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Groups protest water rate hike

Members of the Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE) and Water System Employees Response (WATER) staged a picket protest outside the office of Metro-Manila Sewerage System (MWSS) in Balara, Quezon City to denounce the latest water rate hike by Maynilad and Manila Water Thursday, October 4.

According to Ferdinand Gaite, National President of COURAGE, Maynilad will increase its rates by approximately P5.73 per cubic meter while Manila Water will impose a P6.22-P6.55 per cubic meter hike in the next five years.

Customers of Manila Water (East zone concessionaire) will pay an additional P1.46 per cubic meter starting October 16 while Maynilad (West zone concessionaire) started a P0.90 per cubic meter increase last October 1.

Gaite also blames the rampant high prices of goods and services because of TRAIN Law (Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion) that added burdens to the water customers.

Meanwhile Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate will file a resolution seeking the lower house to fast track the probe to stop water hike by legislating and forwarding measures to protect consumers.

He cited the anomalies happen in 2012 where giant water firms collected in advance for future projects.

This included the P45 billion Laiban project and P5.4 billion Angat Dam Irrigation project.

Both projects were cancelled in 2010 but P6 billion worth of collections were already made in 2012. # (Video by Dave Galman / Report by Joseph Cuevas)

Groups vow to go after Mocha despite resignation

Groups welcomed Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Assistant Secretary Margaux “Mocha” Uson’s resignation this morning, saying the controversial official’s departure is “long overdue”.

Media and arts alliance Let’s Organize for Democracy and Integrity (LODI) said it gladly welcomes Uson’s departure as a victory against disinformation.

“[Her resignation] proves disinformation is not forever. Napupuno din ang salop,” LODI said in a statement hours after Uson announced at the Senate committee on finance her resignation.

LODI said Uson had actually been “shown the door, because [President Rodrigo] Duterte knows she is an albatross as an assistant secretary.”

Bayan Muna Representative Karlos Zarate for his part said that Uson’s resignation is long overdue.

“Government service, while it is about trust, is also about accountability. That is what is sorely lacking from her.  She’s an enabler of impunity, be it for fake news or tokhang killings or killings and displacements of the lumads, and many more,” Zarate said in a statement.

After absenting herself from several congressional hearings for PCOO’s 2019 budget, Uson finally attended the Senate hearing Wednesday morning and announced her resignation.

“Every year, I am told to ignore some lawmakers so that they won’t hold the PCOO budget hostage. It angers me, but that is the present system. It is rotten, but we have to go with it,” Uson told the Senate in Filipino.

“Because of that, I am making the sacrifice so that the PCOO budget would pass. I have decided to resign,” she added.

But Uson vowed to continue confronting her enemies, saying her resignation is not the end.

PCOO budget deliberations had been suspended several times by the House of Representatives which demanded a personal appearance by Uson to explain her controversial and “offensive videos produced and distributed using government resources.”

Uson and blogger Drew Oliver uploaded videos showing sexually-explicit dances moves to advocate for a federal form of government as well as hand gestures that offended hearing-impaired citizens.

Since her appointment to the PCOO, Uson continuously faced widespread condemnation as well as congressional inquiries about her so-called fake news posts.

Uson had been one of Duterte’s loudest supporters on social media in the 2016 presidential elections.

“This is a victory for Filipinos fed up with her brand of ‘advocacy’ in support of the corrupt and tyrannical [government],” LODI said of Uson’s resignation.

LODI thanked ACT Teachers Partylist Rep. France Castro, whose demand for Uson to appear in Congress led to her resignation and dismissal.

LODI said it intends to hold Uson accountable for her acts of graft and corruption as an assistant secretary.

“She will be made to pay for her crimes, regardless of her future plans. She is not legally and politically immune from accountability,” the group vowed. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Makabayan to field Neri in next year’s Senate race

The Makabayang Koalisyon ng Mamamayan o MAKABAYAN held its fourth National Convention at the  Quezon City Sports Club last September 25, unanimously voting to again field former Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmanares in the 2019 Senate race.

Themed “Bagong Pulitika, Demokrasya Hindi Diktadurya,” Makabayan said it aims to win not only in the next elections but also defeat Rodrigo Duterte’ s looming dictatorship and tyranny.

MAKABAYAN also presented nominees from its member parties—Gabriela Womens Party, ACT Teachers Party, Bayan Muna, Anakpawis and Kabataan.

