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Our struggle is not a spectacle

By Denver del Rosario

I was supposed to be in San Juan for work at around 2 pm. I left my house at noon like I always do because, oftentimes, that two-hour allowance is enough. But with the infernal Metro Manila traffic, expect the worst to happen.

I checked my phone. 3:57 pm. And I was still in Kamuning, far from where I was supposed to be. In an act of surrender, I told my editor a minute after that I won’t be pushing through with my coverage today. What should have been moments of productivity became time wasted on the road. I got off the bus, but then came a heavy downpour. I spent an hour in a fastfood restaurant to wait for the skies to clear and then I went out to wait for a ride home.

But then it was past five, and many people were trying to go home. To see buses jampacked with passengers was both frustrating and discouraging: frustrating because we don’t deserve this; discouraging because I wasn’t sure if I could get on a bus in this area with many people also waiting. So I chose to do the 40-minute walk to Philcoa. From there, I finally found a jeepney ride home.

This is the harsh reality many of us face where workers and students have no choice but to wake up a bit earlier in order to avoid the morning rush, only to find themselves still waiting for hours. Some say that the metro traffic is the great equalizer, but I call this bull—-. To say that is to be devoid of class analysis.

When the powerful and the influential romanticize the plight of the ordinary people by telling us that our daily sacrifice is the very definition of Filipino resilience and perseverance I don’t smile in gratitude, I rage. For our struggle is not a story of inspiration, but rather of gross neglect and plain arrogance, one where the grievances of the citizenry are easily ignored by those who should be listening and taking action.

Standing in the middle of an overcrowded bus while passengers still try to shove their way in is not a metaphor, so are burning railroads and dysfunctional trains. This is the reality of the masses, a never-ending cycle of waking up early and going home late while losing hope in the process. With these difficult circumstances, we have fallen into compromise; we don’t care anymore about safety and inconvenience, if the vehicle is too cramped, if the aircon is not working, because we all just want to go home.

It isn’t surprising to know that this denial of a mass transport crisis by the administration has earned the ire of the citizenry. Recently we learned about goverment officials telling us to be more “creative” when commuting, or that Superman is the only one who can save the day. When people shrug off their statements as comical relief instead of recognizing its plain insensitivity, this only manifests how much hypocrisy and incompetence we are willing to tolerate as a society just because we keep hoping change will happen. This is them not doing their mandate, and us willingly accepting that.

What government officials say is a reflection of the principles they hold in shaping public policy. For example, do we really expect a leader who catcalls female journalists and jokes about rape to strengthen laws regarding sexual harassment? Or an elected official who steals agricultural lands for profit to genuinely advocate for farmers? Go figure.

To the rich and the powerful, to hell with you and your uncalled-for sense of superiority. Your oppressing kind has the gall to tell us to hang in there as you look outside from your comfortable seats? Please. Our struggle is not a spectacle. 𝘞𝘢𝘭𝘢𝘯𝘨 𝘱𝘢𝘨𝘴𝘪𝘴𝘪𝘺𝘢𝘴𝘢𝘵, 𝘸𝘢𝘭𝘢𝘯𝘨 𝘬𝘢𝘳𝘢𝘱𝘢𝘵𝘢𝘯𝘨 𝘮𝘢𝘨𝘴𝘢𝘭𝘪𝘵𝘢. We don’t need your condescension; we need you to wake the hell up.

And to us who keep enduring hell, we have no other option but to carry on. We wake up early and go home late for we have bills to pay, mouths to feed, and dreams to fulfill. As we brave the metro traffic again, may we always remind ourselves that we should never settle for less, because we deserve more. But as we all know by now, we don’t wait for the world to change. We take action, rage on. #

(The author is a sports journalist. He has contributed stories to Kodao since his student days.)

Agri sector slumps due to continuous government neglect

by IBON Media

Even prior to rice liberalization, the country has become increasingly dependent on food imports.”

Long-time government neglect and low prioritization has put the agriculture sector in a chronic crisis, said research group IBON.

The group said that this is in line with government’s advancement of neoliberal policies favoring local and foreign big business. The Duterte government continues this by giving minimal support to the agriculture sector.

