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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)

Neri Colmenares files certificate of candidacy for the Senate in 2019 polls

Neri Colmenares filed his certificate of candidacy at the Commission on Elections on Thursday, October 11, vowing to continue his advocacy for people’s rights and interests if elected.

The official candidate of the Makabayan Coalition of progressive parties, Colmenares vowed to fight against measures that contribute to the people’s poverty, such as the Duterte government’s Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Law.

Instead of anti-people laws, Colmenares said there should be more pro-people measures, such as those that would ensure permanent jobs, lower prices of commodities and free social services, especially for the poor.

Colmenares is the author of the law that increased SSS pensions, as well as measures against electricity and water hikes.

He also pushed for passenger rights, anti-torture, free hazard warning through mobile phone services and many others. # (Video by Joseph Cuevas)

Makabayan to field Neri in next year’s Senate race

The Makabayang Koalisyon ng Mamamayan o MAKABAYAN held its fourth National Convention at the  Quezon City Sports Club last September 25, unanimously voting to again field former Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmanares in the 2019 Senate race.

Themed “Bagong Pulitika, Demokrasya Hindi Diktadurya,” Makabayan said it aims to win not only in the next elections but also defeat Rodrigo Duterte’ s looming dictatorship and tyranny.

MAKABAYAN also presented nominees from its member parties—Gabriela Womens Party, ACT Teachers Party, Bayan Muna, Anakpawis and Kabataan.

It also announced Newly formed member parties—Manggagawa Party, Aksyon Health Workers Party, and Peoples Surge Party.  (Video and report by Joseph Cuevas)

Activists hold relief operation in Rizal

The Makabayan bloc, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan and other activist organizations organized a Bayanihan Alay sa Sambayanan (BALSA) relief operation for flood victims in Rodriguez, Rizal last Thursday, August 16.

Beneficiaries of the two-day relief operations were former residents of urban poor communities in Metro Manila who were located by government to the province, but in flood-prone areas.

Groups launch #DefendSecLiza campaign

Various groups launched a campaign to defend National Anti-Poverty Commission lead convenor Liza Maza in a press conference in Quezon City last Monday, August 6.

Saying they are composed of groups outside the Makabayan bloc, they said they want to show that support for Maza is wide and committed in defending the embattled Cabinet secretary from political persecution.

Maza, along with former Makabayan representatives Satur Ocampo, Teddy Casiño and Rafael Mariano were issued warrants of arrest by a Palayan City Regional Trial Court for alleged murders committed nearly two decades ago.

The accused and their supporters, however, claim that the cases were trumped up, as proven by earlier decisions by the QC RTC and the Commission on Elections. (Video by Joseph Cuevas)

Itanong mo kay Prof: Political persecution sa mga lider-aktibista

Sa episode na ito ng Itanong mo kay Prof, ipinaliwanag ang ibig sabihin ng political persecution at bakit target nito ang mga progresibong lider tulad nila Liza Maza, Satur Ocampo, Rafael Mariano at Teddy Casiño.

Political persecution behind arrest orders, groups say

Political persecution by militarists in the Rodrigo Duterte government and new House of Representatives Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo may be behind the issuance of arrest warrants against a Cabinet secretary and three opposition leaders by a Palayan City Regional Trial Court (RTC) last July 11, various groups said.

In a press conference in Quezon City Friday afternoon, groups including the Makabayan bloc of progressive parties, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan and others said the arrest orders against National Anti-Poverty Commission chairperson Liza Maza, and former Representatives Satur Ocampo, Teddy Casiño and Rafael Mariano are pure harassment by both militarists and a resurrected Arroyo.

In a statement, Maza said the arrest order is part of a “continuing political persecution against her by the rightists and militarists who wield substantial influence within the Duterte government.”

“Almost from the beginning, the rightists and militarists have tried to make it difficult on us – myself and other progressives who have joined the Duterte government – opposing or obstructing the reforms that we pushed for and manoeuvring to have us removed, one by one,” Maza added.

Palayan City RTC Branch 40 Judge Evelyn Ancheta Turla issued arrest orders against the four last July 11 stemming from a 2006 double murder charge.

The judge, who told the public prosecutor in July 2008 that the case did not meet her standards, reversed herself and said in an order that she now finds probable cause to proceed with the trial against the four accused.

Casiño said the recycling of such trumped-up charges is part of “a desperate and reckless witch hunt against opposition.”

“This is an attempt to curtail my liberty. And the fact that it is happening under a Duterte-Marcos (family)-Arroyo alliance makes it more frightening,” Casino said.

In his statement, Mariano said he vehemently denies the accusations, saying they are “baseless, malicious and fabricated.”

 ‘It was irregular’

Atty. Rachel Pastores, counsel for the four accused, said the case is pure harassment as the complaint was not even subscribed before a public prosecutor before it was filed.

