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KODAO ASKS : Natupad ba ni Duterte ang ipinangako niyang Independent Foreign Policy?

Noong Hunyo 12, Araw ng Kalayaan, tinanong ng Kodao kung natupad nga ba ni Presidente Rodrigo Duterte ang ipinangako niyang Independent Foreign Policy.

Panoorin ang sagot ng mga dumalo sa rali sa mga konsulada ng Estados Unidos at Tsina.

NDF Bicol vows justice for 2 slain rights workers

The National Democratic Front (NDF) in the Bicol Region vowed justice for the two human rights workers killed in Sorsogon Province Saturday morning.

“We assure the families of (Nelly) Bagasala, (Ryan) Hubilla and all other victims of violence of the reactionary State of the revolutionary movement’s nonstop efforts until justice is given them,” Nel del Mundo, Bicol NDF spokesperson, said in Filipino.

Bagasala and Hubilla were killed by two gunmen on a motorcycle at Phase 2, Seabreeze Homes, Brgy. Cabid-an, Sorsogon City at eight o’clock in the morning of Saturday April 15 while alighting from a tricycle.

Alternative media outfits Baretang Bikolnon and Bicol Today said Hubilla was paying for their fare while Bagasala was still inside the sidecar when gunned down.

Their companion Isabel (not her real name) and the tricycle driver escaped.

Bagasala was a member of Sorsogon Peoples’ Organization (SPO), a member organization of the Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights.

Hubilla, on the other hand was a Karapatan Sorsogon staff member and a member of the League of Filipino Students. He was a Grade 12 student.

Baretang Bikolnon reported that the three human rights workers reported being tailed by suspected military or police personnel when they were assisting “high profile” political prisoners being released Friday.

Hubilla took videos of two unidentified men on motorcycle who were tailing them and peeking inside their van, the report said.

Screengrab from victim Hubilla’s video of the two suspects tailing them Friday. (Baretang Bikolnon image)

The report added that the van driver who drove the victims during the release was threatened with a gun by unidentified men at around 9:30 Friday evening at Sorsogon City’s van terminal.

The victims were on their way to look for the van driver, reportedly a resident of Seabreeze Homes, to ask him about the incident when gunned down.

Karapatan national secretary general Cristina Palabay revealed in a Facebook post that Hubilla was in fact being mulled to act as witness for the organization’s petitions for relief with the higher courts last April.

“We were mulling to have him as a witness in our Court of Appeals hearings on the petition of writ of amparo and habeas data because of a recent incident of harassment and surveillance of suspected state agents involving Ryan and three other Karapatan human rights workers in Sorsogon last April when they were assisting political prisoners,” Palabay wrote.

Palabay said that the victims were most diligent in assisting the detainees and ensuring that their needs in jail are being addressed.

“Just yesterday, they provided assistance for three political prisoners who have been released. But now, Ryan won’t be able to testify, he will not be able to execute his affidavit. He is dead,” Palabay added.

The Filipino people are revolted with the unceasing crimes and brutal killings under the United States-Rodrigo Duterte regime. These violence and exploitation only drive the people to resist and join the armed struggle,” del Mundo said.

Other groups condemned the killing of the human rights workers, blaming the government’s counter-insurgency program Oplan Kapanatagan, as well as Duterte’s Memorandum Order 32 and Executive Order 70 for the “de facto martial law” in the entire country.

“Why is it that those helping the masses are the ones being killed?” Guillermo Abraham, Karapatan – Sorsogon spokesperson asked. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Teachers reporting more toilets converted to faculty rooms

The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) revealed more cases of teachers holding offices inside toilets in response to Department of Education (DepEd) secretary Leonor Briones’ dismissal of such reports as mere “drama.”

ACT said it received reports and photos from Maligaya High School, Sergio Osmeña High School, Bagong Silangan Elementary School, and Quirino High School in Quezon City as well as from Villamor High School and Calderon High School in Manila that toilets have been converted to faculty rooms.

