to the Respondent. In fact, in his testimony before the Senate, Jose de Venecia III claimed under oath that his father, House Speaker Jose de Venecia told him that the Respondent President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, House Speaker Jose de Venecia, Jr., and Comelec Chairman Benjamin Abalos discussed the respective proposals of AHI and ZTE during a golf game in China.

“Worse, Sec. Romulo Neri, in his Sept. 26, 2007 testimony before the Senate, admitted under oath that he was offered a P200-million bribe by Comelec Chairman Abalos, and that he reported the matter to the Respondent President. Despite being told of the bribe offer, the Respondent did nothing.”

On Nov. 5, lawyer and United Opposition (UNO) spokesman Adel Tamano filed a supplement to the Pulido complaint. It was tossed out on Nov. 13 by the House Committee on Justice –- which found the original Pulido complaint sufficient in form. The committee’s decision provoked a walkout by minority members, led by Deputy House Minority Leader and Parañanque City Rep. Roilo Golez.

The original Pulido complaint was thrown out on Nov. 14 –- just a day after the blast at the Batasang Pambansa which has so far claimed four lives –- by the House Committee on Justice, which deemed it insufficient in substance.

“Verily, in all respects, the Pulido complaint is destitute of substance,” said Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, vice chairman of the House Committee on Justice during the Nov. 14 hearing. “To reiterate, it is so bare that it is akin to a centerfold which may excite but does not excel.”

Later that same day, the People’s Impeachment Complaint was returned to the complainants by Adaza, who cited Art. XI, Sec. 3 (5) of the Constitution.

Initiating complaints

However, Neri Javier Colmenares -– who is one of the counsels for those who filed the People’s Impeachment Complaint -– took issue with Adaza’s arguments. “It is correct that only one complaint may be initiated (against the same official) within a year, but the issue is, when is a complaint initiated?” Colmenares told Bulatlat in an interview.

“The Constitution says only the House can initiate a complaint,” Colmenares said. “The House is the sole authority to initiate a complaint.”

Art. XI, Sec. 3 (1) of the Constitution provides that: “The House of Representatives shall have the exclusive power to initiate all cases of impeachment.”

“When does the House act as an institution?” Colmenares said. “Is it when somebody files a complaint? Of course not, it’s just the complainant filing. Is it when the Speaker refers it to the Justice Committee? Of course not also. Is it when the Justice Committee finds (it sufficient in form and substance)? The correct interpretation is that the House initiates a complaint when it impeaches the President, meaning when they decide –- as a House of Representatives –- to impeach the President. And when does that happen? When a complaint has the required minimum vote of one-third of the House membership, and that can only happen in the plenary.”

The People’s Impeachment Complaint

Before Arroyo, the Philippine presidents who faced impeachment complaints were Elpidio Quirino, Diosdado Macapagal (Arroyo’s father), Ferdinand Marcos, and Joseph Estrada. The complaints against Quirino, Macapagal, and Marcos all failed to get the minimum required number of votes at the House of Representatives; while the complaint against Estrada was initiated, but was not completed due to maneuvers by the Estrada camp which resulted in what is now known as the People Power II uprising.

Arroyo faced her first impeachment complaint in 2005. This was when the Macapagal-Arroyo administration first used the tactic of preempting the filing of a complaint by having one of its minions, in the person of lawyer Oliver Lozano, file a weak complaint which, in turn, was summarily dismissed by Arroyo’s allies in Congress.

Anticipating that a similar tactic would be used in 2006, anti-Arroyo individuals and groups, who are mostly identified with the “parliament of the streets,” filed a series of complaints to block another effort by the administration to use the same maneuver. Thus, the concept of a People’s Impeachment Complaint was born. It is, as described by militant organizations, an impeachment complaint filed directly by the people for adoption by the Minority in the Lower House. It is a novel concept as it is initiated and followed through by private citizens and is complementary to the “parliament of the streets.”

However, the Arroyo administration once again used its dominance in the Lower House to reject the first People’s Impeachment Complaint. The initiators of the People’s Impeachment Complaint then held a Citizen’s Congress for Truth and Accountability (CCTA) which subsequently found Arroyo guilty of the charges contained in the complaint.

