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Duterte gov’t fails to meet its human rights obligations amid the pandemic

by IBON Media & Communications

The Philippine government is a signatory to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). The covenant obliges the government to take measures to prevent or at least mitigate the impact of the pandemic. Its gross failure to do so is leading to unprecedented but preventable suffering for millions of Filipinos.

The country’s poorest and most marginalized are being left behind by the COVID-19 response of the Duterte administration. On the other hand, wealthy creditors are protected and large corporations including foreign investors are getting their profits boosted.

COVID-19 spreading

The Duterte administration’s inability to contain COVID-19 is the clearest sign of its failure to address the pandemic. In Southeast Asia, Vietnam and Thailand show that an effective government response is possible. Yet the Philippines, adjusting for population size, has the second most number of COVID cases next to small city-state Singapore, and the most number of deaths.

The Philippines has over 4,000 cases per million population (more than double the regional average of around 2,000), and nearly 80 deaths per million population (more than triple the regional average of 26). This is despite the longest and harshest lockdowns and quarantine measures in the region.

Emergency aid falling

The government’s refusal to give meaningful aid is causing unparalleled suffering. The latest labor force survey reported 3.8 million unemployed Filipinos and an unemployment rate of 8.7% in October. IBON however estimates the real number to be at least 5.8 million, with an unemployment rate of 12.7%, if those who were forced out of the labor force by the pandemic or discouraged by the obvious lack of work are also counted. Earlier, private opinion surveys already reported 7.6 million families going hungry.

At least 12-13 million Filipino families, or the poorest half of the population, are facing economic distress because of the pandemic and the worst economic collapse in the country’s history. The administration’s Bayanihan 2 however gives emergency aid to at most around 3.3 million families, who are even getting just half as much cash subsidies as supposedly given under Bayanihan 1.

This is because the economic managers refuse to spend on emergency aid for poor and vulnerable families and only allowed a token Php22.8 billion under Bayanihan 2. This is a far cry from the Php238 billion in aid under Bayanihan 1 which has already been used up by beneficiary households. It is even worse in the proposed 2021 national government budget where pandemic-related aid falls to just Php9.9 billion.

As it is, with only nine days left in the effectivity of Bayanihan 2, the social welfare department has only given one-time emergency subsidies to a mere 64,839 beneficiaries at an average of just Php6,720 per family. The labor department meanwhile has only given CAMP support to around 350,000 workers.

The Duterte administration’s so-called emergency assistance is so small that it is just a token measure to give the illusion of responding. Tens of millions of Filipinos are not getting any help causing millions to go hungry and sink deeper into poverty.

Corporate profits rising

The government is also making inequality worse. While millions of poor families are neglected, large corporations including foreign firms are going to get hundreds of billions of pesos in additional profits over the coming years from big corporate income tax cuts.

Disregarding the critical need for revenues to respond to the pandemic, the economic managers pushed their Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (CREATE) Act and even dishonestly presented this as a COVID-19 stimulus. This is a willful violation of the obligation to mobilize the necessary resources for responding to serious health and economic distress from COVID-19.

Rights being violated

The proposed 2021 budget also violates human rights. The state has an obligation to devote the maximum available resources to combat COVID-19 and the economic crisis in the most equitable manner.

However, the 2021 budget fails to allocate resources in a way that prioritizes the public health crisis and the economic burdens the poor are facing. The proposed 2021 budget spends less on health and on emergency aid than in 2020. On the other hand, the budgets for infrastructure, military and police, and debt servicing all increase. Next year’s budget does not protect poor and vulnerable groups nor mitigate the impact of the pandemic on them.

The Duterte administration’s contempt for human rights is complete. It violates civil and political rights with its systematic political repression and killings of activists and alleged drug offenders. With its neglectful pandemic response, it also violates the social and economic rights of tens of millions of Filipinos. The country is even further away from the full and equal enjoyment of the social and economic rights enshrined in the ICESCR and even in the 1987 Philippine Constitution. #

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Kodao publishes IBON articles as part of a content-sharing agreement.

Paglaban sa terorismo ng estado, sigaw sa protesta sa Mendiola

Nagmartsa papuntang Mendiola sa Maynila ang libu-libong kasapi ng mga progresibong grupo bilang pagdiriwang sa ika-72 taong pandaigidigang araw para sa karapatang pantao.

Pangunahin nilang sigaw ang paglaban sa terorismo ng estado. Ayon sa Karapatan, sa ika-limang taong panunugkulan ni Pangulong Duterte ay lalong tumindi ang paglabag sa karapatang pantao at pinalala pa ito kamakailan ng red-tagging sa mga aktibista at human rights defenders.

