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Ombudsman indicts Abaya, 16 others over P4.2 billion MRT maintenance contract

The Office of the Ombudsman indicted former Department of Transportation (DoTr) secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya and 16 others over a P4.2billion contract with several private companies for a three-year maintenance service of the problematic Metro Rail Transit 3 (MRT3).

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales found probable cause to charge Abaya and the other respondents for violation of Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (Republic Act No. 3019) over the anomalous MRT3 maintenance contract.

Abaya was transportation secretary under the Benigno Aquino administration.

Also facing charges are DoTr Undersecretaries Edwin Lopez,  Negotiating Team head Rene Limcaoco and his deputy Catherine Jennifer Francis Gonzales; MRT3 General Manager Roman Buenafe, Assistant Secretary for Procurement Camille Alcaraz, MRT3 Bids and Awards Committee Vice-Chairperson Ofelia Astrera, Attorney Charissa Eloisa Julia Opulencia, Engineering Division chief Oscar Bongon, Engineer Jose Rodante Sabayle.

Private respondents Eldonn Ferdinand Uy of Edison Development and Construction, Elizabeth Velasco of Tramat Mercantile Incorporated, Belinda Tan of TMI Corporation, Inc., Brian Velasco of Castan Corporation, and  Antonio Borromeo, Jun Ho Hwang and Elpidio Uy from Busan Universal Rail, Inc. (BURI) were also included in the indictment.

Rigged for a single provider

The Office of the Ombudsman’s Special Panel of Investigators found that in October 2014 and January 2015, the DOTr conducted two biddings for the three-year maintenance service contract for the MRT3.

Both biddings failed due to non-submission of bids.

On 28 January 2015, Abaya issued a Special Order creating the MRT3 Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) for the procurement of goods, infrastructure projects and consulting services of the MRT3 system, the Ombudsman said.

On March 2015, the MRT3 BAC issued Resolution No. 002 recommending it resort to Negotiated Procurement through Emergency Cases under Section 53.2 of the Revised Implementing Rules and Regulations (RIRR) of the Government Procurement Reform Act (Republic Act No. 9184).

Documents, however, show that the contract was set to be awarded to a single maintenance service provider that would establish a Single Point Responsibility for several services, the Ombudsman said.

Table by the Office of the Ombudsman

On 21 December 2015, the MRT3 BAC issued Resolution No. 14 Series of 2015 recommending that the project be awarded to Busan JV.

On 07 January 2016, the DOTr, the MRT3 and the Busan JV entered into a contract for the long-term maintenance contract.

‘Incapable of undertaking maintenance project’

In its Consolidated Annual Audit Report (CAAR) for 2016, however, the Commission on Audit (COA) observed that the “DOTr still failed to provide the riding public with a safe and comfortable transport system even with the procurement and delivery from August 2015 to January 2017 of 48 new LRVs with a total cost of P3,759,382,400.00.”

“Despite four years in the procurement process and total payments of P527,761,083.00 (equivalent to 14 percent of the contract price) to Dalian, the LRVs remain inoperational and unaccepted by the DOTr as of reporting date  due to glitches in the power supply and signaling system.  These resulted from the DOTr’s poor planning and other major procurement lapses,” the COA added.

The Special Panel of Investigators found that respondents extended unwarranted benefits, advantage and preference to the contractor when it awarded the project to Busan JV, an ineligible and unqualified entity, the Ombudsman said.

“In sum, the Busan JV was not technically, legally and financially capable to undertake the MRT3 long-term maintenance contract.  Despite its being unqualified, the contract was still awarded to it by the DOTr, in violation of Section 53 of the RIRR of R.A. No. 9184, which requires that in negotiated procurement, the procuring entity should negotiate with a technically, legally and financially capable supplier, contractor or consultant,” the Ombudsman said.

The panel said then Secretary Abaya has immediate and primary responsibility for all government funds and property pertaining to his agency at the time of the questioned transaction.

Welcome decision

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. who led the filing of the complaint against Abaya last November welcomed the Ombudsman’s decision

“These maintenance contracts involving what we alleged are unqualified providers were partly to blame for the sorry state of the MRT3,” Reyes said.

“We are still a long way from achieving justice for commuters and taxpayers but we hope that the case will lead to genuine accountability,” he added.

Reyes advised the Rodrigo Duterte government to likewise examine the policy of privatizing the train system, its functions and maintenance.

