Sunday, December 21, 2008

2008's Worst Soundbytes

The 2008 TOGY Awards

As a three-month-old column dedicated to communicating better in life, Ms.Com meets the yearend by launching the 2008 TOGY Awards (The Outstanding Gaffes of the Year Awards). This is the communications version of the late Richard Blackwell's notorious "10 Worst Dressed List."
Choosing the nastiest, most insensitive, patently untruthful, idiotic public declarations and sound bytes turned out to be a very tough job.
You see, determining the year's 10 worst statements was the ironic counterpart of Diogenes's search for one honest man. He didn't find any, while Ms.Com found too many.
So, instead of the T in TOGY standing for "ten," it now stands for definite article "the."

Read on:

Friday, December 5, 2008

The universal declaration of human rights

On 10 December, we are commemorating the 60th birthday of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) on Human Rights Day 2008. The United Nations will launch a year-long campaign around the globe to focus on helping people everywhere to learn about their human rights. The UDHR was the first international recognition that all human beings have fundamental rights and freedoms and it continues to be a living and relevant document today. The theme of the campaign, “Dignity and justice for all of us,” reinforces the vision of the Declaration as a commitment to universal dignity and justice and not something that should be viewed as a luxury or a wish-list.

Click here to learn more about the UDHR:

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Burma Bulletin-November 2008 issue

The Burma Bulletin is a short month in review of events in Burma, particularly those of interest to the democracy movement and human rights activists.

In the November 2008 issue you will find:
* SPDC jails 186 dissidents
* Landmines casualties rising
* Forced labor increases
* CEDAW conclusions
* UNGA condemn s SPDC
* SPDC-Bangladesh face-off
* Other Burma news
* List of Reports
* Much more...

Click to here to read the November 2008 Burma Bulletin:

Sunday, November 16, 2008


Below is the vote of Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros on HB 5116, the National Budget for 2009. A total of 160 legislators voted in favor of the bill, 16 voted against it, and one abstained. Rep. Hontiveros voted No to the bill.

Mr. Speaker, AKBAYAN engaged in the process. We submitted several amendments to the 2009 General Appropriations Bill, among them:

A special provision in the DPWH budget to require the conduct of feasibility studies for all locally funded projects to prevent corruption
A special provision in the DPWH budget so that NO appropriation would be allocated to projects with less than 15% economic internal rate of return (EIRR) to prevent wastage in the use of public works funds.
A cut in DPWH's budget by P64.7 billion due to its failure to account for billions of missing funds
A total of P1.1 billion additional appropriation for the Department of Health, for the following programs: subsidies to indigent patients (P133 million); epidemiology and disease surveillance (P553 million); Family Health, including family planning (P470 million)
The appropriation of funds for the implementation of the Magna Carta for Public Health Workers (P1.3 billion)
A special provision in the budget of the Department of Agrarian Reform to ensure that the budget for Land Acquisition and Distribution (LAD) would not be subject to reallocation
Additional budget for the Department of Science and Technology (DOST): an additional appropriation for the Magna Carta for Scientists, Engineers, Researchers, and other S & T government personnel (P441 million); Payment of P5.7 million for the Night Time Differential of PAG-ASA employees and P3 million for PHILVOLCS employees.
Additional budget for the Commission on Audit to the amount of P152 million
Additional budget for the Commission on Human Rights to the amount of P284 million
Inclusion of several special provisions on debt appropriation, specifically to restrict the use of government funds on the following: the onerous Austrian Medical Waste Incinerator Project; on the interest payments to loan agreements challenged as fraudulent, anomalous, and wasteful, and; on payment for accounts payable accruing in the previous fiscal years unless fully liquidated according to existing COA guidelines.
Tighter guidelines in the release of lump sum funds, including the Kilos Asenso fund, to ensure compliance to the NEDA-ICC policy on NG-LGU Cost Sharing Policy

Mr. Speaker, we did not receive the courtesy of reply on these proposed amendments. There was no transparency. We don't know what happened to the amendments we painstakingly worked on with the help of civil society partners.

This is exactly the environment that breeds corruption, and this being the de facto election budget, we won't be surprised if this budget only goes to the pockets of corrupt officials.
By not allowing members of the House to scrutinize the budget, voting for this budget is a vote to erode the integrity of Congress as an institution.

AKBAYAN is deeply frustrated with the outcome and the shortcutting of an already abbreviated process. The House has denied itself an opportunity to achieve greater bi-partisan consensus on the budget based on amendments submitted in the spirit of recovering Congress' power of the purse and the spirit of fiscal democracy.

Mr. Speaker, I therefore vote No to HB 5116.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Statement of the Peoples Global Action (PGA)

Statement of the Peoples Global Action (PGA) on the Unjustified Revocation of the Issued-Permit to Hold Parallel Events during the 2nd Global Forum on Migration and Development
October 17, 2008

We, the organizers of the People’s Global Action on Migration, Development and Human Rights, are outraged by the revocation of our permit to hold activities from October 22 – 30, 2008 at the Rajah Sulayman park, a public space, as parallel events organized by migrants, advocates, and other civil society organizations, to the forthcoming 2nd Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD). The Manila City government had issued a permit for the use of the park last June 25, 2008 only to revoke it on October 2 on the recommendation of Manila Police District. It was conveyed to the PGA by fax on October 6, 2008 and was affirmed with finality on October 16, 2008 during our meeting with PNP PNP-NCRPO Regional Director Jefferson Soriano and Manila Police Department Director Roberto Rosales . We do not accept the so-called alternative venue that has been offered to us, the Mehan Garden / Bonifacio shrine, for doing so would mean accepting the further exclusion of migrant workers and their advocates from the global discussions at the 2nd GFMD which will take place at the PICC that would ultimately affect their plight.We recognize the GFMD in the Philippines as an event that can open opportunities for migrant workers and their advocates to meaningfully contribute to the current global discourse on migration and development. The People’s Global Action is planned to be organized in and around Rajah Sulayman Park, events open and visible to the public at-large and to the GFMD delegates themselves. Foreign and local dignitaries, such as Sharan Burrow of the Chairperson of the Civil Society Day of the 2nd GFMD and the First President of the UN Human Rights Council, Ambassador Luis de Alba of Mexico. Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim among others are scheduled to address our activities The PGA is a demonstration of global cross-border solidarity among migrant workers and their advocates that is peaceful and legitimate. We had welcomed the issuance of our permit last June 25, a result of a transparent and aboveboard process of dialogue with city officials. To say that we are disappointed by its revocation at this late hour, is to say the least. The stated official reason for the last-minute revocation of the permit – and that is, that our ranks will be ‘infiltrated by the leftists’—is a flimsy reason without basis, and no more than the usual standard excuse whipped out by authorities when no other reasonable justification could be produced. The revocation of our permit is most unreasonable, and we cannot but view it as an extension of the national government’s policy of continued denial of migrant workers’ rights and the citizens’ rights to freedom of expression. Moreover, we believe it also reveals the increased anxiety of the national government and the forces of neo-liberal globalization in the light of the unfolding global financial crisis and its impending impact on the situation of migrants worldwide. The revocation of our permit signifies another act of ‘management’, also known as ‘control’, as in ‘the management of migration’ which now dominates official global discourse on development, but without substantive consideration for migrants’ rights and of the fundamental issues that underlie the so-called pursuit of development. We believe that migration should not be viewed merely as a problem or crisis to be ‘managed’; migrant workers and other citizens are not commodities to be traded, nor objects and statistics to be ‘managed’. In this moment of heightened insecurities among migrant workers and their families, especially in the face of the global financial crisis, the best policy on the part of governments would have been to extend a hand of assurance and demonstrate genuine openness to listen to the voices of those who would most likely suffer its adverse impact. Instead, we are witness to the further suppression of the voices of the migrant workers and the curtailment of our rights and freedoms. We cannot respond to this latest development with silence. We will continue to demonstrate the solidarity among migrants, migrant workers, their advocates, and all those concerned about development and democratic rights – a solidarity forged across borders and tempered by our common struggles and shared vision for a world that is more equitable and a future that is more sustainable and inclusive to all.

