Hospital of Our Hope, System of Our Despair

by Gene Nisperos, MD

The Philippine General Hospital is the face of our perpetually neglected public healthcare system. As the biggest tertiary training hospital in the country, it provides specialized and very specialized services and training. It is also the end referral hospital of other public hospitals. Pero ito din ang Ospital ng Bayan na sadyang pinabayaan.

The ever-increasing number of patients in PGH reflects the country’s worsening social conditions. The poor’s limited access to basic services, aggravated by their absent economic power and the prohibitive costs of healthcare, all lead them to this single health institution.

Thus, we need to take a close, hard look at the state of PGH and its patients.

A casual stroll from the PGH Out-Patient Department (OPD) to the wards can break your heart.

Patients. Families. All are trying their best to get a measure of the health services they need, never mind deserve. Some are eating their baon along the sidewalk. Others are desperately trying to make their patients more comfortable under the sweltering heat and crowd. Many have been waiting in line since 3-4am just to get in.

A walk through the Emergency Room (ER) can break your spirit.

Everywhere, quietly, patients find small consolation in cold metal beds, in stretchers, in wheelchairs, or even in monobloc chairs. They fill up any unpeopled space that they can find and comfort is a luxury that they will readily forego if only to get seen and treated.

And all of them want to be seen, need to be seen. Many have travelled long distances hoping to be treated for their various infirmities. But the hospital is always shorthanded. The 4000-strong health personnel are almost always never enough for the deluge of patients that come daily.

The ER, currently under renovation, only has a 25-bed capacity. But its daily census is easily north of 150. In the last three years, PGH’s patient census has steadily increased from 586,000 to 647,000 per year.

There are patients who should be in the intensive care unit (ICU) but are still in the wards. There are patients who should be in the wards but are still in the ER. There are patients in “ectopic beds”, or beds in departments other than that where the patient should be confined in.

There is just not enough beds or space. There is just not enough health personnel.

Yes, even the best that PGH can provide remains too little. And everyone can do with much more.

Yet in spite of these, for 2020, Congress deemed it fit to cut the PGH budget rather than increase it. Apparently, for our honourable legislators, the less than P3 billion per year allocation is enough and there are more pressing matters to fund, like the P100 million pork barrel they will each get.

To provide its patients with the barest minimum, PGH needs about P5 billion per year. So why give the hospital much less than what it needs to operate?

Limited funds nga daw kasi.

Currently, around two-thirds of PGH’s budget goes to pay for its personnel, whose numbers cannot match those of the patients, even with medical and health sciences students taking up the cudgels.

Because of insufficient budget, the hospital cannot hire the additional health human resources it needs. It cannot even regularize the contractual employees it has. Worse, it is looking to further subcontract the work being done by institutional/utility workers, the “manongs” who brings patients around the hospital for their labs, x-rays, and what not.

About 25% of PGH’s budget goes to its operations, which directly benefit its patients. Even then, supplies and meds are often lacking so patients need to buy these outside.

Some laboratory exams are unavailable so these have to be done outside as well. Basic equipment, like respirators, have also been subcontracted to private firms and their use have to be paid for by patients.

All of these amount to out-of-pocket expenses that are catastrophic for an already impoverished patient.

To be fair, the PGH Administration exerts effort to augment the hospital’s funds. Donations from private individuals and/or corporations help stretch the meager resources. But at the end of the day, patients and health personnel alike, including students, shell out money to cover for what the hospital lacks.

Either that or they become mute witnesses to the consequences of unmet health needs: morbidity if not death.

PGH supporters calling for a higher budget for the country’s most important teaching hospital.

When government refuses to give enough funds, everyone suffers. Because in PGH, the need will always be much greater than what can be given. Sadly, this is being done to almost all public hospitals: they get less than half of the budget they need but are expected to operate fully, with VERY LITTLE support.

When health officials grow tired of asking enough to provide for what patients deserve, what is given is not even enough to provide for what patients need. When health officials console themselves by asking just enough to provide for what patients need, what is given is barely enough, so that patients expect even less.

This is government policy and it must be changed. THIS is the rotten system that refuses to see healthcare as a public good.

It is therefore right and fair to demand for a bigger budget for health and for PGH.

Every year, PGH should get P10 billion to give its patients the care THEY DESERVE. The hospital should not have to rely on the kind heart of philanthropists or on corporate social responsibility just to keep itself financially afloat. The hospital should NOT EXACT any more from the pockets of its patients and its staff.

The amount also enables PGH to hire and regularize enough hospital personnel to meet the ever-increasing demands of healthcare. The money affords the hospital enough to provide essential supplies and medicine, and ensures that the laboratory and diagnostic equipment are working.

If PGH is given the budget that it deserves, then it can fulfill its most important role: enable the poor and destitute to exercise, and maybe even experience, their right to health. #

Our struggle is not a spectacle

By Denver del Rosario

I was supposed to be in San Juan for work at around 2 pm. I left my house at noon like I always do because, oftentimes, that two-hour allowance is enough. But with the infernal Metro Manila traffic, expect the worst to happen.

I checked my phone. 3:57 pm. And I was still in Kamuning, far from where I was supposed to be. In an act of surrender, I told my editor a minute after that I won’t be pushing through with my coverage today. What should have been moments of productivity became time wasted on the road. I got off the bus, but then came a heavy downpour. I spent an hour in a fastfood restaurant to wait for the skies to clear and then I went out to wait for a ride home.

But then it was past five, and many people were trying to go home. To see buses jampacked with passengers was both frustrating and discouraging: frustrating because we don’t deserve this; discouraging because I wasn’t sure if I could get on a bus in this area with many people also waiting. So I chose to do the 40-minute walk to Philcoa. From there, I finally found a jeepney ride home.

This is the harsh reality many of us face where workers and students have no choice but to wake up a bit earlier in order to avoid the morning rush, only to find themselves still waiting for hours. Some say that the metro traffic is the great equalizer, but I call this bull—-. To say that is to be devoid of class analysis.

When the powerful and the influential romanticize the plight of the ordinary people by telling us that our daily sacrifice is the very definition of Filipino resilience and perseverance I don’t smile in gratitude, I rage. For our struggle is not a story of inspiration, but rather of gross neglect and plain arrogance, one where the grievances of the citizenry are easily ignored by those who should be listening and taking action.

Standing in the middle of an overcrowded bus while passengers still try to shove their way in is not a metaphor, so are burning railroads and dysfunctional trains. This is the reality of the masses, a never-ending cycle of waking up early and going home late while losing hope in the process. With these difficult circumstances, we have fallen into compromise; we don’t care anymore about safety and inconvenience, if the vehicle is too cramped, if the aircon is not working, because we all just want to go home.

It isn’t surprising to know that this denial of a mass transport crisis by the administration has earned the ire of the citizenry. Recently we learned about goverment officials telling us to be more “creative” when commuting, or that Superman is the only one who can save the day. When people shrug off their statements as comical relief instead of recognizing its plain insensitivity, this only manifests how much hypocrisy and incompetence we are willing to tolerate as a society just because we keep hoping change will happen. This is them not doing their mandate, and us willingly accepting that.

What government officials say is a reflection of the principles they hold in shaping public policy. For example, do we really expect a leader who catcalls female journalists and jokes about rape to strengthen laws regarding sexual harassment? Or an elected official who steals agricultural lands for profit to genuinely advocate for farmers? Go figure.

To the rich and the powerful, to hell with you and your uncalled-for sense of superiority. Your oppressing kind has the gall to tell us to hang in there as you look outside from your comfortable seats? Please. Our struggle is not a spectacle. 𝘞𝘢𝘭𝘢𝘯𝘨 𝘱𝘢𝘨𝘴𝘪𝘴𝘪𝘺𝘢𝘴𝘢𝘵, 𝘸𝘢𝘭𝘢𝘯𝘨 𝘬𝘢𝘳𝘢𝘱𝘢𝘵𝘢𝘯𝘨 𝘮𝘢𝘨𝘴𝘢𝘭𝘪𝘵𝘢. We don’t need your condescension; we need you to wake the hell up.

