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Injustices breed activism, teachers tell Bato and Albayalde

The Filipino people’s intensifying poverty and other social injustices drive students to activism, a teachers group said in response to accusations they encourage their students to join rallies.

Replying to accusations by Senator Bato dela Rosa and police chief Oscar Albayalde that teachers encourage “anti-government” sentiments among students and the youth, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers said it is not the teachers’ fault but poverty, corruption and human rights violations under the Rodrigo Duterte government.

The two officials separately blamed the teachers following a Senate hearing where dela Rosa presented parents who complained that their children have left home and joined activist organizations.

Dela Rosa and Albayalde said teachers should “just do their jobs and not make students turn against the government.”

Dela Rosa went as far as ask that teachers who encourage students to join rallies must be fired.

“They should be removed. Parents enter [sic] their students there [in schools] to become professionals, not to fight the government,” Dela Rosa said.

Albalyalde, for his part accused the teachers of brainwashing their students.

“What they should stop [doing] is brainwash[ing] the students. You are a teacher, you act like a teacher,” Albayalde said.

Their statement did not sit well with the teachers.

What the teachers are doing

 “The two officials are not in the position to lecture us on our jobs. Their stances show that they have very little appreciation of the objectives of education,” ACT national chairperson Joselyn Martinez retorted in a statement Friday, August 16.

Martinez  said teachers are teaching their students patriotism, love of humanity, human rights, heroism, history, rights and duties of citizens, ethical and spiritual values, moral character and personal discipline, critical and creative thinking, scientific and technological knowledge and vocational efficiency as mandated by the Philippine Constitution.

“It is not the teachers’ fault if the government leadership acts in contrast to the values upheld by education. They should not blame us if the youth calls out the government for the ills that they see in society. We are only doing our job,” she explained.

Martinez said that the government should not find fault in teachers encouraging students to attend rallies as these are “real-life events that hold many learnings for the students.”

“It exposes our students to people from different walks of life who have grievances that are worth hearing. It helps broaden the youth’s view of our society and offers education that cannot be learned inside the classroom and from textbooks,” Martinez said.

It is the two officials who should show respect instead of preventing the youth from exercising their rights, the teacher said.

Part of democracy

Martinez hit dela Rosa and Albayalde for “demonizing activism and rallies which are basic constitutional rights of the people, including students and teachers.”

“In the guise of attempting to curb armed rebellion, dela Rosa and Albayalde are in effect discrediting the fundamental rights of the people to free expression, self-organization and to protest. It is them who are not doing their jobs as being government officials, their constitutional duty is to respect and uphold such rights,” Martinez said.

“Rallying is not a crime. It appears that dela Rosa’s and Albayalde’s rants all boil down to this administration’s intolerance of dissent. They should stop in their desperate bid to silence critics. We’re in a democracy after all,” Martinez said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Reclamation project tinututulan ng mga taga-Taliptip

Isang kilos-protesta ang isinagawa ng mga residente ng Sitio Taliptip sa Bulakan, Bulacan sa harapan ng Department of Environment and Natural Resources Region 3 sa San Fernando, Pampanga.

Nanawagan sila sa ahensya na ipawalang-bisa ang Environmental Compliance Certificate ng Silvertides Holdings na siyang sub-contractor ng San Miguel Corporation para sa pagtatayo ng New Manila International Airport o Aerotropolis sa nasabing lugar.

Tinatayang nasa 1,000 pamilya ang mawawalan ng tirahan gayundin na ang hanapbuhay ay pangingisda. Masisira din ang mga bakawan at ilang yamang tubig sa nasabing isla.

