Posts

Political dynasties and billionaires hijack ‘democratic’ party-list system in the Philippines

Party-list seats were first reserved for marginalized sectors of society

By Siegfred Deduro

The “party-list” system, originally designed to provide space for the democratic representation of marginalized sectors in the House of Representatives of the Philippines, has been taken over by political dynasties.

The inclusion of the party-list elections in the electoral system was a result of the political struggle against the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship which was toppled by the People Power Revolution in 1986. Before the constitutional amendment that enabled the party-list system, it was almost impossible for the marginalized sectors to be represented in Congress. Elected positions from the municipal up to the national levels were monopolized by political dynasties as, historically, elections were won by those who had “guns, gold and goons.”

Article II Section 26 of the 1987 Constitution declares that the “State shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service, and prohibit political dynasties as may be defined by law.” However, to this day, no anti-dynasty law has been promulgated by the Congress, which is dominated by political dynasties, though a bill nearly succeeded in being approved in the 15th Congress. The bill passed the first and second readings but failed to make it in the final plenary voting. With the enactment of the Party List law in 1995 marginalized sectors gained space in the elite-monopolized Congress. This allowed sectors such as women, workers, farmers, indigenous peoples, and cooperatives to come together, and build coalitions to participate in government. Foremost among the successful party-list organizations were Left-leaning groups, for example, Bayan Muna (People First). Though outnumbered by members of political dynasties, party-list representatives became “fiscalizers” of the people within the legislature.

Some political observers suggest that the party-list system favors a more democratic representation. For instance, among 53 democracies around the world where there are single-member districts, only 7.3 per cent of legislators are women, but in legislatures elected entirely by a party-list, women make up 17.2 per cent of members. But not in the Philippines. Instead, political dynasties saw this system as a backdoor entry to Congress, a means to broaden their turfs and get access to pork-barrel benefits. For example, the son of former President Gloria Arroyo has served in Congress as a party-list representative. Political dynasties-sponsored party-lists win by cheating, vote-buying and patronage politics.

Aside from political dynasties, even billionaires have become legislators by registering as representatives of marginalized groups. For three years now, the country’s richest congressman has been Rep. Michael Romero of party-list group 1-Pacman or One Patriotic Coalition of Marginalized Nationals. His main family business develops and operates port facilities in the country, including the Manila North Harbor.

Veteran lawmaker Edcel Lagman, one of the principal authors of the Partylist System Act, emphasized that:

The purpose [of the system] is to afford and guarantee the marginalized sectors of having representation in Congress which they cannot win in the traditional district elections.

But in 2013 the Supreme Court decided that the party-list was not a reserved-seat system for particular sectors but a system of proportional representation where all types of organizations, including political parties, could participate.

Retired Supreme Court Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban noted that the current party-list system can be “manipulated” to serve the interests of a select few. He called for the urgent revision of the law.

Clearly, the most urgent need of the hour is for legislation to be passed to revise the partylist act and install permanent safeguards to prevent abuses and misuses of the system.

Political science Professor Jorge Villamor Tigno of the University of the Philippines Diliman observed that the inadequacies and conflicting features of the party-list system law can be traced back to its key designer—Congress—whose members may have looked upon the party-list organisations either as potential competitors or useful platforms in their quest to retain their positions of power and privilege. Either way, the lasting effect of the party-list system can be regarded as one that undermines (rather than reinforces) the legacy of People Power.

In the coming 2022 party-list elections, party-lists of the marginalized sectors face formidable challenges. On October 8, the last day of filing of Certificates of Candidacies (COC), a total of 270 party-lists filed their COCs, the overwhelming majority of which are controlled by political dynasties.

Furthermore, the government propaganda network has shifted focus from attacking “drug addicts” to activists, many of whom are party-list members. Online information operations against activists and progressive groups take off from the Rodrigo Duterte government’s drug war playbook—attack online, then kill. 

Bayan Muna Iloilo city coordinator Jory Porquia was gunned down by suspected state agents on April 30, 2020, amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

On August 10, 2020, activist land rights defender and Anakpawis Party-list chairman Randall “Randy” Echanis, 72, was killed inside his home in Quezon City. His body bore multiple stab and gunshot wounds. Echanis had been active in opposing a new anti-terrorism bill, which the President signed into law in July 2020. 

