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Arrested peasant advocates tortured, Karapatan says

The four peasant rights workers arrested in Nueva Ecija recently may have been tortured, human rights group Karapatan said.

In a statement, the group said Yolanda Diamsay Ortiz (46) of Anakpawis Party, Eulalia Ladesma (44) of Gabriela Women’s Party, and youth activists Edzel Emocling (23) and Rachel Galario 20 bore visible bruises on their faces when visited by kin last October 14.

The four were arrested by operatives of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), Philippine National Police and elements of the 7th Infantry Division in Sitio Bangkusay, Brgy. Talabutab Norte, Natividad, Nueva Ecija last October 13/

They are being held by the CIDG in their office at the Old Capitol building in Cabanatuan City.

Ladesma’s daughter told Karapatan after their visit her mother recounted that her hair was grabbed and was forced to drop to the ground when the CIDG operatives accosted her.

While on the ground, Ledesma was kicked several times and her hands tied thereafter while being forced to admit to being “Mariz”.

The daughter also relayed that she also saw Ortiz with a bruised face, her left eye swollen and there were hand marks on her neck due to strangulation.

Ladesma and Ortiz repeatedly told the former’s daughter that they were hit every time they refused to answer their captors’ questions.

Karapatan paralegals were not allowed to have access to the four women.

“Karapatan strongly condemns the illegal arrest, detention, and torture undergone by the four women human rights defenders in Nueva Ecija. This is indefensible,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said.

“This is precisely what happens when you have security forces that have no respect for human rights. This is the kind of police and military that we have – uniformed men with no integrity and not the slightest respect for women and their rights,” Palabay added.

Palabay said the four were arrested two days being Rural Peasant Women’s Day on October 15 when the world honors the struggles of women peasants and their advocates.

Palabay also lamented how abuses against rural women persist in the Philippines despite the ratification of laws that explicitly prohibit such violations, including the Anti-Torture Law of 2009.

This is on top of legislation and policies that seek to protect women from all forms of violence, including the Magna Carta of Women, Palabay said.

Karapatan noted that there has been a spike in the number of arrests of activists on the basis of trumped-up charges and the an increase of harassment cases against rights defenders – all alleged to be “rebels” by the Rodrigo Duterte government.

The 7th Infantry Division for its part said in a statement that the four women were “rebels conspiring against the government.”

Palabay, however, said that the military’s statement has no credibility if the victims were tortured.

“We have no doubt the spin doctors in the military will use this opportunity to forward their deluded narrative, even at the expense of torturing women! This is a shameful act that truly exposes the atrocities of the military and the police. All of those involved should immediately be held accountable,” Palabay said.

Karapatan demanded the release of the four women. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

IBON — Php238 NCR wage hike doable without worsening inflation

As the Metro Manila regional wage board deliberates a minimum wage hike for later this month, research group IBON said that a much-needed Php238 minimum wage increase is possible and need not be inflationary.

Millions of Filipino workers including in the National Capital Region (NCR) are burdened by high prices of goods and services.

The group said that the wage hike is possible and will not be inflationary if only companies are willing to take a small cut in their profits.

The government can meanwhile support smaller establishments to be able to afford the wage increase.

The purchasing power of poor and middle income households in NCR is eroding due to high inflation this year on top of the accumulated erosion from inflation in previous years.

At the national level, IBON estimates that the country’s poorest 14 million households have already lost anywhere from Php1,800 to Php4,725 cumulatively from January to September this year because of inflation.

The erosion in purchasing power in NCR is likely to be even greater. Monthly inflation in the first nine months of the year averages 5.0 percent nationwide but is higher at 5.6% percent in NCR.

IBON said that NCR firms have more than enough profits to support a Php238 minimum wage hike.

The latest data from the Philippine Statistics Authority’s (PSA) Annual Survey of Philippine Business and Industry (ASPBI) reports that NCR firms (with 20 and over employees) had combined profits of Php903 billion in 2015 while giving an average daily basic pay (ADBP) of Php530.

Using ADBP as a proxy for workers’ wages, raising the NCR minimum wage to Php750 and ensuring that workers get this will cost just Php132 billion which is just 14.6 percent of their profits.

