Archive | August, 2011

Wikileaks cables show US wanted GMA to finish her term

Posted on 31 August 2011 by admin

The umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan today slammed US hypocrisy reflected in US embassy cables released by whistleblower website Wikileaks. The group said that the US was “rooting for Gloria Macapagal Arroyo” during the tumultuous period of her presidency.

“The US wanted Arroyo to finish her term. The US did not want any people power to take place because it believes this would further destabilize the Philippines and affect investments. Truth is, the US supported the corrupt and fascist Arroyo government because the US was benefiting from the arrangements with GMA,” said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr.

“President Arroyo’s statement that the world would not forgive another popular revolt, while self-serving, carried a fundamental truth. Another people power revolution would make a habit of changing presidents between elections, through constitutionally-questionable means, with negative implications for political and economic stability, including foreign investment that the Philippines needs to sustain current economic growth,” US ambassador Kristie Kenney said in a cable dated February 25, 2008 or just weeks after the testimony of ZTE whistleblower Jun Lozada came out. (View cable here

“Here lies US hypocrisy. While the US preaches and ‘spreads’ democracy to regimes that are not pro-US, the US supports corrupt, undemocratic and fascist regimes like the Arroyo administration,” Reyes said.

Bayan said that the US scoffed at the notion that different political forces were uniting against GMA. US ambassador Kristie Kenney, in one of the cables, said that Corazon Aquino’s alliance with deposed president Joseph Estrada “tarnished” Aquino’s reputation.

Kenney, through her Twitter account, would eventually deny this statement. However, DFA Secretary Alberto del Rosario’s criticism of Kenney is a de facto recognition of the cable. It’s also a break from the DFA’s earlier positions of not commenting on the content of  Wikileaks cable releases.

Several cables also revealed that the US was tracking the developments of mass actions and whether a critical mass would be reached by the oppoisition to oust Arroyo from power. These embassy cables noted that the anti-Arroyo protests have “fizzled”.

Bayan said that the US government was more sure of the outcome of US policies and impositions under GMA than under a transitional government in the event of a people power uprising.

“Under Arroyo, the US able to station hundreds of US troops in Mindanao, a move that was unprecedented since the US bases were kicked out of the country. Arroyo showed unquaified support for US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Arroyo was also a strong advocate of neo-liberal economics. The US did not want to change horse midway through the race,” Reyes said. ###

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Bayan joins oil price protests, cite Wikileaks revelations on oil speculation

Posted on 31 August 2011 by admin

News Release

August 31, 2011

The umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan today joined various groups in a nationwide protest against high oil prices. The alliance has blamed the global oil cartel and financial speculators for the continued high petroleum prices worldwide despite record oil production. It said that the increases were “artificial and oppressive” and called for government regulation and nationalization as a strategic means of protecting consumers from weekly price increases.

Whistleblower website WikiLeaks released a cable showing how oil producers in Saudi Arabia were already having difficulties finding buyers of oil because of weak demand, yet oil prices were still going up.  They blamed the increasing speculation in commodities futures for this phenomenon which led to the oil price “bubble” in 2008. One Saudi oil minister said that speculation comprised 40% of overall oil prices at its peak in 2008. Of the 251,287 total WikiLeaks cables 23,927 of them reference oil.
“On one hand, the big oil firms, the big banks and hedge funds are raking in record profits here and abroad. On the other hand, the people are becoming more and more burdened by the rising oil prices.

The Aquino government should now strive to protect the consumers instead of adopting an apathetic and helpless attitude,” said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr.

“The reason oil prices seem uncontrollable is because these are e dictated by a global cartel that’s further aggravated by price speculators amid a deregulated industry. Even if there is no real shift in supply and demand, the speculators find ways of driving prices up so that they can maximize profits,” Reyes added.

Three oil companies made it to the top 10 corporations of the Philippine Business Profiles and Perspectives Inc.’s  for 2009-2010 based on their gross revenues. Petron is ranked number 1, Shell number 2 and Chevron number 7.

Bayan said that addressing high oil prices in the country would have to mean confronting the oil cartel and moving towards the nationalization of the oil industry. “There is simply no other way to protect consumers from constantly rising oil prices except to break the cartel, scrap deregulation and nationalize the oil industry,” Reyes said.