And to us who keep enduring hell, we have no other option but to carry on. We wake up early and go home late for we have bills to pay, mouths to feed, and dreams to fulfill. As we brave the metro traffic again, may we always remind ourselves that we should never settle for less, because we deserve more. But as we all know by now, we don’t wait for the world to change. We take action, rage on. #

(The author is a sports journalist. He has contributed stories to Kodao since his student days.)

EO 70, ‘Whole-of-Nation Approach’ will escalate and prolong armed conflict, not end it

By Esperanza dela Paz

What do the following have in common?

– the recent spate of killings in Negros, Bukidnon, Bicol and elsewhere;
– the bombing of Lumad communities and closure of Lumad schools;
– the red-tagging, terrorist-branding and other attacks on activists;
– the AFP-invented ridiculous “Oust Duterte” conspiracies and conjured matrices;
– the trumped-up criminal and sedition charges, illegal arrests and detention of a broad range of critics of the administration;
– government’s termination of the peace talks with the NDFP and announcements; and
– fake news of NPAs “surrendering in droves.”

All of the above are part of the “whole-of-nation approach” (or WONA) being bannered by the AFP as the “new paradigm” that would “end the local armed conflict” or the “communist insurgency”.

Here are 10 things we the people should know about WONA but which the generals in the national security establishment are not telling us.

1) WONA is NOT a new paradigm or concept. It is an old, worn-out concept and approach derived from US counter-insurgency (COIN) doctrine. WONA is synonymously or interchangeably used with “comprehensive approach” in US COIN manuals to address persistent problems and difficulties in coordinating US military and civilian forest involved in “peace and stabilization” operations in countries they had invaded, occupied or intervened militarily such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Sudan. The difficulties are aggravated by the complexities of US forces dealing at the same time with the host or local government’s military, civilian agencies and the population at large. Studies show the WONA has not adequately solved these problems and difficulties.

2. The concept and program of involving civilian government agencies and the private sector goes as far back as 1992, in Ramos’ Oplan Mamamayan. Ramos realized from the failed COIN campaigns of the Marcos dictatorship (Oplan Katatagan) and Corazon Aquino (Oplan Lambat-Bitag) that the CPP-NPA cannot be defeated nor destroyed through military operations alone.

3. The Arroyo regime adopted the same US-directed “holistic approach to addressing the insurgency problem” in its 2001 National Internal Security Program (NISP 2001), better known by its AFP campaign Oplan Bantay Laya. The BIG difference — what was really NEW in Bantay Laya was the policy and practice of unleashing military operations to “neutralize” unarmed activists and leaders of progressive organizations in urban areas nationwide. These were tagged as “communist fronts”, “enemies of the state” and as “CPP-NA legal political infrastructure” that had to be destroyed in order to defeat the NPA. This brought about the horrific and unprecedented rise in extra-judicial killings from 2001 to 2006.

4. In 2006, then AFP Chief-of-Staff Gen. Esperon declared Oplan Bantay Laya an unqualified success, claiming it cut NPA strength by 5,000, from 12,000 to 7,000. Arroyo unabashedly displayed her approval of and elation over the bloody, murderous campaign by specially citing and congratulating the notorious Gen. Palpoaran in her 2006 SONA for “doing good work”.

5. Arroyo’s NISP 2007 (or Oplan Bantay Laya 2) is described in AFP documents as “enhanced NISP 2001”. It refurbishes the political, information, economic and security aspects of the “holistic approach” into “5 offensives” – political, legal, strategic communications, economic and military – and “3 programs” – DDR (disarmament-demobilization-reintegration), amnesty, and human rights. Extra-judicial killings off unarmed activists and leaders continued, but scaled down as a result of universal outrage and condemnation here and abroad, capped by the investigations and findings of UN Special Rapporteur for extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions, Philip Alston (Feb 2007), Amnesty International (Aug 2006) and the Arroyo-created Melo Commission. All attributed most of the killings and the impunity with which these were perpetrated by elements of state security forces. Alston and Amnesty International went further to conclude the perpetrators acted in line with the state’s counter-insurgency program NISP 2001 and Oplan Bantay Laya.

To sustain the attacks on the so-called “legal political infrastructure”, Arroyo created the Inter-agency Legal Action Group (IALAG) to plan, direct and implement the “legal offensive”, i.e., filing trumped-up criminal charges, arrest and detention of targeted leaders and members of the legal democratic movement.

6. The phrase “whole-of-nation” was used in Oplan Bayanihan, the AFP’s implementing campaign for Aquino III’s 2011 National Internal Peace and Security Plan (NISP 2011-2016). Closely hewing to the 2009 US COIN Guide, it describes the collaborative roles of the civilian and military components. On paper, it asserts the primacy of the non-military component, with the military playing only an enabling role. In practice, however, the military was the main and leading force, set the direction and held the initiative over the civilian component throughout. Extrajudicial killings and other grave human rights violations, including the “legal offensive” continued unabated.

7. The current “new paradigm” so-called was first announced by the AFP in Sept 2018, along with a proposal for a “national task force to end the communist insurgency by mid 2019.” The revelation of a supposed “Red October” Oust-Duterte plot signaled the escalation of attacks against the legal democratic movement. Trade unions and worker’s strikes, youth organizations and schools, peasants’ and indigenous peoples’ struggles, churches and hospitals, environment and human rights defenders, peace advocates — all were accused of being recruiters and training grounds for the CPP-NPA. If this sounds like Oplan Bantay Laya over again, it is because the proposal “to end the communist insurgency using the “whole-of-nation approach” is in line with NISP 2018-2022, which the AFP describes as an “enhanced version of NISP 2007” or “E2NISP”(since NISP 20074 is “E1NISP”).

8. In the AFP proposal, the five offensives and three programs in NISP 2007 are transformed to twelve (12)”pillars” or “clusters” of cooperation, wherein each “pillar” is assigned a cluster of civilian and military/security agencies.

9. Executive Order 70, dated 4 December 2018,seeksto institutionalize the whole-of-nation approach in attaining inclusive and sustainable peace, create a national task force to end local communist armed conflict, and direct the adoption of a national peace framework. Like the 2011 Oplan Bayanihan and the 2009 US Counterinsurgency Guide, it purports to prioritize and harmonize the non-military, i.e., economic and political aspects of the counter-insurgency drive (such as delivery of basic services and social development packages) and ensure the active participation of all sectors of society in the pursuit of the country’s peace agenda. Not so curiously now, the EO70 makes special mention of SUCs in directing all government departments, bureaus, agencies or instrumentalities to “render the necessary support to the Task Force” But it not only underplays, it covers up and is totally silent about the military and “security” aspects such as the so-called legal offensive and the “neutralization” or destruction of the so-called “legal political infrastructure of the communist terrorists”.

10. EO70 institutionalizes and declares government’s total abandonment of its commitment to and obligations in implementing CARHRIHL and in forging basic political, social and economic reforms that would address the roots of the armed conflict and bring about a just and lasting peace. It has also stripped off the pretense of shifting to local peace talks instead of national peace negotiations by pursuing “local peace engagements” aimed at enticing surrenders and encouraging capitulation.

