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BAYAN to BBM: Do not let PH be another Ukraine

‘US puppet Zelensky led his country to war against Russia’

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) urged President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to protect the Philippines from becoming another Ukraine, a casualty in another proxy war by the United States of America (USA) against its rivals.

In a statement on President Marcos’ meeting with Ukranian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday, the group said it is against the national interests of the Philippines to be drawn into a shooting war between the USA and China in the manner that Ukraine is a “mere pawn” between the rivalry between the North American superpower and Russia.

Marcos met with Zelensky at Malacanan Palace on June 3 when the latter thanked the Philippine government for its pro-Ukraine statements since the start of the conflict in February 2022.

Zelensky followed Marcos to Manila after their mutual attendance at the Shangrila Dialogue in Singapore to seek stronger support for Ukraine in its ongoing and long-drawn war against Russia.

The European head of state also invited Marcos to attend a pro-Ukraine event to be held in Switzerland in the future.

Marcos for his part told Zelensky his government would extend whatever it could to Ukraine.

Bayan however said the US-controlled North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is to blame for the war between Ukraine and Russia.

“NATO expansion in Ukraine was among the factors that escalated the conflict,” Bayan said.

The Minsk Agreement of 1991, co-signed by Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, dissolved the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and stipulated assurances from the US, NATO and Western powers that former Warsaw Pact member countries would not be made NATO members that would threaten Russia along its borders.

NATO however has added 16 new member states since then, many of which border with Russia and have undergone political turmoil seen as encouraged by Western powers such as the US.

Zelensky’s government has applied for NATO membership that analysts said was among the reasons for Russia’s offensive against Ukraine.

Bayan said US and China are engaged in a similar inter-imperialist rivalry with the West Philippine Sea (WPS) as battle ground.

“We should by now learn from the experience of Ukraine. We should be wary of being a US pawn, and should reject all attempts at making the Philippines a US military outpost,” Bayan president Renato Reyes said.

“If the Ukraine experience teaches us anything, US war provocations and escalation of tensions will not be in our national interest. The Filipino people demand an end to US bases and troops and China’s aggressive actions,” Reyes added.

Bayan said the WPS should be immediately demilitarized and all forms of imperialist domination should end.

The group said the Philippines must stand up to China in the latter’s aggression in the region but must also reject US war provocations and escalation of conflict. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Colmenares urges repeal of VAT and excise tax on fuel to lower prices

Senatorial candidate Neri Colmenares presented five proposals to mitigate effects of rising oil prices he blames not just on the crisis in Eastern Europe but on government’s high taxes on petroleum products.

Colmenares, chairperson of the Makabayan block of progressive parties, said they have long proposed the five measures in response to the oil crisis that are likely to very soon affect prices of essential goods as well.

Colmenares said the first proposal is for the immediate repeal of the value added tax (VAT) and excise tax imposed on fuel that would result to an average relief of P27 per liter.

“We have done away with the VAT on water supplied by Manila Water and Maynilad; we must follow suit with fuel,” he said.

The second proposal is to unbundle oil prices, Colmenares said, that would provide for transparency in the pricing of petroleum products by the oil companies.

“By seeing where every peso spent per litter goes, we can easily check for overpricing and market abuse. This proposal is contained in House Bill No. 10386,” he added.

The senatorial candidate said the next three proposals are:

• The repeal of the Oil Deregulation Law and enactment of a new policy framework to ensure that oil prices are within reasonable costs and regulated, as contained in House Bill No. 4711;

• The buy-back of Petron to provide the public with a state-owned alternative to acquire oil and petroleum products, as contained in House Bill No. 244. Ramon Ang has already expressed willingness to sell Petron; thus, the Government must take on this offer and seek a just take-over of the company;

• The establishment of a National Petroleum Exchange Corporation to serve as the central import and distribution hub of oil and petroleum products, ensuring lower prices through economies of scale and helping oversee oil prices in the market, as contained in House Bill No. 4712.

Colmenares’ proposals came after prices increased for the 10th straight week last Tuesday by at least P3 per liter on gasoline and nearly P6 per liter on diesel, bringing prices to about P80 and P60 per liter, respectively.

The recent hikes in oil prices are the highest in more than a decade, pushing transport groups to hold protest rallies calling on the government to stop the increases.

Earlier, energy secretary Alfonso Cusi warned that gasoline prices may reach to about P100 per liter if the conflict between Ukraine and the Russian Federation is not immediately resolved.

