Ni Ibarra Banaag

Sangdamungkal ang problema ng bansa,

ang inatupag ay magpintura ng upuan sa iskwela,

milyon ang di makaagapay sa taas ng bilihin,

mas abala na magpalitrato at mang-aliw.

Pabalat-bunga ang tingin sa dalang tungkulin,

pakitang-tao lamang ang kinakayang gawin,

panay buladas at hungkag sa katotohanan,

ang paaralan ay entablado ng litanya’t palabas.

Isang insulto sa kaguruan ang iskrip na sinulat,

naka-barong at balat na sapatos ang karakas,

nakabihis at meyk-ap, plantsado maging buhok,

pilit pininturahan ang sistemang nabubulok.

Pagkatapos ng klik at kislap ng litratuhan,

mamayagpag muli sa lubid ng kasinungalingan,

magpupulasan sa nakaatang na mandato,

iiwanang naka-nganga ang pagod na guro.

Pawang pagpapanggap, ampaw na mga galaw,

Ilang minutong kinang sa harap ng kamangmangan,

ang mga ngiti, pagkamay, bati at pagkaway,

ay pakitang tao sa edukasyong nakagulapay.

–Hulyo 13, 2023

Farmers to Marcos: Talk to China about veggie smuggling

Farmers have asked President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to call the attention of the Chinese government to the rampant smuggling of agricultural products to the Philippines.

As Marcos starts his state visit to China today, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said the concurrent agriculture secretary must discuss with Chinese authorities the illicit trade of agricultural products the group says contributes to the uncontrolled rise in prices of some vegetables in the local market.

“Despite China being the Philippines’ top trade partner in 2021, with total trade valued at $38.35 billion, there is still an unimaginable extent of illicit trade. Smuggled onions from China have pushed up onion retail prices to as much as P700 per kilo in local markets. This is very alarming,” the KMP in a statement said.

KMP said Marcos should ask Chinese law enforcement to curb smuggling activities and crimes at their Customs control areas especially Hong Kong.

“We know that China customs carry out heavy-handed policies against smuggling. They should do their very best in apprehending big-time Chinese smuggling syndicates who are in cahoots with local smugglers,” KMP leader Danilo Ramos said.

Ramos added that majority of frozen and fresh vegetables intercepted by the Philippine Bureau of Customs in the past year were from Hong Kong and China.

“The Philippine government is losing billions worth of revenues as a result of these smuggling activities,” Ramos said.

Transparency in trade

The KMP said Marcos must also reveal if he wishes to continue with the China-Philippines agricultural cooperation signed by former Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in 2016.

The said agricultural trade agreement led to China becoming the Philippines’ third-largest export destination of agricultural products and its second-largest import source of Philippine farm products, the group revealed.

The agreement negatively affected local food self sufficiency as it heightened the country’s exportation of agricultural products, KMP’s Rafael Mariano said.

KMP said the since the trade agreement has been signed, the Philippines started exporting fresh coconuts and avocados to China while securing more than half of the market share of bananas in Chinese markets.

Chinese investments in agriculture also grew exponentially over the years as China also supported irrigation and agricultural technology projects, particularly the Philippine-Sino Center for Agricultural Technology that cultivates China-origin commercial hybrid rice.

“Dapat palakasin ang local na produksyon ng pagkain at agricultural products para sa mga Pilipino mismo. Lalabas, mas malaki pa ang pakinabang ng China sa ating agrikultura kaysa sa mga Pilipino,” Mariano said.

(Local food and agriculture production must be strengthened for Filipinos. As it is, China benefits more from our agriculture than Filipinos.)

Marcos Jr. is expected to sign at least 10 bilateral agreements with China during the state visit, including agreements on trade and investments, agriculture, renewable energy, infrastructure, development cooperation, people-to-people ties, and maritime security. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

BAYAN to file criminal charges if PNP disrupts peaceful SONA protests

Activists vowed to file criminal charges against the police if it will arrest peaceful protesters on President Ferdinand Marcos Jr’s first State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, July 25.

In a social media post, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) secretary general Renato Reyes Jr said peaceful protesters cannot be arrested even if they have not secured a permit from a local government unit (LGU).