Conclusion

More than a year has passed since the Duterte government announced its intention to shift to local peace talks instead of negotiating with the NDFP for basic reforms. Eight months have passed since the formal announcement of the “new paradigm” or the whole-of-nation approach. What we have seen and experienced so far has not brought us any closer to an “inclusive and sustainable peace”. Rather, we are thrown back to the dark and bloody years of Oplan Bantay Laya and could fall further back to the martial law years. Only the people’s active resistance will prevent that, in what would more truly be a whole-of-nation effort. #

#Batomeltdown and the Neverending Cycle Of Abuse, Rape and Murder of the Filipino Youth

By L.S. Mendizabal

June 2006—It was my freshman year at UP Los Baños. Students would scurry to and from their classes in random buildings scattered all over the campus at the foot of Mt. Makiling. They walked briskly by flyers posted on a few trees, utility poles and many a wall at jeepney stops and outside classrooms next to professors’ announcements. They were flyers of Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan, also UP students, who were abducted that same month. I remember giving them a quick glance: young girls’ faces—probably as young as I was—in black and white Xerox ink, under which the words were in striking capital letters, “MISSING” and “SURFACE!” I remember not reading the rest of the text. I was worried about the time, about how my next professor sent late students home. At the back of my mind, though, I thought, “Why are they missing? Must be why they want to bring soldiers in here.” During that time, certain members of the faculty, including a reserve colonel who’d eventually become Office of Student Affairs (OSA) Director, were pushing for the placement of personnel from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) within university grounds. Little did I know that it was the military that took Empeño and Cadapan, never to be seen and found to this day.

Unlike my high school batchmates who applied for the university residence halls, Mama sent me to a nuns’ ladies’ dormitory. We were practically monastics, too, without the veils. In fact, that’s what other people called us upon knowing where we stayed: “mga madre.” Some would take the joke further and call us “virgins.” I couldn’t blame them: we had a strict 9 p.m. curfew and by that, I mean all the cool college happenings happened afterwards. If you arrived so much as only ten minutes past curfew, the Mother Superior was already on the phone with your parents, telling on you. We had our meals cooked for us three times a day at a refectory except Sunday, which was when we felt absolutely free. My dormmates and I would do all sorts of things on this particular “free day.” We spoiled ouselves with P10-siomai (with rice!) and P15-ice cream outside (outside!) the campus, we spent hours in the internet shop, followed the dirt road to where all the cattle were, drank fresh carabao’s milk, went out with guys we were dating (secretly, of course), ran enthusiastically in the thunderstorm courtesy of Reming. On Sundays, we were free. Unstoppable. Just as long as we were home by nine o’clock and steered clear of the lovers’ common spot by the Fertility Tree (or any activity anywhere near your fertility, really) because Mother Superior would most certainly expel a resident student who suddenly got knocked up. There was also the “Neverending Bridge” which is actually Palma bridge. It earned its nickname from an old tale about a student who crossed it at midnight but never seemed to reach its end until he took his shirt off and wore it inside out. It might sound stupid but it was the kind of stupid myth any freshman would willingly believe just for the fun of it. Besides, what business could you possibly have on that bridge at an ungodly hour? Some would say that murderers disposed of their dead victims by throwing the bodies off the bridge, which was why it was haunted. One such restless soul belonged to a female student who was raped and killed in the 90s. This was, by far, the most hair-raising story, because it was no urban legend. While it isn’t true that her body was dumped under the Neverending Bridge, a female UP student was indeed abducted in 1993, gangraped and shot in the face by then Calauan Mayor Antonio Sanchez. Her friend who was with her at the time of her abduction was taken with her “to avoid complications.” He, too, was beaten and shot to death. Sanchez was given seven life sentences behind bars to pay for these crimes.

 For UPLB students during my time, what happened to Eileen Sarmento and Allan Gomez lay somewhere between a ghost story and a cautionary tale. It was the reason no one dared to cross the Neverending Bridge on foot past nightfall, the reason parents sent their daughters to a nuns’ house. Last week, the Gomez-Sarmento case revisited my consciousness when Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Director General Nicanor Faeldon said that Sanchez was likely to be freed in two months due to a new law increasing good conduct time allowance (GCTA) and a Supreme Court (SC) decision applying this law retroactively. I only knew the urban legend so having the rape-slay case bombard the news once again and finally knowing it in full, harrowing detail has proven that real life is truly more horrifying than any ghost story.

Two days later, amidst public outrage over Sanchez’s possible early release, Faeldon changed his tune: Sanchez would most likely not qualify for GCTA benefits because of certain violations he committed in the past. This was followed by Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra’s explanation that inmates convicted of “heinous crimes” are not eligible for credit of preventive imprisonment (CPI), therefore making them ineligible for GCTA as well. However, there is no conclusive interpretation of the new law’s ambiguous provisions just yet. Around the same time, #BatoMeltdown went viral when Sen. Rolando “Bato” Dela Rosa verbally attacked a student leader in a public hearing, recanting his earlier statement that “Sanchez deserves a second chance” by literally yelling that Sanchez “should have been sentenced to death” in the first place, but that even he, a senator, could not change the law and even if he could, the problem was that [militant progressives] are against death penalty. The meltdown ocurred while the senate’s basic education committee was discussing the proposed revival of the mandatory Reserved Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) in senior high school in which National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) President Raoul Manuel expressed that it was difficult to trust said proposal, particularly in its objectives in “law enforcement” and “human rights awareness” when one of its proponents (without naming names) publicly supports the freeing of an ex-mayor and convicted rapist while the senator finds it easy to kill the poor in the Tokhang campaigns. Fair point.

Many people were angered, even entertained, by Dela Rosa’s outburst. Personally, I found it all deeply troubling—from Dela Rosa’s pronouncements to those of his colleagues. Let us break down the rhetoric of #RespectYourSenators for those who missed the full show. Here are the takeaway points from Dela Rosa, Sen. Pia Cayetano and committee chairman, Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian:

• By saying that enforcing mandatory ROTC is a misrepresentation of nationalism, Manuel was judging them unfairly;

• Manuel attacked Dela Rosa personally by citing his public comment on giving Sanchez a second chance;

• It was Manuel and other progressive activists’ fault that Sanchez may walk free because they object against the death sentence;

• Manuel must not be a true representative of Filipino students because most of these students are actually in favor of ROTC;

• Manuel must not love his country because he opposes mandatory ROTC, does not care whether China invades the Philippines and probably expects the New People’s Army to defend the nation (to which Manuel responded calmly that the youth, in fact, worry about this matter because the AFP whose constitutional task is to preserve national integrity and sovereignty are not exactly doing their job);

• Manuel’s statements on not trusting public officials in the implementation of mandatory ROTC because of their disregard for human rights were “irrelevant and not germane to the topic”;

• Manuel and other guests invited by the committee should show respect to their senators and must not criticize them during public hearings. They should take their criticisms to the media, instead;

• Oh wait, Manuel really does represent the Filipino students, which means that they share the same state of mind and dearth of discipline because, “How dare you criticize a senator?”;

• Manuel should believe and respect Dela Rosa because, aside from being his senator, he is older, too;

• Hence, mandatory ROTC should be enforced to instill discipline in disrespectful youth;

• Gatchalian already knew very well (“alam na alam ko na”) what the progressive youth groups were to say and the committee just invited NUSP “for the sake of fairness.” He then gave them a stern warning for “dragging irrelevant issues” into the hearing and “wasting their time,” insinuating that the youth groups might not be invited to these kinds of hearings thereafter;

• Once more, the youth and non-members of the committee should respect their senators;

• Manuel only incited Dela Rosa to react violently so that progressive youth groups may have enough reason to criticize him and cause trouble later on;

• Dela Rosa does not give a fuck about Manuel, who wasn’t going to be arrested for his irrelevant statements anyway so, “Go home, Manuel!”