IBON said that declining share in gross domestic product and agricultural productivity per capita, increasing import dependence, rising trade deficit, and widespread rural poverty are signs that this crisis is worsening. 

The agriculture sector’s share in the economy has shrunk from over 40% in the 1960s to less than 10% in 2018.

Agricultural productivity per capita peaked at Php7,862 in 1981, declined, and then was in a period of recovery from 1999-2008.

But agricultural productivity per capita again fell to Php7,052 in 2018, noted the group.

IBON also said that the country has become increasingly dependent on food imports even before rice liberalization this year.

For instance, garlic imports made up only 1.1% of the country’s consumption in 1990, but this spiked to 90% in 2017. Import dependency ratio also increased significantly with coffee (-7.7% to 56%); beef (8.5% to 36%); tuna (3.7% to 17%); onion (-14.3% to 15%); potato (0% to 15%); and pork (0% to 13%) in the same period.

Meanwhile, rice import dependency ratio declined from 9% in 1990 to 5% in 2016. But this rose to 6.6% in 2017 and is expected to be higher due to the influx of rice imports under the Rice Liberalization Law.

The agriculture trade deficit has also increased by 30 times from US$287 million in 1994 to US$8 billion in 2018.

In the first quarter of this year, the agriculture trade deficit was a staggering US$2.1 billion, said the group.

IBON said widespread rural poverty is another indicator of agriculture in crisis.

Official figures show that the poverty incidence among farmers (34.3%) and fisherfolk (34%) is higher than the national average (21.6%).

IBON estimates that, if based on more reasonable standards of poverty measurement, at least 90%, if not all farmers and fisherfolk, are impoverished.

This chronic agriculture crisis is due to government’s chronically low prioritization of the agriculture sector, said IBON.

The group noted that from 1981 until 2020, the annual average share of agriculture and agrarian reform was only 4.1% of the national budget.

This low priority of agriculture is being continued under the Duterte administration.

The group said that the 3.5% share of agriculture in the proposed 2020 budget is the lowest since 2004 (3.3%).

Also, from 2017 to 2020, the annual average share of agriculture in the national budget was only 3.6% – the lowest since the Ramos administration (3.5%).

The average share of agriculture was higher under Estrada (4.4%), Arroyo (4.7%), and Aquino (4.2%).

IBON said that immediate steps government should take to arrest the agriculture crisis is to wipe off if not significantly reduce all forms of loans including amortization for awarded lands, and to substantially increase support and subsidies for the agriculture and agrarian reform sectors.

It should also suspend, and eventually repeal, policies like the Rice Liberalization Law, that are harming domestic production and farmers’ livelihoods.

But to truly strengthen domestic agriculture, government needs to implement long-term policies that prioritize rural development over big business interests. #

Hopes for justice of drug war victims’ mothers buoyed after passing letters to Pope

By Visayas Today

Two Filipinas who lost young sons to the bloody war on drugs being waged by President Rodrigo Duterte believe their hopes for justice received a major boost after letters they wrote seeking the help of Pope Francis were received by the pontiff’s aides in St. Peter’s Square on Wednesday, October 9.

Marissa Lazaro, who lost her 20-year old son Chris in 2017, and Katherine Bautista, who found her 21-year old stepson John Jezreel in a Manila morgue days after he went missing in January 2017, were in Rome as part of the post-performance talk of the play “Tao Po” (Is Anybody There?), a four-part monologue by cultural activist Mae Paner, who portrays characters from the murderous campaign that human rights groups say may have claimed upwards of 30,000 lives since mid-2016, when Rodrigo Duterte became president.

The play is making the rounds of six European cities, including Rome, which hosts thousands of migrant Filipino workers and where supporters of Duterte have mounted a campaign to boycott the performance.

The two mothers are involved with Rise Up for Life and Rights, a faith-based support group for families of victims of extrajudicial killings that has filed a complaint against Duterte before the International Criminal Court.

This week, Rise Up, supported by the National Union of People’s Lawyers filed a petition asking the ICC to admit more evidence against Duterte.

In response to the ICC’s opening of a preliminary examination into the allegations, Duterte withdrew the Philippines from the Court, which maintains it retains jurisdiction over complaints filed while the country was still a member.

