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Political detainee dies in Batangas, 4th under Duterte

A political prisoner died at the Batangas Provincial Jail last Friday, April 19, the fourth to die under the Rodrigo Duterte government.

Franco “Pangkoy” Romeroso, 38, suffered a stroke and died while he was confined in a hospital in Batangas City, human rights group Karapatan said.

Romeroso was being treated for his tuberculosis and diabetes mellitus when he died, the group added.

Romeroso, a father of a baby girl, was first arrested in 2010 as among the healthworkers known as the Morong 43.

Arrested, tortured and detained for 10 months, the health workers were released due to the strong international and national campaign on their case.

Romeroso was again arrested in Ternate, Cavite on March 27, 2015 on murder, multiple murder, attempted murder, and robbery with violence and intimidation charges Karapatan said were all trumped up.

Lawyers of the Public Interest Law Center (PILC) condoled with the family of Romeroso they described as a victim of “vicious state repression.”

“He (Romeroso) faced several ridiculous cases in Nasugbu, some of which had been already dismissed. He had been awaiting his next hearing in June 2019 for possible dismissal of the rest, for failure to prosecute,” the PILC said.

The law center described Romeroso as “diminutive and soft-spoken.”

“[He] had beaten other false charges before (in 2010 as part of the Morong 43) but could not escape the military’s hounding and perennial red-tagging. He left us on Good Friday after being stricken with tuberculosis while managing his diabetes; his hospital confinement upon court order being the last we could do for him,” PILC said.

“May by his passion and death remind us of continuing injustice, and strengthen our spirits in the struggle,” the group added.

Karapatan lists 548 political prisoners in the country as of March 30, at least 225 of whom were arrested under Duterte.

In 2016, Duterte promised to release all political prisoners through a general amnesty as part of confidence-building measures for the resumption of formal peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

Duterte subsequently ordered to prioritize the release of sickly and old political prisoners but failed to deliver beyond the 19 NDFP peace consultants who participated in the negotiations in Europe.

Duterte terminated the peace process with the NDFP in November 2017.

Six NDFP consultants have since been arrested, including, Rafael Baylosis, Vicente Ladlad, Rey Claro Casambre and Frank Fernandez who were not among those allowed to post bail to join the talks. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Frank Fernandez and company transferred to civilian jail

Arrested National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) consultant Frank Fernandez, wife Cleofe Lagtapon and companion Ge-ann Perez have finally been transferred to a civilian jail facility Monday despite efforts by the Philippine Army to keep them incommunicado inside Fort Bonifacio in Taguig City.

Following their scheduled arraignment for alleged illegal possession of firearms and explosives before the Sta. Cruz (Laguna) Regional Trial Court Monday, April 22, the three were finally committed to the Laguna Provincial Jail.

Their arraignment, however, did not push through because of their limited and ineffective access to counsel.

In an announcement, the Public Interest Law Center (PILC) said Fernandez and company were kept inside the Army General Hospital (AGH) since March 25 without communication to the outside world save for a few visits.

PILC also told Kodao that aside from its repeated refusal to allow PILC lawyers to visit the three, the Philippine Army also deliberately ignored an April 3 Commitment Order by the Branch 33 of the Sta. Cruz Court to transfer Fernandez, Lagtapon and Perez to a civilian jail facility.

“No less than Lt. Gen. Macairog Alberto, Army commanding general, denied the written request of Public Interest Law Center managing counsel Rachel Pastores to enter Fort Bonifacio on April 16, 2019, saying that only one counsel [PILC’s Maria Kristina Conti] was recognized by the court,” PILC said.

Aside from Conti, however, Fernandez and company have formally engaged PILC’s Pastores, Amilyn Sato and Carlos Montemayor as lawyers during their inquest proceedings in Sta. Cruz last March 25.

‘No visits from lawyers and doctors’

According to an Omnibus Motion to the Court filed through their lawyers last April 17, Fernandez and company complained of being denied visits from their lawyers and doctors.

Efforts by PILC and National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers counsels to gain access to their clients were  denied.

Doctors who also sought ways to check up on the three were turned away by the Philippine Army.

Fernandez and Lagtapon asked the Court to require the Philippine Army to respect their right to counsel and to provide them unhindered access to them for adequate and effective preparation for their defense.

