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Download Bayan, #abolishpork Movement SC petition vs DAP

Posted on 04 November 2013 by admin

On October 17, anti-pork groups and legislators from party list groups filed with the Supreme Court today the latest challenge against the pork barrel system, particularly the so called “Disbursement Acceleration Program” or DAP.  The petitioners from the #Abolishpork Movement, included Dr. Carol Araullo and Renato Reyes of BAYAN, UP Prof. Judy Taguiwalo of PAGBABAGO, Henri Kahn of Concerned Citizens Movement, Manuel Dayrit of Ang Kapatiran Party, Vencer Crisostomo of Anakbayan and Victor Villanueva of Youth Act Now.  The petitioners from among legislators were Gabriela Rep. Luz Ilagan, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate and Kabataan Rep. Terry Ridon.

Download Petition here

The Petition asked the Court to declare void and without effect the Disbursement Acceleration Program and DBM Budget Circular 541 and prayed for a Temporary Restraining Order over the DAP while the petition is pending.  The Petition asserts that the DAP and Budget Circular 541 are unconstitutional and illegal because these grant the President billions in pork barrel each year by unilaterally impounding the budget approved by Congress, and realigning funds to projects selected by the President.

The Petition attacked the DAP and Budget Circular 541 on two fronts, the unconstitutionality of (i) withdrawing budget allotments from their intended projects under the GAA and (ii) realigning them to favorite projects and beneficiaries of the President, many of which were not even provided in the GAA approved by Congress.

“ The DAP funds could never be considered savings because under the law, including the GAA itself, there can be no savings if the projects from which the funds were withdrawn have not been completed or abandoned.  In fact, the law requires that savings may be had if the project was implemented at a lesser cost due the efficiency of the agency. This is not however the case with DAP” said the Petitioners.

“The funds withdrawn mid year even if the projects have not been completed, were due to the inefficiency of the under-spending agencies.  The DAP funds  are, therefore, not savings and could not be realigned by the President under the Constitution and the General Appropriations law,” the Petitioners added.

The Petitioners also questioned the complete disregard of Pres. Aquino of congressional power to approve the budget by simply realigning the GAA and dangling the funds to senators and other public officials to get their support for executive plans and actions. They listed as questionable many disbursements in the DAP such as those given to legislators during the Corona impeachment trial, the P4.5 Billion released to DOTC to supposedly buy additional train cars, the P1.82 Billion  given to the CPLA and the MNLF considering that these items were not in the GAA, P625 Million merely to conduct a survey on farmers, the P 8.5 Billion “stimulus fund” for ARMM on top of its budget approved in the GAA and P 26.9 Billion for GOCCs.

“The issue of the pork barrel system is within the judicial ambit of the Supreme Court because it is not an issue of discretion or wisdom but a question of whether Pres.  Aquino violated the Constitution and laws passed by Congress in his obsession to maintain and enlarge his pork barrel.  The DAP is the worst form of presidential pork barrel because it does not pretend to abide by the Constitution but blatantly and directly circumvents not just the Constitution but the appropriations and laws passed by Congress.’ said the petitioners.

“If the Court will not intervene then we will have a president which will completely control the legislature because he holds the power to propose the budget, approve the budget, realign the budget and implement the budget.  This budget dictatorship must not be allowed to continue, that is why the Supreme Court is asked to strike down the Budget Circular 541, DAP and the pork barrel system in general, both the congressional and presidential pork barrel,” the groups said.

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BUWAGIN ANG DISBURSEMENT ACCELERATION PROGRAM AT ANG PORK BARREL SYSTEM

Posted on 04 November 2013 by admin

Ano ang DAP?

Batay sa paliwanag ng Malacanang, ang DAP ay isang paraan upang mapabilis diumano angpaggastos ng mga ahensya at maitulak ang pag-unlad ng bansa sa gitna ng pagdating ng maraming kalamidad at mabagal na paglago ng pandaigdigang ekonomiya.  Noong 2011, naglahad si Aquino, sa pamamagitan ni Budget Secretary Butch Abad, ng intensyong pondohanang mga dagdag na proyekto gamit ang P72.11 bilyon mula sa “unused appropriations” noong 2010 at 2011.

Pagdating ng 2012, pinalawig ni Abad ang kapangyarihang ito ng administrasyon na likumin ang mga pondong di nagamit ng mga ahensya at gastusin para sa “priority projects” nito.  Binigyan ni Abad ang sarili ng awtoridad na kunin ang unobligated allotments (o mga pondong nalipat na mula sa DBM tungo sa mga ahensya pero di nagamit ng huli) sa kalagitnaan ng taon at gamitin ang mga ito “to augment existing programs and projects of any agency and to fund priority programs and projects not considered in the 2012 budget but expected to be started or implemented during the current year.”

Ang “stimulus fund” na ito ay ang tinuturong pinanggalingan ng karagdagang pondong binigay noong 2012 sa mga kongresista’t senador sa gitna ng impeachment proceedings laban kay Corona (mahigit P530 milyon) at ilang buwan matapos ito ma-convict (mahigit P1.27 bilyon). Ayon sa gobyerno, 9% ng pondong mula sa DAP, o mahigit P12 bilyon sa loob ng dalawang taon, ang napunta para iba’t ibang proyekto ng mga pulitiko. May ilang  mga pagtaya na nagpapakitang napunta din sa mga kwestyunableng proyekto ang DAP, halimbawa na lang sa mga Napoles NGO’s.

Bakit ito iligal at masama?  Bakit dapat tutulan?

Nakasaad sa Konstitusyon na walang pondong mula sa pampublikong kaban o National Treasury ang maaaring gastusin kung walang pahintulot ng batas gaya ng taunang General Appropriations Act o isang special appropriations law.[1] Ang Kongreso lamang ang may kapangyarihang magtalaga ng appropriations o pondong inilaan para sa natatanging pakay o proyekto (purpose).  Dahil dito, sinasabi rin ng Konstitusyon na hindi maaaring ilipat ng isang opisyal ang isang appropriation liban na lamang sa realignment—kung pinahihintulutan ng batasang mga pinuno ng mga piling ahensya—ng savings o mga pondong di nagamit ng ahensya sa dulo ng taon.[2]

Ang mga probisyong ito ang basihan ng sinasabing power of the purse ng Kongreso, laluna ng Mababang Kapulungan na kinabibilangan ng mga direktang kinatawan ng mamamayan.

Hindi si Aquino bilang Presidente, hindi rin ang kanyang mga alter ego gaya ni Abad, ang maaaring magdesisyon kung saan mapupunta ang pondo ng bayan.  Ang proposed appropriations na hinahapag niya kada taon ay mga mungkahi lamang na maaaring oo-han o hindi-an ng Kongreso.  Mula sa oras na naging batas o Appropriations Act na ito, walang kapangyarihan itong paglaruan ng Presidente gaya ng ginawa ni Aquino simula nang siya ay maluklok sa poder.

Iligal ang DAP dahil ang “stimulus fund” na ito at ang diumanong “savings” ng gobyerno ay hindi pinahintulutan ng anumang batas.  Ang “Disbursement Acceleration Program” ay sa panahon lang ni Aquino sumulpot; walang ganitong item sa anumang general o special appropriations law o kahit anong pahintulot mula sa Kongreso.  Ang kapangyarihan ng Presidente na mag-realign ng savings ay limitado sa yaong nasa sariling opisina niya at hindi sa buong gubyerno, at nagkakaroon lamang ng savings sa dulo—hindi gitna—ng taon.  Ang mga programa at proyektong pinondohan nito, kung totoong mayroon man, ay hindi dumaan sa pagsusuri ng mga mambabatas at naging bahagi ng isang appropriations act.

