Archive | May, 2012

Fight for accountability does not end with Corona conviction

Posted on 29 May 2012 by admin

News Release
May 29, 2012

References:
Renato M. Reyes, Jr (BAYAN secretary general)
Eleanor de Guzman (BAYAN dep-secretary general)

While we welcome the decision of the Senate to convict Chief Justice Renato Corona for culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust, we believe that the fight for true accountability in government has a long way to go. It does not end with Corona’s conviction. It still remains to be seen if the end of this process will even lead to the accountability of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and other officials guilty of plunder and gross human rights violations.

We now say to the Aquino government, tama na ang palusot! The current regime should stop making excuses for its continuing failure to prosecute Arroyo for the crimes of plunder, human rights violations and wholesale election fraud. The current regime should stop making excuses for its failure to hold accountable its own officials facing allegations of misdeeds. The current regime should stop making excuses on its failures to address the most pressing economic problems and issues of the people.

It is expected that the Aquino regime will hail the Corona conviction as the “crowning glory” of its so-called “daang matuwid crusade”. We take exception to this for the simple reason that outside the impeachment, the Aquino government has not done much in terms of political and economic reforms, respect for human rights and the cause of justice. There is no “daang matuwid” for many of our people who continue to reel from poverty, oppression and injustice. In fact, even as the impeachment verdict is handed out, the Philippine government is again making excuses before the United Nations Human Rights Council on why impunity in human rights violations continues in the country.

Bayan supported the impeachment of Corona mainly on the basis of the key role he has played in abetting Arroyo’s schemes to evade accountability. Lest we forget, the campaign by the House of Representatives (HoR) to impeach Corona gained wide public support because of his collusion with Arroyo. The temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by the Corona-led SC in November last year that would have allowed Arroyo to flee triggered this impeachment. It is unfortunate however that the Aquino and LP-directed prosecution chose to downplay the issue of Arroyo in favor of a somewhat hypocritical crusade regarding the SALN of the Chief Justice. This raises the question of whether Aquino is indeed serious in making Arroyo accountable.

Of utmost importance right now is the vigilance and direct action of the people that will counter efforts by President Benigno Aquino III and his Liberal Party (LP) to take advantage of Corona’s ouster to control the judiciary for their own selfish political and economic agenda. Concerns raised about the possibility of an “Aquino court” are valid and should not be dismissed. The possibility of Aquino using a now friendlier SC to undermine its earlier decision on Hacienda Luisita is a particular concern that we must all vigilantly check and strongly expose and oppose.

Corona’s conviction is not the be all and end all of reforms to rid the bureaucracy of systemic graft and corruption. On the contrary, it’s just a small step forward as more thoroughgoing reforms are needed. However, we fear that under the Aquino government, it will still be business as usual, at least for its political allies and KKK’s. The people must therefore press on with their legitimate demands and struggle for genuine change that goes beyond Aquino’s overused “daang matuwid” rhetoric.

The challenge for all government officials to disclose their bank records, foreign and domestic, should stand. The Chief Justice is likely not the only government official to use foreign currency deposit accounts to conceal presumably ill-gotten wealth.

ACT Rep. Antontio Tinio already filed a bill to be heard on June 5 in House Committee on Banks amending the Foreign Currency Deposit Account to remove absolute confidentiality, and if they are consistent, this should be supported by all those who voted to impeach Corona. #

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69 countries line up to grill Philippines on human rights record

Posted on 28 May 2012 by admin

Philippine UPR Watch at the UN headquarters in Geneva

News Release
May 22, 2012

As the Philippine government prepares to face the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to defend its human rights record on May 29 in Geneva, Switzerland, some 69 countries have already lined up to ask questions to the PH delegation, according to the group Philippine UPR Watch. (list attached)

The Philippine government, for the second time, will undergo a review process under the Universal Periodic Review of the UNHRC. Filipino group Philippine UPR Watch said that the first country in the list is the Republic of Korea followed by the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia and Singapore. Also on the list are the United States, United Kingdom, Italy, the Holy See, France, Belgium and Japan. Last on the list is Qatar. Each country is given 1 minute and 44 seconds to ask their questions.

The Philippine delegation will be headed by Department of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.

