Monday, December 31, 2007

Inside Pakistan

Here's an email i received from my friend Farooq Tariq of the Labor Party Pakistan (LPP) re: the assasination of former PM Benazir Bhutto. Ms. Bhutto died for Pakistan and democracy. World leaders strongly condemned this murderous act of Bhutto, calling it a threat to Pakistan's democracy and an attack on stability in the region. Some Pakistanis do not believe that extremists killed her. God help Pakistan - Alvin

Benazir assassination:
The unprecedented mass reaction

By: Farooq Tariq
Secretary General, Labor Party Pakistan

Pakistan has never seen so many people protesting in streets all over as been the case during the last two days. They were all united across Pakistan to condemn the brutal murder of Benazir Bhutto. The news was heard with a great shock and there was an immediate mass anger erupted in all parts of Pakistan. 28th December was the first day of general strike called by many groups ranging from political parties to various professional groups.

Most of elections posters, banners, flags and bill boards of Pakistan Muslim League (PMLQ) were the first victim of the mass anger. PMLQ is a General Musharaf creation after 1999; a major split of Pakistan Muslim League, The rest is headed by Nawaz Sharif, the former prime minister. PMLQ has been sharing power with General Musharaf after 2002 and is comprised of the most corrupt feudal, capitalists, former army generals and black marketers.

PMLQ had spent billions of these advertising material and all that was gone within few hours of mass reaction. It was very proudly claiming that it has done the home work. The work to remove all these anti people election material was done with utmost sophistication. None of Pakistan Peoples Party or Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz election material was removed.

Then it was the banks mainly in Sind. They were attacked and the buildings were burned in many cities of Sind. Most of ATM machines were destroyed. In some places, people were lucky to bring some money home. Banks had made unprecedented profits during the last few years. There was no free banking any more that was the case earlier from sixties.

Hundreds of private buses were burned in all parts of the country. The fares had gone too high during the Musharaf eight years of rule. There were no more public buses. Most of PMLQ government ministers had their own bus companies and were making huge gains out of mass poverty.

There were also incidents of burning of railway trains in Sind. According to Daily Jang 28 railway stations, 13 railway engines, and seven trains have been burnt resulting over three billion Rupees loss. The rail fares were increased by many folds by Musharaf regime in a bid to reduce the railway losses. It has been partly privatized as well. The whole rail system has collapsed since 27th December night. Thousands of passengers are on the railway stations waiting for restoration. There is no sign of restoration for some days. Pakistan International Airlines PIA and two private airlines, Air Blue and Shaheen Air have cancelled all their domestic flights on the name of “rescheduling”. The staff did not turn up.

Thousands of private cars have been damaged all over Pakistan by the angry mob mainly youth. They were showing their anger on the car companies (mainly Toyota, Suzuki and Honda) unprecedented profits during the last few years. Many leasing companies have robbed the growing middle classes by offering cars with abnormal prices. While the massive majority of population have no more ant subsidized public transport.

The houses and offices of PMLQ politicians, local government’s mayors and administration are the other victims of the mass reaction. They have either been burnt or damaged.

Over 100 people have so far died in the incidents relation to mass protest either by police or by cross firing of different groups during the last 40 hours.

Thousands and thousands have raised slogans against Musharaf regime and American imperialism after the death of Benazir Bhutto. The anger was accumulated during the last eight years and was manifested after this unthinkable incident. This was a response of the masses to the strict implementation of neo liberal agenda which resulted in unprecedented price hike, unemployment and poverty. The anger that was to be shown in boycotting or participating in the elections has come out early after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.

There is a great anti Musharaf consciousness all over. It is been shown in different ways in different part of the country in different degree. The so-called capitalist economical growth under Musharaf has left millions in absolute poverty. There was no Pakistan shining as was propagated by the dictatorship all the times.

The 2007 has been a year of mass awakening. It started with advocate movement after the removal of chief justice of Supreme Court of Pakistan. The chief justice Iftikhar Choudry said a big “No” to resign under pressure by the Generals. He was removed only to be reinstated on 20th July after a massive movement of 80,000 lawyer’s community. They were joined by political activists from almost all political parties but not by the masses. Masses only welcomed the chief justice from the side roads and did not participate in the movement in real terms.

Musharaf got himself elected as president for the second five year term in a “democratic manner” by a parliament elected for one five year term. He was still wearing military uniform when elected as “civilian” president. His theme was “elect me president for the second term and I will take off uniform after taking oath as civilian president”.

The November imposition of martial law on the name of emergency was used to remove the rather independent top judges of Pakistan. It put restrictions on the media and over 10,000 were arrested. Musharaf got himself duly “elected president” and took off uniform after removing the top judges. His hand picked judges gave him all the necessary backing. He was helped in this process by Benazir Bhutto who was forced into in Tariq Ali,s word “forced arranged marriage” by US and British imperialism. In this unholy alliance, every one was cheating everyone with utmost honestly.

The general elections were announced for January 8th and emergency lifted after the large scale repression and removal of independent judiciary. The regime was happy that everything is going according to “plan”. The Pakistan Peoples Party of Benazir Bhutto and Muslim League Nawaz and Quid Azam (PMLQ), the three major parties had agreed to participate in these fraudulent elections. The religious fundamentalist political alliance MMA had split on the question of participation in elections. One major part of MMA had gone to contest elections.

The campaign for and boycott the election had started when the religious fundamentalist stuck and killed Benazir Bhutto on 27th December evening. The “plan” was shattered into pieces. It was big blow to agreed terms and conditions of various participating parties in the elections. It was not a bumper on the road but a total destruction of the road of conciliations and compromises.

The murder of Benazir Bhutto is a double edge sword. While it is big blow to the plans of British and American imperialism, it will also be no celebration for the religious fundamentalist forces. The initial anger has gone against the military regime and its crony politicians. It can go against the both. No party will be able to celebrate the shocking killings.

But Musharaf regime has understood this clearly and now is trying consciously to put the direction of the movement against the religious fundamentalists. Last night on 28th December, in a two hour press conference, a military brigadier, representing the government named Baitullah Mehsud, an Al-Qaeda associate in tribal areas of Pakistan as the one who carried out the attack.

Foolishly he tried his best to prove that Benazir Bhutto is not killed by a bullet but by the lever of sun roof of the bullet proof car while Benazir Bhutto was waving to crowds outside after the bomb blast. What difference it makes, if it is proved that Benazir Bhutto is killed not by the bullet but by another way? Not much.

The military Brigadier explanation did not satisfied the angry journalists who asked him again and again about the connections of secret intelligence agencies of Pakistan with Abdullah Mahsood. The question, that why Mahsood released quietly over 200 Pakistan army men on the day of imposition of emergency, who were kidnapped by his group a week earlier, went unanswered. The military Inter Services Intelligence ISI has long time relationship with the religious fundamentalists groups dating back to Eighties when Imperialists and fundamentalists were close friends.

It is very volatile, unstable, unpredictable, explosive, dangerous, impulsive, fickle and capricious political situation. It never happened before in many years that mass reaction has erupted to this degree.

The general strike was a total success. All roads were empty. No traffic at all. All shops were closed. All industrial and other institutions were completely shut down.

After the initial inhibition to curb the strike, the regime has now issued strict orders to kill anyone on the spot if it is “looting” any thing. It has called the regular army in 16 districts of Sind and paramilitary forces elsewhere in Pakistan.