“Only then will there be transparency in pricing and safeguards for consumers. Returning Petron to government control can be a positive step. Centralized procurement as well as alternative trade arrangements could also be explored so that there the country can find the cheapest source of imported oil,” he added.

Bayan said that an immediate relief measure right now would be removing the VAT on oil products. ###

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US wanted dual-use infrastructure in Mindanao – WikiLeaks cables

Posted on 25 August 2011 by admin

News Release
August 26, 2011
The United States embassy in Manila at one time proposed the construction of “dual use” airports in Sulu and Tawi-Tawi so that US aircraft could use them for landing. It also sought the construction of new roads to allow the AFP more maneuverability. These were among the different revelations cited by the umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan from the latest releases of whistleblower website WikiLeaks.

“It seems the US government wasn’t just interested in civic projects. The US embassy was proposing several infrastructures that would allow US forces access to different areas. These were called dual-use infrastructure because aside from civilian use, they also serve a military function,” said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr.

“It is part of the US forward deployment strategy here in the Philippines. In US military parlance, these facilities are called cooperative security locations, having little or no US personnel present and can host prepositioned equipment and provide ready access for US troops,” he added.

In an cable dated April 4. 2007, the US embassy stressed the need for US funding for counter-terror efforts in the region, particularly the Philippines.

“The Philippines is currently the focal point of our counterterrorism fight in the region.  The Armed Forces of the Philippines has scored significant victories during its ongoing campaign on the island of Jolo against Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah terrorists.  With U.S. help, Philippine troops have overrun terrorist training camps and conducted successful operations that led to the deaths of Khadaffy Janjalani and Abu Solaiman, the top two leaders of the Abu Sayyaf Group.  Our $10 million Philippine 1207 initiative would build upon existing U.S. Agency for International Development and Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines activity to improve dual-use infrastructure on the islands of Jolo and the neighboring island of Tawi-Tawi, where we have made significant gains in separating the terrorists from the population,” the cable said.

The embassy proposed 5 priority projects that have “dual use”, meaning both civilian and military use. Some of the proposed infrastructure was tailor-made to be able to host US military aircraft. Others had clear counter-insurgency uses.

Three of these projects were:

“Jolo Airport: A $3 million expansion project would lengthen the current runway from 1500 meters to 2000 meters, giving it increased capacity to handle civilian and military (both U.S. and Philippine Air Force) aircraft, such
as Boeing 737s and C-130s.”

“Tawi-Tawi Airport: A similar $3 million expansion project would give this airport the same expanded dual-use capability.”

“Tawi-Tawi Bridge: This $3 million project would construct a bridge and approach roads that would link Tawi-Tawi and Sanga-Sanga, the two main islands of the Tawi-Tawi group.  The project would also enable the Armed Forces of the Philippines to shift forces by land from Sanga-Sanga to Tawi-Tawi, an operation it is now only able to conduct by sea, in order to eliminate terrorist safe havens and transit areas from this heretofore inaccessible area”.

“The fact that the US embassy is willing to spend for military facilities indicates that the US forces in Mindanao are staying for an indefinite duration. They want access to different parts of the region. And these are not merely for domestic use but may also serve the regional thrusts of the US,” Reyes said.

In 2002, the Philippines was tagged by the US as the “second front” in the “war on terror”, and Operation Enduring Freedom-Philippines was launched. For the first time, US forces were deployed in actual combat areas in Mindanao under the guise of training exercises called Balikatan 02-1. US forces have not left Southern Philippines since. A permanent structure has been set-up inside Camp Navarro in Zamboanga which hosts a rotating force of about 600 personnel of the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines, under the US Joint Special Operations Command.

“February 2012 marks 10 years of the US troop’s permanent and continuing presence in Mindanao. This goes beyond what the VFA itself contemplates.The VFA has been vague to the point of being used to justify the indifinite stay of foreign troops in our country,” Reyes said. ###

See original blog article here

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US won’t pull out troops in PH despite so-called “gains” vs terror

Posted on 21 August 2011 by admin

News Release
August 21, 2011

The umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan today assailed the Aquino government for not demanding the pull-out of 600 United States Special Forces elements “permanently stationed” in Mindanao since 2002. The call came just days before the 10th anniversary of the 9-11 attacks which triggered the US-led global “war on terror”. The “war on terror” resulted in direct US military aggression in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, and “secret wars” in some 70 other countries.