Sgd. Members of the Peoples Global Action

Contact Person:

Ellene A. SanaExecutive Director, Center for Migrant Advocacy Member, PWGTelephones: 920-5003; 433-0684Cellphone: 0917 448 1464

Friday, October 17, 2008

2nd Sweden-Asia Forum

The 2nd Sweden-Asia Forum gathered representatives of progressive parties and solidarity movements that have been working on representing marginalized constituencies and are active in programmatic party-building efforts.
This year's conference took place in Manila, Philippines from 9 to 11 October 2008 and brought together 31 participants from 12 political parties and movements representing 11 countries. The following countries were represented: Burma, Cambodia, Hong Kong, India, Aceh, Malaysia, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines and Sweden.
The conference is organized every year by the Swedish Social Democratic Party (SAP), the Olof Palme International Center and AKBAYAN Citizens' Action Party, for representatives of progressive organizations in Asia to build networks and contribute to the sharing of knowledge about the development in the respective countries and in the region as a whole. The first Sweden-Asia Forum was held in Bangkok, Thailand last August10-13, 2007.
Ann Linde, International Secretary of the Swedish Social Democratic Party (SAP) in her brief presentation on "Social Democracy: a Global perspective", elucidated the social democracy's core values of Freedom, Equality and Solidarity, which are mutually dependent and mutually supporting.
After the country presentations, which covered the current political and institutional context and what the concerned parties were doing to address this situation, the delegates were actively engaged in the following panel discussions: Social Democracy: Is it Viable in Asia?, Religion and Democratization, Social Movements and Populism and Nuts and Bolts of Party-Building.
Tian Chua of the People's Justice Party-Malaysia; Ann Linde and Olle Thorell of the Social Democratic Party-Sweden; Anna Ardin and Abdulkader Habib of the Christian Social Democrats-Sweden; and Ronald Llamas, Joel Rocamora and Arlene Santos of Akbayan Citizens' Action Party-Philippines acted as lead speakers and discussants of the two-day conference.
The 2nd Sweden-Asia Forum culminated with delegates from participating political parties and movements expressing their desire to continue to learn from one another's struggles (especially in building a strong political party) and to deepen democracy in the respective countries.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Aung San Suu Kyi to reach 13 years in detention ­

Burma Campaign UK

On October 24th Aung San Suu Kyi will have spent a total of 13 years in detention.On the same day leaders of Asian and European countries are having a summit meeting in China. We want the leaders to back UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in securing the release of ALL political prisoners when he visits Burma in December.

Friday, October 24, 2008Time:
12:00pm - 1:00pmLocation:
Chinese EmbassyStreet:
49 Portland Place, near Oxford Circus tube

The number of political prisoners in Burma has almost doubled in the past year, despite calls from the United Nations Security Council for their release. These people have committed no crime. They have been locked up for calling for freedom.We have never had a UN Secretary General visit Burma to discuss political problems before, and we have never had European and Asian government joining forces to pressure the regime to release prisoners. They all say they want it. We must make them work to make it happen.For too long the UN has fallen for the lies of the regime. They must secure real change. The release of political prisoners should be the minimum benchmark for progress that Ban Ki-moon aims for in December.Join the protest! send a message to world leaders than they must turn words into action. Don't leave Burma's democracy activists suffering in Burma's jails.This protest is organized by a coalition of campaign groups and Burmese community organisations in the UK.

Two weeks ago we asked you to email the UN demanding they work for the release of political prisoners. The UN has received thousands of emails, and last week Ban Ki-moon stated that he wanted to see the release of political prisoners as a sign of progress for when he visits Burma in December. It is the first time he has linked his visit with the release of political prisoners. We are getting this issue onto the agenda of world leaders, but we need to keep it there.If you haven’t taken the action please do so now at:

Please also ask your friends to support this campaign.--Was this email forwarded to you by a friend? If you are not already a member of the Burma Campaign UK e-mail network, and would like to receive these updates directly, you can subscribe by sending a blank e-mail to:

The Burma Campaign UK Registered Company No. 3804730
Registered office address28 Charles SquareLondon N1 6HT

Sunday, September 28, 2008

War and Democracy

War and Democracy -- Miriam Coronel Ferrer

“Use devastation in a sentence,” an old, silly joke goes. The answer: “I waited for you at the-bus-station.”The devastation in Lanao, Cotabato and Maguindanao is no joke, however. Go there and find devastation in the 500,000 men, women and children crammed in deplorable evacuation centers.Most of them belong to poor farming communities. Six weeks ago, they had their own homes, cooked their own meals, plowed their land, and sent their children to school. Despite the deprivation, they survived on their own. Government did not have to feed them.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Saffron Revolution a year later: It’s not over

Altsean-Burma has released a briefer titled “Saffron Revolution a year later: It’s not over.” On 26 September, one year will have passed since Burma’s military regime began its bloody crackdown on the Saffron Revolution. The spirit of the monk-led Saffron Revolution that moved hundreds of thousands of people to hold protests throughout Burma and inspired hundreds of solidarity events around the globe lives on. This briefer details what has happened in Burma since: repression has intensified, the SPDC has exacerbated another humanitarian crisis, persisted with its gross economic mismanagement and refused to deliver the actual reforms it has been promising for years. Despite this, monks and ordinary people have persevered in their defiance of the SPDC.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


From September 5 to 8, I visited Haarlemmermeer, a municipality in the Netherlands at the invitation of the Dutch group, Vereniging Haarlemmnermeer Cebu (VHC). VHC was established by the local government of Haarlemmermeer to promote the cooperation between the sister cities through regular exchanges and provision of voluntary services, donations, and assistance. This was my second visit in this beautiful municipality in the province of North Holland.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Stockholm Archipelago

No visit to Sweden is complete without a boat trip to the archipelago. It consists of 24,000 islands, from big to small. It has become a divine retreat for people from all walks of life who fill the cottages and homes of the islands and the pleasure boats that cruise the waterways in between. My OPC colleagues Anita and Magdalena brought me to the island of Vaxholm, a harbor town with a 16th century fortress, historic buildings, small shops and restaurants, and a bustling harbor area. It was indeed a wonderful treat for me to see the archipelago after five straight days of meetings and engagements at the Olof Palme Center headquarters in Stockholm last week.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

