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Hinggil sa Million Solar Roofs Bill

“As usual, bumagsak na naman ang napakaraming planta ng kuryente ngayong napaka-init at kailangang-kailangan ng kuryente ng mga tao. ‘Di mo tuloy masisi ang mga consumer na isiping sinasadya ito ng mga generation companies para sumirit pataas ang presyo ng kuryente.”–ACT Teachers’ Party Rep. FRANCE CASTRO

(Image by Patricia Malonzo)

Hinggil sa pagbabalik sa lumang iskedyul ng mga klase

“Sa sobrang taas ng heat index ngayong panahon ng climate change, hindi talaga ligtas para sa mga teacher at estudyante ang mag-klase sa mga mala-pugon nilang classroom.”— Rep. France Castro, ACT Teachers’ Party

(Image by Jo Maois Mamangun/Kodao)

Without immunity, Duterte faces 1st crime rap in local court

Finally without immunity, former president Rodrigo Duterte was slapped with a criminal charge in a Philippine court for grave threats against an incumbent member of the House of Representatives.

ACT Teachers Party Representative and Deputy Minority Leader France Castro filed a grave threat complaint against Duterte after the latter publicly said in a television interview last week he will kill the legislator and other alleged Communists.

“He no longer has immunity. He is no longer president. He should not do this to a congressperson, much more to fellow Filipinos,” Castro said after she filed her complaint at the Quezon City Hall of Justice on Tuesday, October 24.

Castro, accompanied by her lawyers Antonio La Viña and Rico Domingo, charged Duterte with violation of Article 282 of the Revised Penal Code, punishable by up to six months imprisonment and a fine of PhP100,000.

In a live interview with United States fugitive Apollo Quiboloy on Sonshine Media Network Inc. channel last Tuesday, Duterte he will kill Castro and other alleged Communists.

“But, the first target of your (Vice President Sara Duterte) intelligence fund would be you, France. I want to kill all of you Communists,” Duterte said in Filipino.

Duterte also admitted to killing more Communists in Davao where he ruled as a multi-term mayor.

Duterte added, “The intelligence fund, I bought (used) it, I had them all killed. That is why Davao is like that. Your colleagues, I really had them murdered. That is the truth.”

Castro, in mourning at the time for the death of her father, did not issue a statement.

Castro and fellow Makabayan bloc members Gabriela Women’s Party Representative Arlene Brosas and Kabataan Youth Party Representative Raoul Manuel against earned the ire of the controversial politician for leading the opposition to confidential and intelligence funds to agencies without security mandates.

Sara Duterte has requested the combined amount of PhP650 million for the Office of the Vice President and the Department of Education that was eventually disallowed by Congress.

“Threatening the lives of elected representatives is a blatant violation and a dangerous attack on the rights of individuals who are merely pushing for transparency and accountability in government spending,” Brosas said after the filing.

“We take his threats seriously, especially with his administration’s bloody legacy of extrajudicial killings and political persecution,” Brosas added.  

READ: Trillanes: ICC receives Duterte video admitting to mass murder

Duterte’s latest threats have also been submitted by former senator Antonio Trillanes IV to the International Criminal Court where the 78-year old former president is also facing charges of mass murder and crimes against humanity. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Teacher solon: VP threatens confidential funds critics with police action

Vice President Sara Duterte is ordering the police to now treat critics of her office’s confidential funds as enemies of the state, ACT Teachers’ Party Rep. France Castro said.

In her failed defense of her hundreds of millions of pesos in confidential funds, Dutere resorts to personal attacks and tells the police how to look at her critics, Castro added.

“What happened to her statement that she and her office can live without confidential funds? Why is now fighting tooth and nail just to retain her confidential funds?” Castro asked.

The teacher solon said the vice president is gaslighting (psychologically manipulating) those calling for transparency and accountability after it was revealed by House of Representatives ally Marikina Rep. Stella Quimbo in the national budget deliberations that Duterte’s office spent P125 million in just 11 days last year.

Duterte remarked during the 122nd Police Service Anniversary of the Philippine National Police Regional Office 13 last October 4 that her critics have “insidious motivations” in questioning confidential funds.

“Anyone who attacks or undermines funds allocated for peace and order is naturally assumed to have insidious motivations. Such actions go against the protection and well-being of our citizenry. Those who seek to compromise the security and development of our nation jeopardize the very fabric of our society and hinder our progress,” Duterte said.

