Monday, January 28, 2008

Burma Update

Burma dissident arrests 'ongoing'

Amnesty International has said Burma's military government have detained 96 pro-democracy activists since November, when it promised to stop such arrests.
The human-rights group said many had been trying to gather evidence of the suppression of last year's protests, in which at least 31 people were killed.
At least 1,850 activists are currently being detained, including 700 who were arrested after the protests, it added.

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

ILO Report on Unemployment


More people will be out of work in 2008 as a result of global economic cooling, and any major slowdown could cause disruption and further hike unemployment, according to the International Labour Organisation (ILO). In the wake of heavy losses in world stock markets, and amid growing fears of worldwide recession, the world unemployment rate would climb to 6.1 percent this year from 6.0 percent in 2007. US. Billionaire investor George Soros calls this global crisis the worst in 60 years!

Read the ILO press release here:

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Pakistan Collapsing under Musharaf, He has to go

By: Farooq Tariq, Spokesperson, Labour Party Pakistan

Pakistan is on fast rout of collapsing under Musharaf dictatorship. The state is in immense crisis. The infrastructure, industrial and social, is in total chaos. The economic crisis is showing its muscles. The price hike is uncontrollable and unemployment in ever increase.

The vast majority of ordinary people of Pakistan are praying day and night that Musharaf be killed or at least he should die. Majority believe that he will never leave power without giving his life. “If he is not killed, he will kill us all one by one. He has become the most unpopular president of Pakistan.

Musharaf is widely seen as a person who has orchestrated the murder of Benazir Bhutto. “Qaatal Qaatal Musharaf Qaatal (Murderer the murderer, Musharaf the murderer) was the main slogan of the mass reaction. All the twist and turn of Musharaf dictatorship after the murder has strengthened the doubts of the masses in this regard. “He asked her to come to Pakistan by negotiating and let her be killed” is a remark you hear very often.

Despite that, Musharaf has consistently shown the trends that he will stick to power by any mean. “He is the ultimate power”, Pakistan needs him, Pakistan first, Pakistan my top priority” are some of his regular sloganeering. However, many do not trust him anymore here in Pakistan.

The desperation of masses to remove Musharaf by a mass movement is clear everywhere. They had attempted to throw him out of power after assassination of Benazir. That was an unprecedented movement for five days from 27 December 2007. Not a single shop was open, no wheel on the move, no factory working, no bank open, no office functioning, no restaurant or hotel open, no train on the move, flights cancelled, schools and colleges closed and thousands and thousands were on the road protesting. This was the most unexpected outburst of mass anger after the killing.

Nevertheless, unfortunately, Pakistan Peoples Party leadership had not learnt from history. They saw this an important occasion to show that are the responsible defender of the system. They went to appeal the masses to cool down, go back to their work and turn your anger into vote for Pakistan Peoples Party.

This was the time when majority of the political parties had announced to boycott the elections and demanded an immediate resignation of Musharaf. Had PPP joined the other parties in boycotting the general elections, Musharaf would have gone by now.

They had not realized the post Benazir killing scenario. They had not anticipated the total collapse of economy in the days ahead. They had not thought of the tactics of Musharaf supporters to rig the election if they were given chance. Over 4000 First Investigation Reports (FIR) has been registered by police against a record number of half a million PPP and other opposition political activists in Sind alone. Many PPP activists were arrested to be released on bail later. Many thousands have gone for bail before arrest. The tactics of PPP leadership has put PPP in defensive position.

The PPP is on the run after three weeks of Benazir Bhutto assassination, it was Musharaf who on the defense after the killings. He would have been relived when the PPP leadership had taken a decision to contest elections.

At a time when the consciousness of the whole of Pakistan was anti Musharaf with active participation in mass movement, the PPP leadership announcement to participate in elections was like putting cold water on the boiling heat, was like a fire brigade bus active in stopping fire spreading by showering water.

Moreover, what an elections that is taking place on 18 February 2008? Before the announcement of the general elections, top judges, 60 of them were put under house arrest on 3 November 2007 when martial law was imposed on the name of emergency; many are still in house arrest particularly the chief justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Ahmed Choudry. On 14 January, all public meetings and election rallies are banned for a month on the name of security. Thus, effectively, there is not going be any mass mobilization by the political parties. Most of the opposition parties that are taking part in the elections are already complaining that it will rig and that they have proofs of rigging in the electoral role.

All the rules lay out by Election Commission of Pakistan about the size and width of the posters, pamphlets, stickers, hording boards and banners have been widely violated by most of the candidates belonging to the government and the opposition.
It is race of money among the candidates. It is like a business competition. It is not a democracy that is going to be restored by the elections but a farce of democracy. The general elections have given a chance to the masses to choose among the exploiters. The condition that a candidate must be at least a university graduate meant that only less than one percent of the whole population had a chance to become candidates.