Around 14 Filipino human rights activists from the Philippines, Europe and the United States will be converging in Geneva to attend the UN session in the Philippines. These groups under the Philippine UPR watch have submitted their own alternative reports questioning the PH government’s human rights claims.

In 2008, the Philippine government made a commitment before the UN to eliminate extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances. Rights groups say that this commitment has not been met.

“The Philippine report is very underwhelming and provides no clear measure of progress in the Philippine human rights situation. On the contrary, the report glosses over the continuing human rights violations such as extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances. The Philippine government has continued with a counter-insurgency program that targets unarmed activists,” said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr., who will also be in Geneva as part of the Philippine UPR Watch.

“The most glaring fact is that the Philippines has a less than 1% conviction rate for extrajudicial killings. That translates to 99% injustice for human rights victims. That alone speaks volumes on the Philippine human rights situation and our legal system. This is one reason why impunity persists,” Reyes added.

An independent audit of around 400 extrajudicial killings in the Philippines showed that only 4 persons were convicted over the last 11 years. Many cases do not even reach the courts because of poor investigation and absence of witnesses. Karapatan meanwhile has documented 76 cases of extrajudicial killings under the Aquino regime.

“Up to now, Gen. Palparan remains at large. There is still no court case filed against the soldiers who killed renowned botanist and taxonomist Leonard Co. The masterminds of the killing of Italian missionary Fr. Fausto Tentorio have not been charged. The torturers of the Morong 43 were even given promotions. Today, the Aquino’s spokesman has brushed off allegations of rights abuses, passing the buck to the AFP Human Rights Office,” Reyes said.

“While the Aquino government claims it is ‘mainstreaming’ human rights, many of the bad practices of the past regime continue. Human rights are not a priority. Aquino’s spokesman doesn’t think it is important enough to comment on, so he’s passing the issue to the AFP,” Reyes added. ###

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Bayan protests US nuke sub in Subic

Posted on 18 May 2012 by admin

News release
May 18, 2012

Multisectoral group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) today held a protest action near the US embassy in Manila to condemn the presence of a U nuclear-powered attack submarine in Subic Bay, Zambales.

About a hundred protesters attempted to march towards the US embassy but were blocked by anti-riot police back up by a fire truck along Kalaw Avenue near the National Museum.

Carrying a streamer that says “US troops out of the Philippines!”, the activists denounced the Aquino government for allowing the USS North Carolina to dock at the Subic Bay port, which used to host America’s largest foreign naval base until 1992.

Last May 15, the USS North Carolina, a Virginia-class fast attack submarine and one of the most modern submarines in the US Navy, surfaced at Subic Bay. Bayan has earlier said that the presence of the nuclear-powered submarine violates the constitutional ban on nuclear weapons while stoking the tension with China over Panatag Shoal and the Kalayaan Islands.

Bayan said that the Defense department’s excuse that the presence of the US submarine is a “regular port call, just like that of any other foreign ships docking in our ports” is absurd and irresponsible.

“What’s docked in Subic is not just any ordinary foreign ship. It’s a high-tech attack submarine, presumably armed with nuclear weapons. It’s placing the country in serious danger,” said Eleanor de Guzman, Bayan deputy secretary general during the protest action.

Rita Baua of the International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS) – Philippines said that President Aquino should fully explain the circumstances behind the sudden surfacing of the USS North Carolina in Philippine waters.

“What sort of mission did this submarine just carried out? While Aquino is supposedly defending the country’s territorial integrity against China, he is legitimizing the violations being perpetrated by the US by allowing American warships to lurk in our waters, drones to hover in our air space, and special forces to base in secret military facilities inside the country,” said Baua. (end)

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NCR wage hike insults workers – BAYAN

Posted on 18 May 2012 by admin

News Release

May 18, 2012

The umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan today slammed the National Capital Regional Wage Board for the approval of a P30.00 wage increase, a far cry from the P125 wage increase that many labor groups have been demanding.

“The amount is ridiculously small, grossly inadequate, and utterly insulting. Once again, the Philippine government shows that it gives more importance to the interests of big business rather than the interests of the workers. Even more insulting is that the small amount comes in two tranches. Maliit na nga, installment pa!  This is of course the inevitable outcome of President Aquino’s Labor Day doomsday speech where he lambasted the proposal for a P125 legislated wage hike as being bad for the economy,” said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr.