Marissa Lazaro’s handwritten note to Pope Francis. (Photo courtesy of Rise Up for Life and for Rights.)

Bautista and Lazaro had to maneuver through the crush of thousands of people who filled St. Peter’s Square for the Pope’s general audience.

In a message to reporters on social media, Lazaro said: “Nag-abot ang paningin namin ni Pope. Saya-saya ko kasi nung abutin nung mama yung sulat, ko pakiramdam ko nakarating sa kanya ang mensahe para sa hustisya sa anak ko.”

(The Pope and I locked gazes. I was so happy when an aide accepted my letter, I felt certain my message asking justice for my son had reached him.)

Bautista, on the other hand, said she wept: “Naiyak ako. Iba pakiramdam ng saya na sa Roma ko pa nakita ang Papa. Paulit-ulit akong nagsabi ng, ‘Please get this’! Kaya nung kinuha ang sulat ko nakaramdam ako ng pag-asa hindi lang para sa stepson kundi para sa lahat ng biktima ng walang habas na pagpaslang sa Pilipinas.”

(I cried. It’s a different joy you feel seeing the Pope in Rome. I repeatedly said, ‘Please get this!’ Which is why when my letter was received I felt hope not only for my stepson but for all the victims of the indiscriminate killings in the Philippines.)

Pope Francis waves to well-wishers at the general audience in St. Peter’s Square. (Photo courtesy of Rise Up for Life and for Rights.)

Even before the Tao Po team arrived, Duterte supporters have been hounding Philippine human rights advocates who have brought the campaign against the war on drugs to Europe, including the United Nations Human Rights Council.

In Iceland, which Duterte vilified for spearheading a resolution seeking an investigation into the war on drugs and its massive death toll, Lazaro was hounded by supporters of the president who interrupted her account at a forum of her son’s death and accused her of “dramatizing” her story. #

Labor Rights Defender Network inilunsad

Inilunsad kamakailan ang isang network para matulungan ang mga manggagawa sa pagtatanggol sa kanilang karapatan at seguridad. Nagtipon ang mga abugado, propesor, taong simbahan, labor rights advocatea at iba pa para buuin ang Labor Rights Defender Network (LaRD).

Ayon sa LaRD, sa kasalukuyang administrasyon ni Pangulong Duterte, lalong tumindi ang paglabag sa karapatang pantao ng mga manggagawa. Kabilang na dito ang pagpaslang sa 43 lider manggagawa at labor rights advocates, pambubuwag sa mga unyon at welga, red-tagging at ilegal na pag-aresto sa mga union organizer.

Iniulat din ng LaRD na kabilang ang Pilipinas sa mga bansang may lumalalang rekord kaugnay sa paglabag sa karapatan sa trabaho at mag-unyon. Kahanay na nito ang ilang mga bansa sa Africa at Asia-Pacific.

Layunin din ng LaRD na tipunin ang pinakamalaking network ng iba’t-ibang grupo para itaguyod ang maayos na sahod at dignidad sa paggawa ng mga manggagawa. (Music: News background Bidyo ni: Joseph Cuevas/ Kodao)

On the arrest of 6 human rights workers in Palawan

“The warrantless arrest of Glendhyl Malabanan and six other human rights workers in Palawan is a clear case of the government’s intensifying reprisals on human rights defenders and activists for their work in exposing the Duterte regime’s fascist attacks on the people.”-Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general

IBON questions CITIRA job creation claims

by IBON Media

Research group IBON said the Department of Finance’s (DOF) claim of over a million jobs to be created by corporate income tax cuts under the proposed Corporate Income Tax and Incentives Rationalization Act (CITIRA) is imaginary.

The group said that the DOF is hyping job creation to justify implementation of regressive tax measures. CITIRA will increase corporate profits and executive pay without increasing jobs or even wages, IBON said.

The group recalled that the DOF repeatedly claimed that the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law would benefit “99%” of Filipinos or households when they were lobbying for this.

The DOF did so despite knowing, on the contrary, that the poorest 17.2 million Filipino families would eventually be burdened by additional consumption taxes especially after the smokescreen of temporary cash transfers, said IBON.

“The DOF is now claiming that CITIRA ‘will benefit more than 99% of companies’ and that the proposed corporate income tax (CIT) cuts will create 1.5 million jobs. There is no legitimate basis for such a claim,” said IBON executive director Sonny Africa.