Three weeks after the assassination of Benazir, on 17 January 2008, there is unprecedented price hike of everything. Wheat flour is the most used food item in Pakistan. It has gone up from Rupees 13 a kilogram to 25 to 50 Rupees, if you can find it in shops. There have been suicide attempts by women after failure to buy the wheat flour from the government concessional utility stores. There has food riots reported in many parts of the country.

There is regular news on television and newspapers that “smugglers” of wheat floor have been arrested. Earlier smuggling was normally restricted to gold and electronic items. Now wheat flour “smugglers” are the main enemies of Pakistan. Almost every province has restricted the transportation of wheat floor. Thus making more problem for the people North West Frontier Province, Baluchistan and many in Afghanistan who are dependent on wheat floar from Punjab and Sind

There are massive electricity crises. The electricity is released on load shedding basis, in most cases there is electricity available for 10 to 12 hours a day in most parts of the country. The countryside is worst hit by this. There is no commercial gas available to all the industries for the last two weeks. Thus closing down of many hundreds factories. Even hospital s is not spared from this. Hundreds of thousands workers are laid off from the factories and they are asked to wait when the electricity and gas is restored to full capacity.

LPG gas has disappeared. The price has gone up from 50 Rupees a kilogram to 100/110 Rupees a kilogram if you can find one LPG gas shop open. The price of one kilogram of vegetable has gone up to 125 Rupees from 100 earlier. Almost there is a 25 percent price hike of everything available in the shops and super markets.

Yet there is neither wage increase nor any temporary compensation for the people.

This is a very good ground for the very rich politicians from Muslim League Q, who are main supporters of Musharaf. They will buy votes in bulk for the scheduled 18 February general elections. The objective reality of hardship of life under Musharaf with PPP taking part in elections may cut across the massive sympathy wave for PPP that they are counting on. However, there is a limit to that tactics.

Musharaf dictatorship has failed to curb the ongoing incidents of suicidal attacks. The religious fundamentalists groups in Wazirestan and Swat are not budging down despite a heavy military operation. They are striking back repeatedly. On 16 January, a group of religious extremist occupied a fort in North Wazirestan, which was used by Pakistan military. The newspapers reported eight army men killed while 20 disappeared, while unconfirmed reports put the causalities very high than the official announcement Government reported the killings of 50 militants as well.

There are several incidents where most of the suicidal attackers were less than 16 year of age. The completely new young generation has been motivated by the religious fundamentalists to take an all out war against the friends of imperialism and “enemies of Islam”.

There is lot of discontent among the police force and bureaucracy in Pakistan. They are sick and tired of their usage against the masses and movement. Many police officers are very often speaking against Musharaf government to their friends and contacts. There is no support among the public employees for the military dictatorship but are forced to go on.

Musharaf dictatorship is isolated and very much hated. It is a dictatorship supported by none but by American imperialism and its allies. It is trying its best to survive. However, the day of the military regimes are numbered. It cannot survive for long despite all the help of its political friends. It is the most hated dictatorship in the history of Pakistan. Day by day, it is loosing. Musharaf has survived by the most modern security arrangements available at present time. However, these will not work all the times in the wake of tremendous heartedness building up.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Images of Sinulog 2008, Cebu City, Philippines

The Sinulog is an annual festival held on the third Sunday of January in Cebu City, Philippines. The festival which honors the child Jesus, known as the Santo Niño features a street parade with participants in bright-colored costumes dancing to the rhythm of drums, trumpets, and native gongs.

Click here to see more photos:

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Forgetting EDSA 2


By Randy David

This Saturday, Jan. 20, we mark the seventh anniversary of EDSA People Power II, the series of events that drove away a corrupt presidency from office. Because of the abusive and even more corrupt regime that succeeded it, many people who joined EDSA II have had problems celebrating this historic event. The question that seems to haunt them is: Seeing how Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has turned out to be, did we make a mistake in ousting Joseph Estrada? My answer is No. There is nothing to regret, but there is a lot to learn from what happened.
Recently, I went through the tricky exercise of reviewing what I wrote in this column right after EDSA II. I’ve always believed that such reflexivity is part of the duty of every writer who dares to comment on events as they unfold. I asked myself if there is anything in what I wrote about those days that I would take back in the light of what I now know.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Freedoom House Report

Int'l democracy watchdog: RP only 'partly free'

An international democracy watchdog relegated the "freedom status" of the Philippines to partially free though it noted that the world in general was less free for a second consecutive year.
A report by The Associated Press said that the New York-based Freedom House dropped the Philippines from a list of totally free countries.
The group added that freedom declined significantly in 2007 in almost four times as many countries.
According to a survey by Freedom House, 36 percent of the people in the world -- about half of them in China -- were not living in freedom.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008


More rich LGUs since Local Gov't Code took effect
By Miriam Grace A. Go

More local government units (LGUs) have grown rich since they were given powers to collect local taxes and fees and receive regular subsidies from the national government under the Local Government Code. Based on the income classifications set by the finance department since the Code took effect in 1992, an increasing number of provinces, cities, and municipalities fall under the first- to third-class brackets. These are LGUs whose annual incomes afford them big-ticket undertakings almost independently, and require them less subsidies from the national government and other funding institutions.