The regime has so for not postponed the scheduled elections but it is very difficult to hold elections in this situation. Nawaz Muslim League Nawaz and several other political parties have already announced to boycott the fraudulent elections.

Labour Party Pakistan is demanding an immediate resignation of Musharaf dictatorship and forming of an interim government comprising of civil society organizations, trade unions and peasant organizations. This is to hold free and fair general elections under an independent election commission. It is demanding an immediate restoration of top judges and investigations of Benazir and others murder in this and previous bomb blast by these top judges. As part of All Parties Democratic Movement, LPP is supporting a three day general strike and linking it to the overthrow of the military dictatorship. It is asking all parties to reject the general elections fraud on 8th January and not to participate in these elections.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Debt Servicing vs Social Services

Savings from strong peso should be used for services

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. has urged the government to divert or add to the existing budget allocated for social services the savings from the strong peso. The strong showing of peso against the dollar has given government bigger elbowroom in the budget, with some P12 billion in savings, and still counting from over-allocation of debt service which was computed on a higher dollar exchange rate. In a study, the budgetary watchdog Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) reveals an average difference of P12.15 billion between programmed and actual interest payment expenses from 2002 to 2007. The FDC study also shows that P204.62 billion was earmarked for in­terest payments in 2002, but actual pay­ment reached only P185.861 billion.The same trend for debt service payments was shown in subsequent years: P271.53 billion earmarked in 2004 against actual payments of P260.9 billion; P301.69 billion in 2005 against actual payment of P299.8 billion, and P339.99 billion in 2006 against actual payment or P310.1 billion.FDC data revealed that the reduct­ion of interest payments by adjusting the exchange rate to a more realistic level, and by suspending payments for proposed program project loans "would already account for as much as P18.85-billion debt service reduction, about a billion pesos more than the P17.8-billion reduction by the House of Representatives.""Surely, this is more than enough to cover for interest payments for illegitimate debts should negotiation and/or debt condonation fail," the FDC said. The FDC has estimated that actual interest payment will decline by as much as P18.85 billion in 2008 if a more realistic exchange rate will be adopted.Pimentel noted that for 2006, the excess in programmed interest payment expenses even reached as high as P28.9 billion.This year, the government has originally set aside P318.18 billion for interest payment, but budget authorities have scaled down the amount to P303.3 billion due to the peso appreciation.The senator said the government should exercise restraint in appro­priat­ing funds for debt service so as not to sacrifice economic and social services which are always short of funding support. Civil society organizations be­longing to Alternative Budget Initiative recently serenaded the bicameral conference committee on Finance to seriously consider in their delibera­tions of the 2008 budget the proposal to allocate P20 billion more for social expenditures and reduce debt payments. The group, who were wearing Santa hats, sang their demands to the tune of Filipino Christmas songs demanding more funds for education, health, environment and agriculture while appealing for transparency on the deliberation of the General Appropriations Act of 2008. For 2008, Pimentel noted that the government has projected debt-service interest payments at P295.75 billion, of which P109.1 billion will go to foreign lenders and P186.7 billion to domestic lenders.However, Pimentel said the amount allotted for interest payment this year has been computed between P46 up to P48 to the US dollar exchange rate, which was the rate several months ago. The current exchange rate is now below P41.51 to the dollar.

The Manila Times

Thursday, December 27, 2007

World Hunger Is a Staggering Problem

Over a billion people have to live on $1 a day or less (Freedom form hunger)

25,000 lives are lost every day from hunger and poverty; even a bad case of diarrhea can lead to death because of weakness caused by hunger. (United Nations)

More than 800 million people know what it feels like to go to bed hungry; most of them women and children. (United Nations)

Malnutrition causes more than half of all child deaths. (United Nations)

Poor families spend over 70% of their income on food. (An average American family spends just over 10%). (United Nations)

More than 100 million children are stunted physically and mentally from malnutrition, wrecking their chances for a good education and productive future. (United Nations)

Saturday, December 22, 2007


If the president’s popularity were a business, Malacañang would have filed for bankruptcy years ago. Since 1986, no president has languished on the red side of the popularity graph longer than Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has, according to data from the Social Weather Stations (SWS).

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Philippines is 5th deadliest country for media

Many of the media killings that have been documented in the Philippines took place in the provinces and involved police officers and military men. Apart from these killings, there are many incidents of harassment of media workers that remain unreported. The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) members agreed to come up with independent actions to address the killings.
Among other plans, the NUJP agreed to form an investigating committee that will probe into the cases of killings and harassments and to ask Congress to investigate - Alvin

A coalition pushing for the safety of the members of the press worldwide has condemned the rise in the killings of journalists this year that reached 110, or 14 more than the death toll in 2006, and 42 more than the number of fatalities in 2005. “Never before has so many journalists been killed in one year…It is unacceptable. We strongly condemn these acts of violence…Therefore, the year 2007 marked a new deterioration for freedom of the press worldwide" said Blaise Lempen, secretary general of the Press Emblem Campaign (PEC). PEC is a coalition of groups that seeks the adoption of an international emblem for journalists — similar to the symbols used by humanitarian workers under the Red Cross. Based on data from PEC, the Philippines, similar to Afghanistan, ranked fifth in the list of countries that recorded the deadliest year for journalists. Each of the two countries, recorded four killings of journalists in 2007, according to PEC. The coalition said that this year, Iraq remained as the most dangerous country for journalists with 50 deaths, followed by Somalia with eight fatalities. Sri Lanka ranked third with seven deaths, while Pakistan is fourth with five victims. Meanwhile Haiti, Columbia, and Mexico were sixth, with 3 journalists killed in each country. Nepal, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea, India, and Guatemala were all in the seventh place with two journalists killed in each country. On the eighth, with one journalist killed in each country are the following: Honduras, Uzbekistan, Salvador, Burma/Myanmar, United States, Paraguay, Gaza, Zimbabwe, Russia, Peru, Brazil, Ghana, and Turkey.PEC said majority of journalists killed were those covering conflict zones. It said 69 of the 110 killed were in these zones, particularly in Iraq, Sri Lanka, Somalia, and Afghanistan. Lempen said the increase in the number of victims among journalists “is directly linked to the coverage of major conflict marked by grave human rights violations of major dimensions."The coalition said that in other situations, journalists were targeted because of their political opinion. PEC cited the cases of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaia killed last year in October, and others like Hrant Dink killed January 19 this year in Istanbul, Turkey; Edward Chikombo killed in April 2007 in Zimbabwe;Francois Latour who died on 23 May, 2007 in Port-au Prince (Haiti); Serge Maheshe, of Radio Okapi, on 13 June, 2007 in Bukavu, the DRC; and the Japanese reporter Kenji Nagai, on 27 September 2007 in Rangoun during the peaceful demonstrations that were followed by a brutal crackdown. - GMANews.TV

Monday, December 17, 2007

Pass Cheaper Medicines Bill Now!