The last one gave me shudders. They may not be hurting kids in senate public hearings but an alarmingly high number of students, youth leaders, activists and human rights workers are being slaughtered every day both out in the streets and in their very homes. What was made to sound like an assurance seemed more like a threat. What was supposed to be a public discussion with youth representation about a law that’d later affect the youth suddenly became exhausting, not exhaustive. The recognition and respect that should’ve been given to Manuel, national president of the nation’s largest alliance of student councils, was somehow dislodged by baseless red-tagging, castigation and a humiliating tirade all in one breath. If the youth have no respect for their public officials and their rules, then they do not love their country. Consequently, they must be punished with mandatory military service as early as in high school. For these “grown-up” lawmakers, it was as simple as one-plus-one.

The reality behind such arguments is this: the youth frightens the state to such a degree that it is taking drastic measures to prevent more Manuels from multiplying. The youth, after all, would be so much easier to control if they did not think critically, not join organizations who might “brainwash” them into thinking critically, not have access to free, nationalist and scientific education (thus, the violent attacks and killings in Lumad schools), not question authority or even give the remote indication of an independent opinion. When the youth go astray and commit crimes, incarcerate them. Never mind if they’re minors. The younger they are repressed, the better. All these are part of a grander fascist scheme that emanates from the state’s primordial fear of the youth once they leave their gadgets and phones, and struggle together beyond social media in the rural and urban areas, united against all that is unjust: fraudulent national elections, drug wars, wars against the poor, rampant corruption in the government, etc. The youth in their sheer number, sharpness of mind and physical strength have always been a force to reckon with. That is why the state does everything in its power to deprive us of our youth by keeping us in the dark, uneducated and misinformed, sending the military to our schools and forcing their extensive set of rules down our throats—the incarceration, rape and murder of the Filipino youth, both figuratively and literally in the cases of Eileen Sarmenta, Allan Gomez, Karen Empeño, Sherlyn Cadapan, Kian Delos Santos and thousand others. The youth, the hope of our future, have been reduced to body counts, headlines and flyers pasted on walls. And the usual suspects? Armed, powerful figures of authority. Note that some of those involved in the rape and double murder of Sarmenta and Gomez were police personnel. Meanwhile, Empeño and Cadapan were not only abducted but tortured and raped by elements of the Philippine Army on then AFP Gen. Jovito Palparan’s orders, the same Palparan who is now being petitioned to also be released by pro-administration blogger, Mocha Uson, and her followers. Respect authority, they say. If there’s anything Mama has taught me and helped me more than other life lessons, it is that “Respect begets respect.” First and foremost, the authorities must know how to respect human rights. It is only then that a just and peaceful society will be able to thrive, where the youth can dance in the rain and children can run free, and not criminals in power.

Our current public servants should be examined in their utmost rawness during the #BatoMeltdown, and not in their dressed and made up selves hurrying to shake our hands before elections, promising the farmers land, the workers regularization and the youth no tuition fees and free internet for all. Gatchalian, after marching with students in protest rallies calling for accessible higher education in 2016, came off as even more absurd than Dela Rosa. Is it not their job to take their time in carefully considering their constituents’ sentiments, especially those of the youth? Is it not Manuel’s right to share his misgivings about a certain law that would do more harm than good? Don’t the taxpayers deserve to be heard, not ganged up on and bullied like what they did to Manuel? Apparently, to these senators, inviting the youth to this all-important affair was a privilege that Manuel wasted, when in fact, they wasted taxpayers’ money and the youth’s time by lecturing them on opinions best kept to themselves. There exists a pre-ordained script that everyone should stick to in this theatre that is Lawmaking where the young, marginalized and poverty-stricken can never assume roles except as props and background to the actors’ advantage. Welcome to the theatre of Moro-moro staged by and for the rich and powerful (and a handful of morons).             I do not blame Manuel for apologizing in the end. He knew that it wasn’t the right arena, and therefore, a losing game. For instance, the death penalty did exist during Sanchez’s conviction but he was not executed because of his status and power. If the death sentence is to be revived, who will they kill next? Certainly not the rich and powerful. Like I said, they run the (freak) show. If anything, Manuel’s remarks on fascism, the culture of impunity and apathy among the ranks of the government were far from irrelevant. They were relevant in 1993, in 2006, and they are relevant now. More than ever, the youth must be vigilant as they continue the struggle to be heard in this anti-youth regime. After all, it is not farfetched that Sanchez’s case merely serves as a plot contrivance for a smoother intermission before the next act, Bato’s Chorus: The Death Penalty. Like the Neverending Bridge at midnight, the horrors just won’t end. #

On the proposal to revive the Anti-Subversion Law

By Jose Maria Sison, NDFP Chief Political Consultant

The proposal of General [Eduardo] Año, secretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government, is one more manifestation of the frenzied drive of the tyrannical [Rodrigo] Duterte regime to impose a thoroughgoing fascist dictatorship on the people in a vain attempt to end the armed revolutionary movement as well as the broad legal opposition through red-tagging, harassments, threats, abductions and murders.

In line with the Duterte tyranny, the most vicious and bloodthirsty officials who love to kill people to solve problems are enamored of the long-discredited Anti-Subversion Law because it provides for the death penalty, for the prejudgment of people on the basis of guilt by association and for the arbitrary listing of people as “communists” for the purpose of extortions and mass slaughter.

Contrary to the view of the chief suspect in the abduction and forced disappearance of the young activist Jonas Burgos, the revival of the Anti-Subversion Law will not eliminate the Communist Party of the Philippines and the people’s democratic revolution. It will only serve to further violate the national and democratic rights of the people and will thus incite the broad masses of the people to rise up.

The fundamental cause of the armed revolution in the Philippines is neither the existence of the Communist Party in the Philippines nor the communist ideas of Marxism-Leninism but the exploitation and oppression of the Filipino people by imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism in a semicolonial and semifeudal ruling system now lorded over by the tyrant and plunderer Duterte.

The revival of the Anti-Subversion Law can give further license to Duterte’s armed minions to violate human rights and can further embolden them to witch hunt, harass, threaten and kill those that they arbitrarily list as “communists” among the critics of the regime and the people in general. Such law can result in bigger mass murders than those perpetrated under Oplan Tokhang and Oplan Kapanatagan.

It must be recalled that the Anti-Subversion Law has long been discredited as an unjust and anti-democratic law by which anyone can be subjected to punishment on the basis of guilt by association, without the need to present evidence for the personal culpability of the accused for any crime.
Such law has long been condemned as a poison to the freedom of thought, expression and assembly.

Violations of democratic rights under the Anti-Subversion Law will drive more people to further oppose the regime and rise up in arms against it. Threatening to kill and actually killing people for their political ideas will compel them to act in a revolutionary way in order to get rid of the regime of terror that deprives them of the basic freedoms of thought, expression and assembly.

In my personal experience, red-tagging or anti-communist witch hunts under the Anti-Subversion Law of the past never deterred me from studying Marxism-Leninism and aspiring to become a communist. Whenever the great anti-imperialist and patriot Senator Claro Mayo Recto was castigated as a communist, I became even more inspired to study the theory and practice of Marxism-Leninism and learn how to apply the theory on the concrete conditions of the Philippines.

When I became a student activist in the University of the Philippines in the late 1950s, I was never afraid of the death penalty under the Anti-Subversion Law but on the contrary this anti-democratic law challenged me to organize Marxist-Leninist circles for the noble and patriotic purpose of reestablishing the Communist Party and continuing the democratic revolution started by Andres Bonifacio and frustrated by the war of aggression launched by US imperialism in 1899.

When the anti-communist witch hunt was carried out by the Committee on Anti-Filipino Activities from 1959 to 1961 in order to suppress academic freedom with the use of the Anti-Subversion Law, we the students and teachers of the University of the Philippines stood up for academic freedom and all democratic rights. Ultimately, we organized the 5000 protesters that literally scuttled the anti-communist witch hunt on March 15, 1961. A major part of the demonstrators flooded into the CAFA [Committee on Anti-Filipino Activities] hearing hall and put a stop to the proceedings.