While the US State Department in a report recently lauded the “decline” of terrorist activities in the Philippines, there appears to be no time-table for the pull-out of US counter-terror units stationed in Mindanao. The group believes that counter-terrorism is just a “pretext” for justifying the permanent presence of US troops in the country.

In 2002, the Philippines was tagged by the US as the “second front” in the “war on terror”, and Operation Enduring Freedom-Philippines was launched. For the first time, US forces were deployed in actual combat areas in Mindanao under the guise of training exercises called Balikatan 02-1. The US forces were supposed to train and assist Philippine troops in going after the Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiya. US forces have not left Southern Philippines since. A permanent structure has been set-up inside Camp Navarro in Zamboanga which hosts a rotating force of about 600 personnel from the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines, a unit under the US Joint Special Operations Command.

“It is incomprehensible why the Philippine government has not questioned the permanent basing of US troops in Mindanao, since this already goes against the definition of ‘visiting forces’ as contemplated by the Visiting Forces Agreement. The decision to maintain the US Special Forces in Mindanao was a unilateral move by the US government during the time of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. However, the Aquino administration apparently does not mind this continuing violation of the country’s sovereignty,” said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr.

“Unlike in Iraq or Afghanistan, there is no time-table for the pull-out of US troops in Mindanao. There are no clear parameters for when they will consider their ‘mission’ accomplished. Clearly, the US government is circumventing a constitutional prohibition on US bases absent any basing treaty. The Philippine government is allowing itself to be hoodwinked. The Philippine government has allowed itself to be used in this 10-year borderless war on terror that has claimed more lives worldwide than the original victims of 9-11,” Reyes added.

Exactly two years ago, the New York Times reported that then US Defense Secretary Robert Gates decided to “keep an elite 600-troop counterinsurgency operation deployed in the Philippines despite pressure to reassign its members elsewhere”.

“The NY Times article tells us that the decision for US Special Forces to stay in Mindanao was a unilateral decision made by the US government. It is an imposition by a super power on a puppet state. It is not a sign of enduring friendship. It is a measure of how the US regards PH sovereignty. It is a sign that the US is trying to one-up the Philippines every chance it gets,” Reyes said.
Bayan said that not a single government agency or institution has raised any objection to the US virtual basing in Mindanao.

“What is the Department of Foreign Affairs doing? What is the Presidential Commission on the VFA doing? What is the Joint Congressional Oversight on the VFA doing? None of them appear to be even remotely concerned about this violation of our country’s sovereignty,” Reyes said.

“The whole rationale of US troops are helping us against the ASG, when taken over a span of a nearly a decade, no longer appears credible. They are permanently stationed here not just because of they want to help us with the ASG. The US is protecting its other interests in the region,” he added.

The NY Times article described the Special Operations Forces as “the most highly skilled in the military at capture-and-kill missions against insurgent and terrorist leaders. Within their ranks, Army Special Forces, known as the Green Berets, have for decades been training (US) allied troops on their home soil and conducting counterinsurgency missions.”

Meanwhile, analyst Nick Terse in an article describes the JSOC as a power-elite even in Washington. “In 120 countries across the globe, troops from Special Operations Command carry out their secret war of high-profile assassinations, low-level targeted killings, capture/kidnap operations, kick-down-the-door night raids, joint operations with foreign forces, and training missions with indigenous partners as part of a shadowy conflict unknown to most Americans.”

Analysts have also estimated that funding for these units have tripled in the aftermath of 9-11. In the Philippines, Terse estimates that the US government spends some $50 million a year to maintain the 600-man Special Forces unit.

Bayan said that it is ironic that while the nation will be observing the 20th anniversary of the historic rejection of the US bases treaty by the Philippine Senate, US forces have managed to diminish this victory by having permanent and continuing presence in Mindanao.

“It’s like the bases never really left. While the US facilities in Mindanao host a much smaller force, the rationale for their presence remains the same,” Reyes said.

The umbrella group again called attention to the serious flaws of the Visiting Forces Agreement, saying that its vagueness can be exploited to allow the permanent stationing of an unlimited number of foreign troops, engaged in unspecified activities, anywhere in the country.