Ang Bulacan Aerotropolis ay isa mga proyekto ng pamahalaang Duterte sa ilalim ng Build, Build, Build Program. Bibigyan ng Department of Transportation ang San Miguel Corporation para pamahalaan ang konstruksyon ng Aerotropolis. (Music: news background. Bidyo ni Joseph Cuevas/ Kodao)

‘One death is too many’

Artwork by Jose Mari Callueng

“One death is too many. In the case of Negros Island, since President Duterte took an oath to “…do justice to every man and consecrate myself (himself) to the service of the nation,” at least 87 lives have been taken. Half of these were killed when Duterte ordered the deployment of more military troops there by virtue of the Memorandum Order No. 32.

“This is the image of Negros Island now. Once an island known as the “Sugarbowl of the Philippines,” has become a killing field. It is bloodied. And the killing won’t stop very soon. What with the threats from the President to deploy even more troops there.

“It won’t stop unless we stop the murderer in Malacañang.”—Jose Mari Callueng, human rights defender

Peace talks resumption possible if Duterte abandons ‘fascist dictatorship’—Sison, CPP

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) said that the resumption of formal peace negotiations between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) remain doubtful due to the lack of “conducive conditions.”

The CPP said that while public clamor for the resumption of the talks remains strong, peace talks cannot be resumed as long as President Rodrigo Duterte’s 2017 proclamation terminating peace negotiations remains in place.

In November 23, 2017, Duterte issued Proclamation 360 terminating the peace negotations and creating a task force to end insurgency, reintroducing the whole-of-nation approach employed by previous administrations.

The CPP said the situation created by the GRP’s intensified anti-insurgency program is made worse by widespread killings by Duterte’s agents in Negros and across the country, “continuing incarceration of leading NDFP consultants as well as the recent arrest and detention of two members of the NDFP peace staff.”

In his speech in Malacañan Thursday, August 8, Duterte claimed the NDFP asked him to resume the peace negotiations.

“They are insisting on resuming the talks. And the others, I will not mention the name, want to come home to talk,” Duterte said during the oath-taking of newly promoted star-rank police officers.

“Two of them. As a matter of fact, sabihin ko na, si (Luis) Jalandoni pati si (Fidel) Agcaoili,” he said.

NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison, however, said Duterte is completely wrong in presuming and implying that the revolutionary Left will negotiate with his regime under his unilateral terms.

Sison said that Duterte is mistaken in saying that NDFP Negotiating Panel chairperson Fidel Agcaoili and senior adviser Luis Jalandoni want to talk with him in Manila despite the president’s termination of the talks as well as his Proclamation 374 designating the CPP and the New People’s Army (NPA) as so-called terrorist organizations.

Sison also cited Duterte’s Executive Order No. 70 ordering intensified military operations against NPA strongholds in Bicol, Samar and Negros, as well as “so many other despotic issuances and actions that are obstacles to GRP-NDFP peace negotiations.”

“There is yet no sign whatsoever that he is abandoning his scheme of fascist dictatorship, which is quite overreaching, especially because of his deteriorating health and the rapidly approaching end of his rule either by ouster or end of his legal term in less than three years,” Sison said in a statement.

“GRP-NDFP peace negotiations and the Manila visit of Agcaoili and Jalandoni are impossible so long as Duterte is in power and does not remove the aforesaid obstacles that he himself is responsible for,” Sison revealed.

Sison added that Duterte “underestimates the revolutionary integrity, long experience and intelligence of the NDFP by presuming that Agcaoili and Jalandoni will walk into his trap and slaughterhouse in Manila.”

Both Sison and the CPP said the NDFP maintains the policy of keeping its doors always open to peace negotiations, heedful of the clamor of various sectors for the resumption of peace negotiations amid Duterte’s all-out war.

Sison, however, pointed out that GRP-NDFP peace negotiations are only possible if Duterte does away with the “obstacles” he has made and mends his ways.

Sison added that the The Hague Joint Declaration and further peace agreements must be reaffirmed if the negotiations are to be resumed. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Freedom-loving Filipinos defy Duterte — LODI

We are free because we choose to be free.

The results of the recent SWS survey are a testimony to Filipinos’ love for freedom and their defiance of the regime’s attempts to impose full-scale tyranny.