“The increase represents a mere 7% adjustment from the current NCR wage levels. In fact, the nationwide average wage adjustments remain one of the lowest in the world, even below the global average of more than 10%,” Reyes said.

Business analysts have previously noted that the Philippines is the third lowest in the world when it comes to the rate of increases for wages and salaries.

The group said that the Aquino government has proven itself to be “anti-worker” by its refusal for a substantial wage increase.

“We plan to raise this issue before the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on May 29, when the Philippine government’s rights record is scrutinized by the member countries of the UNHRC. This is a continuing violation of the Philippine government’s commitment under the Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, particularly the right to an adequate standard of living,” Reyes said.

Bayan will join Philippine human rights groups is calling the attention of the international community in Geneva on the violations of economic, social and cultural rights in the Philippines, on top of the more known violations of civil and political rights.  ###

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Bayan questions entry of US nuke submarine in Subic

Posted on 16 May 2012 by admin

News Release

May 16, 2012

The umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan today assailed the entry of a United States nuclear-powered attack submarine in the former Subic Nava Base in Zambales. The USS North Carolina (SSN 777), a Virginia class attack submarine considered one of the “stealthiest, most technologically advanced” in the world.

“It’s as if US military bases are back in Subic. Virtual basing and hosting of US warships are being justified by the Visiting Forces Agreement and the Mutual Logistics Support Agreement. Philippine ports like Subic are again providing logistics support for US ships. We might see more of these port calls now that the US is rebalancing towards Asia,” said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr.

“The Philippines is de facto hosting US warships presumably armed with nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. The entry of the nuclear submarine may be in contravention of the Philippine constitutional ban on nuclear weapons. The problem is that under the VFA, the US neither confirms nor denies that its ships carry nuclear weapons. However, the presumption is that they do, especially the more advanced ships,” Reyes said.

Article II, Section 8 of the Philippine Constitution states that “the Philippines, consistent with the national interest, adopts and pursues a policy of freedom from nuclear weapons in its territory.”

Negative impact on dispute with China

Bayan also noted that the entry of the high-tech US submarine may have negative repercussions in the Philippine’s dispute with China, saying perceived US involvement may further escalate tensions.

“The port calls made by US warships is part of a greater strategy to project US military power in the region. It is directed at all

countries in the region, but most especially China, in order to keep China subservient to US dictates,” Reyes said.

Statements from the US military support the view that the port call is being used for US power projection. According to a US official, the USS North Carolina “brings to the region the capability to conduct the full spectrum of potential submarine missions including anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface ship warfare, strike, naval special warfare involving special operations forces, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, and mine warfare,”

Recently, Washington and Manila held a high profile meeting that reaffirmed US defense interests in the Philippines. These include more frequent war games, port calls of US warships and the retention of the 600 US Special Forces stationed in Mindanao for the last decade.


Rest and recreation

Bayan also expressed concerns that the Philippines continues to play host for rest and recreation activities of US troops saying this creates a host of social and legal issues.

“Aside from the historical fact that so-called rest and recreation activities for US troops breed prostitution, there is also the unresolved provision in the VFA which places erring US troops under the custody of the US government, even if convicted by a lower court,” Reyes said.

“In the event that another Filipina is raped, like what happened in Subic not so long ago, the Philippine government will again be at a serious disadvantage. Our sovereignty will again be compromised,” he added.

Aquino has promised to review the provisions of the VFA regarding custody for US troops facing criminal raps. No results have come out from this nearly two years since Aquino came to power. ###

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FILIPINO-AMERICANS TO DESCEND UPON CHICAGO TO PROTEST NATO

Posted on 13 May 2012 by admin

News Release

May 11, 2012
Reference: Jack De Jesus, Deputy Secretary-General, BAYAN USA, email:bayandepsec@gmail.com

US Chapter of BAYAN to Hold 4th Congress in Chicago Days Before NATO Summit

CHICAGO– Filipino-Americans from across the US will gather in Chicago on Sunday, May 20, 2012 to join the nationally-coordinated protest demonstration against the scheduled NATO Summit in downtown Chicago. The protest is scheduled two days after the fourth congress of the US Chapter of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, also known as BAYAN USA, which will also take Chicago on Friday, May 18th, at Centro Autonomo in  Chicago’s Albany Park neighborhood.

