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Anti-child marriage law draws approval from int’l aid groups to underground revolutionary orgs

Children rights advocates of various persuasions hailed the passage of the law banning child marriages in the Philippines, describing the measure as a step forward in protecting children from sexual abuse and the effects of child marriage.

In separate statements, a women’s political party, an international aid organization, a legislators’ committee, even an underground revolutionary group hailed the signing into law of Republic Act (RA) No. 11596, also known as “An Act Prohibiting the Practice of Child Marriage and Imposing Penalties for Violations Thereof.”

House of Representatives (HOR) Assistant Minority Leader and Gabriela Women’s Party Representative Arlene Brosas welcomed the new law she says ensures stronger protection of children from abuse and early social and economic burden.

“This is a historic step towards the criminalization of child marriage, which has trapped several Filipino girls into unwanted and early child-bearing and child-rearing responsibilities and even into cycles of abuse,” Brosas, co-author of the new law, said.

The government announced on Thursday that President Rodrigo Duterte signed the measure last December 10, International Human Rights Day.

The law bans any marriage involving children, including informal unions or cohabitation outside of wedlock between an adult and a child.

The law penalizes persons who cause child marriages with imprisonment and fines, including parents and those who officiates them.

Parents involved in the crime shall also suffer perpetual loss of parental authority.

The law likewise penalizes adults who cohabit with a child outside wedlock.

More praise

International humanitarian and development organization Oxfam commended the law’s champions in the HOR and Senate, saying its passage and approval by the President is a “historic win.”

“Banning child, early, and forced marriage will give women and girls the power to make free and informed choices, enabling them to break free from the unending cycle of poverty, violence, and inequality,” Oxfam said.

Even the underground regional revolutionary group National Democratic Front in Bicol (NDF-Bicol) hailed the new measure, saying it adds to the legal recourses female children may utilize in defense of their right to self-determination.

The victory contributes to the eventual defeat of the exploitative system that confine women’s roles to the household and bed, NDF-Bicol added.

Policy group Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD), instrumental in pushing for the bill, said one in six Filipino girls get married before reaching the age of 18.

“The Philippines ranks 12th worldwide among countries with the highest numbers of child marriages,” PLCPD said.

 “The Prohibition of Child Marriage Law is a landmark legislation and a legacy of this Congress to women and girls who have long been suffering from the ill effects of child marriage,” PLCPD executive director Rom Dongeto said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Media orgs join mounting calls for profane lawyer’s disbarment

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said it joins the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) and several others in condemning lawyer Larry Gadon’s verbal assault on journalist Raissa Robles on social media as well as mounting calls for his disbarment.

“We urge the Supreme Court and Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) to act on them and on this recent incident,” the NUJP in a statement said.

The group said it joins with FOCAP’s and other calls to “discipline this wayward member of the bar of the boorishness and clearly unbecoming conduct. It is truly unfortunate that social media sites could be wantonly used as a platform to attack independent journalists in this gruesome manner.”

FOCAP earlier described Gadon’s online rant against Robles as “violent and aggressive verbal assault” as well as “atrocious and beastly behavior.”

“The profanity, expletives and sexist insults against Robles violate Philippine law on public decency, gender respect and the core principles of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP)/It was utterly despicable, and reflective of the belligerent impunity independent and courageous Filipino journalists face for doing their constitutionally protected work in the country,” FOCAP said.

Robles is the Philippine correspondent for the South China Morning Post.

Gadon, a senatorial aspirant and backer of Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., was furious over Robles’ remarks on social media platform Twitter that the failure of the son of the late Philippine dictator to file income tax returns in the past raises the question of whether he paid the taxes at all.

“Like all Filipinos, Gadon has the right to challenge statements from journalists in the interest of public discourse, but never with such venom and malice that openly flout civility, respect and human rights which are protected by the country’s laws,” FOCAP said.

The media group said Gadon’s tirade is concerning because of his large following on social media who may be led to believe that using violent, misogynistic and sexist language is acceptable just because it is done online.

“We are concerned as well because online harassment can lead to or encourage harassment offline,” it said.

“This is not the first time Gadon has displayed the kind of behavior and speech that is in every sense an attack not only on Raissa and other journalists but all decent, God-fearing and law-abiding Filipinos,” the group added.

The NUJP said that, according to reports, Gadon already facing at least one disbarment complaint for maliciously alleging former President Benigno Aquino died of HIV.