(Bidyo nila Maricon Montajes, Jek Alcaraz at Joseph Cuevas/ Kodao)

Army, police kill Alvin Luque in midnight raid

Prominent Davao activist Alvin Luque–who after many threats to his life by suspected State agents joined the New People’s Army (NPA)–was killed by a composite military and police team in a raid at 1AM this morning in Tandag City, Surigao del Sur.

The Philippine Army 4th Infantry Division said Luque, also known by his nom de guerre Joaquin Jacinto, was killed along with a yet unidentified male medic at Hermanias Resort, Purok Milion, Barangay San Agustin by elements of the Philippine Army’s 401st Brigade and the Philippine National Police-Caraga.

The military said they raided Luque’s hideout to serve an arrest warrant but were fired upon.

The ensuing firefight eventually led to the death of the victims, the military press release said.

Luque had at least five pending cases in various courts in Mindanao and a Php6 million bounty for his arrest, the military added.

He was charged with attempted murder, kidnapping and serious illegal detention.

The military also claimed the raiding team recovered a handgun, a grenade, various kinds of ammunition, bomb paraphernalia, an NPA flag and documents at the scene.

Independent Kodao sources confirmed that one of the victims was Luque.

They said that Luque was ailing, unable to walk and a hors de combat (unable to fight), thus the presence of the medic with him.

A frail asthmatic even before joining the NPA, Luque suffered from other ailments that forced him to seek medical care in the Surigao del Sur capital city of Tandag.

Luque and his medic’s killing was reminiscent of the deaths of legendary NPA commander Leoncio “Parago” Pitao and his medic in Davao City in June 2015.

The NPA said Pitao was also being medically attended to when summarily fired upon by government soldiers.

‘Red-tagging victim’

Luque first gained prominence as secretary general of the Southern Mindanao chapter of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan in the late 1990s to early 2000s.

Previously, he was a student activist at the Ateneo de Davao University, a consistent candidate in the school’s student council elections.

In the 2001 national and local elections, Luque was a candidate for a Davao City Council seat with then Mayor Rodrigo Duterte’s party. He narrowly lost.

Due to his inclusion in the military’s order of battle lists and red-tagging campaigns by suspected State agents, Luque decided to join the NPA sometime in 2007.

In an essay, Luque wrote, “I have chosen not to submit myself to the processes of the law under the present reactionary government in the interest primarily of self-preservation, and to be effective still in contributing to the people’s struggle for national liberation and democracy.”

READ: Hounded by Military for Years, Ex-Bayan Leader Takes Refuge in NPA

Luque regularly featured in news reports and radio interviews as one of the more eloquent spokespersons of the Communist guerilla army.

He was also the spokesperson of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines in Mindanao.

A Philippine News Agency report said Luque rose to become a member of the executive committee and spokesperson of the Mindanao Commission of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘Ating isinasakdal si Duterte sa pagpatay sa mahihirap’

“Sa ika-limang paggunita ng International Human Rights Day sa ilalim ng rehimeng Duterte, atin siyang isinasakdal sa pagpatay sa mahihirap, sa pagpapabaya sa kasalukuyang pandemya.”Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general

Mendiola, December 10, 2020

No ceasefire? No surprise—CPP

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) said it is not surprised with President Rodrigo Duterte’s announcement that he will not declare a ceasefire with the New People’s Army this Christmas and new year season.

Responding to Duterte’s late Monday address, the CPP information officer Marco Valbuena said Duterte’s decision “comes as no surprise,” adding the President’s policies had always been shaped by military generals obsessed with prolonging the civil war in the Philippines.

“They [the generals] are addicted to war because of the profits they pocket from it,” Valbuena said in a statement.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said they are not recommending the declaration of the traditional Yuletide season ceasefire with the NPA this year.

Nor would the military recommend that the government declare ceasefires with the NPA ever again, AFP spokesperson Maj. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said.

Duterte said, “There will be no ceasefire ever again under my term ..For all intents and purposes, that ceasefire is dead. That’s gone. That has been long gone.”

Duterte again devoted a part of his address Monday assailing the Communists and vowing to destroy them.

He said that if he compromised with the Communists, the military and the police may assassinate him for being a traitor to the republic.

“I cannot compromise anything in this government. It’s either I will be impeached or the military and the police will shoot me,” Duterte said.

“And if I give you a power to share in the — a power-sharing, that’s a very, very serious thing. You can get assassinated for it,” he added.