Senior citizens in the Philippines pay more for their medicine than seniors in any other countries in Asia. The monopoly of large pharmaceutical companies is the culprit behind the exorbitant price of medicines in the country. Congress should pass the measure on cheaper medicines to break this monopoly and to improve access to essential drugs for the benefit of our people. Any further delay in the enactment and implementation of the bill would do more harm on public health. - Alvin

Pharmas waging a proxy war against cheaper medicines bill

AKBAYAN Rep. Risa Hontiveros said today that despite the uncharacteristic silence of multinational pharmaceutical companies on the cheaper medicines bill, they appear to be waging a proxy war inside the House of Representatives.

“We want to have the bill approved before the Christmas break, but there are killer amendments to the committee report that without doubt would benefit the big bad pharmas,” Rep. Hontiveros said. “The last three session days before the Christmas break would be a battleground to strip the bill of its essence, and wittingly or unwittingly, some amendments coincide with the interests of pharmas and would in effect water down the bill.”

“The soul of the cheaper medicines bill is the set of amendments to the Intellectual Property Code (IPC), and that’s the target of pharmaceutical companies because its inclusion would hurt their multi-million profits,” said Rep. Hontiveros, principal author of three bills that revise the IPC, amend the Generics law, and introduce price regulation through PhilHealth. “The bill would not work at all without these amendments.”

But she added that the proponents of the bill would not allow these killer amendments to be approved. “We can’t accept these amendments. Their inclusion would be a victory for expensive drugs and abusive pharmas. We’d be fooling the people if we approve a watered-down version of the bill,” Rep. Hontiveros said.

She said that contrary to the claims of Rep. Garcia, the existing IPC has been rendered obsolete by the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement). “The existing IPC has been impaired by TRIPS, whose patents system gave pharmaceutical companies a monopoly over their intellectual creations even at the expense of public health. Pharmaceutical companies have been exploiting this monopoly through exorbitant prices and aggressive marketing. Under the current law, there is no remedy to these abuses,” Rep. Hontiveros said.

“At least where public health is concerned, these flaws in the TRIPS Agreement were corrected through the Doha Declaration. The Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health in 2001 was actually a triumph of national sovereignty over multinational companies over globalization, and not the other way around. The declaration affirmed the powers of States to craft national laws to protect public health, thus including certain flexibilities under the TRIPS Agreement,” Rep. Hontiveros said.

The cheaper medicines bill makes use of these flexibilities to revise IPC and prevent pharmaceutical companies from abusing the patents regime. “One crucial amendment is the stricter definition of patentability, which essentially blocks pharmaceutical companies from extending their patents for frivolous reasons, an abusive practice that prevents competition and the introduction of cheaper versions of a particular drug,” Rep. Hontiveros said.

She challenged Rep. Garcia and other proponents of these killer amendments to support the IPC amendments and help expedite the process. “The whole bill would be useless without the IPC amendments. He repeatedly said that he is in favor of cheaper medicines, so we challenge him to support the bill,” Rep. Hontiveros said.

She also urged the House majority to commit to the passage of the bill. “They promised a year ago that the bill would be passed. We hope they would commit to this new promise. They should deliver a quorum if they really want this bill to be enacted,” Rep. Hontiveros said.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Letter to King Juan Carlos 1 of Spain

King Juan Carlos I. of Spain has commented Philippines president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for being "at the forefront of liberties and the defence of human rights with the abolition of the death penalty, a gesture which gave us satisfaction". In the light of the continuation of extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances and other grave human rights abuses, this statement begs the questions, whether the King has considered the recently published report of the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions Philip Alston.

Below is a sample letter to King Juan Carlos I. of Spain, asking him to bring up the human rights issues discussed in the Alston Report with authorities in the Philippines.


Your Excellency, King Juan Carlos I. of Spain, December 14, 2007

In reference to the visit of Philippines’ President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in Madrid on 5 December 2007, we would like to ask Your Excellency to reconsider a public statement made towards Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, whereas her government were “at the forefront of liberties and the defence of human rights with the abolition of the death penalty, a gesture which gave us satisfaction [and that was] applauded by the international community,” and that the Philippines were “opening the way to democracy in Asia.”[1]

While Your Excellency rightly acknowledges the abolition of the death penalty by the Philippine government in 2006, Your laudation also starkly contrasts with the bleak picture of the Philippines human rights situation painted in recent reports by organisations such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, as well as United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, Philip Alston.

Over the past six years, there have been many extrajudicial executions in the Philippines – the exact total number is contested and ranges from 100 to over 800. These killings have eliminated civil society leaders, human rights defenders, trade unionists, land reform advocates, journalists and even church workers.

The so-called Alston report stated that “the Armed Forces of the Philippines remains in a state of almost total denial (…) of its need to respond effectively and authentically to the significant number of killings which have been convincingly attributed to them.” The democratic rights of the people of the Philippines are under serious threat and the priorities of the criminal justice system have been distorted, Alston reports.

As a state party to a vast array of international human rights treaties, the Government of the Philippines has the clear duty to investigate alleged violations of the right to life, including politically motivated killings. However, there has yet to be a final conviction of perpetrators of politically motivated killings from the security services.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is therefore also personally answerable, since the recent spree of killings, many of them of leftist activists, started under her term and has yet to end. As the above reports document, the killings are the result of a new counterinsurgency strategy: This strategy breaks faith with the country’s experiment in widening the democratic space.

President Arroyo has recently honoured the infamous former General Jovito Palparan during her State of the Nation Address and singling him out for specific praise. Many have hence criticised, that she would pay lip service to principle, while placing personal patronage with military commanders - answerable to human rights abuses under the command responsibility doctrine - above that same principle.

Your Excellency may have not received a copy of the Alston report or other reports on extrajudicial executions in the Philippines, such as of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch or the EU Commission’s Joint-Needs Assessment Mission in June 2007.

We would like to ask you, to discuss the findings of such reports with the Spanish foreign office, the Philippine Embassy in Spain, the Philippine Government and - most importantly - President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to make an end to extrajudicial executions in the Philippines.

Yours faithfully,


Please send a fax to:

D. Miguel Ángel Moratinos Cuyaubé
Minister for Foreign Affairs
Ministerio de asuntos exteriores y de cooperación
Plaza de la Provincia, 1
28071 Madrid

Joseph D. Bernardo y Medina
Philippine Ambassador to Spain
Philippine Embassy in Madrid
Calle Eresma 2 28002 Madrid Telf. No. (34) 91-782.38.30 Fax No.(34) 91-411.66.06

Luis Arias Romero
Spanish Ambassador to the Philippines
Embassy of Spain in Makati, Philippines5th floor, A.C.T. Tower.135, Sen. Gil J. Puyat Av.1251 Makati, Metro ManilaPhone: (+63) 2 818 55 26Fax: (+63) 2 810 28 85

[1] Quoted from: Philippine Daily Inquirer, “Spanish King Hails Arroyo, RP Democracy”, 5 December 2007.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Survey: Arroyo most corrupt RP president

Misuse of the powers of government is widespread at every level of the Arroyo regime. GMA is not only the most corrupt of all Philippine presidents in recent history, she is also the no. 1 violator of human rights. During the two decades of Martial rule in the country under Marcos, about 1,000 victims of political killings were recorded. Under Arroyo's six years in office, 800 liquidations have been reportedly committed. The leader of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), Archbishop Angel Lagdameo lamented that “in a democratic country such as ours, the prime culprits of human rights violations are the public servants and elected officials." - Alvin

Monday, December 10, 2007

Today is International Human Rights Day

Human Rights Day is celebrated annually across the world on 10 December.