The Anti-Subversion Law did not stop the rise of Filipino proletarian revolutionaries and their mass work. They succeeded in rebuilding the Communist Party and carrying out the people’s democratic revolution through protracted people’s war. Fidel V. Ramos repealed the Anti-Subversion Law in 1992 after recognizing the failure of this anti-democratic law to stop the growth and advance of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the revolutionary movement, 

In the concrete semicolonial and semifeudal conditions of the Philippines, the Filipino communists are of the view that neither socialism or communism is the current issue. Thus, they have excelled at leading the people’s democratic revolution, which strives to realize full national sovereignty, democracy, social justice, economic development through national industrialization and genuine land reform, a patriotic, scientific and mass culture and international solidarity and cooperation of peoples for peace and all-round progress. #

Teachers’ plaint

By Luis V. Teodoro

Teaching is not about money but about public service, Education Secretary Leonor Briones told her constituents [at the start of the new school year last month].

She was right — at least about the public service part.

Teaching is also a job and not volunteer work. One has to have certain qualifications to teach, in exchange for which the successful applicant correctly expects to be justly compensated. Doing a public service job to get which one has to have a college degree and pass a government examination means getting paid for it. Briones and her fellow bureaucrats themselves are at the very least as much for the money as for the opportunity to serve the public, and it is simply not fair to expect teachers not to demand that they be paid fairly for the work they do.

Briones was nevertheless implying that teachers are in the profession only for the money. Adding insult to injury, she went on to say that the teachers of Bacoor High School’s converting a toilet rather than one of their laboratories into a faculty room was intended for “dramatic” effect. Their own principal disparaged those teachers by saying they don’t need a faculty room to rest in, in apparent ignorance of the fact that such facilities are not for rest, but for providing teachers the opportunity to discuss academic issues among themselves and to learn from each other.

Image by ACT

Briones, whom one media report said has taken a “hands off” stance on the issue, was responding to questions on the demand of public school teachers for salary increases, which they’ve been asking for, and have been denied, for years. Numbering 800,000 nationally, public school teachers comprise the largest group of employees in government service. But even their number and the fact that by law, education gets the largest allocation in the budget annually, have not benefited them much.

Then President Benigno Aquino III did raise through Executive Order 201 the salaries of civilian and military government employees in 2016 before his term ended. But what teachers received was only a very small 11.9 percent of their then salaries compared to the 233 percent increase in the pay of the President of the Philippines. As most Filipinos know by now, the P20,500 per month most teachers are still getting today is barely enough to support their families because of the huge increases in the inflation rate since 2017. Despite the lip service politicians paid teachers during the last mid- term elections, education is not their first priority.  Keeping themselves in power is — hence policemen and soldiers’ being paid twice the salaries teachers make.

Compared to 2016, the salaries teachers receive can purchase today even less of the goods and services they need to live with some dignity and freedom from worrying where to get the money for junior’s college tuition, or the hubby’s prostate operation. And yet as financially troubled as many are, some teachers provide out of their own shallow pockets the chalk, pencils, paper and other needs of their charges government cannot always provide, while they cope with the daily horrors of overcrowded classes, makeshift classrooms and even the lack of such basic instructional necessities.  Some teach hundreds of students in as many as three shifts a day. Others even provide their poor students the nutritious food their parents can’t afford.

Teaching may be a public service, but the compensation teachers receive is hardly commensurate to the multiplicity of tasks they are called upon to perform. Those tasks include not only teaching a multitude of subjects and being at the forefront of the national imperative of making every Filipino at least literate and numerate. They also have to entertain their superiors when these visit their schools, perform election duties every three years, and be model citizens for the entire community.

But the most crucial teacher’s task of all is that of awakening the love of and respect for learning among the young, in preparation for their assuming the roles of leaders, citizens, professionals and productive members of society. But no administration seems to have recognized this enough to provide teachers, most of whom are surviving from pay check to pay check and are heavily indebted, the salaries that that mandate demands.

ACT photo.

Then Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte did promise to raise teachers’ salaries in 2015 when he was thinking of running for President. He has since promised it eight more times since he came to power, but it hasn’t happened. Instead he’s raised the salaries of police and military personnel without any prodding, apparently because he thinks them the guarantors of his remaining in office until 2022 – or even beyond, should plans to trash the current Constitution and to replace it with one more to his and his accomplices’ liking materialize.

In addition to teachers’ being overworked and underpaid, the police and military establishments that Mr. Duterte so obviously favors have even red-baited the biggest teachers’ organization in the Philippines, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT).  The Director General of the Philippine National Police himself challenged ACT members to prove they’re not in a Communist Party of the Philippines “front,” and even tried to prevent their serving as members of the Board of Election Inspectors during the last elections.

The inevitable conclusion one can draw from all these is that, focused as it is on the preservation of personal, familial and class interests, like its predecessors the current regime not only has education as a last priority.  Although its bureaucrats can hardly articulate that thought, teaching is also thought to be a threat because teachers preside over the first encounter with learning and knowledge of the country’s young. In the minds of this benighted country’s ruling elite it can mean arming the next generations with such nonsense as the need for change and even revolution.

Not that that is an entirely mistaken view. As seemingly hackneyed as the cliches “Knowledge is Power” and “The Truth Shall Set You Free” are, they do say something that all human history and experience have demonstrated is true enough. Knowledge is indeed empowering: it provides people the understanding of their political, social and economic environments that can enable them to intelligently evaluate, and if necessary change them. By providing men and women the intellectual means to shape their own destiny and the society they live in, the truth liberates them from the vagaries of chance and the shackles of ignorance.

In the 1950s, in response to McCarthyite persecution of universities in the United States, rather than deny their commitment to change, progressive academics affirmed the imperative for true higher learning to question the political, economic and social structures of their time. The capacity to do that is ideally implanted in the brains of the very young when they enter the educational system, and through  the teachers who first introduce them to the world of learning, whether  the ABCs, arithmetic, literature, geography or any other field of knowledge.

In their heart of hearts the rulers of this sorry land know how dangerous to them —and to injustice, inequality, poverty and mass misery — true knowledge can be. Keeping teachers disadvantaged and indebted while pampering the police and military is only one of the ways through which they protect the unjust order that for far too long has kept them in riches and power.

Also published in BusinessWorld.

Interviewing 101

By Luis V. Teodoro

Journalism students should look at government radio’s Erwin Tulfo’s reaction when he failed to immediately get an interview with Department of Social Welfare and Development Secretary Rolando Bautista — he threatened to slap the retired Army general and even called him crazy — as an example of how those seeking interviews should never behave.

Tulfo’s behavior was one more demonstration of how some of those in the media are so entitled that they think that anyone asked for an interview should consider it a favor.

Those practitioners with some training in the ethical and professional standards of journalism know that it’s the interviewee who’s doing the interviewer a favor, and that he or she has a right to set the terms of the interview or even reject it altogether.

And yet it isn’t the first time that an interviewer displayed his arrogance  in public and over the air. In 2013 GMA7’s Arnold Clavio berated the lawyer of accused plunderer Janet Napoles for refusing to answer questions about a Napoles case he was unfamiliar with. But only such blatant examples of interviewer arrogance have attracted public attention. There are other instances involving relatively unknown people whom interviewers berated and even made fun of.

It is behavior like this that has eroded media credibility, and made attacks against the entire press of no concern to much of the public, even if only a few practitioners have been so ethically and professionally challenged that they see nothing wrong with accepting bribes or positions in government while continuing to write opinion columns.  

As besieged as they already are by the online trolls and old media hacks of the Duterte regime, the responsible sectors of the Philippine press have to address this problem either by distancing themselves from those elements in the media who’re debasing public discourse daily, or by themselves instituting, together with the better journalism schools, on the job training programs focused not only on skills enhancement but also on  the ethical and professional imperatives of responsible practice, or both.