Colmenares said the Philippine government does not have its hands tied in dealing with rising fuel costs and must act with urgency to cushion the country from the crisis.

“We can overcome this crisis if the government would stop imposing burdensome taxes and implement enough regulation on the oil industry,” Colmenares said Filipino.

No reason to hike prices yet

Meanwhile, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) said in a separate statement that oil companies have no reason to increase prices as a result of the conflict in Eastern Europe.

“The current automatic price adjustments under deregulation are unjust because these are driven by market speculation and because the current inventory of the big oil companies were purchased at a much lower price yet will be sold at a much higher price,” BAYAN secretary general Renato Reyes said.

Reyes also criticizd the refusal of the oil companies to make a full disclosure of their pricing mechanisms.

“The pricing by the oil cartel is untransparent because oil companies refuse to unbundle the price components of their products,” he said.

Reyes added is is unjust that government profits from the people’s misery brought about by high taxes on the already overpriced oil products, including a 12% VAT and excise taxes.

Reyes said that BAYAN’s demands the removal or suspension on huge taxes on oil products such as the excise tax and VAT as well as the imposition of strict regulations on the industry “in light of market speculation, overpricing and utter lack of transparency in pricing.”

“The people can no longer bear the oppression by government and the oil companies. The government should act now to lower oil prices or face more protests from the people,” he said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Comelec’s Guanzon calls on all fellow commissioners to resign

Commissioner Rowena Guanzon challenged all collegues in the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to resign following her allegations that another commissioner is being influenced by a high government official to delay the release of the resolution on the petition to disqualify former Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. from the presidential race.

In a gathering at the Manila Cathedral on Monday morning, the commissioner said, “Sirang-sira na kayo riyan. Sabay-sabay tayong mag-resign ngayon!” (You are all comprised. Let us all resign now!)

Guanzon added that her duty is to protect the public from disqualified candidates .

The gathering coincided with Guanzon’s deadline to fellow Comelec Commissioner Aimee Ferolino to submit her draft of the First Division’s decision on the petition to disqualify Marcos Jr. as presidential candidate.

Guanzon is First Division chief and the supervising commissioner of the hearings on the petition.

The feisty commissioner earlier revealed that Fedelino is unduly delaying the division’s decision, alleging further that a nationally-elected official is exerting influence on her colleague.

Guanzon explained that if the decision is released after she has retired on Wednesday, February 2, her vote to disqualify Marcos would be nullified.

She revealed last Friday that her vote was to disqualify Marcos Jr. on the grounds of moral turpitude, having been convicted twice of tax evasion.

Guanzon added that Marcos Jr. has not paid the penalty for his crimes with the Quezon City Regional Trial Court, paying other kinds of arrears instead with the Bureau of Internal Revenue through the Landbank.

Fedelino on the other hand wrote last Friday to Comelec chairperson Sheriff Abbas, asserting there was no delay in the release of the resolution.

Fedelino explained that the lawyer assigned to write the resolution had been sick with the corona virus.

She also denied Guanzon’s claim that the original deadline for the resolution was January 17.

Popular sentiment among cause-oriented groups favor Guanzon, however.

‘Stand with Guanzon’

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) said it stands with Guanzon in disqualifying Marcos as well as her decision to reveal the delay in the release of the poll body’s decision on the said petition.

“Commissioner Guanzon is right to disqualify Marcos from the presidential race. She is also right to assert her vote amid the obvious efforts to delay the release of the resolution until she retires and her vote is excluded. We stand with Commissioner Guanzon in her fight to ensure the integrity of the Comelec,” Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said.

In a statement, Bayan said it supports calls for an investigation the on the high government official alleged to be influencing the poll body.

“Why is there no outrage nor alarm in the Comelec? Why is there no probe up to now? If the Comelec can be influenced this way in favor of Marcos, what does that say of its impartiality in presiding over the elections?” Reyes asked.

Bayan said not since the “Hello Garci” incident involving former President Gloria Arroyo has the Comelec faced such a serious crisis, now that one of its own has cried foul over maneuverings that seemingly favor a candidate.

“We call on the Comelec First Division to issue the resolution. We call on the Comelec to investigate the politician allegedly trying to influence the Comelec. We call in the public to stand with Commissioner Guanzon,” Bayan pressed. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Senate reveals more questionable Pharmally deals

Controversial medical equipment supplier Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp. bagged more questionable contracts from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), the ongoing investigation by the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee revealed.

At the investigation’s sixth hearing last Monday, September 13, Senator Panfilo Lacson observed that Pharmally may have actually won contracts worth around P12 billion despite having no established record in the business and having only P625,000 in paid up capital when it incorporated in 2019.