“Strongest, so far”

Colmenares believes that the complaint filed by Guingona and Bayan November 12 is the strongest so far of all impeachment complaints lodged against Arroyo. “The evidence is very strong,” Colmenares said.

The People’s Impeachment Complaint of 2007 cites Arroyo for the following offenses:

· culpable violations of the Constitution, betrayal of public trust and other high crimes by explicitly and implicitly conspiring, directing, abetting, tolerating with impunity as a state policy and rewarding extrajudicial executions, involuntary disappearances, torture, massacre, illegal arrest and arbitrary detention, forced dislocation of communities and other gross and systematic violations of civil and political rights and engaging in a systematic campaign to cover-up or white-wash these crimes by suppressing and obliterating the evidence, blaming the victims, terrorizing, intimidating and physically attacking witnesses, their relatives, lawyers and supporters, and human rights workers;

· culpable violations of the Constitution and graft and corruption, and betrayal of public trust by (i) abetting and/or tolerated the commission of a crime in regard to the anomalous “ZTE National Broadband contract”, (ii) knowingly and willfully obstructing, impeding or delaying the apprehension of suspects and the investigation of criminal cases arising from the same, and (iii) participating and giving support to or approving the ZTE broadband contract despite her knowledge that the same is tainted with graft and corruption;

· bribery, graft and corruption and betrayal of public trust by authorizing, abetting, allowing, and countenancing the distribution of bribe money to members of Congress in exchange for the hasty referral of the Pulido complaint to the Justice Committee in an attempt to prevent the filing of a more substantive and genuine impeachment complaint and eventually dismissing the Pulido complaint;

· culpable violations of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust by abusing her authority to suppress lawful exercise of the people’s rights to free speech, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, the freedom of the press and the people’s right to information and curtailing the legislative power to inquire on matters relating to the said electoral fraud committed in the 2004 presidential elections and other matters affecting the legitimacy of her presidency; and

· graft and corruption, by entering into illegal government contracts and “criminally” concealing her conjugal assets.

“For the ZTE alone, we have strong evidence: this is the first time when even allies of the President, by their own admission, put her on the chopping block,” Colmenares pointed out. “Although Romulo Neri’s testimony is not complete, it’s damaging to her. Add to that the statements of the De Venecias on bribery, which are very, very strong.

“Even the charges lifted from the 2006 complaint (which focused) on human rights violations have become stronger now. Now you have witnesses who survived abductions and torture, and point to the military. You have the Manalo brothers –- direct testimony, direct eyewitness accounts. Now you have the Jonas Burgos case... Now you have the Rev. Berlin Guerrero case, where it is clear as day that the government security forces took him and tortured him, and he survived. We even have a Bayan Muna (People First) coordinator, Jing Cardeño of General Santos City, who also survived (abduction and torture) and pointed to the military as the perpetrators.

“Rev. Isaias Sta. Rosa –- there was a dead sergeant beside him -– I mean, what more evidence do you want? The soldier not only had an Army ID, he had a mission order!”

These evidences, Colmenares said, make the People’s Impeachment Complaint of 2007 an “extremely strong” case. “Whichever court you bring it to, Arroyo would be convicted,” he said.

“That is why they didn’t even let it be touched by the Justice Committee,” he added. “It had to be returned to the complainants by the House Deputy Secretary-General -– who holds an administrative position -– without even being referred to the Justice Committee.”

Supreme Court

Colmenares said the complainants would be elevating the issue to the Supreme Court. He said they will ask the High Tribunal to rule on the issue of when an impeachment complaint is deemed initiated – an issue on which there is as yet no known jurisprudence in the Philippines.

He said they are confident the Supreme Court would rule favorably on their petition. Bulatlat

Friday, November 16, 2007

Alexander Martin Remollino

Ang mahigit sa sansiglo ay waring walang anuman.

