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PH groups commemorate ‘Nakba’ in support of Palestine

By Nuel M. Bacarra

To commemorate the 76th year of Nakba, progressive forces from different organizations held a day of protest in support of Palestine at the Boy Scout Rotunda in Quezon City last Wednesday, May 15.

The activists decried that the Philippines is next only to India in terms of purchases of armaments from Israel amounting to billions. Last year alone, a $114 million contract between the Philippines and the Israeli government was forged for refurbishing two planes for intelligence gathering.

The groups said such contracts help fund Israel’s genocidal wars against the Palestinian people.

Photo by N/ Bacarra/Kodao

“Nakba” is the Palestinian word for “catastrophe” that describes the displacement of around 750,000 Palestinians when 530 communities were depopulated in 1948 after the creation of the Jewish state of Israel.

The protesters said Israel’s crimes against Palestinians continue as around 35,000 have been killed since October 7 last year in the latest and ongoing military operations in the Gaza strip.

The United Nations (UN) have reported that 7,797 of the Palestinian victims were children and 4,959 were women as of this month.

In the last 24 hours, 72 Palestinians have been killed, UN added.

International League of People’s Struggle (ILPS) secretary general Liza Maza said: “Marcos and (Indian Prime Minister Nerendra) Modi are not only puppets of the US but also support genocide by continuing their lucrative arms deals with the Zionist state.”

Kabataan Party List Rep. Raoul Manuel meanwhile said that there are similarities between the Filipino youth and the Palestinian people in terms of struggles.

“There are those who conspire to destroy lives and continue to repress the people who fight in the Philippines, in Palestine and anywhere in the world,” he said.

Manuel added: “We, the youth, together with the people will fulfill our role to liberate all countries that are occupied and free the people from all oppression and exploitation.”

Photo by N. Bacarra/Kodao

ILPS said Wednesday’s activity was part its call for global protests against the genocide in Palestine and in solidarity with the Palestinians’ right to return to their homeland.

The global network also called for the strengthening of people’s movements to condemn and expose the US-Israel genocidal conspiracy.

ILPS said: “We must flood the streets and tirelessly call for the end of the genocide. On Nakba Day and the days after, we must demand justice for the Palestinian people’s right to retire to their homeland.” #

Ligalig ang hatid ng ChaCha sa kabataan-estudyante

Ni Nuel M. Bacarra

Marahil ay nakaramdam na ang halos lahat sa atin kung paano magutom sa iba’t ibang pagkakataon. Maaaring nangyari ito minsan sa loob ng isa, tatlo o anim na oras. Para sa isang estudyante, mahirap mag-memorya o unawain ang leksyon kapag gutom. Paano pa kaya kung palagian itong nararamdaman hindi lamang ng isang estudyante kundi ng buong pamilya at mga indibidwal sa mga maralitang komunidad, sa kanayunan, sa mga pabrika at upisina, sa mga eskwelahan?

Sa inilabas na datos ng World Bank para sa taong 2023, ika-66 ang Pilipinas sa 125 bansa sa buong mundo na nakararanas ng gutom. Kritikal ito sa pag-unlad ng mga kabataang mag-aaral bilang “pag-asa ng bayan.” Hindi makakaahon ang bansa nito dahil sa halip na bigyang solusyon, binigyan pa ito ng katwiran sa pamamagitan ng kwentadang inilabas mismo ng gubyerno noong nakaraang taon na sapat na diumano sa isang mamamayang Pilipino na magkaroon ng ₱79.00 (₱395.00 sa lima katao) sa isang araw para mabuhay o ₱12,030.00 sa isang buwan para sa buong pamilyang may limang myembro. Taliwas ito sa hinihingi ng mga organisadong manggagawa na suportado ng iba’t ibang sektor ng lipunan na ₱1,193.00 na nakabubuhay na sahod sa isang araw para sa isang lima-kataong pamilya.

Sa ganitong pamantayan, lalong nalalantad ang pamahalaan na wala itong malasakit sa kapakanan ng sambayanan at bagkus ay nakatuon sa pagraratsada ng pagbabago ng Konstitusyon o charter change (ChaCha) upang ibayong manatili ang mga dinastiya sa poder.

Tulak ng paglaban

Tingnan na lamang natin ang matagal na kalagayan sa edukasyon.