Human rights activist Zara Alvarez was shot and killed by unidentified gunmen in Bacolod City on August 17, 2020. She had been receiving death threats for more than a year. Alvarez was a  former campaign and education director and paralegal in Negros for the human rights group Karapatan. Amid the pandemic, she had been coordinating and conducting relief operations as part of a community health programme. She was the 13th member of Karapatan to be murdered since Rodrigo Duterte came to power in 2016. Other Negros Island-based activists reportedly received threatening messages through their social media accounts saying, “You’re next.”

The government has even moved to disqualify activists from joining the party-list race by branding them as legal fronts of the communist movement. Against forbidding odds, genuine party-lists of the marginalized sectors have to rely on effective campaign strategy, their organized mass base and support of opposition allies to overcome and neutralize the formidable advantages of the party-lists of political dynasties in the coming 2022 elections.

On September 27, the Fifth National Convention of the progressive Makabayan Coalition elected a mixture of seasoned legislators and first-time congressional candidates for its official slate in the 2022 election.

From the party-list groups forming the Makabayan bloc—Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), Anakpawis, Bayan Muna, Gabriela, and Kabataan—six candidates for the 19th Congress are former lawmakers who held party-list posts.

The coalition has vowed to mobilize its constituency nationwide to launch a strong electoral campaign that adapts to current state-instigated terrorism and restrictions amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. #

= = = = =

Kodao publishes Global Voices articles as part of a content-sharing agreement.

Teachers demand unpaid benefits, protest repression on World Teachers’ Day 2021

Unfazed by “thinly-veiled threats” by the Rodrigo Duterte government, teachers from various federations held protest actions in many schools in Metro Manila to demand for unpaid benefits on World Teachers’ Day today, October 5.

“Overworked, underpaid and under-supported” teachers held mini protest actions in their schools and hung tarpaulins listing five demands they said is owed them by the government amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Manila Public School Teachers’ Association members participate in a nationally-coordinated protest action on World Teachers Day 2021.

Led by the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), the teachers said they demand salary upgrading, service credits and overtime pay, laptops and other gadgets for their online classes, P3,000 inflation adjustment allowance and P10,000 tax-exempt honorarium for their work as election inspectors in next year’s national and local elections.

“World Teachers’ Day is our day, and we are again presenting our dire situation and just demands on this day. We call on the Department of Education (DepEd) and the rest of the Duterte administration: spare us your empty messages of gratitude for teachers this year. This year, we urge you to simply listen and act on our just demands,” ACT secretary general Raymond Basilio said in a statement.

ACT said the demands have been repeatedly presented to the DepEd but were instead met with threats of administrative charges if the teachers hold protest actions.

“The shameless attempts of DepEd to invalidate our calls and dampen our resolve to fight for teachers’ rights and welfare will not stand. Our teachers have been struggling for too long because of DepEd and Duterte’s extreme neglect and incompetence. We will take no more of it,” the group said.

Political repression

Aside from ignoring their economic demands, ACT said DepEd has allowed the government’s anti-insurgency campaign to sow terror among teachers who are members of various organizations.

In a press conference last Saturday, ACT recalled their organization has been the target of vicious red-tagging activities by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) that has resulted in the filing of trumped up charges against their leaders.

The government also accused several universities in being involved in the so-called “Red October Plot” a Malacanan Palace spokesperson said was hatched to overthrow the Rodrigo Duterte administration.

The group also complained against NTF-ELCAC’s seminars among students and teachers as well as recently-revealed operations to purge libraries of alleged “subversive books.”

ACT however said the teachers are not fazed by government’s fascist campaigns.

“[W]e have the lessons of history on our side and we know where we stand. We will fight for academic freedom and all other rights and liberties put under siege by this wretched government,” the group said.

In Pasay City, ACT Teachers Party has chosen World Teachers Day to file its Certification of Nomination and Acceptance with the Commission on Elections for next year’s party list elections. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Teachers condemn arrest of Butuan City vice principal

By Joseph Cuevas

The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) condemned the arrest of a union leader in Butuan City and called for her immediate release.