“There has been a review of the VFA completed by Malacanang, yet the results have not been made public. Unfortunately, the review does not include the question of permanent basing of US troops in Mindanao,” Reyes added. ###

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Probe of P197 million AFP ’04 election fund sought

Posted on 20 August 2011 by admin

News Release
August 20, 2011

The umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan today called on the Commission on Elections and the Commission on Audit to investigate the P197 million election fund given to the Armed Forces of the Philippines during the 2004 elections. The call came amid revelations in the Mayuga report on the possible misuse of the election funds. Bayan said that based on interviews, the bulk of the funds were not used for AFP units doing election duties, but by the intelligence units of the AFP.

The funds came from the COMELEC when they deputized the AFP for election duties in some areas in the provinces. The funds were supposed to cover expenses of TF HOPE headquarters, operational expenses, missions and reservists.

In his interview with the Mayuga panel, then Lt. Gen. Rodolfo Garcia who headed the Task Force Honest Orderly and Peaceful Elections (HOPE) suggested that the AFP review how the election funds were spent because it was a big amount of money and that what was spent did not come close to the amount that was released. Though Garcia headed the TF HOPE, he said the funds were not even shown to him. He said he did not know “how the funds were broken down”.

According to Garcia, the funds were under the control and supervision of J3 or the General Staff for Operations then headed by M/Gen. Hermogenes Esperon. He said that Esperon was in Mindanao in 2004 as J3 and that he “can be anywhere to supervise…election and non-election matters.”

Meanwhile, Lt.Col. Gilbert Gapay, who was the budget officer of Esperon, testified before the panel that the bulk of the P197 million, amounting to P101 million, was intended for intelligence projects and was therefore released to J2 (Staff for Intelligence) and the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP).

When Esperon was interviewed by the Mayuga panel about the liquidation of the funds, he said that the comptroller of TF HOPE was supposed to do this, but since the TF was disbanded, the liquidation would be done by J6 (Comptroller).

“The different personalities interviewed by the Mayuga panel had differing accounts on how funds were approved, released and liquidated. There were inconclusive statements on how the funds were actually used and what steps were taken to properly liquidate these funds,” said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr.

According to the testimony of Navy Lt.Cdr. Napoleon Suarez of the AFP budget office, the funds were released in three tranches, P25 million in April 29, P101 million in April 30, and P71 million from April 30 to July 8 and that the Programmed Operating Expenses were prepared by the office of Gen. Esperon.

“It is strange that the majority of the funds released were given to J2 and ISAFP, just 10 days before the elections. The majority of the funds released did not go to the actual AFP units deputized by the Comelec to perform election duties in the so-called hot spots. Why is this so? Why was P101 million in COMELEC funds used for intelligence projects of the AFP and not on actual election-related work?” Reyes observed.

“Who approved the programming and release of funds? The fact that Gen. Garcia, TF HOPE head, himself had doubts on the use of funds should already compel COA and the Comelec to look into these disbursements,” Reyes added.

Bayan called on Comelec and COA to investigate all personalities who may have been involved in the approval, release, use and liquidation of these funds. These include Gen. Esperon, his operations chief then colonel and now M/Gen. Rey Ardo, Esperon’s budget officer Lt.Col. Gapay and even the personnel of the Office of the Comptroller of the AFP GHQ. ###

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Mayuga annexes show ranking officials admitted poll fraud in 2004

Posted on 19 August 2011 by admin

News Release
August 19, 2011

The summary of interviews conducted by the AFP fact-finding panel regarding the conduct of the military in relation to the fraud-tainted 2004 polls will show that some ranking officers believed that there was indeed election fraud in Mindanao. One general believed that the contents of the Garci tapes were real and that the AFP should accept this reality. These were some of angles that were not pursued and instead covered up by the AFP probers in the Mayuga report, according to the umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan.

“The interviews reveal a divided and corrupted AFP. Several ranking officers testified about bribery, electioneering and other actions that sought to undermine the 2004 polls. These should have been the basis for a thorough investigation into the conduct and criminal liability of some officials. However, the AFP leadership during GMA’s term chose to look the other way and cover up these incidents,” said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr.

“The summary of interviews provides a glimpse into how the AFP operated during the fraud-tainted 2004 polls. It shows how politics corrupted the officers at different levels ,” he added.

The information on fraud is contained in the 65-page summary of interviews attached to the recommendations of the Mayuga report. Among of the interesting observations by ranking officials are the ones made by Lt. Gen Rodolfo Garcia who headed the AFP Task Force on Honest Orderly and Peaceful Elections (HOPE).