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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Gov. Ed Panlilio is Inquirer’s Filipino of the Year 2007

Many people, especially in his hometown, were quite surprised with the announcement of Fr. Panlilio’s that he would run for governor. But those tired of traditional politics in Pampanga threw their support for him against his two rivals, Lilia Pineda, wife of suspected jueteng (numbers game) lord Rodolfo “Bong” Pineda, and former governor Mark Lapid, son of former senator Lito Lapid who ran and lost to Mayor Jejomar Binay of Makati. Both Pineda and Lapid are known allies of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Weeks before the election, he announced that he would be taking a leave from priesthood since he has to focus on campaigning. After the last election return was canvassed, Panlilio won by a slim margin over Lilia Pineda

Now on its 17th year, the Inquirer’s Filipino of the Year honors a living Filipino who made the most positive impact the past year. Eligible to vote were Inquirer editors and assistant editors. There were 44 voters this year. Fr. Ed Panlilio topped the nominees with 20 followed closely by Chief Justice Reynato Puno with 15 votes. Other nominees were Justices Teresita de Castro, Diosdado Peralta and Francisco Villaruz Jr. of the Sandiganbayan special division that tried and found ex-President Joseph Estrada guilty on two counts of plunder. (4); Sumilao farmers (2); Filipinas who made it to the summit of Mt. Everest.

Read complete piece here:

Monday, January 7, 2008

2,941 Pinoys left Philippines daily in 2007

An average of 2,941 Filipinos left the Philippines every day to work abroad last year, preliminary data from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration revealed Monday. A report from POEA Administrator Rosalinda Baldoz to Labor and Employment Secretary Arturo Brion showed that total deployment registered a one percent increase from 1,062,567 in 2006 to 1,073,402 last year. The increase was largely seen in landbased workers as the number rose 2.7 percent, from 788,070 to 809,740 for a daily average of 2,218. Baldoz said the number of Filipinos rehired by foreign employers surged 5.9 percent, from 470,390 in 2006 to 498,142 last year. She said the POEA sent out an average of 1,365 new overseas Filipino workers a day in 2007.The increase in landbased workers was, however, offset by a decrease in seabased workers, from 274,497 in 2006 to 263,662 in 2007. On a per day basis, 722 seafarers were leaving the country every day in 2007.The POEA clarified that the deployment figure was still lower than the number of contracts processed, perhaps owing to the large number of rehires who already had existing employers and existing contracts.Although the total figures showed that the POEA surpassed their target by 20 percent, Baldoz said they processed 1.1 percent less contracts in 2007. In 2007, they prepared 1,208,220 new contracts as compared to 1,221,417 in 2007.Total contracts processed for landbased workers actually decreased 10.4 percent from 866,090 in 2006 to 775,659 in 2007. In contrast, total contracts processed for seabased workers rose 21.7 percent in 2007 to 432,561 from 355,327 in 2006. This was not enough, however, to offset the decrease in contracts of landbased workers processed by the POEA.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Myanmar issue must remain a priority -- EU envoy

Source: Agence France-Presse/PDI

UNITED NATIONS -- Efforts to promote democracy in Myanmar must remain a priority for the international community, European Union special envoy for Myanmar Piero Fassino said here Friday.
After talks with UN chief Ban Ki-moon and his envoy on Myanmar, Ibrahim Gambari, Fassino said they found common ground, particularly on the need to enlist the support of all key Asian countries for diplomatic pressure to secure a political dialogue between the Myanmar regime and the opposition.
The Italian diplomat also highlighted the risk of having the Myanmar crisis eclipsed by emerging crises elsewhere, a reference to Pakistan and Kenya.
"This is a situation we want to avoid," he said. "We want to keep Myanmar at the top of the international community’s agenda ... Our common goal is unblocking a situation which today appears stalled."
Fassino, a former Italian justice minister who was appointed the EU special envoy on Myanmar last November, said he was coordinating his action with Ban and Gambari.
He added that one of the key objectives remained the release of Myanmar opposition leader and Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi as well as of all leading other political prisoners.
He said he planned to visit India, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam over the next two months following a trip to China in December to drum up support for coordinated pressure on the ruling junta.
Meanwhile Gambari said he also planned to travel to New Delhi and Beijing shortly, ahead of a planned third visit to Myanmar since the bloody military crackdown on pro-democracy protests in September and October.
During an Asian tour last month, Ban said the world body was losing patience in the face of slow progress toward democracy in Myanmar.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Militant Bishop Takes Control of Church’s Social Arm

The term of President Arroyo’s fierce ally in the Catholic Church ends. Replacing him is a bishop who has marched with peasants and activists in street protests.