BREAKING: Activist killed in Naga

Another activist was gunned down in Bicol this morning following the assassination of two human rights workers in Sorsogon City Saturday, June 15.

Neptali Morada, former popular campaigns committee head of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Bicol, regional Bayan Muna head and Student Christian Movement of the Philippines member was on his way to work when waylaid by unidentified suspects in Barangay San Isidro, Naga City, Camarines Sur at about eight o’clock this morning.

The victim works as a staff member of former Camarines Sur vice governor Ato Peña.

Neptali Morada (Contributed photo)

Ma. Roja Banua, National Democratic Front in Bikol spokesperson, demanded justice for Morada as well as for Nelly Bagasala and Ryan Hubilla, the two human rights workers slain in Sorsogon.

Banua also reported that a certain Edwin “Ka Dupax” Demetera, allegedly an hors de combat, was tortured and killed by the military who captured him last June 13.

Banua said was captured by 31st Infantry Battalion-Philippine Army and Philippine National Police personnel in Barangay Incarizan, Magallanes, Sorsogon but was beaten up and gunned down outside his house.

The Romulo Jallores Command of the New People’s Army said Demetera was on medical leave due to a swollen foot and was in no condition to fight. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

EDSA at diktadurya

“Tayo ang EDSA! Tayo ang pag-asa, ang totoo at ang pinakamakapangyarihang pwersa laban sa diktatura!“–Bagong Alyansang Makabayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. during a commemoration of the first People Power Uprising at EDSA last Saturday, 23 January.

Protest greets Xi Jinping visit

Various groups held a mass action at the Chinese consulate in Makati City last Tuesday (November 20) to denounce the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping as they expressed outrage against the Rodrigo Duterte government for its subservience to the Chinese government.

The Pilipinong Nagkakaisa Para sa Soberanya o P1NAS called Duterte a traitor to the Pilipino people as it pointed out that his government is virtually surrendering Philippine territory in the West Philippine Sea to China.

Even after losing in an international tribunal that determined the disputed areas are part of the Philippine exclusive economic zone three years ago, China refuses to recognize the decision  proceeded to militarize some islands.

China’s presence in the area includes so-called “ joint development” schemes with the Duterte government seen as a  weakening of the Philippine claims.

In the said rally, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) expressed concern that Duterte’s economic deals with China may push the Philippines under deeper debt.

In his visit to the Philippines, Xi took home 29 agreements, including an understanding on joint oil exploration in the West Philippine Sea and the construction of mega dams, including the Chico River Pump Irrigation, the New Centennial  Water Source Kaliwa Project, and the Agus-Pulangi Mega Dam project.

Indigenous peoples earlier raised fears that the China-ODA projects will cause their displacement from their lands and livelihood.

“Pawning our lands to an imperialist country like China is a serious crime that may lead to ethnocide,” Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas said. # (Joseph Cuevas)

‘Maaari na silang patayin?’

“Sabi ni DAR secretary Castriciones, ‘Sila pong namatay na siyam, hindi sila ang may-ari ng lupa at ng hacienda.’ Ang ibig sabihin ba nito ay maaari na silang patayin?”–Rita Baua, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan

Panayam kay Dan Balusio ng BAYAN Bikol sa ika 46th na Komemorasyon ng Martial Law

Setyembre 21, 2018 – Panoorin ang panayam kay Dan Balusio, Secretary-General ng BAYAN Bikol hinggil sa kalagayan at panawagan ng mamamayan ng rehiyong Bikol tungkol sa Martial Law mula noon hanggang ngayon.

‘Basher’ ng lider ng Bayan, humingi ng tawad

Binisita ni Gabriel Ilano, may ari ng Facebook account na nagpost ng pekeng kwento tungkol kay Renato Reyes Jr., ang lider-masa upang humingi ng tawad Hwebes ng hapon, Hulyo 26.

Humingi ng dispensa si Ilano sa naturang post at nilinaw nito na na-hack lamang ang account niya at hindi siya ang gumawa. Wala umano siyang galit kay Reyes.

Nagpasalamat naman si Reyes sa matapang na pagharap ni Ilano. Inahayag din nito na may kaukulang kaso ang pwedeng isampa sa kung sino man ang may kagagawan ng pang-hahack at pati na rin sa nagpakalat ng post na ito.

Sa pakikipagtulungan kay Atty. Krissy Conti, nagpasya ang dalawang grupo na magsasampa sila ng kaso sa mga nagpakalat ng kasinungalingan laban kay Reyes para hindi na maulit pa ang ganitong pangyayari.

Nato on trolls: ‘Let us not allow them to win’

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. is pushing back hard against online bashers he believes are “Duterte-Marcos trolls,” adding he has already consulted lawyers for appropriate legal action.

“I decry the orchestrated online slander campaign instigated by Duterte-Marcos trolls against me and the broad United People’s SONA,” Reyes told Kodao.

Reyes cited lies and a death threat posted online by bashers who also accused him of profiting from protest actions he helped organize.

He said the trolls altered photos of the huge SONA rally against President Rodrigo Duterte’s planned Charter change to make it appear as a pro-Duterte rally.

“Then, several accounts posted false and slanderous accounts about me concerning alleged purchases that I never made,” he said.

The post’s originator, a certain Gabriel Ilano, claimed he was asked by Reyes to “mark up” the declared price of a projector machine.

Ilano’s Facebook account since been deactivated after Reyes reposted Ilano’s accusation on his own account.

“However, [Ilano’s] false claims continue to make the rounds of Duterte sites. As a result I have received an online death threat from one Carl Espiritu,” Reyes said.

“Nagmamalinis kang animal ka! Kawatan ka pa rin palang hinayupak ka! Dapat bala ibaon sa ulo mo!” Espiritu wrote. (You want people to believe you are upright when you are corrupt yourself. You deserve a bullet to the head!)

Espiritu’s wife has called Reyes to apologize and explain that her husband is suffering from depression.

“I have already informed my lawyers and they are studying the appropriate legal action against Ilano, Espiritu and others who are spreading false claims,” Reyes said.

The leader said that two others have already contacted him to apologize, including a 23-year old woman who falsely claimed she was Reyes’s high school classmate who dropped out of school as he was already earning from organizing rallies.

Reyes graduated from Lourdes School of Quezon City and was his class’s Citizen’s Army Training Corps Commander and student publication editor in his senior year. He went on to attend the University of the Philippines in Diliman where he was also a student leader.

Earlier this year, Reyes’ 10-year old son was also accused by bashers of crashing a sports car into an electrical post.

“The end goal of the trolls is to stop critical discussion by hijacking the discourse. Let us not allow them to win,” Reyes said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)


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.