#HindiManhid: Bring Them Home mission for stranded OFWs in Saudi


“Our kababayans are in serious crisis because their employers did not pay their salaries. They are also confronted by many difficulties caused by the expiry of their end-of-services benefits. Many were not given exit visas after they completed their contracts, and are being delayed for repatriation.”
jan28_ofw
Photo from abs-cbnnews.com
More than 11,000 stranded overseas Filipino workers (OFWS) in Saudi Arabia are the subjects of an urgent government mission to bring them home by September 10, according to Department of Social Welfare and Development Secretary Judy Taguiwalo.
Taguiwalo detailed her department’s participation in the multi-agency mission headed by Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III as the latter announced a giant step in efforts to ease the crisis of 11,000 workers affected by setbacks in the Middle East country’s oil industry, the backbone of its economy.
Bello said the Saudi monarch has instructed the Ministry of Labor to waive immigration penalties for workers with expired working visas. The King has also directed Kingdom officials to provide food aid and start processing the money claims of the workers.
Taguiwalo said “Operation Bring Them Home” also aims to document situations of undocumented OFWs in crisis like women and children,  facilitate provision of appropriate services and referral to their respective regions for the needed services. The DSWD is earmarking P50 million to help the OFWs in crisis.
OPTIONS
The labor secretary said the King has offered workers options: plane fare for those who want to return to the Philippines and re-employment aid for those willing to transfer to other firms.
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Labor Secretary Silvestro III and Social Welfare and Development Secretary Judy Taguiwalo
Taguiwalo said the DSWD would provide psychosocial interventions like counseling and debriefing, help distressed OFWs in reintegration with families and communities and provide after-care and other material services.
The Foreign Affairs and Health departments are also part of the mission ordered by President Rodrigo Duterte.
Many Filipino workers have said they are willing to stay on and be absorbed in other industries to going home and facing unemployment. But complex legal requirements and unhelpful employers have made for a difficult process.
While Saudi Arabia has some of the most onerous labor policies in the Middle East, the government of President Duterte has managed to wrest concessions from the Kindgom, in contrast to the performance of former president Benigno Aquino III’s administration.
The Saudi labor ministry has confirmed the King’s instructions “to guarantee and protect the rights of foreign workers,” according to Bello.
Taguiwalo appointed DSWD Undersecretary Vilma B. Cabrera, Assistant Secretary Hope V. Hervilla, Social Welfare officers Perlita V. Panganiban, Mely S. Pangilinan, Teresita L. Valentino, Victoria N. NAvida, Marygrail B. Dong-as, Franco V. Lopez, Bienvenido V. Barbosa and Ali B. Namia to the mission
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Urgent queries from OFWS in crisis. Photo by abs-cbnnews
The affected OFWs were  previously employed by three multinational companies: Bin Laden, Saudi Oger, and Mohammad  Al Mojil, as well as by six (6) sub-contracting companies.
“Our kababayans are in serious crisis because their employers did not pay their salaries. They are also confronted by many difficulties caused by the expiry of their end-of-services benefits. Many were not given exit visas after they completed their contracts, and are being delayed for repatriation,” she explained.
The focus of the mission is the stranded OFWs in three major KSA cities, namely Riyadh, Jeddah, and Dammam/Al-Khobar.
“This is not the first time that Filipinos working overseas such as in the KSA have experienced severe crisis because of questionable labor policies imposed by their employers and because of the neglect of their contracting agencies,” Taguiwalo said.
“The DSWD sees it important to take part in this humanitarian mission so we can gauge the impact of such policies on the lives and welfare of our OFWs. We hope to come up with findings that can help guide us in the future when it comes to the implementation of the country’s export labor policy,” she stressed.
“As the government agency that’s primarily tasked to look after the welfare of Filipinos, the DSWD wants to also provide assistance to our OFWs the same way we also aim to help their families here at home when it comes to their emergency  needs,” Taguiwalo said.

RSF wrong to call for media boycott


Reporters without Borders (RSF) is right to express outrage over President-elect Rodrigo Duterte’s remarks on the murders of Filipino journalists. Its call for Philippine media to boycott his press conferences is dead wrong. So is the suggestion to use the law on defamation (libel or slander in this country) against Mr. Duterte.

The international organization was reacting to this particular line of Mr. Duterte: If you’re not a bad journalist, you won’t get killed. That was a line repeated thrice in his rambling harangue, each time said with greater intensity.

Media did not misinterpret, Mr. Duterte, nor take him out of context.

Read: Lawyering for the killers of journalists

killings

Media groups, in their investigations into the 174 murders of journalists, have pointed out allegations of corruption against some of the victims and the unjust economic systems in media that make colleagues vulnerable to corruption.