The oft-peddled claim of massive support for the President’s most oppressive policies crumbles amid the clear findings of the SWS survey: Those who report or express views critical of Duterte face safety issues. Yet those who believe they face clear danger refuse to crumble.

Filipinos will not surrender to any tyrant the freedom to think and express these thoughts, and to act accordingly.

We continue to defy the regime’s tyrannical obsession to silence or crush Filipinos’ free expression and press freedom: The harassment cases against Rappler; the DDOS attacks on alternative news websites; the threat to deny ABS-CBN a franchise renewal; the mobilization of hateful and disinformation-spreading troll armies; the conspiracy theories from Red October to the matrix; the Red-tagging and open threats against independent-minded and critical journalists, artists, and cultural workers; the filing of sedition, libel and other charges meant to intimidate or suppress freedom of expression and public participation; and the unremitting killings of journalists.

We journalists, artists and citizens alike must continue to ask questions and to express our democratic demand for accountability. The president has skirted many important questions from his health to the full details of his agreements with China and the likes of the Marcoses. He has refused to enact a Freedom of Information Law. He has refused to disclose the illegal acts of cabinet members, and top civilian and military officials he fired purportedly for corruption. He and his minions deny the public full disclosure on their designs for charter change.

We reiterate: Filipinos continue to exercise their rights by asking questions, expressing themselves and taking direct action. Because that’s what a freedom-loving people do in the face of a rising tyrant allergic of transparency and the breakdown of institutions supposedly holding him accountable.

There’s a saying that’s truly relevant today and applicable to Duterte: Duterte can fool all the people some of the time, and some people all of the time. But he cannot fool all the people all the time. #

Duterte’s midterm: change for the worse

(IBON 2019 Midyear Birdtalk Briefing Paper economic situation highlights)

The country’s slowing economy, and worsening jobs crisis and poverty disputes the Duterte administration’s hype of economic gains. IBON said that this is bound to worsen if the Duterte administration continues unopposed on its current neoliberal trajectory wherein the interests of big foreign and local business prevail to the detriment of millions of Filipinos, especially the poor.

Economic growth slowing since the start of the administration.Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) data show that gross domestic product (GDP) growth has been slowing in the 11 quarters since the start of the Duterte administration from 7.1% in the third quarter of 2016 to 5.6% in the first quarter of 2019. There was a momentary increase to 7.2% in the third quarter of 2017 but growth fell rapidly after this. Notably, growth was slowing even before the budget impasse and election ban on infrastructure spending.

High real unemployment. Computing according to the original definition of unemployment for comparability would show that the real unemployment rate in 2018 is 10.1% and the real number of unemployed is 4.6 million. These are much worse than the already high 9.0% unemployment rate and 4 million unemployed in 2016, again computed according to the original definition. In contrast, officially released figures for 2018 were a grossly underreported 5.3% and 2.3 million, respectively.

The record real unemployment last year is a direct result of how only an annual average of 81,000 new jobs have been created since the start of the Duterte administration, from 41.0 million employed in 2016 increasing by 162,000 to 41.2 million in 2018. To put this into context and even granting that the administration is just at its midpoint, this is so far the worst employment generation post-Marcos.

Lowest and least frequent wage hikes under Duterte. The Duterte administration is so far making the worst record on wage hikes of all post-Marcos administrations. In the NCR, for instance, it has only given an average of one wage hike every 18 months. The frequency of wage hikes previously ranged from one every 16 months under Arroyo to one every 10 months under Ramos. Over the two wage hikes under Duterte, the nominal value of the wage increased by only 9.4% – compared to a range of 11.5% by Benigno Aquino III to 45.9% by Corazon Aquino over their respective first two wage hikes.

Poverty underreported. IBON estimates on Family Income and Expenditure Survey (FIES) data in 2015 found that the poorest 50% or 11.4 million families had monthly incomes of just Php15,000 or less, and the poorest 60% or 13.6 million families just some Php18,000 or less.