Naririto pa rin
ang mga maharlikang nagnanais na maging alipin
na humiklas sa iyong hininga.
(Magugunitang matapos ang kanilang kataksilan
sa Bundok Buntis, Maragondon
ay pinilas-pilas nila ang "Katapusang Hibik ng Pilipinas"
at pinalitan ito ng Kasunduan ng Biak na Bato.)

Sila'y naririto pa rin, Bonifacio:
naghahari pa rin sa ating lupaing
nakasanla pa rin pati kaluluwa.

Sa Biak na Bato,
apatnaraang libong piso ang naging kabayaran
upang ideklara ni Aguinaldo
na bandera ng mga bandolero, bandido't ladron
ang watawat ng mga Anak ng Bayan
at kanyang saluduhan
ang bandila ng Espanya.
Tumalilis siya patungong Hong Kong
bitbit ang magkapatid na Paterno
at iba pang "kapatid ni Cain."

Subalit sinuyo sila ng Estados Unidos
na noo'y kaaway na mortal ng Espanya
at inalok ng tulong sa pakikidigma,
at sila'y bumalik sa Pilipinas
upang muling magtimon sa Himagsikang
ipinagbili nila pati dangal sa Biak na Bato.
Sa Kawit, kanila pang
ipinagsigawan ang "kasarinlan" ng Pilipinas
na nasa mapagkandili diumanong kamay
ng "Dakila't Makataong Bansang
Hilagang Amerikano."

Ngunit ang kasarinlang natamo
ay "tanikalang ginto" lamang pala
at doon sa mga larangan,
muling umalingawngaw ang mga putok ng baril.

Sa muling nagbangong Himagsikan,
dumanak ang dugo ni Luna --
sa kamay ng sariling mga kababayan,
mga tauhan ni Aguinaldo --
matapos ang kanyang pagsigaw ng:
"Mabuhay ang kasarinlan!
Kamatayan sa awtonomiya!"

sa hanay ng Rebolusyonaryong Pamahalaan,
ikinalat ang kamandag ng kabulaanan
laban kay Mabini.
At siya'y nagbitiw sa tungkulin.

Bonifacio, batid nating si Mabini
ay mortal na kalaban ng pananakop --
kagaya ni Luna.

Habang tinutugis palang parang daga
ng mga puwersa ni Funston si Aguinaldo,
naglalaro na sa kanyang isip
ang muling pakikipagsapakat
sa mga kaaway ng kasarinlang
dinilig ng dugo ng ating mga tunay na kapatid.
Matapos na madakip ni Funston,
agad na sumaludo si Aguinaldo
sa bandila ng Estados Unidos
at muli niyang dinurhan sa mukha
ang mga manghihimagsik na Anak ng Bayan --
kabilang na si Sakay,
na sa malao't madali'y ipagkakanulo sa bitayan
ng mga pumatid sa iyong paghinga.

At hindi matatapos doon
ang kanilang pang-aagaw ng tagumpay
at pagkakanulo sa pakikibaka.

Sa Pambansang Asambleyang natayo,
nagputakang parang mga manok
ang mga Quezon at Roxas
at sila'y nag-unahang parang mga daga pa-Washington
gayong ang hangad lamang nila kapwa
ay kasarinlang gumagapang
at inaalalayan ng Amerika.

Bonifacio, ang mga kapatid din ni Aguinaldo
ang kumilala sa "karapatan" ng Hapon
na gapusin ang Pilipinas
at paulit-ulit na bayuhin ng puluhan ng baril
ang humpak na tiyan ng ating mga kapatid.

Sila rin ang yumakap nang buong higpit
sa "kasarinlang" nagbigay ng pagkakataon sa Amerika
na lamuning tuloy-tuloy ang ginto't bulaklak
ng lupaing Pilipinas --
kasarinlang "lukob ng dayong bandila,"
kung saan ang Pilipinas
ay patuloy na nakasanla pati kaluluwa.
At ito'y pagyakap na kasama pati mga hita't binti.