Masama ito dahil napatunayang ginamit sa malawakang korupsyon at pamamatron sa mga alyadong pulitiko na kumilos ng ayon sa nais ni Aquino.  Higit sa lahat, binigay niya sa kanyang sarili ang kapangyarihang hawakan, ng walang ligal na basihan, ang bilyun-bilyong pondo ng bayan bilang discretionary lump sum funds upang may maipamudmod sa kongresista’t senador, hindi raw suhol kundi “insentibo” at para palaguin diumano ang ekonomiya.  Dagdag pa, simula nang inimbento ang DAP ay hindi naisip ng administrasyon na i-account sa publiko kung saan napuntaang mga pondong napasailalim sa programang ito—ang unobligated allotments ay umabot sa P159.23 bilyon noong 2011 at P178.06 bilyon noong 2012.

Karapatdapat ang taguri kay Aquino na “Pork Barrel King” dahil nag-imbento pa siya ng sariling sistemang pork upang makapagkamal ng pondo mula sa pampublikong kaban para kontrolin ang Kongreso, palawigin ang patronage politics, at higit na payamanin ang mga kurap na opisyal. Matapos ang kanyang talumpati noong Oktubre 30 para depensahan ang DAP, malinaw na  si Aquino ang pangunahing tagapagtanggol ng isang bulok at kurap na sistemang pork barrel.


[1] Seksyon 29 (1) ng Artikulo VI (Sangay Lehislatibo)

[2] Seksyon 25 (5) ng Artikulo VI

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Tutulan ang panibagong pagtataas ng singil sa tubig! Labanan ang pribatisasyon!

Posted on 01 June 2013 by admin

Gabay sa pagtalakay

Inihanda ng Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), Hunyo 2013

Panimula

Kung masusunod ang plano ng mga pribadong kumpanya sa tubig at Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System – Regulatory Office (MWSS-RO), papasanin ng mga konsyumer ang panibagong pagtataas ng singil sa tubig simula sa Hulyo. Didisisyunan ng MWSS-RO sa mga susunod na linggo ang hinihinging P5.83 kada cubic meter (cu. m.) na pagtataas ng singil ng Manila Water Co. Inc. at P8.58 para naman sa Maynilad Water Services Inc. Tatamaan nito ang may 14.2 milyong kostumer ng mga pribadong kumpanya sa Metro Manila at mga karatig-lugar. Ang walang humpay na pagtaas ng singil habang marami sa ating mga kababayan, lalo na ang mga nasa mahihirap na komunidad, ang walang mahusay at maasahang serbisyo sa tubig, ang direktang epekto ng pribatisasyon ng MWSS.

Malaki rin ang pananagutan ni Pangulong Benigno Aquino III sa problemang ito ng mamamayan. Agresibo nitong itinutulak ang ibayong pribatisasyon ng serbisyo sa tubig at iba pang mahalagang imprastruktura sa ilalim ng public-private partnership (PPP). Katunayan, ang mga malaking negosyante na nagmamay-ari sa Maynilad at Manila Water ang pangunahing mga imbestor din sa iba pang proyektong PPP ni Aquino. Pawang malapit sa administrasyon at masugid na taga-suporta ng Pangulo ang grupo ni Pangilinan (Maynilad) at pamilyang Ayala (Manila Water). Kaya walang aasahan ang mamamayan kay Aquino na malinaw na pumapabor sa interes ng mga pribadong kumpanya sa tubig.

Dapat mahigpit na tutulan ang nakaambang pagtataas ng singil at patuloy na labanan ang patakarang pribatisasyon. Kailangang panagutin ang Maynilad at Manila Water, lalo na ang administrasyong Aquino sa pagpapahirap sa mamamayan.

Magkano ang itataas ng singil at bakit daw magtataas?

Humihirit ang Manila Water ng dagdag-singil na P5.83 kada cu. m. habang P8.58 naman ang hinihingi ng Maynilad. Ipapatong ang dagdag-singil na ito sa basic tariff ng mga nasabing kumpanya. Bahagi ang pagtataas ng singil ng tinatawag na “rate rebasing”. Ito ay iskemang binuo ng kontrata sa pribatisasyon – o ang Concession Agreement – na pinirmahan ng MWSS at ng mga konsesyonaryo nito – ang Maynilad at Manila Water noong 1997. Sa Concession Agreement, nakasaad na dapat dumaan sa rate rebasing ang mga konsesyonaryo kada limang taon sa buong panahon ng 40-taong kontrata (orihinal na 25 taon lang pero pinahaba pa nang 15 taon sa ilalim ng administrasyong Arroyo). Sa rate rebasing, magkasamang nirerepaso ng MWSS-RO at mga konsesyonaryo ang performance ng huli sa nakalipas na limang taon at ang kanilang business plan sa susunod na limang taon. Ito ang magiging basehan ng bagong singil sa tubig. Ang rate rebasing ay isang iskema para tiyakin o garatiyahan ang tubo ng mga pribadong korporasyon sa tubig.

Malaki ang hinihinging pagtataas ng Maynilad at Manila Water sa rate rebasing. Kumpara sa kasalukuyan nilang basic tariff, nais ng Manila Water na pataasin ang kanilang singil nang 21% – mula P28.29 kada cu. m. paakyat sa P34.12. Sa kabilang banda, pinipitisyon naman ng Maynilad ang 25% na pagtataas ng basic tariff – mula P33.97 kada cu. m. paakyat sa P42.55. Pero kung tutuusin, mas malaki pa ang lalabas na rate hike at aktwal na papasanin sa huli ng mga konsyumer dahil sa iba pang bayarin na nakabatay sa basic tariff tulad ng foreign currency differential adjustment (FCDA), environmental charge at value added tax (VAT).

Halimbawa, kung ikakarga ang iba pang bayarin, lumalabas na ang itataas ng singil (all-in tariff) ng Manila Water ay P7.81 kada cu. m. (hindi lamang P5.83). Para naman sa mga kostumer ng Maynilad, taas ang singil (all-in tariff) nang P11.41 (hindi lamang P8.58). Samakatwid, ang isang ordinaryong kabahayan sa service area ng Manila Water (East zone) na kumukonsumo ng 30 cu. m. kada buwan ay maaaring tumaas ang bayarin nang hanggang P234.30; sa Maynilad naman (West zone), ito ay aabot sa P342.30.[1]

Bakit hindi makatwiran ang pagtataas ng singil?

Hindi makatarungan ang hinihinging pagtataas ng singil sa tubig. Ang napaulat na P5.38 kada cu. m. na pagtataas ng singil ng Manila Water at P8.58 naman sa Maynilad ay paniningil hindi lamang sa mga nakaraang ipinuhunan ng mga ito kundi para rin sa kanilang mga planong puhunan sa darating na limang taon. Ibig sabihin, sa bulsa ng konsyumer kukunin ang gastos sa mga proyektong hindi pa naman ipinatutupad.

Inaabuso ng ganitong sistema ang mga konsyumer lalo na sa mga pagkakataong hindi naman natutuloy ang mga planong proyekto. Halimbawa, sa dalawang nakaraang rate rebasing ng Manila Water at Maynilad noong 2003 at 2008, ipinasok sa kwenta ng singil sa tubig ang ilang proyektong paglaon ay hindi naman natuloy. Noong 2003 rate rebasing, isinama sa kwenta ang P732 milyong Wawa Dam Project; P52 milyong feasibility study ng Laiban Dam Project; at P100 milyong 300 MLD Water Supply Project sa Laguna Lake na pawang mga naisantabing proyekto. Noon namang 2008 rate rebasing, isinama sa kwenta ang mga proyektong hindi rin naipatupad tulad ng P5.4 bilyong 15 cms Angat Reliability Project; P45.3 bilyong Laiban Dam Project; at P4.13 bilyong Earthquake Contingency Project.

Dagdag pa, lampas-lampas sa 12% rate of return base (RORB), na siyang dapat ay maximum na tubo para sa mga public utilities, ang tinutubo ng Manila Water at Maynilad dahil sa kanilang napakamahal na singil. Binibigyang katwiran ito ng mga konsesyonaryo sa pagsasabing hindi naman sila public utilities kundi mga “ahente” lamang ng MWSS na siyang public utility. Pero napakaliwanag na ang gumagawa ng tungkulin ng MWSS bilang public utility, kasama na ang paniningil sa mga konsyumer, ay ang Manila Water at Maynilad. Sa taya, umaabot hanggang halos 14% ang RORB ng mga pribadong kumpanya sa tubig. Higit pa itong mataas kung tutuusin dahil isinasama ng Manila Water at Maynilad sa pagkwenta ng kanilang RORB maging ang mga dati nang ari-arian at mga nakatayong pasilidad ng MWSS.