It also announced Newly formed member parties—Manggagawa Party, Aksyon Health Workers Party, and Peoples Surge Party.  (Video and report by Joseph Cuevas)

PCOO: Mocha under jurisdiction of President

It seems only President Rodrigo Duterte can do something about Mocha Uson.

Officials of the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) revealed at its budget hearing at the House of Representatives Thursday that, as a political appointee, only the President can decide on whether controversial Assistant Secretary on Social Media Esther Margaux “Mocha” Uson official stays or goes.

“[Assistant Secretary] Uson falls under the administrative jurisdiction of the Office of the President as a political appointee,” PCOO Chief of Staff and Undersecretary for Legal Affairs Marvin Gatpayat said.

At the hearing, Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Ysagani Zarate pressed PCOO Secretary Jose Ruperto Martin Andanar on what has been done over Uson’s many gaffes and posts that drew widespread criticism.

Asked by Andanar to reply to the question, PCOO Assistant Secretary for Operations and Legislative Affairs Ana Maria Paz Banaag said that Uson had been issued a memorandum by PCOO New Media and External Affairs Undersecretary Lorraine Marie Badoy to remind her of rules and policies for government officials.

“A small fact-finding activity was also held,” Banaag said.

Uson again drew widespread criticism of the Presidential Communications Group for her video endorsement of Duterte’s federalism campaign with a blogger that referred to vagina and breasts.

Banaag said that the PCOO officials and employees shall soon undergo gender-sensitivity trainings in response to the frenzy of criticisms it received from Uson’s video.

Questions about Uson drew the greatest interest among those who attended the budget hearing, eliciting laughter from even PCOO officials and staff present.

Arts and media alliance Let’s Organize for Democracy and Integrity (LODI) submitted to the committee a letter questioning the PCOO’s proposed PhP1.41 billion budget for 2019.

“Taxpayers bear the burden of paying for the PCOO’s work, whether it is done, not done, or not done well by the agency,” LODI explained.

The group asked if Uson and blogger Drew Olivar’s controversial video was taken inside the PCOO offices and of government personnel and facilities were used in filming, editing and uploading the video.

Explaining the official’s absence during the hearing to personally answer questions pertaining to her, Andanar said Uson is accompanying President Rodrigo Duterte in his official visits to Israel and Jordan.

Andanar made a quick exit and did not answer questions from journalists after the hearing. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Groups launch #DefendSecLiza campaign

Various groups launched a campaign to defend National Anti-Poverty Commission lead convenor Liza Maza in a press conference in Quezon City last Monday, August 6.

Saying they are composed of groups outside the Makabayan bloc, they said they want to show that support for Maza is wide and committed in defending the embattled Cabinet secretary from political persecution.

Maza, along with former Makabayan representatives Satur Ocampo, Teddy Casiño and Rafael Mariano were issued warrants of arrest by a Palayan City Regional Trial Court for alleged murders committed nearly two decades ago.

The accused and their supporters, however, claim that the cases were trumped up, as proven by earlier decisions by the QC RTC and the Commission on Elections. (Video by Joseph Cuevas)

Itanong mo kay Prof: Political persecution sa mga lider-aktibista

Sa episode na ito ng Itanong mo kay Prof, ipinaliwanag ang ibig sabihin ng political persecution at bakit target nito ang mga progresibong lider tulad nila Liza Maza, Satur Ocampo, Rafael Mariano at Teddy Casiño.

Judge who ordered arrest of Satur et. al. inhibits, prosecutors mum

Nueva Ecija public prosecutors refused to comment on a motion for reconsideration on double murder charges and warrants of arrests against four activist leaders at a hearing in Palayan City Friday morning, August 3.

Lawyers of National Anti-Poverty Commission lead convenor Liza Maza and fellow former Makabayan bloc representatives Satur Ocampo, Rafael Mariano and Teddy Casiño told reporters in a press briefing outside the Palayan Regional Trial Court (RTC) that the prosecutors had no comment when asked about the motions.

“When the public prosecutors were asked to comment on the motion for reconsideration, they simply submitted it to the judge’s discretion,” Public Interest Law Center (PILC) managing counsel Rachel Pastores said.

“This made the hearing very quick; travel time from Manila to here was in fact longer,” Pastores added.

Dozens of activists travelled to Nueva Ecija early Friday morning and held a picket in front of Palayan City RTC Branch 40 to support the four leaders.

August 1, 2018 inhibition order by Judge Evelyn A. Atienza-Turla.