The vice president added that the Department of Education (DepEd) that she heads is part of the Anti-Terrorism Council as well as the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict.

Neither the Office of the Vice President nor DepEd have clear national security mandates, however.

Castro condemned Duterte’s remarks aimed at making it appear that Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri; Senators Joel Villanueva, Koko Pimentel, and Risa Hontiveros; as well as the Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives; Speaker Martin Romualdez; and Reps. Elizaldy Co and Edcel Lagman have dangerous reasons in wanting to remove confidential funds in her budget.

“In essence, she is saying we give her funds when she asks and she should not be questioned how these are spent,” Castro said.

“Instead of trying to justify her illegal confidential fund spending in 2022 and asking for more secret funds, VP Duterte should concentrate on how to improve the dismal state of education now,” Castro said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Youngest member condemns Congress’ ‘undemocratic’ approval of OVP’s confidential funds

The youngest member of Congress condemned a House of Representatives tradition granting so-called parliamentary courtesy to certain agencies of the executive branch and approving their proposed budget without deliberation.

Speaking at the hearing of the Office of the Vice President (OVP) budget last Wednesday, August 30, Makabayan bloc member and Kabataan Party Representative Raoul Manuel opposed the lack of discussion on the OVP’s proposed P125 million confidential funds for 2024.

“As youth representative, I am in a position to question tradition that no longer works and serves as barrier to healthy discussions about allocations and use of public funds,” Manuel said.

It was presidential son and Ilocos Norte First District Representative Sandro Marcos who moved for the termination of the deliberations on the OVP’s budget under the so-called tradition of parliamentary courtesy.

Manuel turned 29 on the day of the OVP budget hearing while Marcos—born March 7, 1994—is a few months older.

“Our tradition of extending parliamentary courtesy stops us in the legislative branch from doing our job for which we are paid by the Filipino people. We should have checks and balances,” Manuel said.

The youth representative added he does not want Congress to be complicit to illegal fund use by agencies in the executive branch.

Manuel pointed out that the committee hearing did not count the votes against the proposed OVP budget and objectors were not allowed to explain their dissent to the proposed OVP confidential funds.

“This is not democracy at work. I condemn the proceedings. Traditions that no longer work should be stopped,” Manuel said.

Few versus the charade

The Makabayan bloc–composed of Manuel, ACT Teachers Party Representative France Castro and Gabriela Women’s Party Arlene Brosas–leads the opposition to the granting of confidential funds to certain executive branch agencies such as the OVP and the Department of Education (DepEd) that is also under Vice President Sara Duterte.

During Wednesday’s hearing, Castro wanted discussions on the “unnecessary” P125 million confidential funds but was not allowed by the HOR appropriations committee.

Castro said that since the government is operating on a deficit budget, the proposed P4.3 billion confidential funds for next year should instead be channeled to social services.

Albay First District Representative Edcel Lagman also asked Duterte to voluntarily withdraw her request for confidential funds for the DepEd.

Duterte declined, justifying that basic education is intertwined with national security.

Without oversight and transparency

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) also called for the abolition of the controversial funds, saying the lump-sum appropriations are anomalous and defective.

BAYAN president Renato Reyes Jr. in a statement said the funds, also called intelligence funds, are without oversight and transparency on how these are spent.

“They are never open to scrutiny. There is no transparency and no clear oversight from any government agency,” BAYAN president Renato Reyes Jr. said.

“They are in the nature of pork barrel funds. They can even be acquired even without congressional authorization, months after the budget has been approved,” Reyes added.

Reyes said in a time when so many important social services are experiencing cutbacks, the so-called confidential funds are an unjustified and unconscionable burden on the taxpayers.

“All forms of confidential funds should be abolished. No ifs and buts. If they cannot specify a line item for appropriations and provide a clear basis for such appropriations, then it should not be in the GAA (General Appropriations Act). No more lump sums that have zero transparency,” Reyes said.

The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) said the Ferdinand Marcos Jr. government is proposing P4.3 billion in confidential funds and an additional P4.9 billion in intelligence fund for 2024.

The DBM added that these grew by P120 million from the 2023 national budget, an amount close to the proposed P125 million confidential fund of the OVP.