Winalanghiyang halalan

Nagmamalinis at nagmamang-maangan ang Commission on Elections sa chorva nitong ang mga palyadong marker, SD card, vote counting machine at maging ang transparency server ang pangunahing dapat sisihin sa pinaka-palpak na automated elections nitong dekada.

Akala malamang nina Commissioner Rowena Guanzon na sa pamamagitan ng pagbabantang huwag nang bayaran ang mga supplier ng marker at SD card ay sa mga ito mababaling ang sisi sa mga kapalpakan noong Lunes.

Sa totoo lang, matagal nang palpak ang Comelec at kung sinuman ang nagdesisyong maaring kumandidato sa party list elections ang mga pekeng marhinalisado. (Sino-sino sila? Ito pa. At ito pa.) Walang kakibo-kibo ang mga opisyal ng Komisyon sa kawalanghiyaan ng mga nominado ng mga pekeng partylist. Kasabwat na silang malinaw nito sa panloloko sa taumbayan.

Wala ring halos narinig mula sa Comelec sa lantarang paglabag sa lahat ng panuntunan hinggil sa tamang paggasta sa eleksiyon, patalastas, paglalagay ng poster at maging sa mga sukat nito, pangunahin ng mga kandidato ng administrasyon. Bulag, bingi’t pipi sila o kasabwat na rin sila sa kawalanghiyaang naganap sa buong panahon ng kampanyahan at halalan.

Sa araw mismo ng halalan, hindi mabilang ang ulat ng vote-buying, pangangampanya sa mga presinto at iba pang porma ng dayaan. Sa Lanao del Sur, bugbugan at barilan pa rin ang uso. Maging ang pulisya at militar ay aktibo rin sa pangangampanya sa mga ayaw nilang manalo. Hindi rin kumikibo ang Comelec sa mga ito.

Paanong hindi iisiping kasabwat ang Comelec sa kawalanghiyaan sa halalan, samantalang hindi ito pumayag sa anumang panukala na ipakita nila ang source code ng automated election system. Hindi rin ito tumutugon sa rekwes ng Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) na silipin ang programang ito kung nagtutugma ba ang mga numero sa main server at sa transparency server. Ano ba talaga ang nangyari sa pitong oras na patay ang transparency server? Kung walang itinatago, bakit hindi ipakita sa PPCRV, Namfrel, Kontra-Daya at iba pang poll watchdog?

Tatanggapin na lamang ba ng taumbayan na walang kasalanan ang mga opisyal ng Comelec sa lahat ng ito? Kapag sinabi ba ng mga komisyoner na tayo’y bulag na magtiwala at sila na ang bahala ay ayos na ang lahat? Ano ang gagawin ng Comelec sa malinaw na paglabag sa paggasta ng karamihan ng mga nangungunang kandidato sa pagka-senador at party list?

Tama naman si Komisyuner Guanzon na kaduda-duda na ang resulta ng halalan noong Lunes. Pero hindi ba dapat ang unang hinala ay sa
sa mga walanghiyang politiko at sa Comelec mismo? #

Business League: Congress of the Elite

By Yvette Balita, Joshua Poe Cadano, Dana Eunise Cruz and Arjay Ivan Gorospe

(Part three of three)

[Read the first part here: Party-list (Mis)Representatives]

[Read the second part here: Party-list groups: Family Enterprise]

While the Party-list System Act of 1995 aims to represent and enable marginalized and underrepresented sectors, multi-millionaires and billionaires remain to be the dominant members of the House of Representatives.

There have been instances where the party-list system had been used by the elite to further their business interests by taking advantage of national and local expenditures, as was the case in the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam.

From the 15th to the 17th Congress, Christopher Co of Ako Bicol  (AKB) and Mariano Michael Velarde Jr. of Buhay party-list have consistently been part of the richest party-list representatives. The representatives have net worths of P104.4 million and P52.4 million respectively, according to their Statements of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN) in 2017.

Other rich lawmakers from the past decade are Virgilio Lacson of Manila Teachers, Milagros Aquino-Magsaysay of Senior Citizen, Jesulito Manalo of Angkla, Michael Romero of 1-PACMAN, and Emmeline Aglipay-Villar of Diwa.

Conflict of interest?

Co, owner of Hi-Tone Construction and Development, has been in the top 10 list of richest party-list representatives from 2010 up to present. He is also the brother of Elizaldy Co, the head of the transnational group Sunwest Group of Companies, Tektone Global Technologies Foundation, commercial hub Embarcadero de Legazpi, and other construction firms, malls and resorts.

His net worth from 16th to 17th Congress surged by P8,731,517, and P8,008,565 from 15th to the 16th. He was investigated, along with other district representatives in 2014, due to conflicting business interests in the projects of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

The House committee on good government and accountability then investigated the release of at least P10.2 billion of the P69.7-billion congressional insertions spent in the last months of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The DPWH expended the infrastructure funds to 1,074 projects despite having no revenues, Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson said during the hearing, adding that it is against the General Appropriations Act.

In the probe of the House committee, it turned out that the company of Co was among the top 10 contractors involved. The late Rep. Rodel Batocabe, his party mate, questioned the House committee probe to defend him.

Due to Ako Bicol’s business interests, members of the Confederation for the Unity, Recognition, and Advancement of Government Employees (Courage), a member-organization of poll watchdog Kontra Daya, filed a disqualification case against the party-list group in 2010. In an ABS-CBN news report, Ako Bicol admitted being funded by the Delfin A. Co Foundation which shouldered the group’s development projects and scholarship programs.

The petitioners also traced that the employment provided to thousands of Bicolanos were from Co’s Tektone Foundation. “Both Elizaldy and Christopher are wealthy magnates in Bicol and the Philippines and they together, cannot represent the marginalized and underrepresented sectors,” the petition says. In addition, the family of Co has close links to Arroyo.

In the same year, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) dismissed the petition against Ako Bicol since it had to uphold the will of the electorate after the party-list group obtained the most number of votes. But in 2012, Comelec disqualified Ako Bicol for the 16th Congress. Then Comelec Chair Sixto Brillantes said that the group is a registered political party, not a marginalized people’s representative.

However, the Supreme Court released new parameters or guidelines for the party-list elections in 2013. It states that national parties or organizations and regional parties or organizations do not need to organize along sectoral lines and do not need to represent any marginalized and underrepresented sector. As a result, Comelec allowed Ako Bicol to run.

Mariano Michael Velarde Jr. is another lawmaker who joins Co in the top 10 list of multi-millionaire party-list representatives from 2010 to present. His father, Bro. Mike Velarde, is preacher and owner of Amvel Land Development Corporation.

In 2010, Kontra Daya asked Comelec to investigate 40 party-list groups which do not represent the marginalized and underrepresented sectors. Even if Velarde is one of those listed, he was still able to run under Buhay Party-list.

Re-electionists

Other partylist representatives in the top 10 list of millionaires in congress include Michael Romero, Jesulito Manalo, Emmeline Aglipay-Villar, Virgilio Lacson, and Milagros Magsaysay. These candidates were all elected during the 16th congress and re-elected in the 17th congress.