“The complainants swore before the Philippine National Police and not to a public prosecutor. It was irregular,” Pastores said.

A Cleotilde Peralta and an Isabelita Bayudang alleged Ocampo, Maza, Mariano, Casiño and 18 other activists met in 1998 to plan the assassination of former Bayan Muna (BM) members who have left the party.

Peralta said her husband was ran over and killed in 2001 while Bayudang said her husband was shot to death in 2004 upon orders of the four accused and others.

In 2016, however, Peralta and Bayudang were found liable for damages in a civil suit and were ordered to pay P325,000 to Ocampo by Quezon City RTC Branch 95.

The QC RTC said Peralta and Bayudang lied when they alleged BM was already existing in 1998 when it was in fact created only in 2000.

Peralta and Bayudang’s petition to have Bayan Muna disqualified using the same allegations was also dismissed by the Commission on Elections in 2008.

Reconsideration, remedies

Pastores said that Turla’s decision is wrong, more so that no additional information has been introduced to the case.

“We will avail of all legal remedies. We will file a motion for reconsideration,” Pastores said.

Speaking for the Makabayan bloc, ACT Teachers Representative Antonio Tinio warned of darker times ahead.

“This is a classic GMA [Arroyo] move when she was in power. And it is being revived now that she is back in power. Darker times are indeed ahead,” Tinio said.

Former BM Representative Neri Colmenares for his part called on “the professional witnesses” to not allow themselves to be used by the military.

“Time will come you will be dropped by the military and your handlers, like what happened when the court decided that you pay damages to Satur Ocampo and others,” Colmenares said.

Colmenares also called on Duterte to order the dismissal of the case through the Department of Justice.

Panawagan kay Presidente, pwede bang maghunus-dili ka muna?” Colmenares said. (I call on the President, can you please calm down for a moment?) # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Congress mangled BBL, critics say

Critics have slammed the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) measures passed by both Houses of Congress, saying these fail to recognize the Bangsamoro’s right to self-determination.

In separate statements, Suara Bangsamoro and Bayan Muna have dismissed the approved versions of the bills at the House of Representatives and the Senate as a betrayal of the Bangsamoro people’s long-running struggle for justice and autonomy.

The House of Representative passed HB 6475 Wednesday while the Senate passed Thursday Senate Bill 1717 a few days after President Rodrigo Duterte has finally certified the bills as urgent.

“This milquetoast [submissive one] that they are passing off as BBL leaves the Bangsamoro with no control over the resources of the area they define as our autonomous area,” Suara Bangsamoro national chairperson Jerome Aba said.

“Just like in the ARMM (Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao Law), this BBL appoints the new Bangsamoro political entity to facilitate the wholesale selling of our territories and natural resources to foreign corporations under the guise of bringing growth and development to Bangsamoro areas,” Aba said.

In his speech explaining his rejection of the House of Representatives version of the BBL, Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Isagani Zarate said he could not vote for a measure that is full of compromises.

“This latest and watered-down proposed BBL is unacceptable. This Substituted HB 6475 does away with all the efforts to push for the Bangsamoro’s right to self-determination in the face of many limitations imposed by the government,” Zarate said.

Zarate added many provisions of the version submitted to Congress by the Bangsamoro Transition Council were deleted or changed.

“These include the downgrading of their territory to an autonomous region in the Bangsamoro, instead of simply ‘Bangsamoro’; the [bill’s] use of ‘geographical area’ instead of territory; and the conduct of plebiscites in the additional territory,” Zarate explained.

The Mindanaoan legislator added the deletion of the Bangsamoro’s exclusive control over power and energy, natural resources, public utilities, Bangsamoro police, and many others are also very important issues.

“The Substituted HB 6475 does not answer the Bangsamoro’s aspiration for their right to self-determination and genuine autonomy. This measure deserves to be opposed,” Zarate said.

Suara Bangsamo said it supports calls made by Makabayan bloc at the House of Representatives to truly scrutinize the contents of the present BBL and called on their compatriots to oppose provisions they say compromise the fight of the Moro people for self-determination.

“As the government continue to disregard Moro people’s struggle for the right to self-determination, it is in the hands of Moro people to continue to fight for genuine right to self-determination,” Aba said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Makabayan bloc proposes Filipino citizenship for Sr Pat

The Makabayan bloc in the House of Representative has filed a bill proposing to make a nun under threat of being deported a Filipino citizen.

The parties that include Bayan Muna, ACT Teachers’ Party. Gabriela Women’s Party, Kabataan and Anakpawis said Sr Patricia Fox of the Notre Dame of Sion said she deserves Filipino citizenship for giving a big part of her life to poor Filipinos.

“Congress has granted Filipino citizenship to foreigners who donated schools or multi-purpose halls to Filipino communities, but Sr Pat gave countless Filipino farmers and indigenous peoples a big part of her life,” Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Isagani Zarate said.