Bakit sumirit nang husto ang singil sa ilalim ng pribatisasyon?

Sa likod ng nakaambang panibagong pagtataas ng singil ang programang pribatisasyon. Sa ilalim nito, ginawang malaking negosyo para pagtubuan ng mga malaking lokal na burgesya kumprador kasabwat ang mga dayuhang korporasyon at bangko ang serbisyo sa tubig. Isinapribado ang MWSS noong Agosto 1997 sa panahon ni dating Pangulong Fidel Ramos. Ito ay direktang imposisyon ng mga dayuhang bangko tulad ng IMF-WB-ADB para buksan ang mga public utilities hindi lamang sa lokal na mamumuhunan kundi pati sa dayuhang negosyante. Para maging kaakit-akit sa investors ang pribatisasyon ng MWSS, tiniyak sa concession agreement ang pana-panahong pagtaas ng singil sa tubig at ang recovery ng mga investors sa halos lahat ng kanilang mga gastusin.

Sa simula ng bawat taon, halimbawa, awtomatiko silang nakapagtataas ng singil batay sa galaw ng consumer price index (CPI) o implasyon. Ibig sabihin, dobleng hambalos para sa konsyumer. Ang implasyon ay pagtaas ng presyo’t bayarin ng mga batayang kalakal at serbisyo (kabilang ang tubig) pero ginagamit itong dahilan para itaas pang lalo ang sinisingil ng Maynilad at Manila Water.

Samantala, sinasalo rin ng mga konsyumer ang epekto ng pagbabago-bago ng palitan ng piso at dolyar (forex) para proteksyunan ang mga pribadong kumpanya sa tubig mula sa pagkalugi sa kanilang dayuhang utang. Binabayaran ng mga konsyumer ang foreign currency differential adjustment (FCDA) na nagbabago-bago kada tatlong buwan (quarterly). Bukod pa rito ang kahalintulad na bayarin – ang currency exchange rate adjustment (CERA). Nakapako ito sa piso kada cu. m. Kaya naman kahit lumakas ang piso laban sa dolyar at bumaba ang singil dahil sa negatibong FCDA, bawing bawi pa rin ang Maynilad at Manila Water dahil sa CERA. Ayon sa mga konsesyonaryo, binabawi ng CERA ang forex losses mula sa mga utang ng MWSS bago pumasok ang mga pribadong kumpanya noong Agosto 1997. Maituturing itong double-charging. Tinatayang aabot sa P7.2 bilyon ang kinamal ng Maynilad (P3.4 bilyon) at Manila Water (P3.8 bilyon) mula sa double-charging ng CERA mula nang ito ay ipatupad.[2]

Dagdag na pasanin din ng mga konsyumer ang iba pang buwanang bayarin sa tubig gaya ng environmental charge (na katumbas ngayon ng 20% ng basic charge) at value-added tax (katumbas ng 12% ng basic charge). Ang environmental charge ay para raw sa paglilinis ng mga septic tank at iba pang gastusin sa paglilinis ng kalikasan. Isa itong kabalintunaan lalo’t mismong Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) na ang nagsabi kamakailan na ang pangunahing lumalabag sa Clean Water Act of 2004 ay ang MWSS, Maynilad at Manila Water. Dahil ito sa kawalan o kakulangan ng mga pasilidad sa wastong koleksyon, treatment at pagtatapon ng maruming tubig na responsibilidad nito. Kumukulekta ang Maynilad ng P6.93 per cu. m. na environmental charge habang P5.64 naman ang Manila Water. Dahil sa rate rebasing, maaaring tumaas pa ang environmental charge sa P6.80 (Manila Water) hanggang P8.97 (Maynilad) per cu. m. (Tinatalakay ang VAT sa susunod na tanong)

Bukod sa implasyon at forex, mayroon ding taunang extraordinary price adjustment (EPA) kunsaan lahat ng maaaring makaapekto sa tubo ng Maynilad at Manila Water ay maaaring ipapasa sa mga konsyumer, kabilang ang pagbabago sa patakaran o batas, kalamidad, at iba pa. Subalit ang pinakamatatarik na pagtaas ng bayarin sa tubig ay nagaganap sa kada limang taon na rate rebasing na siyang isinasagawa ngayon ng MWSS-RO. Mula nang isapribado ang MWSS, lumobo na ang basic charge nang halos 585% sa Maynilad at halos 1,120% sa Manila Water. Nang magsimula ang pribatisasyon noong Agosto 1997, nasa P4.96 per cu. m. ang basic charge ng Maynilad; ngayong taon, sumampa na ito sa P29.01. Ang Manila Water naman ay nag-umpisa sa P2.32 per cu. m. at nasa P25.92 na ngayon. Ibayo pa itong lolobo sa napipintong pagtataas dahil sa rate rebasing.

Sino ang nakikinabang sa pagtataas ng singil?

Mahaba na ang karanasan ng bansa sa pribatisasyon at napakarami nang patunay sa masamang epekto nito sa masang anakpawis at maging sa ekonomya ng bansa. Tanging mga malaking negosyante at mga katambal nilang dayuhan ang nakikinabang sa pribatisasyon sa pamamagitan ng garantisadong tubo at pagtataas ng singil habang buong-buong pinapasan ng mamamayan ang pataas nang pataas na mga bayarin. Sa gitna ng pagtaas ng presyo ng iba pang bilihin at serbisyo, mababang sahod at kawalan ng trabaho, ang walang humpay na pagtaas ng singil sa tubig ay nagpapalala sa kahirapang dinaranas ng milyun-milyong pamilyang Pilipino.

Masahol pa, hindi rin nangahulugan ng mas mahusay na serbisyo ang pribatisasyon. Napakarami pa ring komunidad sa Metro Manila ang walang sariling kuneksyon o kaya naman ay de-oras, sa halip na 24/7, ang suplay ng tubig. Bukod pa diyan kawalan ng malinis at ligtas na suplay ng tubig kunsaan samu’t saring sakit ang dinaranas ng mga mahirap na komunidad.

Tanging ang mga negosyanteng lokal at dayuhan na nagpapatakbo sa serbisyo ng tubig ang nakikinabang sa pagtaas ng singil dahil sa kinakamal nilang tubo. Sa unang tatlong buwan ng 2013, halimbawa, lumaki ang tubo ng Maynilad sa P1.76 bilyon mula sa P1.64 bilyon sa parehong panahon noong 2012. Bukod sa Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC) ni Manny Pangilinan (43%), hawak din ang Maynilad ng DMCI Holdings ng pamilyang Consunji (25%); ng MCNK JV Corp. (16%) na subsidyaryo ng Marubeni Corp., isang higanteng korporasyong Hapon; at ng Lyonnaise Asia Water Limited (16%), na bahagi ng Suez ng France, isa sa mga pinakamalaking kumpanya sa tubig sa buong mundo. Samantala, nagtala naman ng P1.33 bilyong tubo ang Manila Water sa unang tatlong buwan ng taon, halos katulad din ng tinubo nito (P1.34 bilyon) sa parehong panahon noong 2012. Hawak ng Ayala Corporation (43%) ang Manila Water kasama ang Mitsubishi Corp. (8%), dambuhalang korporasyong Hapon; International Finance Corp. (6%), ang investment arm ng World Bank; First State Investments ng UK (10%); at Philwater Holdings Co. Inc. (33%), isang korporasyong pag-aari rin ng Ayala Corp. (60%) at United Utilities (40%) ng UK.

Ano ang pananagutan ng administrasyong Aquino?