“Common to the cases is that teachers chipped-in their own money to have the CRs (comfort rooms) remodelled and furniture provided so that they may have a space to do duties outside of actual teaching,” ACT chairperson Joselyn Martinez said in a statement.

Briones dismissed as theatrics a teachers’ Facebook post Monday showing they have transformed an unused toilet after vacating their faculty room due to classroom shortages.

“They had their choice they could hold their office in the laboratory rooms but of course it is more dramatic, it is more touching if you hold it in toilets,” a peeved Briones told reporters in an interview.

Bacoor National High School (BNHS) faculty association president Maricel Herrera is reportedly being threatened with an administrative case and cyber libel by her own principal Anita Rom for “damaging the image of the school and DepEd.”

ACT, however said, BNHS’ is not an isolated case as more teachers are coming out to speak out about their same situation.

Martinez added that teachers were compelled to set up makeshift faculty rooms in toilets and in stairwells.

Martinez also dismissed Briones’ claim teachers may use laboratories, libraries, conference rooms and other areas in schools, saying those rooms have their own purpose and must not be used as teachers’ lounges.

ACT also slammed Briones refusal to support their call for salary increases in accordance with President Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign promise.

In response to teachers’ demands for at least a P10,000 monthly salary hike, Briones instead said that the profession is “not all about the money.”

“Sec. Briones’ tirade against teachers proves that DepEd does not intend to give teachers any dignity. First, they neglect us in schools by not providing us a proper office, then they oppose our just call for better pay,” lamented Martinez.

“Nowhere in any government agency will you see that employees take out from their pockets what is needed to repair government facilities. Teachers do it because they don’t have much choice and out of their vocation. This is one proof that we are not money-driven,” Martinez explained.

ACT added that teachers are the last that should be lectured about vocation and Briones herself should be the last person to do so since her Php3.9 million 2018 income strips her of any moral ascendancy on the matter.

“Unlike her, teachers live on poor pay but our dedication to our students and to the country drives us every day to continue teaching and make up for the government deficiencies, even if that means ending up deep in debt and with no pension left to support us when it’s our time to rest,” Martinez said.

“We don’t deserve to be painted as a whiny, selfish, materialistic bunch for asserting our rights. Maybe that is why the secretary would not support our call for pay hike, she thinks very lowly of us,” she added.

ACT challenged DepEd to a dialogue.

“We have been trying to hold a dialogue with you but have been ignored since February,” Martinez said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Batas militar sa Mindanao, muling binatikos

Isang Black Friday Protest ang isinagawa ng mga progresibong grupo sa ikalawang taong anibersaryo ng batas militar sa Mindanao noong Mayo 24 sa Mendiola sa Maynila.

Ayon sa kanila, ang patuloy na pag-iral ng batas militar sa Mindanao ay nagdulot ng malaking pinsala sa kabuhayan ng mamamayan.

Nanawagan sila na itigil na ito.

Batay sa tala ng grupong Karapatan, umaabot sa 93 ang kaso ng extra-judicial killings, 35 na torture, 348, 081 bombings sa mga komunidad at 423,538 na forced evacuations sa loob ng dalawang taong pag-iral ng batas militar sa isla.

May kaso naman nang 79 na paaralang Lumad ang pwersahang ipinasara ng mga militar kung saan apektado ang 2,728 na mga mag-aaral at guro batay sa tala ng Save Our Schools network.

Ayon naman sa Moro Christian Peoples Alliance, ang tunay na layunin ng martial law lalo na sa Marawi City ay pagpapasok ng mga malalaking negosyanteng dayuhan tulad ng China at US.

Matatandaan na noong Mayo 23, 2017 ay idineklara ni Presidente Rodrigo Duterte ang martial law sa Mindanao sa pag-uumpisa ng labanan ng militar at grupong Maute.

Pinalawig ito sa mga sumunod na taon ng mababang kongreso at pinayagan din ng Korte Suprema. (Bidyo ni: Joseph Cuevas/ Kodao)

Slower economy affirms undue hype over credit rating upgrade

Slower gross domestic product (GDP) growth during the first quarter of 2019 belies any claim of a healthy Philippine economy.