Lacson made the observation after Senator Franklin Drilon bared additional P4 billion in test kits contracts were awarded to Pharmally that were not included in the Commission on Audit’s 2020 report flagging questionable transactions between the corporation and the DBM procurement service.

In addition to earlier revelations that Pharmally has bagged more than P8 billion in contracts, Drilon said the following purchase orders were awarded to the company:

  • P300 million worth of KN95 masks at P100 per piece issued on April 23, 2020;
  • P2.88 billion for 41,400 test kits at P69,500 per kit on June 9, 2020;
  • P245.85 million for 312 test kits at P787,968 each on June 10, 2020; and
  • P774.35 million for 17,000 test kits at P45,550 each (no date cited).

“This is not in the COA report. What happened to this?” Drilon asked former DBM undersecretary Christopher Lao who was its procurement service head at the time of the transactions.

While acknowledging that Drilon’s documents may be official DBM records, Lao denied having any idea about the contracts.

Drilon however said Lao himself signed at least two of the contracts.

The Blue Ribbon Committee investigation was triggered by state auditors who revealed “deficiencies” in government spending in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Duterte gov’ts corruption

In his summary of Monday’s hearing, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said Pharmally still has to explain its incredible fortune with the Rodrigo Duterte government.

“Pharmally still could not explain where it got money to pay its Chinese suppliers. The ‘buy now, pay later’ explanation is hard to believe at a time when the demand was highest,” Reyes said.

Reyes rued that former Duterte economic adviser Michael Yang again chose to skip the Senate hearing to explain his role as go-between between Pharmally and the DBM while possibly being the company’s funder.

“One can’t help but ask, is Pharmally, which was underfunded and incapable of manufacturing medical supplies, just Yang’s dummy?” Reyes asked.

Reyes also noted questionable procedures revealed at the Senate hearing, such as “same day deliveries” of overpriced face masks despite the absence of purchase orders.

“DBM-PS was still asking for quotations and here was Pharmally delivering half-a-million face masks within three hours. It looked like a deal was already in the bag,” he said.

Reyes said that instead of spearheading the defense of Yang, the scale of his administration’s corruption during the pandemic should already be obvious to Duterte. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘It is just a sweeping accusation, no different from red-tagging’

“The designation is arbitrary, has no clear standards, with no evidence presented and no specific terrorist acts cited. It is just a sweeping accusation, no different from red-tagging, that violates the rights of those designated. Those listed will also suffer the freezing of their bank accounts, a direct injury. All of this was done without due process.” — Renato Reyes, Secretary-General, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan

Groups: ‘New ECQ is display of gov’t’s incompetence’

Groups condemned government’s announcement of plans to put Metro Manila and and provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Bulacan, and Rizal under the strictest quarantine measure anew.

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) said the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) recommendation to President Rodrigo Duterte for another round of enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) is a display of “never-ending cycle of incompetence.”

“We are going back to ECQ but without the government assurance that there will be increased free mass testing, better contact tracing and increased capacity of our hospitals including more health workers. We are going back to ECQ without the assurance of aid for the economically displaced,” Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said.

Reyes said the IATF recommendation again places the burden and sacrifice squarely on the people.

“We cannot merely rely on lockdowns to stop the spread of COVID. The lockdowns are only supposed to buy government time to beef up the health care system,” Reyes added.

In a Facebook post on March 27, Presidential spokesperson Herminio Roque Jr said the ECQ shall again involve the heightened presence of uniformed personnel to enforce community quarantine protocols.

Curfew shall also be imposed from six o’clock in the evening to five o’clock the next morning.

Nearly 10,000 new cases daily are being reported in the Philippines in the past few days, the worst in the Western Pacific.

Migrante International also scored the announcement, saying the new lockdown measures only show the Duterte government has failed in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

Migrante said the government’s militaristic response is to blame for the country’s failure to check the spread of the virus, including its new variants.