Richest Party-list Representatives of the 17th Congress

Name Partylist Networth Business Association Business-related bills forwarded
1) Michael Romero 1-PACMAN, 7,291,000,000.00 Globalport 900 Inc. GlobalPort Batang Pier (PBL team) 168 Ferrum Pacific Mining Position Harbour Center Port Terminal Inc. Mikro-Tech Capital Inc. Harbour Centre Port Holdings, Inc. R-II Holdings, Inc. MIC Holdings Corp. R-II Builders, Inc. enactment of House Bill (HB) 159 seeking to strengthen the right of government to expropriate lands for socialized housing
2) Emmeline Aglipay-Villar DIWA 1,407,459,436.00 Vista Land and Lifescapes Authored HB 04805, also known as An act mandating the Department of Agriculture to promote urban agricultural development in the country’s metropolitan areas, to address food security, and providing funds therefor
3) Virgilio Lacson Manila Teachers 791,690,847.37 Manila Teachers’ Savings and Loan Association He authored several bills on banking and finance including HB 08453, An Act instituting reforms in real property valuation and assessment in the philippines, reorganizing the bureau of local government finance, and appropriating funds therefor
4) Jesulito Manalo ANGKLA 118,639,794.00 He is one of the founders of Manalo and Perez Law Offices.  
5) Christopher Co AKO Bicol; 15th – 17th 104,440,082.50   CEO of Sunwest Group of Companies  
6) Milagros Magsaysay Senior Citizen 95,100,000.00 She is related to Ramon Magsaysay, the 7th President of the Philippines. She is also the grandmother of Miguel Corleon Magsaysay, a councilor in San Juan, La Union.    
7) Enrico Pineda 1 PACMAN 85,5000,000.00 Manny Pacquiao’s business manager; team manager of Pacquiao’s PBA team Mahindra Enforcer. He authored HB04054 which seeks to provide tax incentives to individuals and corporations giving donations, contributions, and grants to filipino athletes who have won medals in the summer olympic games
8) Michaelina Antonio AGBIAG 80,350,815.22 Her husband was the Partylist’s former Representative  
9) Aniceto Bertiz III ACTS OFW, 17th Congress 54,265,000.00 Global Asia Alliance Consultant Inc. He was involved in a heated discussion  with Eman Villanueva, a leader of OFWs in Hong Kong, after the latter brought up Bertiz’ recruitment agency.  He also authored HB 01302, an act establishing a special social security for migrant workers, which amends section 37-a of republic act no. 8042, on the compulsory insurance coverage by private insurers for agency hired workers.
10) Mariano Michael Velarde Jr. BUHAY 52,387,126.78 Son of Bro. Mike Velarde, the owner of Amvel Land Development Corporation. The other nominees of their party-list include William Irwin Tieng, whose family controls Solar Sports. A resolution directing the committee on revision of laws to index the fines under the revised penal code to adjust to present level of inflationary rates

Controversies

The Priority Development Assistance Fund scam, also called the PDAF scam or the pork barrel scam exposed large sums allegedly misused by several members of the Congress and Senate.

Based on the 2013 annual audit report of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos released and posted on the Commission on Audit website, the following partylist representatives released part of the PDAF and Disbursement Acceleration Program allocations to alleged bogus foundations and suppliers:

Partylist RepresentativePartylistAmount
Daryl Grace AbayonAangat TayoP 44.8 million
Salvador Cabaluna IIII-CareP 37.5 million
Michael Angelo RiveraI-CareP 27.5 million
Mariano PiamonteA-TeacherP 20 million
Maximo RodriguezAbante Mindanao Inc.P 15.5 million
Raymond Democrito MendozaTUCPP 14 million
Abigail FerriolKalingaP 11.35 million
Angelo PalmonesAghamP 10 million
Ranulfo CanonigoKakusaP 10 million
Manuel AgyaoKalingaP 5.5 million
Sharon GarinAAMBIS OwaP 5 million
Mark Aeron SambarPL-PBAP 5 million
Neil Benedict MontejoAn-WarayP 5 millon
Homer Mercado1-UtakP 4.5 million
Isidro LicoAting KoopP 3 million
Ponciano PayuyoApecP 2 million

Indeed, there is evidence to prove that the party-list system has been hijacked by the rich and powerful. The Party-list System Act of 1995 which is supposed to make the House of Representatives truly representative has made it cruelly repressive. #

Party-list groups: Family Enterprise

(Part two of three)

By Enrico Berdos, Michelle Co, Ara Eugenio, Aimee Lontok, Edelino Mercene, Jr. and Angela Ng

[Read the first part here: Party-list (Mis)Representatives]

Political dynasties have secured their place in the House of Representatives in the last three administrations, occupying close to 55 percent of congressional seats.

Data from online news website Rappler and election watchdog Kontra-Daya show that 31 percent (18 out of 58) of party-list seats were occupied by members of political dynasties in 2015. A study by the Asian Institute of Management Policy Center concluded that political dynasties occupied 25 percent of party-list seats (14 out of 56) in the 16th Congress. Meanwhile, out of 65 party-list seats in the 17th Congress, 22 were occupied by political dynasties, accounting for 33 percent.

According to the Philippine Institute for Development Studies, “a family that has successfully retained political power through maintaining control over at least one elective position over successive generations” can be placed in such a category. A political dynasty is established when a family member occupy different political positions simultaneously, or when a government official and his relative/s occupy an electoral position over the years.

In 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that national and regional parties “do not need to organize along sectoral lines and do not need to represent any marginalized and underrepresented sector.”This made it easier for members of political dynasties to run as partylist representatives.

Big fish

Having several relatives in power allows political dynasties to exert control and distribute development in their political turfs.

Some party-list representatives belong to political clans whose relatives occupy several government positions in a province. For instance, Sharon Garin has served as representative of Ang Asosasyon Sang Mangunguma Nga Bisaya-Owa Mangunguma (AAMBIS-OWA) since the 15th Congress. Among her relatives in politics are her brother Rep. Richard Garin (1st District, Iloilo), sister Christine Garin (Iloilo vice-governor), mother Nimfa Garin (San Joaquin, Iloilo mayor), father Oscar Garin (Guimbal, Iloilo mayor), sister-in-law Janette Garin (former Health Secretary and former Rep. of the 1st District of Iloilo).

Similarly, Shernee Abubakar Tan, incumbent party-list representative of Kusug-Tausug, is a member of the Tan family of Sulu. She is the youngest daughter of former Sulu governor Abdusakur M. Tan and sister of incumbent Sulu governor Abdusakur Tan II and Maimbung Mayor Samier Tan. Her mother, Hadja Nurunisah Abubakar-Tan, is vice governor of Sulu.

In the case of Democratic Independent Workers Association Inc. (DIWA) Rep. Emmeline Aglipay-Villar who has been in Congress since 2010, her link to a political dynasty is through her marriage to Mark Villar, current Public Works Secretary. This makes her a part of the Aguilar-Villar political clan of Las Piñas and Muntinlupa.

But despite the influence that these personalities wield, they know they cannot hold their political positions forever. They find a way to transfer it to their other relatives such as their children or siblings when their terms end.

Rigodon

The act of switching government posts among two politicians is known in the Philippines as political rigodon, named after a formal Spanish dance where two people exchange positions until the music stops.

Switching places as party-list representatives occur across first and second generation relatives, such as among siblings, among couples and among parents and children. Sometimes, the switch also involves siblings-in-law or children-in-law.

Party-list representatives are replaced by their relatives because an outgoing representative plans to run for a position in his or her province’s local government or because he or she has reached the three-term limit in Congress.

Nicanor Briones was Agricultural Sector Alliance of the Philippines (Agap) party-list representative for the 15th and 16th Congress (2010-2016). In 2016, he attempted to run as governor of Batangas but lost. His daughter Kathleen Briones tried to replace his place as party-list representative but was unsuccessful.

Meanwhile, Maximo Rodriguez, Jr., Abante Mindanao (ABAMIN) party-list representative of the 15th and 16th Congress (2010-2016) and current ABAMIN president, replaced his brother Rufus Rodriguez as Cagayan de Oro’s (CDO) 2nd district representative in 2016.

Rufus Rodriguez tried to run as CDO mayor in 2016 as he reached the three-term congressional limit, but lost to Oscar Cruz.