Sila ang unang pumalakpak
nang iladlad ni Marcos ang tabing ng karimlang marahas
at sa EDSA,
nang masunog sa poot ng taumbayan ang tabing,
mabilis pa sa kidlat
na hinablot nila ang watawat ng pakikitalad
na taumbayan ang siya namang talagang tumatangan
at walang kahihiyang sila ang nagwagayway nito.

Gayundin ang ginawa nila
nang sa pangalawang pagkakataon --
labing-apat na taon matapos mapalayas si Marcos --
ay maging tagpuan ng poot at pag-asa ang EDSA.
nalaglag kapwa ang mga maskara nina Estrada't Arroyo
at napatunayang iisa lang pala ang kanilang mga mukha.

Ginawa nila ang lahat nito
habang nagpupugay sa dayong bandilang
nakalukob pa rin sa ating watawat.

Ganito ang ginawa nila, Bonifacio --
sapagkat ang tunay na hangad nila
ay hindi ang kalayaan, hindi ang dangal
kundi ang mga susi, ang mga susi
sa mga bastiyon ng kanilang pinapanginoong mga dayo.

Huwag munang humimlay, Bonifacio
sapagkat ang "Katapusang Hibik ng Pilipinas"
ay hindi siyang naging katapusang hibik.
Hindi natatapos ang hibik ng Pilipinas,
hindi matatapos ang hibik ng Pilipinas
hanggang sa hindi nalalagot ng punlo
ang matandang tanikala
at hanggang sa hindi napaluluhod at napahahalik sa lupa
ang mga nagkanulo't patuloy na nagkakanulo
sa ating Himagsikan.

Pasasalamat na walang hanggan, Dr. Renato Constantino -- Ang May-akda

Thursday, November 15, 2007


Sunday, November 11, 2007


The 1996 Final Peace Agreement between the GRP and the MNLF is set to be reviewed in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in the next few days. The MNLF said it has been demanding such review of the said pact for several years.

Vol. VII, No. 40, November 11-17, 2007

The 1996 Final Peace Agreement between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) is set to be reviewed in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in the next few days as announced by Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita in a press conference last week. The MNLF said it has been demanding such review of the said pact for several years.

“Even before the establishment of the Expanded ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao), which (was) established by virtue of Republic Act No. 9054, the MNLF and the Bangsamoro people asked the government to consider a thorough review of the Peace Agreement, especially in its implementation,” said Ustadz Morshid Ibrahim, MNLF secretary-general, in a phone interview with Bulatlat. “When we were still in the (original) ARMM, we had asked the GRP to conduct a comprehensive and honest review of the proposed bill submitted by the government before Congress.”

Created on Aug. 1, 1989 through RA 6734, the original ARMM covered the provinces of Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Lanao del Sur, and Maguindanao. The ARMM was officially inaugurated on Nov. 6, 1990 in Cotabato City, which was designated as its capital.

The GRP-MNLF Final Peace Agreement provides among other things for amendments to or the repeal of RA 6734. It was specifically provided that amendments to or the repeal of RA 6734 would be initiated within the period 1996-1997, after which the amendatory law would be submitted to a plebiscite or referendum in the original ARMM provinces as well as in the provinces of Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga del Norte, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, Davao del Sur, South Cotabato, Sarangani and Palawan and the cities of Cotabato, Dapitan, Dipolog, General Santos, lligan, Marawi, Pagadian, Zamboanga and Puerto Princesa.

In the plebiscite held in November 2001 –- less than eight months after RA 9054 lapsed into law without President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s signature, in accordance with the Constitution –- only Marawi City and Basilan (except Isabela City) elected to be part of the expanded ARMM.

“We wanted that the bill would actually reflect the entirety of the Peace Agreement,” Ibrahim added. “But unfortunately the voice of the Bangsamoro people was not heard instead the government came up with a unilateral and arbitrary act, without consulting the parties concerned like the OIC (Organization of Islamic Conference) and the MNLF.”

Issues related to the implementation of the GRP-MNLF Final Peace Agreement had been a source of tension between the two camps.

Earlier this year, MNLF fighters led by Ustadz Habier Malik “detained” a group led by Muslim convert Marine Maj. Gen. Benjamin Dolorfino in Jolo, Sulu.