Garcia said that feedback from ground commanders indicated pressure from senior officers and that some officers were involved in partisan politics. Regarding the involvement of AFP officials as heard from the “Garci” tapes, he told investigators “that is true and you better accept it at this point in time. We all know it. Whether you deny it to yourself or not, we have to accept it that our Officers have been involved in this.”

Garcia asked his investigators to “look deep inside and ask yourself… whether these things happen” and that “the answer is yes”. “There are people among us who have allowed themselves to be used. I think everybody knows that.” Garcia added.

As to what motivates officers to engage in fraud, Garcia cited personal interest, personal ambition and careerism. “You will do everything because you are obsessed where your career will go,” Garcia explained.

Garcia challenged the fact-finding panel to do its job and make the right recommendations, saying that “if we do not do anything now, this organization will go to the dogs and politics will not be stopped”. He asked the AFP Inspector General to “be brave” even if some members of the military were beneficiaries of the 2004 election fraud.

Garcia believed that the funding for TF hope should be looked into because “it was a big amount of money and I don’t think what was spent really came close to the amount given us.”

“No less than the officer who headed Task Force HOPE was saying that fraud may have happened and that the contents of the Garci wiretaps were real. The Mayuga panel should have pursued this lead yet there is no mention of this in the recommendations,” Bayan’s Reyes said.

Other officers interviewed gave their own observations about fraud.

Lt. Col. Roland Villanueva who was commander of the 26th IB said that there was money offered by local candidates and that the “COMELEC can count votes even (if) ballot boxes are not yet opened.”

Lt. Col. Alexander Balutan said he received verbal instructions for Col. Giomendo Pirino to “support the administration and slacken security in canvassing areas”. He said he did not follow the instructions. He told the panel that he would rather “go to the mountains” than allow his Marine Battalion to be used in fraud.

Then B/Gen. Raymundo Ferrer, commander of the 103rd Brigade assigned in Mindanao said that he received a phone call from a governor complaining that security was too tight, that they could not maneuver (“hindi makagalaw”) and that “FPJ was winning in practically in all precincts”. Ferrer said that he received instructions from his Division Commander to loosen security as requested by the governor.

“This crucial testimony shows that there were maneuvers being done because FPJ was winning and that the AFP was in some way complicit in these maneuvers. Again the Mayuga report apparently ignored this and looked the other way instead of deepening its probe,” Reyes observed.

Ferrer would later on be appointed Martial Law admnistrator for Maguindanao after the Amapatuan massacre in 2009.

Lt. Col. Elmer Logronio of the Marines had a “strong feeling that the elections were manipulated at the higher levels, and that the removal of his Brigade Cmdr B/Gen. Francisco Gudani, is an indication,” according to the summary.

“There is reason to believe that Gen. Gudani was relieved because he was not a known supporter of GMA and that the operators could not do their magic in his area. This is confirmed in the Garci tapes and by actual events when Gudani was called to Manila during the canvassing of votes,” Reyes said.

Captain Valentino Lopez, the aide of Virgilio Garcillano at the time of the 2004 elections, said that his assignment to the Comelec commissioner was an “internal arrangement” not covered by any actual orders. Lopez was accused by Comelec lawyer Helen Flore of attempting to bribe her with P50 million then P100 million. However, the summary of the interviews did not show the Mayuga panel pursuing this lead.

Based on Flores interview, she accused Capt. Lopez of offering a bribe to help a mayoralty candidate and to remedy the big lead of FPJ in favor of GMA.

“This should have already triggered a full investigation because Lopez is the aide and nephew of Garcillano and the latter was the central figure along with GMA in the Hello Garci tapes. Yet the Mayuga panel didn’t seem to raise these questions. Lopez should definitely be summoned by the DOJ-Comelec investigating panel,” Reyes said.

The most incredulous interview may have been given by then M/Gen. Hermogenes Esperon. According to the summary of interviews, Esperon “boasted that the elections in 2004 was very clean” and that “credit should go to the AFP and PNP for doing their best to have more honest, orderly and peaceful elections.” A few years later, Esperon would be appointed by GMA as AFP Chief of Staff. ###

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Independent review of Mayuga report urged

Posted on 18 August 2011 by admin

News Release
August 18, 2011

The umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan today urged the Aquino government to conduct an independent review of the Mayuga, one that is not under the influence of the military establishment. The group said that it would be pointless for the military to follow up on the Mayuga report since “the Armed Forces of the Philippines is more interested in salvaging its reputation and protecting its ranks rather than uncovering the truth and making persons accountable.”