23 million Filipinos living below Asia-Pacific poverty line

23 million Filipinos living below Asia-Pacific poverty line
MANILA, Philippines— The new poverty line for Asia-Pacific is $1.35 a day and about 23 million Filipinos, or 27 percent of the Philippine population, are living below it.
Using the regional poverty threshold of the Asian Development Bank, the Philippines is is next to Pakistan and worse than Vietnam when it comes to the percentage of its population living on less than $1.35 a day.
In a report released on Wednesday, the ADB offered a new way to gauge poverty incidence using price data specific to the Asia and Pacific region, and, critically, to the poor. The report was contained in a special chapter of Key Indicators 2008, its flagship annual statistical publication.
Using 2006 data, the ADB study estimated that about 27 percent of the Philippine population would have consumed less than the new Asian poverty line.
This new measure suggested a higher poverty incidence in the Philippines using the regional benchmark. Based on the $1-per day globally used threshold of extreme poverty, the ratio in the Philippines as of the previous estimate was lower at about 13.6 percent.
“This is a landmark study for two reasons,” ADB chief economist Ifzal Ali said in a statement. “For the first time, a thorough sensitivity analysis of internationally comparable poverty estimates has been carried out. Second, a poverty line that is relevant specifically to the Asia and Pacific region has been adopted.”
The ADB thus came up with the new poverty line of roughly $1.35 a day for the region.
The report showed that the ratio of the population consuming less than this amount each day was highest in India at 65.3 percent.
Other countries with high ratios living below the Asian poverty line were Nepal (59.2 percent), Bangladesh (58.2), Laos (48.8 percent), Mongolia (40 percent), Indonesia (39.2 percent) Cambodia (35.4 percent) and Pakistan (32 percent).
The Philippines' ratio was worse than Vietnam's 25.6 percent, Sri Lanka's 18.4 percent and Thailand's 0.1 percent.
The report estimated that in the 16 countries that participated in the study, 1.042 billion people would have been living below $1.35 a day in 2005.
“While the $1-a-day poverty line remains an appropriate benchmark for counting the extent of extreme poverty in Asia, and the developing world more generally, in a region that has witnessed rapid economic growth it might also be time to evaluate poverty incidence using a benchmark that reflects the region’s dynamism,” Ali said.
A major contribution of the report is to examine the sensitivity of poverty estimates to different methods for evaluating purchasing power parities (PPP) -- or conversion factors that ensure a common purchasing power across countries over a given set of goods and services.
“PPPs are one of the most vital ingredients in generating internationally comparable estimates of poverty,” Ali said.
The report noted that the World Bank’s $1-a-day poverty estimates are based on PPPs developed for comparing household consumption across countries, known as consumption PPPs. From the perspective of poverty comparisons, however, it was considered more appropriate to use a set of PPPs that are based on comparisons of prices of goods and services that the poor purchase.
The report, using original data collected specifically for its study, examined where the poor shop, what they buy, in what quantity, as well as the quality of the products they purchase. The report noted, for example, a considerable difference in quality and price between packaged rice bought in a supermarket and rice bought by the scoop in a wet market -- where the poor traditionally shop. The prices paid for the products purchased by the poor are used to generate a new set of PPPs, called poverty PPPs.
Poverty-specific PPPs were also computed using an International Comparison Program (ICP) price data with weights representing the expenditure patterns of the poor.
Even using this ICP measure, Filipinos living below the Asian poverty line were also estimated to be over 20 million.
“Our aim in this study was to shed light on how alternative approaches to compiling purchasing power parities can influence internationally comparable estimates of poverty,” Ali said.
“Clearly, the choice of PPP used matters a lot to the final estimates of poverty and it is therefore critical that we price the most appropriate set of goods and services. This report shows that the collection of poverty-specific prices -- the feasibility of which has been demonstrated by 16 developing Asian countries -- is possible,” he said.

Friday, August 8, 2008

888 Campaign: Burma Democracy

8 August, marks the 20th anniversary of Burma’s biggest ever democracy uprising when hundreds of thousands of people across Burma bravely marched through the streets demanding an end to military dictatorship. Soldiers fired on crowds of unarmed protesters, killing thousands.

Free Burma’s Political Prisoners!
Today there are more than 2000 political prisoners in Burma, many subjected to brutal torture and denied medical care.

Come and demonstrate outside the Burmese Embassy to call for the release of Burma’s political prisoners.

ALTSEAN-Burma has produced a campaign kit/resource page for the 8-8-88 20th anniversary.
The kit is available at: http://www.altsean. org/Research/ 8888/8888Home. php

Sunday, July 27, 2008

SONA 2008

Tomorrow, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will deliver her 8th State of the Nation Address (SONA).

Once more, as in previous annual reports by this illegitimate president, we anticipate to be treated to a distortion of the actual political and economic realities experienced by our people.

If we are to go by official pronouncements on GMA’s upcoming SONA, the claim is that our country is “on track”. How are we to interpret this statement? So far, these are the felt realities for the majority of us:

We can no longer afford the basic commodities. Inflation is at 11.4% and rising. The situation is expected to remain bad with the rising prices due to the tight global supply of rice and oil. And, we note with alarm the Asian Development Bank study that claims that for every 10% increase in food prices, about 2.3million more Filipinos fall into poverty.

More and more Filipinos are hungry and getting hungrier. In the Social Weather Station’s latest report, 16.3% of total population or 14.5 million Filipinos experienced “severe hunger”.

We continue to be jobless. The unemployment rate rose at 8% last June despite an emergency employment program for out-of-work youth.

Are we then “on track”? Spin can only take one so far. Government spin does not lower food prices and put food on our tables. And, Filipinos understand this. If we are to take the latest Pulse Asia survey as measure, only 14.1% of Filipinos have faith in what Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will say in her SONA tomorrow.

A Gaping Hole in Noah’s Ark

GMA’s administration hopes to appease the growing hungry crowd with an unsustainable, dole-out National Social Welfare Program under a Noah’s Ark framework, an allusion to the biblical boat that saved humanity from the great flood. This program hopes to make subsidy, relief and dole-out the strategic response to the ongoing crisis.

The problem with such band-aid, “pantawid gutom”, pa-pogi strategy is that hunger is a symptom and not the disease. It is not a strategic response to the chronic problem of joblessness, resource-draining corruption and the disparity in asset and resource distribution. It does not address the systemic root of the crisis, a morally-bankrupt economic model -- the elite-driven global capitalist framework of greed with its boom-and-bust cycle.

Our Calls

While we underline the continued relevance of the call for a socialist revolution as a respond to the global capitalist crisis, we realize the need for medium-term solutions to our present situation.

We echo the calls of our brothers and sisters in the mass movement for:

  • Repeal the Oil Deregulation Law and scrap the regressive value-added tax.
  • Extend and reform the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program to ensure the distribution of assets and wealth.
  • Reorient development strategy towards job creation for full employment.
  • Living wages, not minimum wages.
  • Realign the national budget for debt payments to necessary social services. Scrap the automatic debt appropriations act.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008



While Typhoon Frank devastated the country and claimed more than 650 lives, including the poor victims of the MV Princess of the Stars sea tragedy, illegitimate President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and her 74 junketeers mindlessly spend billions of taxpayers' money to visit Bush and watch Pacquiao fight in the US.MONEY SPENT MINDLESSLY

USD 1.5 M JUNKET!300-5000 – Willard Hotel rate 30 rooms booked 400-500 – Dinner per plate207++ - Airline rate per person800-1000 – Rental per car30 cars rented250 consulate officials mobilizedTHE PERKSP100,000 – each congressman gets monthly travel allowanceP1,620 – travel tax exemption when traveling with the President


Representative ProvinceRep. Narciso Santiago III, Alliance for Rural Concerns Party List GroupRep. Monico Puentevella, BacolodRep. Albert Garcia, BataanRep. Mark Llandro L. Mendoza, BatangasRep. Hermilando Mandanas, BatangasRep. William Irwin Tieng, Buhay Party List GroupRep. Jose Zubiri III, BukidnonRep. Lorna Silverio, BulacanRep. Mitzi Cajayon, CaloocanRep. Diosdado "Dato" Macapagal Arroyo, Camarines SurRep. Joseph Santiago, CatanduanesRep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr., CaviteRep. Antonio Cuenco, CebuRep. Eduardo Gullas, CebuDeputy Speaker Raul Del Mar, Cebu CityRep. Rommel Amatong, Compostela ValleySpeaker Prospero Nograles, Davao CityRep. Antonio Lagdameo, Davao Del NorteRep. Marc Cagas, Davao Del SurRep. Nelson Dayanghirang, Davao OrientalRep. Teodolo Coquilla, Eastern SamarRep. Andres Salvacion, LeyteRep. Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez, LeyteRep. Trinidad Apostol, LeyteRep. Ma. Zenaida Angping, ManilaRep. Amado S. Bagatsing, ManilaRep. Bienvenido Abante Jr., ManilaRep. Rizalina Seachon-Lanete, MasbateRep. Herminia Ramiro, Misamis OccidentalRep. Yevgeny Emano, Misamis OrientalRep. Rozzano Rufino Biazon, MuntinlupaRep. Joseph Gilbert Violago, Nueva EcijaDeputy Speaker Ma. Amelita C. Villarosa, Occidental MindoroRep. Anna York Bondoc, PampangaRep. Aurelio Gonzales Jr., PampangaRep. Juan Miguel Macapagal Arroyo, PampangaRep. Conrado Estrella III, PangasinanRep. Ma. Rachel Arenas, PangasinanRep. Eduardo C. Zialcita, ParañaqueRep. Roman Romulo, Pasig CityRep. Mary Ann Susano, Quezon CityRep. Nanette C. Castelo-Daza, Quezon CityRep. Danilo Suarez, Quezon ProvinceRep. Junie Cua, QuirinoRep. Arturo B. Robes, San Jose Del MonteRep. Roger Mercado, Southern LeyteRep. Munir Arbison, SuluRep. Rex Gatchalian, Valenzuela CityRep. Antonio Diaz, Zambales