Inequality worsening. The net worth of the country’s richest Filipinos and profits of the largest corporations continue to grow, in some cases even outpacing economic growth. The net worth of the 10 richest Filipinos grew from Php2.5 billion in 2016 to Php2.7 billion in 2018. The net worth of the 40 richest Filipinos grew from Php3.7 billion to Php3.8 billion in the same period. The net worth of the 40 richest as percentage of GDP was 21.9% in 2018.

Agriculture in crisis, manufacturing stalling. Agriculture has been left to perform chronically poorly. The sector grew by just 0.8% last year and in the first quarter of 2019. This is just around half the growth pace of 1.5% in the 2010s and not even a third of the 2.9% clip in the 2000s. Employment in agriculture has fallen by 1.1 million between 2016 and 2018, with an initial further 376,000 losses reported in April 2019 from the same period last year.

Manufacturing already appears to be stalling with growth of just 4.9% in 2018 – the slowest since 2012 – and slowing further to 4.6% in the first quarter of 2019. The share of manufacturing in total employment of just 8.8% in 2018 is actually even much lower than its 10.1% share in 1990 and 11% in 1990. These are despite the sector growing by 22.1% between 2016 and 2018, according to national accounts data.

Poorest land distribution. Lands covered by the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) should have been distributed by 1998. This deadline was reset twice, yet until now 100% distribution has not been met. To add to this injustice, distribution is slow and is even going at a slower pace than before under the Duterte administration. Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) land distribution accomplishment in the period 2016-June 2019 is just at an average of 2,920 hectares monthly. This is much less than under Benigno Aquino III (8,254 hectares, July 2010-2015), Arroyo (9,047 hectares, January 2001-June 2010), Estrada (11,113 hectares, July 1998-2000), Ramos (26,389 hectares, July 1992-June 1998), and Corazon Aquino (14,142 hectares, July 1987-June 1992).

Build Build Build, for whom?Over the 2016-2017 period, the biggest concentration of gross value in public construction was in Pres. Duterte’s home region of Davao (Region XI) accounting for 14.1% of the total. The increase in Davao is notable in almost doubling from 7.9% over the period 2010-2015 to 14.1% in 2016-2017. Close Duterte allies have reportedly been among the beneficiaries of the surge in Davao construction projects.

Mounting debt. The government is already borrowing heavily. Total outstanding debt of the national government stood at Php7.9 trillion as of May 2019 implying a total increase of Php2 trillion since the start of the Duterte administration. In nominal terms, this is equivalent to an average monthly increase in debt of Php56.2 billion, which is over two-and-a-half times that of the Arroyo administration (Php21.2 billion) and nearly three times that of the previous Aquino administration (Php19 billion).

Truth about TRAIN. The Duterte administration has tried to divert from the regressive nature of its tax reforms by repeatedly claiming that it benefits “99% of taxpayers” and giving the impression that 99% of Filipinos gain from TRAIN Package One. The reality however is that only 5.5 million personal income taxpayers coming largely from the highest income groups will gain from TRAIN’s personal income tax cuts. An additional two million taxpayers are minimum wage earners and so previously already exempt. On the other hand, the poorest 17.2 million or eight out of 10 (76%) Filipino families will pay TRAIN’s higher taxes on consumption goods including petroleum products and sugar-sweetened beverages. #

Research group: Davao businessmen may be benefiting from Duterte admin’s infra program

Amid government hype of its Build, Build, Build program, research group IBON noted that there has been a conspicuous increase in public infrastructure spending in the Davao region that seems to have favored Davao-based businessmen.

The group observed that close allies of the president have benefited from the government spending surge by clinching a number of contracts.

IBON cited data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA)  showing that the gross value of public construction in the Davao Region increased by 17.6% from 2016-2017.

The region had the highest increase of gross value in public construction among other regions during the same period.