There are laws that cover erring media practitioners. Murder is a crime; there is no excuse for it.

Most journalist victims died in the line of duty. It is not true that only the bad eggs are hunted.

Most victims were murdered for exposing corruption and actions threatening local communities, including human rights violations, the sale of narcotics, the proliferation of illegal gambling, illegal logging and abusive mining practices.

When state agents commit the crime – and majority of suspects in the killings of journalists are active or retired law enforces, and local officials and/or their henchmen – the situation grows worse.

Hundreds of human rights workers, judges, political activists and environmentalists have been slain for many of the same issues that journalists die for.

Defamation

There is no downplaying the gravity of Mr. Duterte’s statements.

But for RSF to suggest that Philippine media organizations bring defamation lawsuits against Mr. Duterte is mind-boggling.

“Duterte should nonetheless be pleased by the existence of these laws because without them he would also be exposed to violent repercussions, according to his own words. We urge organizations that represent the media to not overlook comments of this kind and to bring lawsuits. We also urge the media to boycott the Duterte administration’s news conferences until the media community gets a public apology.” — RSF

Hasn’t RSF kept track of our long campaign to decriminalize libel? Did it not monitor the threat represented by the Anti-Cybercrime Law, which increases the penalty for the crime?

I do not want this used on me, on citizen journalists, or the 40 million Filipinos on social media.Why would I use it against a critic, even if he happens to be the President-elect?

I am a member, formerly chairperson, of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), which campaigns to drop libel as a crime. Around the world, media groups are battling to decriminalize defamation. RSF should know that.

The late Jun Pala’s family, on the other hand, or other heirs of slain journalists, can choose this course.

Grounds for boycott?

A boycott by journalists is tantamount to a strike against both news sources and the people we serve.

A media boycott should be used only when our physical safety or ability to gather, process and disseminate the news, are in direct danger due to the actions of news sources.

The President-elect’s remarks present a general danger — especially if people with axes to grind see his views as a green light to go after journalists perceived as erring. These remarks do not yet represent a direct threat as, say, censorship does.

His catcalling and leering, however, are direct threats to well-being of women reporters — that is why there are laws on sexual harassment in the workplace.

Mr Duterte MUST apologize with no excuses for that, and pledge not to display such behavior. GMA7 reporter Mariz Umali has enough grounds to file a legal complaint. RSF did not mention her case.

Mr. Duterte uses extremely colorful language. But other chiefs of state, including outgoing President Benigno Aquino III have used similar lines. That does not excuse the President-elect. And media groups have spoken up as they always have.

The Philippine media did not boycott former Presidents Joseph Estrada and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo when they directly attacked us.

The first pressured owners of one national daily into selling it to his political allies. Mr. Estrada also prodded business cronies to boycott a hard-hitting newspaper.

Mrs. Arroyo took on emergency powers, padlocking a newspaper and arresting outspoken critics. The Armed Forces and the police went around the country, providing schools and communities with a list of “enemies of the state” – which included the name media organizations, including the NUJP.

The late dictator Ferdinand Marcos closed down media, except for a few outfits owned by cronies.

Impunity’s throwback loop

Through all these years, Filipino journalists slugged it out with the powers-that-be. Even under the dictatorship, we put up underground press units and alternative media outfits.

We continued to cover Mr. Estrada and Mrs. Arroyo, not allowing their actions to cow us.

aquino

In 2014, on the fifth anniversary of the Ampatuan massacre, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) came out with a report. I wrote a piece what perpetrates impunity in this country. I scoured files going back to the early 2000s. Here are excerpts from that article:

“It is 2014 and I’m looking at reports, articles, talks and papers from 2004. Few things have changed. Indeed, every incident of violence perpetrated against journalists and almost every official statement on the issue by the incumbent President hurl those working for press freedom into a never-ending #throwback loop….

Mr. Aquino has tried to downplay the 33 murders of journalists under his watch, insulting the victims while at it.

‘When we say ‘media killing,’ usually (we refer to) agents of the state suppressing the search for the truth . . . but many of them, we can say, were not in pursuit of the profession,’ said the President, citing love triangles and extortion as possible motives.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) notes the poor solution rate for the 33 murders under Aquino’s term, with arrests only for six of these cases. Yet here was the land’s highest official, who often presents his administration as righteous, providing an old, discredited spin to a long-festering problem.

Mrs. Arroyo and leaders of the Philippine National Police (PNP) then also repeatedly blamed media victims for the killings, hinting at “shady backgrounds,” corruption and messy personal lives.

Then and now: Top government officials refusing to acknowledge that murder has become a routine response by powerful individuals and groups who come under a harsh media spotlight.

