Thursday, November 06, 2008

OBAMA AND FILIPINO MIGRANTS IN THE U.S.
Centerstage / UPI Asia
Alexander Martin Remollino

Manila, Philippines, November 06 — How will a Barack Obama presidency affect Filipino migrants in the United States?

This question has arisen following the election of Obama, in part because the U.S. president-elect’s father is a Kenyan who migrated to Hawaii and lived there for two years before divorcing his mother, a white American from Kansas, when he was two years old.

“The (Obama administration’s) policy on immigrants may be more relaxed,” said Philippine Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero. “He is the first U.S. president who has a non-American father, and he understands the situation of immigrants.”

Not only is the United States –- a nation largely peopled by the descendants of immigrants –- home to one of the largest Filipino migrant communities in the world. It is also the Philippines’ biggest source of remittances, with 51 percent of the latter’s remittances coming from the U.S.

These remittances are, for the most part, the life jacket that keeps the Philippine economy afloat even as it is perpetually ridden by deficit and debt.

How an Obama presidency will treat Filipino migrants in the U.S. will surely affect not only the Filipino-American community, but also the Philippines itself.

Escudero had a point in bringing up the issue of tight immigration policies, which have burdened those forced out of their homelands by the need to seek greener pastures abroad.

That, however, is just one part of the matter. The greater issue is how an Obama administration will respond to the needs of Filipino migrants who are starting to feel the effects of the U.S. financial crisis.

The U.S. has always beckoned to people across the globe with its promises of being a land of opportunity, and Filipinos have not been exempt from this. Since the first decades of the 20th century, ever-growing numbers of Filipinos have migrated to the U.S. in search of opportunities unavailable in the homeland largely due to the ravages of colonialism and neocolonialism. Confronting racism that lingers even today, these Filipinos spent the best years of their lives working to establish decent livelihoods in a country 10,000 miles away from their motherland.

Now the 4 million Filipinos in the United States are increasingly seeing the fruits of their and their forebears’ labor crumble to the ground –- with the country they have learned to also call home being in the grip of an economic crisis surpassed, in magnitude, only by the Great Depression of the 1930s.

In 2001, U.S. financial institutions offered low interest rates for home mortgage loans; even those with low income or virtually no collateral were encouraged to apply for home loans. Their loans, which became known as “subprime mortgages,” accumulated in U.S. financial institutions, starting in 2001. To spread the risk exposure of banks for these subprime mortgages, there was a process of “securitization” in which home mortgage loan packages were combined with others, packaged and sold as bonds and securities called collateralized debt obligations. These were guaranteed in credit default swaps by insurance companies and sold to other banks, financial investment houses and companies in the U.S. that deal in speculative investments for high returns.

But since the last quarter of 2006, borrowers –- especially those with subprime mortgages – increasingly failed to pay their amortizations. This caused a ripple effect on the banks and investment houses holding both the mortgages and the CDOs, as well as those which issued CDs, leading to a series of bankruptcies of banks and investment houses which were touted as “too big to fail.”

The U.S. financial crisis has led to company closures and the subsequent losses of jobs. Various news accounts show that some 750,000 jobs have been wiped out in the U.S. as a result of the crisis.

Filipinos are increasingly among those finding themselves without jobs in the U.S. as the crisis goes on. This has resulted in reduced remittance flows, the adverse effects of which the Philippine economy is starting to feel.

The Obama administration should face not only the issue of tight immigration laws, but also the needs of Filipino immigrants in the U.S. who are increasingly being weighed down by the financial crisis.

It will be interesting to see how an Obama administration will respond to the U.S. financial crisis, given that both he and his opponent, John McCain, received campaign contributions from Wall Street. According to the Sept. 16 issue of the Wall Street Journal, Obama received $191,000 from Merrill Lynch, $361,000 from Lehman Brothers, and $80,000 from Fannie Mae –- to name only a few.

These are just some of the financial institutions that have put the United States and the American people into the mess they are now in, and which the U.S. government has had to bail out even as those who bear the brunt of the crunch –- including more and more Filipino migrants –- are left to fend for themselves.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

SOLDIERS RAID EVACUATION CENTER IN N. COTABATO

Early last month, Rakman Suleik and his 17-year-old son Samsudin, together with a few others, fled from the fighting between government troops and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Aleosan, North Cotabato. They had evacuated, to safety or so they thought, at the house of a certain Colonel Maguid of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Barangay (village) Nalapaan in Pikit, North Cotabato. But even in the house that had served as their refuge, they would not be safe from atrocities by soldiers.

BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
Bulatlat
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH


Early last month, Rakman Suleik and his 17-year-old son Samsudin, together with a few others, fled from the fighting between government troops and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Aleosan, North Cotabato. They had evacuated, to safety or so they thought, at the house of a certain Colonel Maguid of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Barangay (village) Nalapaan in Pikit, North Cotabato.

But even in the house that had served as their refuge, they would not be safe from atrocities by soldiers.

A few minutes past midnight on Oct. 16, the evacuees at Colonel Maguid’s house heard violent raps on the door. A man from outside gave them five seconds to open the door, after which, he threatened, the house would be fired upon.

Ustadz Omar Salasal and his wife opened the door, whereupon soldiers barged in bearing bolos. They threatened to hack the evacuees with the bolos, ordered them to lie on the floor face down, and started beating them up. “Inapakan ako sa mukha (They stepped on my face),” Salasal told the delegates of a recent National Interfaith Humanitarian Mission (NIHM) to Pikit, North Cotabato and Datu Piang, Maguindanao.

The women and children were then separated from the men and locked up in a room. One of the soldiers then asked Salasal’s wife if there was anyone upstairs. She answered in the negative, but the soldier refused to believe her and dragged her upstairs. The soldier saw Rakman there, hiding in the ceiling, and ordered him to go down.

Kinaladkad si Rakman at tinadyakan noong pababa sila ng hagdan (They dragged Rakman and kicked him as they were descending the stairs),” Salasal told the NIHM delegates.

Samsudin said he saw his father being beaten up. “Binugbog ang tatay ko, pinilipit ang tainga niya, at napaiyak siya dahil sa paninipa sa likod niya (My father was beaten up, his ears were twisted, and he broke into tears because his back was being kicked)” he said.

A few moments later, Samsudin said, he was accosted by the soldiers, who asked him who his father is. “No’ng malamang tatay ko si Rakman, sinipa ako at inapakan sa ulo, at saka inilabas ako (When they learned Rakman is my father, they kicked me and stepped on my head, and brought me out),” he said.

As all these were taking place, Salasal said, Colonel Maguid’s mother was pleading with the soldiers not to hurt the civilians. A soldier responded by taking one of the flashlights in the house and inserting it into the mouth of Colonel Maguid’s mother.

After that, the soldiers took Rakman and Samsudin outside the house and beat them up some more before speeding away with them in an Army truck. When the soldiers -– whom Salasal had identified as belonging to the 40th Infantry Battalion by the lettering on the Army truck they had used in the raid –- had gone a considerable distance, the other evacuees fled.

Samsudin said they were taken near another evacuation center, where the soldiers tied them to an ipil-ipil tree and continued beating them up.

Rakman is now detained at the Aleosan Municipal Jail. The soldiers had brought them there after beating them up while tied to the ipil-ipil tree.

Do’n na lang po namin nalamang may kaso sa kanya (It was only there that we learned there is a case against him),” Samsudin said. “Hindi po alam ng tatay ko na may kaso pala siya (My father didn’t know that there was a case against him).”

Hindi ko po alam kung bakit kami ang tinatarget (I don’t know why we were being targeted),” Samsudin told the NIHM delegates.

As of Oct. 24, there was still no definite information as to whether or not Rakman had been charged with any offense. (Bulatlat.com)

Monday, November 03, 2008

WITNESS INSISTS BOMBING THAT KILLED 4 CHILDREN, 2 ADULTS DELIBERATE

Mohalidin Unsi insists that the bombing attack by an OV 10 aircraft that killed four children, his wife and father-in-law, September 8, while they were fleeing on a boat was deliberate. He said they were even fired upon by soldiers while they were retrieving the bodies of the dead children.

BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
Bulatlat


Mohalidin Unsi, his pregnant wife, father-in-law, and some neighbors, including children, were fleeing from their homes in Sitio (sub-village) Dagading, Barangay (village) Tee in Datu Piang, Maguindanao just as a fighter plane was dropping bombs in the area at around 9-10 a.m. on Sept. 8. Suddenly, one bomb was dropped near the boat that carried the children.

Unsi thinks the attack on the children was deliberate. “Alam nilang mga sibilyan kami dahil may mga bata, pero hinulugan pa rin ng bomba (They could tell we are civilians because there were children with us, but still they dropped bombs near us),” he told the delegates to a recent National Interfaith Humanitarian Mission (NIHM) to Pikit, North Cotabato and Datu Piang, Maguindanao.

At first, he said the fighter plane of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), which he identified as an OV 10 aircraft, seemed to be dropping the bombs just anywhere.

Because of the children’s seating arrangement, the boat carrying them was in danger of capsizing, so they were made to alight and rearrange their places. “Ang lupang binabaan nila ang hinulugan ng bomba (It was on the part of the soil where they had set foot that the bomb was dropped),” Unsi said.

Four of the children were killed, while six, including his wife’s brother, 13-year-old Guiamaludin, were wounded. The dead children were identified as Bailyn, 9; Zakarudin, 7; Adtayan, 5; and Faidza, 2 –- all siblings of his wife, Aida Mandi. Aida and her father Daya were also killed.

Unsi and his neighbors gathered the four children’s bodies one by one and brought them to a nearby road, where there were soldiers. “No’ng iniaahon na ang mga bata, pinagbababaril pa rin kami kahit mga sibilyan kami (While we were bringing the dead children from the river, the soldiers began shooting at us even though we are civilians),” he said.

After that he returned to the river for the remains of his wife and father-in-law.

Binigyan ako (ng mga sundalo) ng 30 minuto para balikan ang asawa at biyenan ko, at pagkatapos no’n, babarilin na ako (The soldiers gave me 30 minutes to go back for the bodies of my wife and father-in-law, after which they would shoot me),” Unsi said. “Asawa ko na lang ang nabalikan ko dahil natakot na ako (It was only my wife’s corpse that I was able to bring back, because I feared for my life).”

