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Espina-Varona wins international award for journalists

A Filipino won one of the most prestigious global awards for journalists for her resistance to “financial, political, economic or religious pressures or because of the values and rules that enable them to resist” in reporting on issues that are sensitive in the Philippines.

Cited for her many reports on child prostitution, violence against women, LGBT (lesbians, gay, bisexual and transgenders) issues and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in Mindanao, veteran journalist Inday Espina-Varona was awarded the Prize for Independence by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in London Thursday, November 8.

In her acceptance speech, Espina-Varona shared the honor with her “embattled Philippine colleagues: the 185 killed since the 1986 restoration of a fragile, perpetually threatened democracy, 12 of them in the first two years of President Rodrigo Duterte’s rule.”

“This is also for colleagues who face death threats, vilification campaigns, and revocation of access to coverage, for doing what journalists are supposed to do — questioning official acts and claims, especially on issues of human rights and corruption,” she added.

Varona said other threats are more insidious — like having journalists becoming witnesses to cases filed by cops in the aftermath of raids, practically a quid pro quo for continued access to police operations.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) is launching the “Sign Against The Sign” campaign to repeal the law that fuels the practice today in Quezon City.

“There is another grave problem we face: the proposed draconian changes to the law that would make terrorists of practically all critics of the government and make journalists and media accessories whenever we give voice to persons and groups the government deems ‘terrorist’ — practically all dissenters,” Espina-Varona added.

She said she is proud of Philippine journalism, of colleagues who probe not only the effects of growing autocracy, but also the roots of social woes that allowed a false messiah to bedazzle Filipinos.

“If I am independent, it is because there are colleagues and fellow citizens who fight for rights and freedoms, who refuse to be silent in the face of thousands of murders and other injustices, who fight on despite threats, arrests and torture, whose words and deeds speak from beyond the grave,” Espina-Varona said.

“Filipino journalists are brave because we come after the many who showed courage over hundreds of years. And we are brave because our people are brave,” she added.

Espina-Varona said Filipino journalists cannot let the Filipino people down, nor allow them to forget the country’s dark past as well as their triumph against it.

The NUJP congratulated Espina-Varona for the award in a statement Friday, thanking its former president for recognizing the role independent Filipino journalists played in defending and advancing the Filipino people’s rights and liberties.

The NUJP also thanked the awardee for her recognition of journalists who defend democracy “despite the dangers they face, not least from the very forces supposedly sworn to protect and preserve our freedoms.” # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Int’l group launches book on Philippine community broadcasting

ENTEBBE, Uganda–The International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT) launched a book on community radio broadcasting in the Philippines, narrating its nearly three-decade history and laying down the challenges it faces in one of the most dangerous countries for journalists in the world.

Entitled Amplifying the People’s Voices: The Philippine Community Radio Experience and Challenges, the 72-page book was launched by its President Violet Gonda and Philippine Chapter head Jola Diones-Mamangun in Kampala, Uganda during the group’s regional conference.

The book chronologically narrates how community radio broadcasting in the Philippines started in the 1990s as well as the problems it faces to this day.

Produced for IAWRT by its Philippine chapter, the book also recounts how current broadcasting laws in the country make it difficult for low-power radio stations to acquire franchises and licenses from government institutions.

Gonda said radio is one of the oldest and important forms of media in communications.

“A number of our members represent the various tiers of radio – public, private and community. The Philippine chapter has been pioneering a project, the Mobile Disaster Radio, which is the need of the hour – with the problems of climate change, regular cyclones, floods, earthquakes and tsunamis which have become a part of our life,” Gonda said.

“This project targets vulnerable communities to prepare them better for the unseen disasters, from risk to preparednes. It began in 2014, and  is giving voice to the voiceless and empowering women to be prepared and reduce loss to lives and properties,” she added.

Through IAWRT funding, the chapter has managed to set up transmitters in the most disaster prone communities and provided computers, cables, mobile phone units for the reporters and training and mentoring exercises to empower the local communities in various provinces in the Visayas region.

The book recalls how one of the first community radio stations, Radyo Cagayano, was attacked and burned by unknown persons, suspected to be members of the Philippine Army, in 2006, setting back the planned establishment of more stations by several years.