Founded in 2005 in San Francisco, BAYAN USA is an alliance of 15 Filipino community organizations across the US  who have actively campaigned on issues of human rights, immigrant reform, workers’ rights, racial and gender discrimination, environmental justice, budget cuts as well as US economic and military intervention and counter-insurgency in the Philippines for the past 7 years.

The congress and protest comes at the heels of high-level talks in Washington between representatives from the administration of Philippine president Benigno Aquino III and US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta last month, confirming the so-called “new” US military pivot to the Asia-Pacific region to contain the so-called “rising threat” of China will rely heavily on an increase of US military troops in the Philippines, where at least 600 US special forces operatives have been deployed in Mindanao under the auspices of post-9/11 counter-terrorism exercises.

Anti-China Scare is a Ruse for Economic Agenda
“The US economy is actually dependent on China as the two are major commercial partners,” states Berna Ellorin, chairperson of BAYAN USA. “This so-called new US military pivot to Asia is nothing new. The US military have been in the Philippines since 1898, the longest-running US military foreign basing in the world.  The Obama administration’s real intention for its military agenda lies in pushing a new US-led free trade agreement in the region– the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA). It’s a lot like NAFTA in that it is oriented to ensure the US economically dominates trade in the Asia-Pacific region. But it is also a lot bigger and more aggressive than NAFTA in eradicating the local economies and destroying livelihood for the regional peoples, including that of the Philippines.”

In response to the claim of the US and Aquino governments that China is a major threat to the region, BAYAN USA asserts that the Aquino government’s welcoming of an increased US military presence in the country not only alarmingly exposes the extent of its puppetry to the dictates of the US government, but also poses a greater danger to Philippine territorial integrity and to the Filipino people themselves.”
“Does the Aquino government not care that about the countless, documented cases of abuses suffered directly by Filipino men, women, and children from US military in the Philippines?,” Ellorin continued “What about Suzette ‘Nicole’ Nicolas? What about Buyong-Buyong Isnijal? What about Gregan Cardeno? Has any US military personnel in the Philippines ever been arrested or charged for rape, molestation, harassment, or murder? And yet, the Filipino people are supposed to believe that CHINA’S military is the bigger threat?”
The G8 and NATO Summits

In light of the upcoming G8 and NATO Summit meetings in the US this month, BAYAN USA will raise the issue of the US-led neoliberalism through the TPPA and military agenda through the US military pivot to the Asia-Pacific region, to the protest demonstration in Chicago.
“Unfortunately, there’s a lot of anti-China sentiment going around, but we want to clarify what this push for increased US military in the Philippines and in Asia is really about. It’s not so much about containing China as it is about making sure the global 1% are able to reap and plunder the natural riches of the Asia-Pacific region as well as avail of cheap, exploitable human labor from its peoples without limits through economic agreements like the TPPA,” Ellorin stated. “And this is in line with G8 and NATO agendas.”
BAYAN USA also called on the Aquino administration to assert Philippine national sovereignty through diplomatic, peaceful means when addressing territorial disputes with countries in the region, including China, instead of always turning to the US military. ###

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Posted on 05 May 2012 by admin

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BAYAN to Aquino and ADB: “You can’t whitewash poverty”

Posted on 04 May 2012 by admin

News Release
May 4, 2012

The umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan today held a protest in Manila to mark the closing of the Asian Development Bank’s 45th Governors Meeting in the Philippines. The militant group said that no matter how hard it tries, the Aquino government cannot whitewash poverty just so it could reinforce the ADB’s “anti-development” policies.

The BAYAN led protest was able to breach the PNP’s first line of defense near Ermita church and were able to reach the edge of the Rajah Sulaiman Plaza just near Roxas Boulevard before being blocked by hundreds more from the PNP. The protesters were pushed outside the Plaza.

The protest came a day after the Social Weather Stations released a survey showing that self-rated poverty increased in the first quarter of 2012 compared to the last quarter of 2011. The Aquino government has drawn flak for trying to cover up poverty and alleged eyesores by putting up walls to conceal slum communities near the ADB’s conference venue.