“This has been routinely abused by both government officials and private groups to the detriment of the commuters and taxpayers,” Reyes said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

 

Marker at Chicago Haymarket Square honors Kilusang Mayo Uno

A plaque honoring Philippines’s Kilusang Mayo Uno  (KMU) was installed at the Haymarket Square in Chicago, Illinois, USA last May 1  at the monument honoring workers whose deaths led to several labor reforms, including the implementation of an eight-hour work day.
The installation of the plaque was organized by the Illinois Labor History Society.
Raymond Palatino Bagong Alyansang Makabayan represented KMU during the activity. Below is the text of Mong’s speech:
= = = = =
Salute to the working class of the United States! Salute to all working peoples of the world! Mabuhay!
It is an honor to represent the Kilusang Mayo Uno or May First Movement of the Philippines.
Today, we honor the Haymarket workers whose martyrdom did not only pave the way for labor reforms, but more importantly, it empowered and inspired the growth of the labor movement all over the world.
So powerful was the legacy of May One that it eventually became the International Workers Day.
The Philippine labor movement acknowledged the heroism of the Haymarket martyrs when its largest and most militant labor federation chose the name Kilusang Mayo Uno or May First Movement to unite all workers in the Philippines and lead the struggle of the working class.
KMU was established to strengthen the ranks of Filipino workers at a time when the country was under a dictatorship. KMU led the workers in resisting tyranny and linked arms with the farmers, the urban poor, and other freedom-loving Filipinos in ousting a dictator from power.
Since then, the KMU has been at the forefront of the labor movement, and it has consistently and bravely asserted, without compromise, the just demands of workers for higher wages, decent work, safe workplaces; and it has been a strong voice in pushing for democratic rights, an end to feudal oppression in the rural regions of the Philippines, the resistance against foreign control of the local economy, and the realization of the people’s national democratic aspirations.
For almost four decades now, the KMU has been an influential force in the people’s struggle for real democracy and lasting peace in the Philippines.
And so it is fitting that, as we place a KMU marker here in Chicago, we dedicate this in honor of all who devoted the best years of their lives, many of them even sacrificed their lives, in pursuing the revolutionary struggle for national democracy.
This plaque is also for the Filipino migrant farmers who arrived here in the US in the early 20th century. Some of them would become pioneers in union organizing. Their work is remembered today as we continue to fight for immigrant rights and the improvement of conditions of all migrant workers in the US.
This is for the assembly workers in the Philippines’ export processing zones who are toiling in sweatshop conditions, the plantation workers of Mindanao who are herded in militarized camps, the service sector employees denied of benefits, the migrant workers who are forced to be separated from their families because of poverty, underdevelopment, and unjust immigration policies. This is for all the working classes who do not surrender and who continue to march forward to fight for change.
This is for the labor organizers in the Philippines who are fighting a rising dictatorship amid nonstop attacks by state forces. Some of them are in prison yet the only crime they committed was to promote the welfare of workers.
In response, we proudly assert that union organizing is not a crime. Empowering the grassroots is not a crime. Standing up for migrant rights is not a crime.
The real criminal act is the exploitation of the working class, the greedy appropriation of profits and surplus value while workers are subjected to slave-like relations, and the collusion of big capitalists and corrupt politicians in violating labor rights.

KMU stands in solidarity with the American working class in challenging the neoliberal economic policies that drive down wages, destroy unions, and harm the health and well-being of workers.

Raymond Palatino (front row, 5th from right) with members of the Illinois Labor History Society. (Photo by Ciriaco Santiago III, used with permission)

KMU joins all workers in the world in smashing this inhumane system that perpetuates oppression and inequality.
The capitalists have money, the police, the courts, and dirty politicians; but the workers are stronger because we have unity and solidarity and the peoples of the world are one with us in building a better future, a beautiful tomorrow where there is real peace, justice, democracy, and respect for human dignity.
Long live the working class! Mabuhay ang uring manggagawa!

Laguna de Bay’s fishers and defenders

A multimedia report by Eunice Lei Wu and Gabriel Endona

Ronnie Molero and Marlon Valenzuela prepare their boat for the day’s fishing.

THEIR day starts early, from the small hours of the morning to daybreak. The boats they use are slim and long, shorn on its sides by constant use and time. But the boats are sturdy and more than capable of carrying at least seven people. They can travel from one end of the lake to the other. If these had enough gas, that is.

To get the boats out to the baklad (fish pens), it takes around ten minutes of wrestling through the lush fields of water lilies kept at bay by walls of green netting and bamboo poles. One of the reasons the fishermen needed to put up net barriers was to ward off the wild growth. It was a preventative measure. If they don’t build barriers before the lilies grow, they can’t fish.