(His father’s body was retrieved only in the afternoon of the next day, when there were fewer soldiers in the vicinity.)

Site of encounters

Brgy. Tee, where Sitio Dagading is located, is one of the major areas of fighting between government troops and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). But Unsi is sure there was no encounter between the military and the MILF the day they were bombed.

There had been encounters between government troops and the MILF as early as June 30 in Sitio Maligaya, Brgy. Malamote in Kabacan, North Cotabato.

The next day, another skirmish took place in Sitio Tubak, Brgy. Pagangan in Aleosan, North Cotabato. The MILF fighters who figured in this firefight were identified as belonging to the 105th Brigade, led by Commander Ameril Ombra Kato.

The weeks before these incidents saw massive military deployment to North Cotabato, supposedly to secure the province for the Aug. 11 elections in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

These encounters drove community residents to evacuate to Brgy. Bagolibas in Aleosan and Brgys. Bual and Nalapaan in Pikit.

Later that same month, armed men burned some houses in Brgy. Bual and stole a number of farm animals in Brgy. Bagolibas.

On Aug. 2, some 84 houses in Aleosan were razed to the ground. The government claimed that these burnings were perpetrated by MILF fighters led by Kato.

On Aug. 8, four days after the Supreme Court’s issuance of a temporary restraining order on the signing of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MoA-AD) between the government and the MILF, the military implemented Oplan Ultimatum and additional troops were positioned in Pikit, Aleosan, and Midsayap. This, and the dissolution of the government panel in the peace negotiations with the MILF, served as prelude to the intensification of the fighting in North Cotabato.

While clashes continue in North Cotabato, the fighting has also spread to nearby Maguindanao.

Military operations have led residents of affected areas to flee to evacuation centers.

A consequence of the armed conflict

Unsi is well aware that what happened to his family is among the consequences of a long-running conflict that is more than military in character.

Sana, ibigay na ng gobyerno ang hinihingi ng Bangsamoro at itigil na ang bakbakan, dahil ang apektado ay ang mga sibilyan (I hope the government addresses the demands of the Bangsamoro and the fighting would stop, because civilians are the ones affected),” Unsi said.

Sana po, agad na matigil ang kaguluhang ito para matigil na ang paghihirap ng mga sibilyan (I hope this fighting will stop soon so that the civilians’ sufferings will end),” he also said. “Papatayin ba ang lahat ng sibilyan bago matigil ang kaguluhan? (Will they kill all the civilians before the fighting would stop?)” (Bulatlat.com)

Saturday, November 01, 2008

KAHIT NA IISA ANG ATING TAHANANG LUPAIN
Alexander Martin Remollino

Isang bayan tayong hindi nasasakop
ng mga hanggan ng heograpiya.
Tayo'y nahahati sa kayraming pirasong nakakalat
sa lahat ng sulok nitong daigdig,
sapagkat itong ating lupain
ay pinaghahati-hatian ng mga tagaibang-bayan,
mga tagaibang-bayang inaari ang hindi kanila
at ninanakawan tayo ng tahanan sa sariling lupain.

Ang tirahan mo at ang tirahan ko
ay pinapaghihiwalay ng sampung libong milya,
kahit na iisa lamang ang ating tahanang lupain.

At ang nagbubuklod sa atin
ay ang iisang kasaysayan ng pagkakataboy
at ang iisang pakikitalad para sa pagsapit ng araw
na matitipon sa wakas ang mga pirasong nakakalat
sa buong daigdig,
at silang naghahati-hati sa lupang hindi kanila
ay tatakbong lahat na bahag ang mga buntot
mula sa ating lupain.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

MIGRATION, THE PHILIPPINES AND THE ECONOMIC CRISIS
Centerstage / UPI Asia
Alexander Martin Remollino

Manila, Philippines, October 30 — UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon quite missed the point at the opening of the Global Forum on Migration and Development that took place yesterday here in Manila, when he said that "migration can and should be a tool to lift us out of (the) economic crisis."

Before making this point, he was talking about the reversal of migration flows, placing emphasis on net outflows from countries facing economic crises. He also admitted that several countries have already been experiencing slowdowns in remittance flows.

How migration can be a tool to help countries out of the global economic meltdown in the face of these realities, which Mr. Ban himself has helped put to light, is something that is known only to him.

Take the example of the Philippines — a country that is highly dependent on overseas remittances for propping up an economy that is perpetually ridden by deficit and debt.

The Philippines counts the United States among its biggest sources of remittances, with 51 percent of its remittances coming from Filipinos residing there. The United States is now in an economic crisis of a magnitude that has not been seen since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

To rescue itself from the effects of stock market over-inflation, especially in information technology-related stocks (i.e. the "dot com bubble"), the United States in 2001 blew a real estate and construction bubble. U.S. financial institutions offered low interest rates for home mortgage loans; even those with low income or virtually no collateral were encouraged to apply for home loans. Their loans, which became known as "subprime mortgages," accumulated in U.S. financial institutions, starting in 2001. To spread the risk exposure of banks for these subprime mortgages, there was a process of "securitization," in which home mortgage loan packages were combined with others, packaged and sold as bonds and securities called collateralized debt obligations. These were guaranteed in credit default swaps by insurance companies such as AIG and sold to other banks, financial investment houses and companies in the United States that deal in speculative investments for high returns.

However, beginning in the last quarter of 2006, borrowers — especially those with subprime mortgages — increasingly failed to pay their amortizations. This caused a ripple effect on the banks and financial investment houses holding both the mortgages and the CDOs, as well as those which issued CDS. This in turn led to a series of bankruptcies of banks and investment houses, which were touted as "too big to fall."

The effects of the subprime mortgage crisis have led to mortgage-credit losses of at least $400 billion, based on estimates by The Economist. The International Monetary Fund estimates a loss of some $945 billion worldwide.

The U.S. financial crisis has led to the closure of companies and the subsequent losses of jobs in a country that prides itself in being a symbol of the supposed successes of the capitalist paradigm.

The 4 million Filipinos in the United States are beginning to feel the effects of this economic crunch, as they are among those who are losing their jobs. Filipinos who took to the United States during their best years in search of greener pastures, and who were fortunate enough to establish lucrative careers there, are increasingly seeing the fruits of their hard work crumble to the ground.

Already, remittance flows from the United States are slowing down. We will surely feel the effects of this on the economy more and more acutely in the coming months.

The Philippines is now feeling the consequences of dependence on a labor-export policy crafted and implemented during the Marcos administration. This path was pursued instead of a national industrialization program, which could generate enough jobs domestically to prevent massive labor migration.

The Philippine experience should tell Mr. Ban that migration, rather than being a way out of economic crisis, can actually contribute to its adverse effects.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

CRIES FOR JUSTICE PURSUE PALPARAN

When he retired and after his appointment to the National Security Council fell through because of widespread opposition, Palparan has evaded media attention –- in contrast to his frequently hogging the headlines during his days in military service. He must have thought that by doing so, he could escape responsibility for the long lists of human rights abuses in his areas of assignment. Unfortunately for him, even in retirement, the cries for justice of his victims continue to pursue him.

BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
Bulatlat


Shortly before he retired from the Philippine Army on Sept. 11, 2006, Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan, Jr. made statements to the effect that he would still want to participate in the government’s counter-“insurgency” program.

He was to be given a post at the National Security Council (NSC) after his retirement from the Army, but this did not push through because of widespread opposition. Davao Rep. Prospero Nograles was reported to have taken him in as a security consultant, but both he and Nograles have denied this. Early this year he was involved in armed takeovers of a mining site and a port in Bulacan and Zambales, respectively. Lately he has been managing a jathropa plantation located on part of the Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation (FMMR) –- the same camp where he served his last assignment, as commanding officer of the Army’s 7th Infantry Division.

Through all these, Palparan has evaded media attention –- in contrast to his frequently hogging the headlines during his days in military service. He must have thought that by doing so, he could escape responsibility for the long lists of human rights abuses in his areas of assignment.

Unfortunately for him, even in retirement, the cries for justice of his victims continue to pursue him.

The Supreme Court, in a ruling penned by Chief Justice Reynato Puno, recently upheld an earlier Court of Appeals decision linking Palparan to the abduction of brothers Raymond and Reynaldo Manalo, and found “convincing” Raymond’s accounts of how they were tortured by their abductors.

The Court of Appeals had ruled based on an Oct. 24, 2007 petition by the Manalo brothers for a writ of amparo.

The Manalo brothers were abducted by soldiers on Feb. 14, 2006 in San Ildefonso, Bulacan. According to Raymond, they were first brought to Fort Magsaysay. They were subsequently transferred to Camp Tecson in San Miguel Bulacan, and then to a safehouse in Zambales, before being brought to the headquarters of the 24th Infantry Battalion in Limay, Bataan. The last place they were kept in custody was a safehouse in Pangasinan, from where they escaped on Aug. 13, 2007.

Habang nakakulong ako, kinakausap ako ni Gen. Jovito Palparan. Nakita ko na si General Palparan. dati sa telebisyon kaya ko siya nakilala at doon sinabi sa akin ni Palparan na sabihan ko sina nanay na huwag nang sumali sa mga rally ng mga grupong mga (karapatang) tao at huwag nang dumalo sa mga hearing sa Camp Tecson at Limay, Bataan (While I was detained, Gen. Jovito Palparan was talking to me. I have seen General Palparan on television, that’s how I knew it was him. Palparan told me to warn my mother against joining human rights rallies and that they should no longer attend the hearings at Camp Tecson and Limay, Bataan),” Raymond said.

Raymond also said in his account that he saw soldiers burning 54-year-old farmer Manuel Merino to death and that he saw them torture other detained activists –- including University of the Philippines (UP) students Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan, who were abducted together with Merino in Hagonoy, Bulacan on June 26, 2006 and remain missing to this day.

Palparan is haunted by his past even in retirement. And expectedly so, considering the kind of past that he has.