“In the hands of the AFP and DND, the review of the Mayuga report is a dead end. It’s like asking Gen. Palparan to investigate extrajudicial killings in the military. However, there may be valuable leads that can be pursued by the Department of Justice, COMELEC or Congress, which can lead us to the truth and hopefully make some AFP officials accountable,” said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr.

“Any review should be done with the end goal of making people accountable. Otherwise the review would be superficial and may even be viewed as another cover-up. The Joint DOJ-Comelec Panel investigating the 2004 poll fraud can already include the report in the documents it will be reviewing,” he added.

Last August 12, Defense secretary Voltaire Gazmin formed a panel that will review the Mayuga report. Members of the DND and officers of the AFP were assigned to be part of the review panel.

Among the leads that Bayan should be pursued would be an investigation into one Captain Valentino Lopez of the Philippine Army who was alleged to have offered a bribe of P50 million to P100 million to lawyer Helen Flores of Comelec who chaired the Zamboanga City board of canvassers. Captain Lopez was a security aide to Virgilio Garcillano when the latter was still with Comelec. Lopez was allegedly lobbying for a local candidate.

According to the Mayuga report, Flores did not accept the bribe nor report the bribery incident and expressed disinterest in pursuing any case against Lopez. For its part, the Mayuga report described the allegation as one of the cases of “unprofessional conduct of AFP personnel” and that these were “acts or omissions by some military personnel beyond the norms of professional conduct expected of them.” The Mayuga report recommended “further investigation” of the alleged unprofessional conduct of some AFP officers.

In May 2007 it was reported that Lopez was already transferred to PDEA, despite a revival of the investigation against him in 2006. Presumption of innocence was the apparent basis for his transfer.

“Obviously the Mayuga report attempted to tone down the implications of some of its findings. In the case of Lopez, his association with Garcillano should have already raised a red flag. The alleged bribe attempt of P50 million and P100 million by Lopez means he’s likely working for some very powerful people since the bribe money was obviously not his own,” Reyes said.

“The Mayuga report treated the Lopez incident as mere ‘unprofessional conduct’ and downplayed the criminal aspect of the bribe attempt as well as the possible implications of this given Lopez’ ties with Garcillano who was the central figure in the ‘Hello Garci’ controversy,” Reyes observed.

In 2007 NEWSBREAK reported that Lopez may hold vital information on poll fraud since he allegedly knows whistle-blower Michaelangelo “Louie” Zuce, and that “both traveled together in certain areas in Western Mindanao at the height of the canvassing of votes in the 2004 elections”. NEWSBREAK also said that “Lopez was with Garcillano during the supposed January 2004 meeting between the President and several Commission on Elections (Comelec) directors in her residence in La Vista, Quezon City”.

“The case of Capt. Lopez sticks out like a sore thumb because of the alleged amount of bribe money involved, his close association with Garcillano, and the AFP’s cavalier attitude in dealing with his so-called ‘unprofessionalism’ There was a cover-up no doubt,” Reyes added.

Bayan also called for an independent audit of the P197 million for the AFP’s Task Force HOPE for the 2004 polls. It is believed that then Maj. Gen. Hermogenes Esperon was the man in charge of the funds. Esperon was one of the generals mentioned in the “Hello Garci” tapes as supposedly working for GMA. Such an independent audit may have not been possible during the time of GMA, the group said. ###

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Bayan bucks terror law amendments

Posted on 17 August 2011 by admin

News Release
August 17, 2011

With his proposed amendments, President Aquino will only make the anti-terrorism law worse than it already is.

This was a reaction of the umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) on the inclusion of the amendments to the Human Security Act of 2007 (HSA) among the 13 priority measures certified by the Legislative-Executive Development and Advisory Council.

According to reports, Aquino is seeking the lowering of penalties for law enforcers who commit human rights abuses in the course of implementing the law. The president is also seeking the removal of provisions that seek to notify persons that they are being subjected to surveillance by state forces.