Reyes was reacting to statements by the Philippine National Police (PNP) it will close off Commonwealth Avenue from rallies and will only allow protests at the Quezon Memorial Circle and at the University of the Philippines, several kilometers away from the House of Representatives (HoR) where Marcos will deliver his first SONA.

In a press conference at the Quezon City Police District headquarters in Camp Karingal last Tuesday, PNP officer-in-charge Lt. Gen. Vicente Danao Jr declared the entire stretch of Commonwealth Avenue as a no-rally zone.

The avenue is the traditional site of protest rallies during presidential SONAs since the post-Marcos Sr era, except in 2016 and 2017 when President Rodrigo Duterte allowed the rallies on Batasan Road where the HoR is located.

Those years saw less traffic jams on Commonwealth Avenue. Subsequent years saw the rallies return to the country’s widest avenue until Duterte’s last SONA last year, however.

‘Worn-out scare tactics’

In his press conference, Danao said, “As of now, we will only allow [rallies on]…freedom parks. This is to prevent the SONA from being hampered.”

The police also announced it will activate Task Force Manila Shield that will implement security operations to address various alleged threats.

The PNP said there will checkpoints and deployment of police officers at government offices and other vital installations.

In an apparent show of force, the PNP also declared it will deploy at least 22,000 police officers, soldiers and other personnel from other government agencies and force multipliers on Marcos’ SONA.

Reyes however criticized the PNP plan, saying these are “worn out scare tactics.”

‘How democracy should work’

“The PNP wants to show the world it is a human rights violator. The ‘illegal assembly’ raps police file against protesters are usually dismissed at the prosecutor level and even the courts because these have no basis,” Reyes said.

Reyes added that such police paranoia is the reason why the Congress of the United States of America denied aid to the PNP because of its “terrible [human] rights record.”

In an earlier post, Reyes said there are reasons why citizens stage protest actions during SONA.

‘[It is] annual occasion for the people to air their grievances and press government to act on their most pressing concerns. We thus take exception to the comments made by the PNP [deputy director for operations Maj. Gen.] Val de Leon telling people not to protest and to simply ‘monitor’ what Marcos, Jr. will do for the next six years of his term,” Reyes said.

Reyes said de Leon again displayed a narrow understanding of how democracy should work.

“All have the right to be heard, including critics of Mr. Marcos. Those who disagree with Mr. Marcos and are opposed to his policies have the right to protest government and demand redress of their grievances,” the BAYAN leader explained.

“What General de Leon seems to be suggesting is for people to simply stay at home and watch TV and give up their democratic interests. This will not happen,” he added.

Reasons to protest

Reyes said that rising prices, runaway inflation, low wages, job losses, crushing debt, deteriorating agriculture, human rights violations, corruption and loss of sovereignty are the pressing issues they want to present during their protest action on Monday.

“Last we checked, all these issues remain and thus provide the reason why people take to the streets to raise their just demands. We have crafted a People’s Agenda which we will bring to the SONA rallies, submit to the lawmakers and other government institutions. These measures seek to provide short-term and long-term solutions to the crisis. We aim to fight for these measures,” Reyes said.

Reyes denied that their traditional annual protest is a threat to public safety as the police alleges and are mere peaceful expressions of dissent.

“What is the PNP so afraid of? Why is it so paranoid that it seeks to surround Marcos, Jr. with 21,000 security personnel? Why the Martial Law mentality?” Reyes asked.

Who grants rally permits?

Reyes said they have already applied for permit with the Quezon City government last July 15 to hold their rally along Batasan Road in order not to cause traffic jams along Commonwealth Avenue.

Under the Marcosion edict Batas Pambansa 880 released in 1985, the permit is deemed granted if not acted upon by the local government unit five days after its official filing.

Reyes reminded the PNP that it is the mayor who has the authority to grant rally permits or to carefully explain for denial.

“Any attempt by the PNP to disrupt the protest would be a violation of the law,” Reyes added.

The BAYAN leader said they will actively exercise their Constitutional right to peaceful protest, “despite the repression being imposed by the PNP and the Marcos regime.”