Naisabatas ang Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act (UAQTE) o RA 10931 noong 2017 dahil na rin sa kilusang masa at pagpupursige ng mga kabataang-estudyante. Ito ang batas na nag-institusyunalisa ng libreng matrikula at ng eksemsyon sa iba pang bayarin ng mga estudyante sa pampublikong pamantasan at kolehiyo sa buong bansa.

Bago umupo si dating senador Ralph Recto bilang Kalihim sa Pinansya ng gubyernong Marcos Jr., may panukala si dating Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno ng departamentong ito na kailangang repasuhin ang batas na ito dahil hindi ito kayang isustine at diumano, ay pag-aaksaya lamang ito ng pondo ng gubyerno. Si Diokno rin ang budget secretary ng gubyernong Duterte nang isabatas ang batas na ito.

Hindi lamang matrikula ang malaking problema ng mga estudyante, partikular sa kolehiyo. Ang pang-araw-araw na gastos tulad ng pamasahe, pagkain, bayad sa boarding house, proyekto sa paaralan at iba pa ay mga gastusin na kaakibat ng pagpasok sa mga pampublikong paaralan o pribado man.

Noong taong panuruan o academic year 2023-24, 35.15% (may talang pagbaba sa 2022-23 na 40.98%) ng mga estudyante ang huminto sa pag-aaral sa kolehiyo. Ang datos na ito ang isinangkalan para bawasan ang badyet para sa libreng edukasyon sa Kongreso. Sa halip na irepaso ang batas na ito, dapat pa ngang dagdagan ang pondo para rito. At sa huli, ang 113 na mga kolehiyo at pamantasan ng estado ay pinaglaanan ng ₱128.2B ng Konggreso, mas malaki nang ₱27.3B dagdag na badyet kaysa noong isang taon.

Ang krisis sa sistema ng edukasyon ay di nakaangkla sa pondong inilalaan ng gubyerno para lutasin ito. Kung magkaganoon, marapat lutasin muna ang malalang pamamayagpag ng katiwalian at korupsyon sa pamahalaan na sa ulat ng Commision on Audit, taun-taon halos ay 20% ng pambansang badyet ang napupunta sa korupsyon. Kung kukwentahin sa badyet noong 2023 aabot ito ng ₱1.04T. Nariyan rin ang mas malalaking badyet sa pagbabayad ng utang na aabot sa ₱670.5B at sa depensa na ₱282.7B (mas malaki nang ₱50.2B kumpara noong 2023).

Si Kabataan Rep. Raoul Manuel (pinaka-kanan) sa kilos protesta sa harap ng CHED.

Ratsada ChaCha

Sa talumpati ni Representative Raoul Manuel ng Kabataan Partylist noong Marso 22 sa rali sa harap ng pambansang tanggapan ng Commission on Higher Eduction, sinabi niya, “Mas magiging de-kalidad raw ang edukasyon sa Pilipinas kapag ibinukas iyan sa mga banyaga. Una sa lahat, bakit natin iaasa sa mga dayuhan ang pagpapataas ng kalidad ng edukasyon? Ang numero unong may trabaho niyan, hindi  ba ang gubyerno?”

Ganito niya hinamon ang mga kabataang kasama niya sa rali sa kahabaan ng C.P. Garcia Avenue. At saka niya idinagdag: “Ang punto natin, hangga’t ang gubyerno ay nakakiling sa pagnenegosyo sa edukasyon, lalong palalalain ng charter change ang rate ng matrikula sa mga pribadong paaralan.”

Nasa panganib ng paglamon ng mga dayuhan ang buong sistema ng pampublikong edukasyon sa bansa sakaling maisalaksak sa mamamayan ang pagbago ng konstitusyon. Isasapribado ang mga kolehiyo at pamantansang publiko at kung gayon ay lalong lalala ang bilang ng mga di makatatapos ng kurso o mas malamang pa nga, hindi makatutuntong ng kolehiyo ang karamihan ng kabataan.

Sa kasalukuyan may mga nakaambang pagtaas ng matrikula sa mga pribadong paaralan, pinakamalaki ang sampung porsyentong pagtaas sa St. Paul University; 6% sa University of the East, Ateneo at Lyceum; habang 5% naman sa  De La Salle at National University. Ang mga kabataang-estudyante sa  Polytechnic University of the Philippines ay sige-sige ang protesta sa kinatatakutang pagsasa-pribado ng paaralan.