Fernandez also asked for a hospital check up and confinement, complaining that the AGH does not appear to be fully-equipped to treat his coronary artery disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and hyponatremia (low sodium concentration in the blood) as diagnosed by Philippine Army doctors themselves.

Casambre now in Bicutan

Earlier this month, Fernandez’s fellow NDFP peace consultant Rey Claro Casambre had been transferred to Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City after spending weeks at the “noisy, hot and cramped” Bacoor City Jail.

Casambre was clandestinely trasferred from the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group-National Capital Region detention facility in Camp Crame to Bacoor last April 3 without his family and lawyers being informed of the move.

Aside from Casambre and Fernandez, Reynante Gamara, Vicente Ladlad, Rafael Baylosis and Adelberto Silva had been arrested in succession since President rodrigo Duterte ended the peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the NDFP in November 2017.

All had been charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives, which they deny.

Baylosis, however, was ordered released by the Quezon City Regional Trial Court in January after pieces of evidence presented against him were found insufficient. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘Magic matrix’

“The source of that is from the Office of the President, from the President himself. I don’t know how he got one but it’s coming from the President. I talked to him the other day,” chief presidential legal adviser and presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said.

Last April 16 in Tuguegarao City, Duterte said intelligence reports have been fed to him from “foreign” sources about the supposed coordinated media plot to discredit him. Panelo admitted that the President himself ordered him to release the matrix in a Malacañan press conference Monday, April 22.

Cartoon by Mark Suva/Kodao

Lawyers: Duterte a disgrace to the legal profession

Rodrigo Duterte is a disgrace to the legal profession, a lawyers’ group said after the president reportedly authorized the release of a matrix to the public yesterday alleging a destabilization plot by journalists and lawyers.

In the press conference in Quezon City this morning, the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), named as among those involved in the destabilization plot to oust the president, said Duterte may have violated several laws in allowing a “foreign intelligence body” to launch surveillance operations against Filipino citizens.

“He is a big disappointment to the legal profession as he has abandoned all legal tenets,” NUPL chairperson and senatorial aspirant Neri Colmenares said.

Colmenares said Duterte, a lawyer, may have violated several laws in authorizing the release of the matrix naming the NUPL as well as Rappler, Vera Files and the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) as among those seeking to destabilize the government.

Among the laws that may have been violated are the Anti-Wiretapping Law, the Data Protection Act, the Eletronic Engineering Act as well as Constitutional provisions on privacy, he added.

“Duterte is intolerant of dissent. Diyos niya ang intelligence reports. Lawyers like us should be ruled by evidence, which he and Panelo, also a lawyer, failed to present,” Colmenares explained.

NUPL recalled that Duterte announced last week he will get back at media organizations that came out with reports about the rise in his family’s wealth.

“In the coming weeks, I will return the favor. So [PCIJ], you better stop,” Duterte said.

NUPL secretary general Ephraim Cortez also said that the president may have also violated the Rules of Court allowing lawyers to represent anyone.

“[The matrix is] disturbing and without let up…designed to stifle dissent and is an attack against the legal profession,” Cortez said.

“It is doubly dangerous because it is peddled by Duterte himself, which means he is telling his foot soldiers it is open season for lawyers and journalists,” Cortez added.

The NUPL said they will raise Malacañan’s latest attack against them to the Supreme Court as a supplement to its Writ of Amparo petition filed last April 15 seeking protection for government state forces linking the human rights lawyers to the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army.

The NUPL yesterday immediately denied it is involved in any plot to oust Duterte, saying its lawyers does not have time beyond defending their many clients. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NUPL: Ouster plot allegation ‘absurd’

A progressive lawyers’ group slammed a news report linking it to an alleged ouster plot against President Rodrigo Duterte, calling the story “an imagination gone berserk.”

The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) said The Manila Times story “Oust-Duterte plot bared” published today and bylined by its chairman emeritus Dante Ang “fantastic” and “libelous.”

“This has certainly gone over the walls of credulity. It is absolutely false, totally baseless and completely ludicrous,” the NUPL said in a statement.

Ang’s story alleged the group, along with independent media groups and journalists including Vera Files, Rappler and the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) are involved in a plot to oust Duterte.

The first matrix presented in The Manila Times report.