Then and now: Top government officials ignoring the roots of the problem, instead, hinting that murders could decrease if journalists eased up on their duties as watchdogs of society.”

 

We owe the people

And now we face Mr. Duterte.

A boycott is not just between media and Mr Duterte. A boycott does not just affect the incomes of media workers or the profits of our employers.

A boycott would hurt most the people we serve. Our people, RSF.

digong alabangIn this day and age, Mr Duterte can take to the Internet and record daily ramblings for the people to watch. He could very well bypass media.

But that would not be real communication. It could become a one-way monologue or he could impose a controlled platform, where only supporters get to ask sacharine questions. Filipinos know about that; we saw that during the dictatoship.

RSF is wrong. Filipino journalists owe the people our coverage of Mr. Duterte. We owe them, his fans and critics, the duty of asking the tough questions.

We cannot criticize if we abandon the task of asking those hard questions. We cannot educate, nor explain, if we stop prodding and investigating contradictions between words and actions. And we won’t be able to give Filipinos the good news – and there are many positive pronouncements and actions from Mr. Duterte – if we ignore his existence.

This is not a playground brawl. This is a fight for press freedom and free expression; a fight against impunity. This is not just about journalists, because those two rights are intertwined with other basic rights due to all citizens of this republic.

Media is a reflection of the society it serves. Where we get killed, others, too, face the guns. And they struggle on, as we in media should.

Impunity rides high when society confers too much power on select individuals and groups and imposes too little accountability on them. The murders of journalists in the Philippines will go on so long as governments continue to confound calls for transparency, so long as the corrupt and abusive wield the silence of the graveyard in response to expressions of the people’s democratic aspirations.

Opaque systems and selective imposition of justice, not to mention a weak justice system that makes sitting ducks of whistleblowers and witnesses, fueled and continue to fuel conditions that constrict press freedom – and all other freedoms — in the Philippines.

We will slug it out. We will soldier on. And while at it, we will give credit to Mr. Duterte when he gets it right even as we stand our ground when he is wrong.

Panelo as spokesman: Bad signal for seekers of truth, justice


Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, the country’s next President, has appointed defense lawyer Salvador Panelo as his spokesman.

Presidential transition teams usually vet nominees. Maybe, Duterte, who got Panelo to represent him during the public lynching stage-managed by Sen. Antonio Trillanes, feels he knows the lawyer well enough to forego of the vetting process.

Mr. Duterte chose wrong. Journalists and media groups are telling him so. As have the families of the media victims in the Nov. 23, 2009 Ampatuan Massacre.

maguindanao-massacre

“Hindi ako komportable. Hindi tama (I am not comfortable. This is not right),” said Mary Grace Morales on behalf of other families of our fallen colleagues.

“Parang alam na namin saan patungo ang kaso (We know where the case is headed),” Morales, whose husband Rosell, circulation manager of the community paper, News Focus, died in the massacre, said.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) quoted Morales as saying, “Kung sya (Panelo) na talaga, hindi na ako aasa na may mangyayari pa sa kaso na ito (If he is really appointed, I will no longer hope for progress in this case),” she added.

Duterte campaigned on the promise to rid the Philippines of criminals and abusive government officials. Few clans are more abusive than the Ampatuans of Maguindanao.

Read: THE AMPATUAN MASSACRE: BECAUSE THEY COULD (IMPUNITY IN THE PHILIPPINES)

Ampatuan-621x446
Andal Ampatuan, Jr., a principal suspect in the Maguindanao Massacre. Photo from the AsianCorrespondent

Panelo was a defense lawyer for the Ampatuan massacre principals. He withdrew as counsel for Andal Ampatuan Jr. in December last year.

The NUJP expressed serious misgivings on his appointment as spokesman. It noted the “possible implications on the trial of those accused of what is acknowledged as the single deadliest attack on the press in history and one of the worst incidents of electoral violence in the country.”

I am a member of the NUJP, one of its former chairpersons. While the statement was right on most points, a tougher call is in order.

Mayor Duterte must rethink his appointment of Panelo

paneloDo you see this quote, sir?

 

More than 50 people died, most of them hapless journalists. It was a MASSACRE of civilians.

Unarmed civilians, many of them women, one of them a lawyer who worked with the poor. A massacre, sir. The single, most vicious attack on journalists ever, worldwide. And it happened in your beloved Mindanao.

ampatuan-massacre

One can be a defense lawyer and protect suspects’ rights.

It is another thing to peddle the lies of killers, the worst of murderers.

Panelo described the charges as fabricated.

F A B R I C A T E D.

That speaks of his affinity to truth — an ocean separates him and truth.

This is the man who will be your spokesman?

There are, what… 6,000 positions? Put him somewhere where his presence does not taint the search for justice.