‘Who ingratiated himself with whom?’

In a statement, National Democratic Front of the Philippines chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison belied Duterte’s allegation, saying it was Duterte who kept blabbering about joining a coalition government with the CPP.

Sison said it was Duterte who ingratiated himself with the revolutionary movement as a Davao City mayor and when he was seeking the support of the legal democratic forces when he ran for the presidency.

“At no time has the subject of coalition government ever been taken up with Duterte or any of his predecessors as president in the course of the peace negotiations. The people’s revolutionary government based in the countryside can very well exist and develop without him and his likes,” Sison said.

“Duterte is lying about being offered a place in what he imagines as invitation to a coalition government. He could not even qualify as NDFP consultant when he offered himself to become one,” Sison said.

Duterte applied to become an NDFP consultant but was ordered to withdraw by the Benigno Aquino administration’s interior and local government secretary Jesse Robredo. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Duterte red-tags late mother in yet another invective-laced rant

Even his late mother is not spared from President Rodrigo Duterte’s red-tagging and invective-filled rants.

In his late-night address Monday, December 7, Duterte revealed the late Mrs. Soledad Roa Duterte regularly met with alleged Communists who have plotted for the downfall of a sitting president.

“Ang hindi ko alam, ‘yung nanay ko, may pagka-aktibista…Every weekend makita ko sila sa bahay, doon sa terrace. May mga madre, ganoon. Nagmi-meeting. Akala ko, nagdadasal ang mga y***.  Iyon pala p***** i**!” Duterte said.

(What I did not know, my mother was herself a bit of an activist. Every weekend, she met with them at our terrace. There were nuns and others. They had meetings. I thought the devils were praying. But, son-of-a-bitch!)

Duterte said that her mother “was really passionate about good government.”

The late Soledad was active in anti-tyranny struggles in Southern Mindanao even if her late husband Vicente Duterte was Davao Province governor and said to be allied with then president Ferdinand Marcos.

Popularly called Nanay Soling, the President’s mother led the Yellow Friday Movement, a regional group credited for having helped oust the dictator in 1986.

Soledad is immortalized as a hero at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani for her role in restoring democracy in the country.

Among those President Duterte identified as Soledad’s comrades were Fr. Orlando Tizon, a Roman Catholic priest who reportedly joined the underground Communist movement.

Tizon died four years ago.

Duterte also named his former Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco Jr. as among those who regularly met with his mother’s group.

Like Tizon, Evasco is a Roman Catholic priest who joined the Communist underground and the New People’s Army.

Both were political detainees in Davao.

In his latest Monday night address, Duterte intensified his verbal attacks against those he accuses of being Communists, including the two priests and those he described as his former friends.

“I am identifying you because I have seen the records. You are really Communists…So I have to destroy you,” Duterte said.

Duterte also said there will no longer be ceasefires between his government and the New People’s Army even during the Christmas and New Year season.

Duterte also said there is no chance that the stalled peace negotiations between his administration and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines would be revived in the remaining two years that he is President. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Media groups rally behind AlterMidya; condemn ‘callous, dangerous, evidence-less red-tagging’

Media institutions defended a network of independent news outfits from government allegations it is a Communist “propaganda machinery.”

In a statement following a Senate hearing last week, the country’s most respected media institutions expressed support to the People’s Alternative Media Network (AlterMidya) and denounced the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC)’s repeated allegations against the group.

“We strongly condemn the NTF-ELCAC’s callous, dangerous, and evidence-less red-tagging of the Altermidya network,” the media organizations said.

The institutions include the Asian Center for Journalism at the Ateneo de Manila University, the University of the Philippines Department of Journalism, the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, the Consortium on Democracy and Disinformation, the Foundation for Media Alternatives, MindaNews, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, and the Philippine Press Institute as well as media outfits Rappler and VERA Files.

At the third hearing of the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security, Peace, Unification and Reconciliation on red-tagging last December 1, NTF-ELCAC executive director Allen Capuyan said AlterMidya outfits were part of the Communist Party of the Philippines’ “propaganda machinery.”

The media institutions however said Capuyan’s allegation is “a baseless blanket statement… provided without proof, presented as an out-of-context info-graphic, fraught with deadly consequences.”

“Red-tagging, especially without credible evidence of wrongdoing, is a devious form of disinformation. Other institutions red-tagged have been systematically harassed or demonized; other individuals, especially women, have been trolled, detained, assaulted, even killed,” the signatories said.

The institutions said the Altermidya network offers independent readings of national issues and events that a functioning democracy should welcome as part of a healthy pluralism in the public discourse.