Trail of blood

His first assignment, as a 2nd lieutenant with the 24th Infantry Battalion stationed in Indanan, Sulu at the height of the revolutionary armed struggle waged by the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in the 1970s, was already a foreshadowing of the path that he would take –- one on which he leaves a long list of human rights violations in his areas of assignment. In a July 2, 2006 interview with the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s Fe Zamora, he admitted that among the victims of his men were children from the Tausug tribe -– whence hail most of the MNLF fighters. There, he said, soldiers saw Tausug children as “future enemies, so the thinking was to finish them off while they were still young” -– a mode of thinking reminiscent of an American general, Gen. Jacob Smith, during the Philippine-American War who ordered the killing of everyone capable of bearing arms -– including 10-year-old boys – in Samar.

The 24th Infantry Battalion was transferred to Central Luzon in the early 1980s, this time to fight Communist-led revolutionaries. There Palparan rose through the ranks, eventually assuming the post of battalion commander in 1989. He held the post until 1991.

A fact sheet released by Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights) in 2004 shows Sta. Cruz, Zambales to have particularly suffered the brunt of operations by the 24th Infantry Battalion in 1991. In September that year, while soldiers were stationed by a chapel there, about 100 townsfolk were arrested, interrogated, and forced to sign “affidavits of surrender”. From Oct. 13-18, 10 families were forced to evacuate as a result of shelling operations. Three days later, more than 1,000 residents of the same town were forced to attend a “peace rally”, in which Palparan claimed that they were “rebel surrenderees”.

Karapatan’s tally also lists at least seven extra-judicial killings, one incident each of massacre and assault, two grenade bombings, five harassment cases, and five cases of illegal arrest and detention in Central Luzon during Palparan’s first assignment there. He was also implicated in the abduction and torture of peasant organizers and other activists during his first stint there, Karapatan records show.

His next assignment was in the Cordillera region. One of the most prominent cases of human rights violations in the said region during his stint there was the torture of Marcelo Fakila, a leader of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) in Mountain Province and a village elder in Sagada.

Based on combined data from the CPA and Karapatan, in 1992 alone there were six cases of illegal arrest, five harassment cases, one case of disappearance, one summary execution, one case of wounding, and two cases of evacuations – all in Mountain Province during Palparan’s assignment in the region.

Southern Tagalog

He was given a quick succession of assignments after his Cordillera stint. These included the command of Task Force Banahaw, which holds jurisdiction over Rizal and Laguna. One of the most prominent victims of human rights violations during Palparan’s Task Force Banahaw stint was a five-year-old child killed in Laguna in 2001. Karapatan-Laguna listed seven killings of civilians in the province in 2001 alone.

In May that year, Palparan was deployed to head the 204th Infantry Battalion, which is stationed in Oriental Mindoro. It is in Oriental Mindoro, under Palparan’s command, that some of the most shocking cases of human rights violations under the Arroyo administration were committed.

On April 8, 2002, Expedito Albarillo, 48, a Bayan Muna (People First) coordinator in San Teodoro was dragged by some 10 soldiers from his hut, with his hands tied behind his back. Clinging to him and begging the soldiers for mercy was wife Manuela, 45, also a Bayan Muna coordinator in the same town. Shots rang out some 200 meters away, and relatives who rushed to the scene found the couple lying on their faces, bathed in their own blood. Expedito’s left eye was drooping from its socket.

On May 20 that same year, the Apolinar family –- Ruben, 54, a retired policeman; his wife, Rodriga, 54, a teacher; and their adopted child Niña Angela, 8 – were gunned down also by soldiers. Ruben and Rodriga were Bayan Muna leaders in San Teodoro.

Eight days after, it was the turn of activist Edilberto Napoles, Jr., 26, to be killed. He was gunned down near the Bayan Muna office in Calapan City.

The cases of the Albarillo couple, the Apolinar family, and Napoles were among those that prompted a fact-finding mission into human rights violations in Oriental Mindoro in April 2003.

Among the leaders of the said mission were Eden Marcellana, secretary-general of Karapatan-Southern Tagalog; and peasant leader Eddie Gumanoy. They themselves would end up losing their lives in the hands of soldiers from the 204th Infantry Battalion. The photos of the two that were used for Terror in Mindoro –- a book on the Mindoro killings published by Justice for Eden and Eddie, Justice for All in cooperation with the Ecumenical Consortium for a Just Peace –- showed their bodies bearing marks of torture.

The killings of Marcellana and Gumanoy stirred public outrage enough to get Palparan relieved from the 204th Infantry Battalion and transferred to Rizal. His Oriental Mindoro record, based on Karapatan data, totaled 326 human rights violations involving 1,219 individual victims.

The same week he was transferred to Rizal, the chief of a barangay (village) security force was killed. Before that he was repeatedly questioned by the military on his alleged links with the New People’s Army (NPA).

In February 2004, Palparan was assigned to head an Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) contingent sent on a “humanitarian” mission to Iraq. He returned seven months later, was given a Medal of Valor, and appointed as the Army’s chief of staff.

Eastern Visayas

The next year, he was called back to field duty as commanding officer of the 8th Infantry Division, which covers Eastern Visayas. The most prominent victims of human rights violations in the region during Palparan’s stint there are lawyer Felidito Dacut, youth organizer Marvin Montabon, and Rev. Edison Lapuz.

Dacut, 51, a leader of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) and Bayan Muna in Eastern Visayas, was on his way home aboard a jeepney when killed March 14, 2005. As the jeepney he was riding cruised along Arellano Street in Tacloban City, Leyte, two men aboard a motorcycle drove near the victim, and one fired a shot behind him. The bullet pierced through his heart and instantly killed him.

Earlier that day, soldiers had gone to Montabon’s home in Tarangnan, Samar and shot him before burning the house. The young man was burned inside the house.

Lapuz, Eastern Visayas conference minister of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) and chairman of Katungod-Sinirangang Bisayas, the Eastern Visayas chapter of Karapatan, had just come from the burial of his father when he was killed May 12, 2005. He was then busy organizing a mining conference for church people in the region.

Palparan’s record in Eastern Visayas shows a total of 570 human rights violations involving 7,561 individuals, 1,773 families, 110 communities and ten organizations all in a span of six months –- based on Karapatan data.

7th Infantry Division

In September 2005, Palparan was assigned to head the 7th Infantry Division –- an event that brought him back to Central Luzon more than two decades after he was first deployed there.

A Sept. 3, 2006 report by the Philippine Daily Inquirer cited Karapatan data pointing to 136 cases of human rights violations in Central Luzon under Palparan’s command from September 2005 to August 2006. Of these, there were 71 summary executions, five massacres, 14 frustrated killings, and 46 enforced disappearances.

The Manalo brothers, Merino, Cadapan, and Empeño are just a few of the victims of human rights violations in Central Luzon during Palparan’s stnt at the 7th Infantry Division.

Palparan’s ghosts

Each time that Palparan exited from an assignment, he left behind a long list of human rights violations. Most of his victims are civilians –- with many of them aging men, women, and youths barely out of adolescence.

Palaparan was never called to account for the long list of human rights violations being attributed to him and the units under his command. He was even praised by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo during her State of the Nation Address in July 2006 during the height of extrajudicial killings happening in the country, especially in Central Luzon where he was assigned. But now that he is retired, the persistent pursuit of justice by the relatives of his victims may be slowly catching up with him, especially with the recent Supreme Court ruling. (Bulatlat)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

KUNG MAY MGA DALIRI SANA ANG LUPA
Alexander Martin Remollino

Binigkas ang tulang ito sa isang rali ng mga magsasaka may mahigit sa isang buwan na ang nakararaan, ngunit hindi pa nalalathala bago ang araw na ito. Ngayo'y iniaambag ito ng may-akda sa Blog Action Day 2008.


Hindi nila pag-aari
ang lupang kanilang pag-aari.
Paano magiging kanila
ang di man lamang nadampian
ng malalambot nilang palad?
Ang tanging pinagmumulan ng kanilang kapangyarihang mag-ari
ay ang mga daliri nilang mahusay na magturo
kung hanggang saan ang lupang nasasakop
ng kanilang pag-aari,
ng kanilang pag-aaring hindi kanila.

Kung may mga daliri sana ang lupa,
maituturo niya ang mga nararapat
sa kanyang pagkandili.
Maituturo niya ang mga lipaking palad
na nag-aruga sa kanya,
ang mga lipaking palad
na naghawan ng sukal at naghasik ng binhi
upang makapagluwal siya ng mga butil
na nagbibigay-buhay sa buong sambayanan.

Monday, October 13, 2008

NOTIONS OF PATRIOTISM
Centerstage / UPI Asia
Alexander Martin Remollino

Manila, Philippines, October 13 — There is at present such a dearth of patriotism in the Philippines that one-time performance of deeds that may be construed as patriotic is almost always mistaken by Filipinos for patriotism itself. Even some of those with supposedly higher political consciousness have fallen into this trap at one time or another.

This has several times led people to turn to the wrong kind of leaders for hope at having the country's pitiful conditions reversed.

But what is patriotism? The word is derived from the Latin "patria" and the Greek "patris," both of which are commonly translated into English as "fatherland." The Webster's New World Dictionary defines patriotism as "love and loyal or zealous support for one's country."

There are three other concepts here which combine to make patriotism what it is: love, loyalty, and zeal.

"Love implies intense fondness or deep devotion and may apply to various relationships or objects," the Webster's New World Dictionary states. Loyalty, meanwhile, is defined as "faithfulness or faithful adherence to a person, government, cause, duty, etc." and is held to be synonymous with allegiance. Zeal is defined as ardor and fervor, among other things.

Putting the definitions of the three concepts together, we can see that in order to be rightfully called a patriot, one has to ardently or fervently carry a deep devotion and faithful adherence to his or her country. Devotion suggests dedication and adherence implies firmness.

All these mean that patriotism is not a one-time show and one can rightfully be called a patriot only after passing the test of time. One can perform certain patriotic deeds at times but that does not mean he or she is a patriot. Only those who consistently perform patriotic acts are to be called patriots.

So long as Filipinos stick to wrong notions of patriotism, there will be little hope of improving the country's lot.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

ARMY MOVES TO EVICT PEASANTS FROM LAND

By virtue of a 1991 Deed of Transfer between the DND and the DAR, some 6,000 peasants and other residents in a 3,100-hectare area within a military reservation in Nueva Ecija should have acquired ownership of the land they live on and till. But they have not, and now they face the possibility of being driven away from the area.

BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
Bulatlat


Melencio Rioroso, 76, and Francisco Espiritu Apellido, 60, are two of the peasants farming and residing in Barangay (village) San Isidro in Laur, Nueva Ecija. That village is part of a 3,100-hectare area within the Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation (FMMR) that is now the subject of a brewing land dispute.

Apellido has spent a good deal of his life in Brgy. San Isidro. He has lived there since 1966, or for 42 of his 60 years.

For as long as he can remember, it is the land in this village that has provided him and his family of eight with their daily needs. “Pagtatanim at pagbebenta ng gulay ang ikinabubuhay namin” (We earn our keep by planting and selling vegetables), he said.

He received a Certificate of Land Ownership Award (CLOA) for his one-hectare land in Brgy. San Isidro just three years ago.

Rioroso, meanwhile, has lived in at least three Nueva Ecija towns in the last three decades. Originally from Pantabangan, he and his family of eight moved to Palayan City in 1980 after acquiring six hectares of land there from a certain Armando Sabado. Two years later he and his wife, together with five of their children, moved to Laur, where they have lived since then.

In 1995, the Riorosos received four CLOAs for their land, which all in all covers 10 hectares.

Apellido and Rioroso are two of the over 1,000 peasants in the contested 3,100-hectare area within the FMMR who have received CLOAs since 1991. Right now, they live in fear of losing their lands to the military.

People have been settling in the 73,000-hectare area now known as the FMMR since the early 1950s.

In 1956, then President Ramon Magsaysay declared the area as a military reservation through Presidential Proclamation No. 237. The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) uses 15,000 of the 73,000 hectares as a camp and training ground.

On Nov. 5, 1991, through a Deed of Transfer between then Defense Secretary Renato de Villa and then Agrarian Reform Secretary Benjamin Leung, the Aquino government allotted 3,100 hectares of the FMMR to landless peasants, as well as to families evacuating from Pampanga following the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo.

By virtue of this Deed of Transfer, over a thousand peasants and other residents within the 3,100-hectare contested area have received CLOAs, but many more still have yet to acquire these.

And now, those who do have CLOAs –- like Apellido and Rioroso –- face the possibility of losing these. The Philippine Army’s 7th Infantry Division (ID), which is stationed at Fort Magsaysay, is hell-bent on driving them away from the land that should have been turned over to them nearly 17 years ago.

An Oct. 5-6 fact-finding mission organized by the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP or Peasant Movement of the Philippines), Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luzon (AMGL or Peasant Alliance in Central Luzon), Alyansa ng Magbubukid na Nagkakaisa (ALMANA or United Peasant Alliance), Promotion of Church People’s Response (PCPR), Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP), and Tanggol Magsasaka (Defend Farmers) found that the 7th ID has requested the DAR to cancel the CLOAs given to peasants within the 3,100-hectare contested area.

This request is contained in a June 24 letter by then Maj. Gen. Ralph Villanueva (recently promoted), commanding officer of the 7th ID, to a Mr. Orlando Tumacay, Provincial Agrarian Reform Officer of Nueva Ecija. Part of the letter reads thus:

This pertains to the dialogue conducted on 17 June 2008 at Hqs, 7ID regarding 3,100-hectare land within the Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation which was ceded by the DND in favor of DAR through a Deed of Transfer executed on 05 November 1991. Also, the latest dialogue dealing on said issue transpired on 25 (sic) June 2008 at the same venue attended by DENR and DAR personnel from Cabanatuan City.

Based on the background investigation conducted by the Division Judge Advocate of this Command, said area is subject to a case filed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) against the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR). This case is still pending at the Court of Appeals.

In this regard, may I request that all issuances of titles within the 3,100 hectares of the Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation be deferred pending the litigation of the case filed at the Court of Appeals. I would like to further request that all Certificates of Land Ownership Award (CLOAs) be revoked
(emphasis supplied -– AMR) upon the affirmation of the Secretary of Justice on our stand that the Deed of Transfer regarding the 3,100 hectares is null and void since only another Presidential Proclamation can declare such land use.


The Division Judge Advocate referred to in Villanueva’s letter is Col. Hermilo Barrios –- the same “Colonel Barrios” who, Brgy. San Isidro residents told the fact-finding mission, has been going around the 3,100-hectare contested area, summoning them and the residents of the other villages to “meetings” and “assuring” them that their lands would not be taken.

Apellido and Rioroso have both lived and earned their living in Brgy. San Isidro for a good part of their lives, and cannot imagine themselves in any other place.

“Malalaman ko na lang siguro”
(I’ll probably just find out later), Apellido said when asked where he will go if he and his family are driven away from the land.

“Ewan ko” (I don’t know), Rioroso said when asked the same question. (Bulatlat)
KMU LEADER, LAWYER SLAM TAGGING OF UNION AS 'REBEL GROUP' IN TEXTBOOK

The KMU is tagged as a “rebel group” in a high school textbook; one of its lawyers is slapped with criminal charges in connection with the burning of a cellsite; there was an attempt to break into their national office. All these, says one of the KMU’s leaders, have the objective of destroying the workers’ movement.

BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
LABOR WATCH
Bulatlat


The executive vice chairman and the chief legal counsel of the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU or May 1st Movement) have condemned the labor center’s tagging as a “rebel group” in a high school textbook that has been in circulation since 2003.

In the book Filipino: Wika at Panitikan sa Makabagong Henerasyon I (Filipino: Language and Literature for the New Generation I) –- written by Angelina Binsol and Teresita Lacsina, examined by Encarnacion Jimenez, and published by Diwa Scholastic Press, Inc., the KMU is listed as a “rebel group” along with the New People’s Army (NPA), the National Democratic Front (NDF), the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The listing occurs as part of an exercise where the students are instructed to research on how to contribute toward the surrender of these groups’ members.

The same list describes the NPA as being under the leadership of Bernabe Buscayno, more commonly known by his former nom de guerre “Kumander Dante”.

For several years during the 1960s and 1970s, Buscayno was known as the highest-ranking NPA leader. He was arrested in 1976 and, together with opposition politician Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, Jr., was found guilty of subversion, illegal possession of firearms, and murder. He was sentenced to death by firing squad two years later. But his sentence was never carried out and he lived to see what is now known as the EDSA I uprising of 1986, which ousted the Marcos regime. He never rejoined the NPA: he ran for senator in 1987, and has repeatedly declared that he no longer believes in the armed struggle.

In an Oct. 11 press conference in Quezon City, KMU executive vice chairman Lito Ustarez said the tagging of the KMU as a “rebel group” is part of the government’s offensive against its critics. “Because the KMU is the one labor center that really advances workers’ interests, it is being lumped into the same league with groups that are considered enemies of the state,” Ustarez said.

The KMU executive vice chairman said the union’s tagging as a “rebel group”, which they discovered last September, is just one of the many forms of harassment that they have been experiencing, not just from the Arroyo administration but also from capitalists.

He cirted the case of Remigio Saladero, KMU’s chief legal counsel, who was recently accused by telecommunications corporation Globe Philippines of being among 27 “NPA members” who burned the company’s cellsite in Batangas. Saladero, together with 26 Southern Tagalog activists –- all leaders of legal and progressive organizations –- has been slapped with criminal charges in connection with the Globe cellsite burning.

“They tagged him as an NPA member to have an excuse for arresting him without warrant,” Ustarez said.

Saladero, for his part, denounced the criminal charges against him and the 26 Southern Tagalog activists as “false, incredible, fantastic, and part of the intensifying repression of workers.”

He noted that even labor lawyers are no longer spared from open harassment. “This is so that no one will be left to defend workers,” he said.

Ustarez also cited a recent attempt to break into the KMU office in Quezon City. On Oct. 6, at around 3 a.m., a man carrying a knife was seen scaling the walls of the Balai Obrero compound in Proj. 3, Quezon City, where the KMU national office is based. Citing eyewitness accounts, Ustarez said the man was accompanied by three lookouts in a tricycle nearby. When one of the neighbors was awakened, the man jumped down and ran off with his companions.

Ustarez said they suspect the would-be burglars could actually be military personnel. “Witnesses said they were burly men sporting crew-cut hair,” he said.

The KMU leader said all these “attacks” against his group have the objective of destroying the workers’ movement. (Bulatlat)
ANG PINAKATAHIMIK MAN NATING MGA GABI AY HINDI TAHIMIK

NI ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
Inilathala ng Bulatlat


Maging ang pinakamahimbing nating pagtulog
ay hindi mahimbing.
Sa pinakatahimik man nating mga gabi,
waring walang katapusan ang ingay ng mga buldoser,
ng nagkakapira-pirasong mga tabla,
ng nagkakayupi-yuping mga yero.
Sapagkat may ilang nagnanasang umangkin
ng ating karapatang
makumutan ng katahimikan sa kalaliman ng gabi,

ng ating karapatang huminga nang maluwag.

Sa lupang itong inaagaw nila sa atin,
ibig nilang itanim ang mga binhi
ng lalong pagrangya nilang mararangya.
Ang ating mga bangkay ang kanilang nais na pataba.

(Inilathala ng Bulatlat)

Sunday, August 31, 2008

RANDY ECHANIS AND INHUMAN JAIL CONDITIONS

Being jailed is not new to KMP leader Randall Echanis, 60. His detention in January this year following his arrest in Bago City, Negros Occidental is his third already. It is the prison conditions he is now in that are new to him.

BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 30, August 31-September 6, 2008


Being jailed is not new to Randall Echanis, 60, deputy secretary-general for external affairs of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP or Peasant Movement of the Philippines). An activist for decades now, he had been incarcerated during the Marcos and Aquino administrations. His detention in January this year following his arrest in Bago City, Negros Occidental is his third already.

It is the prison conditions he is now in that are new to him.

Following his arrest on murder charges stemming from allegations that he masterminded a purge within the ranks of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) in Inopacan, Leyte in 1984, Echanis –- who was in prison at the time the alleged purge took place –- was detained at the Provincial Jail in Palo, Leyte. In late July, he was transferred to the Philippine National Police (PNP) Custodial Center in Camp Crame, but, only a few days later, was again transferred, this time to the Manila City Jail.

