Archive | November, 2011

Tough challenges await Luisita farm workers

Posted on 28 November 2011 by admin

News Release
November 28, 2011

The Bagong Alyansang Makabayan today called on farmers of Hacienda Luisita to prepare for greater challenges in the fight for the distribution of the vast estate.

“There are factors working against the farmers in this difficult fight. This includes the limitations of the current law on land reform, the insistence of the executive for the ‘just compensation of the landowners, and the limited land that would be actually distributed,” said Bayan chair Carol Araullo.

“The Luisita management will still try to maneuver to delay the distribution or undermine the victory of the farmers, including the possible demand for greater government compensation. This amount would eventually be paid by the farmers. The key would be the farmers organizing themselves to carry out land reform. The farmers need to strengthen their organizations,” Araullo said.

Bayan also called on the government to demilitarize Luisita and to allow farmers to freely build their organizations.

The 10 barangays in the area have been the subject of intensive counter-insurgency operations from the time of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo under the program Oplan Bantay Laya. Several unarmed activists were killed in a span of three years. Luisita is located just meters away from the Northern Luzon Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. In the aftermath of the 2004 strike, military detachments were set up inside the communities. A military detachment for example exists in the barangay where union president Ricardo Ramos was killed.

“Militarization will hamper efforts to organize farmers towards the collective goal of land reform. Leaders and organizers are often subjected to surveillance. Members are intimidated. It is imperative that farmers are able to build and expand their organizations to counter the maneuvers of the Luisita management,” Araullo added.

Bayan said that farmers in Luisita are prepared to collectively till the land considering that each farmer stands to get less than 1 hectare following the Supreme Court ruling on the coverage of land distribution and the number of identified beneficiaries.

“Many have expressed the cynical view that farmers are not capable of being productive and will eventually sell the land back to the big land owners. To prevent this, there must be a strong farmer’s organization that would push for demands beyond the limited CARPER program,” she added. ###

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Five crucial problems in the SC decision on Hacienda Luisita

Posted on 25 November 2011 by admin

by Renato Reyes, Jr.

While the nation welcomed the decision of the Supreme Court ordering the actual land distribution of Hacienda Luisita, the SC decision presents several problems and challenges for farmers and advocates of land reform. The decision highlights the limitations and problems with government’s land reform program CARPER.

  1. The SC decision ordered the compensation of the owners of Hacienda Luisita. By “owners”, we mean them Cojuangco-Aquino family. They will be compensated for the 4, 335 hectares that will be distributed to the farmers. If each hectare is valued at 1,000,000, the Cojuangco’s will receive P4.3 billion. The government will advance a certain amount, and the farmers will have to pay the entire amount through an amortization scheme. No less than President Benigno Aquino III stressed the importance of “just compensation” for the landowners. He also invoked CARPER as the basis for this “just compensation”. What is unjust in this scheme is that the vast estate was unjustly acquired by the Cojuangco’s through a government loan from the GSIS. In short, public funds were used to acquire the estate with the condition that land would eventually be distributed to the farmers. Furthermore, the farm workers have paid for the value of the land through their sweat and blood, working on the estate for several decades without receiving any of the supposed fruits of their labor. Over the years, the Cojuangco’s got richer and the farm workers were mired deeper in destitution. There is therefore nothing just in paying the Cojuangco’s P4.335 billion which will come from public funds and the pockets of the long-exploited farm workers. The farmers demand that the land be distributed for free.
  2. The SC decision did not rule that the Stock Distribution Option scheme was unconstitutional. Only Chief Justice Renato Corona supported this opinion. It would have been a landmark victory for thousands of other farmers nationwide if the SDO itself, this loophole in the agrarian reform program of the first Aquino regime, was altogether junked. The SDO has been abused by big landlords who wanted to evade land reform and actual land distribution. Instead of actual land distribution, farmers are swindled through shares of stock.
  3. The SC decision exempted the 500 hectare land purchased by RCBC. This is controversial because RCBC knew that the land in question was the subject of an agrarian dispute, yet it entered into a transaction with the Luisita management to acquire the land. They claimed that they were “innocent purchasers” but facts will reveal that RCBC , Luisita Industrial Park Corporation (a subsidiary of HLI) and Centennary Holdings had interlocking directors or officials. There is also the land conversion order which reclassified this supposedly agricultural land. The HLI management of course earned a hefty sum from this sale.
  4. The SC decision exempted more than 1,000 hectares of land from the coverage of land reform.  Farmers and their lawyers have challenged the basis of this exemption and have pushed that land reform cover at least 6,443 hectares.
  5. The P1.3 billion payment by management to the farmers from the earnings of land sale (RCBC, SCTEX) will still be subjected to a lot of accounting wizardry. This amount can still go down if HLI shows that it spent the money for legitimate corporate expenses and taxes.