Gabriela Women’s Party on Saturday said Gadon’s speech was full of profanities and misogynistic remarks and was a dangerous incitement of hate and violence toward Robles in a lame attempt to dispute the reportage on Marcos Jr.’s failure to file income tax returns.””We support calls for the disbarment of Attorney Gadon as we should no longer tolerate such barbaric behavior that tarnishes the legal profession. The rabid supporter of the Marcoses must be taught a harsh lesson for all his grossly inappropriate verbal assaults,” the group added.

Rights group Karapatan has also condemned Gadon’s “barrage of violent and misogynistic insults” against Robles that “portray the increasingly hostile and violent online environment threatening press freedom in all fronts in the country.” # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Political dynasties and billionaires hijack ‘democratic’ party-list system in the Philippines

Party-list seats were first reserved for marginalized sectors of society

By Siegfred Deduro

The “party-list” system, originally designed to provide space for the democratic representation of marginalized sectors in the House of Representatives of the Philippines, has been taken over by political dynasties.

The inclusion of the party-list elections in the electoral system was a result of the political struggle against the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship which was toppled by the People Power Revolution in 1986. Before the constitutional amendment that enabled the party-list system, it was almost impossible for the marginalized sectors to be represented in Congress. Elected positions from the municipal up to the national levels were monopolized by political dynasties as, historically, elections were won by those who had “guns, gold and goons.”

Article II Section 26 of the 1987 Constitution declares that the “State shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service, and prohibit political dynasties as may be defined by law.” However, to this day, no anti-dynasty law has been promulgated by the Congress, which is dominated by political dynasties, though a bill nearly succeeded in being approved in the 15th Congress. The bill passed the first and second readings but failed to make it in the final plenary voting. With the enactment of the Party List law in 1995 marginalized sectors gained space in the elite-monopolized Congress. This allowed sectors such as women, workers, farmers, indigenous peoples, and cooperatives to come together, and build coalitions to participate in government. Foremost among the successful party-list organizations were Left-leaning groups, for example, Bayan Muna (People First). Though outnumbered by members of political dynasties, party-list representatives became “fiscalizers” of the people within the legislature.

Some political observers suggest that the party-list system favors a more democratic representation. For instance, among 53 democracies around the world where there are single-member districts, only 7.3 per cent of legislators are women, but in legislatures elected entirely by a party-list, women make up 17.2 per cent of members. But not in the Philippines. Instead, political dynasties saw this system as a backdoor entry to Congress, a means to broaden their turfs and get access to pork-barrel benefits. For example, the son of former President Gloria Arroyo has served in Congress as a party-list representative. Political dynasties-sponsored party-lists win by cheating, vote-buying and patronage politics.

Aside from political dynasties, even billionaires have become legislators by registering as representatives of marginalized groups. For three years now, the country’s richest congressman has been Rep. Michael Romero of party-list group 1-Pacman or One Patriotic Coalition of Marginalized Nationals. His main family business develops and operates port facilities in the country, including the Manila North Harbor.

Veteran lawmaker Edcel Lagman, one of the principal authors of the Partylist System Act, emphasized that:

The purpose [of the system] is to afford and guarantee the marginalized sectors of having representation in Congress which they cannot win in the traditional district elections.

But in 2013 the Supreme Court decided that the party-list was not a reserved-seat system for particular sectors but a system of proportional representation where all types of organizations, including political parties, could participate.

Retired Supreme Court Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban noted that the current party-list system can be “manipulated” to serve the interests of a select few. He called for the urgent revision of the law.

Clearly, the most urgent need of the hour is for legislation to be passed to revise the partylist act and install permanent safeguards to prevent abuses and misuses of the system.

Political science Professor Jorge Villamor Tigno of the University of the Philippines Diliman observed that the inadequacies and conflicting features of the party-list system law can be traced back to its key designer—Congress—whose members may have looked upon the party-list organisations either as potential competitors or useful platforms in their quest to retain their positions of power and privilege. Either way, the lasting effect of the party-list system can be regarded as one that undermines (rather than reinforces) the legacy of People Power.

In the coming 2022 party-list elections, party-lists of the marginalized sectors face formidable challenges. On October 8, the last day of filing of Certificates of Candidacies (COC), a total of 270 party-lists filed their COCs, the overwhelming majority of which are controlled by political dynasties.