“There is a plot to discredit the President and destabilize his government,” Ang’s story said, quoting a anonymous source in the Office of the President said.

“There’s an obvious pattern of close coordination among some media organizations for the timely publication of anti-Duterte stories,” the source supposedly told Ang.

The story added the plot is utilizing the media, planting fake news, distributing them to the friendly media outlets, whetting the people’s appetite, arousing their anger, manipulating public emotion, touching base with the Leftist organization, enlisting the support of the police and the military, then going for the “kill.”

It added that journalist Ellen Tordesillas of Vera Files is serving as main distributor of the videos of a certain “Bikoy” accusing Duterte, son and former Davao City vice mayor Paolo Duterte, senatorial aspirant Christopher “Bong” Go, among others as illegal drugs distributors.

The second matrix alleging Tordesillas acting as nexus of the distribution of videos accusing the Dutertes of having links with the illegal drug trade in the country.

“’Bikoy,’ obviously a pseudonym, was the source of the black propaganda, the matrix shows. From Bikoy, the stories go to Ellen Tordesillas, president of Vera Files, who acts as the nexus and distributor of the materials to the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, Rappler and the NUPL. These organizations, in turn, distribute the false narratives to their respective members,” Ang’s story said.

In a press briefing at the Malacañan Palace, presidential spokesperson and chief legal adviser Salvador Panelo said revealed Ang’s source was President Duterte himself.

“I was supposed to release this today. Naunahan lang ako ng Manila Times,” he said. (Manila Times was just ahead of me.)

Panelo said the matrix was the result of intelligence information gathered by foreign countries and shared to Malacañan.

‘Laying the ground for more attacks’

The NUPL however said their inclusion in the matrix is a mere bait to engage them in absurd and endless tit for tat to distract them from their human rights lawyering.

“[The allegations] would have been amusing were it not perilous to the safety, security, and liberty, if not the lives, of each of the 500 or so lawyers, law students, law professors, judges, prosecutors, public defenders, government lawyers, and paralegals who are members of the NUPL in more than 20 chapters nationwide,” the NUPL said.

The NUPL said Ang’s story lacked evidence and credibility given his close association with Duterte and House of Representatives Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

“Basic it is that for evidence to be credible, it must not only be credible in itself but must also come from a credible source. And more so if it is cloaked under a fictituous anonymity that does not give the object of such calumny a fair chance to contest,” NUPL said.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) also scored Ang’s report, calling it “a marvel of unethical and amateurish writing.”

“Based on a single anonymous source and a matrix showing a web of threads so tenuous it would not hold up in the slightest breeze, Ang’s piece of claptrap wouldn’t even pass muster at any self-respecting high school publication,” the NUJP said in a statement.

“In fact, proof that the matrix, the source and the story are hogwash is the fact that former NUJP chair – AND former [Manila] Times editor – Inday Espina Varona is listed in the matrix as among NUPL members. She is neither a lawyer nor connected to the NUPL,” the group added.

The NUJP also said what Ang has done is similar to the narco-lists Duterte is fond of trotting which often amount to hit lists, death sentences without the benefit of trial.

“What we do fear is that this “revelation” could be a prelude to a crackdown against independent media and human rights lawyers,” the group said, adding that Ang should be held accountable should any harm come to those named in his article. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

No more talks with ‘deranged Duterte’–Sison

National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison said there may no longer be peace negotiations with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) under Rodrigo Duterte, accusing both the president and the military of making the process impossible.

Responding to yet another Duterte declaration that he is still open to resuming the negotiations, Sison said the revolutionary forces may spend their time better by concentrating on intensifying their “people’s war.”

In a campaign sortie in Tuguegarao City Tuesday, Duterte again appeared to have changed his mind and said he is still open to peace negotiations with the NDFP.

“Kayong mga NPA (New People’s Army), kung gusto talaga ninyo ng usapang matino, [you declare] immediate ceasefire. Walang magdala ng armas sa kampo ninyo o sa labas, walang taxation, walang pangsunog,” Duterte said. (You, NPA, if you really want to seriously talk, declare an immediate ceasefire. Do not bring arms within and outside your camps, do not impose taxation and do not go around burning.)

He also again invited Sison to come home from The Netherlands to resume peace negotiations.

