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UNCHR reports high level of internal displacement in PH

The United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) tagged the Philippines as among the countries with high levels of internally displaced persons (IDPs) by the end of 2018.

In its Global Trends Forced Displacement report, the international agency said that the Philippines has as many as 212,600 victims of forced internal displacement “due to armed conflict, generalized violence and human rights violations.”

While not listed in the report as among the 10 countries with the highest number of IDPs, the Philippines have been included in the worst 11 to 20 countries since 1980.

The UNCHR defines IDPs as people or groups of people who have been forced to leave their homes or places of habitual residence, in particular as a result of or in order to avoid the effects of armed conflict, situations of generalized violence, violations of human rights, or natural or man-made disasters, and who have not crossed an international border.

UNHCR’s 2018 report, however, only included IDPs who fled conflicts and those “suffering IDP-like situations.”

The agency said that an estimated 41.3 million people were internally displaced all over the world, according to estimates from its Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC).

This is an increase on the 40.0 million reported in 2017.

“The small declines of the previous years were reversed and the internally displaced population in 2018 was the largest ever reported by IDMC,” the UNCHR said.

The agency maintains an office in the Philippines

Militarization and IDPs

Local human rights group Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights told Kodao that IDPs in the Philippines are victims of militarization.

“Their displacement from their homes and communities are due to military operations. Most of the victims are peasants, indigenous peoples, and Moro peoples,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said.

Palabay said Karapatan for its part has documented 449,284 victims of forced evacuations from July 2016 to March 2019.

‘Persons of concern’

The UN report also cited in its “persons of concern” category that about 80,000 Filipino Muslims went to live abroad.

“As in previous years, Filipino Muslims (80,000) who settled in Malaysia’s Sabah state were reported as ‘others of concern’ by Malaysia, the report said.

“Persons of concern” refers to individuals to whom UNHCR has extended its protection and assistance services based on humanitarian or other special grounds. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Lower official poverty estimates don’t mean less poor Filipinos — IBON

Research group IBON said lower reported official poverty estimates for the first semester of 2018 unfortunately do not necessarily mean that the country’s poverty situation is improving.

The group observed that standard of living allowed by the official poverty line is very low and grossly underestimates the real number of poor Filipinos.

Unless corrected, it gives a misleading picture of the conditions of millions of poor Filipinos and hinders the country’s anti-poverty efforts, IBON said.

The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported the proportion of supposedly poor Filipinos as falling to 21.0% in the first semester of 2018 or to just 23.1 million poor Filipinos.

This is a seemingly marked improvement from the reported 27.6% poverty incidence and 28.8 million poor Filipinos in the same period in 2015.

The proportion and number of poor families likewise also fell.

IBON observed however that the supposed improvement is based on a daily per capita poverty threshold averaging just some Php69.50 nationwide and a daily per capita subsistence or food threshold of only some Php48.60 in the first semester of 2018.

These are grossly underestimated thresholds that do not meet decent minimum standards for food, shelter, transportation, utilities, health care and education, the research group said.

The research group urged economic planners to review the official methodology in poverty estimation.

The subsistence and poverty thresholds are in dire need of updating and upgrading according to more decent standards, IBON said.

The PSA estimates the poverty threshold by first computing a subsistence or food threshold and then mechanically multiplying this by a factor of around 1.43 to get the poverty threshold.

These are both problematic, IBON added.

The subsistence food basket is estimated using so-called ‘least cost’ and ‘revealed preference’ approaches.

 These result in an extremely cheap food menu, which, while technically meeting bare nutritional requirements, is not just sorely lacking in variety but also only hypothetically available for families, IBON said.

The research group observed furthermore that the crude multiplier applied to calculate non-food items is also unacceptable.

This method does not calculate a budget for meeting families’ other needs for shelter, transportation, utilities, health care and education.

It is then unable to account for rising costs of housing, public transport, water, electricity, medical treatment and medicines, and schooling.

The research group pointed out that IBON estimates on Family Income and Expenditure (FIES) data in 2015 revealed that that the poorest 50% or 11.4 million families had monthly incomes of just Php15,000 or less and the poorest 60% or 13.6 million families just some Php18,000 or less.