Kahit hindi ang administrasyong Aquino ang orihinal na nagpatupad ng pribatisasyon ng MWSS, ipinagpatuloy naman nito ang programang pribatisasyon sa kabila ng masamang epekto nito sa taumbayan. Katunayan, pangunahing programa sa ekonomya ni Aquino ang pribatisasyon o ang tinatawag nitong public-private partnership (PPP). Kabilang ang grupo nina Pangilinan at Ayala sa mga negosyong agresibong pinapasok ang PPP ng gobyerno. Nakuha na ng mga Ayala ang kauna-unahang PPP ng administrasyong Aquino – ang P1.96-bilyong Daang Hari – SLEX Link Road project. Samantala, nagtambal naman ang mga grupong Ayala at Pangilinan para sa P60-bilyong ekstensyon at pribatisasyon ng LRT 1, ang pinakamalaking proyektong PPP ng gobyerno na inaasahang matatapos ang bidding sa mga darating na buwan.

Malapit ang Pangulo sa mga negosyanteng ito. Ang pamilyang Ayala, halimbawa, ay matagal nang masugid na taga-suporta ng mga Aquino mula noon pang panahon ng namayapang dating Pangulong Cory Aquino. Di nakapagtataka na isa sa mga pinakamalapit na opisyal sa Pangulo ay si Cabinet Secretary Rene Jose Almendras (na unang itinalaga ni Aquino bilang Kalihim ng Department of Energy o DOE) na dating Presidente ng Manila Water. Samantala, itinalaga rin ni Aquino si Rogelio Singson, dating CEO ng Maynilad, bilang Kalihim ng Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) na syang nangagnasiwa sa MWSS-RO.

Tiyak na papaboran ni Aquino ang rate hike na hinihingi ng Maynilad at Manila Water para gawing mas kaakit-akit pa ang PPP sa mga negosyante at bigyan ng mas maraming pagkakataong tumubo ang grupo nina Ayala at Pangilinan. Dagdag pa dito, asahang isusulong din ng Malacañang ang mas mataas na singil dahil lalaki rin ang nakukulekta nitong VAT sa tubig. Kung matutuloy ang rate hike na hinihingi ng mga konsesyonaryo, tataas ang VAT ng Maynilad mula P5.00per cu. m. patungo sa P6.21; sa Manila Water naman ay P4.06 paakyat sa P4.90.

Ang malaking koleksyon sa buwis, kabilang ang VAT, ang pangunahing dahilan kung bakit “investment grade” na ang Pilipinas sa pamantayan ng mga credit rating agencies. Ito naman ang ipinagmamalaki ng administrasyong Aquino na indikasyon daw ng masigla at maunlad na ekonomya. Pero habang lalong pinapabigat ng VAT ang bayarin sa tubig ng mamamayan, napupunta naman ang kalakhan ng buwis sa pambayad-utang ng gobyerno at sa sistemikong kurapsyon sa burukrasya.

Paano isasagwa ang rate rebasing? Kalahok ba ang publiko sa proseso?

Ang determinasyon ng bagong singil ay hindi dumadaan sa anumang public hearing katulad nang ginagawa sa singil sa kuryente (ERC) o sa toll fees (TRB). Hindi inilalabas ang mga mahahalagang datos para makilatis natin ang mga batayan ng pagtataas. Walang anumang papel ang taongbayan sa prosesong tio. Ayon sa concession agreement, ang magananap lamang ay negosasyon sa pagitan ng MWSS-RO at mga pribadong kumpanya ng tubig. Pero nakatago ito sa publiko. Ang mga sinasabing “public consultation” ay mga pakitang-tao lamang na aktibidad para kunwari ay may kaunting partisipasyon ang publiko.

Dahil ang MWSS-RO ay tuwirang nasa ilalim ng DPWH, may ultimong pananagutan ang pangulo sa pagpapatupad ng pagtaas ng singil sa tubig. Sa katanuyan, dapat ay nasa kapangyarihan ng pangulo na pigilan ang pagtaas ng singil dahil ito ang hinihiling ng interes ng publiko. Pero dahil nga ang patakaran ng rehimeng Aquino ay tiyakin ang tubo ng mga pribadong korporasyon, at lakihan ang kolkesyon sa buwis, inaasahan nang pagtitibayin ng pangulo ang anumang pagtataas ng singil.

Ano ang ating mga tungkulin?

Kailangang salubungin ng malalakas na protesta at pagtutol ng mamamayan ang patuloy na pagtaas ng singil sa tubig. Kailangang kalampagin di lamang ang mga pribadong kumpanya saa tubig kundi lalo pa ang rehimeng Aquino na syang may hawak sa mga ahensyang nagpapatibay ng pagtaas ng singil.

Susi ang direktang pampulitikang pagkilos ng mamamayan. Ilunsad natin ang masigla’t tuluy-tuloy na pagdokumento’t pagtipon sa karanasan ng ating mga komunidad sa kawalan ng serbisyo sa tubig at ang epekto sa kanila ng mataas na bayarin. Mabisa itong gamitin upang lalo pang ilantad ang mapanlinlang na propaganda ng pribatisasyon at PPP ni Aquino. Isulong natin ang masigla’t tuluy-tuloy na propaganda-edukasyon sa mga komunidad upang maging matibay na tuntungan ito ng ating mga pagkilos laban sa mataas na singil sa tubig at pribatisasyon.

Upang higit na maging mabisa ang kampanya laban sa pagtaas ng singil sa tubig, kailangang epektibo’t mahusay nating maiugnay ito sa mga pakikibaka laban sa pagtaas ng singil at pribatisasyon ng kuryente at mga proyektong PPP ni Aquino gaya ng pribatisasyon ng Philippine Orthopedic Center at iba pang pampublikong ospital, ng LRT 1 at iba pang sistemang mass transportation, ng mga dam sa Mindanao at water districts sa iba’t ibang bahagi ng bansa, at iba pa. Dapat mabisa ring mailantad ang kabulukan at anti-mamamayang katangian ng mapagpanggap na administrasyong Aquino na nakikipagsabwatan sa mga burgesya kumprador, dayuhang negosyo’t bangko sa pagpapahirap sa mamamayan.

Tutulan ang pagtaas ng singil sa tubig!

Ibasura ang patakarang pribatisasyon! Ibasura ang pribatisasyon ng MWSS!

Labanan ang programang PPP ni Aquino! Serbisyo, hindi negosyo!

Huwag ibenta ang patrimonya ng bansa sa mga kumprador at dayuhang negosyo!


[1] Nang isapribado ang MWSS noong 1997, hinati ang service area nito sa East zone at West zone. Hawak ng Manila Water ang East zone kunsaan kabilang ang Quezon City at Makati, timog-silangang bahagi ng Maynila, Taguig, Pateros, Marikina, Pasig, San Juan, Mandaluyong at ang probinsya ng Rizal. Ang West zone naman, na hawak ng Maynilad, ay sumasakop sa ilang bahagi ng Maynila at Quezon City, kanluran ng South Super Highway sa Makati, Caloocan, Pasay, Parañaque, Las Piñas, Muntinlupa, Valenzuela, Navotas  at Malabon gayundin ang mga munisipyo ng Bacoor, Imus, Kawit, Noveleta at Rosario sa probinsya ng Cavite.

[2] Batay ito sa P1 per cu. m. na CERA multiplied by billed volume ng Maynilad at Manila Water mula 2002 (kunsaan nagsimulang maningil ng FCDA ang mga konsesyonaryo) hanggang Setyembre 2012 (na mayroong pinakahuling datos sa billed volume).

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Silverio Compound: A fight for the right to live

Posted on 27 April 2012 by admin

The Silverio Compound demolition in Parañaque City was the most brutal in recent memory, leaving at least one dead and some 36 hurt, mostly by gunshot wounds. Some 33 residents and protesters were also arrested, including seven minors and two women. Twenty-nine of them were eventually charged with resistance and disobedience to a person in authority and disturbance of public order. While some of the wounded were brought to various hospitals, many others refused to seek proper medical attention out of fear of being arrested or simply due to lack of money.

Negotiations

On April 23, residents blocked certain portions of Silverio Compound as early as 5 a.m. The main barricade was set up at Purok 4, which fronts the SM Hypermart. By 7 AM, five 6×6 trucks each carrying 30 to 40 policemen from the Parañaque City Civil Disturbance Management Unit (CDMU) along with two fire trucks began arriving in the area. They were backed by several members of the police’s Special Weapons and Tactics unit (SWAT) who were armed with high-powered assault rifles. By around 7:30 AM, many residents had already occupied Sucat Road, which was meant to cause traffic and delay the demolition. A demolition team of some 50 men arrived at about 8 a.m.

