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.


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?



House bungles on PPP; why they didn’t dare push it on last day of session

The better title would be, “Drive Out The Clowns” — the real clowns.


We all saw the news on Monday night.

The House of Representatives has approved on third and final reading the proposed institutionalization of the Aquino administration’s Public-Private Partnership (PPP) scheme. 

It was one of the bills approved by the Lower House during its plenary session Monday.

The bill was approved with a vote of 126 in favor and eight against.

Bugles and drum rolls, right? Public-private partnerships, after all, rank high on President Benigno Aquino III’s list of priorities.

Looks like the hosanna chorus was premature.

The House on Tuesday had to recall plenary approval on third reading of the much ballyhooed measure. (Yes, I noticed very few media outfits came out with this update.)

Why? Because Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares did his homework.

Colmenares takes the Constitution seriously. In his sweet, sing-song, Ilonggo-accented Tagalog, he moved to recall the third reading vote on HB 6631.

Colmenares pointed out that the third reading approval  violated Section 28, Article VI of the 1987 Constitution.

What does the Constitution say?

SECTION 28. (1) The rule of taxation shall be uniform and equitable. The Congress shall evolve a progressive system of taxation.

(2) The Congress may, by law, authorize the President to fix within specified limits, and subject to such limitations and restrictions as it may impose, tariff rates, import and export quotas, tonnage and wharfage dues, and other duties or imposts within the framework of the national development program of the Government.

(3) Charitable institutions, churches and parsonages or convents appurtenant thereto, mosques, non-profit cemeteries, and all lands, buildings, and improvements, actually, directly, and exclusively used for religious, charitable, or educational purposes shall be exempt from taxation.

(4) No law granting any tax exemption shall be passed without the concurrence of a majority of all the Members of the Congress.

Colemares voted against the bill, one of only eight nays.

One of his reasons: “It grants tax exemptions and deprives both the national government and LGUs of taxes, fees, and charges. This will deprive the people of accessible public service and take away billions in public funds from our people’s needs.”

He checked the Monday rolls. Only 136 congressmen voted to pass the measure.

The House of Representatives has a membership of 291. For constitutional fealty, HB 6631 needs 146 members voting on third and final reading.

Gonzales say other legislators quickly realised the #FighterNgBayan was right. He did not contest. And so the House recalled approval Tuesday night.

They were going to push for it again Wednesday night. Elections are coming; some guys can’t afford a tantrum by that petulant guy in Malacanang.

Congressional staff say Gonzales tried to get Colmenares to push his SSS-pension hike veto override AFTER they rectified the results of their carelessness and negligence.

They probably thought Colmenares was the kind of fool their subalterns are. Of course, he’s not. As notes, news website Interaksyon’s sweet, back-handed compliment:

Funny how the President’s defenders now accuse Colmenares of “playing politics”, as if a socialist who actually knows how to work in a House dominated by the bourgeoisie is more frightening than a President who ignores what is happening in his co-equal branches of government until a paper with a deadline lands on his notoriously clean desk.

Colmenares, of course, said, nyet.

  • The lard-bloated lapdogs of Mr. Aquino found themselves facing a nightmare:
  • It looked like the 57 signatures on Colmenares’ override document were just for starters;
  • A little bird from a top House leader’s office told me that some phone calls to representatives got nervous responses (there was a gallery  filled with what Quezon City 3rd district Rep. Bolet Banal notes were elderly people “fooled” (nauto) by the militant legislator.


With a quorum, how could  solons who voted for the SSS bill explain their refusal to override the veto? By claiming they were irresponsible enough to sleep walk through three years of hearings? By claiming they were hypnotised into voting?

SSS voters

When Speaker Feliciano Belmonte says they didn’t want to embarrass the President (who deserves it, as the Interaksyon editorial clearly shows), the unspoken half of his thought was:

President Benigno Aquino III and suspended (and now resigned) national police chief Alan Purisima go a long way back.