Ang kasabihan kasi ‘pag sumobra nakakasama,” Mang Larry Protasio, 60, said. He is the President of the Fisheries and Aquatic Resource Management Council (FARMC). His jurisdiction covers the entirety of Laguna Lake. “Kagaya niyan. Lalabas ka ng alas tres ng madaling araw, bago ka makalabas alas singko na. Sasalok ka pa. Pagsalok mo, babalik ka na naman. Bago ka makapasok, alas siete na. Bilasa na isda mo,” he said.

Mang Emil Rongabilla, 59, perched himself nimbly on the baklad’s bamboo poles—no easy feat given the size of the net he carried. He would dip the net attached to yet another bamboo pole about twice his body size into the water and haul out a fish load. The catch can range from just one piece to what seemed like five kilos worth of them. The tiny silver bodies would flail about powerfully in the net, splashing water around the baklad. Yet Mang Emil keeps his balance.

There’s an art to the way Mang Emil released the fish: a practiced flick of the wrist that sent the net arcing gracefully through the air and its catch cleanly onto his boat. These are mostly kanduli and a smattering of tilapia.

After scooping the fishes from the baklad, Emil then drops them into his boat.

 “Hindi na mabenta ang kanduli,” Mang Ronnie Molero, 59, spokesperson of the Save Laguna Lake Movement said. Still, they manage.

This is the life for the average fisherfolk in Barangay Sucat, Muntinlupa. They, like many other fisherfolk in Laguna Lake, have relied primarily on systems of net barriers and baklad to sustain themselves and their families for generations. “Iyong lolo pa ng lolo ko nagdadagat na, hanggang sa ako na ang nagmana,” Mang Larry said.

Duterte’s zero fish pen policy

Just last year, a threat to this way of life emerged in the form of President Rodrigo Duterte’s zero fish pen policy purportedly aimed to rehabilitate the lake. Small fisher folk were quickly alarmed, saying that an absolute zero fish pen policy would effectively spell their doom. “Kung aalisin mo ang mga fish pond—lahat ha, zero—maraming magugutom,” Mang Larry said.

FARMC has around 22,000 members, the registered fishers of the lake. Almost every one of them has a family to support. The lake is a vital fish supplier for the whole of Metro Manila. “Ang ipinaglalaban ng mga mangingisda ay wag i-zero,” Mang Larry said.

Marlon hands Emil Rongabilla a net attached to a bamboo pole, the primary tool they use to fish.

The Fisheries Code dictates that only 10 percent of an inland body of water is allotted to fishing activities. In Laguna de Bay’s case, it should only be 9,000 hectares of its 90,000-hectare. Currently, about 18,000-20,000 hectares are occupied by baklads, approximately 70 percent of which is occupied by commercial fish pens.

Mang Larry and Mang Ronnie both agree that reducing the occupied areas to the law-mandated 10 percent would in fact benefit small fisherfolk. “Luluwag ang pangisdaan namin. At luluwag din yung mga pwedeng puwesto ng isda na palalakihan,” Mang Larry said.

Former Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Gina Lopez supported the small fisher folk’s demand to leave their baklad alone and only commercial fish pens should be abolished. Lopez however was denied confirmation by the Commission on Appointments. It was a hard blow to the small fisher folk of Laguna Lake.

But Lopez’ non-confirmation gave them some relief. Lopez wanted to transform the lake into an ecotourism zone which would bring more big businessmen who could eventually elbow the fisher folk out of the lake. The lake’s seven islands, each covering 100-hectare areas, are to be transformed as tourist attractions in the Taguig and Muntinlupa areas of the lake. These would then be sold off to the highest bidders. The lake’s intended ecotourist transformation is meant to evoke for the south what the reclaimed areas in Pasay by Manila Bay have become.

Road of perdition

Ronnie points to a kanduli, which made up most of the catch for the day.

The construction of the controversial Laguna Lakeshore Expressway Dike (LLED) presents yet another threat to the lives of those who reside along the lake. The proposed LLED would cut through the lake from Taguig to Calamba and Los Baños in Laguna province. One of the reasons for the LLED is to make travel easier from the metro to the south and ease traffic congestion. Last July 7, the Department of Public Works and Highways opened a recently completed 3.2 kilometer portion of the LLED in Taguig as part of its first phase of construction.

Kasi ang katwiran nila, nahihirapan daw pumunta ang mga turista sa Pagsanjan Falls dahil traffic na rito,” Virgilio Biñalon, 52, FARMC Sucat president, said. “Puro pambobola ginagawa nila,” he added.