Initial findings of the emergency fact-finding mission (FFM) conducted by the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) several hours after the bloody incident show that members of the CDMU provoked the violent confrontation. Prior to the hostility, leaders of the residents and local politicians Cong. Edwin Olivarez, former Cong. Ed Zialcita, and Councilor Eric Olivarez were negotiating with the police (talks began at around 9 a.m.) to suspend the demolition as the Silverio compound is the subject of a pending court case. The CDMU, on the other hand, was asking the protesters to free up a portion of the road to let vehicles pass.

Gun shots

Despite ongoing negotiations to suspend the demolition and willingness of residents to heed the police’s request to allow traffic flow, the CDMU prepared to turn toward the direction of the protesters at past 10 a.m. Witnesses also said they saw men secure the local politicians, which indicated that the police was getting ready to move. Thinking that the CDMU was about to disperse them, the residents started to hurl stones at the police. Eventually, the police responded by firing teargas toward the direction of the protesters. Accounts claimed that the police fired more than 10 teargas canisters.

The CDMU and SWAT members were forced to backtrack a bit but moments later, gun shots were heard, apparently fired by the police, sporadic at first and then in succession. The string of gun shots forced protesters to back down and run away while the CDMU and SWAT teams advanced and began arresting people. One person – later identified as 21-year old Arnel Leonor, a resident of Silverio Compound – was seen lying on the pavement, with what appeared to be a fatal gunshot wound in the head. He was brought to a hospital by the police many minutes later but was declared dead on arrival.

Violations galore

The atrocities committed by the police did not end in the indiscriminate shooting of the residents that killed Leonor and wounded others. Many of those who were already apprehended or subdued were still assaulted by the angry police. They were truncheoned, punched, kicked and slapped at whim by the arresting officers. These were captured by the media who were covering the incident. Worse, the arrests were arbitrary; the police picked up anyone they wanted. Some of those arrested and assaulted by the police were mere onlookers. They said they did not run away because they did not participate in the protest and thus thought will not be arrested, much less assaulted by members of the CDMU.

Arbitrary house-to-house searches were also carried out by the police to look for more people to pick up. Witnesses claimed that some police officers again fired their guns during these house searches. The demolition team, meanwhile, pushed through with the demolition of several stalls and houses.

Private profits over public housing

This bloody incident could have been prevented had Mayor Florencio Bernabe respected the original agreement between Silverio Compound residents and former Mayor Joey Marquez that the entire 9.7-hectare property will be used for socialized housing. This means that the 28,000 families occupying the property will just amortize the land to the Parañaque City government. It was Marquez who, in 2003, initiated the expropriation proceedings by virtue of an ordinance against Silverio Compound’s private owner Magdiwang Realty Corp. But Bernabe changed the plan, reduced the size for socialized housing to 3 hectares, and pushed for the construction of 32 medium-rise condos that can only accommodate some 1,900 families.

Bernabe is pushing for a public-private partnership (PPP) project for Silverio Compound, eyeing big developers including SM Development Corp. (SMDC) to build the medium-rise buildings and other infrastructures in the area. The remaining 6.7 hectares of the property will also be devoted for commercial development in a bid to entice private investors in the city. Clearly, this is a case of the local government prioritizing private profits over the people’s basic right to shelter.

Impunity

The blatant disregard for human rights displayed by the police involved in the incident speaks volume of how deep the culture of impunity has been ingrained among our law enforcers and security forces. To end this culture of impunity, those who are involved, directly and indirectly, and not only members of the SWAT and CDMU but even police and civilian officials, in the tragic Silverio Compound demolition must be held liable.

What is alarming is that recent developments point to the regrettable possibility of a whitewash. National officials, for instance, are now seemingly conditioning the public mind that Leonor could have died from a bullet fired by one of the protesters. Supposedly, one of those arrested tested positive for gunpowder. Only an independent probe of the incident, including a re-autopsy of Leonor’s body by an independent party, could provide a more credible finding.

There is no doubt that the police used excessive force in enforcing the demolition order. Their abuses have been well-documented by media outfits who covered the incident and their identities could be easily established. Bernabe, on the other hand, clearly abused his power in insisting to implement the demolition. There are more than enough grounds to immediately make these people accountable.

Call for support

While the residents of Silverio Compound remain undaunted by oppression and brutality, they need all the support that they can muster to ensure that justice will be served. At the same time, they also need assistance – medical, legal, etc. – to help them cope with the tragedy inflicted on them by institutions that are supposed to uphold their rights and promote their interests.

The people of Silverio Compound, like those in other urban poor communities who have been dislocated or threatened by PPP projects that only profit the few, are fighting not only for their homes but for their right to live as human beings. All those who value this very fundamental human right could not allow them to fail. (end)

Photo from Tudla Prod

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Pro-admin partylist groups accredited again by Comelec

Posted on 05 May 2011 by admin

Paninindigan January 2010
FEATURES

By Renato Reyes

At least nine partylist groups with linked to the administration have been accredited by the Commission on Elections (Comelec). Bayan has come up with a preliminary listing and said this could be just the tip of the iceberg.

Bayan based its findings on a list drafted by poll watchdog Kontra Daya in 2007 and on a 2006 memorandum from the Office on External Affairs (OEA) in Malacanang which identified administration partylist groups to be supported. In 2007, several pro-admin and pseudo-partylist groups were fielded in the elections with the expressed intent of drawing away votes from legitimate partylist groups that were critical of the administration.

The table below shows the partylist groups previously identified with the Arroyo administration and have been recently accredited by the Comelec).

Initial list of pro-Arroyo administration partylist groups accredited by the Comelec for the May 10, 2010 national elections as monitored by Kontra Daya
Partylist group Details/Remarks
Agbiag Timpuyo Ilokano (AGBIAG) previously cited in OEA memo
Ahon Pinoy (AHON) previous nominee was Dante “Klink” Ang II, son of Dante Ang who chaired the Commission on Filipinos Overseas
Akbay Pinoy OFW-National (APOI) previous nominees included former Arroyo DILG officials
Aangat Ating Kabuhayan Filipinas (ANAK) previous nominee included an official of PNP-NCRPO
Babae para sa Kaunalaran (Babae Ka) previously cited in OEA memo
Bigkis Pinoy Movement (BIGKIS) identified with PAGCOR chair Efraim Genuino
Byaheng Pinoy Labor Association (Byaheng Pinoy) previous nominee was brother of former COMELEC chair Abalos
Kalahi Sectoral Party (KALAHI) previously cited in OEA memo
League of Youth for Peace Advancement (LYPAD) previously cited in OEA memo

Four of the partylist groups – Agbiag, Babae Ka, Kalahi and LYPAD – were previously cited in a memo from the OEA in October 16, 2006. They were then considered the four main partylist groups to be supported by the administration in 2007 and were supposed to receive Palace funding according to the OEA memo. Receiving official funding from the government should already be a basis for disqualification.

For the May elections, these groups have been accredited again despite previous questions on their qualifications as legitimate partylist groups. In contrast, COMELEC has made it difficult for the legitimate partylist groups like Ang Ladlad, Migrante, ACT and Courage to get immediate accreditation.

Ang Ladlad has been included in the list of partylist groups only after a Supreme Court restraining order on the Comelec. Meanwhile, ACT was only recently accredited after it was initially disqualified.

Bigkis Pinoy Movement (BIGKIS), identified with PAGCOR chair Efraim Genuino, is another questionable partylist group accredited by the Comelec. The group’s previous nominees include PAGCOR officials Edward King and Ramon Agoncillo, consultants Mario Cornista (2001), Ismael Tabo (2004), and Tomas Toledo (2007) and Sheryl Genuino-See, the daughter of PAGCOR chairman Genuino. The group has failed to get elected to Congress the past three elections.