“Umuwi ka dito, Sison. Ako ang bahala sa iyo. Hindi ako traydor na tao. I give you my honor, word of honor. Mag-usap tayo,” Duterte said, adding however that he could not talk about a coalition government with the Left. (You come home. I will take care of you. I am not a traitor. We will talk.)

“Pero nothing about coalition government. You can never have even an iota of a sovereign powers of the Republic of the Philippines. I am not allowed to do that. Kaya itong mga sundalo mag-coup d’etat ito. Ako pa ang mamatay,” Duterte said. (These soldiers might stage a coup d’etat and kill me.)

But Sison said a resumption of the talks may be impossible at present, saying Duterte military have rendered negotiations impossible by doing the following:

  1. Duterte has formally terminated the peace negotiations with the NDFP with Proclamation 360.
  2. He has designated the CPP (Communist Party of the Philippines) and the NPA as terrorist.
  3. He has rejected the substantive agenda of the peace negotiations stipulated by The Hague Joint Declaration and the Joint Agreement on the Sequence, Formation and Operationalization of the Reciprocal Working Committees.
  4. He has wantonly violated the safety and immunity guarantees under the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) by ordering the arrest of NDFP consultants and their murder if there are no witnesses, as in the case of Randy Malayao.
  5. He has unilaterally scrapped the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law and has dismantled the GRP section of the Joint Monitoring Committee.
  6. He has unleashed his military and police dogs to red-tag, frame up and kill at will social activists and suspected revolutionaries in his all-out war and pursuit of fascist dictatorship.

Sison added the military also actively interfered to stop the peace negotiations for the following reasons:

  1. The GRP negotiating panel cannot obtain the surrender of the armed revolutionary movement of the people through a protracted and indefinite ceasefire and
  2. the NDFP negotiating panel is gaining credit for pushing social, economic and political reforms to address the roots of the armed conflict.

Sison recalled that since The Hague Joint Declaration of September 1, 1992, the most “reactionary diehards in the military” have always acted to shorten the peace negotiations under every GRP administration.

“Under the pressure of the military, Duterte has terminated and practically killed the peace negotiations since he issued Proclamation 360 on November 23, 2017,” Sison said, adding the president has proceeded to drive more nails into the coffin of the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations.

Sison also dismissed GRP’s localized peace negotiations scheme as patently false, saying no revolutionary would ever fall for its trap.

He added that it is actually favorable for the revolutionary forces to fight an openly tyrannical Duterte regime as in the time of the deposed dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

Sison also dismissed Duterte’s invitation for him to come home, saying his time is better spent on research, writing and publishing “without being distracted by back channel talks and flip-flops by the mentally, politically and morally deranged Duterte.” # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Mga abugado humingi ng proteksyon sa Korte Suprema

Nagtungo sa Korte Suprema sa Maynila ang grupong National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers o NUPL noong Abril 15 para maghain ng petisyon para sa Writ of Amparo at Writ of Habeas Data laban sa pananakot at harassment ng Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Sinamahan sila ng kanilang mga abugado mula sa Public Interest Law Center.

Ayon kay Atty. Edre Olalia, pangulo ng NUPL, layunin ng petisyon na mabigyan sila ng proteksyon ng Kataas-taasang Hukuman laban sa mga banta at red-tagging sa kanilang mga kasapi.

Kabilang sa mga respondent sa petisyon ay sina Pangulong Rodrigo Duterte, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr., Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana at AFP Civil Military Operations Chief General Antonio Parlade Jr.

Isa si Parlade na inakusahan ang NUPL na supporter ng Communist Party of the Philippines at New Peoples Army subalit mariing pinabulaan ng grupo at sinabing walang basehan ang mga paratang nito.

Nababahala ang NUPL sa ganitong pananakot. Ayon sa kanila, simula nang manungkulan si Pangulong Duterte ay 36 abugado na ang napapatay.

Pinakahuli dito ay si Atty. Benjamin Ramos na upisyal ng NUPL sa Negros na pinaslang noong Nobyembre 2018 sa Kabankalan City. (Bidyo ni Joseph Cuevas/ Kodao)

CPJ finds ‘shrinking space for free press in PH’

By ALYSSA MAE CLARIN
Bulatlat.com

MANILA — A high-level mission of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) raised alarm over the “shrinking space for free press in the Philippines” in a press conference, April 16.