Sen. Miriam Defensor SantiagoSen. Richard Gordon (Sen. Gordon did not go and did his job as Red Cross Chairman)


Sec. Arthur Yap, AgricultureSec. Rolando Andaya, BudgetSec. Gov. Amando Tetangco, Central BankSec. Gilbert Teodoro, DefenseSec. Ronaldo Puno, DILGSec. Jesli Lapus, EducationSec. Lito Atienza, EnvironmentSec. Margarito Teves, FinanceSec. Alberto Romulo, Foreign AffairsActing Sec. Marianito Roque, LaborSec. Ignacio Bunye, Presidential SpokesmanSec. Jesus Dureza, PressSec. Peter Favila, Trade

Shall we leave our country in the hands of such uncaring people?

It's time to take back our country!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Bigger Storms

Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was storming last Sunday. After learning that MV Princess of the Stars had sunk while sailing through storm-tossed waters, she called from San Francisco, demanding to know from the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) and the Philippine Coast Guard, “Why did you allow it to sail and why was there no ample warning?” She specifically berated Vice Adm. Wilfredo Tamayo, Coast Guard chief: “When did you issue the warning to all vessels (not to sail)?” She said “when” at least six times, as Tamayo tried to explain. The tongue-lashing was broadcast live on national radio.
There is no truth to the rumor that the NDCC replied when asked why it allowed the ship to sail, “We thought you were aboard, Ma’am.”
To be sure the NDCC and the Coast Guard deserved the public chastising. The only thing that left a bad taste in the mouth was the person doing it with the nation as captive audience. You may not demand responsibility when you yourself display staggering levels of irresponsibility. I don’t know if this country still remembers, but the last time I heard Arroyo repeating a word on the phone was when she called up a fellow named “Garci.” The word was not “when,” it was “hello.”
Juan de la Cruz may very well berate her in public in exactly the same terms. The ship of state is floundering, if it has not slammed into a rock and bellied up yet. It has been set a-sail despite the more ferocious storm of public opinion that says the captain steering the ship never got her diploma from the School of Elections and amid the howling winds of public fury expressed in rallies, marches and protests against a ruler who has broken records in lack of acceptance by the ruled. “Why did you sail the ship of state into a churning sea, and why did you refuse to turn back despite ample, angry and strident warnings from the Citizens’ Catastrophe Prevention Center?” “When will you stop plunging the ship of state to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean?” “When will you resign?
Epic as the tragedy of the sinking of Princess of the Stars is, there are in fact other, more alarming concerns that Typhoon “Frank” has brought to light. Concerns that have escaped public attention from the focus drawn on the sea mishap. The first of that concern is the storm itself.
Lest we forget, Frank didn’t just sink Princess of the Stars, it also sank the provinces of Iloilo and Aklan and Metro Manila, and left more than 200 people dead in its wake. I’ve been saying all this time that we are not just facing two crises today of mind-boggling severity and indefiniteness, which are the food and oil crises, we are facing a third, which is natural disasters of even more mind-boggling severity and indefiniteness. Which comes from the environmental crisis, also called global warming, environmental degradation, climate change. It’s happening everywhere as we speak: in the hurricanes that have struck the United States, in the earthquakes that have razed parts of Burma and China, in the superstorms that have devastated Infanta town and Albay province. I do not know which is more frightening, the death toll from those disasters or our factoring of it to a point where we now find a hundred people dead “normal.”
Cold comfort as it is, and at the risk of insulting the kin of the dead from Typhoon Frank, we can at least thank heaven its toll was not as bad as China’s or Burma’s from the earthquakes. I’ve been warning about this for some time: the terrifying prospect not just of the combined effects of the rice crisis and the fuel crisis unraveling over the next few months or years, but of these happening alongside the effects of environmental degradation. Almost overnight after Typhoon Frank struck, the prices of rice, meat and fish soared in all wet markets. As I write this, rice in some parts of the country was expected to reach P50 a kilo.
This is just the beginning. The weather is messed up and has gotten fickle, and life has become fragile in all parts of the world. You don’t know where the next major disaster will strike. Typhoon Frank has just hinted at the shape of things to come, a warning for those who imagine it is just part of normal cycle of storms to visit this country, like those who imagine the food and oil scarcities are just part of the normal boom-bust cycle of the economy. Things are going to get worse, unless we move strenuously to avert it. Unless we produce more food ourselves, change our lifestyle to save fuel or shift to alternatives, and do our share of saving the planet.
Which brings me to the other concern that Typhoon Frank has brought to light. That is the fourth, more immediate and worrisome, crisis we’re facing today, which is the crisis of government. We’re facing a worse situation today than the world did during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Then, the limits were economic; today, the limits are physical. The planet is dying from carbon emissions, and fossil fuel is near to depletion. Only food is a renewable resource. These are the very times when, as I wrote about earlier this week, we need a government that is honest and truthful. These are the very times when we need a leader we can trust and rally behind. These are the very times when we need a Winston Churchill who can inspire people to shed blood, sweat and tears to face a war, or a Franklin Delano Roosevelt who can convince people they can expect a good deal from government as they face want.
That is what we have not got. All we have is someone we distrust and want to distance ourselves from. That conclusion is as inescapable as the fate bearing down on the people trapped in the womb, or tomb, of a sinking ship. Except that I don’t know why we should resign ourselves to this fate.
Arroyo was storming last weekend. Some storms are worse than others.

Source: By Conrado de Quiros, PDI

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The world’s 10 worst maritime disasters—in the last 20 years

The world’s 10 worst maritime disasters—in the last 20 years

The Philippines tops the charts with the MV Doña Paz/MT Vector collision in terms of number of casualties in a single maritime disaster. But three of the top maritime disasters in the past two decades happened in Indonesia.

1. MV Doña Paz (Philippines, December 20, 1987)

Passenger vessel MV Doña Paz collided with MT Vector, an oil tanker, along the Tablas Strait, between Mindoro and Marinduque. The collision ignited some 8,800 barrels of petroleum products that Vector was carrying at the time, causing a fire that rapidly engulfed the tanker and the Doña Paz. Subsequent investigations into the incident found that Dona Paz exceeded its passenger and cargo limits and that the Vector’s boat license had expired. Casualties reached 4,375.

2. MV Joola (Senegal, September 26, 2002)

The disaster happened within five minutes after MV Joola sailed to a sea of storm in the coast of Gambia. Various reasons for the disaster were cited, among them overcrowding, and negligence by management as the ship was not originally designed for sea faring. Death toll totaled 1,863.

3. MV al-Salam Boccaccio 98 (Red Sea, February 3, 2006)

Faulty drainage pumps and unpredictable weather were some of the reasons cited for the sinking of MV al-Salam Boccacio 98, a Roll-on/Roll-off ferry, into the depths of the Red Sea. Survivors and eye witnesses said a fire started at the storage area and, as the ship turned, it capsized and eventually sank. 1,018 passengers died in the disaster.

4. MV Bukoba (Lake Victoria, Tanzania, May 21, 1996)

The passenger steamer MV Bukoba sank in Lake Victoria causing 894 casualties while en route to Mwanza, a city in Tanzania. The steamer was already in bad shape before the voyage. It was also found out that the steamer was overcrowded.