They didn’t want the public to see how cavalierly they take their tasks given the gazillions we contribute for their upkeep. They didn’t want the public to be reminded that this is a President who can’t exercise coherent leadership, especially where and when it counts. They didm’t want yet another example of the right hand going opposite the left hand — remember #Mamasapano?

The truth was simple. Aside from their fear of losing the perks of being presidential pets, they couldn’t let the nation’s last memories of the 16th Congress be that of buffoons.

So they sidelined the PPP bill just to cover that up. They cut off the microphone as Colmenares spoke.

That is why there was silence from Malacanang the day after.

When Belmonte, Gonzales and Banal (who voted for Colmenares’ bill and whose senior citizen father was one of those who spoke on behalf of the bill) rant and rave about Colmenares’ alleged politicking, they’re desperately trying to convince people that he’s like them. Tough luck.

Now we know who’re the real clowns and fools. One mistake following the other, one solution dragging them deeper into the muck.

 As Fr. Ranhilio Aquino, dean of the San Beda College Graduate School of Law, said the  House could pay for forcing session adjournment just to avoid tackling important unfinished business.

He pointed out:

Under Sections 15 and 16, Article 6 of the Constitution, Congress sessions are predetermined and cannot be adjourned arbitrarily, especially in a bid to avoid taking up important measures.

House leaders may be charged with dereliction of duty before the Office of the Ombudsman, he warned. Of course, they can always contest this. But that would mean another nightmare and, certainly, embarrass the President (and his handpicked successor who is, after all, among the Liberal Party bosses).


Belmonte says they’ll ram it through when they next convene after the elections.

Guess what? There are now 62 signatories to the override resolution. And more representatives are calling to add to say they’ll be signing, too.

One of those additions told me there are some things you cannot swallow. Public displays of amazing stupidity for one. And public displays of dishonour.

As for Banal, he may have caused his dad a helluva number of votes. Guess which party-list many senior citizens will be voting for?

And that’s how cookies crumble in the Neverland we call Congress.



When tears are a badge of honor

neri crying
Neri Colmenares weeps. Photo by Darius Galang of PinoyWeekly

KAGABI: Di maiwasang maluha si Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares sa tila pambabastos ng mga kongresistang alyado ni…

Posted by Pinoy Weekly on Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The gods of Congress, those lapdogs of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III, did their best. As this Congress goes, their best often has to do with dastardly deeds. Pork for one, and then resurrecting a zombie twice killed by the Supreme Court, in a million and one mechanisms that scream “discretionary funds”.

They are at their best sitting on the corpses of what could have been landmark legislation. The first was the Freedom of Information bill. The other, a long-delayed, P2000-monthly pension hike for Social Security System (SSS) members.

Apologists of this administration will tell you that Congress is a co-equal branch of government, that it’s foibles should not be blamed on the executive.

That is theoretically correct, except that these very same people ranted and raved when Congress was a lapdog of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. They were also silent when Congress turned its back on the Mamasapano probe when that hacendero screamed, enough!

Night of dishonor

old folk by mon ramirez
Senior citizens lined up for hours on the grounds of Congress to push for an override of President Aquino’s veto on the P2000-monthly SSS pension hike. Photo by Mon Ramirez 


On Wednesday, February 3, the lords of lard were following the wishes of Mr. Aquino, who vetoed the SSS pension-hike bill that Congress passéd with overwhelming votes.

Congress guards tussled with senior citizens who came in the hundreds to see a showdown.

There was none. Faced with the spectre of a veto override, Mr. Aquino’s congressional henchmen cut short their last working day before this year’s electoral campaign period.

They adjourned early in the night, a far cry from other years when sessions lasted till dawn just to ram through administration legislation.

The cowards were so scared they wouldn’t even allow proceedings to start, following hours of waiting for a quorum. At least 57 legislators had signed a resolution to override the veto.

And when the main author of bill, Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares, stood up to demand a hearing, they cut off the microphones.

The SSS pension-hike bill is dead. Or so Mr. Aquino and millionaire executives hope.