Furthermore, the government propaganda network has shifted focus from attacking “drug addicts” to activists, many of whom are party-list members. Online information operations against activists and progressive groups take off from the Rodrigo Duterte government’s drug war playbook—attack online, then kill. 

Bayan Muna Iloilo city coordinator Jory Porquia was gunned down by suspected state agents on April 30, 2020, amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

On August 10, 2020, activist land rights defender and Anakpawis Party-list chairman Randall “Randy” Echanis, 72, was killed inside his home in Quezon City. His body bore multiple stab and gunshot wounds. Echanis had been active in opposing a new anti-terrorism bill, which the President signed into law in July 2020. 

Human rights activist Zara Alvarez was shot and killed by unidentified gunmen in Bacolod City on August 17, 2020. She had been receiving death threats for more than a year. Alvarez was a  former campaign and education director and paralegal in Negros for the human rights group Karapatan. Amid the pandemic, she had been coordinating and conducting relief operations as part of a community health programme. She was the 13th member of Karapatan to be murdered since Rodrigo Duterte came to power in 2016. Other Negros Island-based activists reportedly received threatening messages through their social media accounts saying, “You’re next.”

The government has even moved to disqualify activists from joining the party-list race by branding them as legal fronts of the communist movement. Against forbidding odds, genuine party-lists of the marginalized sectors have to rely on effective campaign strategy, their organized mass base and support of opposition allies to overcome and neutralize the formidable advantages of the party-lists of political dynasties in the coming 2022 elections.

On September 27, the Fifth National Convention of the progressive Makabayan Coalition elected a mixture of seasoned legislators and first-time congressional candidates for its official slate in the 2022 election.

From the party-list groups forming the Makabayan bloc—Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), Anakpawis, Bayan Muna, Gabriela, and Kabataan—six candidates for the 19th Congress are former lawmakers who held party-list posts.

The coalition has vowed to mobilize its constituency nationwide to launch a strong electoral campaign that adapts to current state-instigated terrorism and restrictions amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. #

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

‘Maling-mali ang paratang ng NTF-ELCAC na kami ay terorista’

“Maling-mali ang paratang ng National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict o NTF-ELCAC at ibang opisyal publiko na kami ay terorista. Ito ay labag sa karapatang pantao, labag sa sinumpaang mandato ng gobyerno sa mamamayan. Ang ganitong pananakot at pagsiil ay pagpapahamak sa aming women’s rights advocates, at pagkakait sa kababaihan na nangangailangan ng tulong at pag-agapay.” Joms Salvador, Secretary General, Gabriela

Krisis sa COVID-19, lalong tumitindi, ayon sa Makabayan

Ni Joseph Cuevas

Tumindi ang krisis ng pandemyang Covid-19 dahil sa simula pa lamang ay minaliit na ni Pangulong Rodrigo Duterte ang epekto nito sa bansa na naging militarista naman ang naging pagtugon ng gobyerno noong nanalasa na ito kalaunan.

Ito ang sumada ng mga kinawatan sa blokeng Makabayan sa isang online forum noong Sabado, May 23, na pinamagatang “Hatol Makabayan”

Inihayag ni Makabayan Chairman Atty. Neri Colmenares sa kanyang pambungad na pananalita na tumindi ang krisis ng pandemyang Covid-19 sa Pilipinas dahil sa simula ay minaliit na ito ni Pangulong Duterte at hindi kaagad gumawa ng karampatang aksyon.

Sinabi naman ni Rep. Sarah Elago ng Kabataan Party na hindi solusyong medikal ang unang naging hakbang ni Pangulong Duterte, bagkus ay isang militaristang Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) o lockdown.

Imbes anila na mass testing, isolation, tracing at treatment sa mga posibleng maysakit ay tinapatan ang unang pagdami ng kaso ng coronavirus ay nagpatupad ito ng malupit na lockdown, bagay na ikinabahala ng United Nations Human Rights Council.

Para naman kay ACT-Teachers Rep. France Castro, nakakabahala ang sitwasyon ng mga frontliner dahil sila ang sumusuong sa panganib ng pandemya.

Kulang na kulang ang mga doktor, nars, medical staff pati na din sa mga itinatayong testing centers at kagamitan tulad ng Personal Protective Equipments, dagdag ni Castro.

Kalunos-lunos din ang kalagayan ng mga pampublikong ospital at isolation center para sa mga Overseas Filipino Workers na umuwi sa bansa.