These estimates at around those income levels would give a better picture of the real state of deprivation of tens of millions of Filipinos than current official poverty statistics, IBON said.

The choice of official poverty lines is a political one, IBON said.

Setting a high standard indicates the government having a high level of ambition for poverty eradication.

Conversely, setting a low standard indicates low targets for dealing with the poverty situation.

Government, however has chosen the latter, which results in tens of millions of Filipinos not meeting minimum standards of well-being and hidden behind unrealistic official poverty statistics, IBON concluded. #

Beware of onerous China ODA – IBON

In its eagerness to raise billions of pesos in funds for its hyped infrastructure program, the Duterte administration is brokering questionable deals with China that could threaten Philippine sovereignty, research group IBON warned.

IBON said that agreements between both governments include China’s official development assistance (ODA) loans for Build, Build, Build infrastructure project like the Php12.2 billion New Centennial Water Source-Kaliwa Dam, which will be 85 percent funded by China.

The Duterte administration needs Php8.4 trillion for its whole term to bankroll Build, Build, Build, said the group, and is apparently counting on China to provide a substantial amount of this.

IBON said the size and value of China investments, loans and interest is not yet as extensive as those of other countries like Japan and the US, or financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank (WB).

However, Filipinos should be particularly wary of the onerous conditions China imposes, which could result in the Philippines virtually giving up its sovereignty, said the group.

For instance, China ODA has been known to stipulate the collaterization of resources and state assets should a country default on its loan payments, noted the group.

The Sri Lankan government, for instance, was forced to lease its strategic Hambantota Port for 99 years to a Chinese company when it was unable to pay back its debt to China.

IBON also noted that another lopsided condition terms of reference in China loans that require the agreement as well as the rights and obligations of both parties be put beyond the scope of Philippine laws and transparency in the public domain. China apparently prefers disputes to be settled at the China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission (CIETAC).

These conditions are included in the Chico River Pump Irrigation loan agreement.

Additionally, IBON questioned the provision in the loan agreement stating that it “shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of China.”

The group expressed concern that this could mean that Chinese law will supersede Philippine law in case there is a conflict between the two.

Also of concern is the Duterte administration’s willingness to give up its territorial resources in the South China Sea to secure China investments and loans, the group said.

In line with this is the administration’s efforts to be a part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which supposedly gives access to coveted infrastructure investments.

In exchange, the Philippines has been easing the way for China’s interests in the disputed waters.

IBON said that instead of prioritizing the attraction of one-sided foreign investments and loans for its infrastructure program, the government should put national interest and public welfare first over local and foreign big business interests.

To be beneficial to the country, foreign investments and loans that are being considered should be planned in accordance with the genuine development of domestic agriculture and industries, with close monitoring and regulation by the government. #

Protest greets Xi Jinping visit

Various groups held a mass action at the Chinese consulate in Makati City last Tuesday (November 20) to denounce the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping as they expressed outrage against the Rodrigo Duterte government for its subservience to the Chinese government.

The Pilipinong Nagkakaisa Para sa Soberanya o P1NAS called Duterte a traitor to the Pilipino people as it pointed out that his government is virtually surrendering Philippine territory in the West Philippine Sea to China.

Even after losing in an international tribunal that determined the disputed areas are part of the Philippine exclusive economic zone three years ago, China refuses to recognize the decision  proceeded to militarize some islands.

China’s presence in the area includes so-called “ joint development” schemes with the Duterte government seen as a  weakening of the Philippine claims.

In the said rally, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) expressed concern that Duterte’s economic deals with China may push the Philippines under deeper debt.

In his visit to the Philippines, Xi took home 29 agreements, including an understanding on joint oil exploration in the West Philippine Sea and the construction of mega dams, including the Chico River Pump Irrigation, the New Centennial  Water Source Kaliwa Project, and the Agus-Pulangi Mega Dam project.

Indigenous peoples earlier raised fears that the China-ODA projects will cause their displacement from their lands and livelihood.