When Bulatlat visited to interview him for this article, he was sitting in a cubicle, one of many in Dorm 3 and other “dormitories” at the said jail. His cubicle is just big enough to fit a bed on which Echanis –- who is of average height for a Filipino -– could not even lie down with his body fully stretched. From his cubicle you could barely see the outside of the jail: poet Amado V. Hernandez, who was imprisoned in Muntinlupa on trumped-up “rebellion complexed with murder and other crimes” charges in the 1950s, was “lucky” he could even see “isang dipang langit” (a stretch of sky) from his cell, because Echanis can see less than that.

The cubicles are either for sale for anywhere between P5,000 ($108.88 at the Aug. 29 exchange rate of $1:P45.92) and P70,000 ($1,524.39) or for rent anywhere from P600 ($13.07) a month. The more money you have, the bigger the cubicle you could get.

Even at these rates, however, the rows of cubicles in the “dormitories” look more like rows of shanties.

Still, those among the 244 detainees in Dorm 3 who could afford to either buy and rent cubicles are better off compared to those who cannot, because the latter have no choice but to sleep on the floor at night.

“If you try to get out of your cubicle at night to use the comfort room, you are sure to step on heads,” Echanis said. “You’d have nothing to step on but heads.”

Quiapo, where the City Jail is located, is one of Manila’s most flood-prone areas, and the detainees are not spared from the troubles that floods bring.

“We get a lot of flood here when it rains hard,” Echanis said as he showed us his pair of rubber boots. “When it floods, those who have no cubicles have to share space with those who do when sleeping time comes.”

In the mornings, the detainees wake up to the fact that they would have no power supply until noon. “They say that it is being done to save electricity,” Echanis explained.

But that is not all that they have to put up with. When the time for meals comes, they have to bear with food the quality of which is unthinkable.

“You really can’t eat the food here,” Echanis said. “I’m used to eating just about anything, but the food here is something you really can’t eat.”

For Echanis, adding to the difficulties that all these bring is the fact that he has been placed in a jail where riots are known to be frequent. He was already there when one of these riots took place recently. “It is a very stressful situation because you can never know what will happen to you,” he said.

His present prison conditions have affected his health, said Echanis, who has hypertension.

The KMP leader said that even during his incarceration during the Marcos and Aquino regimes, he did not experience anything like what he now has to deal with on a daily basis.

A history of activism

Echanis studied at the Philippine College of Commerce or PCC, now the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP), and the University of the East (UE) in the 1960s. It was at the PCC that he got his first exposure to activism. He was later made chairman of the UE chapter of the Kabataang Makabayan (KM or Patriotic Youth).

In the 1970s, at the height of martial law, Echanis took to the countryside where he did peasant organizing work in the Ilocos, Cagayan Valley, and Cordillera Regions.

He was arrested in 1983 and was placed for two years under solitary confinement at Camp Aguinaldo, the General Headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). Following his release in 1986 by virtue of then President Corazon Aquino’s general amnesty proclamation, Echanis co-founded the Samahan ng mga Ex-Detainee Laban sa Detensyon at Para sa Amnestiya (Selda or Society of Ex-Detainees for Liberation from Detention and for Amnesty), as well as the Partido ng Bayan (PnB or People’s Party).

In 1987 he went back to the countryside and became active again in peasant organizing until his arrest in 1990. Following his arrest, he was kept for a week in a safehouse, where he was tortured. He was eventually transferred to the PNP Custodial Center, where he was detained along with his daughter Amanda, then two years old. He was released in 1992 after the court dismissed the case of illegal possession of firearms in furtherance of rebellion filed against him.

In 1999, during the KMP’s fifth National Congress, he was elected as the group’s deputy secretary-general for external affairs. In 2001 he was elected to the National Council of the First Quarter Storm Movement (FQSM). Since 2002, he has been helping in the GRP-NDFP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines-National Democratic Front of the Philippines) peace negotiations as a member of the NDFP Reciprocal Working Committee for Social and Economic Reforms.

At the time of his third arrest, he was attending a conference on agrarian reform initiated by the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA or Union of Workers in Agriculture).

Deepening social insights

Echanis said his incarceration at the Manila City Jail has only deepened his insights on what is wrong with society and why it has to be changed. Many of his fellow inmates there, he said, are either slum dwellers or farm workers – people too poor to afford legal services. Most of them are in for theft or drug-related offenses. “Through my conversations with them, I have come to know more about the oppression that they suffer from day to day,” he said.

“A lot of them are from the urban poor communities and unable to find decent employment,” he said. “Because of this, they are easily drawn to crimes like theft and drug-related offenses.”

The prison conditions at the Manila City Jail are not conducive to rehabilitation, however, and Echanis said that keeping one’s sanity in such conditions could be a challenge. “Those who are sane could go insane here,” he said.

Still, Echanis has happily not lost his resolve to fight his battles -– be it the fight for his own freedom or the larger political fight.

“My determination to fight, not only for my immediate freedom but for my hasty return to the movement outside to continue my work there, is whole,” he said. “It also helps a lot that there are expressions of support and there are always visits.”

Aside from that, I am also able to follow what is happening outside and this convinces me that we have to work hard toward genuine change in our society,” he added. Bulatlat

Saturday, August 30, 2008

KAY PLARIDEL
Alexander Martin Remollino

Binigkas sa isang pagtitipun-tipon ng mga mamamahayag noong 3 Mayo 2008, Pandaigdigang Araw ng Kalayaan sa Pamamahayag, sa 70s Bistro. Inilalathala para sa ika-158 kaarawan ni Marcelo H. del Pilar (30 Agosto 2008).


I
Piping Dilat,
Dolores Manapat,
Plaridel:

Nangarap ka ring tumalunton sa mga ulap
ng mga kaisipang "panghabang-panahon"
ukol sa kagandahan,
ngunit nanatili ang iyong mga paa sa lupa
at ipinagpauna mo ang pagtugon
sa mga panawagan ng iyong panahon.
Sa Diariong Tagalog,
sinimulan mong hubdan ng maskara ng karangalan
ang mga kolonyal na awtoridad ng Espanya sa Pilipinas.
Nakipagdasalan-at-tuksuhan ka pa
sa mga puting malignong suot ay sutanang itim.
Di naglaon,
pinakawalan ng mga prayle ang kanilang mga kampon
at sumikip sa iyo ang Pilipinas
at kinailangan mong mandayuhan sa Espanya
upang doon ipagpatuloy ang paghihimagsik ng panulat.
Doon, ang pinamatnugutan mong La Solidaridad
ay namandila ng mga kahilingan
para sa lalong pagkalinga ng Inang Espanya sa Pilipinas.
Subalit nagtaingang-kawali ang Espanya
at ipinagamit mo kay Pingkian ang iyong pangalan
upang itatak sa una't huling pangulong tudling
ng Kalayaan.
Sa dakong huli, ikaw ay nauwi
sa pamumulot ng beha sa mga bangketa ng Barcelona
upang tupukin ang gutom at ginaw.
Nadarang din ang iyong mga baga
at sapilitan kang inihiga ng tisis.
Ngunit, kahit sa pagkakaratay,
walang pahinga ang iyong diwa
at nanginginig ang mga daliring walang-patid ang pagnanais
na hawakan ang pluma.
Paulit-ulit na nalilimbag sa iyong isip
ang tanong na ito:
"Paano na ang Inang Bayan?"
Hanggang sa ikaw, na sakdal ng kayamanan ang diwa,
ay lisanin ng iyong hininga
sa sala de pobres ng isang ospital sa Barcelona.

II
Piping Dilat,
Dolores Manapat,
Plaridel:

Tiniis mo ang buhay na puno ng pagpapakasakit,
at hanggang sa iniaalok na ang pagpapahingalay
ay walang-tigil ang iyong pagbabalikwas,
sapagkat ikaw ay mangingibig
na taos-pusong humarana
sa Mutya ng Katotohanan
--
gaya ng sinumang tunay na peryodista.
Bagama't panulat ang iyong piniling sandata,
dumaloy sa iyong mga ugat ang dugo
ng isang mandirigmang nakahandang sumagupa,
sa ngalan ng matwid,
"kahit na ang labanan ay isa sa sandaan"
--
gaya ng sinumang tunay na peryodista.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

DENYING HISTORICAL WRONGS
Centerstage / UPI Asia Online
Alexander Martin Remollino

Manila, Philippines, August 27 — In the debate on whether or not the Moros — the Islamized inhabitants of what are now known as the Philippine Islands — should be granted ancestral domain rights in Mindanao, there are those who have put forward the argument that Christians are the majority in the island. The implication is that since the Christians are the majority in Mindanao, there should be no talk of self-determination for the island's Islamized population.

Such an argument, which is bereft of historical validity, does not in any manner help the quest for what has been a long-elusive peace in Mindanao.

The Moros are now a majority only in a relatively small number of Mindanao provinces, but they were once the majority in the entire island. They had and continue to have a socio-political and economic system, as well as a culture, distinct from that of the regional groups who were eventually Christianized.

It is important to understand that the Moros became a minority in Mindanao through a series of historical travesties starting from the Spanish colonial era.

Though the Spaniards were never able to conquer Mindanao, they nevertheless included it in the 1898 Treaty of Paris, through which the U.S. purchased the Philippines as a colony from Spain, months after the Filipino revolutionaries had proclaimed independence. The U.S., through sheer brute force, defeated the Moro forces who resisted its colonial drive.

The inclusion of Mindanao in the U.S. annexation of the Philippines paved the way, through legislation, for large-scale non-Muslim migration to Mindanao. A number of the settlers engaged in land-grabbing.

Shortly after the U.S. granting of "independence" to the Philippines in 1946, in which Mindanao was included instead of being treated separately, the Philippine government was confronted with a communist-led, largely peasant-based armed struggle. Part of the government's attempts to defuse this struggle was the creation, in the 1950s, of a Mindanao Homestead Program — under which lands grabbed from Moros were given to former Hukbong Mapagpalaya ng Bayan (HMB or People's Liberation Army) guerrillas who had availed of amnesty.

It is through these series of historical travesties that the Moros ended up being driven to the margins in their own land. To dismiss the Moro people's claim for self-determination with the argument that Christians are now the majority in Mindanao is to deny a whole litany of historical wrongs that need to be corrected.