“It is important the true state of the nation be heard, as a counterpoint to the lies and disinformation about the country’s situation,” Reyes said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Bongbong’s first veto surprises, raises questions

The Marcoses and San Miguel Corporation have a shared history

It did not take long for new Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to exercise his veto power and against a bill seen as favorable to an entity long associated with his family: San Miguel Corporation (SMC). And it raised quick questions from one of his family’s long-time nemesis.

Marcos sent a letter to the Senate on July 1—his first day in office—explaining his opposition to the proposed law creating the Bulacan Airport City Special Economic Zone and Freeport spearheaded by SMC. Marcos said he sees “substantial fiscal risks” in the proposal as well as inconsistencies with existing tax laws that focus more on income generation for the government.

“While this administration recognizes the objective of the proposed measure to accelerate economic growth in its locality, I cannot support the bill considering the provisions that pose substantial fiscal risks to the country and its infringement on or conflict with other agencies’ mandates and authorities,” the President wrote.

The veto, however, raised questions from one of his family’s long-time nemesis, Jose Maria Sison, who wondered about Marcos’ real motive.

‘Run-away cronies’

Reacting to the news of the veto, Marcos martial law survivor Sison asked: Is the Marcos family trying to take back controlling stocks in the SMC it allegedly entrusted to the long-time chairperson of the conglomerate: Eduardo ‘Danding’ Cojuangco.

Cojuangco was regarded as among the closest cronies of the late dictator Marcos Sr. who spearheaded the Coconut Levy Fund from 1973 to 1985 worth billions of pesos. Cojuangco later used the fund to acquire and take control of both the United Coconut Planters’ Bank and the SMC.

The Corazon Aquino government, through the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), said Cojuangco served Marcos family’s financial interests through the bank and the conglomerate.

In a September 2012 decision, the Supreme court affirmed that the 27% block of SMC shares were government-owned, worth at least P71 billion at the time. The coconut farmers who were forced to contribute to the funds said the money should be given back to them.

Cojuangco died in June 2020 at the age of 85.  

Long-time SMC vice chairperson and chief operating officer Ramon Ang succeeded as chairperson and chief operating officer in June 2012 after reportedly acquiring Cojuangco’s stock shares. It is under Ang that the Bulacan ecozone project started in 2018 with a corporate life of at least 50 years.  

The project’s centerpiece is SMC’s P740-billion New Manila International Airport, capable of up to 100 million passengers per year and is expected to rival Philippines’ main gateway, the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.  


‘Entirely his’  

Department of Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla in a radio interview Monday morning said the president’s veto is entirely his decision, saying the president sees the proposed measure as disadvantageous to government. Remulla said the measure, known in the 18th Congress as House Bill 7575, will give ten years of tax incentives to SMC while similar measures only offer five to six years.  

Once signed into law, the government would surrender much of its oversight powers on the airport and freeport to the powerful conglomerate, Remulla added.  

As expected, Ang defended the project, saying the Bulacan economic zone will be managed by government while its tax incentives will still require Department of Finance review and approval.

“My intention is to help create (a) science and technology export hub with cheapest logistics cost because of nearest airport and Manila seaport. World-class semiconductor manufacturing power battery storage, manufacturing electric vehicles (and) manufacturing and modular nuclear power assembly plants target to export $200 billion annually to help our GDP (gross domestic product) growth,” Ang told The Philippine Star.  

In a later statement, press secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles said President Marcos fully supports the project and his decision to veto is meant to cure its “defects”.

“Presidential Veto is fastest way to cure the defects of HB 7575 especially the provision which exempts the Commission on Audit to look into the financial transactions on the special economic zone and freeport,” Angeles said. “Had the President not vetoed the HB 7575, it would have lapsed into law on July 4 or 30 days after the bill was sent by the legislature to Malacanang,” she added.

Former Senate President Vicente Sotto III said he will advise incumbent senators to re-file the bill without the provisions objectionable to Marcos.

Sison however said the new President is likely already spending time running after so-called run-away cronies like Cojuangco who may not have given back assets entrusted to them, in much the same way that the PCGG “ran after Marcos loot hidden under multi-layered schemes to conceal ownership.”  