“Pawning our lands to an imperialist country like China is a serious crime that may lead to ethnocide,” Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas said. # (Joseph Cuevas)

THE STATE OF PHILIPPINE MEDIA

Relentless Attacks And Threats

Online, On Ground, Across the Nation

23 November 2018

 

 By the Freedom for Media, Freedom for All Network

Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR),

National Union of Journalists of the Philippines,

Philippine Press Institute (PPI),

MindaNews, and

Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ)

ATTACKS AND THREATS against the Philippine media — acute and creeping, online and offline, deadly and debilitating — continue to rise under the administration of President Rodrigo R. Duterte.

In the 28 months of the Duterte presidency, or from July 1, 2016 to Oct. 31, 2018, we have documented at least 99 such cases of direct and indirect assaults against journalists and news media agencies.

Separately and together, these continue to put at risk and serious peril the practice of independent journalism in what had hitherto been hailed to be one of Asia’s freest and most rambunctious press.

This latest figure, 99 in all, is bigger than the 85 cases that we have documented until April 30, 2018, or in the first 22 months of Duterte. But in the succeeding six months, more of the more dreadful cases had occurred.

Three more journalists had been killed — for a total of 12 under the Duterte presidency’s 28-month rule. From July 1, 2016 to last May 1, nine journalists had been killed in the line of duty.

Just as worrisome, the count of other cases of attacks on media freedom had also marked increases. For instance:

* Online harassment cases had risen from 14 to 17;

* Slay attempts, from 6 to 7 cases;

* Verbal assault or threat (mostly from public officials), from one to five cases;

* Arrests, from zero to three cases; and

* One more case of intimidation (from 5 to 6) and one more case of physical assault (from 4 to 5), had also been recorded in the last six months.

An aggregate 11 cases of threat by SMS or text messaging, and five cases of verbal threat have also happened in the 28 months of Duterte.

One more cyber libel case had been filed, bringing the new total to four, from three last May.

However, the 16 libel cases recorded as of last May have thinned to 12 by end-October 2018, on account of the dismissal or resolution of four cases.

In sum, the 99 cases of attacks and threats in the 28 months of the Duterte presidency consist of:

  • Online harassment, 17 cases;
  • Killing, 12;
  • Libel, 12;
  • Threat by SMS, 11;
  • Slay attempt, 7;
  • Intimidation 6;
  • Verbal threat/assault, 5;
  • Physical assault, 5;
  • Website attack, 4;
  • Cyber libel, 4;
  • Arrest, 3;
  • Corporation-related case, 3;
  • Barred from coverage, 3;
  • Physical harassment, 3;
  • Article takedown, 2;
  • Strafing/shooting incident, 2;

By alleged perpetrator or suspect, it is most significant that nearly half or 44 of the cases involved state agents or public officials.

They include 13 local government officials; 11 officers of the Philippine National Police; 6 national government officials; three officers each of the Presidential Security Group and of the Armed Forces of the Philippines; two cases each involving, ironically, an official of the Presidential Special Task Force on Media Killings (PTFOMS) and of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, and one case involving the director of the Philippine Information Agency.

Apart from the state agents/agencies, the other alleged perpetrators or suspects behind the attacks and threats follow:

  • Online partisan trolls, 16;
  • Still unidentified, 14;
  • Private citizen, 12;
  • Anonymous caller, 7;
  • Unknown attacker (website), 4;
  • No data, 1; and
  • Alleged NPA, 1.

 By gender, 59 cases targeted male journalists and 23 female journalists. Another 17 cases were directed at media organizations.

By platform, 33 cases involved journalists and agencies from radio; 30 online media; 23 print media; 11 television networks; 1 photojournalist; and 1 multimedia journalist.

By islands of the country, 66 cases were recorded in Luzon, 12 in the Visayas, and 21 in Mindanao.

By regions of the country, the spread of the cases follows:

  • NCR (Metro Manila), 41 cases;
  • Region III (Central Luzon), 8;
  • Region XIII (CARAGA), 7;
  • Region V (Bicol Region), 6;
  • Region VIII (Eastern Visayas), 5;
  • Region XI (Davao Region), 5;
  • Region IV-A (Calabarzon), 5;
  • Region IX (Western Mindanao), 5;
  • Region I (Ilocos Region), 4;
  • Region XII (SOCCKSARGEN), 4;
  • Region VI (Western Visayas), 4;
  • Region VII (Central Visayas), 3; and
  • CAR (Cordillera Administrative Region), 2.