Dolorfino, who also uses the name Ben Muhammad, went with Undersecretary for Peace Ramon Santos and 13 others to the MNLF’s Camp Jabal Ubod in Panamao, Sulu in the morning of Feb. 2 to talk with MNLF representatives headed by Malik. The group included two colonels, a junior officer, nine enlisted men, and several members of Santos’ staff.

The talks were to tackle the holding of a tripartite meeting, proposed late last year by the MNLF, with the GRP and the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC).

The tripartite meeting was to address issues related to the implementation of the Final Peace Agreement, and Malik’s group was protesting its repeated postponement by the GRP.

In the afternoon of that same day, Dolorfino and his group were prevented from leaving the camp, and were only released after agreeing with Malik and his men on a schedule for the tripartite meeting.

The tripartite meeting scheduled for March 17 this year was yet again postponed, and to make matters worse two grandsons of MNLF state chairman Khaid Ajibon were fired upon by soldiers while on an errand in the market of Indanan, Sulu on Feb. 17. This was followed by a bombardment of Ajibon’s headquarters, also in Indanan, and a massacre in Patikul.

The MNLF retaliated and in the wave of fighting that took place, more than 80,000 were displaced.

1996 Peace Agreement, Phase I

“Most of the controversies and differences of opinion between the government and the MNLF are with respect to Phase I of the Agreement,” Ibrahim explained to Bulatlat.

Signed on Sept. 2, 1996, the GRP-MNLF Final Peace Agreement provides among other things for the organization of MNLF forces to be integrated into the AFP into separate units. This is covered in Phase I of the Final Peace Agreement, which provides that:

“a. Five thousand seven hundred fifty (5,750) MNLF members shall be integrated into the Armed forces of the Philippines (AFP), 250 of whom shall be absorbed into the auxiliary services. The government shall exert utmost efforts to establish the necessary conditions that would ensure the eventual integration of the maximum number of the remaining MNLP forces into the Special Regional Security Force (SRSF) and other agencies and instrumentalities of the government There shall be a special socio-economic, cultural and educational program to cater to MNLF forces not absorbed into the AFP PNP and the SRSF to prepare them and their families for productive endeavors, provide for educational, technical skills and livelihood training and give them priority for hiring in development projects.

“b. In the beginning, the MNLF forces will join as units distinct from AFP units. They will be initially organized into separate units within a transition period, until such time that mutual confidence is developed as the members of these separate-units will be gradually integrated into regular AFP units deployed in the area of autonomy. Subjects to existing laws, policies, rules and regulations, and approbate authorities shall waive the requirements and qualifications for entry of MNLF forces into the AFP.

“c. One from among the MNLF will assume the functions and responsibilities of a Deputy Commander of the Southern Command AFP, for separate units that will be organized out of the MNLF forces joining the AFP. The Deputy Commander will assist the Commander of the Southern Command AFP in the command, administration and control of such separate units throughout the aforementioned transition period. The Deputy Commander will he given an appointment commensurate to his position and shall be addressed as such.”

The organization of the MNLF forces joining the AFP into separate units, which was specifically agreed upon, never took place.

“The Agreement actually calls for the establishment of separate military units,” Ibrahim said. “But what the government did is the opposite.”

Worse, the AFP has over the past six years engaged in what MNLF vice chairman Jimmy Labawan described as “provocative actions” that have forced the MNLF to retaliate.

In October 2001, the military was then in hot pursuit of Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) bandits who had abducted tourists in Sipadan, Malaysia. At one point they announced the defeat of an “Abu Sayyaf contingent” in Talipao, Sulu.

The massacre in Talipao led the MNLF, just five years after signing a peace agreement with the government, to once more take up arms. According to MNLF leader Nur Misuari, a former political science professor at UP who was then ARMM governor, the Talipao massacre was a “violation” of the 1996 peace agreement.

Misuari, who was then in Malaysia, ended up being arrested and subsequently detained in a military camp in Sta. Rosa, Laguna (38 kms south of Manila). He is presently under house arrest in New Manila, Quezon City.