In effect, NCR firms can pay the Php750 minimum wage and not have to pass this on to consumers as higher prices if they accept a slight cut in their profits.

Large corporations can readily give this substantial wage hike, said the group, but government should ensure assistance to micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) so that they can afford this.

This can come in the form of tax breaks and incentives, cheap credit, subsidized fuel and utilities, and technology and marketing support, among others.

IBON added that the large wage hike is also justified by growing worker productivity.

Between 2009 and 2017, labor productivity in NCR grew by 35 percent from Php456,059 per worker to Php614,297.

However, that same period, the real value of the mandated minimum wage only increased by 11 percent and of ADBP by 16 percent, both measured in real terms at constant 2012 prices.

This implies that a large part of productivity gains go to employers as profits rather than to workers as higher wages.

IBON stressed that it is more urgent than ever in these times of economic crisis for the government to ensure the poorest working class Filipinos do not suffer needlessly and for those with the capacity to adjust, such as enterprises and the wealthy, to contribute to a more equitable economy. #

‘Pakana ng gobyerno’

“Ang October plot ay isang pakana ng gobyerno para bigyang katwiran na harangin, i-delay at harasin ang lahat ng makiki-gunita sa araw ng mga magsasaka.”—Pido Gonzales, PAMALAKAYA Southern Tagalog

Rights groups demand IACLA abolition

By Joseph Cuevas

Human rights group Karapatan and other organizations trooped to Camp Crame in Quezon City Tuesday, October 9, to demand the abolition of the Inter-Agency Committee on Legal Action (IACLA) they said is a mechanism for political repression.

Karapatan said since the formation of IACLA by the Philippine National Police (PNP) and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) a year ago, 221 individuals have been charged with trumped-up cases.

Of those charged, 178 have already been arrested from October 9, 2017 to September 30 this year, Karapatan said.

The group said 128 peasant and indigenous peoples have been victimised by these trumped-up charges.

It added that the arrests include those of development workers Benito Quilloy and Rita Espinoza of Assert Socio-Economic Initiatives Network last October 2017, the continuous detention of National Democratic Front of the Philippines peace consultant Rafael Baylosis, trade union organizer Marklen Maojo Maga and public sector union organizers Alexander Reyes and spouses Oliver and Rowena Rosales.  Karapatan added.

“We call on for the abolition of IACLA and the withdrawal of all trumped up charges against activists and progressives. This is a systematic move by the government to legitimize repression, a blatant subversion of laws compounded by the collusion with the Justice Department, courts and other agencies to jail individuals and members of progressive organizations labelled as enemies of the state,” Karapatan said.

Makabayan seeks House probe

Meanwhile representatives from the Makabayan bloc at the House of Representatives filed a resolution seeking a probe on “the profiling and surveillance of PNP against activists in schools.”

House Resolution 2229 filed last Monday wants the House Committee on Human Rights to look into the claims of the AFP that some schools recruitment grounds for communists.

Rep. Sarah Elago of the Kabataan Party said that the AFP’s move is a serious attack and crackdown against youth and students groups critical of government policies.

She added that the so-called ‘Red October’ plot is a mere ploy to silence the people’s growing opposition to rising prices brought by the government’s tax reform law.

School administrators from the University of the Philippines (UP), De La Salle University and the Ateneo de Manila University denied the allegation.

Dialogue with CHR

Last Monday, progressive groups and church leaders held a dialogue with the Commission on Human Rights about the red-baiting incidents against activists and church leaders.

Iglesia Filipina Independiente Bishop Antonio Ablon of Pagadian City told to CHR Chairman Chito Gascon that the military branded him and his church as a “menace” and as members of New People’s Army with markings and spray paint on the wall of a chapel last September 29.

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) also revealed a PNP memorandum to all station commanders to conduct surveillance and profiling of so called “left leaning groups and leaders.”

These include the profiling of unionists at the Jose Reyes Medical Center in Manila.

Police officers also visited the office of an environment group and the student regent of UP were also reported, Bayan added.

Gascon for his part said the CHR investigate.

Gascon added that the CHR will create a mechanism such as a quick reaction team in cooperation with human rights groups and lawyers group to address reports of human rights violations.