“The Ecozone will be revived as soon as the issue is settled behind the scenes?” Sison asked. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)          

Decision allowing Marcos Jr’s candidacy ‘disrespects truth and justice’

Dismayed petitioners to file appeal on Monday

Opponents of the return of the Marcoses to Malacanang said they are dismayed at the decision dismissing their petition to disqualify Ferdinand Marcos Jr. as presidential candidate and vowed to file a motion for reconsideration with the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

In an online press conference Friday morning, Atty. Howard Calleja said the decision as penned by Commissioner Aimee Ferolino puts doubt on the process and the entire Comelec.

Calleja said he disagrees with the division’s decision saying there are laws against tax evasion, a charge Marcos Jr. was judged guilty by the Court of Appeals.

“We know there are laws on that. We need to respect the decision but we are ready to file our motion for reconsideration (with the Comele en banc) on Monday or Tuesday at the latest,” Calleja said.

“At this point, we will continue to exhaust all legal remedies to bring out the truth, to attain justice and to bring the case to the proper legal conclusion it deserves,” he added.

Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses and Martial Law (CARMML) convenor and petitioner against Marcos Jr.’s candidacy Bonifacio Ilagan said the decision disrespects truth, the facts themselves and justice.

“Because the respondent is a candidate for the presidency, how can he be worthy of the office he is seeking if he does not follow the law on filing taxes?” Ilagan asked.

Co-petitioner Dr. Erlinda Senturias likewise expressed dismay over the decision, saying “Paying taxes is the lifeblood of the nation. Not paying taxes is an act of moral turpitude because it is contrary to honesty, modesty and good morals.”

“The issue of evading paying taxes is a big thing for ordinary citizens like us who pay taxes. We expect those who seek to lead us as president are really honest and follow the really simple and basic tasks such as paying taxes for the government to have funds to implement projects,” she explained.

CARMML members are co-petitioners against Marcos Jr.’s candidacy.

Controversial decision

The Comelec finally released the long-awaited decision wrote by Ferolino Thursday night, February 10, two weeks after retired Commissioner Rowena Guanzon said it was due.

Guanzon alleged Ferolino deliberately delayed the promulgation for after her retirement last February 2 to render her decision moot to grant the petition and disqualify Marcos Jr from the presidential race.

Guanzon released her separate opinion a day before her retirement, saying Marcos Jr. is guilty of moral turpitude for failing to pay taxes as Ilocos Norte vice governor and governor for four years in 1982 to 1986.

In the Comelec First Division decision penned by Ferolino and affirmed by Commissioner Marlon Casquejo, the petition to disqualify Marcos Jr. was junked.

His conviction of failure to file income tax returns did not violate Section 12 of the Omnibus Election Code, the decision says.

It states that a candidate is disqualified if he has been declared insane or incompetent, convicted of an offense with a penalty of more than 18 months’ imprisonment, and convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude.

If not moral turpitude, what is?

Other progressive organizations dismissed the decision’s justification however and alleged that the Comelec First Division favored a tax evader.

“According to the decision, non-payment of taxes for four years is a small matter. The First Division also dismissed the fact that Marcos Jr. did not pay penalties for his tax evasion for more than two decades. The First Division really paves the way for tax evaders like Marcos to make a run for the presidency,” Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) said in a statement.

“The decision insults regular citizens who pay taxes religiously,” Bayan added.

Peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) for its part described the decision as an utter disappointment and deserving of public  outrage and condemnation, adding the ruling was deliberately delayed to exclude the opinion of former Commissioner Rowena Guanzon favoring the disqualification of Marcos Jr.

“The Comelec’s decision is a disservice to the electorate and the Filipino people. Ang mga magsasaka nga’ng hindi nakakapagpabayad ng buwis, pinapalayas sa lupa, tapos si Marcos Jr. na ilang ulit hindi nagbayad wala lang?” KMP National Chairperson Danilo Ramos said. (Farmers who fail to pay taxes are driven off. But when Marcos Jr. repeatedly fails to pay, it’s alright?)

“It’s incredible how far Commissioner Aimee Ferolino is willing to bend over and twist the law in favor of a convicted tax evader,” Ramos said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)