5. MS Estonia (Baltic Sea, September 28, 1994)

The locks on the bow visor and bad weather caused this cruise-ferry’s demise. A total of 852 were killed during the tragedy.

6. KM Cahaya Bahari (Indonesia, June 29, 2000)

A total of 550 deaths were recorded after a storm hit and eventually capsized Cahaya Bahari, an Indonesian wooden-hulled ship, off the island of Sulawesi. The ship was overcrowded with refugees fleeing from the Maluku islands.

7. MV Nazreen 1 (Bangladesh, July 8, 2003)

The overcrowded MV Nazreen I sank at the confluence of the Padma, Meghna, and Dakana rivers, considered one of the most dangerous parts of the river from July to October. Casualties were counted at 528 although there’s no recorded number of passengers aboard.

8. Salem Express (Egypt, December 15, 1991)

The Salem Express, a roll-on/roll-off ferry sank off Safaga in the Red Sea as it was crossing the treacherous Hyndman Reefs. Because of the storm, the ship hit a reef, causing the bow visor to open, creating a hole on the starboard side. Water penetrated the ship which eventually sank in 20 minutes. Deaths were counted at 464.

9. MV Senopati Nusantara (Indonesia, December 30, 2006)

The Indonesian ferry sank due to a violent storm off Mandalika Island in the Java Sea. One survivor said that the ship rolled over before it submerged to the depths. Deaths were counted at 461.

10. KM Bismas Raya 2 (Indonesia, October 1999)

KM BIsmas Raya 2 caught fire while off Merauke, Irian Jaya. It eventually capsized and caused the death of 361 people.

Research by: Leilani Chavez /


Thursday, June 19, 2008

Burma's democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi's 63rd birthday

Today, June 19, Burma's democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, celebrates her 63rd birthday alone, under house arrest. She is now in her 13th year of detention yet she has committed no crime.

She is imprisoned for peacefully calling for freedom and democracy in Burma. She isn't allowed to see family or friends as all visitors are banned. Her phone line is cut and her post is intercepted. Today we are asking you to send a message direct to the regime, asking them to free Aung San Suu Kyi and the other 1,919 political prisoners in Burma. Take action here:

For taking a stand against Burma’s brutal regime, Aung San Suu Kyi is kept under house arrest. But international pressure keeps her safe. Aung San Suu Kyi asks for our support; “ Please use your liberty to promote ours”. Today please do that – send the regime an email

Thursday, June 12, 2008

UN report: Poor suffer as Asia beset by petty corruption

UN report says poor suffer as Asia beset by petty corruption
Source: Agence France-Presse

First Posted 16:07:00 06/12/2008

JAKARTA -- A few hundred baht here, a few thousand rupees there -- a major UN report released Thursday said "petty corruption" is a massive drain on Asian economic growth and hits the poor hardest.
The sort of bribes many Asians pay as a matter of course are worsening child mortality rates and perpetuating poverty across the region, the report said.
"Petty corruption is a misnomer," said Anuradha Rajivan, who led the team that compiled the UN Development Program's report, titled "Tackling Corruption, Transforming Lives."
"Dollar amounts may be relatively small but the demands are incessant, the number of people affected is enormous and the share of poor people's income diverted to corruption is high."
She said too much attention focused on the "big fish" in anti-corruption drives and not on the low-level vice that affects countless Asians daily.
"Hauling the rich and powerful before the courts may grab headlines but the poor will benefit more from efforts to eliminate the corruption that plagues their everyday lives," she said in a statement accompanying the report.
UNDP Assistant Secretary General Olav Kjorven, launching the report in Jakarta alongside Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, said it was the poor who paid the price for corruption.
"Development is ultimately about expanding the choices that people have to lead the lives that they value," he said in a speech.
"Corruption strangles these choices especially and disproportionately for the poor and vulnerable, meaning that fighting it needs to be a priority."
Yudhoyono said that despite a string of corruption arrests and convictions since his election in 2004, much more needed to be done.
He called for greater multilateral cooperation and an end to "corruption havens" around the region, a veiled jab at countries such as Singapore and China where high-profile Indonesian corruption suspects are living in exile.
"I have time and time again said there needs to be bilateral and multilateral cooperation. There should be no safe haven for corruptors that take away state assets and live peacefully in another country," he said.
Indonesia is one of the world's most corrupt countries and ranks 143rd on Transparency International's global corruption perceptions index, level with Russia, Togo and Gambia.
Kjorven said the need to free poor Asians from corruption was even more pressing in the face of the global food crisis, with the price of rice rising as much as 70 percent in the past year.
"The reason for this global food crisis is many fold but one thing is clear, corrupt practices in how agricultural lands, the environment and natural resources are managed are making the situation worse," he said.
A summary of the report said small-scale corruption limited poor Asians' access to education and basic health services, contributing to high infant mortality rates and locking people into cycles of poverty.
Across the Asia-Pacific region, it said politicians were seen as the most venal element in society, followed by the police and judiciary.
Nearly 20 percent of people claimed to have paid a bribe to police in the past year in the Asia-Pacific region, it said.
In South Asia, many people had to pay bribes to gain admission into hospital and even for mothers to see their newborn babies. Up to a third of drugs sold in certain countries were expired or counterfeit.
"Ghost teachers" and even "ghost schools" -- where government funds are lost on non-existent services -- were examples of corruption in the education sector which meant fewer children in school and higher illiteracy rates.
Meanwhile, natural resources that should provide a foundation for economic and social development were being destroyed by illegal activity.
In Indonesia, less than a quarter of logging operations worth an estimated $6.6 billion were legal.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Part Two: Complaints about Cebu Pacific

Cebu Pathetic
By Melanie T. Lim

CEBU Pacific has now been dubbed “Cebu Pathetic” and by another, “Sorry Pacific.” These monikers are not mine but of those whom Cebu Pacific has so aggrieved. The horror stories are real. (Check out this link: Or you can email me and I will send you the link above. Some say, “You get what you pay for,” when you fly Cebu Pacific. Let me ask you, when you buy an airline ticket, what are you paying for? Are you paying to NOT get to your destination? Are you paying to get to your destination three hours late? No matter what price you pay for an airline ticket, you expect to GET TO YOUR DESTINATION on TIME because THAT is WHAT you are PAYING FOR. The decision to go on a price war with the industry leader is a corporate decision. Consumers should not have to bear the brunt of this business strategy. Consumers should not have to be misled into thinking they are getting “value for money” by paying X amount of pesos for Y level of service. We don’t pick up our phones because we are understaffed. We don’t hire managers because we need to cut costs. We don’t entertain complaints in person or over email. When you visit our offices, you will languish for hours. Don’t come screaming at us when your flight is five hours delayed or when you get to the airport and find that your flight is canceled and therefore must pay rebooking charges to get on another flight or when you get your refund in eight months. Remember, we are a budget airline. When you pay low-end prices, you don’t expect high-end service. Still, no matter how low a price anyone pays for an airline ticket, no one ever signs up for CRAP. Everyone expects DECENT service at any price level. You don’t expect lies, sorry excuses or public humiliation. You don’t expect to bear the blame of others because a company has no conscience. A no-frills airline is not expected to provide “perks” to its passengers. But getting passengers and their luggage to their destination ON TIME is NOT a “perk.” It is a contractual as well as moral obligation. In the event, therefore, that an airline is unable to fulfill this basic obligation for whatever reason, it should rightfully compensate the aggrieved passengers or at the VERY LEAST, apologize to them. An airline that decides to drop its prices as a business strategy does not have carte blanche to treat its customers shabbily. Or it should advertise: LOW PRICES. NO CUSTOMER SERVICE. PLANES FLY WHEN FULL. This way, the public can make informed decisions about whether or not they should take the risks of flying with a budget airline. Cebu Pacific has extended a luncheon invitation to Sun.Star columnists. In light of what’s going on, I find the invitation highly inappropriate. Cebu Pacific knows what I want—and it won't cost them a single cent. Cebu Pacific has been informed that I will not be wined, dined and gagged. (