Recognizing the need to correct these wrongs is the key to the realization of peace in Mindanao.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

LORENZO M. TAÑADA: A LEADER FOR FILIPINOS
Centerstage / UPI Asia Online
Alexander Martin Remollino

Manila, Philippines, August 14 — Last Aug. 10 marked the 110th birthday of a great Filipino, Lorenzo M. Tañada — nationalist, freedom fighter, and statesman. It is worth remembering him now not only because we are just four days past a time of year associated with his birth, but also because his life is rich in lessons that would serve us well in this time of crisis.

Tañada, who was born in Tayabas (now Quezon) in 1898, gave a hint of what he was to become very early in his life.

At 15, he dared to publicly speak his mind against an arbitrary proposal by the mayor of Gumaca, his hometown, to close down a parish church. When the mayor, in a town meeting to "discuss" the issue, challenged anyone in the crowd to speak out, it was he who stood up and spoke on stage — a mere boy, and a nephew of the mayor, Deogracias Tañada!

As a student leader at the University of the Philippines (UP), where he took his Associate in Arts and Bachelor of Laws, he showed the beginnings of a lifelong commitment to nationalism.

This was particularly manifested at an Armistice Day celebration during his third year at the College of Law. A cadet major of the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) at the time, Tañada was one of the speakers at the affair. When it was his turn to speak, he exhorted the students to take their military training seriously because they, he said, had to be prepared to make the "supreme sacrifice" for their country should the US refuse to grant the Philippines independence.

He went to Harvard University for his Master of Laws, but did not let his US education get in the way of his nationalist thinking.

He was involved in the underground resistance against the Japanese during World War II, working with a group that published an underground newspaper and gathered and gave intelligence information to the guerrillas. After the war, he worked with the People's Court which prosecuted collaborators — among them Teofilo Sison, the third highest-ranking official of the Japanese-sponsored government.

He was subsequently appointed solicitor-general and in this capacity, he fearlessly and competently prosecuted several corrupt high-ranking government officials.

As a senator for 24 years starting from 1947, Tañada authored several bills, a number of which managed to be signed into law, which sought to dismantle the US neocolonial stronghold on the Philippines. He worked closely with Sen. Claro M. Recto, who was a few years his senior, in crafting nationalist legislation. Their legislative thrust centered on national industrialization and independent foreign policy.

Tañada would go on to become chairman of the Movement for the Advancement of Nationalism (MAN), a united front of nationalists from various sectors, in the late 1960s. His increased exposure to grassroots sectors through MAN deepened his ideological footing, so that though he was initially opposed to land reform, he eventually came to recognize it as an indispensable component to any real nationalist program for the Philippines.

He was 74 years old when martial law was declared. Despite his advanced age, he was immediately at the forefront of the resistance against the dictatorship. The legal luminary was among the first personalities to take on the dictatorship, starting out by defending political prisoners in the courts.

In 1978, he became the general campaign manager of the Lakas ng Bayan (Laban or People's Power), a loose coalition of anti-dictatorship forces that fielded a number of candidates for the Batasang Pambansa (National Legislature) on April 7 that year. The Laban slate was badly defeated in a election marred by massive fraud, and Tañada led an indignation rally on April 9 and was detained together with more than 500 others. The image of Tañada peering from a military jeep as he was being hauled away, clenched fist up in the air while shouting "Laban, laban!" (Fight, fight!) has become immortalized.

After the assassination of opposition leader Beningno Aquino, Jr. in 1983, he chaired the Justice for Aquino, Justice for All Movement (JAJA) and, in 1985, he became the founding chairman of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan or New Patriotic Alliance), an alliance of nationalistic and progressive forces.

He remained an ally of the Bayan forces after the fall of the dictatorship, and devoted his final years to the campaign against US military presence in the Philippines.

It is but proper to remember Tañada at a time like this in the country's history. He is a fine example of the kind of leadership that Filipinos need — especially in these times.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

QUESTION OF A FIVE-YEAR-OLD
Centerstage / UPI Asia Online
Alexander Martin Remollino

Manila, Philippines, August 12 — The ever-increasing popularity of bleaching creams and skin-whitening soaps in the Philippines brings to my mind what a friend told me a few years back about a question asked by one of her nephews.

The boy is some sort of a child prodigy. He was reading newspapers at three and knew how to operate a computer at four. I have heard him over the phone and he speaks without eating a single word, which was very remarkable for his age. He had won gold medals in past Recognition Days and his teachers had offered to accelerate him to a higher grade level.

All this did not matter to his schoolmates, however. They had been teasing him for having darker skin than theirs, which had caused him to develop an inferiority complex. My friend related that once, when he was five, the child asked his mother, "Is it okay that I'm dark?"

The boy could not be blamed for asking such a question. It is surprising how many dark-skinned adults in this country still think like he did then. They eternally ask God why He had to make them that way, while the more moneyed ones among them frequently rush frantically to stores to buy bottles of bleaching cream or blocks of skin-whitening soap.

Indeed, it is hard to find a country where bleaching creams and skin-whitening soaps are more popular than in the Philippines.

Looking closely, this may be part of the attitude we have taken towards the Americans. Whenever American soldiers enter the Philippines purportedly for military exercises with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), they are generally welcomed with open arms despite decades of documented US military atrocities against Filipino civilians -- including the rape of a young woman in Subic, Zambales in late 2006.

Of course, not all Americans are white. However, it does not take an anthropologist to know that whites are a majority in the US. For Filipinos, America will always be associated with white skin; think American and you tend to think of white, blond men and women.

However, everyone should realize that it is not color that makes a human, but the knowledge of right from wrong and the adherence to right. Therefore, the darkness of skin does not diminish humanity.

Malcolm X, a black man, taught his fellow blacks to stand up for their rights. He was infinitely more human than Adolf Hitler, a white man, who violated the rights of roughly a fourth of the human race.

Oseola McCarty, a black woman, donated most of the money she earned from washing clothes to the University of Southern Mississippi (USM), to fund scholarships for black students. She was infinitely more human than Evita Peron, a white woman, who enriched herself by ravaging her country's treasury.

This leads us back to the five-year-old's question, to which the boy's mother replied, "It's okay, you're still handsome anyway."

She should have gone beyond that. Her answer implies that it is all right to be dark only if you are handsome, and that it is all right not to be handsome as long as you are fair, but not if you are dark. She should have said that color does not matter at all. She should have told him to ask his schoolmates' parents instead why it is not all right that he is dark.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

MILF SEES RENEWED ESCALATION OF CONFLICT WITH GRP

The MILF, which is fighting for an autonomous state in Mindanao and has been engaged in peace negotiations with the GRP since 1996, sees a renewed escalation of its conflict with the Philippine government following a number of encounters with the military in the last three weeks.

BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 23, July 13-19, 2008


The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which is fighting for an autonomous state in Mindanao and has been engaged in peace negotiations with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) since 1996, sees a renewed escalation of its conflict with the Philippine government following a number of encounters with the military in the last three weeks.

Fighting broke out between MILF fighters and government troops in three villages in Maitum, Sarangani early on June 25. The fighting took place in the villages of Ticulab, Maguling, and Mindupok. Hundreds of residents fled to the town center.

That same day another armed encounter transpired between the MILF and government troops in Tugaig, Barira, Shariff Kabunsuan.

“Frustration with the dilatory tactics of the government in the peace talks mainly caused the fighting,” said MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal.

Contentious ancestral domain issue

The GRP-MILF peace negotiations have been stalled since December last year. Negotiations reached a deadlock over the ancestral domain issue.

The ancestral domain issue, which was first discussed only in 2004 or some eight years after the talks started, has turned out to be the most contentious issue in the GRP-MILF peace negotiations.

The MILF last year was proposing a Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE) that would be based on an ancestral domain claim of the Bangsa Moro over Mindanao, Sulu, and Palawan.

The GRP had insisted that areas to be covered by the BJE other than the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) should be subjected to a plebiscite. This repeatedly led to an impasse in the peace negotiations with the group.

The impasse was broken only in November last year, when the GRP and the MILF reached an agreement defining the land and maritime areas to be covered by the proposed BJE.

Things seemed to be looking up after that, prompting lawyer Eid Kabalu, then MILF spokesperson, to make media statements to the effect that they expected a final agreement to be signed by mid-2008.

But all hopes for forging a peace pact between the GRP and the MILF were dashed last December, when the peace talks hit a snag following the government’s insistence that the ancestral domain issue be settled through “constitutional processes” – a phrase which, according to Iqbal, had been inserted into the agreement without their consent.

Renewed armed clashes

On June 30, MILF fighters and government troops clashed in Aleosan, North Cotabato. The fighting caused some 200 families from the town’s Barangay (village) Paganan to flee, based on reports from the Philippine Army’s 6th Infantry Division.

Col. Julieto Ando, spokesperson of the 6th ID, said it was the MILF who started the fighting. “We were the ones being attacked here,” he said.

But Iqbal denied this. “Beyond all doubt, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) started the fighting; fighting took place 2.5 kilometers away from the Cotabato-Davao National Highway,” he said.

Iqbal said that coming as they did in quick succession, these skirmishes appear to indicate a renewed escalation of the conflict between the GRP and the MILF – a potential threat to the peace negotiations. “But the MILF flexed its muscle to make everyone in the organization toe the line by giving the peace talks every opportunity to continue,” Iqbal however added.

The MILF, meanwhile, has also been accused of attacking power transmission lines in North Cotabato. They have been accused of bombing a steel tower of the National transmission Corporation in Brgy. Bagontapay, M’lang; and of firing rocket-propelled grenades at a power facility of the Cotabato Electric Cooperative in Matalam.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita accused the MILF of perpetrating these bombings “to pressure the government into agreeing into a peace agreement that would violate the Constitution” –- an accusation Iqbal denied.

“Ermita has never appeared to be sincere in addressing the root causes of the conflict in Mindanao; he is always in favor of the counter-insurgency approach to the problem,” Iqbal said when asked to comment on Ermita’s statement.

“The MILF is not asking the government to violate its constitution; far from it,” Iqbal added. “But we say the government should not use the constitution to forego compliance with its commitment or signed documents.”

Iqbal also said Ermita could have made such statement to win “sympathy” from the people and the international community. “In short, he wants to picture the MILF as an unreasonable group,” he said.

Roots of the conflict

Moro historian Salah Jubair traces the roots of the present conflict in southern Philippines to the U.S. annexation of Mindanao and Sulu into the Philippine territory in 1946. Jubair argues that the Bangsa Moro is a people with a socio-political, economic, and cultural system distinct from that of the Filipino people.