Rosanilla “Teacher Lai” Consad, ACT secretary in Region XIII, a special education teacher and an assistant principal of San Vicente National High School, was arrested yesterday, March 17, at around 4:30 pm in Butuan City by Regional Intelligence Unit 13 of National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA), the police and military.

Consad is also a member of ACT’s National Council.

Consad is being charged with attempted homicide in relation to a New People’s Army ambush in Sitio Manhupaw, Brgy. Poblacion 2, Santiago in Agusan del Norte last November 21.

ACT secretary-general Raymond Basilio said that Consad had been a victim of state vilification and repression since 2018.

In November 2019, she reported about intelligence agents visiting her school to inform her that she and her husband are part of a certain hit list supposedly for being activists.

“Teacher Lai’s case only proves that terrorist-tagging serves as a prelude to worse, more fascist attacks on rights, freedoms, and lives. All of which are part of the Duterte regime’s systematic attack on the Filipino people as it desperately seeks to silence all dissent and establish its tyrannical rule,” Basilio said.

ACT Teachers Party slams DILG memo

Meanwhile, ACT Teachers Party Rep. France Castro said that teacher Lai has been a victim of harassment, threats and red-tagging by state security forces for standing up for the rights and welfare of her fellow public school teachers in Caraga.

“The arrest came days after the DILG release a memorandum tagging ACT and other progressive groups in the public sector as a communist terrorist groups. These are the real threats of red-tagging to the safety, security and freedoms of activists, human rights defenders and union leaders who have been vocal about the failure of the Duterte administration in addressing the perennial crisis of the country’s health system, education system and economy,” Castro said.

ACT Teachers Party will file a house resolution in Congress to investigate Consad’s arrest, Castro added

Consad is expected to file a petition today to be allowed post bail. #

Krisis sa COVID-19, lalong tumitindi, ayon sa Makabayan

Ni Joseph Cuevas

Tumindi ang krisis ng pandemyang Covid-19 dahil sa simula pa lamang ay minaliit na ni Pangulong Rodrigo Duterte ang epekto nito sa bansa na naging militarista naman ang naging pagtugon ng gobyerno noong nanalasa na ito kalaunan.

Ito ang sumada ng mga kinawatan sa blokeng Makabayan sa isang online forum noong Sabado, May 23, na pinamagatang “Hatol Makabayan”

Inihayag ni Makabayan Chairman Atty. Neri Colmenares sa kanyang pambungad na pananalita na tumindi ang krisis ng pandemyang Covid-19 sa Pilipinas dahil sa simula ay minaliit na ito ni Pangulong Duterte at hindi kaagad gumawa ng karampatang aksyon.

Sinabi naman ni Rep. Sarah Elago ng Kabataan Party na hindi solusyong medikal ang unang naging hakbang ni Pangulong Duterte, bagkus ay isang militaristang Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) o lockdown.

Imbes anila na mass testing, isolation, tracing at treatment sa mga posibleng maysakit ay tinapatan ang unang pagdami ng kaso ng coronavirus ay nagpatupad ito ng malupit na lockdown, bagay na ikinabahala ng United Nations Human Rights Council.

Para naman kay ACT-Teachers Rep. France Castro, nakakabahala ang sitwasyon ng mga frontliner dahil sila ang sumusuong sa panganib ng pandemya.

Kulang na kulang ang mga doktor, nars, medical staff pati na din sa mga itinatayong testing centers at kagamitan tulad ng Personal Protective Equipments, dagdag ni Castro.

Kalunos-lunos din ang kalagayan ng mga pampublikong ospital at isolation center para sa mga Overseas Filipino Workers na umuwi sa bansa.

Sa ngayon nasa 13,577 ang kaso ng Covid-19 kung saan mahigit 863 na ang nasawi at mayroong backlog na halos 6,000 na mga pinaghihinalaang kaso ng sakit.

Ang Pilipinas ang may pinakamahigpit at pinakamahabang lockdown sa buong mundo na umabot na sa mahigit 70 araw.

Ang online forum ay pinangunahan ng mga mambabatas mula sa Bayan Muna, ACT-Teachers, Gabriela Women’s Party at Kabataan party.

Pasismo sa pandemya

Ayon kay Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Arlene Brosas ang militaristang tugon ng gobyerno para labanan ang Covid-19 ay nagdulot ng 177, 540 na pag-arestosa panahon ng lockdown na umaabot ng average na 2,900 kada araw at higit 52,000 na ikinulong.