“It is but right for us Filipinos to recognize this and show our appreciation by making her one of us Filipinos,” Zarate said.

Fox, an Australian missionary in the Philippines has been in the country in the past 27 years, one time becoming the Central Luzon coordinator of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines.

Her congregation was invited to conduct missionary work in the country by the late Prelature of Infanta Bishop Julio X. Labayen.

Fox incurred the ire of President Rodrigo Duterte by participating in a fact-finding mission in Mindanao earlier this year that documented human rights violations under martial law in the island.

She has since been arrested by the Bureau of Immigration and subsequently ordered to leave the country. She won a reprieve from the Department of Justice that said the order must be investigated further.

In asking Congress to grant Fox Filipino citizenship, Makabayan said the nun was accepted by the local communities she served and treated as one of their own.

“Instead of prosecuting and deporting Sr Pat through false charges, the government should instead recognize and acknowledge her sacrifices in almost three decades of her selfless service to the Filipino people,” Zarate said.

Zarate added that their bill is a response to the call of many farmers, fisherfolk and indigenous people whose lives were touched and helped by the nun. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

 

KMU urges DOLE to ‘immediately regularize’ workers on contractual list

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) must enforce its regularization orders instead of simply coming out with lists of companies practicing contractualization, militant labor federation Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) challenged the agency.

Reacting to the DOLE revelation that some of the country’s biggest companies are among the top implementors of the illegal contractualization scheme, KMU said the list may only grow longer without foreceful implementation of President Rodrigo Duterte’s Executive Order 51 banning labor-only contracting in many industries.

“In the first place, many names on the list came from the workers who filed them with DOLE. What we need to see now are final and executory orders for regularization of contractual workers,” KMU chairperson Elmer Labog said.

‘Contractualization kings’

In a press conference Monday, DOLE revealed a total of 3,377 companies were found to be engaged and suspected to be engaged in labor-only contracting arrangements based on its initial list of non-compliant establishments.

“We are now providing you the top 20 non-complaint companies according to the number of workers that need to be regularized, from a list of 3,377 non-compliant establishments involving 224,852 workers from various parts of the country,” Bello said.

Among the top violators include giant Jollibee Food Corporation with 14,960 affected workers, followed by the Dole Philippines, Inc., with 10,521 affected workers, and the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT) with 8,310 affected workers.

DOLE also identified Philsaga Mining Corporation with 6,624 affected workers; General Tuna Corporation with 5,216; Sumi Phils Wiring System Corporation with 4,305; Franklin Baker Inc., with 3,400; Philipinas Kyohritsu with 3,161; Furukawa Automotive System Phil. Inc., with 2,863; and the Magnolia Inc., with 2,248 affected workers.

KCC Property Holdings, Inc., with 1,802 affected workers; Sumifru Philippines , Corp. with 1,687; Hinatuan Mining Corporation with 1,673; KCC Mall De Zamboanga with 1,598; Brother Industries (Philippines) Inc., with1,582; Philippine Airlines and PAL Express with 1,483; Nidec Precision Philippines Corporation with 1,400; Peter Paul Phil. Corporation with 1,362; Dolefil Upper Valley Cooperations with 1,183; and the SOLE-Stanfilco with 1,131 affected workers are also included in the preliminary list DOLE submitted to Malacanan Palace last May 25, 2018.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said the list was culled from the result of inspections of 99,526 establishments from June 2016 to April 2018.

DOLE said the list was just an initial report, considering the labor inspections covered only a fraction of more than 900,000 establishments nationwide.

Bello said SM Malls were not included in the list as it has already submitted a voluntarily regularization program, which targets an estimated 10,000 regularized workers by the end of 2018.

DOLE Department Order No. 174 prohibits labor–only contracting, which exist when the contractor merely recruits, supplies or places workers to perform a job for a principal under employment arrangements designed to circumvent the right of workers to security of tenure.

DOLE said a total of 176,286 workers have been regularized as of May 11, 2018 through the intensified labor enforcement system of the labor department.

‘Let it not stay a list’

KMU however said DOLE’s list will only grow longer without a more forceful and sustained implementation of regularization orders.

“In the case of PLDT, there were only about 7,400 contractual workers when KMU and Kilos Na Manggagawa filed a complaint with DOLE earlier. Now, it is saying there are already 8,310 affected workers. If DOLE does not enforce regularization orders, the numbers will only increase,” Labog said.

“Now that they have a list, it should not stay merely as a list. DOLE must immediately issue and enforce regularization orders for these workers,” Labog added.

KMU said that should DOLE’s list does not translate to the regularization of its number of affected workers, it becomes another mere palliative to the lack of a wage increase in the midst of runaway price increases of basic commodities and services due to the Duterte government’s tax measures.

KMU added it supports House Bill 7787 for a national minimum wage law filed by the Makabayan bloc at the House of Representatives Monday. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)