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Complaints About Cebu Pacfic

Cebu Pacific
By Melanie T. Lim

IF the problems of Cebu Pacific continue, it is not only because their airline service is unreliable, their customer relations is equally untenable. It is ridiculous for Cebu Pacific Corporate Communications Manager RG Orense to dismiss the complaints of the public. “We can’t respond to complaints based on speculations because people have the tendency to generalize. Complaints must be specific and the person complaining must be identified.” (The Freeman, 05/13/08). What is Orense trying to say? That the public is making up all these stories about getting bumped off because they have nothing better to do? Would Cebu Pacific prefer that these aggrieved parties organize themselves and document their complaints so they can file a class suit against Cebu Pacific? Would these make it real for Orense? Orense further says that the company is open to dealing with customer complaints but suggests that instead of going to the media, passengers should instead fill out a customer service form which they can do online through their website. (Sun.Star Cebu, 05/13/08). I don’t know if I should laugh or cry over this suggestion. Fill out a customer service form? Might Cebu Pacific act on this in this lifetime? Their customer service hotlines don’t even pick up. And in person, we can’t even get the help we need with an “actual” Cebu Pacific employee facing us. About a month ago, I bought tickets online. Because of a booking mistake, I had to get in touch with Customer Service. It took me days to get through and still, no resolution. Alarmed, I visited the Cebu Pacific office to talk to an “actual” employee. I was shocked at the sight that greeted me. People were packed like refugees all the way to the door. It took me ten days to straighten things out. Then, three days ago, I got a call from my bank. I was told that my credit card had been exposed to security risk and that it had to be cancelled immediately. I was informed that my last transaction was online with Cebu Pacific. Perhaps, there are more risks to flying this airline than we think. In a letter to me, VP for Marketing & Product Candice Iyog says, “On the concerns you have raised, we can only respond to those with specific details.” It is this condescending attitude, seemingly company-wide, that continues to raise the ire of an aggrieved public. Instead of seeking to appease aggrieved passengers, Cebu Pacific responds with astonishing arrogance saying unless complaints are specific, they are speculative. Unless you identify yourself, you are a liar. The message is crystal clear. Cebu Pacific DOES NOT CARE about its customers. Or why else would passengers have to prove themselves simply to be heard? Any other corporate entity would jump at the chance to know what they’re doing wrong so they can do right. Well, apparently not Cebu Pacific. Until Cebu Pacific ACCEPTS, APOLOGIZES and ADDRESSES the concerns raised by the riding public, the complaints no doubt will continue to rise. Where corporate responsibility ends, consumer advocacy must begin. This is why media has to step in. (

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Current Situation in Burma

The Current Situation in Burma

The UN reports the death toll to be around 100,000 with 220,000 missing. 1.5 million are at severe risk if aid does not get in immediately. Instead of allowing aid in and providing the best response to the crisis, the regime is still blocking international aid efforts and even preventing local NGOs access to the worst affected areas. The U.N. said the World Food Program was getting in only 20 percent of the food needed because of logistical problems and regime restrictions. General Thein Sein, the junta's Prime Minister, said on Monday that no foreigners were allowed to go to the delta region, the worst-hit areas. International aid agencies operating in Burma warn that only 10% of the aid needed to cope with the millions struggling to survive had arrived in the country. The military is now even forcing people into camps, similar to prisons. No one is allowed to leave, not even to search for missing family members. They must wear their ID number at all times.

Click phoos here:

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Jobs and Justice, Food and Freedom

Majority of the Filipinos are still trapped in the rigors of daily survival and are unable to think beyond the next meal.
The social faultiline between the rich and the poor is steadily widening.

Today (May 1st), thousands of Filipino workers observed International Labor Day by holding march rallies and protest actions to demand for higher pay and better working conditions
Unity Declaration of the Filipino Working People on the issues of Rice and Food Crisis , Scarcity of Jobs, and Injustices. :

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Saying No to JPEPA !

Are there at least 8 Senators who love our country?

While the nation’s focus in on the rice crisis and the escalating food prices, the Senate, according to Senator Pia Cayetano, is poised to approve the Japan-Philippine Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) “despite objections.” Senators seem to be convinced, like Malacañang, that the Philippines may be left behind if the JPEPA is not approved. Japanese investments and official development agreement may be withheld from this country if the JPEPA is not approved.

Critics of JPEPA have an online campaign asking the Filipino people to convince their senators to cast their votes for the Filipino people by junking JPEPA. Only eight senators need to vote vs. JPEPA. Will there be at least 8 Senators who will show their love for our people and this land by saying no to JPEPA? For those interested to know more about why the Senators and the Filipino people should not accept the present JPEPA, please see http://www.Petition jpepa/petition. html.

The move of Senator Miriam Santiago to endorse the approval of JPEPA subject to conditionalities show that even the endorser herself has questions about the present JPEPA. If the treaty is not tight and totally acceptable, why approve this? What is the truth behind JPEPA?

Is the JPEPA truly beneficial for our country and our people? We have no objection to an economic partnership agreement with Japan or any country provided the provisions will truly benefit our people and our land.

Objections to the JPEPA have taken the form of the issue of toxic waste, the stringent conditions required for our Filipino nurses and caregivers, and the secrecy that accompanied the signing of the treaty by GMA that denied our people and even the Senate to deliberate on the treaty from the start.

Some less known highlights of the objections about the JPEPA posed by its critics include:

1. The NBN deal would have cost the Filipino people at least $130 million. JPEPA will cost us more: For promised and theoretical Japanese investments, we are giving up our lands, our seas, our livelihood, our laws, our farmers, our fisherfolk, our migrant workers, and our lives. Our patrimony, our sovereignty, our dignity, our people, our land, our next generation of Filipinos as well will be the price to be exchanged for JPEPA.

2. JPEPA grants national treatment to the Japanese. JPEPA allows foreign ownership of Philippine private lands in all sectors except manufacturing and services. If Japanese investors wish to engage in real estate development, agribusiness, and other similar ventures, they can now own private lands in the country. This is a crime against Filipino farmers who continue to suffer and die in the fight to own the very lands that they till. JPEPA also allows corporations with 40% Japanese capital to engage in deep-sea fishing activities together with the Philippine government via joint venture agreements, production-sharing agreements or production-sharing agreements; a crime against Filipino fishermen who barely get government support for their livelihood.

3. In Article 93 of the JPEPA, the Philippines waived its right to require Japanese investors to transfer technology to their Filipino partners. The Philippines also surrendered the right to require Japanese investors to hire a given level of Filipinos. This voluntary surrender of rights has not been done by Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand. The provisions contained in Article 4 and Article 27 of the JPEPA do not exist in similar EPAs with Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand. The Philippine negotiators also restricted the law-making powers of the Congress by indicating provisions of current laws in our reservations for future measures. Article 27 and its implementing guidelines allows importation of used four wheeled vehicles; a clear violation of Executive Order 156.

4. JPEPA is but the first in a long line of free trade and economic partnership agreements currently being negotiated by the Philippines, and it will set the stage for all future trade and investment agreements. If we cannot strategically defend our interests in this treaty, what kind of future can we promise to the Filipino people?
Will the Senators insist on ratifying JPEPA in its current form despite clear objections and clear threats to our lands, our seas, our people of this generation and the future and our freedom, our lives? Will there be at least eight Senators who will block the current form of the JPEPA for the sake of our people and our land?