Maximo Rodriguez, Jr.’s wife, Mary Grace Rodriguez, is also currently running as a party-list representative for ABAMIN in the coming elections.

You Against Corruption and Poverty (YACAP) Rep. Benhur Lopez, Jr. replaced his sister Carol Jayne Lopez, who served during the 15th and 16th Congress.

Some political families also send two or more representatives to sector-oriented and regional/national-based party-list groups which means that they can replace outgoing relatives with other members of the family.

During the 2016 national elections, two of Kalinga party-list representative nominees, Kristen Michelle Ferriol and Arturo Ferriol failed to win seats alongside incumbent representative Abigail Ferriol-Pascual.

A family enterprise

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) Secretary-General Renato Reyes Jr., warned that political dynasties have an unfair advantage against other groups during the campaign period. “Bibitbitin na nila ‘yung mayor, governor, congressman – tapos party-list. So… Isang buhos na lang iyan. Tapos most likely, doon lang sila sa region nila kukuha ng boto, or in many cases nga namimili ng boto.”

“‘Pag nakita mo na kasi sila – silang magkakapamilya, that’s not a real party-list group, that’s a family enterprise,” Reyes said.

Anti-Dynasty Law: Failed Attempts

The Senate and the House of Representatives dropped the Anti-dynasty Bill in 2015, describing it as a “mere showpiece” and a “toothless measure” that strengthens instead of removes political dynasties.

House Bill No. 3587, which was up for second reading at the time, proposed that two members of a political dynasty be allowed to run for politics, while the Congress pushed for a third member to be allowed to run in the national and local polls simultaneously.

“There will be no Anti-dynasty Law. There’s no more time to consider and approve it,” former Senate President Franklin Drilon told ABS-CBN News Channel at the time. “Besides, many in Congress are against it. There’s strong opposition to it. That’s the reality of our politics.”

With research interests along the lines of legislative dynamics, executive-legislative relations, electoral politics, institutional reform and political economy, UP Diliman Political Science Assistant Professor Alicor Panao said that political dynasties are mere symptoms of a larger political dysfunction. “Our rules, electoral laws, push people to establish dynasties. When your legislator legislates, no one in his right mind would sign his own death warrant.”

Party-list groups are now used as a backdoor for candidates to perpetuate themselves in power, Panao added. The law only allows a three-term limit, and when a candidate reaches his outterm, this could be passed down to other members of the family.

Panao said such actions do not reflect on greediness, but mainly because of how the institution permits the continuation of making these families relevant to society. “If you’re out-termed, you’re toppled, it would be difficult to get back into the scene; there is a difficulty in name-recall, and such candidate will be out of circulation.” #

ANNEX

This table lists down all members of political dynasties in the party-list system who served during the 15th to 17th Congress (2010-2017):

Political
Clan
Province/ City Party-list Represen-
tative
Party-listCongressional
Term
AbayonSamarDaryl
Grace
Abayon
Aangat
Tayo (AT)
15th Congress
(2010-2013)
AbayonSamarHarlin Neil Abayon Jr.Aangat Tayo
(AT)
17th Congress
(2016-2019)
Antonio Patricio
Antonio
Agbiag!
Timpuyo
Ilocano Inc.
(Agbiag)
15th Congress
(2010-2013)
16th Congress
(2013-2016)
Antonio Michaelina “Michelle” AntonioAgbiag! Timpuyo Ilocano Inc. (Agbiag)17th Congress
(2016-2019)
AtienzaManilaJose “Lito” Atienza, Jr.BUHAY16th Congress
(2013-2016)
17th Congress
(2016-2019)
Batocabe Rodel
Batocabe (+)
AKO BICOL15th Congress
(2010-2013)
16th Congress
(2013-2016)
17th Congress
(2016-2019)
BelmonteQuezon
City
Ricardo
Belmonte
Serbisyo sa
Bayan
17th Congress
(2016-2019)
Chavez Cecilia
Chavez
Butil Farmers
Party (BUTIL)
17th Congress
(2016-2019)
Herrera-Dy BernadetteHerrera-DyBagong
Henerasyon
(BH)
15th Congress
(2010-2013)
17th Congress
(2016-2019)
EstrellaPangasi-
nan
Robert
Raymund
Estrella
ABONO15th Congress
(2010-2013)
EstrellaPangasi-
nan
Conrado M. Estrella IIIABONO16th Congress
(2013-2016)
17th Congress
(2016-2019)
GarinIloiloSharon
Garin
AAMBIS-OWA15th Congress
(2010-2019)
Gatcha-lianValenzue-laWeslie
Gatchalian
Alay Buhay16th Congress
(2013-2016)
Haresco TeodoricoHaresco Jr.Kasangga sa
Kaunlaran Inc. (ANG KASANGGA)
15th Congress
(2010-2013)
Haresco Jose
Ciceron
Lorenzo
Harenzo
Kasangga sa Kaunlaran Inc.
(ANG
KASANGGA)
17th Congress
(2016-2019)
HatamanBasilanSitti
Turabin
-Hataman
AMIN16th Congress
(2013-2016)
17th Congress
(2016-2019)
Lopez Benhur
Lopez Jr.
You Against
Corruption and Poverty
(YACAP)
17th Congress
(2016-2019)
Lopez Carol Jayne LopezYou Against
Corruption and Poverty
(YACAP)
15th Congress
(2010-2013)
16th Congress
(2013-2016)
Macapa-
gal
-Arroyo
Pampa-
nga
Juan
Miguel
MacapagalArroyo
Ang Galing
Pinoy (AGP)
15th Congress
(2010-2013)
Magsay-
say
NationalEulogio
Magsaysay
AVE15th Congress
(2010-2013)
6th Congress
(2013-2016)
Magsay-
say
NationalMilagros
Aquino-
Magsaysay
Senior Citizens17th Congress
(2016-2019)
MendozaCotabatoRaymond
DemocritoMendoza
Trade Union Congress of the
Philippines
(TUCP)
15th Congress
(2010-2013)
16th Congress
(2013-2016)
17th Congress
(2016-2019)
Noel Victoria
Noel
AN WARAY16th Congress
(2013-2016)
17th Congress
(2016-2019)
Noel Florencio NoelAN WARAY15th Congress
(2010-2013)
OrtegaLa UnionFrancisco
Emmanuel Ortega III
ABONO15th Congress
(2010-2013)
16th Congress
(2013-2016)
17th Congress
(2016-2019)
Pangani-
ban
Pangasi-
nan
Jose
Pangani-
ban Jr.
Ang National
Coalition of
Indigenous
Peoples
Action Na!
Inc.
(ANAC-IP)
17th Congress
(2016-2019)
Pizarro Catalina
Leonen
-Pizarro
Arts,
Business and
Science
(ABS)
15th Congress
(2010-2013)
16th Congress
(2013-2016)
RodriguezCagayan
de Oro
Maximo
Rodriguez Jr.
Abante
Mindanao
(ABAMIN)
15th Congress
(2010-2013)
16th Congress
(2013-2016)
SuarezQuezon
Province
Anne Marie Villeza
-Suarez
ALONA16th Congress
(2013-2016)
17th Congress
(2016-2019)
TanSuluShernee
Abubakar
Tan
KUSUG-
TAUSUG
17th Congress
(2016-2019)
VelascoMarindu-
que
Lorna
Velasco
Ang Mata’y
Alagaan
(AMA)
15th Congress
(2010-2013)
VelascoMarindu-
que
Trisha
Nicole
Velasco
-Catera
Ang Mata’y
Alagaan
17th Congress
(2016-2019)
VillarLas Piñas,Muntinlu-
pa
Emmeline
Aglipay
-Villar
Democra-
tic Independent Workers Association Inc. (DIWA)
15th Congress (2010-2013)
16th Congress (2013-2016)17th Congress (2016-2019)