Actor Robin Padilla, comedienne Juana Change and other luminaries join militants in commemorating the 151st birth anniversary of Filipino revolutionary martyr Gat Andres Bonifacio. ILPS-Philippines and Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) Chair Elmer Labog vows to continue the struggle for freedom and democracy. Also in the rally are Makabayan President Satur Ocampo, Archbishop Oscar Cruz, Manobos from Mindanao and leaders of various sectoral social movements.
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On the 151st birth anniversary of The Great Plebeian, Gat Andres Bonifacio, nationwide protest actions calling for government accountability and genuine societal change were launched, inspired by the revolutionary vision and example of the Supremo of the Katipunan.
More than historic symbolism and patriotic fervor were on display as the people who marched and demonstrated were spurred by burning issues that have plagued this country since flag independence and despite the trappings of a modern democracy — institutionalized corruption and plunder of public funds; policies that entrench poverty, backwardness and inequality; injustice that breeds armed conflicts and social unrest; violations of human rights with impunity; and continuing affronts to national dignity, territorial integrity and sovereignty.
They consciously partook of the revolutionary spirit embodied by Bonifacio with the tagline “Diwa ni Bonifacio, Tunay na Pagbabago” but capped this with the provocative call “Panagutin si Aquino!” For indeed, theirs was a call meant to finally unmask the pretentions of a reactionary regime that had decked itself out as the harbinger of change (in a copycat take on US presidential candidate Obama’s campaign slogans revolving around “change we can believe in”).
Hot-button issues that rang out in the protesters’ slogans and speeches included the following: President Benigno Aquino as pork barrel king and chief purveyor of patronage politics; “daang matuwid” as empty rhetoric when applied to KKK (kaklase/kamag-anak/kabarilan); caciqueism epitomized by Hacienda Luisita; high growth rates where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer; Yolanda and Pablo typhoon victims abandoned and treated with bureaucratic contempt; public infrastructure, utilities and services handed over for private profit-making through so-called public-private partnerships (PPPs); devastating militarization campaigns disguised as “bayanihan” and pursuit of peace; foreign policy defined as “Kano ang boss ko!” ergo give the US what it wants and more.
There was heightened vexation over Mr. Aquino’s leadership style characterized by a disdain for the masses who he thinks he is able to hoodwink with his populist speechifyng; intolerance for any kind of criticism or opposition and a tendency to retaliate; a laid back manner bordering on incompetence and laziness; a propensity for credit grabbing and believing in his own propaganda; coddling of the crooked in his inner circles; unabashed pro-Americanism and whose idea of patriotism is belligerent bluster against a resurgent China, admittedly the US’ biggest creditor and trading partner.
Such grievances, exasperation and indignation were enough to bring these protesters to the point of saying “Enough of Aquino!” But do they mean “We want Binay?” We can safely hazard their reply, “Of course not.” Because these politically conscious, new breed of Filipinos have learned their lessons about cosmetic changes that merely bring about a changing of the guards, a mere rigodon of factions of the same exploitative and oppressive ruling elite. Think EDSA I and II.
They look to bringing about a kind of change that will usher in a real break from the past in terms of a political platform of governance that is truly pro-people and pro-Filipino; of political leaders from the ranks of the masses and the middle class and not the old dynasties of the elite; of true transparency, responsibility and accountability to the people.
The 11-point program of the Pagbabago (People’s Movement for Change), one of the groups at the forefront of Bonifacio Day demonstrations gives us the gist of such a program.
- Honest leaders chosen in fair and free elections.
- Good governance: prioritizing the country’s interests; addressing poverty, providing accessible and affordable basic services; resolving the problem of onerous public debt and high debt service; responsible utilization of public funds; fearless against organized crime without resort to violations of rights.
- Land for the peasantry; food self-sufficiency; modern agriculture and rural development;.
- National industrialization and development of the domestic economy; decent jobs and sources of livelihood.
- Uphold the people’s democratic rights; end abuse of authority and punish the abusers.
- Peace based on addressing roots of armed conflicts.
- Respect for the rights and advance the status of women.
- Culture that serves the interests of the many and teaches the value of service to the people.
- Protection of the environment and wise utilization of natural resources.
- Uphold national dignity, territorial integrity and sovereignty; cooperate and seek mutually beneficial relations with all countries.
- Recognition and respect for the rights of the Moro people and other national minorities.
Because constitutional succession means more of the same, they are open to transitional arrangements where leadership does not fall on the vice president but to a transition council of the most actively involved in booting out the old and bringing in the new. A collective kind of leadership which is not to be sneezed at since our experience with the current presidential system is absurdly unsatisfactory while parliamentary systems that represent organizations of the people at different levels democratically making and executing decisions are worth a try.