By Cheery Ballescas Perspective

The Freeman, April 25, 2008

Monday, April 21, 2008

Decent Work, Decent Life

Sign the Call to action for Decent Work Decent Life

Bill vs discrimination to be pushed anew

Cebu Daily News
Posted date: April 19, 2008

A PARTYLIST representative seeks to revive a bill against discrimination following the traumatic experience of a gay florist who became the brunt of jokes after his surgery to remove a body spray from his rectum was circulated in YouTube and cellular phones.
Partylist Rep. Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel of Akbayan said there was a need to schedule the deliberation of House Bill (HB) No. 956 following the Internet videotape scandal gripping the Vicente Sotto Medical Memorial Center (VSMMC).
"I called Hon. Lorenzo Tanada, head of the Committee on Human Rights, to give time to the deliberation of this Anti-Discrimination Act because I am or we in Akbayan were really saddened about what had happened in this Vicente Sotto incident," said Baraquel who was in Cebu to speak in a forum on good governance.
She said she was saddened by what happened to Danilo (not his real name), the 39-year-old florist who underwent a rectal surgery to remove the metal can of Black Suede body spray from his rectum.
The videotape of the surgery was circulated in YouTube and in cellular phones. In the videotape, VSMMC medical staffers were heard making fun at the patient who was unconscious. There were over 10 people inside the operating room, some were videotaping the procedure using their cameras and cellular phones.
Baraquel showed up during the press conference of Basak Pardo barangay captain Dave Tumulak, who was assisting Danilo in his case, to show her support to the patient.
Tumulak said the legislator promised to file a bill on Monday, seeking to conduct a congressional inquiry on the matter.
He said the inquiry, which would be conducted in aid of legislation, would seek to determine how to strengthen the laws protecting the rights of homosexuals so they would be subject to discrimination.
According to Baraquel, she filed HB 956 or Anti-Discrimination Act on July 10, 2007.
But, she said the bill, which seeks to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, remained pending at the House Committee on Human Rights.
Under the bill, it is considered unlawful if a person will be denied access to public service, medical and health services, educational institutions and employment because of his sexual orientation.
It is unlawful to anyone who will force any person to medical and psychological examination without the consent of the person involved and to harass someone because of the person's sexual orientation or gender identity.
Violators will face a fine of not less than P100,000 but not more than P500,000 or imprisonment of from one year to six years or both at the discretion of the court.
In addition, community service in terms of human rights education to the perpetrator and exposure to the plight of the victims can be imposed at the discretion of the court. Kimberly May Villacrucis, UP Masscom Intern

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Arroyo dared to revoke EO on Hanjin

Arroyo dared to revoke EO on Hanjin
By Maila Ager INQUIRER.netFirst Posted 18:33:00 04/09/2008

MANILA, Philippines – President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was challenged on Wednesday by a militant lawmaker to revoke her executive order that gave power subsidies to a Korean company now under fire for its construction of two condominium buildings in Subic in the province of Zambales.

Arroyo signed Executive Order 701 in January 22 this year directing the National Transmission Commission (Transco) to give the controversial Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction Philippines a discount on transmission and generation charges for 10 years.

"If its claim that it is not giving special treatment to Hanjin is true, then we dare the government to remove the power subsidies given to the company," Akbayan Representative Risa Hontiveros said in a statement.

For the first six years, Hontiveros said, Hanjin would be given discounted generation and transmission rates of $0.0491, and this would increase to $0.0600 for the remaining four years.

"This is a hefty discount considering the power needs of an industrial firm and compared to the P5 per kilowatt hour rate imposed on Filipino consumers to cover NPC's [National Power Commission's] charge and Transco's transmission charge," she said.

Besides, Hontiveros said these power subsidies would not only be for Hanjin's shipyard in Subic but it would also cover another shipyard, which is yet to be constructed in Mindanao.

"The cost of these subsidies would eventually be imposed on Filipino consumers in the form of power rate hikes, which are oftentimes rationalized by increasing generation and transmission costs," Hontiveros said.

"The extent of concessions given to Hanjin at the expense of labor standards, environmental protection, and revenues lost due to power subsidies," she said, also showed a "government that bends backwards for foreigners but gives its own citizen's second-class treatment."

Hontiveros then urged the President to revoke the executive, saying it is not only unfair but is also costly on the part of the government.

"It's not a question of how many millions of dollars the company is investing in the country. The principle of parity and the rule of law should be applied," she said.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Olympic Torch protest London

The Burma Campaign UK and the Burmese community will be highlighting China’s continued support for Burma’s brutal regime by holding a peaceful protest as the Olympic Torch comes to London on Sunday, April 6, 2008.

Why China?
China arms the regime, supplying weapons, bullets and military vehicles to the brutal army.China finances the regime , by signing deals in the oil, gas, hydro-electric and mining sectors china provides the regime with an economic lifeline.

China protects the regime by blocking UN Security Council action on Burma.

By providing economic, political and logistical support China is helping to keep the brutal generals in power in Burma.

Source: The Burma Campaign UK

Thursday, April 3, 2008

All About Rice

· It is the staple food of about 3 Billion people around the world

· 250 Million farmers depend on rice cultivation

· 90% of the world's rice is produced and consumed in Asia

· It has political, economic, and social significance especially in the Southeast Asian region

· The MOST IMPORTANT CROP in the SEA producing 150 Million tons of paddy annually

· Its production is associated with irrigation, use of modern varieties, and inputs of fertilizer nutrients. Thus, expansion in any of these inputs rationalizes the increase in rice production

· Philippines has the 3rd largest irrigated rice area, next to Indonesia and Vietnam

· Thailand and Vietnam remain to be the region's major rice exporters while Indonesia and the Philippines remain to be major rice importer in the region

· The Philippines is 9th in terms of rice consumption in the world next to China, India, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Thailand, Burma, and Japan

· World's top rice- exporting countries are Thailand (1), Vietnam (2), USA (3), China (4), Burma (10) and Taiwan (14)

· World's top rice- importing countries are Indonesia (1), Philippines (8), and Malaysia (9)


· Poor production techniques

· Lack of irrigation

· High dependence on weather conditions

· Massive land conversion

· Small farmers are highly indebted to private money lenders and loan sharks who usually charge high interest rates because of the high costs of inputs such as fertilizers and seeds

· Urbanization

· Rice trade is controlled by private capitalists with whom farmers have debts

· Illegal rice trading practices

· Liberalization of the rice industry due to GATT- WTO- Agreements on Agriculture


Monday, March 24, 2008

Beijing 2008 olympics

When the International Olympic Committee assigned the 2008 summer Olympic Games to Beijing on 13 July 2001, the Chinese police were intensifying a crackdown on subversive elements, including Internet users and journalists. Six years later, nothing has changed. But despite the absence of any significant progress in free speech and human rights in China, the IOC’s members continue to turn a deaf ear to repeated appeals from international organisations that condemn the scale of the repression.
To continue reading, click here:

Friday, March 21, 2008

The Old Churches of Cebu

Cebu is not only known for its Sinulog festival and beautiful beach resorts but it also recognized for its century-old churches. These Augustinian built churches form an essential part of our national heritage. Their preservation should be ensured for the future generation.
Yesterday (Holy Thursday), Teresa and I observed the Catholic Lenten tradition of the Visita Iglesia by visiting old churches at the southeastern side of Cebu province. We went up early in the morning and drove all the way to the South. We visited the Church of San Francisco de Asis in Naga, Church of San Isidro Labrador in San Fernando, Church of Santa Catalina de Alejandria in Carcar and Church of San Miguel Arcangel in Argao.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

4.2M Filipinos jobless, 10M want more work

There were 4.2 million jobless Filipinos in January 2008, almost the same level as last year, according to the latest labor force survey of the National Statistics Office (NSO).
The country's jobless rate was 7.4 percent in January 2008 compared to 7.8 percent a year ago, the NSO announced Tuesday.
However, the unemployment rate increased on a quarterly basis, from 6.3 percent recorded in October 2007.
The underemployment rate fell slightly from 21.5 percent, or 12 million Filipinos wanting more work in January 2007, to 18.9 percent or 10.8 million this year.
The NSO defines unemployed persons (15 years old and above) as those who have no job or business and are actively looking for work.
Underemployed persons are all employed persons who "express the desire to have additional hours of work" or want to "have a job with longer working hours."
Among the regions, the National Capital Region had the highest unemployment rate of 12.5 percent.
Males had higher unemployment rate of 7.8 percent compared to females at 6.7 percent.
For every ten unemployed, five (49.6%) were aged 15-24 years, while three were in the age group 25-34.
Around 39 percent of the unemployed had attained college level and 33.5 percent were high school graduates.
The NSO said a total of 33.7 million people were employed as of January 2008, which placed the employment rate at 92.6 percent.
The number of persons in the labor force in January 2008 was estimated at 36.4 million out of the estimated 57.4 million population 15 years and over. '
These numbers translated into a labor force participation rate of 63.4 percent, compared to last year's figure of 64.8 percent.
Of the estimated 33.7 million employed persons, around one-half (50.2%) were in the services sector, more than one-third (35.0%) in the agriculture sector and the rest (14.8%) were in the industry sector.
These proportions were almost the same as in January 2007 estimates at 50.5 percent for services sector, 34.7 percent for agriculture sector and 14.8 percent for industry sector.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Cardinal Vidal: Lozada not Welcome in Cebu?