The inclusion of Mindanao and Sulu in the scope of the 1946 “independence” granted to the Philippines paved the way for large-scale non-Muslim migration to the two islands. This large-scale migration, which began in the 1950s, brought with it the problem of land grabbing.

At some point the government even instituted a Mindanao Homestead Program, which involved giving land parcels seized from Moro peoples to landless peasants from the Visayas islands and Luzon and also to former communist guerrillas who availed of amnesty.

This was intended to defuse the peasant unrest and the revolutionary war that was staged in the late 1940s and early 1950s by the communist-led Hukbong Mapagpalaya ng Bayan (HMB or People’s Liberation Army), which was basically a peasant army.

The Jabidah Massacre triggered widespread outrage among the Moros and led to the formation of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) that same year. The MNLF, led by former University of the Philippines (UP) professor Nur Misuari, waged an armed revolutionary struggle against the GRP for an independent 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 Mindanao Muslims.

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 MILF. Since then, the MILF has been fighting for Moro self-determination.

In 1996, the MNLF signed the Final Peace Agreement with the GRP, which created the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) as a concession to the group. That same year, the MILF began peace negotiations with the GRP.

While the peace agreement with the MNLF supposedly holds, armed skirmishes between the AFP and MNLF did not stop. On Nov. 19, 2001, Misuari declared war on the Arroyo government for allegedly reneging on its commitments to the Final Peace Agreement. The MNLF then attacked an Army headquarters in Jolo. Misuari was subsequently arrested in Sabah, Malaysia for illegal entry and was turned over to the Philippine government by Malaysian authorities. He is currently under house arrest.

Meanwhile, the GRP-MILF peace talks have repeatedly bogged down on the issue of ancestral domain, mainly because the GRP has frequently insisted on resolving it within “constitutional processes.” This does not sit well with the MILF.

MoA-AD

Still, the MILF is optimistic that a Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MoA-AD) may be signed sometime this year.

“As of today (July 9), only two points remain unresolved by the Parties namely, the word freedom and effectivity of those (provisions) in the MoA-AD that require legislation,” Iqbal shared. “We insist that if they decide to pass it through legislation it should not derogate prior agreements. If the government is serious, we can sign it before August this year.” Bulatlat

Sunday, July 06, 2008

COURT STARTS HEARING TAGAYTAY 5 BAIL PETITION

After more than two years of being abducted and detained, the Tagaytay 5 finally had their day in court as the latter started hearing their petition for bail.

BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 22, July 6-12, 2008


The Tagaytay City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 18 has started hearing the Tagaytay 5’s petition for bail after more than two years of their being abducted and detained.

Judge Erwin Larida Jr. started hearing the case last July 4 and is expected to hold hearings in the succeeding Fridays of July. The Tagaytay 5 is composed of Axel Pinpin, a consultant of the Kalipunan ng mga Magsasaka sa Kabite (Kamagsasaka-Ka or Association of Peasants in Cavite) and a poet who was a fellow in the 1999 University of the Philippines (UP) National Writers’ Workshop; Riel Custodio, a Kamagsasaka-Ka member; Aristides Sarmiento, a freelance researcher for various non-government organizations; and Tagaytay City residents Enrico Ybañez and Michael Masayes.

The series of hearings follow their June 16 arraignment for the crime of rebellion, to which the five entered a “Not Guilty” plea.

The five were abducted by a composite Philippine Navy and Philippine National Police (PNP) team on April 28, 2006 in Tagaytay City.

Pinpin, Custodio and Sarmiento had just come from a meeting with coffee farmers in the city and were on their way to Manila for the forthcoming Labor Day rally. They had hired Ybañez as their driver while Masayes accompanied Ybañez.

Three days after, they were presented to the media as “communist rebels” who were conspiring with “dissident soldiers” in an alleged plot to “destabilize” the Arroyo administration. They were subsequently charged with rebellion.

Pinpin, Custodio, and Sarmiento said that they expect the prosecution together with their PNP “abductors-torturers” to “demonize” them to secure a conviction –- which, under the Revised Penal Code, carries a penalty of reclusion perpetua (20 years and one day to 40 years in detention).

“The prosecution and the PNP will again publicly peddle their pack of lies and life-threatening intrigues,” they said. “They will again cover up the truth about the case of the Tagaytay 5 in order to get their much-awaited judicial victory against ‘bomb-wielding communists-terrorists out to destabilize’ the corrupt and fascist Arroyo regime. They will repeatedly gloss over substantive issues and matters of judicial principles such as the human rights violations committed by government authorities during our abduction, interrogation, incommunicado status, prolonged detention, and delays in the judicial process, in order to consign us to perpetual silence and public oblivion.”

They vowed, however, to assert “rigorously” the following “truth(s) and substantive issues”:

· That they were waylaid and abducted by more or less 60 heavily armed men without necessary warrants on April 28, 2006; hence violating their basic right against arbitrary arrest;

· That they were not carrying guns or explosives of any kind at the time of their abduction, yet the list of evidence showed that they were in possession of one handgun; but all their personal belongings (including dentures and flashlights) and money totaling almost P800,000 (or ¥1,904,700 or $18,300) were missing and never accounted to them, an act which they said is “tantamount to highway robbery by law enforcement agents” and which violates their right against unlawful search and seizures;

· That they were shuttled to various military camps and safe houses, where they were repeatedly interrogated against their will and without counsel –- acts which violate the basic rights of arrested persons under the Miranda Doctrine and judicial guarantees against illegal detention;

· That they were physically and psychologically tortured, having been hidden from their families, lawyers and friends for seven days and nights, to enable their abductors to extract extrajudicial confessions, again without the aid of counsel of their choice; thus violating their rights against torture and self-incrimination;

· That they were “persecuted” in a court after being held for more than 100 hours without charges, thus violating basic rights against illegal detention;

· That they we were detained and padlocked 24/7 in a police camp with no provisions for sunlight and outdoor exercises for 10 months, thus endangering their health and welfare; and that it took a 67-day fasting/hunger strike to gradually improve their detention conditions; and

· That their court hearings are few and far between, and are often postponed “for whatever flimsy reason,” thus prolonging their hardships, and “effectively silencing some critics and dissenters of the current regime.”

Pinpin, Custodio, and Sarmiento also said that on several occasions during the 26 months since their being charged with rebellion, the prosecution and the PNP were asked to present all necessary evidence and affidavits.

“But all the prosecution can show are three joint testimonies packed with lies and half-truths on what really happened on that fateful night of April 28, 2006 –- full of loopholes, self-serving alibis, pock-marked with hearsays and afterthoughts, and coached assertions,” they said. “The prosecutors haven’t produced in court any credible evidence to buttress their trumped-up rebellion charge –- for they have none, and have nothing to hold on to; for it is cardinal rule in criminal proceedings that any illegally obtained evidence is inadmissible in court, and that planting of evidence against any suspect is punishable by law as incriminatory machination.” Bulatlat

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

TO A WARRIOR DYING OLD
Alexander Martin Remollino

You were one of a kind as a warrior,
one who dared to venture
where even the fearless feared to tread.
You marched to the Devil's den
for the cause of the heavens.
Without hesitation you courted the wrath
of the false gods, the usurpers of power:
you fought for the right "without question or pause,"
ever resting your faith
on the God of justice fighting by your side.

In memoriam: Danilo Poblete Vizmanos
(24 November 1928-23 June 2008)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

MGA MANHID
Alexander Martin Remollino

Habang binabagtas ng sinakyan kong dyip kanina
ang isang lansangan sa Quezon City,
tinawag ang aking pansin
ng isang higanteng karatulang may nakangiting mukha ni GMA
na nagsasabing,
"Ramdam ang kaunlaran."
Siguro,
ramdam na ramdam nga ang kaunlaran
kaya kailangang ipagsigawang nararamdaman ito –-
parang sinasabing mga manhid tayo
kaya hindi natin nararamdaman.
Pero sino ba ang talagang mga manhid?
Ano ang pagiging manhid?
Ang pagiging manhid
ay ang pagsasabing "ramdam ang kaunlaran"
kahit na pinagtitiyagaang pilahan ng mga tao
ang kakapurit na murang bigas na mabuhangin at mabato
habang kayraming palayan sa Pilipinas
na nagiging mga golf course o taniman ng export crops.
Ang pagiging manhid
ay ang pagsasabing "ramdam ang kaunlaran"
kahit na nag-uunahan patungong kalawakan
ang mga presyo ng inangkat na produktong petrolyo
habang mga korporasyong dayuhan ang nagpapasasa sa Malampaya't Sulu.
Ang pagiging manhid
ay ang pagsasabing "ramdam ang kaunlaran"
kahit na nagtitiis na kumain ng darak ang karamihan
habang dalawa sa malalaking negosyante ng Pilipinas
ang nasa talaan ng 500 pinakamayayaman sa buong mundo.
Silang nagsasabing "ramdam ang kaunlaran" –-
sila ang mga manhid:
mga may kalyo sa tiyan
mga may kalyo sa mata
mga may kalyo sa utak.
Sila ang mga manhid at hindi tayo.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

WATCHDOG SAYS GOV’T IN DENIAL OF RIGHTS VIOLATIONS’ CAUSES, SOLUTIONS

The Philippine UPR (Universal Periodic Review) Watch has assailed the Arroyo administration for being “in denial” about the causes of human rights violations in the Philippines. It also criticized the government for adamantly refusing to heed the recommendations of UNHRC members, which could have helped improve the human rights situation in the Philippines.

BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 19, June 15-21, 2008


The Philippine UPR (Universal Periodic Review) Watch has assailed the Arroyo administration for being “in denial” about the causes of and solutions to human rights violations in the Philippines. This was in response to the Philippine government representative’s statements at the eight session of the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), which began last June 2 and is set to conclude on June 18.

The Philippine UPR Watch delegation to Geneva is composed of Fr. Rex Reyes, National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) general secretary; Marie Hilao-Enriquez, Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights) secretary-general; Trisha Garvida of Karapatan; Edre Olalia, International Association of People’s Lawyers (IAPL) president; Dr. Edita Burgos, mother of missing activist Jonas Burgos; Donnie Mapanao of Migrante-Switzerland; and Ed Cubelo of the Toyota-Philippines union.