“The DOF seeks to justify even more tax cuts for the rich following TRAIN’s reduction of personal income taxes (PIT),” Africa added.

“The DOF’s suddenly claiming that CITIRA will create jobs is suspicious,” Africa said.

He noted that there were no job generation estimates when the bill was first submitted to Congress in early 2018 as TRAIN Package 2, when it was passed by the House of Representatives (HOR) in September 2018 as the renamed Tax Reform for Attracting Better and High-Quality Opportunities (TRABAHO) bill, nor even at the first Senate hearing on it right after.

Africa recalled that DOF undersecretary Karl Chua said outright at the Senate hearing: “We do not see a job impact.”

Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) director Dominique Tutay on the other hand answered pointedly: “Mayroon po [mawawalan ng trabaho].”

Africa said that it was only on October 17, 2018, that the DOF suddenly declared in a press release that the proposed law would create 1.4 million jobs.

He added: “The DOF’s job generation claim is unfounded speculation that has no theoretical or empirical basis.”

“The new jobs will supposedly come from businesses ‘reasonably’ spending half of their increased profits from the lower corporate income tax ‘in growing their businesses’ but companies already have enough profits as it is,” Africa said.

He cited DOF reports that large firms account for some three-fourths (75%) of corporate income tax collections.

Africa pointed out that the profits of the country’s Top 1000 biggest corporations have been growing some 12% annually in the past decade, and have more than tripled from Php415 billion in 2008 to Php1.33 trillion in 2017.

“Simplistically claiming that corporate tax cuts will magically create 1.5 million jobs is deceitful as the argument opportunistically ignores key economic realities,” said Africa.

He pointed out that global growth is slowing, trade is weakening, foreign investment flows are falling, and protectionism is growing, while Philippine economic growth has already slowed to its lowest in 17 quarters.

“It is more likely that CITIRA’s tax cuts will just go to increasing corporate profits and justify increasing already exorbitantly high executive pay. They will certainly not go to increasing wages because corporations have kept real wages flat for over a decade-and-a-half despite rising labor productivity,” concluded Africa. #

(Kodao publishes IBON.org’s reports and analyses as part of a content-sharing agreement.)

Duterte admin banning aid to hide human rights violations

by IBON Media

Research group IBON, a member of the multisectoral network AidWatch, said that the Duterte administration is stopping talks on new official development assistance (ODA) from 18 countries as part of its efforts to hide the worsening domestic human rights situation.

This includes Spain which is supporting the Commission on Human Rights (CHR).

The group said that the show of standing up against foreign intervention in the country is hollow because the administration continues to receive much more ‘aid’ from China and the United States (US) despite their much larger and more damaging intervention in the Philippines.

The administration issued a memorandum on August 27, 2019 directing the suspension of all negotiations and signing of loan and grant agreements with the 18 countries of the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council that recently supported a resolution to investigate human rights violations in the country.

These include: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Fiji, Iceland, Italy, Mexico, Peru, Slovakia, Spain, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and Uruguay.

AidWatch, a network actively working with different government agencies and stakeholders on ODA issues, noted that as of the first quarter of 2019, the 18 countries combined account for only US$525 million or less than 3% of the Philippines’ active loans and grants.

This is because only three of the 18 countries have active ODA here — Australia (US$476 million), Italy (US$41 million) and Spain (US$8.1 million).

There is also just an additional US$414 million in the pipeline from Australia (US$82 million), Austria (US$177 million), and the UK (US$155 million).

Active grants and loans mostly go to education, disaster management, agrarian reform and peace-building projects.

Spain however also provides almost US$6 million in grants as institutional support for the CHR under the Project Go-Just Human Rights-CHR project.

This started in February 2016 and is due to end in December 2019.

Aid in the pipeline is meanwhile overwhelmingly for transport infrastructure especially bridges, the group noted.

The president’s memo says that the government is in the process of ‘assessing’ relations with these countries.

AidWatch said that this is clearly a signal not just to the 18 countries but to the international community that it will not take any criticism about its human rights record and indeed that the only narrative about the human rights situation it allows will be its own sanitized version.