Since October 2001, there has been sporadic fighting between the AFP and the MNLF.


The MNLF traces its origins to a massacre of between 28 and 64 Moro fighters recruited by the government in 1968 for a scheme to occupy Sabah, an island near Mindanao to which the Philippines has a historic claim.

Sabah ended up in the hands of the Malaysian government during the presidency of Diosdado Macapagal (1961-1965). His successor Ferdinand Marcos conceived a scheme involving the recruitment of Moro fighters to occupy the island.

The recruits were summarily executed by their military superiors in 1968, in what is now known as the infamous Jabidah Massacre.

The Jabidah Massacre triggered widespread outrage among the Moros and led to the formation of the MNLF that same year. The MNLF waged an armed revolutionary struggle against the GRP for an independent Muslim state in Mindanao.

The Marcos government, weighed down by the costs of the Mindanao war, negotiated for peace and signed an agreement with the MNLF in Tripoli, Libya in the mid-1970s. The pact involved the grant of autonomy to the Moro peoples.

The Marcos government insisted on a plebiscite to settle the coverage of the autonomous government that would be established. The MNLF refused to recognize the results of the plebiscite and peace negotiations bogged down.

GRP-MNLF peace negotiations went on and off until 1996, when the two parties signed a Final Peace Agreement. This same Agreement is slated for review in Jeddah in the next few days.

“Hopefully (the review) would be a good step toward a better understanding and knowledge on the implementation of the Peace Agreement,” Ibrahim said. “Because there is no other effective means to solve the problem than for the contending parties to meet across the negotiating table.” Bulatlat

Friday, November 09, 2007

Alexander Martin Remollino

DAVAO CITY, Philippines -- A 12-year-old girl, who became despondent over her family’s poverty, hanged herself inside their makeshift house a day after her father told her he could not give her the P100 she needed for a school project.

Using a thin nylon rope, 12-year-old Mariannet Amper hanged herself in the afternoon of November 2. She was a sixth grader at the Maa Central Elementary School.

Her father, Isabelo, 49, who was out of job as a construction worker, said Mariannet asked him for P100 which she needed for school projects, on the night of November 1. He told his daughter that he did not have the money yet but he would ask his wife if she could get some money for her. The morning after, however, he was able to get a P1,000 cash advance for a construction work on a downtown chapel.

By the time he got home, Mariannet already lay dead...

-- Nico Alconaba, "Girl Who Killed Self Lamented Family's Poverty in Diary," Philippine Daily Inquirer, 7 November 2007

Ang mga pahina ng talaarawan niya
ang nagsasalita para sa kanya:

Mga pangarap lamang ang bumuhay sa kanya
sa loob ng ilang taong nagdaan.
Ngunit payak man ang mga pangarap na iyon
ay mistulang mga suntok sa buwan:
patay na bago pa man maisilang.

Isang araw, natagpuan siyang nakabigti.


Ilan na ang sa kanya'y nauna
at tiyak na hindi siya ang huli.
Para sa marami,
matagal nang nakabigti ang mga pangarap
sa "bansang ito ng ating mga kalungkutan."

Kaninong mga kamay ang pumaslang sa pag-asa
ng kayraming nawalan ng pag-asa?

Mga kamay na walang hinawakan buong buhay
kundi ang salapi nilang hindi kanila.
Mga kamay na sumenyas na ayos lang ang lahat
habang kayrami ng mga taong
sinasawi ng dalita.

Salaring lahat silang nasanay nang mabuhay
na parang mga patay --
silang mga patay na buhay, mga buhay na patay
na maiging magpatiwakal na lahat
upang mabuhay na muli ang pumanaw na pag-asa
ng napakaraming tao,
lalo na ng mga batang hindi pa man isinisilang
ay tiyak nang walang bukas na haharapin.