Other media groups have also raised opposition to Panelo’s appointment.

Philippines Graphic editor in chief, Joel Pablo Salud said:

I can already see where the Ampatuan case will be going with your choice, Mr. President, of a spokesperson. While I believe and will fight for people’s rights to have their day in court, lies like this one do not help the cause of justice. I suggest you find someone else to stand as your voice to the people because by this statement alone, this man could endanger your presidency even before it starts.

National Press Club president Paul Gutierrez said it would be difficult for journalists to work with Panelo.

“Members of the press would find it hard to interact, and work with, a press secretary whose main client are the suspects in the wholesale murder of the members of the press that has outraged the entire world,” Gutierrez said.

“We understand certain debts owed during the election season need to be paid, but for a candidate who won overwhelmingly on a promise that change is coming, this is not the refreshing wind of change our clients sorely need now,” said Romel Regalado Bagares, Executive Director,Center for International Law.

“The choice is uninspired, to say the least. But it is clear it does not really understand the gravity of what happened on Nov. 23, 2009 on a hill in Sitio Masalay, Ampatuan, Maguindanao. Sadly, it is a choice that does attack not impunity decisively but rather, perpetuates it,” the lawyer and journalist said.

 

 

 

 

Duterte to scrap pork


*photo courtesy of Ariel Casilao

Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, the country’s next President, has vowed to strip all vestiges of pork from the government, according to representatives of militant party-list groups.

Ariel Casilao, the first nominee of Anakpawis in the May 2016 elections said Duterte stressed his pledge during a two-hour meeting with Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate and officers of Bayan Davao.

“Bawal na din ang congressional license plates and other signs of privilege,” he added.

Duterte also promised to persuade Congress to give departments the proper funds for necessary programs.

“He said lawmakers would no longer have powers to assign health services and scholarships,” Casilao said. The authority would return to agencies with aid from data provided by local governments.

If the promise holds, it would be a major victory for activists who have long campaigned against the massive use of discretionary funds by all branches of government.

The Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the long practice of pork is unconstitutional, despite arguments from President Benigno Aquino III’s government. It also ruled against many aspects of Mr. Aquino’s Disbursement Acceleration Program or DAP.

Both programs have been identified with widespread graft and corruption, including the P10-billion pork scandal of Janet Napoles for which several legislators have been charged with plunder.

While Mr. Aquino initially claimed to back the anti-pork movement, he swiftly shifted to a strong defense. He railed against the Supreme Court when it ruled on many salient points of DAP, which has taken away from congress-approved projects, shifting spending to pet projects of Malacanang. Activists have pledged to pursue criminal charges against Mr. Aquino and his top officials after they step down on June 30.

What Duterte wants, Casilao said, is for Congress to “triple the budgets of departments” so they can provide better service to citizens.

It has been a congressional practice to slash departmental and agency funds, to allow legislators’ powers to influence executive actions.

Duterte earlier said he would be selling off government assets, like the presidential yacht, to ensure funds for the welfare of soldiers and cops, and the deployment of health professionals to the countryside.

The incoming president said he would provide allowances to ensure that young professionals are encouraged to work for the government.

Casilao said Duterte believes there can be enough money with an austerity program where officials and government employees account for every peso spent.

“He wants greater focus on health and education services,” Casilao said.

Duterte has announced a ban on junkets by government officials, bringing experts to the provinces to save on training costs, and to impose simple lifestyles on all government officials.

Fiscal woes

Some economic experts, including former National Treasurer Leonor Briones, have warned that with the campaign expense blitz of the incumbent administration, there may be little cash leftover for Duterte.

“There will be practically nothing left of the 2016 national budget” when Duterte takes his oath as President on June 30, the Dumaguete Metro Post quoted Briones as saying.

She said the 2017 national budget is 3 trillion 350 billion pesos, and that it is almost entirely to fund the projects of President Aquino.

She said the new President will only have three weeks after he assumes the presidency to submit his 2017 budget.

“If he realigns funds, he will have to move very fast. He has to have a very strong Congress. He has to ensure a massive exodus of traitors who will go to his camp, and change that budget. He will be like Jesus Christ who will conduct a mass baptism in the river of Congress to change the budget. Otherwise, they will have to go around it. It’s a narrow space for ‘Captain Philippines’.

“He will have to resort to horse-trading, and he will have to work very very hard, and he will have to copy [the programs of other candidates] very vast,” Briones predicted.

Communist Party of the Philippines (CCP) founder Jose Ma Sison also said Tuesday the national government “is in crisis.”

“In last elections, the government spent na parang walang econ crisis,” Sison told a gathering of activists.

He expressed surprise that the presidential candidates in the May 2016 polls did not debate on the economic crisis.