The Philippines is deemed by Reporters Without Borders, the International Federation of Journalists and other global media groups as among the most dangerous countries for journalists, with 184 media workers killed since the supposed return of democracy in the country in 1986.

The majority of media workers killed are provincial broadcasters, as the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines said in several of its reports.

However, Diones-Mamangun, also IAWRT International treasurer and Kodao Productions executive director, said the book is less about the campaign’s problems but more about its successes despite overwhelming odds.

“We want this book’s readers to realize that whatever successes the community broadcasting movement in the Philippines has achieved are due to the communities’ determination to tell their own stories through radio,” Diones-Mamangun said.

“The lesson here is that community radio broadcasting will never happen without the communities themselves.”

Gonda added that IAWRT is happy to have published a community radio handbook to share the group’s journey and for its to learn from experiences.

“There could be no better place than Uganda to release this publication as there is a strong presence of community radio here,” Gonda said.

Aside from Diones-Mamangun, the Philippine delegation to the Uganda conference include IAWRT Philippine chapter vice president Prof. Lynda Garcia and members Walkie Mirana and Lady Ann Salem. #

‘Sobra ang dagok’

“Dati, itong pechay-baguio, ang kuha namin ay nasa P90 lang. Ngayon, nasa P150 na. ‘Yung repolyo, dati P80. Ngayon, P180 na. Sobrang laki ang itinaas, kaya sobra rin ang nararamdaman namin na dagok.”–Mang Ricky, tindero ng gulay, Sitio San Roque, Quezon City

Philippine TRAIN wreck

By Luis V. Teodoro

Living in the Philippines has always been challenging and difficult for many Filipinos. But never since the Marcos dictatorship has it been more dangerous than today for Lumad, dissenters, women, human rights defenders and the poor.

In response to life’s daily perils, some 20 percent of the population — or roughly 20 million men and women of the over 100 million residents of these isles of uncertainty — want to leave. These numbers are in addition to the nearly 11 million Filipinos scattered all over the globe from Angola to Zanzibar, of whom 47 percent are permanent immigrants, and 43 percent Overseas FilipinoWorkers (OFWs), according to data from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).

But it isn’t just construction workers, seamen, nannies, and domestics who’re heading for the nearest airport — and who were most likely among the thousands whose flights were canceled or delayed because of the 38-hour shutdown of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) last weekend.

Engineers, doctors, nurses, teachers, even lawyers and other professionals are also among them. In the mid-1980s, the surge in the number of Filipinos leaving for alien shores alarmed those who saw in the exodus the irreparable loss not only of the brains but also of the brawn that are both crucial to the country’s development.

In the 1990s, the alarm turned into condemnation of those abandoning the country of their birth, accusing them of being unpatriotic and of being solely focused on earning as much as they could.

The critics ignored the fact that for many OFWs, working in another country had become, and still is, a matter of survival, there being hardly any job opportunities at home that would assure them and their families lives of dignity in a society that over the decades has become more and more impoverished.

As for professionals, some do leave in search of relative luxury abroad. But others are also in search of the certainty, order and predictability of life that are absent in the Philippines, which in their minds would assure their children brighter futures. The meritocracy that governs the professions and trades in developed countries — the system based on the principle that what you know rather than who you know should decide personal advancement — is also among the lures of emigration. Filipinos generally excel in other climes, thereby proving that it is the system they’re born into that hinders both their advancement and the realization of their potentials.

The long and the short of it is the common conviction that being elsewhere is preferable to being here. “Here” is the Philippines, where, despite its having been under fascist rule from 1972 to 1986 and being once again under a despotic regime, the trains still don’t run on time. (The trains’ supposedly being on time, the fascist government of Italy’s Benito Mussolini claimed during World War II, was symbolic of the efficiency of the dictatorship.)

The Philippines is instead rapidly turning into a total disaster, a metaphorical train wreck whose brutal reality is pushing even more and more Filipinos into leaving for whatever country will accept them as workers or immigrants — or at least enable them to evade being deported as undocumented aliens.