The date was chosen to honour the United Nations General Assembly's adoption and proclamation, on 10 December 1948, of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the first global enunciation of human rights. The commemoration was established in 1950, when the General Assembly invited all states and interested organisations to celebrate the day as they saw fit.

The day is a high point in the calendar of UN headquarters in New York City, United States, and is normally marked by both high-level political conferences and meetings and by cultural events and exhibitions dealing with human rights issues. In addition, it is traditionally on 10 December that the five-yearly United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights are awarded.

"Many governmental and nongovernmental organisations active in the human rights field also schedule special events to commemorate the day - Wikipedia"

To commemorate the day, I am posting an article here published by the Human Rights Watch exposing the human rights situation in Burma. The 140-page report, “Crackdown: Repression of the 2007 Popular Protests in Burma,” is based on more than 100 interviews with eyewitnesses in Burma and Thailand. It is the most complete account of the August and September events to date.

Read the article here:

Saturday, December 8, 2007

OFWs Dollar Remittances

OFW’s sent dollar remittances to the country so the economy will be strong but as a consequence, their families suffer drastically because the exchange rate is rapidly declining and the value of their hard-earned dollars cannot cope with the prices of commodities that keep on rising endlessly.
Does GMA and her economic managers need to have masteral and doctorate degrees to understand this problem?
Well, heroes do suffer…and die. That’s how this sick government treat OFW’s. Corruption outpaces by a hundred-fold the program to alleviate the sufferings of the poor - OFW from Cebu


Warning aired on strong peso
From: The Philippine Star

As the Arroyo administration revels in the peso’s robust growth, Sen. Manuel Roxas II is calling for a comprehensive government aid program for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and domestic industries hurt by the local currency’s upsurge.
Roxas, chairman of the Senate committee on trade and commerce, warned that the situation – if not promptly addressed – would result in the displacement of thousands of workers in the export and production sectors.
"Walk the talk. Where’s the ‘social payback’ due our people?" he asked. "OFWs and exporters have been complaining for months about decreased incomes, and have been demanding action from their government to ease their plight," Roxas said.
"The government could not afford to be oblivious not just to the immediate hardships of our eight million OFWs and 3.5 million exporters but also to the real threat of lost incomes and jobs in local industries due to this continuing trend," he said.
The peso closed at 41.74 to the dollar last Friday, or 16 percent stronger than the P49.13 level as of end-2006. The peso is at its strongest since May 2000, when the exchange rate was 41.73 against the dollar.
The local currency is expected to strengthen further in the coming days as OFWs continue to remit earnings ahead of the Christmas season and as the US dollar continues to soften. Administration officials called the strengthening of the peso a sign of a stable local economy.
President Arroyo had said she would not intervene to arrest the peso’s advance.
Roxas, however, pointed out that it’s the government’s duty to regularly assess economic situations and shape its policy accordingly.
On the positive side, a stronger peso means lower interest and principal payments for foreign debts, which comprise roughly half of the country’s total obligations.
It can also mean lower borrowing cost for companies, as well as cheaper import component for locally produced goods. Roxas himself said the strong peso tempered the rise in oil prices.
But he decried the smaller profits of exporters as well as the influx of cheaper imported goods, which threaten to edge local products out of the market and leave countless without jobs.
"I’d like to see a concrete, workable plan on how to deal with possible shutting down of firms, plants and factories, or even massive layoffs, in case of a further strengthening of the peso that would put local goods at a disadvantage to those from abroad," he said.

Fixed peso-dollar exchange rate for OFWs proposed

MANILA, Philippines -- To help the families of overseas Filipino workers cope with a lower value for dollars remitted to them, the Development Bank of the Philippines has proposed a fixed peso-dollar exchange rate for them over a specific period, Labor Secretary Arturo Brion said Monday.
In an interview with reporters, Brion said former labor secretary and now DBP chairman Patricia Sto. Tomas made the "forward cover" proposal recently.
Under the proposal, dollar deposits within a given period, "perhaps a year," will be entitled to a fixed exchange rate.
In his speech before the 2007 Maritime Convention at The Esplanade, Brion also asked the employers -- in this case, ship owners and manning agencies -- to find ways to isolate the OFWs' remittances to the "vagaries and uncertainties of the currency exchange rate."
"I urge you to make it part of your conscious corporate efforts to give the highest value possible for the hard-earned incomes of our overseas Filipino workers," the labor secretary said.
Brion praised the shipping industry for its "good social practices," including the efficient remittance of salaries and the support systems for families of seafarers. He said 80 percent of seafarers' salaries are remitted back home.
The value of the dollar (the currency against which most OFWs' salaries are pegged) has been going down over the past several months, and OFWs and their families have asked the government to intervene in the market on their behalf.

SURFACING: A Photo Project on the Lives of the Families of Desaparecidos

They were activists, wanting to change society by arousing and organizing amongst the masses. They were ordinary civilians, going about their daily lives. Suddenly, they disappear.

Desaparecidos is the Spanish word meaning "the disappeared." It was coined in Latin America where thousands became victims of enforced disappearance implemented by tyrannical regimes.

Enforced disappearance is "committed by government officials or byorganized groups acting in behalf, or with the support, consent oracquiescence of the government," according to the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons against Enforced Disappearance.

It is among the most common human rights violations committed in thePhilippines, often by suspected military agents in the name ofcounter-insurgency.

Under the regime of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, there have been 184 desaparecidos, the highest since martial law.

SURFACING, a photographers' initiative led by the Free Jonas BurgosMovement and Desaparecidos, is an effort to create and sustain public awareness on the issue of enforced disappearances. It shows the livesand struggles of 13 families of the disappeared, as well as that ofthe disappeared.

SURFACING is a continuing project open to all photographers, amateurand professional alike, who are willing to join this human rightsadvocacy. "A photograph is an expression of absence and a form of transport,"says writer John Berger. Let these photos express the pain andinjustice of the desaparecidos' absence and transport us to thereality that we need to face and collectively challenge.

Photos can be viewed at:

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Plight of Filipino Domestic Helpers in Hongkong

To date, there are 8 million overseas Filipino workers. Of this, some 150,000-200,000 are domestic helpers in Hong Kong. Lack of employment opportunities at home has forced many of our women to work in Hong Kong as domestic help. "At best, they are viewed as second class citizens. At worst, the helpers are seen as mere commodities." - Alvin

HK$ 3,480 is not enough, minimum wage legislation now!

The Alliance of Progressive Labor has been campaigning hard for the promotion of labor and human rights of migrant workers in Hong Kong and yet migrant workers have been continuously denied the right to enjoy a fair share of return on their labor. Following the 1997 financial crisis on the Hong Kong economy, the Hong Kong government imposed two wage cuts - HK$190 in 1999 and HK$ 400 in 2003, bringing down the minimum allowable wage (MAW) from HK$ 3,860 to 3,670 by 1999 and HK$ 3,270 by 2003 and 2005.

Through the sustained campaign, the Hong Kong government increased the salary of FDWs of 50-dollar in 2005 and 80-dollar in 2007, so the MAW now stands at HK$3,480. However, these increases are grossly insufficient to recover previous wage cuts. For the workers, HK$ 3,480 is not enough to improve their conditions and sustain their families back home.