Bayan was one of the organizations that questioned the HSA before the Supreme Court in 2007. However the SC denied the petition saying that no actual injury has been inflicted on the petitioners. The different groups then alleged that the HSA could be used to violate human rights and place persons under surveillance.

“Who would want to be slapped with a half a million (pesos) daily fine? A law enforcement entity would be frightened to arrest anybody despite strong intelligence,” Aquino was quoted by news reports after submitting several priority bills to congressional leaders.

“The proposed amendments seek to give this draconian law even more teeth. The amendments seek to remove deterrents for human rights violations and instead give law enforcers more leeway to conduct illegal arrests and detention. This is a very dangerous proposition. Aquino seems oblivious to the continuing cases of illegal arrests, torture and other abuses that are being carried out by his law enforcement units,” said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr.

Bayan said that the stiff penalties for abuses were put in place because of the poor human rights record of law enforcers. The high amount was supposed to act as a deterrent to abuses. The group said that even without the HSA, there are already enough laws to deal with terrorism.

“We wonder at the timing of this measure. Is it to prove to the US that the Philippines is worthy of receiving more military aid? Is this specifically timed for the 10th anniversary of the 9-11 attacks? Why is this even a priority now when the country is faced with far bigger problems?” Reyes asked.

Bayan said that under the law, the definition of “terrorism” is deliberately made vague and overbroad. Section 3 of the terror law defines “terrorism” as an act of “sowing and creating a condition of widespread and extraordinary fear and panic among the populace in order to coerce the government to give in to an unlawful demand.” The parameters of what constitutes this vague and loosely defined crime of “terrorism” will eventually be determined by Malacanang, the group said.

The case of Edgar Candule

Bayan said that even the stiff penalty of P500,000 for every day a suspect is wrongfully arrested has not deterred some law enforcers from abusing the HSA. The group cited the case of a young activist Edgar Candule who was arrested in March 2008 in Zambales for allegedly possessing so-called “subversive” documents, a firearm and for being suspected of membership in the NPA which the AFP considers a “terrorist” organization. At the time of his arrest, law enforcers said they found him inside a hut packing his belongings.

Because of the alleged firearm and Candule’s supposed subversive documents, law enforcers in their complaint said that he was “engaged in sowing and creating a contention (sic) of widespread fear and peace (sic)among the populace.” The PNP charged Candule with the crime of terrorism under Section 3 of the HSA.

The case was eventually dismissed by the Branch 69 of the Zambales RTC on October 29, 2010 or more than two years after Candule was arrested. The presiding Judge Josefina Farrales said that the prosecution failed to prove the existence of the crime of terrorism. She also said that the circumstances of the arrest showed that Candule was merely packing his things when he was arrested. She said the presence of subversive materials was “inconsequential” and that the alleged firearm taken from the accused was not even presented or identified during the testimonies of the arresting officers.

However, the provisions granting Candule compensation have not been followed despite the patently illegal arrest and the false charges of terrorism that resulted in his detention for more than two years. Candule would have been entitled to P500,000 for every day he was detained.

Bayan challenged institutions such as the Department of Justice, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and the Commission on Human Rights to oppose the proposed amendments to the terror law.The group also expects the amendments to encounter strong opposition from human rights advocates in Congress. ###

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Global crisis exposes bankruptcy of Philippine growth strategy

Posted on 09 August 2011 by admin

News Release
August 9, 2011

The recent global economic and financial turmoil has put to question the Aquino government’s claims of growth and the development strategy it has adopted, according to the umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan).

“In just two weeks, the achievements claimed by the President in his State of the Nation Address, about our stock market index and improved credit ratings, are now rendered meaningless and irrelevant. We are very much affected by the global crisis since ours is an export-oriented and import dependent economy. Our growth depends on foreign investments, foreign loans and overseas workers’ remittances,” said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr.

“The recent global economic turmoil shows the bankruptcy of this kind of economic model imposed on us by the big foreign banks. We are quite vulnerable to the crisis. The effects on the stock market are just the beginning. Export-earnings, jobs here and abroad, even foreign investments are all going to be affected,” he added.

Bayan slammed the Aquino government’s Medium Term Philippine Development Plan as merely a “recycled economic program with added emphasis on dole-outs and public-private partnerships”.

“The government’s so-called blueprint for economic growth follows the same pattern that has caused the crisis and will likely be a failure as well. With the global slowdown, where will the investors for PPPs come from and what onerous terms will they demand before investing? How will the Philippine government sustain its foreign-debt driven Conditional Cash Transfer?” Reyes said.