Ilan sa mga ito ang ginawang pag-aresto at pagkulong sa mga relief worker ng Tulong Anakpawis sa Bulacan noong Abril 26 at Lingap Gabriela sa Marikina at Tulong Kabataan sa Quezon City noong Mayo 1.

Dagdag pa ni Brosas, dahas din ang naging tugon katulad nang pagpaslang kay Jory Porquia ng Bayan Muna sa Iloilo at pagpatay sa isang dating sundalo na lumabag umano sa quarantine sa Quezon City. Hindi rin nito pinaglagpas ang ilang netizen sa Online Tokhang tulad ng ginawa sa isang guro sa Zambales.

Wala ring tugon ang gobyerno sa planong magpalaya ng mga bilanggo na kumakalat na ang sakit sa mga kulungan. Hanggang ngayon, wala pa ring tugon ang petisyon na inihain ng mga kaanak ng political prisoner sa Korte Suprema sa halip ay tinutulan pa ito ng Office of the Solicitor General, pahayag pa ni Brosas.

Tinalakay naman ni Rep. Eufemia Cullamat ng Bayan Muna na bukod sa pasistang pananalakay sa mamamayan ay walang humpay din ang counter-insurgency na atake ng gobyerno.

Ilan na dito ang naitalang pambobomba at pagkakampo sa ilang komunidad ng mga katutubo sa CARAGA region, pag-aresto sa mga lider ng progresibong grupo at kaso ng red-tagging, maging pekeng pagpapasurender.

Kapos na ayuda at lumolobong badyet

Naging tampok din sa forum ang tugon ng gobyerno sa kabuhayan ng mamamayan. Inilarawan ni Rep. Ferdinand Gaite ng Bayan Muna ang programang Social Amelioration Program o SAP ng gobyerno na makupad dahil sa napakabagal at burukratikong proseso nang pamamahagi nito.

Ayon kay Gaite, nasa apat na milyong Pilipino pa ang hindi nakatanggap ng nasabing ayuda mula sa target nitong 18 milyon. Maging ang tulong para mga manggagawa ay napakabagal din.

Nasa tatlong milyong manggagawa lamang ang ayuda ng DOLE na Covid-19 Adjustment Measures Program o CAMP mula sa tinatayang 10 milyon na apektado sa buong bansa.

Pinuna naman ni Rep. Carlos Zarate ang napakalaking pondo na nakalaan para sa pandemya subalit hindi naramdaman ng taumbayan.

Kabilang na dito ang halos P275 bilyon na pondo ni Pangulong Duterte kahit pa umutang ito nang aabot sa $5 bilyon mula sa iba’t-ibang multi-lateral agency tulad ng World Bank at Asian Development Bank.

Itinutulak pa aniya ang mga bagong panukala sa Kongreso na “stimulus program” tulad ng Enhanced Build Build Build na magpapasidhi ng patakarang neoliberalisasyon sa ekonomiya, ani pa Zarate.

Nagbigay reaksyon naman ang iba’t-ibang grupo kabilang na dito ang mga mungkahi at panukala na:

– ng health care system sa bansa at paglalalan ng malaking pondo rito hindi lamang sa panahon ng Covid-19.

-Re-alignment ng pambansang badyet sa mga ahensya at mga target na pagkukunan kabilang na ang mataas na pagbubuwis sa mga mayayaman at malalaking korporasyon.

-Direktang ayuda sa mga manggagawa na apektado at pagbibigay trabaho sa mga natanggal kabilang na ang mga kontraktwal at job-order.

-Production subsidy at direct cash assistance na P10,000 sa mga magsasaka, mangingisda at maralita sa kanayunan.

-Pagbibigay ng SAP kahit sa panahon ng GCQ o General Community Quarantine at kabuhayan sa mga maralita.

-Paggiit  sa “No Mass Testing, No School Opening” para naman sa mga kabataan at guro sa pagbubukas ng klase sa darating na Agosto at

-Pagpapatigil sa mga dagdag bayarin at pagpapahirap sa mga estudyante tulad ng Online Classes.