This is not a victory for CARPER. Quite the opposite, what happens in the next few months will show that CARPER will make genuine land reform even more difficult, nay impossible.

It now lies with the collective struggle of the farmers to ensure that their legal victory will truly be beneficial for all farmer beneficiaries.

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Bayan hails SC decision, seeks justice for rights victims

Posted on 25 November 2011 by admin

News Release

November 25, 2011

The umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan today congratulated the farmers of Hacienda Luisita for their victory in the Supreme Court even as the group pressed for justice for all those who died in the agrarian dispute.

“The victory is a testament to the justness of the farmers’ struggle. So many made the ultimate sacrifice so that this day would come,” said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr.

“Genuine land reform still has a long way to go in the Philippines. It is something the farmers need to fight for every time. The spirit of genuine land reform cannot simply be found in existing laws like CARPER. If anything, the Luisita dispute shows how government land reform programs became dismal failures for so many years,” Reyes added.

Bayan said it supported the farmers’ position of free land distribution and collective farming as the means of making the and economically viable. “The land has already been paid for through the blood and sweat of farmers over the past five decades. The landowners profited immensely from the work of the farm workers while the farm workers got nothing,” Reyes said.

The group said that other haciendas employing the “stock distribution option” would also face legal challenges because of the Luisita ruling. “Big landlords are wary because the decades-old swindling through the stock option may now be questioned in court by the farmer,” Reyes said.

Justice for rights victims

Bayan pressed the Office of the Ombudsman to resolve the case of the Hacienda Luisita massacre which claimed seven lives. The case has been pending for six years now at the Ombudsman and to date, no case has been filed in court against any member of the police and military who were involved in the shooting of unarmed strikers.

“It would only be fitting that the farmers get true and complete justice, and this includes justice for all those who died fighting for land,” Reyes said.

A marker is now erected at the Gate 1 of the Central Azucarera de Tarlac for all the martyrs of the Luisita struggle. Those included in the list are Tarlac City Councilor Abel Ladera, Bishop Alberto Ramento and union president Ricardo Ramos.

Bayan also called attention to the case of Ramos, union president of the CAT Labor Union who was gunned down in the aftermath of the strike. A suspect, Sgt. Roderick “Joshua” de la Cruz of the Army’s 7th Infantry Division eventually arrested. The case is up for resolution by the local judge handling the case.

VERA files reported that the witnesses in the case are having problems because they are not provided protection by the government.

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November 24, 2011 Protest action against OPH and Oil Deregulation Law in front of Shell Office, Makati

Posted on 24 November 2011 by admin

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Posted on 24 November 2011 by admin

November 24, 2011 Protest action against Oil Deregulation Law and OPH in front of Shell Office

15 Photos

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Statement on the second anniversary of the November 23 Maguindanao massacre

Posted on 23 November 2011 by admin

Press Statement

November 23, 2011

The Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) joins journalists and human rights defenders here and abroad in commemorating the second anniversary of the Maguindanao Massacre. Two years after the incident, the wheels of justice have turned slowly for the victims and their families even as other suspects remain at large.