“It is admirably committed to reporting on corruption, human rights abuses, and environmental issues, as well as the plight of farmers and workers. And some of its institutional members, including but not limited to Bulatlat.com and Northern Dispatch, have a well-deserved national reputation for high-quality journalism: hard-hitting, yes, but also rooted in the facts,” their statement said.

The media organizations said the AlterMidya network has done its journalism despite great risk, including death threats and a massive distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack.

“We therefore view this latest act of red-tagging with the utmost concern. It renders these community journalists even more vulnerable to abuse and violence, at the exact time we need more of their journalism,” they said.

‘Small but courageous’

In an earlier statement, the NUJP called on fellow journalists and “all Filipinos who cherish freedom and democracy” to support AlterMidya “against the utterly malicious and clearly criminal red-tagging by security officials.”

The NUJP said the government’s “baseless accusations” against the alternative media are nothing new but the level of vilification from the Duterte administration through NTF-ELCAC indicates it is bent on silencing contrary views and voices to force conformity on the Filipino people.

The NUJP said the latest assault on the alternative media is similar to the silencing of ABS-CBN and the continued attacks on Rappler and other critical and independent news organizations.

The union said AlterMidya’s “small but courageous news outfits” play a vital role in serving the people’s right to know through reportage and analysis that provide fresh perspectives to often under-reported social issues.

These issues include land reform, human rights, the environment and injustice as well as oft-neglected sectors such as farmers, small fisher folk, the urban poor, laborers and indigenous people.

“The otherwise unheard or ignored voices they bring to the national conversation strengthen our democracy by helping shape a fuller, more accurate picture of our society, of our people.

This, of course, is what those who seek to impose their will on us fear most and why they seek to silence not only the alternative media but independent Philippine media as a whole,” the NUJP said.

“It has always been a matter of pride for the NUJP to have the alternative media with us and count some of their best journalists as leaders of the organization,” NUJP said.

‘Will not be muzzled’

Alternative news outfit Bulatlat.com in an editorial said it will not be muzzled by the government’s latest attempt to discredit independent journalism in the Philippines.

Bulatlat  said President Duterte had been attempting to picture independent journalists as

“enemies of the state for exposing the administration’s gross human rights record, and lately its inefficiency in handling the COVID-19 pandemic and the aftermath of recent strong typhoons.”

“Our allegiance is to the truth. That such truth hurts those in power only affirms even more the relevance of independent and fearless journalism. We in Bulatlat will continue to perform our tasks, alongside our colleagues in the alternative and dominant media, because the Filipino people deserve no less,” the country’s oldest existing online news outfit said.

Mindanao’s Davao Today also said it is concerned with the “malicious and baseless attempt to taint the integrity of Davao Today in its role as the voice of the Mindanao community.”

“In a national landscape where dissenting voices are increasing and systematically silenced, independent and community-sourced bearers of information have become our last stronghold of democratic practice. Community journalism should flourish to serve the community as Davao Today has been doing,” the outfit said in a statement.

AlterMidya said it sees the latest attacks against itself and its members as a form of intimidation to force critical journalists into silence amid growing discontent among the people due to the Duterte government’s mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

AlterMidya said it will pursue legal action against NTF-ELCAC’s “malicious smear campaign.” # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

PH labor market rebounding but not recovering – IBON

In reaction to the statement of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) upon the release of the recent labor force survey, research group IBON said that the labor market rebounding as lockdown restrictions are eased should not be mistaken as ‘recovery’. More than people returning to work, the term should mean returning to the same levels of employment as before. Recovery can only happen with substantial economic stimulus including sufficient government financial assistance or emergency subsidies to workers affected by the pandemic, IBON said.

The official unemployment rate according to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) is 8.7% or about 3.8 million unemployed in October 2020. NEDA compares the October unemployment figure with those of previous quarters (10% in July and 17.6% in April) to show as a sign of recovery.

But IBON noted that the number of employed fell by 2.7 million to 39.8 million in October 2020 from 42.6 million in October last year. The group also noted that labor force participation rate (LFPR) has fallen to a remarkably small 58.7% in October 2020, causing the labor force to shrink by 933,000.

IBON estimated a different unemployment figure.According to the group, if LFPR in October 2020 stayed at its 61.4% level in October 2019, the labor force would be around 45.6 million, which is 1.98 million more than officially reported.

IBON added this 1.98 million, which it referred to as invisibly unemployed, to the officially reported 3.81 million, bringing the real number of unemployed to 5.79 million and the real unemployment rate at 12.7 percent.