“Due to this crisis, hot money has been going out since 2014,” Sison said.

“Parang walang malay sa pandaignidan antas ng krisis na nag-umpisa nang umepekto sa Pilipinas,” said Sison, who also chairs the International League of People’s Struggles (ILPS). (They seemed to have no knowledge about the global crisis that has already started affecting the Philippines.)

He said despite praise from investment bodies and multilateral lending institutions, Aquino worsened the country’s problems with heavy borrowing.

“But due to crisis, hot money has been going out since 2014,” he pointed out.

DBM defends Aquino fiscal performance

The Department of Budget and Management, meanwhile, defended the Aquino government’s  fiscal policies, saying Duterte would inherit a “robust, transparent and performance-based budget.”

The DBM confirmed Wednesday that that 84 percent of the P3-trillion budget for 2016 has been released to agencies as of end April 2016.

But it stressed, this does not mean that the incoming administration has been left with little resources for its priority programs.

“It is not true that only 16 percent of the budget is left, contrary to the claim of the camp of former Vice President Jejomar Binay. That is an incorrect and malicious claim. Allotment releases to agencies do not indicate actual spending of funds,” Budget Secretary Florencio B. Abad said.

An allotment gives an agency the authority to obligate funds for projects. When projects have been awarded, the funds have been obligated and it is only then that actual funds are disbursed to agencies to pay the contractors and suppliers.

Abad clarified that of the total P3.002 trillion general appropriation in 2016, P2.505 trillion in allotments have already been released to government agencies. The remaining allotments amount to P496.3 billion and this is slated to be released later this year.

For Special Purpose Funds (SPFs), as of May 2016, P157.4 billion has already been released out of the P446.4 billion total appropriation—a large share of which was for the Budgetary Support to Government Corporations at P43.1 billion and the Pension and Gratuity Fund at P41.6 billion. This still leaves 75 percent or P332.8 billion in SPFs to be utilized by the incoming administration—with P58.0 billion for the miscellaneous personnel benefits of government personnel and P42.1 billion still intact for calamities.

Abad said the comprehensive release of agency budgets was made possible through the GAA-As-Release-Document regime, a public financial management reform in 2014 that phased out the Agency Budget Matrices (ABMs) and Special Allotment Release Orders (SAROs) from the budget process to facilitate the swift and efficient implementation of the expenditure program. With the General Appropriations Act (GAA) as the primary fund release document, agencies are now able to obligate funds for their projects in the beginning of the year and thereby accelerate spending.

“Let me assure the people and the incoming administration that the 2016 national budget was not squandered in the last elections and the appropriations in the budget are being released and spent according to the specific purposes and guidelines in the General Appropriations Act,” the budget chief said.

“We are proud to say that the next administration will inherit not only a financially stable and robust budget, but also a transparent and performance-based budget. If you look at the GAA, and it is available online, it has detailed disclosure of agencies’ performance targets. Also, we have disaggregated the lump sum amounts in the agency budgets into component projects, intended beneficiaries and location in order for the GAA to function as a budget release document.”

“The Aquino administration, under a solid platform of good and effective governance, has been able to craft a national budget that reflects transparency and accountability in public financial management,” added Abad.

For a full breakdown of releases as of April 2016, you can refer to our website: http://www.dbm.gov.ph/?page_id=15576

#30

Hitler… Holocaust lines? DO YOU REMEMBER THEM, MR. PRESIDENT?


Dear President Aquino,
I oppose the candidacy of Rodrigo Duterte because of his views — and actions — that are inimical to human rights. I oppose the candidacy of the dictator’s son, who still pines for the bloody paradise of his father.

“If you allow them to oppress your fellow man and you do not speak up, you will be the next one to be oppressed.”

Aquino repeated the famous quotes of Martin Niemoller, a prominent Protestant pastor who emerged as an outspoken critic of Hitler and spent the last years of Nazi rule in concentration camps.

“First they came for the communists, but I did not speak out because I was not a communist… finally they came for me and there was no one left to speak up for me.”

Let me jog your memory, Mr. President. What did your government do while soldiers and para-military forces hounded Lumad to death in Mindanao?

When the Lumad sought sanctuary in Davao, your Liberal Party colleague tried to force their “rescue”.
KARLO MANLUPIG
‘Saving the Lumad’ Cops summoned to Davao City by the Chair of the House of Representatives Committee on Indigenous Peoples to “rescue” lumad fleeing military abuses in their mountain communities injured 15 of the displaced folk and destroyed a number of temporary shelters. (Photo by Karlo Manlupig)
Your Armed Forces earned a sharp dressing down from a UN expert when they tried to manipulate his words and the truth (yes, pretty much Goebbels-style, right?)
You snubbed the Lumad when they came to the capital to call attention to their plight.
Yet your allies in Congress and your AFP brass — and your national security office in Malacanang — hosted pet datus as they preached their belief that anyone with “alien” ideology was fair game for murder.
Your hand-picked successor Mar Roxas ignored entreaties by a governor from your own party. Indeed, when a refugee shared his plight, Mr. Roxas urged him to deliver himself unto the AFP — the very same folks who’d sent him scrambling for safety.