“No amount of high walls from the Philippine government can conceal poverty. The reality is that poverty is on the rise and cosmetic changes cannot hide this. The latest survey on poverty is a rebuke of the Aquino government and the ADB. The chronic problem shows that the economic impositions of lending agencies like the ADB and World Bank are not working for the people. Even the ADB and WB-funded Conditional Cash Transfer is not making a dent on the poverty,” said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr.

The first quarter Social Weather Stations survey on self-rated poverty, coming out in time for the 45th ADB Governor’s meeting hosted by Manila, showed some 11.1 million families consider themselves poor. This is up from 9.1 million households in December last year.

Some 9.1 million families also consider themselves food-poor, a figure that is up from the 7.2 million families from the previous quarter.The surveys showed that there was a sharp increase in self-rated poverty in Mindanao. Rural poverty also seemed in to increase while urban poverty appeared to remain the same.

Growth one-sided

“The prediction of a 5-6% GDP growth does not amount to much for the poor. The projected growth, assuming it will even happen, will not likely be felt by the poor. Wages remain depressed. Land reform is a sham. Prices keep going up. Joblessness is chronic,” Reyes said.

“Even the Conditional Cash Transfer program funded through loans from the ADB and World Bank has not made a dent in poverty despite the billions of pesos already spent for the program. Poverty is up especially in the provinces,” he added.

The ADB expected continuing advances in technology, globalization and market liberalization. Bayan however said that this is a recipe for worsening poverty especially in countries like the Philippines.

“Unbridled liberalization of the economy drains domestic wealth and destroys local industries in favor of foreign investors. The regime of liberalization, privatization and deregulation being pushed by the ADB has had the most disastrous effects on the economy,” Reyes said.

“Prices have gone up, local industries are shutting down, joblessness is on the rise, domestic resources are being plundered and profits are shipped back to the more industrialized countries. Aquino has opposed a substantial wage hike. There can be no inclusive growth under such a regime. The people do not share the optimism of Aquino’s economic managers,” he added. ###

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Higher poverty incidence trumps ADB theme of inclusive growth

Posted on 03 May 2012 by admin

News Release

May 3, 2012

The umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan today said that increased poverty incidence in the Philippines is the strongest argument that economic prescriptions from the Asian Development Bank are not working.

“The Philippine government can build walls to cover up poverty during the ADB meeting, but the reality is that poverty is on the rise. The chronic problem shows that the economic impositions of lending agencies like the ADB and World Bank are not working for the people. Even the debt-driven, ADB and WB-funded Conditional Cash Transfer is not making a dent on the poverty incidence,” said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr.

The first quarter Social Weather Stations survey on self-rated poverty, coming out in time for the 45th ADB Governor’s meeting hosted by Manila, some 11.1 million families consider themselves poor. This is up from 9.1 million households in December last year.

Some 9.1 million families also consider themselves food-poor, a figure that is up from the 7.2 million families from the previous quarter.

The surveys showed that there was a sharp increase in self-rated poverty in Mindanao. Rural poverty also seemed in to increase while urban poverty appeared to remain the same.

“The prediction of a 5-6% GDP growth does not amount to much for the poor. The projected growth, assuming it will happen, will not likely be felt by the poor. Wages remain depressed. Land reform is a sham. Prices keep going up. Joblessness is chronic,” Reyes said.

“Even the Conditional Cash Transfer program funded through loans from the ADB and World Bank have not made a dent in poverty despite the billions of pesos allocated for the program Poverty is up especially in the provinces,” he added.

The ADB expected continuing advances in technology, globalization and market liberalization. Bayan however said that this is a recipe for worsening poverty especially in countries like the Philippines.

“Unbridled liberalization of the economy drains domestic wealth and weakens local industries in favor of foreign investors. The regime of liberalization, privatization and deregulation being pushed by the ADB have has had the most disastrous effects on the economy,” Reyes said.

“Prices have gone up, local industries are shutting down, joblessness remains high, domestic resources are being plundered and profits are shipped back to the more industrialized countries. There can be no inclusive growth under such a regime. The people do not share the optimism of Aquino’s economic managers,” he added.

Bayan will lead protests again tomorrow as the ADB meeting closes at the PICC. ###

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Posted on 02 May 2012 by admin

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