The CPJ mission said it believes that the attacks and threats against critical media organizations are politically motivated.

The New York-based group cited the 11 legal cases filed against Rappler and the cyber attacks against small media outfits.

Leading the group is CPJ’s Board chair Kathleen Carroll, joined by CPJ Asia Program Coordinator Steven Butler and Alliance for Journalists’ Freedom director Peter Greste.

The group met with various media groups as well as government officials, such as the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS), the secretary of the Department of Justice, Bulatlat, Kodao Productions, AlterMidya, and the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines since April 14.

“Government forces are finding new and increasingly sophisticated ways to shut down press freedom. So the attacks on Rappler and others have a chilling effect across all journalists. That is profoundly damaging the country’s democracy,” Greste said.

“Our concern [is], not just about Rappler, but on the broader impact on the freedom of the press on the Philippines,” Butler for his part said.

Carroll explained that what concerns them most were the media killings and the dismissive stance of the PTFoMS on the cyber-attacks against news organizations.

“Not taking the (cyberattacks) as an issue is a mistake, and we hope that they reconsider, ” she said.

Carroll added the “red-tagging” of journalists and media people to be “very frightening.”

“This is a very great concern for the CPJ and the international community, because the Philippines has long enjoyed a very robust free press. We are concerned that not a lot is being done to protect your (Filipino journalists) ability to work without fear of retribution, prosecution, and attack,” said Carroll.

The group is set to publish its official mission report on its website after finalizing all the details.

The Philippines ranks fifth on CPJ’s Impunity Index, which measures the extent to which the killers of journalists escape punishment.

The 2009 Maguindanao massacre, in which 32 of those killed were journalists, remains the worst single incident of journalist killing in CPJ records.

Not a single conviction has yet been obtained for these murders. #

Sison warns against Duterte’s ‘war panel’

National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison warned that President Rodrigo Duterte’s plans to constitute a new government negotiating panel with at least three military officers as members is for “militarist purposes.”

“[The NDFP] and the Filipino people should be alert to Duterte’s militarist purposes in announcing that he wishes to reopen the peace talks with the use of a militarized negotiating panel under the militarized office of the presidential adviser, General [Carlito] Galvez,” Sison said.

Sison was reacting to Duterte’s speech at the PDP-Laban campaign sortie in Bukidnon Saturday, when the president talked about looking for members for a new peace panel, most of whom would come from the military.

“I’ll look for a new one, new methods, new people to talk to. Maybe one, two, three of them are from the military. Maybe around five. Two civilian members, three from the military,” Duterte said.

The president said he dissolved the previous peace panel last March 20 because it took them too long to negotiate with the NDFP.

“It took too long. Nothing happened in three years,” he claimed.

The previous Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) negotiating panel was composed of labor secretary Silvestre H. Bello III as chairperson and members Hernani Braganza, Angela Librado-Trinidad, Rene Sarmiento and Antonio Arellano.

‘Willing and committed GRP panel’

Records, however, show that Duterte’s first negotiating panel produced groundbreaking draft agreements with the NDFP on substantive agenda as well as the longest bilateral ceasefire between both parties that lasted five months.

In June 2018, the GRP-NDFP panels and reciprocal working committees and groups drafted the following:

  1.  Stand Down Agreement,
  2. Guidelines and Procedures towards an Interim Peace Agreement and the Resumption of Talks and its attached timetable,
  3. The Initialled Interim Peace Agreement, and
  4. The NDFP Proposed Draft of the Amnesty Proclamation which was given to the GRP and the Third Party Facilitator.

The documents were ready for Duterte’s approval when he again cancelled the formal round in Oslo, Norway scheduled a week after the both panels initialled the documents.

Earlier, both panels have already approved land reform and rural development as well as national industrialization and economic development subsections of the substantive social and economic reforms substantive agenda the parties mutually described as the “meat of the negotiations.”

NDFP chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili in fact acknowledged that the Bello-led GRP panel were willing and committed negotiators upon learning their counterparts were fired last March 14.

“The GRP should be wise enough to choose those who are willing or committed to address the roots of the armed conflict in order to attain a just and lasting peace as Sec. Bello has shown in the long years that he has been a consultant, member and then chairperson of the GRP panel since 1994,” Agcaoili said. 