 

Nobody came to the aid of 15-year old Manobo boy from Sitio Mando, Barangay Mendis, Pangantucan, Bukidnon.
He didn’t just hear of the murders of his kin, Mr. President. He actually begged soldiers to spare their lives, appealing that his father, brothers and cousins be jailed if, indeed, they had done anything wrong. His father was 70 and blind; his brothers 20 and 19 years old. One of his cousins was 13 years old; the other was 17.
He begged the soldiers, Mr. President. And they shot father, brothers and cousins, one by one.
Remember them, Sir?
lianga
Lumad and supporters hold candlelight rites for Emerito Samarca, Dionel Campos and Juvello Sinzo and 57 other Lumad murdered under the Aquino administration. (Photo by Kilab Multimedia)
On September 1, in Diatagon, Lianga, Surigao Sur, the head teacher of a lumad alternative school was found murdered.
Emerito Samarca’s students at the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV) discovered his body. The folk at Diatagon had no access to education until private efforts established Alcadev for Manobo, Banwaon, Higanon, Talaandig and Mamanwa youth.
AlcadevYou spurned Alcadev’s students when they were in town late 2014 to protest the militarization of their schools.
A year later, these same children saw Dionel Campos and his cousin Belio Sinzo murdered by paramilitary troops.
The three gentlemen’s crime — providing a safe space for the education of children neglected by government.
No one came to help the hapless Lumad, Mr. President. No one from your government. It took private citizens and people’s organizations and churches to come to their aid.
And don’t you talk of coming to the aid of people suspected of being communists.
REDS
There have been more than 300 cases of extra-judicial killings under your administration. Eighty of these involved indigenous people or tribal groups. Almost always, people your government suspects of being communist.
You couldn’t even be bothered over the death of hungry farmers, Mr. President. Spare us your warnings.
KILAB MARCH 31 Screen Shot
We know about tyrants and what they can do to the country.
You speaking on our behalf isn’t just silly and thoughtless as you often are. It is criminal, because it seeks to use legitimate fears to cover-up your government’s attrocities.
Your government kills teachers and children, Mr. President. WE WILL NOT FORGET.
WE WILL NOT BE SILENCED

NERI COLMENARES IS MY ACTION MAN


My son calls him, “the real action man.” A friend, a true-blue capitalist from Binondo, beams on hearing the name Neri Colmenares.

Neri Colmenares (#11) is the first and only one of two names on my Senate list.

The man lawyers call “Comrade Amparing” has given honor to the term “activist”.

He paid his dues as a teenager – arrested, tortured, jailed.

He has never acted like he’s owed for the sacrifice.

After years as a human rights lawyer and three terms as Bayan Muna representative in Congress, Neri continues to invest his soul and root his politics in the “karaniwang tao.”

The people’s lawyer became the people’s fighter in the House of Representatives, bastion of traditional politicians. He authored 11 laws, including these:

  • Amending the Rent Control Act by prohibiting excessive rent for low income groups;
  • the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) law, increasing the salaries of PAO lawyers;
  • the law requiring disaster warnings through text; and
  • the law creating Special Election Precincts for persons with disabilities and senior citizens.

These are laws that affect the lives of millions of Filipinos in ways that truly matter.

He authored several human rights laws including the law compensating human rights victims during Martial Law, the Anti-Torture Law and the Anti-Enforced Disappearance Law.

His bill for a P2,000 pension hike for Social Security System members sailed through the House of Representatives. Senators gave him the highest display of respect by adopting his bill en toto and passing it swiftly.

He aims for the elimination of VAT on electricity, water and fuel; the prohibition of privatization of public hospitals and public health services; the increase in income tax exemptions; the Freedom of Information Law.

He’s also the main author of the bill, Magna Carta of Airline Passengers Rights, to protect passengers from abusive airline companies. You and I know how important this is.

neri

It’s easy to see why Neri has worked so well in the House of Representatives.

Soft-spoken, polite to all, with a comic bent, he is ferocious when attacking abuse and persuasive in advocating his causes.

Colleagues across party lines stress his diligence, sharpness and his skill in building consensus where it can be forged.

His labors extend beyond the doors of Congress, all the way to the Supreme Court where he won a decision stopping Meralco and other electric companies from imposing excessive electricity rates in Metro Manila and other provinces.