The fisher folk of Laguna Lake cry foul at these developments, saying the private and commercial nature of the projects would eliminate all room for the fisher folk to make a living. “’Di naman pwede ang ecotourism na ang makikinabang lamang ay iilang tao,” Mang Larry said.

The projects would also entail massive reclamation of land and water area. The fisher folk fear backers of Laguna Lake’s conversion into an ecotourism zone as well as the building of the LLED are unaware or deliberately ignoring the fact that certain areas of the projects are situated above the West Valley Fault (WVF). Barangay Sucat itself is reclaimed and a precarious one, according to Mang Virgilio. He said it takes the LLED constructors about 80 feet for a lamppost to be submerged and stabilized. With the LLED seen as a possible initiator of flooding, it would take very little to weaken the soil.

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan’s Muntinlupa Chapter member Anabel San Juan for her part said the Laguna Lake Development Authority has been pacifying the fisher folk and the residents near Laguna Lake about the LLED project while operations still carried on. San Juan recalls the devastation of the 1990 earthquake in Dagupan City. The 7.8 magnitude quake caused parts of the city to sink by about one meter due to soil liquefaction. “’Di ba lumubog ang lupa? Pagkatapos ng lindol umaangat na yung tubig,” she added.

The problem with land reclamation is that reclaimed areas are more prone to soil liquefaction especially in the event of an earthquake, the residents said. They are more alarmed that Laguna de Bay reclamation efforts are on top of a major fault line experts warned is ripe for a major earthquake.

“Kasi tinambakan mo ang tubig. Kukunin din ng tubig yan,” Mang Virgilio said.

Protecting the lake

Their livelihood is not the residents’ sole reason for protecting the lake. For them, it has been the anchor of their lives. It is by the lakeside that they are born and raised. They’ve walked its shores and kissed its waters with the curved edges of their boats.

In Barangay Sucat, the area by the lake is also fertile ground for small-scale farming with yields like kangkong that many families rely on. Many fisher folk have already opt to seek alternative work for when fishing alone cannot sustain a living. In spite of this, the lake still remains a place for them to come back to.

”’Yan ang kaibahan ng dagat. Takbo sila diyan, diyan naghahanap-buhay. Pagka mahina sa dagat, tatakbo na naman sila, magko-construction,” Mang Larry said.

Mang Virgilio, for his part laments at what the future holds for the lake. “Ang problema yung maiiwan natin dito,” he said. “Pag naglakihan ang mga bata anong gagawin natin?” he wondered.

Laguna de Bay’s fisher folks vow to keep their way of life. They say they hope succeeding generations would still have the lake as the center of their lives as both beneficiaries of its blessings as well as its protector. #

A little boy watches Ronnie and Marlon dock the boat on the lakeside after a day’s work.

 

Day of reckoning in 2nd Duterte SONA protests

In a day of reckoning, tens of thousands of protesters under the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) trooped outside Congress for Pres. Duterte’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) 2017.

This was before he faced the protesters asking for more time and patience.

Bayan Sec-Gen Renato Reyes states the reasons for the protest citing anti-people and anti-national policies including the bombing of Marawi and martial law. (ILPS Philippines video)

Bayan releases 20-point wish list for Duterte’s 2nd SONA

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) announced its list of 20 “urgent people’s demands” it urges President Rodrigo Duterte’s to address on his second State of the Nation Address on July 24.

Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said their list aims to push the year-old Duterte government to “address the worsening crisis confronting the nation and the Filipino people,” including unfulfilled promises on land reform, national industrialization, peace talks, independent foreign policy, expanded social services, respect for human rights and measures against corruption. Read more

Activists hold rally for peace and justice in Mindanao

After President Rodrigo Duterte declared Martial Law over the whole of Mindanao earlier this week following attacks by the Maute Group, progressive organizations held a rally at Plaza Miranda last Wednesday afternoon to call for peace and justice in Mindanao.

Protesting what they say is an unwarranted military rule to quell an attack at certain locations in the island, the activists said martial law is not the proper response to the crisis in isolated areas in Mindanao.

They instead called on President Duterte to revoke his declaration in fear of massive human rights violations against innocent civilians. # (Videography by Ivan Dexter Tolentino and Esther Anne Cabrillas / Editing by Jo Maline D. Mamangun)

Read more

Joma Sison receives first ever Gawad Supremo

Prof. Jose Ma. Sison, International League of Peoples’ Struggles chairperson, received the first ever Gawad Supremo in a special ceremony in Oslo, Norway;s Saga Kino last October 10.