Sasagasaan tiyak ito ng ekonomikong probisyong babaguhin sa saligang batas. Sa ilalim ng  Konstitusyon ng 1987 nakasaad na kailangang protektahan at itaguyod ng gubyerno ang karapatan ng mamamayan sa de-kalidad na edukasyon at kung gayon ay gawin ang nararapat na mga hakbang upang maging abot-kaya ang edukasyon sa lahat ng Pilipino.

Ani Elle Buntag, pambansang tagapangulo ng League of Filipino Students: “Nagiging rubber stamp ang CHED ng mga ganid sa tubo na mga nagnenegosyo sa mga pamantasan. Hindi na baleng may mga estudyante na hindi na kayaning makapag-aral dahil sa tuition fee increase.” Sinabi niya ito sa rali sa harap ng opisina ng CHED.

Inutil ang CHED sa kapritso ng mga pribadong paaralan sa usapin ng pagtataas ng matrikula at iba pang bayarin. Dagdag pa ni Buntag: “Ang sagot ni Marcos Jr. sa sistematikong problema na idinadaing natin, walang iba kundi ang ibenta ang mga paaralan natin sa dayuhan sa pamamagitan ng charter change.”

Ang panawagan ng mga mag-aaral kaugnay ng charter change.

Saan ang dulo?

Ang ekonomikong probisyon na inilatag ng Kongreso sa pamamagitan ng Resolution of Both Houses 7 at pinagtibay sa ikatlo at huling pagdinig nitong Marso 20 ay nakatuon sa pribatisasyon ng pampublikong institusyong pang-edukasyon, yutilidad (serbisyo) at advertising. Hindi garantiya ang pagsasapribado ng mga pampublikong paaralan sa pagpapaunlad ng sistema ng edukasyon o ni katiting na bahagdan ng buong ekonomya. Isasapribado ang yutilidad gaya ng pampublikong transportasyon, sistema ng serbisyo ng tubig at kuryente pero aasa at aasa pa rin ang bansa sa padala ng mga manggagawa sa ibayong dagat para pagulungin ang ekonomya. Sa sitwasyong ito ng pagbago ng konstitusyon, dadami at dadami pa ang mga Pilipinong maghahanap ng trabaho sa ibang ibansa na may relatibong mas malaking kita dahil na rin sa kawalan at kakulangan ng trabaho sa ating sariling bansa.

Tuso ang konggreso sa pagsisingit ng pariralang “unless provided by law” sa ilang probisyong babaguhin sa konstitusyon. Ang ibig sabihin lamang nito ay gagawa lamang ng batas ang konggreso para ikutan ang konstitusyon at balewalain ito.

Hindi sapat ang pagkakaroon ng mas malaking foreign direct investment (FDI) para umunlad ang Pilipinas gaya ng pagtingin ng mga tagpagtaguyod ng ChaCha. Noong 1970s at 1980s kung saan pinalakas ng South Korea at Taiwan ang proteksyunismo sa kanilang bansa, mas malaki ang FDI na pumasok sa Pilipinas kaysa sa dalawang bansang ito pero nakapagsarili sila at naging mga bagong nag-industriyalisang bansa.

Ang ikinababahala ng mga estudyante sa pagbago ng konstitusyon ay ang lalong pagkalubog sa kontrol ng dayuhan hindi lamang sa mga paaralan o sistema ng edukasyon kundi ng buong bansa. Kung kontralado ng dayuhan ang sistema ng edukasyon, ang kultura ng pagiging makabansa o makabayan ay buburahin sa kaisipan ng kabataan. Hindi pa nga naisasapribado ang mga pampublikong kolehiyo at unibersidad sa bansa, may sarili nang palo ang rehimeng Marcos Jr. na baluktutin ang kasaysayan sa pamamagitan ng “pagpapabango” sa imahe ng pamilya niya na kinilala sa buong mundo bilang isang pasistang diktador at mandarambong.

Walang maaasahang kaunlaran sa ChaCha. Sa ngayon pa lamang ay inutil ang gubyerno sa kawalang kontrol  sa pagtaas ng presyo ng mga pangunahing bilihin na wala namang kaakibat na pagtaas ng sahod ng mga manggagawa at empleyado. Hindi kaunlaran ang dulot nito kundi ang malinaw na pagbibigay-luho sa dayuhan para dambungin ang bansa. Malinaw na ang pagbubukas sa dayuhan ng syento porsyentong pag-aari ng lupain, at negosyo sa eskwelahan at serbisyo publiko ay langis lamang na magpapadulas para sa pagpapakatuta ng mga nanunugkulan sa gubyerno at ng mahabang panahon sa poder. #

Ang pato at tandang

( ‘Wag kami idyota!)