This is until truly democratic elections can take place where lack of resources, political pedigree and clout is not a bar to competent, upright and hardworking citizens running for public office made synonymous to real service to the people.
Now what’s the point of calling for Aquino’s accountability and for him to step down, be impeached or ousted when time is said to be running out. The 2016 electoral derby is closing in with elite politicians already briskly engaged in the standard mudslinging and obligatory horse trading. Why not just wait for the end of Aquino’s term and the start of a new regime?
Let us assume that we are facing another national, electoral exercise that will not be a big departure from before; that is, elections still dominated by the reactionary political class and their foreign-backed, moneyed sponsors. The push for strengthening the national consciousness and the people’s movement that banner these issues, calls and aspirations before the 2016 elections can mean altering the national agenda and terms of reference, boosting the chances of viable, alternative candidates with progressive politics and breaching the erstwhile monopoly of power by the elite.
And yet the people’s movement for change is in for the long haul. It will take much more awareness building, organizing strong and autonomous people’s organizations and cause-oriented groups and engaging the powers-that-be in myriad arenas of struggle for fundamental changes to take place.
But the writing is on the wall: the old elite social system and the old elite politics are rotten to the core and moribund. Our visionary forebears led by Gat Andres Bonifacio have shown us the way of revolutionary struggle for revolutionary change. #
Published in Business World
1 December 2014
As the killing of witnesses to the infamous Ampatuan Massacre continue, Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate said the Aquino administration must be held to account for at least five (5) issues that aggravated the sufferings of the relatives of the victims.
Justice delayed, justice denied, justice mocked.
“At least four witnesses have already been killed under questionable circumstances since 2010, the latest one just last November 19. Alleged bribery by members of the Ampatuan clan has been revealed repeatedly at the witness stand. And just recently, 41 suspects from the police ranks who were part of those who set up road checkpoints at opposite ends of the road where the massacre happened were granted bail. Worst still, army officials who were also complicit in this slaughter of civilians were even recently promoted. This is brazen mockery of our justice system,” Rep. Zarate said.
“The delayed massacre trials have multiplied the grief of the victims’ families and have made a mockery of our justice system over and over,” said the Davao-based Rep. Zarate, one of the private lawyers who assisted the relatives of the 58 victims massacred five (5) years ago in the hilly portion of Sitio Masalay, Barangay Salman, Ampatuan town, Maguindanao.
Media killings on the rise: 25 since 2010
With 25 journalists murdered as of June, 2014, President Aquino already stands second to former president Arroyo in terms of the most number of media killings. Confronted with the issues, Pres. Aquino callously contends that these were not work-related killings. Yet, documentation made by the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) shows that all 25 killings were work-related, and that almost all of them were on political beat when they were killed. “Again, the callous attitude by which the Aquino administration treats the issue of media killings speaks volumes of its low regard to the issue of continuing impunity in our country today” Rep. Zarate added.
Banned media coverage: what are they hiding?
Rep. Zarate also scored the ban imposed on media coverage of the massacre trial since August 14, 2014. While the police did not say who issued the ban, concerned journalists were even forced to file a complaint with the Office of the Ombudsman. The Freedom Fund for Journalists (FFFJ) has stated that this “provokes suspicion that vital information is being hidden from the public.” “This ban on media coverage certainly is anathema to the transparency required under the circumstances when issues of bribery continue to hang in the air,” Rep. Zarate added.
Peace is unachievable without justice in Mindanao
“The Aquino administration is supposedly addressing the issue of peace in Mindanao but it is doing this without truly addressing the root causes of the armed conflict,” Rep. Zarate said.
While it is offering a dangling its own peace formula in the Moro conflicted areas, it is at the same time unleashing its war machines in many parts of Mindanao, in blatant disregarded to the lives and livelihood of the people,” Rep. Zarate said citing for example the recent and ongoing series of extrajudicial killings of lumad leaders and massive evacuations in the Davao and Caraga Regions.
“Pres. Aquino it appears is going to bully its own brand of peace in Mindanao just to be able to call it peace. It is in reality as peace of the grave,” Rep. Zarate said. “With the expansion of large-scale mining, agri-plantations and power industries that will further delete Mindanao’s remaining resources, we can see only see the intensification of a vicious cycle of socio-economic violence begetting military violence.”