The recent statement by Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal on Jun Lozada shows how far astray from truth and justice the shepherds of the Catholic flock have gone.

Jun Lozada is not welcome in Cebu? With due respect to the Cardinal, he does not speak for, and in behalf of, the entire Cebuano populace.

According to Cardinal Vidal, Cebuanos are intelligent enough to understand Lozada's side of the story. True, but intelligence is of the mind and discernment is of the spirit. And we, Cebuanos, are more than intelligence. Far from it, we discern (and also engage in affirmative actions) because the church, as an institution, has been strongly influencing us to form our soundest judgments and profound discernment so that we would become a collective oasis of strength to those who risk their lives in the name of TRUTH.

And for the church to remain an important institution that preaches the HIGHER TRUTH and the good news of salvation, it must be keep its fidelity to its core teachings of justice, truth and fairness.

Is it fair & just to spurn Jun Lozada, extend special invitation to a "recollection" to an administration spinmeister like Mr. Cerge Remonde and refer to it as a way of "exactly knowing the truth"? The truth and Mr. Remonde is like white and black.

The clergy recollection is not the proper forum to ferret out the truth with only government's side "clarifying" the version of truth. For the head of priests to allow "his" priestly flock to hear only one side is akin to putting blinders on them. The tragedy in this is these very same priests with blinders on have monopoly of the pulpits and, through these, churchgoers trying to find their moral anchor. We ask then, how can the blind lead the blind?

Lozada is not welcome in Cebu? Cebuanos are interested to know the truth as well. What sets us apart from the Cardinal's quest for truth is that we are not only concerned with just knowing the truth, we also need an encounter with the source of the truth. This is intelligence with discernment.

And who is making Jun Lozada a hero? If the Cardinal does not realize it, the issue at hand is already beyond Lozada. The crux of the issue now is the systemic corruption and greed that haunts this country; the flagrant decadence of moral values and the defeat of righteousness against the evils of society. And whoever risks his life in the battle against evil is necessarily a HERO; he doesn't have to be declared one nor be created by the people who are in solidarity with his noble cause.

In the face of this crisis of institutions, may our observance of the Lenten Season find deeper meaning. Lent is a time of prayer and penance as a way to focus on God's grace. This is the best time to take off our righteous robes and to come before God with a new humility, willing to confess our inadequacies. To kneel down with all humbleness before Him and strip ourselves of all pretenses and hypocrisies. By doing so, this might put us in a position to hear God in ways that we have not heard Him in a long time. In this, we may find the beginning of a healing for ourselves and for our country.

O Lord, begin with them. Here. Now.


Akbayan Citizens Action Party • Alliance of Progressive Labor • Bukluran sa Ikauunlad ng Sosyalistang Isip at Gawa • Center for Participatory Governance • Movement for the Advancement of Student Power

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Southrail memo also missing
Southrail memo also missing
The Philippine Star

After the disappearance of the original document signed by the government with ZTE Corp. of China, another project document has been reported missing,A Senate resolution was filed Wednesday censuring Philippine National Railways general manager Jose Ma. Sarasola II for the "loss" or withholding of a copy of a memorandum of agreement (MOA) between the PNR and the China National Technical Import-Export on the construction of the Southrail project.Under Resolution No. 316, Sen. Jamby Madrigal said Sarasola must be compelled to submit the documents related to the Southrail project to ferret out the truth on charges of corruption surrounding the deal.The senator said she wrote Sarasola on Feb. 13 asking for a copy of the MOA between the Philippines and China on the Southrail, to which the PNR chief replied on Feb. 14 that they were still looking for it. On Feb. 19, Madrigal said she again inquired about the MOA and said the letter of Sarasola on Feb. 14 was tantamount to a cover up as it was hard to believe such an important document could not be found.Madrigal said that on Feb. 20, Sarasola claimed they still could not find the MOA signed on April 27, 2005 and that it might have been lost.Madrigal said she could not understand how such important documents could be lost, like what happened to the original contract of the national broadband network (NBN) deal signed in Boao, China by the Philippine government and ZTE Corp. of China."They are either very mad or very bad. It’s quite stupid for them to say they lost it, they lose everything," Madrigal said.Madrigal, Senators Panfilo Lacson and Manuel Roxas II have sought an investigation into the Southrail project that was also said to be overpriced like the NBN and the Northrail deals.Madrigal said she was not convinced that the Southrail agreement could not be produced because various media reports have quoted Sarasola as the source for details about the project. "To tolerate such denial by the PNR general manager is to tolerate purported corrupt acts," Madrigal said."This is another cover up. Is this the tactic of the Arroyo administration?" Madrigal added.Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, chairman of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee, said the hearing on the Southrail project would be held after the Holy Week break of the Senate.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

A letter to CBCP

Dear CBCP,

My name is Gary Granada and I am neither a Catholic nor a Protestant. I do not belong to a huge organization, much less represent one. At best I am a volunteer of Kaalagad, a small interfaith community. I write this letter in the hope that you might reconsider your stance regarding GMA and her government - that too.

But primarily I write out of confusion. In previous pronouncements, you deplored a “most corrupt President” which you said the Church helped install, hence urged everybody to take communal action. And then two weeks later you asked the very same President to take the lead in combating corruption.

I understand that this was the result of a process of discernment on your part as bishops. God must have spoken to you and told you to ask a most corrupt leader to rid her most corrupt government of corruption. Perhaps God forgot to consider who would benefit from your statement. Lord, do you see who is cheering?

Discernment must be a supernatural mystery, I wonder if it involves executive privilege between God and the CBCP. “Discernment” reminds me of one of Christ’s disciples. When he announced that one of them was about to betray him, the culprit himself asked, “Is it I, Lord?” Napakahirap nga i-discern ang klaro na.

As a fan of Jesus, I did a bit of discerning myself. Something tells me that the Gospel itself - the good news to the needy, the reign of hope, sufficiency, justness and goodwill – is being undermined by the very institution that owns its franchise. It has made it like tasteless salt, no longer good for anything except perhaps to be thrown out and trampled under foot by people.

Dear CBCP, two years ago you could have helped prevent a most corrupt president and her gang from continually getting away with lying, cheating, stealing and murder. But you chose to sit it out, hence instead helped save GMA and Garci. Despite the odds, the people went ahead anyway and marched. And “lost”.

Now you do the same. And again the people will march to oust GMA and her conspirators. The triumph of public good might be uncertain. They may not prevail. Just the same, the people will march anyway – in a sense trampling on the tasteless salt of hierarchical religion. You may want to join them, not as bishops, not as CBCP, but as average believers whose untrained spiritual eyes nevertheless discern God’s Will in the obvious.


Gary Granada is one of the alternative Filipino artists I genuienely admire. He is an icon of the Philippine progressive music because of his nationalistic compositions. His many songs included Eroplanong Papel (my favorite), Philippines 2000, Kung ayaw mo na sa akin, Kung alam mo lang Violy, Bahay and Salamat Musika.