Sa ngayon nasa 13,577 ang kaso ng Covid-19 kung saan mahigit 863 na ang nasawi at mayroong backlog na halos 6,000 na mga pinaghihinalaang kaso ng sakit.

Ang Pilipinas ang may pinakamahigpit at pinakamahabang lockdown sa buong mundo na umabot na sa mahigit 70 araw.

Ang online forum ay pinangunahan ng mga mambabatas mula sa Bayan Muna, ACT-Teachers, Gabriela Women’s Party at Kabataan party.

Pasismo sa pandemya

Ayon kay Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Arlene Brosas ang militaristang tugon ng gobyerno para labanan ang Covid-19 ay nagdulot ng 177, 540 na pag-arestosa panahon ng lockdown na umaabot ng average na 2,900 kada araw at higit 52,000 na ikinulong.

Ilan sa mga ito ang ginawang pag-aresto at pagkulong sa mga relief worker ng Tulong Anakpawis sa Bulacan noong Abril 26 at Lingap Gabriela sa Marikina at Tulong Kabataan sa Quezon City noong Mayo 1.

Dagdag pa ni Brosas, dahas din ang naging tugon katulad nang pagpaslang kay Jory Porquia ng Bayan Muna sa Iloilo at pagpatay sa isang dating sundalo na lumabag umano sa quarantine sa Quezon City. Hindi rin nito pinaglagpas ang ilang netizen sa Online Tokhang tulad ng ginawa sa isang guro sa Zambales.

Wala ring tugon ang gobyerno sa planong magpalaya ng mga bilanggo na kumakalat na ang sakit sa mga kulungan. Hanggang ngayon, wala pa ring tugon ang petisyon na inihain ng mga kaanak ng political prisoner sa Korte Suprema sa halip ay tinutulan pa ito ng Office of the Solicitor General, pahayag pa ni Brosas.

Tinalakay naman ni Rep. Eufemia Cullamat ng Bayan Muna na bukod sa pasistang pananalakay sa mamamayan ay walang humpay din ang counter-insurgency na atake ng gobyerno.

Ilan na dito ang naitalang pambobomba at pagkakampo sa ilang komunidad ng mga katutubo sa CARAGA region, pag-aresto sa mga lider ng progresibong grupo at kaso ng red-tagging, maging pekeng pagpapasurender.

Kapos na ayuda at lumolobong badyet

Naging tampok din sa forum ang tugon ng gobyerno sa kabuhayan ng mamamayan. Inilarawan ni Rep. Ferdinand Gaite ng Bayan Muna ang programang Social Amelioration Program o SAP ng gobyerno na makupad dahil sa napakabagal at burukratikong proseso nang pamamahagi nito.

Ayon kay Gaite, nasa apat na milyong Pilipino pa ang hindi nakatanggap ng nasabing ayuda mula sa target nitong 18 milyon. Maging ang tulong para mga manggagawa ay napakabagal din.

Nasa tatlong milyong manggagawa lamang ang ayuda ng DOLE na Covid-19 Adjustment Measures Program o CAMP mula sa tinatayang 10 milyon na apektado sa buong bansa.

Pinuna naman ni Rep. Carlos Zarate ang napakalaking pondo na nakalaan para sa pandemya subalit hindi naramdaman ng taumbayan.

Kabilang na dito ang halos P275 bilyon na pondo ni Pangulong Duterte kahit pa umutang ito nang aabot sa $5 bilyon mula sa iba’t-ibang multi-lateral agency tulad ng World Bank at Asian Development Bank.

Itinutulak pa aniya ang mga bagong panukala sa Kongreso na “stimulus program” tulad ng Enhanced Build Build Build na magpapasidhi ng patakarang neoliberalisasyon sa ekonomiya, ani pa Zarate.

Nagbigay reaksyon naman ang iba’t-ibang grupo kabilang na dito ang mga mungkahi at panukala na:

– ng health care system sa bansa at paglalalan ng malaking pondo rito hindi lamang sa panahon ng Covid-19.

-Re-alignment ng pambansang badyet sa mga ahensya at mga target na pagkukunan kabilang na ang mataas na pagbubuwis sa mga mayayaman at malalaking korporasyon.

-Direktang ayuda sa mga manggagawa na apektado at pagbibigay trabaho sa mga natanggal kabilang na ang mga kontraktwal at job-order.

-Production subsidy at direct cash assistance na P10,000 sa mga magsasaka, mangingisda at maralita sa kanayunan.