Sa huli, binigyang-hatol ng Makabayan at batayang sekor na maraming kapalpakan, kasalanan at kamalian ang gobyerno ni Pangulong Duterte sa pagharap sa Covid-19.

Hinikayat nila ang mamamayan na kumilos at marapat na paigtingin ang panawagan para sa Kalusugan, Kabuhayan at Karapatan. #

‘Government will only be putting millions of children, teachers, education support personnel and their families at risk’

“Addressing classroom shortages, large class sizes, lack of adequate water supply, working comfort rooms, ensuring health, and (hiring additional) utility personnel in schools (must first be accomplished). The lack of gadgets and access to a strong internet connection for the new modes of teaching under the ‘new normal’ for schools would require additional budget for education, not cuts.

Without addressing these safety measures and lack of infrastructure for education, government will only be putting millions of children, teachers, education support personnel and their families at risk of getting the COVID-19 virus.”

Rep. France Castro
ACT Teachers’ Party
Assistant Minority Leader,
House of Representatives

Jo Maline Mamangun

Court denies gov’t move to jail Satur anew

A Manila Court denied a motion by government prosecutors to jail journalist and former Bayan Muna representative Satur Ocampo anew, saying Ocampo’s bail bond remains in effect until proceedings on a murder charge against him has been terminated.

In an order dated Monday, August 19, Presiding Judge Thelma Bunyi-Medina of the Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 32 said she finds no reason to issue a recommitment order against Ocampo.

“Plainly, the grant of bail to accused-movant Ocampo is not subject to any other condition, except that its effectivity is until the termination of the proceedings of this case,” Bunyi-Medina’s order reads.

The Court is hearing the murder charge against Ocampo for allegedly ordering the mass murder of at least 15 individuals alleged by the military as victims of a supposed purge by the Communist Party of the Philippines in the mid-1980s.

Ocampo has repeatedly said that the charge was laughable, explaining that he was still in jail in 1984 when government witnesses alleged that he gave the order in an underground meeting in Leyte.

In a motion to the court last June 12, government prosecutors argued Ocampo abused his provisional liberty when he was involved in the alleged kidnapping of Lumad children who fled their homes in Talaingod, Davao del Norte last November.

Ocampo, along with Act Teachers’ Party Representative France Castro, were charged with violations of Republic Act No. 10364 or the Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2012 before Branch 2 of the Tagum City RTC.

“This renders him unworthy of the temporary liberty granted to him,” the prosecutors said.

Ocampo (center) reads the order junking the government’s appeal to jail him anew. Jailed National Democratic Front of the Philippines peace consultants Vicente Ladlad (left) and Adelberto Silva (right) look on. (Photo by Atty Kristina Conti/PILC)

Ocampo and Castro, however, said they did not go to Talaingod to kidnap the children but to show their support to the Lumad who fled Sitio Nasilaban, Barangay Palma Gil in Talaingod after elements of the 56th Infantry Battallion of the Philippine Army and the Alamara paramilitary band forcibly closed down their community school.

Through his Public Interest Law Center (PILC) lawyers, Ocampo said they were allowed to post bail after their arrest and the case is in a pre-trial stage at the Tagum City Regional Trial Court.

“The prosecution maliciously insinuates that accused Ocampo is already guilty of kidnapping and child abuse, while he is entitled to a presumption of innocence,” the PILC said in their oppostion to the government prosecutors’ move.

Judge Bunyi-Medina agreed with Ocampo’s lawyers, saying “[A]s admitted by the prosecution, said case is still pending before Branch 2 of the [RTC] of Tagum City, Davao del Norte, nor was it shown that a warrant of arrest was issued against him.”

The PILC said the motion by the government prosecutors is “politically motivated and legally baseless.”

“Ka Satur has weathered through some 12 cases – none of which he has been convicted in, all false and trumped-up,” the PILC said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Makabayan bloc opens 18th Congress with 67 bills, resos

The Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives (HOR) got off to its usual running start and filed 67 bills and resolutions on the opening day of the 18th Congress Monday.

While their colleagues, including other party list representatives, are busy with infighting for the speakership of the HOR, the Leftist lawmakers submitted both new and their old legislative measures and made sure they are among the first to file them.