Traditional politics is bloody politics
“Not only is traditional politics self-serving to those in power, it is, more importantly, against the best interest of the people. Injustice has grown wider and deeper as we mark the fifth year of the Ampatuan Massacre. With no conviction or any real reparation yet in sight, justice for all the victims of impunity is still illusory . “
“As the Ampatuan massacre continues to be emblematic of the continuing state of impunity in our country, we will incessantly continue to demand justice, lest we forget what it truly is,” Rep. Zarate said. ###
Five years after the massacre of 58 men and women including 32 journalists in Ampatuan town in Maguindanao, justice remains elusive and impunity still reigns. The promise of President Benigno Aquino III to help speedily resolve the case that has put the Philippines in the limelight as one of the most dangerous places for journalists not only remains unfulfilled; through his statements and actions he has downplayed the killing of journalists and ignored the possible accountability of military officers in the Massacre.
Something is already terribly wrong with the country’s justice system when a warlord clan can murder 58 people in broad daylight and still get away with flooding the courts with petitions and motions so as to delay the proceedings, and worse, probably cause the murder of four probable witnesses to the crime.
The majority of the suspects, mostly police officers and members of the private army of the Ampatuan clan, remain at large. Forty-one, including the policemen who flagged down the convoy on November 23, 2009, have been granted bail. The government prosecutors are accused of accepting bribes. Just four days before the fifth year of the Ampatuan massacre, another possible witness was again gunned down.
All these favor the Ampatuan clan, allowing it to show the families of the victims and the witnesses that they are still in power and can play with the courts until public interest on the case wanes so that they can forge out- of- court settlements and strike deals with the government.
A welcome development in the midst of many disappointments is the Supreme Court’s release of guidelines in December 2013 to expedite the case. However, there is still no cause for celebration as the case continues to drag on.
The Ampatuan Massacre is a key issue in the Filipino people’s struggle against the culture of impunity that has afflicted the country for so long. A decision favourable to the masterminds and killers will encourage more killings of and human rights violations against journalists, activists, and other sectors.
Time is of essence. It has long been recognized that it will take the intercession of President Aquino himself to speed up the case. But instead, the Aquino administration promoted the two military officers who refused to provide security to the victims at the time of the incident—Col. Medardo Geslani and Lt. Gen. Alfredo Cayton, who were promoted to brigadier-general and major-general respectively, thus sending across the country and to the armed forces and police that the Aquino administration is not interested in putting an end to the culture of impunity.
Under the Aquino administration, 25 journalists have been killed for their work since 2010., making the Aquino record second only to that of the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo regime. Instead of recognizing the political nature of the killings, Aquino has also blamed the victims themselves and dismissed the cases of journalists killed as merely the consequence of personal disputes. This does not only aggravate the pain of the bereaved families whose lives are also at risk amid the lack of meaningful government support, but more alarmingly feeds the culture of impunity and the reign of injustice in the country.
For these reasons, the President and his administration should be held accountable as well.
Despite the declarations of President Aquino that his administration has been implementing “reforms” in the country’s system of governance, traditional patronage politics still characterize the policies and official acts of the Aquino administration, and political dynasties and local warlords still lord it over the country.
Attaining justice for all those killed not only in the Ampatuan massacre but in the many cases of extra judicial killings as well lies in the hands of the Filipino people. The people and not only the journalism and media community must remain vigilant. They need to monitor developments in the Massacre trial and other cases closely, exert pressure on the government, and demand justice for the victims of the Ampatuan massacre and other killings of journalists as well as those of activists and human rights defenders. But even more crucially should they continue to monitor the policies, acts and statements of the Aquino regime towards holding it to account for helping perpetuate the culture of impunity.
AlterMidya is a nationwide network of independent and progressive alternative media outfits in the Philippines that promotes journalism for the people.
Gabi ng Pakikiisa: Hacienda Luisita Masaker, 10 taong walang hustisya (2004-2014)
Hacienda Luisita, Tarlac City
“Ipinapakita natin na bukod sa hindi tayo nabibili, hindi rin tayo namimili ng mga resolutions.”
Atty. Ephraim Cortez
Assistant Secretary General for Legal Services
National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers
Co-Counsel for Dr. Alex Montes
November 14, 2014
Hinggil sa pag-aresto kay Assistant City Prosecutor III Raul Y. Desambrana, may hawak ng gawa-gawang kaso laban kay Dr. Alex Montes, isa sa mga doktor ng Morong 43
Pahayag ni Dr. Alex Montes hinggil sa piskal na nangikil ng P80,000 sa kanya.
NUPL, November 14, 2014
The epidemic of corruption: It is really very dirty, shady and slimy out there
The National Union Peoples’ Lawyers deplores the corruption that pervades the justice system as it experienced first hand an attempt to extort from one of its clients in exchange for the dismissal of a case filed against them.