The administration has already said that it will not cooperate with the UN on any such investigation and that it will block the entry of any UN special rapporteurs.

The group said that this is however clearly not a principled stand against foreign intervention but a self-serving stand to cover up massive and rising human rights violations stemming from its violent ‘war on drugs’ and repression of activists and political opposition.

The Duterte administration continues to accept US$365 million in active ODA from China and looking to as much as US$10.6 billion more despite its gross intrusiveness in the West Philippine Sea, said the group.

It is also accepting US$887 million in active ODA and US$276 million in military aid over 2016-2020 from the US despite Philippine territory being used as a US military outpost hosting troops, warplanes, war materiel, equipment and bases.

IBON said that notwithstanding the president’s swagger and rhetoric, the country is clearly still under the thrall of big foreign powers and still wanting genuinely independent foreign policy. #

‘PUV phaseout, para lamang sa malalaking negosyante’

Aabot sa 95 porsyento ang pagtigil ng pasada sa malawak na lugar ng Kamaynilaan noong Lunes, Setyembre 30, ayon sa PISTON. Ito ay bukod pa sa ilang mga probinsiya na lumahok din sa proteste laban sa phase out ng public utility vehicles sa buong bansa.

Ayon sa mga tsuper, tatanggalin ang kanilang indibidwal na prangkisa sa dyip, UV express at tricycle na siya namang sakayan ng mayorya ng mahihirap na Pilipino. Ang mga prangkisa naman ay iko-konsentra sa malalaking negosyante na magpapanggap na mga kooperatiba. Magdudulot ng malawakang pagkawala ng kanilang hanapbuhay ang dulot ng iskemang ito, anila. (Bidyo ni Jek Alcaraz/Kodao)

Paggunita sa Batas Militar at ang papel ng Kabataan noon at ngayon

Sa ika – 47 anibersaryo ng deklarasyon ng Batas Militar ni dating pangulong Ferdinand Marcos, nagsagawa ng kilos protesta ang iba’t ibang mga grupo upang gunitain ang malagim na karanasan ng mga biktima sa ilalim nito.

Ang ilan sa mga kabataang biktima ng batas militar noon ni Marcos ay nagbahagi ng papel ng kanilang sektor sa paglaban sa diktadurya. Panoorin kung ano ang tingin nilang papel ng kabataan ngayon sa ilalim ng rehimeng tila-diktadurya rin. (Video by Jek Alcaraz/Kodao)

Chricelyn Empong, ang Lumad na Greta Thunberg

Tampok ngayon ang isang 16 taong gulang na climate activist na si Greta Thunberg mula sa Sweden. Ito ay dahil sa kanyang matatapang na mga pahayag hinggil sa lumalalang problema dulot ng pagbabago ng klima o climate change. Giit ng dalaga na dapat ay agarang kumilos ang iba’t ibang lider sa buong mundo upang solusyunan ang nagbabadyang tuluyang pagkasira ng ating kalikasan.

Dito sa Pilipinas, nananawagan din ang mga kabataang Lumad na protektahan ang lupang ninuno at ang kalikasan.

Isa si Chricelyn Empong sa marami pang estudyanteng lumad na napilitang mag-bakwit dito sa Maynila dahil pagpapasara ng gobyerno sa kanilang mga paaralan. Tulad ni Greta, naninindigan din si Chricelyn na dapat lamang na kumilos at lumaban hinggil sa pangangalaga sa ating kalikasan.

“Buhay ng buong mundo ang nakasalalay sa aming pagkilos ngayon. Hindi namin kailanman tatalikuran ang susunod na henerasyon gaya ng pagtalikod ng gobyernong Duterte,” pahayag ni Chricelyn.

Sa ngayon, nagaganap ang isang Global Climate Strike kung saan kabilang si Greta at ang mga kabataan lumad. Nagsimula ito noong Setyembre 20 at magpapatuloy hanggang Setyembre 27. Hinihikayat nito ang lahat na sumama sa mga kilos protesta upang igiit ang hustisya para sa ating kalikasan. Ito rin ay para itulak ang iba’t ibang pulitiko na magsagawa ng mga solusyon upang mapangalagaan ang kalikasan. (Video ni Jo Maline Mamangun/Kodao)