The funny thing is, hardly anyone is boasting of their “victory”. But only madmen own to a massacre. The administration people aren’t mad, they’re craven; they can’t be bothered to even make a stand.

To mask the reality of SSS members sold down the river of dirty deals, they had to kill the pension hike. How many billions were lost to bad investments of friends? How many millions exchange hands yearly so that employers get away with non-payment of premiums already deducted from workers’ salaries?


The art of Noynoying

father and son
Stroke patient Renato and son and caregiver Racquel Montero were hoping for a small ease in their hardships from an SSS pension hike


It’s no use telling Mr. Aquino about the lives of a father and son who struggle with disease and a job that can’t even bring home the equivalent of minimum wage. They walked (and continue to walk) the straight path with premium payments. The son takes regular breaks from ferrying neighbors to check on a father laid low by stroke.

The crown prince of the kingdom of entitlement knows nothing about the daily travails of people. Nor would he care.

Mr. Aquino isn’t content with killing the SSS bill.

He wants the victims to kiss his hand as he scatters crumbs from his table.

Come, you unwashed hordes. Kneel at his feet and thank him for an offer of P500.

If Malacanang was really sincere about that, it could have negotiated while congressional hearings were going on.

Then again, if he couldn’t even be bothered doing that with the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law, he wouldn’t over the SSS bill.

You see, Noynoying isn’t just the art of doing nothing.

It’s pretending to do nothing while your peons do the dirty job. Purisima and Rico Puno taught us that Mr. Aquino is a master of this art.

Mr. Aquino’s bloated pets know what exactly they engineered on February 3.

The dictionary tells us:

“A Pyrrhic victory is a victory that inflicts such a devastating toll on the victor that it is tantamount to defeat. Someone who wins a Pyrrhic victory has been victorious in some way. However, the heavy toll negates any sense of achievement or profit. Another term for this would be “hollow victory”.

Old people shouted in rage. Old people cried.

Actor Robin Padilla narrated what happened on his Facebook page.

Nanay Salve, a retired school teacher, NGO worker and trainer of people disabilities, told Ted Failon about her experience.

They gave the elderly a hard time to get in hanggang nagkakasigawan na. They were under the heat of the sun, tired and hungry old people. Then when they were allowed to get in, they were prevented to enter the main session hall until after a few more minutes. They entered the session hall, only to wait for hours and watch legislators loitering abt. Session was suspended to wait for a quorum. Late afternoon, nagutom na ang iba, lumabas. Bumalik ng alas-6. Di nila namalayan, maya-maya, bigla na lang session was resumed and declared adjourned, when neri came running to the podium to speak and contest the adjournment. He got in a sentence or two before his mic was shutdown and he was told the session was closed.

One man in a barong tagalog wept.

Fighter Ng Bayan

This is what I love about Neri Colmenares: a fighter with the courage and heart to shed tears.

Because you do not fight for decades without feeling deep down, in your guts and in your soul, what it is that makes grown men and women cry themselves to sleep at night. (That’s Morris West, in “The Shoes of the Fisherman”.)

neri 2
Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares. For SSS pension hike warriors, miles and miles to go to win the war.

Episodes of defeat are nothing new to Colmenares, who is running for the Senate in the 2016.

You can’t have a life as student activist, human rights lawyer and militant legislator without knowing that some battles can’t be won.

Not immediately — as the ouster of a dictator and other major landmarks have taught us.

All the gains that we now take for granted were won because some people refused to give up despite the deaths, the blows, the harassment, the mighty forces arrayed against them.

All those gains because some people did the tasks we’re either too busy or too scared to do.

Aside from the line from West, there is another that forever sticks in the mind: “Courage is not a man with a gun in his hand. It’s knowing you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what.”

There are hard things you do even when soul weary. But you do it. Because it is right.
Hindi yan nababayaran. Nasa iyo yan o wala.

Sa lahat ng senior citizens at kabataan na naki-isa sa laban ni Neri, isang saludo at pasasalamat. PADAYON! ‪#‎KaraniwangTao ‪#‎FighterNgBayan