Among the Davao-based businessmen is the family of former Special Assistant to the President and newly-elected Senator Bong Go who through CLTG builders secured 20 contracts in 2017 for road networks in Davao, said the group. These were worth around Php3 billion in solo projects and joint ventures.

In 2018, CLTG Builders also bagged Php116 million worth of projects in Davao. CLTG builders is owned by Bong Go’s father, Desiderio Go.

Another notable Davao-based businessman is Dennis Uy who, according to the president’s Statement of Contributions and Expenditures, donated around Php30 million to his presidential campaign.

Data from the Public-Private Partnership Center shows that Uy has three unsolicited proposals in Davao that include the Davao International Airport worth Php48.8 billion, Davao People Mover worth Php30 billion, and the Davao Sasa Port Modernization Project worth Php18.7 billion.

Another unsolicited proposal of Uy is the Pasay City Reclamation Project worth Php62 billion.

IBON meanwhile noted that other businessmen may also be gaining from the Build, Build, Build program.

For instance, Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Secretary Mark Villar’s father, Manuel Villar, through Prime Asset Ventures Inc. (PAVI) is eyeing two unsolicited proposals worth Php213.3 billion.

These include the LRT 6 Cavite Line A project worth Php56.3 billion, and the Cavite LRT Line 6c and Sucat Line 6b Projects worth Php157 billion.

IBON reiterated that while the country badly needs infrastructure, genuine development from the Build, Build, Build program can only be achieved if it supports the development of domestic agriculture and Filipino industries.

The Duterte government should not be beholden to its backers and instead pursue an infrastructure program that is not profit-oriented and provides for the Filipino people’s welfare, said the group. #

Hindi Malayo ang Negros

By Luchie Maranan

Akala mo lang 
Wala kang kinalaman,
Wala kang pakialam
Sa islang naglalamay
Sa mga pinaslang.

Ang mapulang tilamsik at daloy 
Ay umaabot sa iyong kinaroroonan
Dahil maniwala ka’t hindi,
“Ang sakit ng kalingkingan
Ay dama ng buong katawan.”

Ang dilim ay malawak na inilalatag
Hanggang ang iyong 
Sariling liwanag ay di na mabanaag.
Nasa hangin ang pulbura ng salarin
Pagtutol ay pupulbusin.

Akala mo lang
Naumid na ang iyong paligid,
Ngunit dinig hanggang sa iyong isip
Ang hiyaw ng dumaraming
Tinutugis at inuusig.

Akala mo lang 
Wala kang kinalaman,
Wala kang pakialam
Ngunit ang Negros ay larawan
Ng iyong sariling bayan.

Hulyo 31, 2019

Bishop: ‘Peace talks, not martial law’

By Visayas Today

San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza on Thursday, August 1, called for the rejection of martial law and renewed his call for the resumption of peace talks between the government and communist rebels.

A Catholic priest said placing Negros under martial law on account of the recent wave of violence that has claimed at least 20 lives in Negros Oriental will only worsen the situation.

Human righta groups also rejected the notion outright, predicting it would only lead to more human rights abuses.

President Rodrigo Duterte has warned he might invoke emergency powers, including martial law, to quell the violence he and security officials blame on communist rebels.

Upping the bounty to P5 million, “dead or laive,” for rebels who killed four police intelligence officers in Ayungon town on July 18, he also threatened to “replicate the atrocious acts” he attributed to the New People’s Army.

Reacting to Duterte’s threat, Alminaza pointed out that “martial law is neither the answer to the centuries-old agrarian problem nor to the decades of armed rebellion.”

He pointed to the Marcos dictatorship, which began when the country was placed under martilal law in 1972, saying this “did not lead to genuine peace; instead, it worsened the insurgency problem.”