FDWs contribute over HK$13.70 billion annually to the Hong Kong economy. Yet, in spite of these significant contributions, FDWs are among the lowest paid workers along with other low paid local workers in Hong Kong. FDWs are especially vulnerable to abuses - suffering long and unregulated working hours, ill-treatment and discrimination in a society with a booming economy.

Campaign for wage protection and promotion of workers’ rights

The APL and its Filipino-based “Alliance for Wage Increase” (ALL WIN) link with other migrant workers’ organizations and trade unions in Hong Kong to join the campaign for a minimum wage legislation that will guarantee a minimum wage for all workers.

The group presses to continue to fight against other forms of systemic and structural problems of migrant workers and call on the Hong Kong government to:

Scrap the New Condition of Stay (NCs) and 2-week rule;
Make necessary rules against abusive practices of the recruitment agencies;
Stop contract violations, black list abusive employers;
Stop underpayment of wages;
Stop gender discrimination among migrant women migrants;
Implement minimum wage legislation covering local and foreign domestic workers;

Further, the migrant workers reiterate the call on the Philippine government to amend the POEA (Philippine Overseas Employment Association) guidelines for domestic workers to strictly impose and monitor the “no placement fee policy”, monitor and punish abusive recruitment agencies and abolish training fees for domestic helpers.

More importantly, they call on the Arroyo government to stop political and trade union repression in the Philippines and instead concentrate its efforts to provide full employment for all Filipino workers. After all, only a democratic and a prosperous society can stem the tide of poverty-induced Diaspora of Filipino migrant workers!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Waste of People's Money

Hold your breathe! At least 30 congressmen joined Mrs. Arroyo in her state visit to Europe. Arroyo’s eight-day junket would take her to Spain, France and the United Kingdom, and that it would cost a huge sum of people’s money. Apart from the 30 Congressmen, three senators, Cabinet members and 50 businessmen are part of the delegation. The delegation is living it up at the five-star Melia Castilla hotel in Madrid, at a cost of at least 12,000 pesos ($326) a day, double what many Filipinos earn in a month. Meanwhile, Mrs. Arroyo and her family, including her four grandchildren, are staying at a very luxurious Palacio Real de El Pardo. Kapalmuks talaga!- Alvin


By Emma-Kate Symons, Manila December 05, 2007

EVEN by The Philippines' world-renowned corruption standards, Gloria Arroyo's Imelda Marcos-style tour of Europe is setting new records for official decadence.

Scandal swirled again around the President when it was revealed she chartered a flight for almost 200 cronies and family to go on a state junket to former colonial master Spain, as well as France and Britain.

The retinue set off on a Philippine Airlines flight on Saturday only days after Ms Arroyo waved off a botched attempt by army rebels to overthrow her during a six-hour siege of Manila's Peninsula hotel.

The European trip list, leaked to the opposition, named her closest political allies from the congress, businessmen, ministers, staff and family down to her grandkids, partly and perhaps fully paid for by millions of desperately poor taxpayers.

Those entitled to an estimated $US9000 ($10,300) trip included at least 30 lower house MPs (plus spouses and companions); three senators; 50 business allies; Ms Arroyo's allegedly highly corrupt husband Jose "Mike" Miguel; her three children and her four grandchildren. The delegation is living it up at the five-star Melia Castilla hotel in Madrid, at a cost of at least 12,000 pesos ($326) a day, double what many Filipinos earn in a month.

Opposition congressman Nonito Joson claimed Malacanang Palace had paid the expenses ofthe junketeers, including $US3000 "pocket money" for each traveller as a reward for not impeaching the President on a recent third attempt.

But press secretary Ignacio Bunye retorted that the President was the victim of a "disinformation campaign". He said MPs would cover their expenses, and even claimed King Juan Carlos of Spain was paying for some of the delegation's expenses because it was an "official visit".

"That's a big delegation to Europe," Senate president Manuel Villar said.

"It would have been OK if it was in Asia. But the cost of living is high in Europe."

The Daily Inquirer reported that among the junketeers was Ms Arroyo's best girlfriend, the aptly named Amelita "Girlie" Villarosa, who admits she recently handed out cash-stuffed envelopes to MPs.

One administration critic told the Congress he was "shocked" at the size of the presidential delegation: "I can't imagine what their role is in the presidential trip."

Explanations were thin, with some MPs saying they would be meeting groups of overseas Philippines workers and drumming up local business.

At home, the absence of so many MPs has stalled an urgent bill to try to cut the artificially high costs of basic medicines.

Ms Arroyo regularly charters flights and travels with a huge entourage. However, this is the first time recently that she has voyaged with more than 100.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Sumilao Farmers 'Walk for Justice'

Norberto Quisumbing, owner of Norkis had the Mapalad farmers land registered under a new title and sold it to San Miguel Foods Inc. in February 2002.

To expose this injustice committed by the Quisumbings, 54 farmers from Sumilao, walking for 60 days, from Bukidnon to Manila, on October 10 to December 10, covering 1,700 kilometers, to ask Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to distribute their ancestral lands to them under the agrarian reform program...

They have braved fatigue, heat, storm. They have endured being away from home, being in uncertain places, with uncertain outcomes. Most of all, they have suffered the callousness of people who took away their land and refuse to give them what is rightfully theirs. They have nothing but the solidarity and goodness of people, and the hope that, in the end, truth and social justice will prevail.

Please read their story below and let us support them in their struggle!

Sumilao farmers now on Manila leg of 'Walk for Justice'
The Philippine Star

Farmers from Sumilao, Bukidnon are now on the Manila leg of their 60-
day, 1,700-kilometer "Walk for Justice" and may reach the metropolis
earlier than scheduled.

As of Sunday afternoon, the farmers were in San Pedro, Laguna. They
will begin their journey to Manila this morning, passing through the
Alabang-Parañaque-Coastal Road, on to the Senate and then Ayala Avenue
in Makati City.

The Higaonon farmers from Sumilao town, as earlier planned, are to
arrive in Manila on Dec. 10 in time for the commemoration of
International Human Rights Day.

In Manila, the farmers plan to go to the Department of Agrarian
Reform's central office in Quezon City and Malacañang where they hope
to have a dialogue with President Arroyo.

But as the farmers continued their protest-march, even defying the
scorching heat of the sun and threats posed by typhoons just to
dramatize their 10-year-old demand for the government to give them
back the land they claim as theirs, they scored a "victory" through a
resolution issued by Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita remanding the
case to the DAR.

Now, the farmers are pinning their hopes on Agrarian Reform Secretary
Nasser Pangandaman.

According to the Socrates Banzuela, coordinator of the Lakaw Sumilao
network, the farmers are hoping that Pangandaman would finally heed
their demand for him to issue a cease-and-desist order against what
they claimed to be the "illegal conversion" of the contested 144-
hectare property in Sumilao, Bukidnon, especially in the wake of
Ermita's resolution.

"The secretary said he will review the Sumilao case and visit the
contested area soon. We expect him to make a decision before the
marchers arrive in Manila since he has an express order from
Malacañang to do so," said Banzuela, referring to the results of
Thursday's dialogue between the farmers and Pangandaman.

The DAR chief reportedly said during the dialogue that the issuance of
a cease-and-desist order at this point is a great possibility.