It is thus anomalous that this partylist group that has failed to get elected the last three polls is allowed to run again. Election rules state that if a partylist group fails to participate or obtain at least 2% of the votes cast under the party-list system in the 2 preceding elections, they should be delisted. But it appears that the rule does not apply to a partylist group that is identified with PAGCOR and Genuino and the Comelec is apparently giving special treatment to favored groups.

Kontra-Daya in its 2007 list also cited groups Aangat Tayo (AT), BANAT, Alliance for Nationalism and Democracy (ANAD) and Kasangga sa Kaunlaran (Ang Kasangga) as partylist groups identified with the adminstration. These groups have since been given seats in Congress after a Supreme Court ruling on the appropriation of seats under the partylist system.

Ang Kasangga’s congressional representative is a sister of First Gentleman Mike Arroyo. BANTAY’s representative is notorious human rights violator Gen. Jovito Palparan who claims to represent security guards and baranggay tanods. ANAD meanwhile is a group dedicated to fighting communism. Both ANAD and BANTAY are believed to be supported by the military. BANAT meanwhile has recently endorsed administration presidential bet Gilbert Teodoro.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer also reported another partylist group, ARARO or Alliance for Rural Agrarian Reconstruction, has among its founders former police general Quirino dela Torre who was implicated in the ZTE-NBN deal and who was the Central Luzon police chief during the Hacienda Luisita Massacre in 2004.

The partylist system is supposed to be for the marginalized or underrepresented. However, over the past years, through the efforts of Arroyo and the Comelec, the partylist system has been undermined and corrupted to favor the incumbent in Malacanang.

Bayan and various poll watchdogs will closely monitor the partylist groups and will seek the disclosure of nominees by the Comelec. The disclosure of partylist nominees is a crucial aspect of transparency in the elections so that the electorate can better analyze and pinpoint the pseudo –partylist groups. ###

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“Morong 43” detainee, beaten into admitting he’s with NPA

Posted on 05 May 2011 by admin

Paninindigan January 2010
FEATURES

“They are torturing me. They are torturing even my mind.”

This was what Adoracion Paulino recalled her son Valentin Paulino as saying to her during one of her visits to Camp Capinpin. The revelation came during a dialogue with Commission on Human Rights (CHR) chairperson Leila de Lima on Feb. 25.

Lawyers led by Atty. Romeo Capulong of the Public Interest Law Center and the National Union of Peoples Lawyers today filed a complaint before the CHR, seeking the commission’s help in probing the gross human rights abuses committed against Paulino and 42 others.

The younger Paulino is one of the 43 health workers who were illegally arrested and detained in Rizal and who are now collectively known as the “Morong 43”. On Feb. 11, military and police officials presented him to the media as a “communist rebel”. In the Feb. 11 press conference, he said he and his companions are members of the communist-led New People’s Army (NPA).

The military and the police have claimed that the “Morong 43” are NPA guerrillas who were in the thick of a “bomb-making seminar” when arrested. According to Paulino’s mother Adocracion, he had been browbeaten and even physically tortured to say what he said at the Feb. 11 AFP press conference.

De Lima said that that Commission was preparing an order for the AFP to formally respond to the allegations of torture and human rights abuses committed against the 43. The Department of Justice prosecutor Romeo Senson will also be asked to explain why the 43 were denied counsel during the inquest proceedings.

The “gross violations of constitutional rights” cited in the complaint include unlawful search, illegal arrest and detention, and physical and mental torture.

When they were arrested last Feb. 6 in Morong, Rizal, the 43 health workers were conducting a Community First Responders’ Health Skills Training sponsored by the Council for Health and development (CHD) and the community Medicine Development Foundation (Commed). The training was being held at a farmhouse at 266 Dela Paz St., Brgy. Maybangcal, Morong. The farmhouse is owned by Dr. Melecia Velmonte, an infectious disease specialist at the Philippine General Hospital, and had been used several times before for similar activities.

The officers in Camp Capinpin have made it difficult for the detainees’ families, colleagues, friends, doctors, and even their lawyers to visit them.

The 43 health workers have all told of undergoing mental and psychological torture in the hands of their custodians. Aside from the younger Paulino, three others have told of being physically tortured – including 62-year-old Dr. Alex Montes, an officer of the health program at the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) and an elder of its local congregation in Sampaloc, Manila – who was accused of being an NPA hitman out on a mission to kill former Army general and now Bantay Partylist Rep. Jovito Palparan Jr.

Several female detainees said they were subjected to sexual harassment while undergoing interrogation.

Baladad and Balonglong were named respondents in the complaint, together with Gen. Victor Ibrado, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff; Lt. Gen. Delfin Banngt, commanding general of the Philippine Army; Lt. Gen. Roland Detabali, commanding general of the Army’s Southern Luzon Command (Solcom); Brig. Gen. Jorge segovia, chief of the Army’s 2nd Infantry Division; Lt. Col. Jaime Abawag, commander of the Army’s 16th Infantry Battalion; and Philippine National Police (PNP) Director-General Jesus Verzosa.

Also cited under the principle of command responsibility are President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales, and Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno.

Mangrobang was cited for issuing the warrant used to justify the unlawful search of Velmonte’s house and the illegal arrest of the 43. State Prosecutor II Romeo Senson was cited for conducting the defective inquest proceedings, while Assistant Chief State Prosecutor Severino Gana was cited for signing Senson’s “findings”. Justice Secretary Agnes Devenadera among those cited in the complaint.###

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Continue the struggle for the rights, residence and benefits of Prof. Sison

Posted on 05 May 2011 by admin

Paninindigan January 2010
FEATURES

(Condensed version of the statement prepared by the International DEFEND Committee)

By virtue of its 30 September 2009 judgment, the European Court has removed the name of Prof. Jose Maria Sison from the terrorist blacklist and has unfrozen his small bank account. The judgment has become final and executory since 10 December 2009.

It is a brilliant landmark decision which upholds fundamental human and democratic rights and protects everyone in Europe from being arbitrarily blacklisted as a terrorist and made to suffer stigmatization and severe sanctions like Prof. Sison, without being properly investigated, prosecuted or convicted for any specific act of terrorism.

But the legal and political struggle for the fundamental rights, normalized residence and social benefits of Prof. Sison continues. It remains to be seen how the European Court will decide his moral and material compensation claims against the Council of the European Union. It also remains to be seen how the Dutch government will rectify and make amends for the wrongs and injustice that it has done to Prof. Sison.

From 22 October 2002 onwards, the Dutch government used the EU terrorist blacklist against Prof. Sison in order to terminate his social benefits, deny his application for residence permit and work permit and violate his fundamental rights under the pretext of temporarily restricting them.

But by current indications, based on the answers of Dutch ministers last 10 December 2009 to parliamentary questions, the Dutch government intends to continue the unjust and severe sanctions against Prof. Sison and make empty and useless the 30 September judgment of the European Court.

At this point, it is necessary and appropriate to expose the fact that based on official pronouncements and publications, the Dutch government has openly collaborated with  the US and Philippine governments in using lies and false charges for a long period of time  in order to oppress Prof. Sison.

The Dutch government has used the lies and false charges, supplied mainly by the Philippine government, to deny him legal admission as refugee (1988 to 2007)  and his application for work permit  (1998) and residence (1998, 2003 and 2008), to terminate his social benefits (2002 onwards)  and to arrest and detain him (2007).

All the lies and false charges used to oppose Prof. Sison’s application for asylum were carried in intelligence dossiers but publicized in the mass media.  They were used by the Dutch government to counter the clear merits of Prof. Sison’s application, the endorsements of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and Amnesty International and the 1992 and 1995 judgments of the Raad van State recognizing Prof. Sison as a political refugee under Article 1 A of the Refugee Convention and as one protected by Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Dutch government made him liable even for incidents while he was in solitary confinement and under torture by the Marcos fascist dictatorship (1977 to 1986) or while he was preoccupied with his lectures abroad (1986 onwards). The subversion charge filed in 1988 was the only charge that reached a Philippine court and was dismissed by the court upon the repeal of the Anti-Subversion Law in 1992.  The charge of multiple murder arising from the 1971 Plaza Miranda bombing was filed in 1991 and was dismissed by the Manila prosecutors in 1994.  Ultimately, the Philippine secretary of justice issued in 1998 a certification that there was no pending criminal charge against Prof. Sison.