He was also petitioner in the Supreme Court cases which declared DAP and PDAF pork barrel unconstitutional and in the P10 Billion overcharging and refund case against Globe and Smart telecoms. He has argued before the Supreme Court several times in various petitions defending human rights and the public against excessive rates for public service — including unjust MRT-LRT rate increases.

He argued before the US District Court in Hawaii for the compensation of human rights victims on the Marcos human rights case. He is the President of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) a national association of human rights lawyers and a Bureau Member of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers based in New York and Belgium.

Oh, Neri is one of a handful of candidates who openly espouse divorce. He’s for the anti-discrimination bill that gives justice and dignity to LGBT’s in this country.

Lourd de Veyra says: He’s solid.

Neri’s more than solid. In a field full of dross, he’s golden.

Plus, how many senators can sing Buchiki and What a Wonderful World and give these equal meaning?

 

 

Track record over words: My left-handed choice for the vice presidency


 

Bongbong Marcos, the unrepentant son of the dictator, was never in the running for my vote. Nor was failed mutineer Antonio Trillanes ever considered. Nor Honasan.

Cayetano’s a competent lawmaker. And bless him for going hammer and tongs at Marcos. But his bigotry was in full display during the Mamasapano hearings and BBL-related events. I’ve seen up close and personal the results of such bigotry. For that reason, I’ve never considered Cayetano.

For some time, it has been a toss-up between Sen. Chiz Escudero and Rep. Leni Robredo.

Before delving into the pros and cons of both candidates, here are some issues and points that influenced my decision. These are mine; I am well aware others have theirs and have no intention of forcing these on anyone.

  • You are not your father or your spouse, whether they be demons or saints. (Had Bongbong showed repentance, had he cooperated with the country’s search for justice, he would not be the candidate I most revile.)
  • Human rights are non-negotiable. So is a justice system that gives the poor a fair shake.
  • Corruption is evil. Working for transparency and systemic changes that make it harder for the corrupt to operate earn big points.
  • My socio-economic views have always leaned to the left, for inclusive governance that goes beyond dole-outs.
  • #ScrapPork
  • I have never voted based on gender. What one does for gender equality is more important.
  • “Experience” is over-rated. What one has done is what matters.

 Leni Robredo

Leni is competent. An economics degree the University of the Philippines (UP) and law from the University of Nueva Caceres. She is a member of Saligan, a national alternative lawyers’ group helping farmers. She is a lawyer for the poor. And, yes, her lifestyle is simple.

What has she done in her single term in Congress? I’ll quote Yoly Ong’s article in Rappler:

“Leni has pushed for the bills that benefit not only her constituents but the entire country such as the charter extension of the Philippine National Railway. She filed for the Full Disclosure Bill that will require all elected officials and government agencies to fully disclose any transactions, documents, and budgets of public interest. She is a champion for the Freedom of Information bill (FOI).”

Leni also backed President Aquino’s Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL.) I will give her full credit for taking on Marcos. She supports reforming the law on annulment. (No contender for the top two posts has come out for divorce.) She’s an opponent of the death penalty.

The FOI bill DIED in the House of Representatives. There were champions, yes. I think they tiptoed too much around Mr. Aquino’s aversion to FOI – even when they had accommodated Malacanang’s numerous suggestions. The timidity helped kill the FOI. The unwillingness to confront stalling House leaders helped ensure the bill would lie there and die there.

“Support for the BBL” is a phrase that doesn’t impress me. I followed proceedings. The BBL was WATERED DOWN by Mr. Aquino’s allies, Robredo among them. What it looked like after they got through with it was something the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) vowed to reject.

I won’t invoke the sainted Jesse’s fight against illegal gambling. But Leni praising the governor of Pampanga (the wife of one of the country’s biggest alleged illegal gambling lords) puts into question her commitment to fight corruption.

To invoke good governance as a reason for getting cozy with Mrs. Pineda (who represented her husband in Senate probes) totally flies before known facts:

1) Pineda was a name that surfaced during the Estrada impeachment trial – those sacks of money delivered to San Juan;

2) A falling out over the spoils of jueteng made the family embrace Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo;

3) Coming out bigger post EDSA 2, Pineda’s name once more during accounts of electoral fraud by the former President; he was allegedly among those who underwrote fraud.

 

Leni may spout anti-corruption lines. She may from time to time seem independent from this administration. But she sure hasn’t shown that independence when it comes to the heavy-handed use of government services – paid for by taxpayers – for her campaign.

Chiz Escudero

My problems with Chiz:

He’s too soft on President Aquino; they are good friends.

He justified the Iglesia ni Cristo’s shameless, extra-legal pressure to block a legitimate criminal case.