TRAIN, the Tax Reform Acceleration and Inclusion law and the unprecedented surge of inflation in its wake that has almost literally made prime commodities worth their weight in gold, are not the only components of that wreck. Above it all is the gross inefficiency, incompetence, corruption, violence, and sheer madness that’s endemic in what passes for governance today.

The monopoly of a handful of families since Commonwealth days, political power has been used to keep those few in pelf and privilege in the seven decades since their United States patron recognized Philippine independence in 1946. Every administration since then has been run by the dynasties earlier “trained in self- government” by the US colonial regime and later nurtured and protected by their US patrons. Every one of them has been committed to keeping the country the way it has always been for over a century: a backward agricultural country and a US economic, political, cultural and military dependency.

Rather than address the poverty and its attendant ills rooted in the semi-feudal and semi-colonial character of Philippine society, they use and have always used State violence and repression against the movements, individuals and groups that have tried to work for the changes that have eluded this country and its people for centuries. The rebellions, uprisings and revolutionary wars that have haunted Philippine society for over 300 years are the consequences of both the reality of poverty and injustice as well as of the repression the ruling cliques — whether Spanish, American or Filipino — have used in response to the demand for the democratization of political power.

Since its collapse, the Marcos terror regime (1965-1986) had seemed the worst expression of the dynasts’ limitless appetite for power and plunder. But at least two of its successor regimes have come close to challenging that dictatorship’s dubious distinction.

The Macapagal-Arroyo regime (2001-2010) tried, but despite its sordid human rights and scandal-ridden record, didn’t quite make it as a Marcos regime clone during the near-decade it was in power. Instead, it is the current regime that in the brief span of twenty-five months is well on the way to becoming a worse version of the Marcos kleptocracy.

Not only has his regime amassed a record of human rights violations way above that of Ferdinand Marcos’ 19-year occupancy of Malacanang. President Rodrigo Duterte is also presiding over the complete return to power of the Marcoses via the siblings “Imee” and “Bongbong” and their unrepentant kin and cronies. In patent violation of the Constitution, Mr. Duterte has gone as far as to express his preference for the latter rather than for Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo to succeed him should he resign, and to even invite a military junta to seize State power to prevent a Constitutional succession.

But it’s far from surprising. The regime’s lawlessness and contempt for the Constitution are by now close to the stuff of legend. The Duterte police force, acting above the law and with total impunity, has slaughtered thousands including women and children in the course of the selective “war” on illegal drugs, and arrested and detained thousands more for such “offenses” as loitering, some of whom have been killed while in custody.

Should he survive the remaining four years of his term, Mr. Duterte is likely to be prosecuted before the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity. But before the advent of that moment of historical retribution, the regime war against the poor and the future is continuing to ravage entire communities.

The debasement of democratic discourse he has achieved through his rants, profanities, ravings and encouragement of hate speech and the use of State violence against dissenters and regime critics has made the reform of Philippine society through peaceful means impossible. Instead of the sustainable peace he promised the electorate in 2016, the country today has never been more divided and in peril of even worse conflicts since Ferdinand Marcos erected a dictatorship on the ruins of the Republic.

Only the willfully blind, the intellectually dishonest, and the mercenary will mistake for progress the ruin of Philippine society Mr. Duterte and company have completed. More and more Filipinos are thus leaving for foreign lands, compelled by need and concern for the future to look elsewhere in this planet for a refuge from the terrors of the man-made disaster the country has become.

First published in BusinessWorld. Photo from PCOO.

Pahayag ng mga pamilya ng mga biktima ng Ampatuan Massacre tungkol sa panandaliang paglaya ni Zaldy Ampatuan

Agosto 23, 2018

Kaming mga naiwang pamilya ng 32 mamamahayag na kabilang sa 58 kataong walang awang pinaslang sa Ampatuan massacre noong November 23, 2009, ay kinokondena ang naging desisyon ng Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 na payagang makalabas ng kulungan at dumalo sa kasal ng kanyang anak ang isa sa mga akusado na si Zaldy Ampatuan.

Labis na nagdurugo ang aming mga puso at sumasabog sa galit ang aming mga damdamin sa pagsasawalang bahala na ito ng korte sa aming mga asawa, anak, kapatid at kaanak na hanggang ngayo’y nagdadalamhati halos siyam na taon na matapos ang pinakabrutal na insidente ng pamamaslang ng mga mamamahayag sa kasaysayan.