But the Dutch government stubbornly used the Dutch intelligence dossiers to make the false claim that Prof. Sison had criminal contacts with terrorist organizations and was a liability to the integrity and credibility of the Dutch state to its allies, especially the U.S. To this day, the Dutch government adheres to such unproven claims of the Dutch intelligence and yet admits that Prof. Sison has never been investigated for any specific act of terrorism.

Prof. Sison applied for residence and work permit as consultant of the Stichting NDF International Office in 1998.  But the Immigration and Naturalization Service (IND) refused to grant the permit and went so far as to argue before the Rotterdam district court in November 2002 that Prof. Sison was a terrorist in addition to not having priorly gotten a residence permit.

Prof. Sison applied for residence (regulier) in The Netherlands in early 2003 on the ground that he is a recognized political refugee under Article 1 A of the Refugee Convention and has actually lived in The Netherlands for sixteen (16) years since 1987. The IND refused to give any explanation for refusing to grant the residence permit until early 2009 when it declared that Prof. Sison, despite threats to his life and travel restrictions on him, should have applied first for a temporary residence permit from a Dutch consular office near the Philippines.

Prof. Sison availed of the pardonregeling (amnesty regulation) by applying for amnesty and for the grant of residence permit. The IND made a negative decision by claiming that he is excluded by the national security provision of the pardonregeling. Legal experts point out that said provision excludes only those who have committed a specific act of terrorism against the Dutch state and that Prof. Sison has never been investigated, prosecuted nor convicted for such. The two residence cases (regulier and pardonregeling) are now pending before the district court of Zutphen.

It is of recent public knowledge how lies and false charges of murder (despite earlier dismissal of these by the Philippine Supreme Court)  have been used by the Dutch government to arrest and detain Prof. Sison in 2007 and have been dismissed by the Dutch courts and the examining judge for lack of evidence to try and detain him further.

Most emphatically, the European Court has in effect exposed the lies and false tag of terrorism on Prof. Sison and the brazen injustice of such labeling, the sanctions and violations of rights at the expense of Prof. Sison and the entire cause of human rights and rule of law.

The International DEFEND Committee appeals to all people, organizations and institutions interested in upholding justice, human rights and rule of law:

1.    To demand that the Dutch government  end its policy of oppressing Prof. Jose Maria Sison, respect his rights and start rectifying the wrongs done to him by expediting the grant of residence permit to him;

2.    To encourage a broad coalition of parliamentarians and respected institutions, organizations and personages to press for the foregoing demand;

3.    To engage in a campaign of information, education and other activities for upholding justice, human rights and the rule of law by using the case of Prof. Sison as an example; and

4.    To hold forums and mass meetings and issue publications for the foregoing purposes.

International DEFEND Committee

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Consumers face new wave of power rate hikes

Posted on 05 May 2011 by admin

Paninindigan January 2010
FEATURES

By Arnold Padilla

Utility giant Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) recently announced that its February billing will go up by 56 centavos per kilowatt hour (kWh). The rate hike should have been P1 per kWh, but the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) temporarily suspended the 26.9 centavos per kWh hike earlier granted by the agency to Meralco.

Unfortunately for consumers, this increase is only the start of what looms as successive months of increasing electricity bill. On top of Meralco’s rate hike, power users in Luzon and Visayas should also anticipate an increase of P3.38 and P4.71 per kWh, respectively in generation and transmission charges from the National Power Corp. (Napocor).

These increases continue the trend in soaring electricity rates in the country. Government says it is because of El Niño (i.e. higher demand for power amid lower supply). Some blame it on regulation failure or even regulatory capture. But the deeper issue is the neoliberal restructuring of the power sector that has legitimized these onerous power rate hikes.

Rate hikes

Last December 14, the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) allowed Meralco to jack up its distribution charge from P1.2227 to P1.4917 per kWh. The rate hike was based on a formula under the commission’s so-called Performance-Based Regulation (PBR).

It was in fact the second round of increase in Meralco’s distribution charge through the PBR. In April last year, the ERC also let the company hike its rate from P1.0831 to P1.2227 per kWh. Thus, Meralco has raised its distribution charge by 40.86 centavos per kWh or by 37.7 percent in the last eight months.

Prior to the latest increase in its distribution charge, Meralco has also raised its metering charge by 9.45 centavos per kWh between December 2008 and December 2009. And there seems no end in sight for the woes of hapless power consumers.

Remember that Napocor too has pending applications before the ERC for rate increases. The most recent, filed last December 28, seeks to hike generation and transmission charges by P1.7033 per kWh in Luzon; P1.3545 in the Visayas; and 22.54 centavos in Mindanao. These applications fall under the so-called 14th Incremental Currency Exchange Rate Adjustment (ICERA) and 15th Generation Rate Adjustment Mechanism (GRAM).

The ERC has yet to decide on two previous ICERA (12th and 13th) and GRAM (13th and 14th) applications by Napocor. If approved, customers in Luzon will bear a total increase of P3.3811 while those in the Visayas, P4.7134 per kWh. Mindanao consumers, on the other hand, will see a reduction of P1.0977 per kWh. Napocor explained that 90 percent of Mindanao’s power supply is generated by cheaper hydro-power, thus the rate reduction.

But the situation of power supply in Mindanao is about to change due to the El Niño as hydropower plants now operate at lower capacity due to limited water supply. The region may be forced to shift to more expensive oil-powered generation plants. In the Visayas, consumers are not only burdened with high power rates but also with rotating brownouts since last year due to supposedly limited supply.

GRAM and ICERA are cost recovery mechanisms to make the power sector attractive to private investors. GRAM replaced the notorious purchased power adjustment (PPA). But the principle remains the same. Consumers bear all the risks associated with the operation of power plants including fuel costs and foreign exchange fluctuations.

“Good utility performance”

Some critics argue that unreasonable power rates are due to regulators’ failure to implement the law. They say that the ERC does not follow the intent of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (Epira) of 2001. There is a need to clarify this.

The problem is Epira itself. While couched with pro-consumer intensions, the law in reality aims to create the most conducive environment for private capital.

Epira created the ERC as an independent, quasi-judicial body. Among its key functions is to determine the distribution rates of utilities like Meralco. As to the methodology, Epira lets ERC to use any form as long as it is internationally accepted. As to the rates, the law said it must allow Meralco and others to “operate viably”. (Epira, Chapter IV Section 43 – f)

Based on this provision, the ERC is using the PBR to determine the rates that Meralco and others can charge. The PBR was chosen by design. Consistent with the neoliberal agenda of Epira, it makes rates setting more market-based and reduces regulatory oversight. It adheres to the principle that “good utility performance should lead to higher profits”. (Biewald et al: 1997)

But this raises a fundamental question. What exactly is good utility performance? For a private company, good performance means high profits. For consumers, it means reliable service at the most reasonable rates. The law, however, is clear. The bottom line is the commercial viability of private utilities.

Thus, despite unresolved consumer concerns on the reasonable-ness of power rates, Meralco still got away with another rate hike. Onerous charges and taxes like the value added tax (VAT) including on unused electricity remain. Consumers continue to shoulder the costs of Napocor’s onerous contracts with independent power producers (IPPs).

Milking customers dry

Worse, Meralco does not even need a rate hike to remain viable or profitable. It has been earning way beyond what it should at the expense of consumers. From 1987 to 2007, for instance, Meralco earned a total return of P39.28 billion. Its total paid-up capital during the period meanwhile was only P441.6 million. (Nasecore: 2009)

What do these figures mean? They show that from 1987 to 2007, Meralco’s annual rate of return was a whopping 423 percent. It is scandalous to say the least. The acceptable level of rate of return is only 12 percent for public utilities. (Supreme Court: 2002)

Meralco owners have been milking customers dry throughout the years. Yet customers are today forced to shell out more money not only to finance Meralco’s operations. They are also asked to pay more so Meralco owners can increase their already outrageous profits.