Ni Ibarra Banaag

Isang umagang kay ganda,

nagkasalubong ang dalawa,

sa lungga ng mga buwaya,

ng kuro-kuro at komedya.

Si Pato ay kumakatawan,

sa kulumpon ng kadiliman,

‘to naman si King Tandang,

tagapagtanggol ng katwiran.

Kwak kwak, mister ispiker,

kabataan ngayo’y bulnerable,

kaloka na mga impormasyon,

papalapit na ang Armaggedon.

Mister ispiker, bati ni Tandang,

ako po’y nagtapos na may honor,

kaya’t ‘wag paratangang lito,

sa paksang dito nakadulog.

Kwak kwak, mister ispiker,

hindi po ako kami mga dugyut,

bulnerable, nga’t inkredible,

mis-impormasyon may perdible!

Mister ispiker, bati ni Tandang,

kaming kabataan ay di bobo,

ayaw namin na kapuntahan,

isang mangmang sa lipunan.

Kwak kwak, mister ispiker,

I therefore conclude the world youth,

ay really bulnerable pati gayut,

kaya po ako nagpapa-kyut!

Mister ispiker, sabi ni Tandang,

ang lumaking walang muwang,

sa mundo at kasaysayan,

isang insulto sa’ming talas at talino.

Kwak kwak, mister ispiker

hindi ko ugali na magpa-bebe,

talaga po kasing bulnerable,

kaming kampon ni Baby Em.

Mister ispiker, kaming milenyo,

ay di katulad ni Ginang Pato,

na hindi pwedeng mamanipula,

ng mga gawa-gawang litanya.

Kwak kwak, mister ispiker,

i-clear ko lang, di ako bitter,

regarding somebody else’s agenda,

bulnerable ang pork sa merienda.

Mister ispiker, ‘yan bang kurikulum,

na ituturo niyo sa klasrum,

ay babaluktot sa diktadurya,

kaya bulnerable ang masa?

Setyembre 21, 2023

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)

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.

Activist groups challenge NPA to ensure justice for blast victims

They challenged the NPA conduct a thorough investigation and submit its report to the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) signed between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines.

Activist groups condemned the death of two civilians in a botched military operation by the New People’s Army (NPA) in Masbate last Sunday, June 6.

In a statement, progressive group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) said the incident was a violation of the International Humanitarian Law that prohibits harm on unarmed civilians in the course of an armed conflict.

“These civilian deaths are condemnable. We extend our sincerest condolences to the families of the two victims,” Bayan said Wednesday.

Human rights group Karapatan likewise criticized the NPA unit responsible for the “deplorable and lamentable incident.”

“We take to task the CPP (Communist Party of the Philippines) and NPA for the woeful and tragic incident and expect them to make sure that it does not happen again. The parties to an armed conflict should always distinguish civilians from combatants and adhere to ‘the principles and rules which limit the use of violence in times of armed conflict,’” Karapatan said.

The group added it expects the group to live up to its promise to ensure prompt investigation and to indemnify the victims through their families.

The Makabayan Bloc of progressive parties at the House of Representatives who, like Bayan and Karapatan, are incessantly accused by government agencies to be “CPP front organizations” and “NPA recruiters and defenders” also condemned the incident.

“We condemn the military action by a unit of the NPA in Masbate City that caused their death and injuries to others for violating international humanitarian law,” Bayan Muna, Gabriela Women’s Party, ACT Teachers’ Party and the Kabataan Youth Party said.

“Mariing kinukundena ng Kabataan Partylist ang naturang aksyong militar ng NPA na humantong sa pagkamatay nina Kieth at Nolven Absalon sa Masbate. Ipinapabatid muli ng Kabataan ang taos-pusong pakikiramay sa kanilang pamilya,” the Kabataan Party in a separate statement said.

(Kabataan Party firmly condemns the NPA military action that led to the deaths of Keith and Nolven Absalon in Masbate. Kabataan sends its heartfelt condolences to their families.)

‘Rules of war violation’

Cousins Keith (21) and Nolven (40) Absalon were killed by a roadside explosion reportedly set off by a NPA unit in the area last June 6 at past six o’clock in the morning while the victims.

Nolven’s son Crisbin Daniel (16) was likewise injured.

Keith was a college football star who played with the Far Eastern University junior and senior football teams, earning most valuable player honors in high school. He was also a member of the under-19 Philippine national team.