The farmers want the DAR to stop the development of a hog farm on the
disputed agricultural land in San Vicente, Sumilao town that was
formerly owned by Norberto Quisumbing.

At least 165 farmers are petitioning for the redistribution of the
property under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).

The property was approved for conversion to agro-industrial use in
1996 through an order issued by then Executive Secretary Ruben Torres.

The Supreme Court upheld Torres' decision in 1999, resulting in the
cancellation of the certificate of land ownership award (CLOA) of the
165 farmer-beneficiaries belonging to the group called Mapalad.

The DAR gave the collective CLOA to the farmer-beneficiaries in 1995.

However, the farmers said the landowner did not comply with the terms
of the conversion order, which included implementing a five-year agro-
industrial development plan.

Instead, Quisumbing had the land registered under a new title and sold
it to San Miguel Foods Inc. in February 2002.

The farmers filed a petition before the DAR in 2004 for cancellation
of the conversion order on account of the landowner's violation, but
Pangan-daman in 2006 denied the petition, saying he lacked
jurisdiction and that "the power is lodged with the office (which)
issued the (conversion) order."

The farmers appealed to the Office of the President, which initially
upheld Pangandaman's decision, saying the farmer-petitioners lacked
legal standing.

But the farmers filed a motion for reconsideration with the Office of
the President, which last Nov. 16, through a resolution signed by
Ermita, remanded the Sumilao case to the DAR.

The resolution said the DAR is in "a better position to assess and
evaluate the credibility of the contending parties and the validity of
their respective evidence."

The silence of the camps

By Randy David

Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim and Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV,
a former Navy lieutenant senior
grade, are two of the smartest officers in the Armed
Forces of the Philippines. They are highly regarded by
their men and by their contemporaries in the officer
corps. Few senior officers in the Philippine military
today can match their popularity among the soldiers.
It is significant that they have also led repeated
coup attempts against the government of the day. They
are not novices in the art of military mutiny.

Knowing this, one is hard-pressed to understand why
they would venture into something like Thursday’s
standoff at the Manila Peninsula Hotel, with hardly
any arms to defend themselves, only to surrender
without a fight to the police forces sent to arrest
them. It just doesn’t make sense. The two detained
officers, together with their fellow officers and
security detail, strolled out of the courtroom during
a break in the hearing of the 2003 Oakwood mutiny.
They had no fear of being re-arrested. Only a handful
of civilian supporters accompanied them in their
unhurried walk to the five-star hotel in which they
were to make their statement. If this was going to be
a coup, it was rather unusual if not suicidal. They
came virtually without arms.

While they called on the Filipino people to join them
in their bid to oust President Gloria
Macapagal-Arroyo, they didn’t sound like they were
desperately waiting for people power to pick up the
cause they were espousing. If they were banking on
popular mobilization, then they were one day too
early. They should have stretched their stay at the
Peninsula till the following day, Bonifacio Day, when
huge rallies were expected. In fact, this possibility
was what worried the government forces. So why did
Trillanes and Lim give up so quickly?

We can only speculate that their action was meant to
spark a mutiny that they thought was waiting to
happen. But because we did not see troops marching in
the streets or moving in trucks and choosing sides, we
are now led to think that the Magdalo officers badly
miscalculated. In fact, the spokesmen of the Arroyo
government lost no time in assuring the public that
the military chain of command remained intact and that
the rebels were totally isolated.

But, if indeed they were alone in this doomed and
foolish adventure, how do we explain the fact that, at
the height of the standoff, no military commander,
apart from the chief of staff, Gen. Hermogenes Esperon
Jr., came out or was presented to reiterate support
for the Arroyo government? Why did the government rely
exclusively on police forces to deal with what was
openly declared as a bid to remove the existing
government? Was Ms Arroyo afraid that, if compelled to
declare their loyalty, a good number of the nation’s
soldiers might actually side with Lim and Trillanes?

In short, what did the silence of the camps during
this six-hour siege signify? I doubt if General
Esperon or Ms Arroyo knows. Perhaps if they know
anything at all about the state of mind of the
soldiers in the camps today, it might be something
that is likely to give them sleepless nights in the
next few weeks or months. Could this be the real
reason for the sudden imposition of a midnight curfew
-- that they are seriously spooked by the possibility
of troop movements quietly taking place in the coming

For it is hard to believe that the soldiers barricaded
in their barracks would not care less about what was
going on in Makati City last Thursday. If they saw
what the rest of the nation saw, and they remained
silent, I would consider that a meaningful silence. In
a time like ours, when images from live media pack
more power than the most stirring statements, what
might the silence of citizens and soldiers possibly
indicate? Are their senses stunned and their will
paralyzed? Or are their souls shaken and courage
awakened in their hearts? Who knows?

Who would know what it means for a soldier or a
citizen to see a young senator of the republic, filled
with idealism, being shackled and handled like a sack
of potatoes by his captors as he is led to a waiting
police bus? Who would know what it means for any
viewer to see an 81-year-old prince of the Catholic
Church, hobbled by age, his left hand tied to the
right hand of another priest, being led to a waiting
police bus after having just said a prayer of hope?
Who would know what it means for someone to see a
whole line of media people, their hands bound in
plastic restraints proudly held up above their heads,
being led to a waiting police bus for “processing” as
suspects? Such were among the most memorable images
from Thursday’s episode.

I only know that one would need to be blind and
insensitive to view these snapshots as achievements of
the rule of law. You take one look at General Lim and
Senator Trillanes side by side General Esperon and
Colonel Bacarro -- and you can tell at once who among
these soldiers have their ideals intact. You take one
look at Bishop Julio Labayen and former Vice President
Tito Guingona side by side Interior Secretary Ronaldo
Puno and Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye -- and you know
at once who the liars are.

There is a mutiny in the making not just in the camps
but in the hearts of the rest of us. We were beginning
to forget what social anger is all about, and what it
means to take responsibility for the nation our heroes
bequeathed to us. Thursday set us on a new path. We
are starting to see what General Lim meant when he
said: “Dissent without action is consent.”

Trillanes revolts are warnings to gov’t

By Neal Cruz

The Arroyo administration is strutting like a peacock because the Trillanes revolt has been crushed. But it should take that as a warning. Groups of people resort to armed uprising when all avenues for peaceful reforms have been closed to them. This administration needs many reforms and people have been trying to accomplish them through legal means— through Congress, through the courts, through peaceful marches and demonstrations—but the administration is deaf and refuses to reform.

In the words of Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim, “We have individually and collectively tried all means to resolve this legitimacy issue [of President Macapagal-Arroyo] through the normal electoral, judicial and congressional processes.

“But Mrs. Arroyo used naked power through the issuance of EO 464 and other executive proclamations, and the sheer weight of numbers to paralyze the impeachment process … to frustrate us at every turn.

“After all these had failed, our people tried to air their grievances in peaceful street assemblies. They thought they were exercising a combination of constitutional rights … But they were stopped and dispersed violently with water cannons … and truncheons.

“The abuses of her government continue. The deliberate refusal of the dubious leaders to investigate and prosecute the people responsible for the scandalous ‘Hello Garci’ electoral cheating, the Joc-Joc Bolante multimillion-peso fertilizer scam, the Impsa bribery scandal, the Jose Pidal and the jueteng scandals, the NBN scandal, wholesale bribery of congressmen and governors in Malacañang, as well as the unabated and unresolved extrajudicial killings of citizens … are clear proof of failure of good and decent governance.”