The group said that the crisis should be seen as an opportunity for the Philippines to rethink its development strategy and embark on a self-reliant economic development program.

“Now is the best time for the Philippine government to embark on a self-reliant economic development program instead of pinning its entire hopes on an ailing global economy that’s mired in a protracted depression. We must move beyond being an export-oriented, import dependent, foreign-investment and foreign-debt driven economy,” he added.

“To lessen our vulnerability to the crisis, we must pursue a nationalist path towards development. We need to pursue land reform and national industrialization and strengthen the domestic economy. Government should encourage and support Filipino farmers, workers and local business. Production should be geared towards meeting people’s needs rather than export demands. The national budget should be geared towards developing agriculture, local industries and domestic job creation,” Reyes said.

Government data already show declines in export-earnings and foreign direct investments and a slow-down in the growth of OFW remittances. According to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, foreign direct investments to the Philippines in 2010 shrunk by 13% (compared to 2009). The same downward trend has continued during the first quarter of 2011. Meanwhile, the growth in exports for the first quarter of 2011 slowed down. Domestic unemployment and underemployment remain high despite government claims of a slight reduction. GDP for the first quarter of the year also shrunk.

The militant group also assailed proposals in Congress pushing for constitutional amendments that will remove restrictions on foreign ownership of land, public utilities, media entities and educational institutions.

“During this time of crisis, we need to be protecting our domestic economy, not surrendering it to foreign interests. Our underdevelopment is not caused my protectionist provisions in the Constitution. Our economic woes are caused by the same foreign entities that seek to remove these protectionist provisions,” Reyes said. ###

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US debt crisis should also be wake up call for the Philippines

Posted on 07 August 2011 by admin

News Release
August 7, 2011

This was the reaction of the umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan to the downgrading of the United States credit rating and the Philippine government’s statement that the downgrade should be a wake-up call for the US. Palace spokesman Ricky Carandang recently said that the downgrade should push the US to address its economic issues.

“The reality is that the credit downgrade is just a result of a much worse crisis facing the US economy. In the midst of this crisis, the Philippine government must rethink and reverse many of the economic policies that make Philippine economic growth dependent on US investments and economic aid,” said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr.

“Now is the time for the Philippine government to embark on a self-reliant economic development program instead of pinning its entire hopes on an ailing US economy that’s plodding through a protracted depression. We must move beyond being an export-oriented, import dependent, foreign-investment and foreign-debt driven economy,” he added.

Bayan said that the immediate causes of the US debt crisis is the huge spending made by the US government to fund the trillion-dollar bail-outs of banks during the financial turmoil in 2008, and the continuing massive spending for US wars abroad. It said that the underlying cause of the current crisis is the crisis of overproduction in the US economy because the markets can no longer absorb the commodities being produced by the economy. Because of lower wages and unemployment, consumption has slowed down, causing the rate of profits to drop. Bayan said that the monopoly capitalists try to keep their profits up by engaging in various forms of finance speculation, which ultimately led to the disastrous financial and economic crisis of 2008.

The group also said it is useless to debate whether the credit downgrade is justified or not because the US economy is already in a protracted depression. The group warned the Philippine government against continuously depending on the US economy for the Philippines’ own growth.

“We need a new path towards growth. It is foolish for the Philippine government to keep on pushing foreign-investment driven public-private partnerships or to depend on foreign investments for jobs creation. Economic development primarily hinged on external factors, and not internal growth drivers, will be bound to fail, especially now with the crisis gripping the US,” Reyes said.

“It’s not just a matter of finding a new alternative global reserve currency as the Department of Finance wants us to believe. It is a matter of finding a new economic development plan for the Philippines that focuses on national industrialization, land reform and meeting the people’s needs,” he added.

According to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, foreign direct investments to the Philippines in 2010 shrunk by 13% (compared to 2009). The same downward trend has continued during the first quarter of 2011. Meanwhile, the growth in exports for the first quarter of 2011 slowed down.

The Philippine government already admitted that the US debt crisis will be causing some uncertainties among investors and may slow down the global economy.

Bayan meanwhile expressed solidarity with the American people who are struggling against massive unemployment, huge social cutbacks, homelessness and hunger as a result of the current crisis. ###

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