 Imperatives: Unity, vigilance, action

All around the world, the decline of democracy may have muted the voices protesting attacks and threats against the press and journalists. Indeed in some countries governments have gained support for reining in and restraining the press, even regulating and controlling its practice.

The prospects for press freedom and citizen support for journalists are endangered in a period of rising authoritarianism. Citizens have been misled to support the ascent of autocratic leaders promising quick solutions to embedded ills. Citizens have been made to believe that the democratic experiment has failed; thus a new order must be created where the people’s interests come first, even at the sacrifice of inalienable freedoms.

Recent Philippine history shows that popular submission to a regime of control and acceptance of the suspension of basic civil and political rights, including the freedom of the press and expression, have led to serious repercussions, not least of which are a treasury beggared by crony capitalism, an educational system in shambles, and a press intimidated into silence that has kept the public ignorant of the true state of the nation.

In over two years of the Duterte administration, Filipinos have once again played along with the seductive pledge of quick fixes. But democratic development is a slow process, and can be exhausting.

Sadly, the press is confronted once again with multiple challenges:  a beleaguered state of affairs entails full discourse on issues of governance, the wayward conduct of certain public officials and state agencies that require close scrutiny, their failures investigated, and accountability and responsibility clearly defined.

The news media are central to the capability of a national community to think out these problems, with leaders in constant conversation not just amongst themselves; but openly analyzing and explaining what these issues involve and what can be done to move to fair and speedy action and solutions.

Journalists must commit to learning more about the background of the news in order to more faithfully report, or interpret the meaning of what is happening.

Yet still, the culture of impunity, the failed observance of human rights by state agents; the vulnerability of journalists to legal threats or worse, lies, to a great extent within the ambit of the courts; the application of rules and procedures that delay justice; the bias of these procedures for the rich accused of crimes on display by officers of the law; the richly paid legal eagles drawn into service of defending those with the means to afford their extravagant fees, linger in our midst.

Journalists, unlike government officials are not sworn into office, but the practice is based on a sacred trust — protected by no less than the Constitution — to provide the news and information that the people need to know about, with analysis and interpretation so citizens can make sense of what is going on and formulate sound judgments and decisions.

The restoration of democracy in the years that followed the fall of the Marcos dictatorship have gathered advocates around the task of protecting and defending press freedom and the safety and welfare of journalists.

But today under the Duterte administration, never has so much darkness hovered over the prospects of free and independent journalism since the democratic recovery of 1986.

How does the media react to this?

It goes timid or it joins the side where political power resides, receiving extra compensation for its efforts. We do not deny the corruption has been an effective silencer of the news that citizens need to know.

Sadly, the observation has been made that the news media has been intimidated into silence on so many issues. There remains, however, a great many journalists who continue to report on stories that may put their lives in danger.

Those who have joined in the collective resolve to stand up and insist on the freedom to report, on the free flow of information, not just for journalists but for all citizens;  those who speak on behalf of those who are attacked and threatened, besieged, and beleaguered, must learn to work together, gaining strength from one another!

Today, the ninth anniversary of the Ampatauan Massacre of Nov. 23, 2009, we call on Filipinos to support press freedom and to come to the defense of those in media who struggle working within the narrowing space and time, to counter false narratives and disinformation, and to check the abuse of power.

Even in small measures, the exercise of freedom strengthens and nurtures the human spirit, invigorate the energies that will empower citizens to speak truth to power. Hope springs from in the power of truth to make us all informed and free.

In a similarly distressing time, journalists need to reach out to one another and build alliances so they can altogether secure the channels and platforms for truth.

That struggle must acknowledge the perils of the exercise, but also the great power of solidarity and sustained defense of press freedom and the people’s right to know.

The victims of attacks and threats against media freedom may be fewer than the other victims of violence in Philippine society today. But these target and weaken the institution that provides and sustains for all citizens the conversation about issues that matter, and upholds the integrity of political communication, without which the press cannot check the abuse of power.

And so we must work to keep a record of lives lost, or rights denied or diminished, of access limited or eliminated, of attacks and threats that rob us of our peace, safety, and freedoms.

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!