Gawad Supremo is Bagong Alyansang Makabayan’s award to those who live the aspirations of Philippine national hero Andres Bonifacio for national liberation and social justice. Read more

NDFP Independent Cooperator: May kakampi ang mamamayang Pilipino

Panayam ng Kodao Productions kay Dr. Carol Araullo ng Bagong Alyansang Makabayan hinggil sa papel ng mamamayang Pilipino sa peace talks. Read more

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100 Days: Activists praise Duterte achievements, criticize shortcomings

Activists commended the achievements of the Rodrigo Duterte government in its first 100 days in office while pointing out its shortcomings in a report presented at the Quezon City Sports Club last October 5.

Groups led by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) said the Duterte government must be congratulated on its assertion of Philippine sovereignty and  its peace process with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines,  pointing out that he is the only Philippine president who has done both.

“These two accomplishments will allow us to make important reforms to our economy and push harder for nationalistic development,” Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr said.

“For us, it is very significant that he supports the interest of the Filipino masses against meddlesome and abusive foreign interests,” Reyes said.

Militant workers also praised Duterte for the president’s pronouncements against contractualization.

“We highly appreciate that it was more than a campaign promise and that steps are being taken,” Kilusang Mayo Uno chairperson Elmer Labog said.

Labog also told the gathering the Department of Labor and Employment is taking steps to prevent abuses by employers, especially manpower agencies.

Rep. Ariel Casilao of Anakpawis Partylist, on the other hand, called the policy reforms achieved under the Duterte adminstration “unprecedented, historic, and positive,” citing the reforms achieved under the progressives in the administration.

Casilao said Department of Agrarian Reform secretary Rafael Mariano is working to distribute hundreds of hectares in Hacienda Luisita and has convinced Duterte to convene the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council for the first time in nearly ten years.

“They implemented serious and agreeable reforms. They have proven that their appointment is more that simple rhetorics,” Casilao said.

More issues to address

Amid all the successes, however, were issues that the progressives felt were left hanging.

Dr. Joseph Carabeo, secretary-general of the Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD), was disappointed in the Department of Health’s decision to further cut the budget for public hospitals.

“We were initially pleased by president Duterte’s mandate to improve our health system, even sending DOH secretary Paulyn Ubial to Cuba to learn from their strong public health care system. However, it seemed they learned nothing,” Carabeo said.

Carabeo bemoaned that privatization of public hospitals is still being implemented, citing as an example the ongoing demolition of Fabella Hospital.

“There is still no salary increase for health workers, and our doctors and nurses are decreasing in rural areas, in contrast to Cuba’s good example,” he added.

Benjie Valbuena of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers assailed the Department of Education for focusing more on the alternative learning system while the long-standing problems within the educational system remain.

“The dwindling amount of teachers and classrooms has not been paid much attention,” Valbuena said.   “There must be revisions to teachers’ salaries and the content of the current curriculum.”

Valbuena further revealed that DepEd Order No. 221, which allows soldiers to use schools are barracks is also still active.  “This continues to endanger students and holds our indigenous brethren back,” he said.

Reyes condemned the extrajudicial killings caused by the administration’s war on drugs.  “In this regard, we disagree with him.”

“The drug issue is not a police problem will not be solved by killing every drug addict and pusher. The Duterte administration must address and solve socioeconomic factors that cause it,” he said.

Contradictions

The progressives said that the people should be aware of contradictions from among the president’s allies, namely those who continue to push for neoliberal interests.

They cited recent pronouncements made by National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) director general Erneso Pernia speaking against the Department of Agrarian Reform’s current programs, and cabinet secretaries constantly clarifying Duterte’s profanity-laden statements regarding several institutions and personalities, namely US president Barack Obama and the European Union.

Casilao, for one, does not see any reason for the president’s men to do so. “The secretaries should take what the president says as a policy statement. They, as his men whose power emanates from him, have no right to be changing his words and context,” he said.

Casilao believes that the various secrataries and spokespersons speaking out of turn stems from Duterte previously stating that he will give them leeway to do their job.

He added that it was important that people understand that the content and nationalistic reasons behind Duterte’s words were more important than his manner and phrasing.

Reyes reiterated that the progressive organizations will still take to the streets and hold demonstrations.

“In the first 100 days, the Duterte administration has achieved much. However, we are still far from true change,” he said. “There are positive steps being taken by the government, but there remains so much left to do.”

Reyes added, “the contradictions from within and outside the administration and getting worse, and the Filipino people must prepare and watch them closely. That is why we will remain in the streets, marching and holding protest actions.” # (Abril Layad B. Ayroso)