Nolven was a chairperson of the Board of Directors of the Masbate Electric Cooperative Employees Union.

As per its practice after each military action, the NPA admitted responsibility for the incident last Tuesday.

The death of two civilians and injury of another however prompted the CPP to speak for the guerilla army it leads.

 “The entire (CPP) and (NPA) express their deep remorse over the untimely and unnecessary deaths of cousins Keith and Nolven Absalon and injury to others,” CPP information officer Marco Valbuena said.

“The entire CPP and NPA take full responsibility for the tragedy. There is no justification for the aggravation this has caused the Absalon family,” Valbuena added.

In another statement issued June 9, Valbuena said the takes cognizance of the grave sentiments and denouncement expressed by concerned quarters.

Valbuena admitted that the botched military operation appears to have violated rules of war as well as the NPA’s own policies.

“Indeed, the unfortunate incident involves a breach of international laws of war and of the internal rules of the NPA which gives the highest priority to the protection of civilians at all times,” Valbuena said.

He explained that the NPA unit and personnel responsible are under the authority of the NPA and the so-called People’s Democratic Government it has established in areas under its control.

Valbuena said that the incident is currently being “fully assessed, with the aim of avoiding such errors in the future.”

In line with the NPA’s rules, Valbuena said those found responsible can be meted out “disciplinary action or punishment” corresponding to their individual responsibilities and conduct during the incident.

‘Proper mechanism’

Bayan and Kabataan however said that while the CPP have promptly owned up to the tragedy and promised indemnification, they challenged the NPA conduct a thorough investigation and submit its report to the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines-Government of the Republic of the Philippines Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).

“There should be accountability in accordance with the mechanisms agreed upon by both parties to the armed conflict…The JMC should be convened as a mechanism for the aggrieved parties who wish to file a complaint against erring armed units,” Bayan said.

Makabayan has urged the Absalon family to file a complaint against those responsible to the JMC.

“Marapat lamang na paganahin ang malinaw na patakaran, tulad ng (JMC) ng CARHRIHL bilang awtoridad sa ganitong mga kaso, para matiyak ang hustisya at pananagutan,” Kabataan for its part said.

(The JMC must be activated as the proper mechanism in addressing such cases. This is to ensure justice and accountability.)

Valbuena said their groups agree to the recommendations.

“Under the CARHRIHL, we are obliged to cooperate with the NDFP Section of the (JMC) if a complaint is filed before it,” he said.

He added that the CPP and the NPA shall likewise consult pertinent provisions of the Geneva Conventions as guides to determining the proper resolutions. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘Mananatili kaming tapat na ang kabataan ang pag-asa ng bayan’

“Ang kabataan po ay patong-patong na ang mga umuusbong na suliranin dulot ng bagong learning set-up. Ang mga ito ang dapat na inuuna ng administrasyon sa gitna ng pandemya at mga sakuna, hindi ang mga walang-awa at mga malisyosong atake. Makakaasa kayo na patuloy na ipaglalaban ng kabataan at estudyante ang aming karapatan gayundin ang kapakanan ng sambayanan. Mananatili kaming tapat sa kasabihan na ang kabataan ang pag-asa ng bayan.”Sarah Elago, Representative, Kabataan Party-list

Academic Break, hiling ng mga mag-aaral sa buong bansa

Nagsagawa ng student strike ang mga grupo ng mag-aaral mula sa iba’t-ibang unibersidad at kolehiyo sa Gate 2 ng Ateneo De Manila University sa Katipunan, Quezon City bilang bahagi ng International Students Day, Nobyembre 17, 2020.

Pangunahin nilang hiling na magkaroon ng national academic break dahil sa sunud-sunod na sakuna na dumaan sa bansa gayundin ang mga pahirap na sistema sa online classes. Ang academic break, ayon sa kanila, ay maagang deklarasyon ng pagtatapos ng semestre at mass promotion ng mga estudyante.

Binatikos din nila ang Pangulong Duterte dahil sa kriminal na kapabayaan nito na tugunan ang pandemya, edukasyon at sakuna. # (Bidyo ni Joseph Cuevas/Kodao)

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. #

‘Hindi krimen ang lumaban’

“Hindi krimen ang lumaban. Ang tunay na krimen, mga kababayan, ay ‘yong nag=aasta lang diktador na lahat ng sabihin mo ay itinuturing na batas. Walang pakialam sa rule of law. Walang pakialam sa due process.”—Rep. Sarah Elago, Kabataan Partylist