Wednesday, June 25, 2008

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

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."
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


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.

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


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).

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).


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

Saturday, June 07, 2008


By Alexander Martin Remollino
Column: Centerstage
Published: June 06, 2008

Laguna, Philippines — In life, Philippine Congressman Crispin Beltran frequently clashed with the powers that be –- whether they were leaders of big business or politicians representing elite interests. But in death, Beltran earned only praise, even from those he could not see eye-to-eye with. This is because of the kind of life he lived and the rich symbolism his death showed.

There have been few people in Philippine history who deserved to be called statesmen, and fewer who can rightfully be called people’s statesmen. The recently deceased representative from the Anakpawis, or “toiling masses” party, Crispin Beltran, was one of them.

Beltran died May 20 from head injuries sustained after a fall from the roof of his house in Bulacan, a province north of Manila. He was fixing the roof of his house -– a bungalow for which he was paying 5,000 pesos (US$112) a month -– in preparation for the rainy season when he suffered a fall that led to a coma and, later, death. At the time of his death, his total assets amounted to less than 60,000 pesos (US$1,350) and included two barong Tagalog (the Philippine national attire for males) and a pair of eyeglasses –- making him the poorest member of the House of Representatives, which is known as a bastion of the Philippines’ landlord class.

Thus was the conclusion of his colorful life as a labor leader, and –- later on -– as head of a multi-sectoral activist alliance and, at the time of his death, a representative of a progressive party-list group in Congress. Thus was the end of life for a man who never for a moment wavered from his pursuit of the cause of freedom and justice, even as two governments –- the Marcos and Arroyo regimes -– made him pay for it with his liberty.

Therein lies the symbolism in his death. Here was a leader who literally sprang from the toiling masses, who –- to his very last breath –- lived simply, “so that others may simply live,” in the words of Mohandas K. Gandhi. He came across but rejected many opportunities to enrich himself –- which included a 2-million-peso bribe intended to win his support for a weak impeachment complaint that administration allies were trying to initiate to protect President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo from a stronger one that could lead to conviction.

He was a workingman to his very last breath -– climbing a ladder to fix his own roof, something many have said he shouldn’t have done at his age of 75 years, but which he did anyway -– insisting on doing something he could very well do himself. To the end of his life, he was a “people’s (leader),” as described by the think tank Center for People Empowerment in Governance.

The kind of life he lived and the manner by which it ended struck chords in many a heart in the Philippines, where it is easy to be cynical about the possibility of integrity in public office. Transparency International has recently rated the Philippines as the eighth most corrupt country in the world and the most corrupt in Asia, but Beltran by his life –- and death -– showed that “honorable” and “congressman” need not be antonyms even in such a country.

With that, Beltran’s death moved multitudes. Profuse were the praises for him -– including from several of his political opponents who derided him in life but who clearly wanted to bask in his posthumous glory.

“Our condolences to the family of the late Congressman Beltran,” said deputy presidential spokesperson Lorelei Fajardo. “We share their grief in this time of great personal loss. While Congressman Beltran and the Armed Forces may have stood at opposite poles in the pursuit of our respective missions, we regarded him with respect. Like many of our soldier-heroes, he stood for what he believed in. And in my personal view, he is a true Filipino.”

The president -– whose issuance of Presidential Proclamation No. 1017 which declared a “state of emergency” in the country led to his arrest and prolonged detention –- sent flowers to his wake at the main chapel of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, or Philippine Independent Church.

Speaker Prospero Nograles, a staunch administration ally, said the House of Representatives was “greatly diminished” by Beltran’s death.

“Poverty did not rob him of the fortitude of his convictions to dedicate his life to the uplift of the poor,” Nograles said. “And yet, when he spoke, whether among groups of colleagues or in debates in this chamber, one cannot help but listen, because his ideas resonated with the integrity of convictions.”

In life, Beltran was often criticized by defenders of the status quo for clinging to a supposedly “outmoded” ideology. In death, he is vindicated by the fact that even his political opponents could not help but pay him the highest respects -– thus conveying a sort of message that he was one of their own even as he differed from them.

Still, the record begs to be set straight for posterity. Beltran did not belong to the ruling political clique which made the Philippines slide into having the distinction of being one of the most corrupt countries in the world. He did not belong to the big capitalists who refuse their workers the basic right of getting a decent wage. He did not belong to the big landlords who dominate the House of Representatives. He belonged, first and last, to the people -– the toiling masses from whom he sprang and for whom he fought all his life.

By this, he was a real people’s statesman.


(Alexander Martin Remollino is a senior writer for the online news weekly Bulatlat -– He is also associate editor and columnist for the opinion website He is a member of the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines, and was active in the Media for Peace campaign. ©Copyright Alexander Martin Remollino)