The group also said that though underemployment rate fell to 14.4%, this does not indicate that the quality of work has improved. This is most likely, IBON said, because many of the employed have stopped searching for work due to pandemic conditions and lack of job prospects with many small businesses closing down.

The group pointed out that the inability of the economy to recover thus affecting job creation is hugely due to the lack of a substantial economic stimulus. This pertains to government spending that can arrest economic decline through increased or revitalized economic production and strengthened consumers’ purchasing power.

But government’s response is too little for such a huge economic decline, IBON said. The Php165.5-billion Bayanihan 2 is niggardly for urgent attention areas such as health system recovery, financial aid to vulnerable sectors and support for agriculture and small businesses. IBON also hit the 2021 proposed national budget, that except for tokenistic allocations, is no longer providing socioeconomic relief to workers and financial assistance to agriculture and MSMEs.

Meanwhile, government’s economic managers are determined to retain the huge Php1.1 trillion budget allocation for infrastructure development as their main stimulus program and to propose corporate income tax cuts through the passage of the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (CREATE) bill.

Recovery cannot happen with such government neglect of labor and the economy, IBON said. Scrimping on meaningful economic stimulus prevents the health system to cope with the pandemic and the workers to return to work. It also leaves behind the more basic economic sectors of agriculture and domestic manufacturing in creating more meaningful jobs, IBON added.

The economy may indeed recover from its collapse. But like such ‘recoveries’ of the past when no meaningful government intervention took place, it would take a while, if at all, for jobs and incomes to be fully recovered and improved, said the group. #

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Kodao publishes IBON articles as part of a content-sharing agreement.

Gov’t priorities enrich a few and destroy the environment–IBON

Instead of just going after local politicians, the Duterte administration should take responsibility for pushing anti-environment policies that contributed to the recent massive flooding and destruction of communities during typhoon Ulysses, research group IBON said.

The National Irrigation Administration and Malacañang recently called out local officials involved in logging and mining. But this will be hypocritical, said the group, if the government does not reverse policies that degrade the environment while benefiting just a few.

The forest cover has fallen to only 7 million hectares as of 2015 according to the Forest Management Bureau. This is equivalent to only 23.3% of the country’s total land area, considered an environmentally critical level. The figure has even continued to diminish from 11 million in the 1970s when forest destruction peaked due to government-sponsored unbridled logging. Data from the Bureau of Soil and Water Management show that 70.5% of the country’s land area is categorized as severely degraded and 16.6% as moderately degraded.

IBON pointed to priorities such as Build Build Build and the National Land Use Plan that continue to encroach into the public domain and degrade land.

The group said that the Duterte government continues to promote large-scale mining, corporate and chemical plantations and land use conversion as well as reclamation for real estate and infrastructure. The government prioritizes the building of large dams, megaports, ecotourism complexes and export enclaves.

Government policies and programs enrich a few at the expense of the nation, the people and environment, IBON said. The group pointed to the businesses of Sy, Villar, Gokongwei, Razon, Ayala, Tan, Caktiong, Ang, and Ty as the biggest gainers from government priorities.

The corporations of these richest Filipinos, according to the latest Forbes’ list, dominate the real estate, construction, ports development, power, energy, water, oil, mining, and agriculture sectors. IBON said that the government should own up to upholding environmentally destructive policies that drive corporate profits instead of pointing fingers at others.

The Philippine government’s bias for profit-seeking interests even at the expense of the environment are the root cause of the logging, quarrying and land conversion in Rizal and Cagayan provinces that have caused such devastating floods. Deforestation, flooding and the sufferings of communities will continue unless these are stopped and corrective measures are taken, said the group. #

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Kodao publishes IBON articles as part of a content-sharing agreement.

Papanagutin si Duterte, sigaw ng mga manggagawa sa araw ni Bonifacio

Nagtipon sa University of the Philippines-Diliman ang mga manggagawa at iba pang sektor para gunitain ang ika-157 na kaarawan ni Gat Andres Bonifacio at ipapanawagan ang makatarungang sahod, trabaho, karapatan at kalayaan.

Nais din nilang papanagutin si Pangulong Rodrigo Duterte sa anila’y kriminal na kapabayaan sa taumbayan, laluna na sa panahon ng pandemya. Tinuligsa nila ang pang-aatake ng gobyernong Duterte sa mga manggagawa tulad ng ilegal na pag-aresto, pagpatay at red-tagging. (Bidyo ni Joseph Cuevas/Kodao)