Research group IBON stressed that the Duterte administration’s enthusiasm over the recent credit rating upgrade that the country got is unwarranted.

Instead of hailing business-biased programs, government should look to more sustainable undertakings in order to push genuinely inclusive economic growth.

The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported that Philippine GDP grew at its slowest in 16 quarters at 5.6% in the first quarter of 2019 since the 2015 first quarter GDP growth rate of 5.1%.

This is slower than the 2018 first quarter GDP growth of 6.5 percent.

Trade and repair of motor vehicles, motorcycles, personal and household goods and financial intermediation were the drivers of the first quarter growth with faster rates, but the rest of the economic sectors slowed down.

Agriculture had stagnant growth in the last three years, while manufacturing and real estate registered the slowest first quarter growth in the past decade.

News of the economy’s slower growth came at the heels of a credit rating upgrade of BBB+ from Standard & Poor’s, which the Duterte administration attributes to its economic reforms.

The administration’s economic team is also hopeful that with the credit rating upgrade the country could encourage and attract more foreign investments.

IBON however said that the slowdown proves the Duterte administration’s economic centerpiece to be unsustainable, all the more rendering the credit rating upgrade to be meaningless.

The unsustainability of the infrastructure program, Build Build Build, IBON pointed out, was underscored by the slowdown of the construction and real estate sectors, which the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) attributed to the delayed enactment of the 2019 national budget.

Construction slowed significantly to 3.9% in the first quarter of 2019 from 10.2% in the same period last year.

A closer look reveals that public construction nosedived from 22.6% to -8.6% during the same period.

Private construction, meanwhile, was slightly faster from 8.1% to 8.6% within the same period, however registering a substantial slowdown from 19.3% in the fourth quarter of 2018.

Real estate, renting and business activities continued its slowdown from 8.7% in the first quarter 2016 to 4.1% in the first quarters of 2019.

IBON added that the budget delay, which reportedly stifled government spending as agencies were compelled to operate on a reenacted 2018 budget, even puts government’s determination for rapid growth into question.

Any government that is solid on its development vehicle, in this case, an ambitious infrastructure program, would not waste time to promptly allocate the needed budget for it, said the group.

IBON said that instead of focusing on the infrastructure program to boost GDP growth, loans, investments, and even employment, government should exert greater efforts towards sustainable sources of inclusive growth.

The group noted that contrarily, the country’s production sectors are stagnant or on a continuous slowdown.

IBON noted that growth in agriculture, fishery, and forestry fell to 0.8% in the first quarter of 2019 from an already negligible 1.1% in the first quarter of 2018.

Manufacturing slackened further to 4.6% from 7.3% in the same period.

Agriculture registered 1.7 million jobs lost from January 2018 to January 2019, the largest contraction of agriculture jobs across all January rounds post-Marcos administration.

Manufacturing created only 110,000 jobs in the same period, only a fourth of the seasonal jobs created in construction.

IBON reminded that government’s bid for the pro-business Build Build Build and for foreign investments will not bring long-term benefits to the country unless accompanied by a solid agriculture and industry centered development plan.

Without boosting the country’s production base, sustainable and inclusive economic growth will remain elusive, said the group. #

Makabayan bloc set to win 6 seats

The Makabayan bloc may still get as many as six seats in the House of Representatives as the National Board of Canvassers (NBOC) is set to proclaim the winners of the party list race tonight.

Despite relentless harassment and vilification by the military and police throughout the campaign period up to election day last May 13, the progressive parties amassed a total of 2,236,155 votes that may give the bloc up to six seats in the 18th Congress, just one less than its current number of representatives.

Bayan Muna is set to have three seats after garnering 1,117,403 votes representing 4.01% of all party list votes cast.  

It placed second behind high-spending ACT-CIS Party, the only other party to win three seats.