The UNHRC is holding the session to tackle the reports of its 47 member-countries to the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), which held its first session on April 7-18, 2008. The Philippine government’s human rights record was discussed in that session.

The UPR is a new mechanism that was established under General Assembly Resolution 60/251, which established the UNHRC on March 15, 2006. The said resolution provides that the UNHRC shall “undertake a universal periodic review, based on objective and reliable information, of the fulfillment by each State of its human rights obligations and commitments in a manner which ensures universality of coverage and equal treatment with respect to all States; the review shall be a cooperative mechanism, based on an interactive dialogue, with the full involvement of the country concerned and with consideration given to its capacity-building needs; such a mechanism shall complement and not duplicate the work of treaty bodies…”

The Arroyo administration has in recent years reaped international outrage over the spate of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances under its watch.

Based on data from Karapatan, there have been a total of 903 extrajudicial killings and 193 enforced disappearances from 2001 –- when President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was catapulted to power through a popular uprising –- to March 31, 2008.

The three regions with the highest number of extrajudicial killings are Southern Tagalog with 163, Central Luzon with 137, and the Bicol Region with 127. Most of the victims are peasants (numbering 419) and indigenous people (85). Among political organizations, the party-list group Bayan Muna (People First) and the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP or Peasant Movement of the Philippines) have the highest number of victims, with 132 and 104, respectively.

Meanwhile, the three regions with the highest numbers of enforced disappearances are Central Luzon with 64, Southern Tagalog with 28, and Eastern Visayas with 24.

Southern Tagalog, Central Luzon, the Bicol Region, and Eastern Samar are all marked as “priority areas” in the government’s counter-insurgency operations dubbed as Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL or Operation Freedom Watch).

UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary and Arbitrary Executions Philip Alston went on a mission to the Philippines in 2007 to investigate the spate of extrajudicial killings and came up with a report specifically pointing to the military’s involvement in these. “In some parts of the country, the armed forces have followed a deliberate strategy of systematically hunting down the leaders of leftist organizations,” Alston, who is also a professor at New York University (NYU), said.

During the eight UNHRC session this June, Philippine Permanent Representative to the UN Erlinda Basilio disputed Alston’s findings.

“The Philippines finds that the report and the recommendations of Professor Alston are inaccurate, highly selective, and biased,” Basilio said in her statement to the UNHRC on June 7. “The report neither provides a complete picture nor a fair assessment of the situation in the Philippines. Nevertheless, the Philippines remains committed to its state responsibility to resolve verifiable and legitimate cases of extrajudicial killings whoever may be the perpetrators, whether members of rebel groups or members of the military and police.”

Alston, however, said he stood by his findings. “I am simply being faithful in playing my role as an honest broker,” he said.

Repeated denials

At the interactive dialogue during the consideration of the report of the UPR’s working group on the Philippines, Philippine Permanent Representative to the UN Erlinda Basilio said that the government cannot “provide follow-up reports on efforts and measures to address extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances, taking into account the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.”

Basilio also rejected outright the Swiss representative’s recommendation last April to strengthen the government’s Witness Protection Program “in the context of the reform of the judiciary and the armed forces.” Basilio was quoted as saying during the eight UNHRC session that the Philippine government does not support this recommendation. This contradicted the claim of the government as contained in the Philippine National Report submitted to the UNHRC that “the President has certified as urgent legislation to strengthen the Witness Protection Program.”

Basilio was also cold to the recommendation of the representatives of Slovenia and Mexico for the Philippines to ratify the International Convention on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances. Basilio’s response to this during the eighth UNHRC session was that this recommendation is noted and would be “studied further.”

“This speaks so eloquently of the insincerity of the government to address issues of killings, disappearances and other human rights violations in the Philippines,” said Reyes, who heads the Philippine UPR Watch delegation. “First it paints a glossy picture of the Philippine Government as a ‘rights-based’ State that has signed the UN core documents and has enacted laws that supposedly protect the rights of its citizens; and then in the same breath, they refuse to accept the recommendations of the UNHRC that would help resolve the killings and disappearances and stop the impunity.

“Killings and disappearances continue in a climate of impunity and the Philippine government’s Report hypocritically trumpets its ‘commitment, constructive and consultative approach.’ We urge the Filipino people to remain resolute in exposing human rights abuses and be steadfast in denouncing falsehood and hypocrisy. Let us continue the struggle for peace and justice in our country.” Bulatlat

Sunday, June 08, 2008

CARTEL, GATT-WTO, GOV’T POLICIES TO BLAME FOR RICE CRISIS

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP or Peasant Movement of the Philippines) said that the current rice crisis is a result of hoarding by the rice cartel, loopholes in the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law of 1988, and the government’s policy of liberalization, deregulation, and privatization, which is in line with its commitment to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade-World Trade Organization (GATT-WTO).

BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 18, June 8-14, 2008


The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP or Peasant Movement of the Philippines) said that the current rice crisis is a result of hoarding by the rice cartel, loopholes in the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law of 1988, and the government’s policy of liberalization, deregulation, and privatization, which is in line with its commitment to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade-World Trade Organization (GATT-WTO).

This crisis, KMP said, cannot be solved neither by the government’s aggressive importation of rice nor by the extension of the CARP.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, early last week, certified as urgent House Bill No. 4077, which provides for a five-year extension for CARP. HB 4077 provides for an allocation of P100 million ($2.27 million at the June 6 exchange rate of $1:P44.14).

The Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law was signed in 1988 and was intended to be in force until 1998. CARP expired in 1998 but was extended for another 10 years. It expires again on June 10 this year.

Based on DAR data, only 3.96 million hectares out of the target 5.16 million hectares, or 77 percent, under CARP have been redistributed.

Usec. Gerundio Madueño of the Department of Agrarian Reform supported the extension of CARP saying that extending CARP will help improve the country’s rice production.

“By completing CARP, it will help in the increase in the production of rice ‘cause the farmers will be given the basic rural infrastructure, technology, the training and support for their cooperatives and training for themselves,” Gerundio said.

But Madueño’s claim was belied by KMP secretary-general Danilo Ramos. He pointed out that the country had experienced rice crises under CARP. This, he said, does not give a promising picture of CARP’s supposed ability to solve the rice crisis.

“When did we first experience a rice crisis?” Ramos said. “That was during FVR’s (Fidel V. Ramos) time (as President). 1994-1995. CARP ended only in 1998, before it was extended for another 10 years. That means that experience shows that CARP is not a solution to rice crises.”

The rice cartel

“In fact, during FVR’s time, rice supply increased by 350 percent, but prices nevertheless soared,” he added. “Why? Because of the cartel.”

The rice crisis of 1994-1995 was largely a result of the partial privatization of the National Food Authority (NFA), which then procured only 0.5 percent of total palay (unhusked rice) production. Private traders took advantage of the situation, creating an artificial rice shortage by hoarding supplies. This caused rice prices to jump by 90-100 percent.

The present rice crisis is also largely traceable to the activities of a rice cartel, known as the Big Seven, whose members, aside from being able to channel production to itself through a network of traders, are also allowed to import heavily.

The members of the Big Seven have been identified in Senate investigations as Joaquin Go Soliman (JOMERCO Trading), Pio Sy Lato (PNS Grains Center), Ramon Ang Syson (Family Native Supply), Gil Go (Jocardo Merchandising), Leoncio Tan/Janet Tiu (Leoneco Merchandising), Santos See (Manila Goodyear), and Teofredo Co (Teofredo Trading).

CARP and GATT-WTO

The depredations wrought by the rice cartel are aggravated by CARP’s loopholes and the government’s implementation of liberalization, deregulation, and privatization policies in accordance with the GATT-WTO (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade-World Trade Organization) framework.

The Philippines is now the world’s top importer of rice, according to the socio-economic think tank IBON Foundation –- a far cry from its status as a self-sufficient, rice-exporting country in the 1980s. IBON Foundation’s research also shows that the Philippines devotes only 4 million hectares to rice production -– contrasting sharply with Vietnam, with more than 7 million hectares planted to rice, and Thailand which devotes more than 10 million hectares.

Lands planted to cash crops are exempted from CARP. The owners of lands planted to rice and corn, which are subject to CARP, have found a way out of the government’s agrarian reform program through crop conversion. This contributed to the decrease in rice production.

Under the WTO’s Agreement on Agriculture (AoA), which the Senate ratified in 1995, the Philippines has been forced to meet a minimum rice importation requirement, whether or not the country has sufficient rice yields. The Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act (AFMA), which Ramos signed into law in 1997, aims for further privatization of the NFA and increased private-sector participation in rice importation.

The NFA is mandated by law to procure at least 12 percent of palay production. From an average of 7.95 percent of palay production in 1977-1983, the NFA’s procurement dropped to 3.63 percent in 1984-2000 and from 2001-2006 was only 0.05 percent of total production.

Rice imports have increased from 257,260 metric tons (MT) in 1995 to 1.7 million MT in 2006. This year, the government has secured the importation of some 2.2 million MT of rice from Vietnam, Thailand, and the U.S. –- the country’s largest volume of rice importation since 1998.

“The government’s ratification to the GATT meant full liberalization of Philippine agriculture, particularly the emphasis on export crops and, on the other hand, rice importation,” Ramos said. “That is why in 1994, when the GATT was being deliberated upon in the Senate, we put forward a position urging them to reject it.”

The government’s Medium-Term Agriculture Development Plan (MTDAP) aims to reduce rice and corn production from 5 million MT to 3.1 million MT. Meanwhile, the Medium-Term Philippine Development Plan (MTPDP) for 2004-2010 aims for “the development of 2 million hectares of new agribusiness lands through multi-cropping, the cultivation of idle and marginal lands, the expansion of fishery production in unutilized offshore and inland waters, and expansion of the product mix through high value crops and value-adding through innovative packaging and agro-processing.”

The reduction of rice production and the country’s increased dependence on rice importation have placed the people more and more at the mercy of private traders, who control rice prices.

HB 3059

The KMP is calling for the passage of House Bill No. 3059, or the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill. Principally authored by the late Anakpawis (Toiling Masses) Rep. Crispin Beltran, the bill provides for free distribution of land to farmers, the expansion of agrarian reform coverage to include all agricultural lands, and government support services for beneficiaries. Bulatlat