Is General Lim telling the truth or not?

With all the avenues closed, what are we to do? By preventing the people to use peaceful, legal means, the government is actually forcing the people to use violence. By preventing the people to air their grievances through peaceful street marches and demonstrations, it is denying the people an outlet for their resentment and anger. And if it does that, this anger is bound to explode like a volcano.

The government may have crushed the Oakwood mutiny, the Trillanes revolt and another such attempts, but that will not stop the people’s desire for reforms and justice. There will be other “revolts” until one succeeds. Just look at our history.

The journey of the Filipino people to nationhood is replete with many revolts, from Dagohoy and Diego Silang and other pocket revolts until Bonifacio’s 1896 Revolution succeeded, only to be squelched by the Americans. Still, the pocket revolts continued in the Sakdalista, the Hukbalahap and even the Medrano uprisings, and now the NPA and the Muslim revolts.

Our history is littered with the bodies of numerous heroes. Maybe history will later list Lim and Trillanes among them. Today, the Arroyo government, the victor, lists them as villains but decades later, with the benefit of hindsight, history will reverse their roles. During the Spanish colonization, the Spaniards looked at the Filipinos who opposed them as “insurrectos” and “bandidos,” but today they are our heroes.

* * *

I would like to add my voice and that of Plaridel, the association of journalists, to the numerous denunciations of the arrest of journalists during the Peninsula standoff. Why were they arrested and taken to Camp Bagong Diwa in the first place? What law did they violate? They were just doing their jobs. That’s what NCR Police Chief Geary Barias said when he tried to serve the arrest warrant on Trillanes and Lim: “I am just doing my job.” So why did his policemen arrest journalists who were just doing their jobs?

The PNP said it was “to process” them (whatever that means). It said some of the Magdalo officers may have posed as members of media, so they wanted to identify each and every journalist before releasing them. I understand that, but some of them are well-known journalists, like Ces Drilon and Pinky Webb of ABS-CBN, and Ellen Tordesillas, columnist and Malacañang reporter of Malaya. Even policemen must have recognized them, so what was the necessity of hauling them off to Camp Bagong Diwa to be identified?

The real reason, as I see it, is not really “identification” but “intimidation.” The administration wanted to show to the media people that “we can do this to you, so you better behave.” It was intimidation, pure and simple. Except that it made a mistake: journalists are not that easily intimidated.

It reminds me of a similar incident during the Marcos martial law regime when a curfew was also in place. The Philippine Navy invited journalists to a party after deadline on board one of its ships. The journalists thought that the ship would remain docked at the Navy basin on Roxas Boulevard and that they would be able to leave before curfew.

But the ship set sail as soon as they were on board and anchored in the middle of Manila Bay. And stayed there until morning. There was no way we could contact our offices or homes. There were no cell phones then.

Our respective wives and families were frantic when we failed to get home. They didn’t know where we were. They called our offices who told them that we had already left hours ago. So where were we? They called the hospitals, police precincts, even funeral parlors. Nothing. We had disappeared like Jonas Burgos.

What was that caper for? It was intimidation. The military was sending us the message: We can make you disappear without anybody knowing. We can do this to you.

That was the same message the military was sending the journalists in the Makati incident.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

A Continuing Saga of Military Adventurism
Posted by: Isa Lorenzo | November 30, 2007 at 9:52 pm
Filed under: Governance, In the News

MILITARY adventurism has been embedded into Filipino culture since the time of martial law, where, as the Feliciano Fact-Finding Commission reported in 2003, the politicization of the military coincided with the erosion of civilian political institutions that had oversight powers over it.

The lack of institutional checks on the military’s power and influence, combined with the failure of previous governments to punish previous putschists, corruption within the military, and the failure of military officials to provide basic needs of soldiers on the field, has only led to one coup attempt after another.

A PCIJ report noted in last year’s failed attempt to withdraw support from the government that one key factor in the continuing saga may be President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, whose “desire for re-election and survival…has further weakened the military as an institution and further contributed to the disenchantment in the ranks.”

To date, the country has weathered close to a dozen coups and coup attempts. Below is a timeline of military rebelliousness, a situation that isn’t likely to change anytime soon:

February 1986

People heed the call of Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin, and stream into Edsa to protect Defense secretary Juan Ponce Enrile and Philippine Constabulary Chief Fidel Ramos who are holed up in Camps Crame and Aguinaldo. The Edsa revolution aborts a coup planned by the Reform the Armed Forces Movement (RAM) against dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

July 1986

Thousands of Marcos supporters, including 300 soldiers, seize the Manila Hotel and declare the formation of a rebel government. President Corazon Aquino quashes the revolt after 38 hours. The mutineers were given 20 push-ups as punishment.

November 1986

RAM forces attempt to ease Aquino out of power through a campaign of assassinations and a takeover of the Marcos-era parliament.

January 1987

Five hundred pro-Marcos soldiers attempt to take over four military camps and the private Channel 7 television station. 150 soldiers occupy the latter for three days before surrendering. The event later becomes known as the Channel 7 incident.

April 1987

Thirteen armed enlisted men crash through the gates of Fort Bonifacio. They free 42 imprisoned soldiers and hold 120 people, including four colonels, hostage. One rebel sergeant is killed and four others are wounded in the ensuing firefight. The mutineers surrender after eight hours. Dubbed the Black Saturday Incident, what happened was more of an attempted jailbreak than a mutiny.

August 1987

Rebel officers, led by charismatic Colonel Gregorio ‘Gringo’ Honasan, occupy army headquarters as part of an attempted military coup. Fifty-three people are killed and 358 are wounded before the rebels are defeated after 18 hours.

December 1, 1989

About 6,000 troops seize three military bases and two television stations in Manila, close the airport and bomb Malacañang. U.S. President George Bush backs Aquino and American F-4 Phantom jets launch “intimidation flights” over the capital to help end the week-long mutiny.

January 2001

Defense Secretary Orlando Mercado, armed forces chief General Angelo Reyes and top military and police officers withdraw support from disgraced president Joseph Estrada and help install his vice president, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, to power in a church-backed popular uprising called Edsa Dos.

July 2003

About 300 junior officers calling themselves the Magdalo seize control of the Oakwood luxury apartment in Makati in a one-day mutiny. They surrender without a shot being fired.

February 2006

On the 20th anniversary of the first People Power revolution, troops loyal to Arroyo announce that they have thwarted an attempt by rogue soldiers to withdraw support from the government. A state of national emergency is declared, followed by a mutiny of the Marines at Fort Bonifacio.

November 29, 2007

Senator Antonio Trillanes IV and Brigadier General Danilo Lim walk out of their court hearing on the failed 2003 mutiny along with about two dozen Magdalo soldiers. They hole up in the posh Manila Peninsula Hotel in Makati and call for the overthrow of the President. After a six-hour standoff, they walk out of the hotel in order to avoid casualties. Media covering the event are also arrested and a five-hour curfew is imposed.

Sources: Kudeta, BBC, Reuters

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Friday, November 30, 2007

Bonifacio Day Rally

Protesters in Cebu joined the Bonifacio Day Rally calling for job security and the "rejection of a morally bankrupt Arroyo government."