Gabriela Women’s Party placed 12th in the race, garnering 449,440 votes representing 1.61% of all party list votes cast and winning one seat.

ACT Teachers Party came close behind at 15th place, with 395,327 votes representing 1.42% of all party list votes cast and winning one seat.

Gabriela Womens’ and ACT Teachers’ each have two sitting representatives in the current 17th Congress.

Both groups are the only parties in their respective sectors elected to any legislature in the entire world.

At 51st place and the last group to win a seat is Kabataan Party, garnering 196,385 votes representing 0.70% of all party list votes cast.

Anakpawis, however, failed to win a seat, placing at 62nd place with 146,511 votes representing 0.53% of all party list votes cast.

The NBOC is set to proclaim all 51 winning parties at seven o’clock tonight at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City.

Gabriela Womens’ Party has two seats, ACT Teachers Party has two more while Bayan Muna, Kabataan and Anakpawis have one each in the current 17th Congress.

The bloc lost one seat in May 13’s elections.

Relentless attacks

Earlier, the Makabayan Bloc complained of threats and harassments of its campaigners, members and supporters by the military and police.

A massive “zero vote” was also launched in Mindanao prior to the elections while Davao City mayor Sara Duterte openly called on her constituents not to vote for Makabayan parties.

Makabayan members also suffered two massacres in Negros Island and arrests of supporters in Bulacan and Bohol whiles its supporters were prevented from voting in several regions across the country.

On election day last May 13, Philippine National Police officers distributed newsletters tagging Makabayan parties as communist fronts.

 “Despite many reports of fraud, the Rodrigo Duterte regime cannot defeat the people’s will,” Bayan Muna second nominee Ferdinand Gaite earlier told Kodao. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘Incoming Duterte Youth congressman’

The Commission on Elections has yet to proclaim the winners of the party list elections and his petition to substitute “resigned” nominees has yet to be decided on, Duterte Youth chairperson Ronald Cardema has already claimed he is an “incoming congressman” in the House of Representatives.

Cartoon by Mrk Suva/Kodao

Group challenges Senate: Stop Charter change

Research group IBON is challenging the succeeding Senate to prove its independence by rejecting the proposal to amend the 1987 Philippine Constitution or Charter change (Cha-cha). Lawmakers should keep in mind the dangers that Cha-cha poses on Philippine economic sovereignty, said the group, and not be swayed into passing other laws that fulfill the consistent goal of Cha-cha to open the economy to full foreign participation.

In December last year, the Lower House transmitted its approved, consolidated version of proposed constitutional amendments, Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) 15, to the Philippine Senate. Aside from establishing a federal state and removing term limits, Cha-cha would implement neoliberal amendments to the Philippine constitution.

IBON said that while RBH 15 expires on June 30 this year, the Duterte government has sustained its espousal of Cha-cha by organizing an Inter-Agency Task Force on Federalism and Constitutional Reforms and can easily restart or expedite deliberations under an administration-dominated 18th Congress.

Partial unofficial tallies show a majority win for candidates backed by the Duterte administration, IBON noted. An administration win can bring standing Upper House support for Cha-cha to 11 comprised of incoming senators Bong Go, Ronald dela Rosa, Pia Cayetano, Imee Marcos, Francis Tolentino, Sonny Angara, Aquilino Pimentel III, Bong Revilla, plus incumbent senators Vicente Sotto III, Juan Miguel Zubiri, and Manny Pacquiao.

IBON stressed that Cha-cha would strike out the nationalist provisions of the constitution and liberalize the economy to foreign investors. Moreover, said the group, Cha-cha will limit government’s role in protecting the Philippine economy and allow foreign ownership of natural resources, educational institutions, mass media and advertising, public utilities, and strategic enterprises.

The proposed amendments also remove pertinent provisions affecting Philippine employment opportunities, labor rights, and access to basic social services.