 

‘October Resistance’ isasagawa ng mga magsasaka

Isang press conference noong Oktubre 8 ang isinagawa nang Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas o KMP at mga kaanib na organisasyon nito upang i-anunsyo ang kanilang pagkilos na tinaguriang “October Resistance against poverty, hunger and state fascism.”

Bilang bahagi ng buwan ng mga magsasaka ngayong Oktubre, iba’t-ibang aktibidad ang kanilang isasagawa bitbit ang panawagang tunay na reporma sa lupa, libreng pamamahagi ng lupa sa mga magsasaka, pagkontrol sa mga presyo ng bigas at iba pang bilhin gayundin ang pagtigil sa militarisasyon at paglabag sa karapatang tao sa kanayunan.

Ayon naman sa Amihan (Pambansang Pederasyon ng mga Kababaihang Magsasaka), lumalala ang kalagayan ng mga magsasaka at kababaihang magbubukid. Imbes na ibigay sa mga magsasaka ang lupain, inilaan pa ito sa ekspansyon ng mga plantasyon, malawakang pagmimina at land use conversion ang iba sa mga malaking kumpanya at panginoong maylupa.

Giit pa ng Amihan, walang plano si Pangulong Rodrigo Duterte para sa pagpapaunlad ng agrikultura at pamimigay ng lupa sa mga magsasaka.

Mariin naman nilang binatikos ang pakanang ‘Red October’ ng gubyernong Duterte at Armed Forces of the Philippines at sinabing layunin lamang nito na takutin at pahupain ang tumitinding galit ng sambayanan dahil sa walang-awat na taas presyo ng mga bilihin at serbisyo dulot ng Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Law o TRAIN Law.

Binigyan nila ng halimbawa ang patuloy na pampulitikang panunupil at “red tagging” sa mga organisasyon at aktibista.

Patuloy din ang pagsasampa ng mga gawa-gawang kaso laban sa mga lider magsasaka kabilang na ang tagapangulo ng KMP sa Northern Mindanao na si Ereneo Ubarde at 33 iba pang lider sa rehiyon, gayundin ang pag-aresto kay Gerry Basahon, lider ng Misamis Oriental Farmers Association na kaanib ng KMP noong Oktubre 4, ani ng mga grupo.

Kinundena din nila ang pinakahuling kaso nang pamamaslang noong Oktubre 6 sa tagapangulo ng PAMALAKAYA sa Negros Oriental na si Jaime Delos Santos.

Dagdag pa ng KMP, kapag patuloy na tumindi ang atake nang rehimen tiyak na tatapatan ito ng paglaban nang taumbayan. Nakatakda ang kanilang malakihang pagkilos ng mga magsasaka sa Oktubre 19 sa ibat-ibang panig ng bansa. # (Bidyo at ulat ni Joseph Cuevas/Larawan ni Jinky Mendoza-Aguilar)

‘Trabaho, serbisyo, paninirahan’

“Kaming mga maralita, ang panawagan namin ay trabaho na may sapat na sahod, gayundin ang serbisyong panlipunan—lalong-lalo na ang disenteng paninirahan.”—Bea Arellano, Chairperson, Kadamay

Teachers commemorate World Teachers’ Day with protests

Teachers from different schools in Metro Manila marched to Mendiola last Friday in Manila to commemorate World Teachers’ Day with a protest rally.

Led by the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) and ACT Teachers Party, they staged a National Day of Action for salary increase and against TRAIN Law of the Duterte Government.

Similar protests and actions were also held in Davao City, Cebu City, Southern Tagalog and Bicol regions.

According to Joselyn Martinez, National Chairperson of ACT, teachers experience the most oppression among government employees despite their leading role in social development.

The Duterte government failed in its promise to increase the salary of public school teachers unlike the military and police which was doubled this year, they said.

Teachers are also overworked due to oppressive policies like the Results-based Performance Management System and Philippine Standards for Teachers, they added.

They were force to attend different seminars and pay from their own pocket while their allowances are often delayed in arriving, Martines added.

According to Rep. France Castro of ACT Teachers Party, the P50 billion budget cut for basic education next year will definitely affect the budget for textbooks, feeding programs and other classroom materials.

The group also condemned recent harassments and intimidations against teachers.