Isang insultong hindi katanggap-tanggap para sa amin na malaman na ang isa sa mga nagplano ng karumal-dumal na krimen ay makalalanghap ng hangin ng kalayaan kahit sa maikling panahon para makasama ang kanyang pamilya, isang bagay na habambuhay na ipinagkait sa amin.

Ang mas nakalulungkot dito ay hindi namin ito inasahan at walang nagpaabot sa amin ng impormasyon na dumulog sa korte si Zaldy Ampatuan para umapela na bigyan siya ng permisong dumalo sa isang kasalan. Kung nalaman agad namin ito, hinding-hindi namin ito palalampasin at mahigpit itong tututulan.

Kaya ang tanong namin sa aming tagapagtanggol: Sino ba ang inyong kinakatawan sa kasong ito?

Tanong din namin sa korte: Patas at makatarungan ba na bigyan si Zaldy Ampatuan ng pribilehiyong hindi makamit ng ibang presong may mas magagaang na kaso? Makaaasa pa ba kami ng katarungan para sa aming mga mahal sa buhay?

Sana ay maunawaan kami sakaling may nasaling sa paglabas ng aming nga hinanaing tungkol sa tinatakbo ng kaso. Pero matapos ang siyam na taon at wala pang naparurusahan isa man sa mga maysala, aaminin namin na ang aming tiwala sa sistema ng hustisya ay lubos na nasusubok.

Pagkatapos ng masaker, tinaya ng mga eksperto na aabutin ng sampung taon o isang dekada bago may maparusahan sa krimen na ito. Nalalapit na ang panahon na iyon pero ang pagkamit ng hustisya ay nananatiling mailap.

Sa halos isang dekadang inaasam-asam namin ang katarungan ang bubungad sa amin ay ang pribilehiyong tinamasa niya. Ano ang dapat naming maramdaman?

Sa mga humahawak ng kaso, huwag naman po ninyo paglaruan ang kaso dahil hindi po nakakatuwa.

Reference:

Grace Morales
Asawa ni Rosell Morales ng News Focus 6
Tagapagsalita, Justice Now!

 

Continuous war against the poor

LETTER TO THE EDITOR

August 14, 2018

As the Congress approves House Bill 7735 or the Rice Tariffication Bill on third and final hearing, the Philippine Network of Food Security Programmes, Inc. (PNFSP) expresses its strong indignation as it will definitely not address the root cause of continuous food insecurity, rice shortage and worsening poverty in the country. The bill is systematically, mechanically and logically favorable to domestic and international rice cartel operators. It will further exploit the already exploited Filipino farmers and fishermen by forcing them to produce big bulk of rice, meat and fish just to meet global dictum and for importation which are all within the mechanism of HB 7735.

The House Bill 7735 has an intention to put safety nets for Filipino rice producers by imposing tariffs in lieu of quantitative restrictions on rice imports including fish and meat. It was pursued in line with President Duterte’s order to the Congress last July 23 to immediately pass the measure which targets to arrest inflation for at least 1% thus, minimally affecting the reduction of commodity prices. Though the bill mandates the National Food Authority as the sole authority to undertake the direct importation of rice for the purpose of ensuring food security and maintaining sufficient national buffer stocks, there’s no big assurance for common Filipinos to have food security due to neo-liberal agreements signed by the past administration.

The Rice Tariffication Bill will remove tough government control in all agricultural commodities and will oblige our domestic market to join and spend unnecessary resources to global rice market and competition. It will be a burden to all Filipinos especially the 60 million poorest of the poor families because of the high possibility of price increase on all basic commodities like rice, fish, meat, canned goods, vegetables, bread, etc. due to bloating rice import and unstable status of the global market which was further intensified and legalized by the TRAIN Law. In a country where landlessness, joblessness and homelessness are proliferating, the bill will not be of help to the majority of Filipinos. It will lead to farmer’s bankruptcy, drowning in debt and displacement from their lands. It will put farmers at a disadvantage situation especially that the government have minimal support to our rice producers.