Makabayan legislative staffmembers were among the first to line up at the HORS’s Bills and Index Service office very early yesterday morning to increase their chance of an early first reading of their measures and referral by the Speaker to their appropriate committees.

Bayan Muna filed 30 bills and resolutions ranging from agrarian refom, human rights, social pension, lowering of prices of basic commodities, wage increases, social services to political reforms.

ACT Teachers Party filed 17 bills and resolutions ranging from salary increases, social services, government services reforms to freedom of information.

Kabataan Party for its part filed 10 bills, mostly on youth and student rights.

Gabriela Women’s Party for its part filed 10 bills and resolutions that the group said seek to uplift women from economic woes and abuse.

Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas said their party prioritizes the repeal of the Rice Tariffication Law due to its disastrous impact on farmers and poor households, as well as measures that seek to end violence against women and children.

“Rice tariffication law sets forth the sharp drop in the farmgate prices of palay which threatens the livelihood of our farmers, as well as the phaseout of the cheaper NFA rice which poor Filipino families rely on. That’s why we want to immediately repeal the law to provide relief to millions of Filipino families,” she said.

“As an alternative, we have filed the Rice Industry Development Act previously filed by Anakpawis Partylist to ensure sufficient support for Filipino farmers and to mandate the identification of rice zones across the country to boost local rice production,” she added.

ACT Teachers Party Rep. France Castro for her part revealed that their 17 bills are bannered by their teachers salary increase bill she said is long overdue.

“We strongly urge the incoming House Leadership to immediately hear and pass the bill increasing the salaries of teachers and other government employees. Similarly, we call on our fellow legislators in both houses of Congress to champion this cause,” Castro said.

This morning, Bayan Muna filed its 31st measure, a resolution calling for an investigation on the violations of labor rights by detergent manufacturer Peerless Products Manufacturing Corporation, following the series of bloody attacks company guards inflicted on its striking workers.

List of bills

Bayan Muna:

1. Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill
2. Human Rights Defenders Bill
3. 2nd Tranche of SSS pension increase
4. Increasing Social Pension
5. Genuine Partylist Group and Nominee Act
6. Repeal TRAIN Law
7. Renationalization of Petron
8. Investigation of the Recto Bank Incident
9. Unbundling of Oil Prices
10. ₱750 National Minimum Wage
11. ₱16,000 Minimum Wage for Government Employees
12. Anti-Privatization of Health Services
13. Free Hemodialysis
14. Anti-Political Dynasty
15. Investigation on Water Privatization
16. Investigation on the Killings in Bicol
17. Investigation on Electoral-Related Harassments
18. Security of Tenure and Substitute Civil Service Eligibility
19. No VAT in Electricity
20. No Vat in Systems Loss
21. People’s Mining Bill
22. Genuine Small Coco Farmer’s Fund
23. Investigation on impacts of agribusiness to agrarian reform beneficiaries
24. No VAT in Water
25. Manila Bay as Reclamation-Free Zone
26. No Mining Zones
27. SOGIE (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression) Bill
28. Investigation on HRVs related to Memo 32 
29. Investigation on Kaliwa Dam Project
30. Moratorium on Coal-Fired Power Plants

ACT Teachers Party-List:

  1. HB 219 – salary increase for public school teachers and other government employees
  2. HB 220 – The Teacher Protection Act of 2019
  3. HB 221 – lowering the optional retirement age of government employees
  4. HB 222 – The Teaching Supplies Allowance Act of 2019
  5. HB 223 – mandatori na mga yunit ng Filipino at Panitikan sa kolehiyo
  6. HB 224 – Act Mandating Free Health Services for the People
  7. HB 225 – exempting from taxation all amounts granted to persons rendering election service for national and local elections
  8. HB 226 – The Freedom of Information Act
  9. HB 227 – The Public School Class Size Law
  10. HB 228 – The Revised GSIS Act of 2019
  11. HB 508 – shorter probationary period of teaching and non-teaching personnel in private schools
  12. HB 509 – guidance counselors in public schools
  13. HB 510 – repealing the anti-professional CPD Act of 2016
  14. HB 511 – The COMELEC Reorganization Act
  15. HB 512 – expanded paternity leave
  16. HB 513 – National Education Support Personnel Day
  17. HR 20 – inquiry in aid of legislation into the status of implementation of the K to 12 Program