Duterte, however, brushed aside the results of two years of hard work by both panels when he cancelled for at least the third time last June 2018 the formal round after meeting with his Cabinet’s security cluster.

“That the suspension comes after a command conference with the Armed Forces of the Philippines shows the power that warmongers wield over the civilian branch of this government,” the group Kapayapaan Campaign for a Just and Lasting Peace said at the time.

Presidential peace adviser Galvez, former Armed Forces chief of staff explained that the dissolution of the first GRP peace panel last month was aimed for the creation of a new panel that will focus on the so-called localized peace engagements.

Galvez added they will reconstitute the panel that will implement the government’s whole-of-nation approach.

‘War panel’

Sison, however, said the NDFP does not want to be baited into accepting a war panel of the Duterte regime, “whose purpose is merely to seek the impossible, such as the surrender of the revolutionary forces, especially the New People’s Army.”

“The NDFP must remind Duterte that he cannot dictate the terms of whatever kind of negotiations he seeks from the revolutionary movement of the people,” Sison said.

He added that Duterte must also explain why he terminated the peace negotiations and annul all agreements painstakingly made since the The Hague Joint Declaration of 1992.

Sison also asked why Duterte terminated and dismantles the GRP section of the Joint Monitoring Committee formed under the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Humans Rights and International Humanitarian Law tasked to receive and investigate complaints of human rights violations allegedly committed by either party.

“By all indications, Duterte is merely play-acting in the name of peace while carrying out an all-out war and scheming to rig the May 2019 elections in order to pave the way for a fascist dictatorship through charter change to a bogus federalism,” Sison said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Lower official poverty estimates don’t mean less poor Filipinos — IBON

Research group IBON said lower reported official poverty estimates for the first semester of 2018 unfortunately do not necessarily mean that the country’s poverty situation is improving.

The group observed that standard of living allowed by the official poverty line is very low and grossly underestimates the real number of poor Filipinos.

Unless corrected, it gives a misleading picture of the conditions of millions of poor Filipinos and hinders the country’s anti-poverty efforts, IBON said.

The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported the proportion of supposedly poor Filipinos as falling to 21.0% in the first semester of 2018 or to just 23.1 million poor Filipinos.

This is a seemingly marked improvement from the reported 27.6% poverty incidence and 28.8 million poor Filipinos in the same period in 2015.

The proportion and number of poor families likewise also fell.

IBON observed however that the supposed improvement is based on a daily per capita poverty threshold averaging just some Php69.50 nationwide and a daily per capita subsistence or food threshold of only some Php48.60 in the first semester of 2018.

These are grossly underestimated thresholds that do not meet decent minimum standards for food, shelter, transportation, utilities, health care and education, the research group said.

The research group urged economic planners to review the official methodology in poverty estimation.

The subsistence and poverty thresholds are in dire need of updating and upgrading according to more decent standards, IBON said.

The PSA estimates the poverty threshold by first computing a subsistence or food threshold and then mechanically multiplying this by a factor of around 1.43 to get the poverty threshold.

These are both problematic, IBON added.

The subsistence food basket is estimated using so-called ‘least cost’ and ‘revealed preference’ approaches.

 These result in an extremely cheap food menu, which, while technically meeting bare nutritional requirements, is not just sorely lacking in variety but also only hypothetically available for families, IBON said.

The research group observed furthermore that the crude multiplier applied to calculate non-food items is also unacceptable.

This method does not calculate a budget for meeting families’ other needs for shelter, transportation, utilities, health care and education.

It is then unable to account for rising costs of housing, public transport, water, electricity, medical treatment and medicines, and schooling.

The research group pointed out that IBON estimates on Family Income and Expenditure (FIES) data in 2015 revealed that 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.

These estimates at around those income levels would give a better picture of the real state of deprivation of tens of millions of Filipinos than current official poverty statistics, IBON said.

The choice of official poverty lines is a political one, IBON said.

Setting a high standard indicates the government having a high level of ambition for poverty eradication.

Conversely, setting a low standard indicates low targets for dealing with the poverty situation.

Government, however has chosen the latter, which results in tens of millions of Filipinos not meeting minimum standards of well-being and hidden behind unrealistic official poverty statistics, IBON concluded. #