“Even now, the heavens cry for justice as innocent people get killed in crossfires and mere suspects are summarily killed,” the bishop said. “Even now, without any formal declaration of martial law, government commandos and armed partisans are sowing fear and disregarding due process and the rule of law. Even now, human and civil rights are being trampled upon, leaving more and more widows and orphans in our midst.”

At the same time, he told the warring parties that “genuine peace can never be achieved through military adventurism and tit-for-tat conflict” but by addressing the “roots of social injustice.”

Fr. Chris Gonzales, Social Action head of the Bacolod diocese, said talk of martial law by Malacañang “saddens us.”

Should Duterte make good on this threat, Gonzales predicted “more oppression of the marginalized and those working for social justice.”

“We still believe poverty alleviation is the answer to our social woes,” Gonzales said. “Our people have suffered enough. We do not see how martial law can be the solution.”

Responding to the bloodshed. the four bishops of Negros have ordered church bells rung at 8 p.m. everyday “until the killings stop.”

“The church will continue to pray for peace, not the peace born of fear but born of freedom,” Gonzales said.

At the same time, he reminded the military and police, who many quarters suspect of being reaponsible for many of the killings, “your mandate is to protect the citizenry.”

In the House of Representatives, the Makabayan bloc and a group of 26 lawmakers, including most of Negros’, have separately sought inquiries into the killings.

The lawmakers noted that most of the vcitims – who counted local government officials, educators, a lawyer, among others – had been accused of being rebel supporters.

Cristina Palabay, secretary general of the human rights group Karapatan, warned that “threats by Duterte and his minions to declare martial law in Negros will significantly impact on the human rights situation in the island.”

Citing Mindanao, which has been under martial law since 2017, when fighting broke out in Marawi City, Palabay predicted “extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests and detention, torture, forced surrender, forcible evacuation and other rights violations that will wantonly be committed by State forces once martial law is declared in Negros.”

“We call on Negrenses and the Filipino people to oppose this spiralling descent to fullblown dictatorship in the country,” she said.

On the other hand, the Defend Negros coalition, demanded “peace and justice” instead of martial law.

“A militarist solution such as the declaration of martial law, and more tyrannical actions, would never be the solution to the alarming situation in Negros,” Defend Negros said.

“Justice and peace are what we seek for in this time of despair and darkness,” the coalition said. “While we mourn over the rising number of brutal deaths in Negros, we also rage against state policies that has sanctioned these attacks — Executive Order No. 70 and Memorandum Order No. 32, approved by President Duterte, also the concurrent Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.”

Instead of threatening martial law, Defend Negros said government “must address the plight of landless farmers” and “work to give concrete solutions to the growing economic hardship and social injustice endured by Negrenses.” #

Baby Marjon

“Baby Marjon” by Jose Mari Callueng (Poster paint on paper, 20 July 2019)

“It was only on Saturday when I received photos of a crime scene of what happened in Santa Catalina, Negros Oriental. A picture of dead bodies lying on the ground. One was of a father named Marlon, the other was of a child, a one year old child named ‘Marjon.’ Before the investigators laid them on the ground, the baby’s dead body was found on a makeshift hammock. They were attacked while they peacefully slept.

“At Karapatan, we’ve been documenting rights violations of different forms–forced evacuations, illegal arrests and detentions, extrajudicial killings, among others. Since I joined this group of brave human rights workers, listing names and respective profiles of those killed under this murderous regime has become part of the daily routine. It never stops.

“Last week was the bloodiest in Negros, killing nine, a reflection of the dire situation of the entire island since President Rodrigo Duterte placed it under Memo. No. 32 which deployed more troops there. Many residents have been the subject of various rights violations since, such as harassment, intimidation, threats, if not murdered for being ‘suspected’ as members of the NPA.

“To write down a name of a defenseless one year old, Marjon is the most painful. He can barely talk, nor can he walk on his own little feet. He was murdered. My heart weeps as I put the image of a bloodied hammock on my drawing book. This is how low this government has become. This is too much.” — Jose Mari Callueng, Karapatan