Kabataan Party:

  1. Students Rights
  2. Campus Press Freedom
  3. University Services
  4. Human Rights Education
  5. Anti-No Permit No Exam
  6. FQS Day and [email protected]
  7. National Youth Day
  8. Mandatory Bonifacio Subject
  9. National Filipino Youth Museum
  10. Philippine Cinema Appreciation

Gabriela Women’s Party:

  1. Repeal of the Rice Tariffication Law
  2. Rice Industry Development
  3. Magna Carta for Daycare Workers
  4. Amendments to the Solo Parents Welfare Act
  5. Repeal of VAT on oil and other products
  6. Resolution seeking to review the concession agreement of the MWSS
  7. Amendments to the Anti-Rape Law 
  8. Electronic Violence Against Women and Children (EVAWC) 
  9. Repeal of the Human Security Act (HSA)
  10. Divorce bill

The progressive parties said the 67 bills are just their initial submissions. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

ACT Rep. France Castro wins Norwegian prize for work on trade union rights

By Macel Ingles

NORWAY–The Arthur Svensson Prize for 2019 goes to Filipina teacher leader and ACT Teacher’s Party Representative France Castro for her many years of labor organizing and struggle for academic rights in the Philippines.

Castro won the award for her many years of struggle to organize teachers and fighting for basic workers rights in the Philippines, wrote the Svensson Foundation in a press statement.

Castro is invited to Oslo to receive the prize at Rockefeller on June 12.

The award goes with a cash prize worth half a million kroners or about three million pesos.

One of 10 worst countries

The Philippines, according to The International Trade Union Federation, is one of the 10 worst countries in the world for workers and union stewards.

According to the ITUC, the country does not respect basic labor rights such as the right to organize and collective bargaining, and child labor rights as well as against discrimination and forced labor.

The group also noted the prevalence of extreme state violence and oppression of civil rights.

Workers and union activists experience threats and persecution and have to fight for basic rights in order to organize and against persecution from the government and employers, the group noted.

Attack on trade unionists

In a press statement the Svensson Foundation said, “Despite threats and persecution, there are brave people who fight for trade union rights. The regime has attacked trade union activists among teachers and journalists. Some have been killed and many had been imprisoned. Death threats are not unusual. Police officers had also launched an organized campaign that publicly vilified unionized teachers.”

The group added Castro works for democracy and human rights and has worked as a teacher and took initiatives to start a union in Quezon City.

After a few years, she became the secretary general for the Alliance for Concerned Teachers (ACT) and organized the teachers under a common union, it added.

The first CBA

ACT under Castro´s leadership grew in a very short time to become one of the country´s biggest unions in the Philippines.

The alliance signed its first collective bargaining agreement (CBA) in 2016 for teachers in Philippine public schools, an agreement that recognizes the right to strike.

She has also been elected to the Philippine Congress where she has, among others, worked for the expansion of maternity leave to 105 days.

“As a representative of teachers, she has fought against neo-liberal reforms in the education sector and better work environment for teachers. She has also engaged in the fight against lowering age of criminal responsibility for children, and the abolition of obligatory military training in schools and against the killing of thousands of youths under Duterte´s anti-drug
war,” the foundation noted.

In Congress

It noted that Castro, in connection with her and her union´s advocacy for indigenous peoples rights to education, has been arrested by the paramilitary and arrested in November 2018 during a solidarity visit of the indigenous groups under attack in Mindanao.

“Both in and out of Congress, she has all the time fought for the poor, workers and human rights against powerful opponents,” the Foundation wrote.

Awarding on 12 June

The Svensson prize is given to a person or organization that worked to promote trade union rights and or strengthen union organizing in the world.

The award is an international prize started by Industri Energi and awarded annually by the Committee for Arthur Svensson International Prize for Trade Rights.

The prize is at 500,000 Norwegian kroner. Half of the amount will be
given to the prize winner and a certain amount will be set aside for follow up work connected to the prize winner or similar projects.

The prize is named after the former leader of the Chemical Union Arthur Svensson who was known for his international advocacy. #

Teachers commemorate World Teachers’ Day with protests

Teachers from different schools in Metro Manila marched to Mendiola last Friday in Manila to commemorate World Teachers’ Day with a protest rally.