“Kaya po sa pagbabalik ng ECQ sa ating bansa, ang kailangan po natin ngayon ay panagutin ang mga nagkasala, ang mga nagkulang at naging palpak mula nang unang ipatupad ang lockdown noong isang taon,” Migrante International said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

BAYAN, ipinaliwanag ang #DutertePalpak sa pandemya

Ipinaliwanag ni Renato Reyes, pangkalahatang kalihim ng Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN), ang aniya’y maraming kapalpakan ng gubyernong Rodrigo Duterte sa isang taong pagharap ng bansa sa pandemyang coronavirus. Sa harap ng Commission on Human Rights sa Quezon City noong Marso 17, 2021, inilahad ni Reyes ang kawalan ng maayos na sistema sa pagharap sa pandemya na nagdulot ng isang taong nagdurusa ng mamamayan sa mga hakbangin ng pamahalaan. Kabilang dito ang matinding pagbagsak ng ekonomiya, malawakang pagkawala ng trabaho, walang sapat na ayuda sa mga maralita, at patuloy pagdami ng nagkakasakit ng COVID – 19.

‘The killings in Tarlac are part of a pattern of abuse’

“The killings in Tarlac are not isolated incidents but are part of a pattern of abuse and impunity among the police, enabled by the current regime. From the drug war, war on critics, to quarantine enforcement, we reap the horrors today. #StopTheKillingsPH #EndPoliceBrutality”Renato Reyes, Jr., Secretary General, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan

‘Matigas ang ulo niyo!’

By Renato Reyes Jr.

It appears the Duterte regime may extend the lockdown for another two weeks, and then blame the people for it. The developing storyline is that Filipinos are hard-headed and will cause the failure of the quarantine measures. An extension is thus necessary. Martial Law-style implementation is also necessary.

While we recognize there may be difficulties in the proper implementation of the quarantine protocols by some elements, it would be unjust and highly insensitive to blame this solely on the people, especially the poor.

Before accepting hook, line and sinker the Palace excuse, let us all pause for a moment and examine why we find ourselves where we are now in the first place.

It was Malacañang’s slow response to and downplaying of the global health crisis which led to the imposition of severe quarantine measures throughout Luzon and other parts of the Philippines. There was no travel ban at the onset, local transmission happened, and the health system was ill-prepared to handle a crisis.

Let us remind policymakers that when the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) was imposed, there were no plans for public transportation, social protection, relief for affected families and uniformity in the execution of quarantine measures. Local government units (LGUs) were asked to fend for themselves while the regime was busy setting up checkpoints and militarizing the entire ECQ, turning it into a harsh lockdown for the people.

Let us remind policymakers that at the onset, the regime resisted the call for mass testing as well as the positive initiatives of some LGUs to implement health measures. Only after the clamor became so loud that the DOH finally acknowledged the need for mass testing for COVID 19.

Let us remind the people of how the powerful would flaunt quarantine protocols because they felt that they were somehow exempted, thus potentially infecting other people.

Let us remind the regime how it treated the people of San Roque when they sought food and economic aid. They were arrested, charged with so many ridiculous cases and made to pay P15,000 each for bail – when the most reasonable response would have been to just give them food.

Let us continue to point out the fact that the emergency powers did little to speed up the social amelioration program of the government. Up to now, despite the money already allotted, millions still have not received the promised economic support. The list of beneficiaries approved by the DSWD is often less than the list submitted by the LGUs, thus creating problems among administrators and those who are in need.

“Matigas ang ulo niyo!” does not reflect the complex and difficult situation faced by our people. It glosses over government culpability for the crisis and unfairly shifts the blame to the people.

While the ECQ has slowed down the spread of the disease, we have always maintained that it is not enough nor is the lockdown the decisive measure in fighting COVID19. We need mass testing, contact tracing, isolation and treatment of patients. We need to ramp up our health services to accommodate more patients. We need economic support for the people because we cannot expect them to simply stay at home when they are faced with hunger.

We have called on the government to show the people its roadmap and the key indicators for the lifting or modification of the lockdown. How will we move from a state of ECQ to the easing of restrictions as our health system copes with the rising number of COVID19 cases. We supported the recommendations of the University of the Philippines Pandemic Response Team for a modified community quarantine that allows the resumption of economic activity and restores the livelihood of the people.

We cannot simply accept an open-ended or indefinite lockdown that does not address the health and economic needs of the people. We cannot accept laying the blame on people to cover up government inaction, incompetence or gross negligence. We cannot accept heightened military response as the ONLY way to enforce quarantine measures. Whatever happened to “mulat na disiplina” where people follow protocols because they understand what these mean and not because they fear the government? A heightened militarist response invites more abuses in a time when the country is faced with a serious health crisis.

Blaming the people for quarantine woes and difficulties absolves the government of its primary responsibility of effectively fighting COVID19 while protecting the rights and welfare of the people. “Matigas ang ulo niyo!” doesn’t explain away the problems the regime itself should be accountable for. #

The author is the secretary general of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan.