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People’s SONA 2015

LARAWAN: SONA ng Bayan 2015

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Commonwealth, Quezon City
July 27, 2015

Streetwise: Aquino’s SONA, what legacy? By Carol Pagaduan-Araullo

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This year’s state-of-the-nation address (SONA) is President BS Aquino’s last.  He is expected to deliver a powerful speech replete with his regime’s achievements for the last 5 years with a summation of the legacy he will leave behind as he winds up his term. The Palace is agog about the Aquino regime’s  so-called “legacy of reforms”.  Speculation is rife, less than a year before the 2016 presidential elections (no doubt stoked by the “yellow” media to dispel the fact of a lame duck president with not much political capital remaining) about who will be his “anointed” to “continue the legacy”.

But the smoke-and-mirrors presidency that this column described upon its inauguration in 2010 has run out of magic tricks especially when it has to make something big out of basically nothing much. All the catchy, folksy slogans, in Filipino even, have boomeranged because they have been unmasked as empty or false and merely calculated to deceive and disarm.

The hard sell is that the Aquino presidency is qualitatively different, especially from the one that preceded it, that of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.  Former president Arroyo is the proverbial whipping girl as far as Mr. Aquino and his coterie are concerned, for all things wrong in government before Mr. Aquino, an erstwhile non-performer in Congress, arrived on the political scene.

But unlike the Arroyo regime that at least saw the successful prosecution and conviction for plunder of Mrs. Arroyo’s predecessor, Joseph “Erap” Estrada, the cases against GMA have either been set aside, dismissed or are languishing in judicial limbo.  The student activists have a term for it: Mr. Aquino has been “Noynoying”, content with keeping GMA under hospital arrest and somewhat constrained from plotting against him, the ends of justice be hanged.

In reality Aquino’s campaign for good governance against abuse of authority, corruption, obstructionism and incompetence have been exposed as mere demagoguery, tokenism, selective prosecution of those in the anti-Aquino Opposition, and sometimes petty vindictiveness sparing the truly accountable from among the “kabarkada, kaklase, kabarilan”. Police General Alan Purisima, Local Government Undersecretary Rico Puno, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, LTO Assistant Secretary Virginia Torres, Budget Secretary Butch Abad and Presidential Peace Adviser Ging Deles come to mind.

The Malacanang propaganda line is that the Aquino regime made a real difference to the hardscrabble lives of the majority of Filipinos.  But the reality is more entrenched poverty and economic backwardness; unprecedented inequality marked by healthy profitmaking for multinational corporations and the local elite; untouched feudal relations in the countryside; auctioning of the national patrimony and unabated environmental destruction.  This in the midst of impressive growth rates, credit-rating upgrades, and high scores in “competitiveness” by foreign and local big business and the World Bank. (For a more comprehensive analysis see “SONA 2015: A Legacy of a Disconnected Economy” http://ibon.org/ibon_features.php?id=517)

The illusion that the Aquino regime has been trying to conjure is that it has championed national sovereignty and defended territorial integrity pointing to the government’s filing of a case in a UN arbitral tribunal and appeals for support in other international venues with regard to the heated West Philippine Sea dispute with China over maritime rights and territory.

The Aquino government’s acquiescence to the lop-sided Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) on top of the obsequious implementation of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) in order to allow the permanent stationing of troops and war materiel and unhampered operations by the US military on Philippine territory (nothing less than the return of US military bases as part of the US “pivot” to the Asia Pacific region) is covered-up as a necessary adjunct to building a “credible external defense”.

The abject lack of an independent foreign policy — in the process placing the country in the crosshairs of the actual and potential enemies of the lone Superpower — is passed off as pragmatism, or worse, an alignment of national interests.  The latter has historically been proven as completely false: from the devastation of World War II brought on by being the lone US colony in the region; to the economic losses, social degradation and political costs of hosting the two biggest US bases outside the US mainland; and to the decrepit and weak state of the Armed Forces of the Philippines under US tutelage — with its long-standing orientation towards counterinsurgency rather than national defense and its hand-me-down equipment purchased at supposed discounts according to the terms of lopsided military assistance pacts.

The big picture moreover shows the surrender of economic sovereignty to the international financial institutions dominated by the US, EU and other advanced capitalist countries, to their governments especially the US, and to the powerful lobby of foreign chambers of commerce in favor of neoliberal policies and programs.  Such policies as liberalization, deregulation, privatization and denationalization akin to the punishing conditions that Greece has recently been placed under have actually been implemented continuously since the late seventies by Philippine governments.
Under Aquino, the Philippine economy and people are further squeezed to favor monopoly capitalist impositions like never before, e.g. regulatory risk guarantees for foreign investors in Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) that go even farther than sovereign guarantees for foreign loans.  What’s more, the refusal of the Aquino regime to support domestic agriculture and build a genuinely Filipino industrial base — the true “sound fundamentals” of a self-reliant economy — is consistent with its subservient economic policies.

The lie that the Aquino has been peddling, with some success in the beginning, is that his “bosses” are the Filipino people, especially the poor and disadvantaged.  But as he readies his last SONA and prepares to exit from Malacanang (no doubt to continue his carefree, bachelor’s pursuits as a privileged scion of big landlords) the main thoroughfare leading to the Batasang Pambansa looks like a war zone fortified with concrete barriers, concertina wire, container vans etc. to be secured by 6,000 strong police force and standby military contingent.

Mr. Aquino’s real bosses have clearly emerged – foreign multinational corporations, the US Superpower, the domestic comprador capitalists (by definition, “agents for foreign organizations engaged in investment, trade, or economic or political exploitation”) and the big landlords.

On the human rights front, Mr. Aquino will not tire of crowing about the law passed to compensate human rights victims of the US-backed Marcos dictatorship, the arrest of the murderous General Jovito Palparan and the counterinsurgency (COIN) program deceptively dubbed “Oplan Bayanihan” that pretends to uphold the pursuit of peace, human rights and development while militarily crushing the “insurgents” and “terrorists”.

Mr. Aquino however will not admit to supporting incessant efforts to deny compensation to Marcos victims that are identified or associated with the local communist-led revolutionary movement; the coddling of the retired Gen. Palparan by the military establishment before and even after his arrest and the climate of impunity that cloaks human rights violators then and now.  Military officials implicated in the torture, disappearance and extrajudicial killings of activists have been promoted and appointed to sensitive and top positions of the defense establishment to the chagrin of the families of their victims and human rights defenders.

Gross and grievous violations of human rights under the aegis of Oplan Bayanihan, the hallmark of all COIN programs, are now papered over with references to “human security”, “whole-of-nation” approach, etc. and are even peddled as the military’s contribution to community development.  But the effect on the communities of indigenous peoples, landless farmers and farm workers is the same: massive displacement with entire families evacuating from their homes to escape militarization; extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances; and illegal arrests with prolonged detention on the basis of trumped-up charges in connection with the ongoing armed conflict.

Most recently, there is the stepped-up and brazen harassment of activists, union organizers in the private and public sector, progressive church people and even health professionals coupled with the filing of a slew of baseless criminal charges in the months leading up to Mr. Aquino’s SONA.  Alarmingly, charges such as human trafficking, illegal detention and the violation of children’s rights, etc. in connection with the sanctuary and support given to lumad evacuees fleeing military and paramilitary violence are being used to justify violent assaults on church institutions and personnel as what happened last week in Davao City.

Mr. Aquino is trying mightily to salvage the GPH-MILF peace negotiations (after the Mamasapano fiasco) by pushing for the passage of a version of the Bangsamoro Basic Law that has little resemblance to the terms of political settlement the two parties had already reached and hold little promise for achieving the aspirations of the Bangsamoro for self-determination.

He is also trying to pass off as his peace program what in truth is his program to defeat the CPP/NPA/NDFP militarily — with a huge dose of psychological warfare and the targeting of non-combatants for “neutralization” — in order to make completely unfounded claims of leaving behind the legacy of “a just and lasting peace”.

What Aquino leaves behind is a bloody human rights record, peace agreements reneged upon, and promises broken.   Indeed it is a legacy of more unjust war against a people rising up to assert their democratic rights; to defend themselves from elite depredation and state terrorism; from imperialist plunder and war. #

Published in Business World
27 July 2015

Of Trials and Tribulations in the Time of Tempest

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(File photo: “patapos na”| January 2015)

The recent Findings and Conclusions of the International Peoples’ Tribunal (IPT) credibly adjudging President BS Aquino and his government guilty of rights violations lay further basis for him to face the music when he steps down. It validates what the people want: justice and accountability, self-evident principles the traditional legal fora have basically failed to deliver.

Thus, the clear and present danger is not a yearly rally by the discontented and disgusted hoi polloi during the alas final State of the Nation Address by the chief lord of a fascist government but the denial of a basic right to peaceably assemble, the exercise of which has been proven over the course of history to make things happen for the good of the oppressed and exploited many.

So when the Ombudsman has after  a long wait finally indicted the epitome of impunity  in the person of Gen. Palparan in another horrible case of rights violations, it is more of an indictment of our justice system even as we grudgingly welcome it anyway. Yet this will never salvage President Aquino for his own crimes against the people.

So he can still run his last year in office on either of these choices: ride it through, remain stubborn and out of touch. Or he can mitigate his accountability by rethinking, nay just thinking, of what good he can really do to the people. Keep it simple, sir. #

 

National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers
Press Statement
24 July 2015

Karapatan to BS Aquino: Hindi ka namin malilimutan

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(File photo | February 2015 | Kodao Productions)

SONA 2015

The 2,000 soldiers, 4,000 police, K-9 units aside from the concrete barriers are expected to block the protesters on Monday, BS Aquino’s last State of the Nation Address (SONA).  “The state forces will try to defend the indefensible president whose crimes against the Filipino people are worth a thousand lifetimes in jail. The SONA overkill security preparations are indications of a regime that is scared witless of the people’s defiance and actions,” said Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay.

“The president is a hard core criminal. He wilfully commits one crime after another and then lies to his teeth in public, just as we expect him to do during the SONA,” Palabay said.

However BS Aquino packaged his loop of unproductive lies, he will always be remembered as a certified fascist.  As of June 2015, Aquino is accountable for the 262 victims of extrajudicial killings and 293 victims of frustrated extrajudicial killings; 27 victims of enforced disappearances; 125 cases of torture; and 771 cases of illegal arrests and detention; and for the 537 political prisoners.

BS Aquino will always be remembered for the illegal arrest of Andrea Rosal and the death of her two-day old baby Diona; for the illegal arrest of Miradel Torres who gave birth to a baby boy while in detention and as the boy grows up in harsh conditions in jail.

BS Aquino will always be remembered as a saboteur of and a double crosser in the peace talks between the GPH and the National Democratic Front; for his gross violations of the signed agreements between the two parties; for arresting peace consultants by charging them with criminal offenses; for his disinterest in truly solving the roots of the armed conflict and in finding the way to genuine peace.

BS Aquino will always be remembered for his love for the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo generals—for coddling Palparan at Camp Bonifacio, for placing murderous generals Año, Baladad, Visaya, Iriberri at the top positions;

BS Aquino will always be remembered for the kilometric queue of people waiting to ride the MRT/LRT only to crush at the track’s end; for the parking lot that is EDSA; for the bloody demolition of urban poor shanties; for the unending price hikes of basic commodities; and for the privatization of the government hospitals such as the Orthopaedic Hospital.

BS Aquino will always be remembered for his failure to provide decent jobs and wages that drives away Mary Jane Velosos to foreign lands and for workers to make do with meagre salaries and unsafe and inhuman working conditions; and the peasants who are still struggling for a piece of land to till.

BS Aquino will always be remembered for the congressional and presidential pork that is also used to oil its killing machine; by spending billions of pesos to fund paramilitary groups, and engage in psy-war projects such as the PAMANA in a bid to coopt and silence the people perceived as enemies.

BS Aquino will always be remembered for the criminal neglect of the victims of typhoons and disasters, for the wasted relief supplies, for the rehabilitation projects that never were. BS Aquino will always be remembered for the death of Marcelo Monterona, Felix Basig, Cristina Jose, Gildegardo Hernandez, Jefferson Custodio—all typhoon survivors and relief workers who organized themselves to collectively rehabilitate their communities and rebuild their lives without the government’s help.

BS Aquino will always be remembered as the President who put 44 of his own men in a suicide mission and pretended not know anything about it to save his master, the Obama government and his BFF Gen. Alan Purisima.

BS Aquino will always be remembered for the re-colonization of the Philippines through the the lopsided Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement (EDCA). The EDCA, signed by US and GPH government aims to put deploy more US soldiers, war materiel and weapons inside the Philippine territory. BS Aquino will always be remembered as our country is dragged into the US wars of intervention all-over the world.

Through his five years, BS Aquino is full-proof “Impunity King” and a war monger, who shows no sign of let-up in the use of violence against the people.

“This is Aquino’s tuwid na daan, and we will remember,” said Palabay. “At the day’s end, we will remember.  We will not forget Aquino’s tuwid na daan. With less than a year in office, BS Aquino deserves nothing from the Filipino people but defiance.”

LCPEA-AHW: Daang nakamamatay, hindi tuwid na daan

IMG_6719Nagpiket ang mga manggagawang pangkalusugan sa harap ng Lung Center of the Philippines (LCP) para ihayag ang mariing pagtutol sa planong pagtatayo ng kalsada sa loob mismo ng LCP. Ayon kay Eleazar Sobinsky, pangulo ng Lung Center of the Philippines Employees Association – Alliance of Health Workers (LCPEA-AHW), “Hindi makatuwiran na maglagay pa ng kalsada sa loob mismo ng compound ng hospital dahil napapaligiran na kami ng maraming kalsada. Ang usok na lilikhain ng mga sasakyan na dadaan sa loob ng compound ay tiyak na makasasama sa kalusugan ng mga pasyenteng may sakit sa baga na nagpapagamot sa LCP.”

Ang planong pagtatayo ng kalsada ay inaprubahan daw ng Pangulong Noynoy Aquino sa ilalim ng Quezon City Central Business District Road Network Plan at ipatutupad bago pa umalis sa pwesto ang pangulo.

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Nanawagan naman ang Alliance of Health Workers sa mga pamilyang dumadalaw sa ospital na sumama sa “SONA ng bayan” kasabay ng huling SONA ng pangulo sa July 27 para samasamang isigaw ang kapabayaan sa programang pangkalusugan ng gobyernong Aquino.

 

Lung Center of the Philippines

July 24, 2015

SONA 2015 | Gov’t boosts anti-rally contraptions along Commonwealth

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Government personnel wearing Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) shirts rearranged and enhanced so-called security contraptions along Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City in preparation for President Benigno Aquino’s last State of the Nation Address.

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Backhoes and trucks transferred “zebra” concrete blocks from the road’s West-bound side to its East-bound side to create two-layered deterrents to protesters expected to fill the area on Monday.

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Steel barriers are placed on top of the first row of concrete blocks topped with newly-installed barbed concertina wires.

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Large steel containers are also placed on U-turn slots to prevent the protesters from transferring to the other side of the road as has been their practice for years.

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The Philippine National Police and the MMDA are expected to block the East-bound side of Commonwealth Avenue with several layers of steel containers to stop tens of thousands of protesters from coming closer to the House of Representatives complex.

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Progressive organizations, human rights groups and media personalities have been protesting these measures as overkill that violate the people’s right to assemble as written in the Philippines’ Bill of Rights under its 1987 Constitution.

The Quezon City government has denied the petition for permit to rally filed earlier by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan).

Batas Pambansa 880 tasks local government units to “ministerially” act on such petitions within three days of submission, after which it is deemed granted if ignored.

Bayan international officer Rita Baua said she could not recall of any instance that contraptions of such enormity were erected even under Martial Law.

“It’s only under the so-called Daang Matuwid that we see such viciousness and blatant disregard of the people’s right to assemble,” Baua said. #

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(Photos and text by Raymund B. Villanueva)

Big rally set for Aquino’s final SONA


Various groups and critics of the regime are preparing to mount another big rally on the sixth and final State of the Nation Address of President Benigno Aquino III on July 27. Carrying different issues and grievances, this year’s SONA rally will sum-up the more than five years of the Aquino regime.

“For Aquino, the SONA will be his way of trumpeting his so-called achievements to justify the continuation of the already discredited daang matuwid. It will be his last time to use the annual platform in an attempt to fool the public. For the people, Aquino’s final SONA is an event to raise the most pressing issues and hold the regime accountable,” said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr.

“The President now seems to be more concerned with maneuvering for 2016 than in addressing the problems of the people. Aquino wants the people to forget his many crimes of corruption, puppetry, human rights violations, and all-around neglect of the poor. Aquino is busy finding ways for his party’s presidential bet to win in 2016 and thus protect him from prosecution when his term expires. For example, what kind of a president calls for a meeting on politics and 2016 in the middle of a storm?” Reyes added.

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