-Pagbibigay ng SAP kahit sa panahon ng GCQ o General Community Quarantine at kabuhayan sa mga maralita.

-Paggiit  sa “No Mass Testing, No School Opening” para naman sa mga kabataan at guro sa pagbubukas ng klase sa darating na Agosto at

-Pagpapatigil sa mga dagdag bayarin at pagpapahirap sa mga estudyante tulad ng Online Classes.

Sa huli, binigyang-hatol ng Makabayan at batayang sekor na maraming kapalpakan, kasalanan at kamalian ang gobyerno ni Pangulong Duterte sa pagharap sa Covid-19.

Hinikayat nila ang mamamayan na kumilos at marapat na paigtingin ang panawagan para sa Kalusugan, Kabuhayan at Karapatan. #

Groups hold noise barrage calling for mass virus testing

by Sanafe Marcelo

Various organizations held noise barrages in several communities around Metro Manila Thursday, March 26, demanding free mass testing for health workers and patients with corona virus disease (COVID-19) symptoms.

Ilang residente ng Brgy. Holy Spirit, Quezon City

In Barangay Holy Spirit in Quezon City, Gabriela Women’s Party member Tess Arboleda said their noise barrage inside their homes and through social media are in support of calls for mass testing of so-called frontliners in the fight against the pandemic.

The activity also demanded food and financial assistance to poor families and workers who could no longer work because of the government-imposed lockdown.

Arboleda added that the poor are already worried because their resources and savings are fast running out two weeks into the island-wide lockdown.

Alliance of Concerned Teachers Philippines also participated in the noise barrage and in the “Tiktok” online dance challenge to call for more government support.

The teachers also called for “emergency assistance, not emergency power.”

Congress has passed bills granting President Rodrigo Duterte so-called emergency powers to realign funds to address the pandemic, among other special powers.

Members of Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE), Bayan Muna, and Sama-samang Artista para sa Kilusang Agraryo (SAKA) also participated in the noise barrage. #

Makabayan bloc opens 18th Congress with 67 bills, resos

The Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives (HOR) got off to its usual running start and filed 67 bills and resolutions on the opening day of the 18th Congress Monday.

While their colleagues, including other party list representatives, are busy with infighting for the speakership of the HOR, the Leftist lawmakers submitted both new and their old legislative measures and made sure they are among the first to file them.

Makabayan legislative staffmembers were among the first to line up at the HORS’s Bills and Index Service office very early yesterday morning to increase their chance of an early first reading of their measures and referral by the Speaker to their appropriate committees.

Bayan Muna filed 30 bills and resolutions ranging from agrarian refom, human rights, social pension, lowering of prices of basic commodities, wage increases, social services to political reforms.

ACT Teachers Party filed 17 bills and resolutions ranging from salary increases, social services, government services reforms to freedom of information.

Kabataan Party for its part filed 10 bills, mostly on youth and student rights.

Gabriela Women’s Party for its part filed 10 bills and resolutions that the group said seek to uplift women from economic woes and abuse.

Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas said their party prioritizes the repeal of the Rice Tariffication Law due to its disastrous impact on farmers and poor households, as well as measures that seek to end violence against women and children.

“Rice tariffication law sets forth the sharp drop in the farmgate prices of palay which threatens the livelihood of our farmers, as well as the phaseout of the cheaper NFA rice which poor Filipino families rely on. That’s why we want to immediately repeal the law to provide relief to millions of Filipino families,” she said.

“As an alternative, we have filed the Rice Industry Development Act previously filed by Anakpawis Partylist to ensure sufficient support for Filipino farmers and to mandate the identification of rice zones across the country to boost local rice production,” she added.

ACT Teachers Party Rep. France Castro for her part revealed that their 17 bills are bannered by their teachers salary increase bill she said is long overdue.

“We strongly urge the incoming House Leadership to immediately hear and pass the bill increasing the salaries of teachers and other government employees. Similarly, we call on our fellow legislators in both houses of Congress to champion this cause,” Castro said.

This morning, Bayan Muna filed its 31st measure, a resolution calling for an investigation on the violations of labor rights by detergent manufacturer Peerless Products Manufacturing Corporation, following the series of bloody attacks company guards inflicted on its striking workers.

List of bills

Bayan Muna:

1. Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill
2. Human Rights Defenders Bill
3. 2nd Tranche of SSS pension increase
4. Increasing Social Pension
5. Genuine Partylist Group and Nominee Act
6. Repeal TRAIN Law
7. Renationalization of Petron
8. Investigation of the Recto Bank Incident
9. Unbundling of Oil Prices
10. ₱750 National Minimum Wage
11. ₱16,000 Minimum Wage for Government Employees
12. Anti-Privatization of Health Services
13. Free Hemodialysis
14. Anti-Political Dynasty
15. Investigation on Water Privatization
16. Investigation on the Killings in Bicol
17. Investigation on Electoral-Related Harassments
18. Security of Tenure and Substitute Civil Service Eligibility
19. No VAT in Electricity
20. No Vat in Systems Loss
21. People’s Mining Bill
22. Genuine Small Coco Farmer’s Fund
23. Investigation on impacts of agribusiness to agrarian reform beneficiaries
24. No VAT in Water
25. Manila Bay as Reclamation-Free Zone
26. No Mining Zones
27. SOGIE (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression) Bill
28. Investigation on HRVs related to Memo 32 
29. Investigation on Kaliwa Dam Project
30. Moratorium on Coal-Fired Power Plants

ACT Teachers Party-List:

  1. HB 219 – salary increase for public school teachers and other government employees
  2. HB 220 – The Teacher Protection Act of 2019
  3. HB 221 – lowering the optional retirement age of government employees
  4. HB 222 – The Teaching Supplies Allowance Act of 2019
  5. HB 223 – mandatori na mga yunit ng Filipino at Panitikan sa kolehiyo
  6. HB 224 – Act Mandating Free Health Services for the People
  7. HB 225 – exempting from taxation all amounts granted to persons rendering election service for national and local elections
  8. HB 226 – The Freedom of Information Act
  9. HB 227 – The Public School Class Size Law
  10. HB 228 – The Revised GSIS Act of 2019
  11. HB 508 – shorter probationary period of teaching and non-teaching personnel in private schools
  12. HB 509 – guidance counselors in public schools
  13. HB 510 – repealing the anti-professional CPD Act of 2016
  14. HB 511 – The COMELEC Reorganization Act
  15. HB 512 – expanded paternity leave
  16. HB 513 – National Education Support Personnel Day
  17. HR 20 – inquiry in aid of legislation into the status of implementation of the K to 12 Program

Kabataan Party:

  1. Students Rights
  2. Campus Press Freedom
  3. University Services
  4. Human Rights Education
  5. Anti-No Permit No Exam
  6. FQS Day and [email protected]
  7. National Youth Day
  8. Mandatory Bonifacio Subject
  9. National Filipino Youth Museum
  10. Philippine Cinema Appreciation

Gabriela Women’s Party:

  1. Repeal of the Rice Tariffication Law
  2. Rice Industry Development
  3. Magna Carta for Daycare Workers
  4. Amendments to the Solo Parents Welfare Act
  5. Repeal of VAT on oil and other products
  6. Resolution seeking to review the concession agreement of the MWSS
  7. Amendments to the Anti-Rape Law 
  8. Electronic Violence Against Women and Children (EVAWC) 
  9. Repeal of the Human Security Act (HSA)
  10. Divorce bill

The progressive parties said the 67 bills are just their initial submissions. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Makabayan files bill seeking exemption of journalists from anti-drug ops

The Makabayan Bloc at the House of Representatives filed a bill seeking the exemption of journalists from acting as witnesses in police anti-drug operations.

House Bill 8832 was filed Wednesday by ACT Teachers’ Party Reps. Antonio Tinio and France Castro, Gabriela Reps. Arlene Brosas and Emmi de Jesus, Anakpawis Party Rep. Ariel Casilao, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate and Kabataan Party Rep. Sarah Elago together with National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) officers.

The bill seeks to amend Section 1 of Republic Act 10640, otherwise known as “An Act to Further Strengthen the Anti-Drug campaign of the Government,” which orders that journalists act as “optional witnesses” to drug operations.

The law amended section 21 of Republic Act No. 9165, otherwise known as the “Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002,” which earlier ordered that journalists act as mandatory witnesses to the police inventory of seized items in drug operations, along with elected officials and members of the National Proecution Service.

HB 8832 stemmed from an ongoing NUJP campaign against ordering journalists to as witnesses to police anti-drug operations.

According to the NUJP, journalists throughout the country report that law enforcement units continue requiring them to sign on as witnesses, often as a condition for being allowed to cover anti-drug operations.

“Worse, there are reports that they are made to sign even if they did not actually witness the operation or the inventory of seized items,” the NUJP’s “Sign Against the Sign” campaign said.

Journalists who decline can find their sources or the normal channels of information no longer accessible, the media group added.

HB 8832 said that aside from the obvious coercion and attempts to control information of vital interest to the public, the media’s opposition to this practice also stems from the fact that it unnecessarily places journalists at risk of retaliation from crime syndicates, on the one hand, and exposes them to prosecution for perjury and other offenses in the event of irregularities in the conduct of anti-drug operations, on the other.

The proposed measure said that journalists must be protected from harm and the anti-drug laws must help ensure that reportage on the government’s anti-drug operations must remain objective and factual.

Rep. Tinion said the Makabayan Bloc will ask Committee on Public Information chairperson Ben Evardone of Eastern Samar to schedule a hearing on the bill as soon as possible.

The NUJP for its part will ask Senate Committee on Public Information chairperson Senator Grace Poe to file a counterpart in the Senate. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Duterte has rapist mentality, women groups say

“Misogynist” Rodrigo Duterte fuels the rape mindset in country, women’s rights groups said in response to yet another controversial rape statement by the President.

Accusing him of having a “rapist mentality,” the group blasted Duterte’s statement that many rape attacks are happening in Davao because there are many beautiful women in the city.

“Ingon sila nga daghang rape ang Davao. Basta daghang gwapa, daghang rape gyud na,” Duterte said in a speech in Davao City Thursday, August 30. (They said there are many rape cases in Davao. As long as there are many beautiful women, there will be more rape cases.)

“Instead of seriously addressing the problem, the misogynist Duterte has added insult to the scars of rape survivors,” #BabaeAko said in a statement Friday.

The group said Duterte’s boast of his home city, Davao, being among the safest in the Philippines has been demolished by Philippine National Police (PNP) statistics that show it has the highest rape rate nationwide.

With 42 reported cases of rape in the second quarter of 2018, the PNP said Davao City has the highest number in the country during the period.

#BabaeAko said that more than his prohibition while still Davao mayor of women wearing shorts in public, Duterte’s anti-rape strategy failed because he is disrespectful of women and only sees them as mere sexual objects.

‘Joke only’

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque tried to downplay the widespread backlash against Duterte’s controversial remark, saying people should not give too much weight to the President’s “joke”.

“Let’s just say there are standards of what is offensive and what is not offensive. It’s more liberal in the South,” Roque said in a press briefing in Malacañan Friday.

#BababeAko said it was not the first time the President has encouraged rapists and put the blame on women, however.

“In his presidential campaign, he grouched that as mayor, he should have been first to rape a foreign missionary. He slapped down his daughter, Sara, current mayor of Davao, calling her a ‘drama queen’ when she confessed to an experience of sexual assault. He has joked of pardons for soldiers who rape. He has offered Filipino “virgins” to filthy foreigners with purchasing power,” the group recalled.

#BabaeAko said the country does not deserve him “who willfully breaks our laws and encourages others to do the same, because his notion of power stops at coercive force.”

‘Spokesperson and defender’

Gabriela Women’s Party echoed #BabaeAko’s condemnation, saying Duterte sent yet again a very dangerous and distorted message in his latest rape remark

“He (Duterte) toys with Davao pride and misogyny to gloss over a very important detail — that women in his hometown Davao City suffered the most number of rape cases in the country,” GWP said.

President Duterte is proud to have rolled back whatever gains and legal mechanisms that have been instituted for women’s rights in Davao City, the group said.

“Is Pres. Duterte already the self-proclaimed spokesperson and defender of rape pertrators in Davao?” GWP Representative Emmi de Jesus for her part asked.

“We strongly condemn this latest flamboyant display of misogyny, which places more Filipino women at risk of rape. A person who finds pleasure in the mass killings of innocent people and who finds humor in demeaning women and enabling rapists is not fit to be President,” GWP added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

 

Women dance and rise to support peace talks resumption

Hundreds of women and their supporters held the 5th annual One Billion Rising event at Manila’s Liwasang Bonifacio on Valentine’s Day.

Through dances and speeks, they also called for a stop to the Duterte administration’s declaration of an all out war.

They also prodded the Duterte administration to return to the negotiation table with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.

“President Duterte’s emotional rant abruptly terminating negotiations and the declaration of an all-out war has unleashed a monster of human rights violations, killings of activists and illegal arrests,” said Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Emmi De Jesus. Read more