Cha-cha would remove provisions on using the preferential use of Filipino labor and limiting professions to Filipinos, noted IBON. This will worsen the country’s jobs crisis. For instance, more Filipinos go abroad for work than new jobs are created locally. In the first semester of 2018, the average number of Filipinos who went abroad for work daily was 5,757, while only 2,263 new jobs were created on average per day during the same period, said IBON.

The group added that important stipulations on labor rights such as security of tenure, humane conditions of work, and a living wage, are deleted in the proposed Cha-cha. Already, IBON observed, 2018 data shows that 8.5 million workers of private companies and 985,000 workers in government agencies are still non-regular workers. Meanwhile, the Family Living Wage (FLW) as of March 2019 is at Php1,004 for a family of five compared to which the National Capital Region’s (NCR) minimum wage of Php537 falls short.

The proposed Cha-cha also narrows government’s role in providing basic social services such as health development and affordable housing by adhering to the neoliberal policy of privatization, IBON said.

The group further warned that proposals to open public utilities to full foreign ownership such as proposed amendments to the Public Services Act (PSA), and to increase areas that are open to foreign investments such as through revisions to the foreign investments negative list (FINL), are in the works and ground breaking the eventual neoliberalization of the highest law of the land. IBON said that legislative amendments such as these are being prioritized by government and will serve the same purpose of opening the economy for big business and foreign profit-seekers. Nationalists and people’s rights defenders among the country’s lawmakers, if there are any left standing, should be vigilant against these moves.

IBON pointed out that the midterm elections are fast concluding with incredible results that will be favorable to the Duterte administration’s neoliberal legislative agenda. The Filipino people have reason to doubt that the passage of Cha-cha and other laws surrendering national patrimony will not be as ‘magical’ as the election results, IBON added. This will be so unless nationalists and people’s rights advocates shall continue to challenge the Philippine legislature.#

Winalanghiyang halalan

Nagmamalinis at nagmamang-maangan ang Commission on Elections sa chorva nitong ang mga palyadong marker, SD card, vote counting machine at maging ang transparency server ang pangunahing dapat sisihin sa pinaka-palpak na automated elections nitong dekada.

Akala malamang nina Commissioner Rowena Guanzon na sa pamamagitan ng pagbabantang huwag nang bayaran ang mga supplier ng marker at SD card ay sa mga ito mababaling ang sisi sa mga kapalpakan noong Lunes.

Sa totoo lang, matagal nang palpak ang Comelec at kung sinuman ang nagdesisyong maaring kumandidato sa party list elections ang mga pekeng marhinalisado. (Sino-sino sila? Ito pa. At ito pa.) Walang kakibo-kibo ang mga opisyal ng Komisyon sa kawalanghiyaan ng mga nominado ng mga pekeng partylist. Kasabwat na silang malinaw nito sa panloloko sa taumbayan.

Wala ring halos narinig mula sa Comelec sa lantarang paglabag sa lahat ng panuntunan hinggil sa tamang paggasta sa eleksiyon, patalastas, paglalagay ng poster at maging sa mga sukat nito, pangunahin ng mga kandidato ng administrasyon. Bulag, bingi’t pipi sila o kasabwat na rin sila sa kawalanghiyaang naganap sa buong panahon ng kampanyahan at halalan.

Sa araw mismo ng halalan, hindi mabilang ang ulat ng vote-buying, pangangampanya sa mga presinto at iba pang porma ng dayaan. Sa Lanao del Sur, bugbugan at barilan pa rin ang uso. Maging ang pulisya at militar ay aktibo rin sa pangangampanya sa mga ayaw nilang manalo. Hindi rin kumikibo ang Comelec sa mga ito.

Paanong hindi iisiping kasabwat ang Comelec sa kawalanghiyaan sa halalan, samantalang hindi ito pumayag sa anumang panukala na ipakita nila ang source code ng automated election system. Hindi rin ito tumutugon sa rekwes ng Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) na silipin ang programang ito kung nagtutugma ba ang mga numero sa main server at sa transparency server. Ano ba talaga ang nangyari sa pitong oras na patay ang transparency server? Kung walang itinatago, bakit hindi ipakita sa PPCRV, Namfrel, Kontra-Daya at iba pang poll watchdog?