Humimlay na si Mariannet Amper:
sinamahan na niya sa paghimlay nang walang hanggan
ang mga pangarap niyang isinilang nang walang buhay.
Sa ating mga diwa, sa ating mga puso --
hayaang magsaya si Mariannet sa kanyang kamusmusan,
hayaang ang kanyang mga pangarap
ay mabuhay nang walang katapusan.
Kasama rin sa

Sunday, November 04, 2007


The recovery of a dead U.S. soldier in Panamao, Sulu and reports of U.S. troops in counter-“terrorist” operations in Basilan raise questions on their role in Mindanao.

Vol. VII, No. 39, November 4-10, 2007

The recent recovery of a dead U.S. serviceman in Panamao, Sulu as well as previous reports that U.S. soldiers are involved in counter-“terrorist” operations in Basilan raise questions on the role of U.S. troops in strife-torn Mindanao.

Earlier news reports said that the U.S. serviceman had gone swimming with fellow soldiers in a lake in Panamao a little over a week ago. His body was recovered on Oct. 27. According to Rebecca Thompson, spokesperson of the U.S. Embassy in Manila, the U.S. serviceman had died the day before.

Sulu police director S/Supt. Ahirum Ajirim gave media no details on the U.S. serviceman’s death except that his body was recovered from the lake in Panamao at around 8 a.m., Oct. 27.

U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Fred Kuebler confirmed the U.S. serviceman’s death to media. He said the U.S. serviceman had perished in a “non-combat related incident.”

Government spokespersons have always said the presence of U.S. troops in Sulu is for training Philippine troops in counter-“terrorism” operations, and for “civic” or “humanitarian” missions.

But as Concerned Citizens of Sulu convener and former Jolo councilor Temogen “Cocoy” Tulawie told Bulatlat in an interview earlier this year, U.S. troop movements have always been seen in areas where the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) engaged or figured in clashes with either the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) or the bandit Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).

“Military operations always take place not far from where U.S. troops are,” said Tulawie. “The presence of U.S. troops has been visible in areas where military operations have taken place.”

While Tulawie said there is yet no evidence that U.S. troops have actually participated in combat operations, their visibility in areas where AFP operations have been conducted raises questions on the real reasons behind their presence in the country’s southernmost province.

Such questions again come to the fore with the recent recovery of a U.S. serviceman’s remains in a lake in Panamao, Sulu.

But it is not only in Sulu that U.S. troops are present. In mid-September, Army officials announced that a small number of U.S. troops had been deployed to Basilan to support the AFP’s Task Force Thunder in its operations against the ASG.

“This support includes the sharing of information as well as the planning and execution of Civil Military Operations,” said Maj. Eugene Batara, an Army spokesperson in Basilan. “U.S. troops have commonly supported AFP operations in Basilan going back to 2002, and have worked with the AFP most recently to conduct medical clinics and participate in engineering projects. They are helping us defeat terrorism and at the same time help carry out humanitarian activities.”

Task Force Thunder was created by the AFP to combat what is described as the “growing” ASG presence in Basilan, where Marines purportedly in search of the kidnappers of Italian priest Fr. Giancarlo Bossi were beheaded following an encounter last July.

JSOTF-P and Operation Enduring Freedom-Philippines

The U.S. troops in Sulu and Basilan are part of the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P), which is reportedly based in Zamboanga City. Based on several news items from the Philippine Information Agency (PIA), the JSOTF-P are in Mindanao to train the AFP’s Southern Command (Southcom) and to conduct civic actions.

However, an article recently written by Command Sgt. Maj. William Eckert of the JSOTF-P, “Defeating the Idea: Unconventional Warfare in Southern Philippines,” hints that there is more to the task force’s work than training AFP troops and embarking on “humanitarian actions.” Wrote Eckert:

“Working in close coordination with the U.S. Embassy, JSOTF-P uses Special Forces, Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations forces to conduct deliberate intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance in very focused areas, and based on collection plans, to perform tasks to prepare the environment and obtain critical information requirements. The information is used to determine the capabilities, intentions and activities of threat groups that exist within the local population and to focus U.S. forces –- and the AFP –- on providing security to the local populace. It is truly a joint operation, in which Navy SEALs (Sea, Air, and Land forces) and SOF (Special Operations Forces) aviators work with their AFP counterparts to enhance the AFP’s capacities.”