This includes a threat of dismissal of Bacolod teachers if they push through with their planned mass leave. Police tried to prohibit Manila Public School Teachers from distributing leaflets and posters to their colleagues in the activity last October 4.

The teachers also slammed PNP Chief Oscar Albayalde about his warning of contempt to professors who teach ‘rebellious ideas’ to the students, citing that this is an attack following the ‘Red October’ Scare spread by the military and government cover up to the real issues such as inflation rate and TRAIN law.  (Video and report by Joseph Cuevas)

 

Black Friday Protest ng mga estudyante laban sa red-tagging ng AFP

Tahasang sinagot ng mga estudyante ng University of the Philippines Diliman sa kanilang Black Friday Protest ang paglalabas ng AFP ng listahan ng 18 unibersidad na diumano ay laganap ang pagrerekrut ng CPP-NPA.

Ayon sa AFP, ang isang paraan sa panghihikayat ay ang pagpapalabas ng mga pelikula kaugnay sa Martial Law.

Ang mga paraan na ito anila, ay bahagi ng mga hakbang para sa “Red October Plot” na naglalayong patalsikin si Pangulong Duterte sa pwesto.

Isa sa 18 unibersidad na nabanggit ang University of the Philippines Diliman.

Inflation worsening: Gov’t should act fast as households’ incomes hemorrhage

Research group IBON said that inflation has not tapered off as government projected but has accelerated in September, highlighting government’s continued neglect in addressing rapidly rising prices of goods and services.

The group said that government continues to push failed neoliberal measures, while feigning concern for Filipino families struggling with a quickly falling purchasing power.

Sonny Africa, IBON executive director, said, “The purchasing power of Filipino families continues to fall because the Duterte administration is more concerned about managing the political backlash of rising prices than genuinely addressing the burden on the country’s poorest families.”

The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported that the headline inflation rate accelerated to 6.7 percent year-on-year in September 2018, higher than the 6.4 percent in August.

Africa said that this is also more than double the 3.0 percent in the same period last year and over five times the 1.3 percent in June 2016 at the start of the Duterte administration.

The inflation rate for the poorest 30 percent of families is however likely even higher and some 8.5 percent or more.

Africa said that inflation has not moderated because the government refuses to suspend implementation of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law or to implement price ceilings on basic necessities and prime commodities.

“Doing these would have sent a strong signal of the administration’s sincerity in addressing rising prices and would bring immediate relief for tens of millions of Filipinos,” stated Africa.

Instead, inflation has already eaten up thousands of pesos in the purchasing power of the incomes of the poorest households who are already under-consuming and have low standards of living as it is.

Africa estimated that each of the country’s poorest 30 percent of households have lost at least Php1,800 to Php2,916 already from the start of the year until September due to inflation.

These are households assumed to be earning some Php12,835 or less monthly.

Less poor and middle income households have also seen their purchasing power eroded.

The next 30 percent of households have lost Php3,418 to Php4,725 since the start of the year.

These are the households earning up to around Php21,119 monthly.

IBON estimates the erosion of purchasing power by deflating household incomes with reported monthly inflation rates.

The impact on the poorest households is also underestimated by the unavailability of inflation rates for low income groups.

The administration has been promoting measures such as importation of agriculture products and the public utility vehicle modernization as ways to mitigate high inflation.

But Africa said that these government measures are tepid because the economic managers only see the numbers as cold statistics and callously insist that the situation is manageable.

“The measures are weak, slow to take effect and oblivious to the worsening conditions of tens of millions of the poorest Filipinos,” said Africa.

Africa also said that lower inflation in the National Capital Region (NCR) may reflect how the government is just managing the political impact of inflation.

“Reported NCR inflation of only 6.3 percent could be because the administration diverted food supplies to NCR to lower food prices here but at the expense of the regions,” said Africa.

Food inflation in non-food producing NCR is conspicuously moderated. There was a just 0.6 percentage point increase in NCR versus 1.5 percentage point increase outside NCR, and 1.2 increase nationwide.

“The government should provide real relief to millions of poor Filipinos and middle class. This includes immediate price controls, stopping TRAIN’s consumption taxes, and a meaningful wage hike. Steps must also be taken to strengthen domestic agriculture and Filipino industry,” he said. #

 

Groups protest water rate hike

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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