Further, Epira institutionalized private monopoly control over the power sector. Meralco, aside from its captured market in distribution, also has its own IPPs. This allowed the firm to overcharge as much as P49.56 billion from June 2003 to June 2006. The amount represents the difference between the generation rates of Napocor IPPs and Meralco IPPs. (Nasecore: 2009)

Indeed, its customers have not only long paid whatever increases in rates that Meralco is asking for. It is Meralco that owes consumers. Until today, it has not even completed the past refunds ordered by the Supreme Court and ERC worth more than P34.12 billion.

Towards lower power cost

The power sector certainly needs restructuring. But such reforms must be within the framework of nationalization and effective people’s control. To pave the way for these reforms, Epira must be repealed.

In the immediate, the courts and ERC must be pressured to issue a restraining order on approved rate hikes. Pending petitions should also be strongly opposed. Current rate setting methodology must be reviewed to capture the more important public interest. To do this, the review process must be democratic and participatory.

At the same time, concrete measures to bring down the cost of electricity must be implemented now. These include some policy proposals long pushed by consumers and advocacy groups, to wit:

(1)    Scrap the VAT on power and oil;
(2)    Refund to customers all illegal collections by Meralco, other distribution utilities, and Napocor;
(3)    Stop the imposition of questionable charges like system loss, which is partly associated with a firm’s inefficiency;
(4)    Cancel onerous IPP contracts to liberate consumers from paying unused electricity;
(5)    Credible and thorough audit of financial records of Napocor, Meralco, and other players in the power sector (i.e. COA plus a parallel audit by consumer groups, independent experts, etc)

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Strong consumer lobby vs. deregulation

Posted on 05 May 2011 by admin

Paninindigan September 2009
FEATURES

By Arnold Padilla

After steeply declining in the second half of 2008, global oil prices have again started to increase this year. Dubai crude prices, for instance, jumped from about $41 a barrel in December 2008 to almost $72 in August this year. Consequently, local pump prices have increased by an average of almost P4 per liter, or around 10% during the same period.

Amid all these, persistent allegations of overpricing continue to hound the oil firms and public pressure on the Department of Energy (DOE) to address such abuses intensifies. In fact, the issue has become so intense that it caused a rift between Secretary Angelo Reyes of the DOE and Sec. Ralph Recto of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA). The latter, who eventually resigned, accused the oil companies of overpricing their gasoline products by P8 a liter.

Anti-ODL sentiment

But more importantly, the unabated oil price hikes and unresolved allegations of overpricing have contributed to an anti-Oil Deregulation Law (ODL) public sentiment. Even the conservative Consumer and Oil Price Watch (COPW) has somewhat backtracked from its strong pro-deregulation stance. Meanwhile, the House’s energy committee under Rep. Mikey Arroyo has been forced to concede to public opinion and demanded an audit of the oil firms.

Despite these favorable developments, consumers and advocates of regulating the oil industry must not hold back in the campaign to repeal RA 8479 or the ODL. At present, the prevailing view among policy makers and the mainstream media is either the ODL just needs fine-tuning or that it is not properly implemented.

In a sense, Reyes is correct in his counter to critics that he could not curb overpricing because of deregulation. But it does not mean he must not be held accountable for conspiring with and defending the Big Three and for this, he should resign.

Curbing overpricing

At the same time, it is wrong to assume that replacing Reyes and/or amending the ODL would ensure reasonable oil prices. This is because allowing the DOE to determine and impose fair oil prices directly hits the very heart of deregulation – which is non-state intrusion in supposedly market-dictated prices. Thus, the only way overpricing can be averted or at least lessened is by repealing RA 8479 and instituting a new law to regulate the oil industry.

There are pending bills at the House to make this possible. House Bills filed by the progressive bloc of party-list groups, for instance, call for the repeal of the ODL (HB 3029), centralized importation of oil (HB 3030), and re-nationalization of Petron (HB 3031). These proposals have been pending deliberation since November 2008 and have been merged, according to House insiders, with other bills on ODL amendments.

To be sure, the legislative wheels will not roll unless consumers keenly press lawmakers to act on these bills. The expected continuing uptrend in global oil prices in the months ahead amid strong public opinion versus overpricing give favorable conditions for a compelling consumer lobby against the ODL.

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Solidarity mission boosts anti-large scale mining campaign in N. Vizcaya

Posted on 05 May 2011 by admin

Paninindigan January 2009
FEATURES

Contributed by the Kalikasan People’s Movement for the Environment

International and national groups under the Defend Patrimony! alliance gave support to the anti-large-scale mining campaign by communities in Nueva Vizcaya through an International Solidarity Mission (ISM) last December 7-8.

The ISM team visited the targeted expansion areas of the Didipio gold-copper mining project of Australia-based OceanaGold Corporation (OGC) in Barangays Alimit and Malabing in Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya to document human rights violations, environmental, and other mining-related issues. They also held discussions with the affected communities on the negative effects of mining.

The 19,363-hectare Didipio gold-copper project is among the priority mining projects identified by the Arroyo administration and the first of the two Financial or Technical Assistance Agreements (FTAAs) approved in the country since the Mining Act of 1995 was passed. The project also covers the municipality of Cabarroguis in Quirino province.

“We were surprised at the solid campaign of the people to defend their lands and rights by opposing large-scale mining in their communities. The people of Nueva Vizcaya have much to lose, given their rich natural resources and long-established cultural community, if large-scale mining operations continue in their area,” said one of the international delegates, Edith Raseil of United Church of Christ, USA.

The ISM team witnessed the state of environmental destruction that affected areas are facing. Located within a watershed, the mining operations have resulted to deforestation, biodiversity loss, and watershed degradation. Hundreds of hectares of forestlands have been cleared and denuded and fertile agricultural lands have been converted into mining areas, causing massive environmental damage in nearby communities. Water bodies particularly the Cagayan River, the longest river in the Philippines, will be more contaminated with heavy metals once the commercial mining operations start and reach their full capacity.

The ISM team verified that Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) from the indigenous peoples in the directly impacted communities was not obtained. OGC asserts that it has no responsibility to get FPIC from the IP communities affected. The company claims that Philippine law does not require them get FPIC for the Didipio mining project because it was approved prior to the passage of the Indigenous People’s Rights Act (Republic Act 8371).
IP leaders from the ISM team expressed concern over the displacement caused by the Didipio project.

“The IP communities in Brgy. Alimit and Malabing are at risk of experiencing the same fate as those communities where multinational mining corporations are allowed to enter. They are in danger of losing the resources most precious to us IPs, which is our land and right to self- determination,” said Himpad Mangumalas, leader of Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamayan sa Pilipinas (KAMP), a national IP organization.

Local participants who shared their struggle in their own communities, particularly those who have directly experienced the effects of mining in the neighboring towns of Didipio and Runruno and the adjacent province of Apayao, also joined the ISM. The ISM delegates also appealed to church, local and national government support the people’s campaign against OGC.

“Even though the local communities are opposed to mining and have exhausted means to stop mining in the area, Arroyo with her agencies still push for the liberalization of mining in the country,” said Clemente Bautista Jr., national coordinator of progressive environmental group Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment.

The ISM team also made recommendations on how to step up the campaign against large-scale mining in the Kasibu based on the data they have collated and the local situation presented by the mining-affected communities.

First, with the recent declaration of OGC of its care and maintenance stage, there is a need to systematically assess the damage the mining activities have incurred on the communities and to the local environment. This would serve as the basis for the eventual rehabilitation of the affected area and compensation for the affected communities where OGC is accountable.

Second, the provincial government is urged to take a stronger stance and pass a resolution declaring a moratorium on large-scale mining, as it was already proven that this does not bring economic benefits to the community and instead brings hardships and disunity among the tribes.

Third, the communities should develop a more concrete plan to adopt a policy geared towards genuine development through a strong sustainable agricultural base.

Ultimately, there should be a change in policy of the national government with the scrapping of Mining Act of 1995 and its mining revitalization program that would include complete cancellation of Didipio Gold-copper mining project of OGC in Nueva Vizcaya. (END)

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