In order to address poverty, food shortage and inflation, it is very timely to pass the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill for it has the capacity to uplift the lives of the poor majority Filipinos. Rural aid like free water irrigation, free calamity subsidy, post-harvest facility, agrarian mechanization and boosting of local market. Land conversion must stop because it contributes to the unceasing decrease of tillable land which affects the annual productivity rate of agriculture including aquaculture that shakes our food security.

Lastly, we want to reiterate that the right to safe, healthy and sustainable food system is a basic and universal human right which the Philippine government must abide with. There is no need to pass the Rice Tariffication Bill including the TRABAHO Bill for it is not favorable to all common Filipinos both in public and private sector. We must act and pray that the Senate will hear and consider our intention.

 

RENMIN VIZCONDE

Executive Director, Philippine Network of Food Security Programmes, Inc.

Cordillerans to launch #DEFENDCORDILLERA campaign on IP Day

Activists will commemorate International Day of the Worlds’ Indigenous Peoples (IPs) on Thursday, August 9, in Baguio City to call for a stop to intensified attacks, plunder of ancestral land and resources, militarization, and the criminalization of indigenous human rights defenders,

In a press conference in the said city Monday, August 6, the Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA) said different forms of protest activities will be held in the city, including the launch of an internationally coordinated social media campaign and a cultural and protest march to be attended by indigenous peoples from around the country and abroad.

CPA Secretary General Bestang Dekdeken said that this year’s World’s IP Day will be observed against the backdrop of intensified tyranny, criminalization, harassment and political killings of indigenous human rights defenders in the region.

She said they will drumbeat the killing of anti-dam activist Ricardo Mayumi, the filing of trumped-up cases against five Cordillera women development workers and human rights defenders as well as innocent civilians, and the the terrorist proscription of seven past and present leaders of the CPA as among the issues on Thursday.

The militarization and bombings of communities resisting development aggression, the intensified surveillance and harassment of the offices of regional and provincial IP organizations are included in their campaign, she added.

“Widespread terror against the indigenous peoples is unleashed by the government forces in connivance with big corporations to silence the strong opposition against development aggression or attacks on land, life and rights,” Dekdeken said.

The CPA also accused the Rodrigo Duterte government of being in cahoots with the mining and energy corporationsto destroy our ancestral lands and attack the indigenous peoples, with the help of foreign loans.

“The intensified militarization of communities such as in Besao, Mountain Province is resulting in human rights violations, including trumped-up charges against innocent civilians Edmond and Saturnino Dazon, and disruption of peoples’ livelihood,” Dekdeken added.

Members of the Women Resist Tyranny, meanwhile, expressed alarm over “intensified attacks” against human rights defenders in the Cordilleras.

Jeanette Ribaya-Cawiding, one of the seven CPA leaders named in a DOJ proscription list released last February, said that women activists and development workers have been at the receiving end of various trumped-up charges since last year.

This, she says, made it more difficult for the delivery of basic social services, projects and campaigns in remote communities which has suffered government neglect for too long now.

“What women development workers are guilty of is having the courage to fight for our children and our kakailian against the evils that try trespass our ancestral lands. We are guilty of carrying on the fight of the brave Kalinga, Ina Petra and Bontoc women who opposed the Chico dam, the women of Abra who fought the operation of Cellophil Resources in Abra, and the all the women warriors of Cordillera who resist national oppression,” Cawiding said.

The CPA shall launched its social media campaign dubbed #DEFENDCORDILLERA from August 8 to 10.

They said they enjoin the support of all Igorots around the world and advocates of indigenous peoples rights to post, write and share their solidarity through their social media accounts.

On thursday, a protest cultural march to Baguio’s Malcolm Square will also be held by mostly indigenous groups from all the six provinces of the region and Baguio City. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Rice tariffication to impoverish Filipino farmers more, Congress warned

Research group IBON raised concern over the current move by the House of Representatives (HOR) to lift the quantitative restrictions (QR) on rice imports and instead apply a 35 percent tariff on unlimited rice importation.

This will practically decrease farm gate prices, said IBON, but not necessarily lower retail rice prices as government claims.