He did not come after Bongbong Marcos.

He did not banish that rapist Jalosjos from the slate’s campaign sorties. (A pardon does not change my mind about Jalosjos.)

He’s hasn’t given up on the idea of pork. (Robredo has her own DAP problems.)

He is a critic of the BBL.

Problems other people cite that I don’t buy:

Noy-Bi: Chiz was never LP; he owed Mar no allegiance. The President’s own sisters were Noy-Bi and so was the man he appointed executive secretary. There could have been no Noy-Bi without the Noy. (Don’t say, ‘didn’t he know Binay was corrupt?’ I’ll point you to PNOY and family.)

Alleged closeness to Danding — The old man is not fond of Chiz, whom he considers defiant and rebellious.

Blocking the coco levy bill — DHe’s not the only one who has serious concerns about HOW that particular bill aims to give justice to coco farmers.

Corruption — What? Where? When? How? There have never been clear facts on that. And that Napoles claim fizzled out fast.

So, yeah, never expect fire and brimstone from Escudero. He has never pretended to be an “alternative” politician. If you call him “trapo,” he’ll probably smile and and give you that silly wave.

Where it counts, however, Chiz DELIVERED on my priority issues.

He will not bash Marcos. But he was the main author in the Senate of RA 10368 – the reparation and recognition of victims of human rights violations during the Marcos regime; RA 10353 – defining and penalizing enforced or involuntary disappearance; and RA 9745 – penalizing torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment.

Aside from laws that added many courtrooms nationwide, he authored laws that seek systemic reforms in the justice system, reforms that better the odds for those without money or ‘connections’:

RA 10389 – institutionalizing recognizance as a mode of granting the release of an indigent person in custody as an accused in a criminal case;

RA 10158 – decriminalizing vagrancy;

RA 10071 – strengthening and rationalizing the National Prosecution Service (increasing salaries of public attorneys, among other changes);

RA 9999 – providing a mechanism for Free Legal Assistance;

RA 9995 – defining and penalizing the crime of photo and video voyeurism (critical in this digital age);

RA 9946 – granting additional retirement, survivorship and other benefits to members of the judiciary

We all know how PAGASA has improved. Escudero authored RA 10692, which allowed for the modernization of the weather service. He also authored

RA 10625 – reorganizing and strengthening the Philippine Statistical System; and RA 9470 – strengthening the system of management and administration of archival records, stabling the National Archives of the Philippines. (Very important, if not really sexy laws.)

For anybody who wonders how safe are the funds we park in banks, Escudero authored RA 9576 – increasing the maximum deposit insurance coverage, strengthening regulatory and administration authority and financial capability of the Philippine Deposit Insurance Corp.

Transparency? Chiz is among the rare politicians with their pork allotments out there for public review. He has submitted a genuine waiver with his Statement on Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth since 2013. It’s the real thing. He just doesn’t do a big song and dance.

Among his pending bills are :

SB NO. 16 – requiring public officials and employees to submit written permission or waiver in favor of the ombudsman to look into ALL DEPOSITS OF WHATEVER NATURE WITH BANKS WITHIN AND OUTSIDE PH, including investment bonds issued by PH govt; and

SB NO. 18 – the Senate version of the FOI — implementing the right of the people to information on matters of public concern … and the state policy of full public disclosure of all its transactions involving public interest. (Full disclosure in there; Chiz was main author; Poe it’s champion. The Senate passed it.)

My anti-Epal side likes SB NO. 17 – declaring as unlawful the naming of govt projects after govt officials and other persons whose name or identity may be associated with said officials.

SB NO. 118 – an act penalizing influence peddling; and SB NO. 425 – an act providing for protection, security and benefits of whistle-blowers should matter a lot to those hoping for a less corrupt country.

As a journalist, I appreciate SB NO. 127 – an act decriminalizing libel.

SB NO. 445 – amending the law on prostitution by imposing penalties on its perpetrators, and protective measures and support services for its victims – would end the current hypocrisy that penalizes sex workers while letting their users go free.

On consumers’ rights: SB NO. 123 – an act increasing the penalty for criminal negligence committed by common carriers

On OFW welfare: SB NO. 432 – penalizing the imposition of excessive placement fees against overseas Filipino workers

SB NO. 441 – magna carta of workers in the informal sector – tries to narrow the cracks in the economic system.

And, of course, it counts that he voted for the Senate version Neri Colmenares’ SSS pension increase bill.

I only have one vote and that goes to support real, tangible issues that matter. What’s been done matters.

Escudero gets my vote. It doesn’t scare me that many Filipinos are waltzing with a dictator’s son. And the argument that my vote will help him win doesn’t impress – because this administration’s record has made a mockery of the word ‘democracy.’