The JSOTF-P was established by the U.S. Special Operations Command Pacific (SOCPAC). It began its work when SOCPAC deployed to the Philippines Joint Task Force (JTF) 510. Based on an item on the website, JTF 510 was deployed to the Philippines “to support Operation Enduring Freedom.”

Operation Enduring Freedom is the official name given to the U.S. government’s military response to the terrorist attack of Sept. 11, 2001 in New York City. It entails a series of anti-“terrorism” activities in Afghanistan, the Philippines, the Horn of Africa, Trans-Sahara, and Pakinsi Gorge.

JTF 510 was deployed to Basilan in January 2002 purportedly to help in uprooting the ASG. Its mission was carried out under the auspices of Balikatan 02-1, supposedly a series of joint military exercises between U.S. and Philippine troops.

Its mission ended in July 2002 and the task force has since transitioned into what is now the JSOTF-P, with its base located in Zamboanga City.

In 2004, the JSOTF-P deployed to Sulu and U.S. military presence in the island-province has been continuous since then.

U.S. troops would have entered Sulu as early as February 2003. The AFP and the U.S. Armed Forces had both announced that the Balikatan military exercises for that year would be held in Sulu.

This provoked a wave of protest from the people of Sulu, who had not yet forgotten what has come to be known as the Bud Dajo Massacre, in which more than 700 Moro fighters wielding meleé weapons were crushed by U.S. troops with naval cannons in 1906. The announcement in February 2003 that the year’s Balikatan military exercises would be held in Sulu summoned bitter memories of the Bud Dajo Massacre and led to protest actions where thousands of Sulu residents participated.

But by coming in small groups bringing relief goods, U.S. troops were able to win the hearts of a large number of Sulu residents and resistance to U.S. military entry into the island-province was neutralized.

And now, aside from being in Sulu, JSOTF-P troops are again in Basilan, if we go by the military’s own statements, to help in counter-“terrorism” operations there.

Sulu and Basilan

Sulu and Basilan are both part of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), which was created as a concession to the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in 1996.

During the presidency of Diosdado Macapagal (1961-1965), Sabah, an island near Mindanao to which the Philippines has a historic claim, ended up in the hands of the Malaysian government. His successor Ferdinand Marcos later conceived a scheme which involved the recruitment of between 28 and 64 Moro fighters to occupy Sabah.

The reported summary execution of these recruits in 1968 by their superiors, which Moro historian Salah Jubair says was due to their refusal to follow orders, led to widespread outrage among Moros and led to the formation of the MNLF that same year.

The MNLF, which fought for an independent state in Muslim Mindanao, entered into a series of negotiations with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP), beginning in the 1970s under the Marcos government. Conflicts on the issue of autonomy led to a breakdown of talks between the GRP and the MNLF in 1978, prompting a group led by Dr. Salamat Hashim to break away from the MNLF and form the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Since then, the MILF has been fighting for an Islamic state in Mindanao.

In 1996, the MNLF signed a Final Peace Agreement with the GRP which created the ARMM as a concession to the group. That same year, the MILF began peace negotiations with the GRP.

Sulu is also currently the site of oil exploration operations involving several foreign companies including a U.S. corporation.

In 2005, the Department of Energy awarded Service Contract 56 to Australia’s BHP Billiton Petroleum PTY Ltd., Amerada Hess Ltd., Unocal Sulu Ltd., and Sandakan Oil II, LCC. Amerada Hess Ltd. is a unit of Hess Ltd., a U.S.-based oil and gas exploration company.

Based on a 2005 news item published by the Philippine Information Agency (PIA), Service Contract 56 covers some 8,620 hectares offshore Sulu Sea, an area described as “one of the most prospective areas for oil and gas exploration as indicated by the previous drilling activities conducted in the area.”

Basilan, meanwhile, is presently a known stronghold of the MILF, whose peace talks with the GRP have repeatedly hit a snag on the issue of ancestral domain. Bulatlat