Judge Evelyn Atienza-Turla inhibited herself from the case since last August 1 and the case was raffled off to Judge Trece Wenceslao instead.

Turla issued arrest orders against the four last July 11 stemming from a 2006 double murder charge against them.

The judge, who told the public prosecutor in July 2008 that the case did not meet her standards, reversed herself and said in an order that she now finds probable cause to proceed with the trial against the four accused.

Pastores said they are hoping that the court would decide on their motion within 10 days as the arrest order is “unjust and without legal basis.”

The double murder charge stemmed from a complaint by a Cleotilde Peralta and an Isabelita Bayudang who alleged that the four activist leaders met in 1998 to plan the assassination of former Bayan Muna (BM) members who have left the party.

Peralta said her husband was ran over and killed in 2001 while Bayudang said her husband was shot to death in 2004 upon orders of the four accused and others.

In 2016, Peralta and Bayudang were found liable for damages in a civil suit and were ordered to pay P325,000 to Ocampo by Quezon City RTC Branch 95.

The QC RTC said Peralta and Bayudang lied when they alleged BM already existed in 1998 when it was in fact created only in 2000.

Peralta and Bayudang’s petition to have Bayan Muna disqualified using the same allegations were also dismissed by the Commission on Elections in 2008. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Political persecution behind arrest orders, groups say

Political persecution by militarists in the Rodrigo Duterte government and new House of Representatives Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo may be behind the issuance of arrest warrants against a Cabinet secretary and three opposition leaders by a Palayan City Regional Trial Court (RTC) last July 11, various groups said.

In a press conference in Quezon City Friday afternoon, groups including the Makabayan bloc of progressive parties, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan and others said the arrest orders against National Anti-Poverty Commission chairperson Liza Maza, and former Representatives Satur Ocampo, Teddy Casiño and Rafael Mariano are pure harassment by both militarists and a resurrected Arroyo.

In a statement, Maza said the arrest order is part of a “continuing political persecution against her by the rightists and militarists who wield substantial influence within the Duterte government.”

“Almost from the beginning, the rightists and militarists have tried to make it difficult on us – myself and other progressives who have joined the Duterte government – opposing or obstructing the reforms that we pushed for and manoeuvring to have us removed, one by one,” Maza added.

Palayan City RTC Branch 40 Judge Evelyn Ancheta Turla issued arrest orders against the four last July 11 stemming from a 2006 double murder charge.

The judge, who told the public prosecutor in July 2008 that the case did not meet her standards, reversed herself and said in an order that she now finds probable cause to proceed with the trial against the four accused.

Casiño said the recycling of such trumped-up charges is part of “a desperate and reckless witch hunt against opposition.”

“This is an attempt to curtail my liberty. And the fact that it is happening under a Duterte-Marcos (family)-Arroyo alliance makes it more frightening,” Casino said.

In his statement, Mariano said he vehemently denies the accusations, saying they are “baseless, malicious and fabricated.”

 ‘It was irregular’

Atty. Rachel Pastores, counsel for the four accused, said the case is pure harassment as the complaint was not even subscribed before a public prosecutor before it was filed.

“The complainants swore before the Philippine National Police and not to a public prosecutor. It was irregular,” Pastores said.

A Cleotilde Peralta and an Isabelita Bayudang alleged Ocampo, Maza, Mariano, Casiño and 18 other activists met in 1998 to plan the assassination of former Bayan Muna (BM) members who have left the party.

Peralta said her husband was ran over and killed in 2001 while Bayudang said her husband was shot to death in 2004 upon orders of the four accused and others.

In 2016, however, Peralta and Bayudang were found liable for damages in a civil suit and were ordered to pay P325,000 to Ocampo by Quezon City RTC Branch 95.

The QC RTC said Peralta and Bayudang lied when they alleged BM was already existing in 1998 when it was in fact created only in 2000.

Peralta and Bayudang’s petition to have Bayan Muna disqualified using the same allegations was also dismissed by the Commission on Elections in 2008.

Reconsideration, remedies

Pastores said that Turla’s decision is wrong, more so that no additional information has been introduced to the case.

“We will avail of all legal remedies. We will file a motion for reconsideration,” Pastores said.

Speaking for the Makabayan bloc, ACT Teachers Representative Antonio Tinio warned of darker times ahead.

“This is a classic GMA [Arroyo] move when she was in power. And it is being revived now that she is back in power. Darker times are indeed ahead,” Tinio said.

Former BM Representative Neri Colmenares for his part called on “the professional witnesses” to not allow themselves to be used by the military.