World Aids Day

This year, World AIDS Day—that takes place on December 1— will focus on leadership, the theme set by the World AIDS Campaign under the five-year slogan “Stop AIDS, Keep the Promise”.

The 2007 AIDS epidemic update reports on the latest developments in the global AIDS epidemic. The 2007 edition provides the most recent estimates of the AIDS epidemic and explores new findings and trends in the epidemic’s evolution.


World AIDS Day: Latest figures

Agence France-Presse
PARIS --Following are the latest figures on the global AIDS epidemicahead of World AIDS Day on Saturday.They were released on November 20 by the specialized United Nations Agency, UNAIDS.


Worldwide: 33.2 million (in a range from 30.6 to 36.1 million)

Adults (15-49 years old): approx. 30.8 million

Adult women: approx. 15.4 million (half the total)

Children (Under 15 years old): 2.5 million


Worldwide: 2.5 million (range of 1.8-4.1 million)

Adults: 2.1 million

Children: 420,000


Worldwide: 2.1 million (range of 1.9-2.4 million)

Adults: 1.7 million

Children: 330,000

(Note: UNAIDS reduced by nearly seven million its estimate for thetotal of individuals living with HIV or AIDS compared with 2006, dueto a revision of its statistics. Last year's estimate was 39.5million.)

AKBAYAN condemns detention of journalists and civil society leaders, warns govt against launching another crackdown

AKBAYAN Party condemned the arrest and rounding up of journalists and civil society leaders and warned the government today against using the Manila Pen stand-off to launch another crackdown against opposition, saying that it should instead face the issues that led to the stand-off squarely.

"The people will not tolerate another attack on democratic rights. The government is already insinuating that the stand-off is a conspiracy between civil society groups and the Magdalo soldiers, even making this insane accusation that the annual November 30 workers' rallies is part of the stand-off," Deputy minority leader and AKBAYAN Rep. Hontiveros said.

Rep. Hontiveros also condemned the arrest of Bishop Labayen and Fr. Robert Reyes. "The warrant of arrest for the Magdalo soldiers was issued for contempt of court. There was no legal basis to arrest and handcuff Bishop Labayen and Fr. Robert Reyes," Rep. Hontiveros said.

For her part, AKBAYAN Chair Emeritus Etta Rosales said that the detention of journalists and confiscation of their equipments is isolating further an already politically discredited and a morally bankrupt administration. "We have to thank the soldiers and policemen who are detaining journalists and civil society leaders for showing the bankruptcy of the administration. This is bringing together various forces and sectors, making them realize that it depends upon them to change the status quo."

"We will also push for a congressional inquiry on the violation of the rights of journalists who were simply in Manila Peninsula to do their jobs. It is unlawful for the AFP and PNP to detain these journalists and to confiscate the tapes and other properties of the media persons in the area," Rep. Hontiveros added.

Rosales said that the conduct of the assault demonstrated anew the propensity of the GMA administration to resort to draconian measures to stifle dissent.

"GMA mangled our constitution and our laws to evade accountability and accused the Magdalo soldiers of violating the rule of law. Yet the stand-off was a product of the administration violating the rule of law – it resorted to pay-offs to escape allegations of fraud and corruption and it condoned extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances to stifle opposition," Rosales said.

She warned the administration from using the stand-off to launch a crackdown against anti-GMA forces.

"She should instead come clean and allow efforts to hold her accountable for allegations of fraud and corruption. Declaring another state of emergency or martial rule would not be tolerated by the people. This has gone too far," Rosales added.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

NUJP: Journalists not enemies of the state

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) condemned the Philippine National Police who treated journalists covering the standoff at the Manila Peninsula Hotel in Makati as “enemies of the state”.“We protest in strongest terms the PNP's move to forcibly bring some journalists to the National Capital Region Police Office in Bicutan and condemn the confiscation of video footage of the day-long stand-off at the Manila Peninsula Hotel,” the group said in a statement. The NUJP likewise denounced the “overkill that led to the tying of the hands of members of ABS-CBN's technical team and reporters” in what looked like a virtual arrest. The group does not accept the explanation of Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro and police officials that the action was done to prevent the escape of Magdalo troops.The group said police officials could easily verify the identities of the technical team with their news team superiors. He added that there was no reason why police officials would be ignorant of the identities of ABS-CBN News correspondents Pinky Webb and Ces Drilon and members of the network's technical team. The group urged authorities to follow legal procedures and reminded them that “invitations to questioning should be differentiated from coercion; journalists have the option to accept the invitation and, certainly, should be accorded the basic right to counsel”. "We concede authorities' right to demand a halt to coverage that could jeopardize the lives of state security forces but believe any move for redress should pass through normal channels, involving management of television stations and not lowly ground staff," the group said. “It is regrettable that a day that would have given the government a clear-cut political victory would be marred by knee-jerk reactions of the authorities. This government claims it is protecting democracy. It should realize that media is a prime component of the democracy it purports to serve,” it added.

Foreign debts at historic high P1.7T under Gloria

The country's foreign debts reached a record P1.7 trillion duringthe term of President Arroyo, according to Walden Bello, the newly electedpresident of the anti-debt group Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC).The Arroyo government should take its cue from Argentina indealing with foreign creditors to cut its debt payment and improve theeconomy, Bello said."We have paid our debts many times over,yet owing to the tyranny of global finance, we will never be able to leavethe treadmill of debt repayment if we stick to unfair rules that mainlyserve the interests of creditors," Bello said.As of August2007, the national government's foreign debt stood at P1.7 trillion($1=P46.85). This represents 44 percent of the total P3.87-trillionnational government debt.He lamented that for the Arroyogovernment, debt servicing must proceed according to the terms of thecreditors because, "in their view, that is the only way to continue toaccess international capital markets.""But this is thebankrupt logic that has led to debt being piled on debt. We have notreally escaped the infernal logic of contracting new debt to pay off olddebt. Meantime, our total debt mounts dangerously and brings us closer tothe edge of bankruptcy," Bello warned.Bello explained that therelationship between debtors and creditors has been altered by severalevents during the last few years, and this has implications for thePhilippines.He cited the determination of former ArgentineanPresident Nestor Kirchner who showed the world that his government cantake on a country's creditors and come out on top."As a resultof Kirchner's successful campaign to drastically reduce debt repayments,Argentina has been growing at 10 percent of GDP for each of the last fouryears, the result partly of the fact that money that would otherwise leavethe country for debt servicing has been channeled into investment in thedomestic economy," he said.The former executive director ofFocus on the Global South also explained how the International MonetaryFund (IMF), which used to be the enforcer of the creditors, has become aseverely weakened institution today as a result of the bad policies itimposed on Asian countries during the 1997 financial crisis and onArgentina in 2002."Some of its biggest borrowers have walkedaway from it, and since the fund's budget stemmed in great part fromrepayments from these borrowers, the IMF is today facing both a crisis ofcredibility and a budgetary crisis. It is in real trouble," stressedBello, also the former chairman of the board of Greenpeace SoutheastAsia.Unfortunately, Bello said these developments have notregistered with the Philippine government."(The government's)policies toward its creditors continue to be the old policy of being a'model debtor' that was initiated by (former) President Corazon Aquino inthe 1980s. The conditions for a successful break with the old and thecrafting of a new bold policy of unilaterally writing down the Philippinedebt are better today than they have ever been," he said.