Rice prices have increased for six straight months in 2018 – by Php2.53 from Php37.83 to Php40.36 for regular milled rice and by Php1.61 from Php42.58 to Php44.19 for well milled rice.

Consequently, government called for additional importation ahead of the schedule for the minimum access volume (MAV), a commitment under the World Trade Organization (WTO), and for Congress to rush the rice tariffication bill to lower the price of rice and ensure support for farmers.

IBON however said that as it is, the prevailing farm gate price of Php21 does not provide sufficient income from the farmers’ average production cost of Php12 per kilo.

Computing the average yield of 80 cavans of palay from one hectare, which is equivalent to 4,000 kilos, the rice farmer earns only Php36,000 until the next cropping.

Each cropping commonly lasts for six months, which means that the farmer’s average monthly income of Php6,000 is 76 percent short of the estimated monthly family living wage (FLW) of Php25,454 for a family of five.

If higher importation will decrease farm gate prices, the already insufficient income of farmers will fall further, IBON said.

Retail prices, on the other hand, will not likely automatically go down with increased rice imports that supposedly stabilize supply.

The years of highest importation are also the years of highest price increases, IBON observed.

For instance, when rice retail prices increased by Php7.99 per kilo during the rice crisis in 2008, the country was already importing an average of 1.8 million metric tons (MMT) for three years, an unprecedented volume since 2000s.

When the country imported even more at a yearly average of 2.2 MMT from 2008-2010, retail prices continued to increase by an annual average of Php1.20 until 2016.

The farmers are themselves rice consumers, IBON said, and will be affected badly by lower income yet continuously increasing rice retail prices.

The group added that Congress may be misguided for placing hopes on unlimited rice importation for stabilizing supply and prices while the rice industry remains dominated by an alleged trading cartel that dictates rice prices. #

‘Cha-cha’ to worsen PH ruin, says group

By Melvin Gascon

Environment groups on Monday expressed concern over the proposed charter change by the Duterte government, saying the draft federal constitution bodes danger for the environment.

In a statement, Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment rejected the bid to change the constitution and replace it with one that would supposedly allow foreigners and political dynasties to gain full control of the exploitation of the country’s mineral resources.

“We resoundingly reject Duterte’s Cha-cha which would only open up more of our natural resources, lands, and coastal areas to 100-percent privatization and foreign ownership,” said Leon Dulce, Kalikasan national coordinator.

Kalikasan cited provisions in the draft constitution which supposedly removed the exclusive right of Filipino-owned companies to exploit the country’s natural resources.

Under a proposed federal system of government, natural resources will supposedly be under the control of regional republics, which, Dulce said, will most surely fall into the hands of the regions’ political dynasties.

Only worse’

The group thumbed down the government’s ongoing efforts to address ecological problems, saying these were “not commensurate” with the rate of environmental destruction the country is facing.

On the contrary, the Duterte government is “encouraging policies which threaten to exacerbate these losses,” Kalikasan said.

The group also challenged the government to protest the reported destruction by Chinese fishermen of corals and other marine resources in the West Philippine Sea.

“We are with the 80 percent of the Filipino people opposed to the Duterte regime’s continuing inaction over China’s continuing occupation and reclamation efforts in our water (and the) 90 percent of Filipinos who strongly believe retaking the reefs and shoals turned into islands are on just grounds,” Kalikasan said.

They slammed the Duterte government’s centerpiece of its environmental programs, the rehabilitation of Boracay island, as “a fake program”, as this was carried out with no concrete strategic plans.

“No concrete action has been taken on the still-permitted mega-casinos and big resorts, and attempts at independent investigations into the island’s situation are being prevented,” Dulce said.

Kalikasan also assailed the alleged failure of President Duterte to make good his promise to make erring mining companies liable for their violations against the country’s environmental laws.

“Duterte’s hogwash rants against the big mines are being contradicted by the actions of his own Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) which is set to reopen and allow to operate at least 24 of the 28 big mines supposedly up for closure or suspension,” they said.

“More and more people will get to see for whom this regime indeed stands for: the mining oligarchs at the helm of his own (members of) Congress and Cabinet,” Kalikasan added. #