“Time will come you will be dropped by the military and your handlers, like what happened when the court decided that you pay damages to Satur Ocampo and others,” Colmenares said.

Colmenares also called on Duterte to order the dismissal of the case through the Department of Justice.

Panawagan kay Presidente, pwede bang maghunus-dili ka muna?” Colmenares said. (I call on the President, can you please calm down for a moment?) # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Only spoilers are happy with peace talks postponement—Bayan Muna

Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate expressed dismay in the delay of the resumption of formal talks between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

Reacting to Presidential Peace Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza’s announcement Thursday that the scheduled formal talks on June 28 is postponed by President Rodrigo Duterte, Zarate said the issue of public consultations can be addressed while the negotiations are ongoing.

“They should not be used as stumbling blocks or preconditions for the resumption of the negotiations,” Zarate said.

The progressive solon added the Filipino people have long supported the peace talks for a just and lasting peace.

“Indeed, addressing the root causes of the armed conflict like landlessness, oppression and exploitation, among others, will certainly get the continued support of the majority of Filipinos,” Zarate explained.

Meanwhile, defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana admitted military and police authorities expressed concerns the New People’s Army will only use the resumption of the peace talks to strengthen their forces, media outfit Rappler reported.

Lorenzana confirmed this were among the issues GRP security forces raised when GRP negotiators briefed Duterte Wednesday, June 13, on the results of the four round of informal talks in The Netherlands.

“The AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) and PNP (Philippine National Police) wholly support the President’s peace initiative. But they also raised the alarm that the peace process could be used by the CPP (Communist Party of the Philippines) to regroup and strengthen their mass base as they have done numerous times before,” Lorenzana told Rappler.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque also said this was among the matters raised by security officials during the meeting, Rappler said.

Zarate, however, said such delays will only give “peace spoilers and saboteurs” longer time to sabotage the peace process.

“Resume the talks now. It is only those who benefit and profit from the current inequitable and unjust system will not support the peace talks and will do all they can to sabotage it,” Zarate said.# (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Congress mangled BBL, critics say

Critics have slammed the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) measures passed by both Houses of Congress, saying these fail to recognize the Bangsamoro’s right to self-determination.

In separate statements, Suara Bangsamoro and Bayan Muna have dismissed the approved versions of the bills at the House of Representatives and the Senate as a betrayal of the Bangsamoro people’s long-running struggle for justice and autonomy.

The House of Representative passed HB 6475 Wednesday while the Senate passed Thursday Senate Bill 1717 a few days after President Rodrigo Duterte has finally certified the bills as urgent.

“This milquetoast [submissive one] that they are passing off as BBL leaves the Bangsamoro with no control over the resources of the area they define as our autonomous area,” Suara Bangsamoro national chairperson Jerome Aba said.

“Just like in the ARMM (Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao Law), this BBL appoints the new Bangsamoro political entity to facilitate the wholesale selling of our territories and natural resources to foreign corporations under the guise of bringing growth and development to Bangsamoro areas,” Aba said.

In his speech explaining his rejection of the House of Representatives version of the BBL, Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Isagani Zarate said he could not vote for a measure that is full of compromises.

“This latest and watered-down proposed BBL is unacceptable. This Substituted HB 6475 does away with all the efforts to push for the Bangsamoro’s right to self-determination in the face of many limitations imposed by the government,” Zarate said.

Zarate added many provisions of the version submitted to Congress by the Bangsamoro Transition Council were deleted or changed.

“These include the downgrading of their territory to an autonomous region in the Bangsamoro, instead of simply ‘Bangsamoro’; the [bill’s] use of ‘geographical area’ instead of territory; and the conduct of plebiscites in the additional territory,” Zarate explained.

The Mindanaoan legislator added the deletion of the Bangsamoro’s exclusive control over power and energy, natural resources, public utilities, Bangsamoro police, and many others are also very important issues.

“The Substituted HB 6475 does not answer the Bangsamoro’s aspiration for their right to self-determination and genuine autonomy. This measure deserves to be opposed,” Zarate said.

Suara Bangsamo said it supports calls made by Makabayan bloc at the House of Representatives to truly scrutinize the contents of the present BBL and called on their compatriots to oppose provisions they say compromise the fight of the Moro people for self-determination.

“As the government continue to disregard Moro people’s struggle for the right to self-determination, it is in the hands of Moro people to continue to fight for genuine right to self-determination,” Aba said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)