The Philippine government is currently in debt by P14 trillion. # (Raymund B.Villanueva)

Makabayan solon, DND condemn Chinese envoy’s threat against OFWs in Taiwan

A Makabayan solon and the Department of National Defense (DND) separately condemned an alleged threat made by Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian against Filipinos in Taiwan.

House of Representative Deputy Minority Leader and ACT Teachers Party Rep. France Castro said Huang’s statement is a threat and an imposition on a sovereign country.

“It is condemnable that China seems to be issuing a threat not just against the Philippines as a country but to innocent overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who were obligated to work abroad to create better lives for their families,” Castro said in a statement Saturday, April 15.

In a public speech Friday, the Chinese envoy said, the “Philippines is advised to unequivocally oppose Taiwan independence rather than stoking the fire by offering the US access to the military bases near the Taiwan Strait if you care genuinely about the 150,000 OFWs.”

“The Taiwan question is entirely China’s internal affair, as is the Mindanao issue to the Philippines. You will never allow any third party to meddle with resolving rebel issues in Mindanao,” Huang said.

This did not sit well with the progressive solon who said Huang’s statement must be condemned.

The DND in a separate statement took exception to Huang’s assertion the Philippines is “meddling” in Chinese internal affairs concerning Taiwan.

DND spokesperson Arsenio Andolong said the Philippines’ primary concern regarding the heated situation between China and Taiwan are the expatriate Filipinos in the island.

Pique at new EDCA sites

While it appears to directly threaten Filipino workers in Taiwan, Huang’s speech was in fact obviously directed at the Philippine government’s decision to open four new military sites the for United States military to be closer to China.

“Obviously, the US intends to take advantage of the new EDCA sites to interfere in the situation across the Taiwan strait to serve its geopolitical goals, and advance its anti-China agenda at the expense of peace and development of the Philippines and the region at large,” Huang said.

The Chinese Ambassador also likened the situation in Taiwan to Mindanao, implying that China does not meddle with Moro independence struggles in Southern Philippines. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

MAKABAYAN warns: New Year air travel crisis pretext to airport privatization

Like millions of Filipinos, development worker Tata Catarata went back to their home province of Cebu to spend the holiday season with their family. They booked a return flight to Manila on the first day of 2023. But like tens of thousands of other passengers, they were stranded at their airport of origin, belatedly informed that their flight had been cancelled because the country’s Air Traffic Management (ATM) system is down.

“We arrived at the Mactan International Airport at past 2 pm. Upon entering the gate towards checking in, we were barred and simply told that flights are canceled. We asked why and they could not explain. Basta lang, it’s canceled,” Tata bewailed.

Early on the first day of the New Year, just when domestic and international travel is at its peak, the Philippines was hit by an air travel crisis. As the day wore on, the government said a reported 361 incoming and outgoing flights at Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) had either been cancelled or diverted, many of which flew all the way back to their airports of origin. About 56,000 passengers were stranded all over the archipelago yesterday, including Tata’s family.

Without providing specifics, transportation secretary Jaime Bautista said “technical issues” brought about the suspension of NAIA operations. Speculations said the radar system was down, preventing airplanes from taking off or landing. Initial and unconfirmed reports said Manila’s radar sytem was brought down by an electricity outage that has since been disputed by power supply providers. In a subsequent statement, Bautista said NAIA’s ATM needs at least Php13 billion pesos for its much-needed upgrade.

But it is not only airport operations that made the problem worse for the affected passengers. Tata said local airlines were of no help to them either.

She said they decided to follow the advice of the government to have their flights rebooked. But the Philippine Airlines (PAL) ticketing office in Cebu was already jam-packed when they arrived and they were barred from entering the premises. An airline representative told them to rebook online but repeatedly failed. Tata said she had to brave the crowd and waited to be accommodated at the ticketing office. It took her eight hours to finally be rebooked, she added.

“I asked PAL if there is food and accommodation for us as secretary Bautista said. PAL said there’s none because the situation was not their fault. But, definitely, it’s also not the stranded passengers fault, is it? So who is accountable here?” Tata said.

Respect passenger rights

Bautista said the Department of Transportation (DOTr) has directed the airlines to provide food and refreshments, transportation lodging and accommodation for all affected passengers free of charge. But this failed to prevent thousands of passengers spending the first night of 2023 at NAIA’s various terminals, the airlines refusing to heed the government’s directive.

The affected passengers should automatically be taken care of and receive compensation for the inconvenience they suffer if only the Airline Passenger Bill of Rights passed, former Representative and Bayan Muna chairperson Neri Colmenares lamented.

Colmenares said his sponsored bill had passed the House of Representatives (HOR) in 2016 but failed to become law due to lack of support in the Senate.

Colmenares explained that in case of flight delay, airlines should offer free re-booking, flight refund or endorsement to another carrier.

“For terminal delay of at least three hours, passengers have the right to avail themselves of refreshments or meals, free phone calls, text or emails and first aid,” he added.

“But from the reports we received many passengers went hungry yesterday and others slept on airports. This should be addressed immediately and the incident should not be used to justify another sale of government asset and increase in airline rates,” Colmenares said.

Incompetence or pretext to privatization?

Another Makabayan bloc Representative said the timing of the reported technical ATM glitch is “fishy”, happening as it did very closely after the DOTr announced just last December that the Ferdinand Marcos Jr. government is pursuing NAIA’s privatization.

In a briefing last Wednesday, Bautista told reporters: “We have worked with the Asian Development Bank for the preparation of the terms of reference for the privatization of the Manila International Airport.”

“Todo naman yata ang pagtutulak na muli sa pribatisasyon ng mga key assets at services ng gobyerno na wala na namang konsultasyon sa mamamayan na papasan ng dagdag bayarin o singil dahil dito. Kahapon lang din ay tinanggal na ng DOTr ang libreng sakay sa EDSA bus carousel at plano din pagsasapribado nito,” said HOR Deputy Minority Leader and ACT Teachers Party Rep. France Castro said.

(It looks like the privatization of the government’s key assets and services are being pushed to the hilt even without consulting the people who will bear the brunt of added costs. Just yesterday, the DOTr also ended the free ride service on the EDSA bus carousel that is in line with proposal for its privatization.)  

“Sa annoucement ng DOTr sa pribatisasyon ng NAIA noong Dec.30 at nangyaring ‘power outage’ kahapon ay di natin masisisi ang mamamayan na mag-isip na ito ay sinadya para mapabilis ang pagbebenta nito kahit di kinukonsulta ang mamamayan at ipaliwanag ang ireresulta nitong pagtaas pa ng singil sa pasahe sa eroplano,” Castro added.

(In DOTr’s December 30 announcement of NAIA’s privatization, we could not blame the people into thinking yesterday’s so-called power outage was staged to make the airport’s sale faster. This, even if the government has yet to consult the people and explain the impending increase in plane fares.) ###

‘Kung hindi nagsilbi ang mga guro, hindi maitatawid ang pagbubukas ng klase’

“Napakabilis nilang maglabas ng mga memo o department order tuwing dagdag na trabaho, attendance sa mga webinar, gabundok na mga paperwork ang ipapagawa sa mga teacher pero itong benepisyo na karapat-dapat lamang na maibigay sa kanila ay ginigipit pa. Kung hindi nagsilbi ang mga guro noong panahon na June 1 to October 4, hindi maitatawid ang pagbubukas ng klase noong nakaraang taon.”ACT Rep. France Castro, Deputy Minority Floor Leader

Rep. Castro ng Makabayan Bloc, nagsalita hinggil sa revolutionary government

Nagbigay-pahayag si Rep. France Castro ng Makabayan Bloc kaugnay ng nilulutong ‘revolutionary government’ ng mga taga-suporta ni Pangulong Duterte nitong nakalipas na linggo.

‘Government will only be putting millions of children, teachers, education support personnel and their families at risk’

“Addressing classroom shortages, large class sizes, lack of adequate water supply, working comfort rooms, ensuring health, and (hiring additional) utility personnel in schools (must first be accomplished). The lack of gadgets and access to a strong internet connection for the new modes of teaching under the ‘new normal’ for schools would require additional budget for education, not cuts.

Without addressing these safety measures and lack of infrastructure for education, government will only be putting millions of children, teachers, education support personnel and their families at risk of getting the COVID-19 virus.”

Rep. France Castro
ACT Teachers’ Party
Assistant Minority Leader,
House of Representatives

Jo Maline Mamangun