Tatanggapin na lamang ba ng taumbayan na walang kasalanan ang mga opisyal ng Comelec sa lahat ng ito? Kapag sinabi ba ng mga komisyoner na tayo’y bulag na magtiwala at sila na ang bahala ay ayos na ang lahat? Ano ang gagawin ng Comelec sa malinaw na paglabag sa paggasta ng karamihan ng mga nangungunang kandidato sa pagka-senador at party list?

Tama naman si Komisyuner Guanzon na kaduda-duda na ang resulta ng halalan noong Lunes. Pero hindi ba dapat ang unang hinala ay sa
sa mga walanghiyang politiko at sa Comelec mismo? #

Neri says he will not concede defeat to ‘abnormal elections’

Makabayan senatorial bet Neri Colmenares said he will not concede defeat in the face of massive fraud in Monday’s national polls.

Citing “brazen” illegal partisan activities by the police and military against Makabayan’s national and local bets, Colmenares said he remains undefeated by the elections that are “not normal.”

“How can I concede to a rotten electoral exercise that has basically deceived, bribed, intimidated and manipulated our people into electing the worst kinds of leaders imaginable? I cannot,” he said.

“It would have been easy to concede had I lost in a fair and honest elections. But this year’s elections were hardly fair or honest. Besides, this is no longer about me but about giving our people a fair chance to exercise their constitutional right to suffrage,” Colmenares explained.

The former Bayan Muna representative, who has remained at the 24th spot since the start of the canvassing, accused Rodrigo Duterte government of unleashing intensified, tokhang-style police and military operations in Bicol, Eastern and Western Visayas that are known progressive bailiwicks meant to prevent Makabayan supporters from voting.

Northern Dispatch also reported that Makabayan supporters received death threats to dissuade them from campaigning and voting in Cagayan Valley.

In addition to Mindanao still languishing under Martial Law, the massive human rights abuses also resulted in at least two massacres and a state of terror in communities during the campaing period, Colmenares said.

The activist candidate also said the Philippine National Police were caught red-handed distributing black propaganda materials against Makabayan in various polling centers in Metro Manila on election day.

‘Duterte as first violator’

Colmenares said it was President Duterte who led in the violation of various election laws.

“We saw how the President, using his presidential platform, led the vilification of the opposition and progressive candidates, dishing out insults and lies at every opportunity. This year, honesty as a qualification for public office was openly thrown out the window. And vote buying was justified by the highest official of the land,” Colmenares said.

He added that Duterte and his allies threatened and intimidated local politicians into supporting their candidates and denying the opposition and progressive candidates the opportunity to campaign at the grassroots.

“I have never seen so fearful a set of local politicians than now,” he revealed.

Colmenares also cited how the Duterte administration used government resources, funds and facilities to promote pro-Administration candidates, especially those favored by the President.

Widespread violations by administration candidates

Colmenares said pro-administration parties and candidates openly broke election rules that should not have been allowed by the Commission on Elections (Comelec)

“We saw how the rules – from postering and other campaign activities to widespread vote buying – were being flouted with impunity up to election day, and the Comelec blind or helpless about it,” Colmenares said.

He said he saw how candidates were already campaigning, spending hundreds of millions on TV and radio advertisments prior to campaign period.

“But that was nothing compared to the deluge of ads during the campaign period, skirting whatever limits we’re supposed to have on campaign spending and advertising,” Colmenares said.

Machine failure

There were unprecedented failures in the vote counting machines and SD cards used to run those machines on election day itself, Colmenares said.

He also cited the withholding of transmitted results from the public for seven hours Monday evening on “some flimsy technical glitch that had never happened in the past three automated elections.”

“Many of us slept and woke up to the TV screen showing 12 winning senators, not knowing what happened,” he revealed.

He also recalled that he filed resolutions to investigate election fraud in the automated election in his three terms in Congress as Bayan Muna representative.# (Raymund B. Villanueva)