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Stop the Attacks — United People’s SONA 2018

The broadest opposition forces ever assembled against the Duterte administration launched their own United People’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 23, 2018 as Pres. Duterte delivers his third SONA before a divided Congress rife in factional power struggles backed by competing big businesses, domestic and foreign. With various performances, protesters slammed Duterte’s violations of people’s rights, called to stop the attacks and demanded justice.

Charter change creates illusion of change – Ibon exec

By April Burcer

The proposed constitution creating a federal Philippine government is President Rodrigo Duterte’s response to a growing discontent against his government, Ibon Executive Director Jose Enrique Africa said in a forum at UP Diliman Thursday afternoon.

“There is a limit to flattery, to disrespect, to insults, to bullying and to terrorizing. It underscores what this charter change is all about. It becomes important for Duterte to push the charter change because of this sort of discontent,” Africa said.

Africa explained that the more disgruntled and dissatisfied the people are, the more Pres. Duterte needs a new Constitution to create the illusion of change.

Contributory to growing discontent against the Duterte government is the lack of genuine economic growth, Rosario Bella Guzman, another IBON executive, said during the think tank’s Midyear 2018 “Birdtalk”.

“[The government says] we have the highest growth rate in Asia, with 6.8 percent. The truth behind that highest growth rate [however] is joblessness, poor quality of work, very low wages and 5,460 Filipinos leaving the country everyday to look for work,” Guzman said.

“Imagine this scenario, and then you slap the TRAIN Law, so now we also have the highest inflation rate,” she added.

Cha-cha’s major flaws

Africa said Duterte’s charter change and drive for federalism have three major flaws.

The first flaw, he said, is the concept of an ‘imperial Manila’ where so-called wealth distribution would emanate from.

“What resources are they going to redistribute from imperial Manila? Are we that rich? No. There are a lot of poor people in Manila,” Africa said.

The second flaw, he said is the need for a new Constitution to redistribute resources.

“Even [former chief justice Ma. Lourdes] Sereno said there are enough laws in place and legal bases to distribute resources, authority and responsibility to the regions,” Africa added.

The third flaw is the government’s refusal to change its anti-poor policies, according to Africa.

“Our policies are pro-elite and anti-people. It’s not about imperial manila versus the poor regions. The main contradiction is the elite vs the poor Filipino,” he explained.

In the end, the government’s charter change is not about federalism, national development and for redistributing resources to the poor regions, Africa said.

“Federalism is about political self interest,” he said. #

Threat of nationwide martial law still alive, Sison warns

The threat of a nationwide martial law remains with President Rodrigo Duterte’s constitutional reform advisers seeking ways to make it easier for its declaration, National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison said.

Reacting to a news report that a series of attacks by the New People’s Army (NPA) may be grounds for the declaration of martial law under the government’s proposed federal charter, Sison said it is an indication that the threat continues to exist while Duterte is the president.

“Within the so-called Constitutional Commission, there is the drive of certain pro-Duterte elements headed by a retired general to draw up a draft federal charter that makes easier the declaration of martial law by citing ‘lawless violence’ or ‘a series of offensives by the NPA’ as the basis for the declaration of martial law,” Sison said in a statement.

Sison was referring to Ret. Lt. Gen. Ferdinand Bacobo, a charter change Consultative Committee member quoted in a Philippine Daily Inquirer report Wednesday that “lawless violence,” including NPA attacks that cause “widespread and extraordinary fear,” may be grounds for the President to declare martial law.

Saying such a move may not augur well for the resumption and success of the government’s peace negotiations with the NDFP, Sison said that instead of trying to scapegoat the NPA and make it the pretext for martial law declaration, state terrorism and fascist dictatorship, the Duterte regime should let its peace negotiations with the NDFP succeed in addressing the roots of the armed conflict and laying the ground for a just and lasting peace through comprehensive agreements on social, economic and political reforms.

The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) also said the proposal is dangerous, saying martial law should be considered as a drastic tool of last resort.

“In the first place, what is problematic is the absence of an objective standard for the conceptual meaning of what really constitutes terrorism or terrorist acts,” NUPL president Atty. Edre Olalia said.

“[L]awless violence can be addressed by the other powers like calling out the armed forces without suspending or compromising civilian rule, curtailing the exercise of basic rights, and denying legal remedies,” Olalia said.

Duterte’s Martial Law in Mindanao became a year old Wednesday, eight months after declaring it has driven the ISIS-inspired Maute group away from Marawi City. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Davide hits charter change as ‘war against the environment’

By Kalikasan PNE

Calling the proposed charter change (cha-cha) a “war against the environment,” former Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr. said the constitutional amendments threaten a “catastrophic environmental crisis and grave intergenerational injustice.”

In his keynote speech in a public forum on the ecological implications of cha-cha held at the Miriam College Environmental Studies Institute last April 12, 2017, Davide said the lifting of the 60 percent Filipino citizenship requirement is potentially dangerous.

“[L]eaving it completely to Congress to provide a new rule, which could even include no requirement at all, would end up with the outright surrender of the natural wealth – and eventually even of the country itself – to foreigners, especially to foreign business conglomerates,” Davide said.

Davide said various doctrinal principles and rules on the right to environment, such as the jurisprudence of the ‘Oposa v. Factoran’ case on intergenerational justice and the Supreme Court’s Rules of Procedure for Environmental Cases in 2010, “would be either put to naught or severely emasculated” by cha-cha’s proposed amendments.

He also noted that the proposed Federal component States or Regions, each “lorded over by enlarged or new political dynasties who may have their own business empires” would create new layers of corruption regarding the exploitation, development, and utilization of natural resources.

Kalikasan PNE photo.

In a unity statement released during the forum, the LUNTIAN (Lumaban sa Cha-cha, Ipagtanggol ang Kalikasan) coalition said that on top of allowing 100 percent foreign ownership, “timber lands, mineral lands, reclaimed lands, and national parks that have been exclusive for public interest will be reclassified to allow private ownership, making these critical ecosystems vulnerable to land grabs and monopolies by foreign capital and big business.”

They furthered that “cha-cha proposes to delete Article XVIII Section 25 which prohibits foreign military bases and facilities in the country. If approved, the conversion of our shoals such as in West PH Sea and Benham Rise into naval and air bases, including the storage of nuclear weapons and other dangerous war materiel on Philippine soil, will be legally free.”

The forum was organized by the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) in cooperation with the LUNTIAN Coalition, Miriam Public Education and Awareness Campaign for the Environment (Miriam PEACE), Green Convergence, Advocates of Science & Technology for the People (AGHAM), Center for Environmental Concerns – Philippines (CEC), Nilad, UP Green League, and the No to Cha-cha Coalition.

The forum organizers announced that they will hold an ‘Eco-Walk’ on April 21, 6:00 to 9:00 AM at the University of the Philippines – Diliman comprised of environmental education activities such as bird watching, native tree walks, a museum walk, and an urban gardening workshop for children, to highlight what is at stake should cha-cha push through.#