Led by the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) and ACT Teachers Party, they staged a National Day of Action for salary increase and against TRAIN Law of the Duterte Government.

Similar protests and actions were also held in Davao City, Cebu City, Southern Tagalog and Bicol regions.

According to Joselyn Martinez, National Chairperson of ACT, teachers experience the most oppression among government employees despite their leading role in social development.

The Duterte government failed in its promise to increase the salary of public school teachers unlike the military and police which was doubled this year, they said.

Teachers are also overworked due to oppressive policies like the Results-based Performance Management System and Philippine Standards for Teachers, they added.

They were force to attend different seminars and pay from their own pocket while their allowances are often delayed in arriving, Martines added.

According to Rep. France Castro of ACT Teachers Party, the P50 billion budget cut for basic education next year will definitely affect the budget for textbooks, feeding programs and other classroom materials.

The group also condemned recent harassments and intimidations against teachers.

This includes a threat of dismissal of Bacolod teachers if they push through with their planned mass leave. Police tried to prohibit Manila Public School Teachers from distributing leaflets and posters to their colleagues in the activity last October 4.

The teachers also slammed PNP Chief Oscar Albayalde about his warning of contempt to professors who teach ‘rebellious ideas’ to the students, citing that this is an attack following the ‘Red October’ Scare spread by the military and government cover up to the real issues such as inflation rate and TRAIN law.  (Video and report by Joseph Cuevas)

 

Teachers call for 30K salary increase

By April Burcer

Despite the rains, teachers from all over Metro Manila marched Wednesday afternoon (June 4) on EDSA to call for an across-the-board salary increase for mentors and employees in the education sector.

After their General Representatives’ Assembly earlier organized by the Alliance of Concerned Teachers-National Capital Region (ACT-NCR) Union, the teachers also demanded higher education budget and bigger chalk budget, among other issues.

The teachers’ assembly called for an increase in the monthly salary of non-teaching personnel to 16,000 and new teachers to 30,000 as proposed in House Bill 7211 filed by the ACT Teachers Party in Congress.

Joselyn Martinez, ACT-NCR Union President, criticized President Rodrigo Duterte for going back on his promise to increase teachers’ salaries even as he doubled the minimum wages of police and military personnel.

Duterte announced last month that he will increase the salary of teachers, although it will not be as substantial as those received by police and military personnel “because the government cannot afford it.”

ACT said teachers have only recently received a meager increase of 551 pesos per month under Executive Order (EO) No. 201 signed by President Benigno Aquino in 2016 that mandated a four-year pay increase for public sector workers.

ACT Secretary-General Raymond Basilio said that the Office of the President, Vice-President, senators and cabinet secretaries, on the other hand, have enjoyed the highest salary increases under EO 201.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque earlier declared that a special salary increase for teachers will only happen on 2020 when EO 201 is no longer in effect.

“They say we don’t have enough money for the teacher’s salary increase, but they have more than enough budget to pay for our external debt, for military expenses, the ‘Build, Build, Build’ program and pork barrel allocations,” Basilio said.

Overworked but underpaid.

ACT-NCR Union is also calling for better working environment for the overworked teachers.

Under the K-12 program, teachers have to deal with Individual Performance Commitment and Review Form (IPCRF) and other paperwork that eat up a lot of time, Basilio said.

Basilio added the limit of 26 children per class mandated by the Department of Education is also not being implemented, leaving teachers with up to 80 students per class.

Basilio is also concerned that the soon-to-be-implemented Learners’ Information System (LIS) will leave teachers with no sleep because these shall be held throughout the night.

ACT-NCR Union demands free annual medical and dental examination, regulation of class size and teaching load, provision of official time and union time privilege, and improvement of compensation during the next collective negotiation agreement to offset their overworked conditions.

ACT Partylist Representative Franz Castro for her part presented their effort to increase chalk allowance from 2,500 to 5000, augment the Personnel Economic Relief Assistance (PERA) to 5000 pesos, and provide teaching supplies allowance of 5000 pesos per classroom teacher per school year.

However, Castro said that it will not be possible to win this fight without the support of the teachers.

“Let’s join together in the coming State of the Nation Address to voice out our call for salary increases,” Castro said.  #