We join human rights advocates everywhere in marking this day as International Day Against Impunity. Extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture and other human rights violations continue to this day under the Aquino administration. Even more dismal is the conviction of suspects involved in these abuses. A recent audit of cases established that only 1% of cases of extrajudicial killings end up in the conviction of the perpetrators.

The second anniversary of the massacre is made event important today with the recent arrest of former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on charges of electoral sabotage.

Indeed there are clear links between the crime of electoral sabotage and the Maguindanao massacre. It was Arroyo’s connivance with the Ampatuan family which made possible the highly improbable 12-0 win for the administration’s senatorial slate in Maguindanao. It was Arroyo’s continued support for the Ampatuans, despite their abuses, which gave rise to impunity. It was the Arroyo government’s issuances which strengthened paramilitary groups that eventually became private armies.

Arroyo herself must be made accountable for the Maguindanao massacre.

As we press for justice for the victims of the November 23 massacre, we also call attention to the many cases of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances that remain unresolved. The Aquino government has not shown resolve in addressing these issues. The killings and abductions continue. The latest victim is Fr. Fausto Tentorio, an Italian missionary working in Arakan, North Cotabato who gunned down last October.

More than a year in office, Aquino has not made ending impunity his priority. It has not filed a single human rights case against the perpetrators of abuses, past and present. The Aquino government has even justified the continued existence of paramilitary groups even if they are the cause of many abuses.It is not difficult therefore to grasp why impunity continues.

We call on the people to remain vigilant and press accountability among officials, past and present, who are complicit in human rights violations. We call for full accountability for Gloria Macapagal Arroyo for her role in gross human rights violations during her 9-year term. We call on the Aquino government to dismantle its paramilitary groups. We call on the Aquino government to file the necessary criminal cases against violators from the past and present regime. ###

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Groups slam Arroyo SC petition to undo arrest

Posted on 21 November 2011 by admin

News Release

November 22, 2011

The umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan today held a picket in front of the Supreme Court to show opposition to any move that would undo the arrest of former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Yesterday, Arroyo lawyers sought immediate action on a petition asking the High Court to nullify a special government panel that investigated Arroyo for electoral sabotage during the 2007 polls. Arroyo lawyers also sought a Temporary Restraining Order from the SC. Last Friday, the Comelec filed a criminal case against Arroyo before the Pasay RTC. Arroyo is now under arrest at the St. Luke’s hospital in Taguig.

“It would be foolish and dangerous for the High Court to swiftly undo the arrest of Mrs. Arroyo by issuing the TRO sought by the Arroyo camp. The perception that the SC is Arroyo’s best and only line of defense is reaffirmed,” said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr.

“The last thing the public wants to see now is Arroyo free and able to leave the country. That would further erode what little faith is left in the country’s justice system. That would really show how unequal the application of the law is. The government can never claim that whether you are a basurero or a former president, you will go through the same process because that’s obviously not what is happening now,” Reyes said, in reference to the weekend speech of Benigno Aquino III.

Bayan said that since previous SC votes tended to favor the former President, “the public needs to be vigilant on the latest legal maneuver of the Arroyos.”

“Now that there are efforts to undermine the electoral sabotage case of Mrs. Arroyo, it is incumbent upon the Aquino regime to file more cases against the former president. Cases of plunder and human rights violations should also be filed before the proper courts,” Reyes said.

“Immediately filing more cases is necessary not just for accountability but also to lessen the legal maneuvers of the influential Arroyo’s. Aquino should not waste any more time,” Reyes added. ###

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On Arroyo’s impending arrest

Posted on 18 November 2011 by admin

Press Statement

November 18, 2011

Reference: Renato M. Reyes, Jr, BAYAN secretary general

The long-awaited day of seeing Gloria Macapagal Arroyo arrested, mug-shot taken, and placed behind bars is close at hand. After more than 500 days in office, the Aquino government finally has a criminal case filed against GMA. Today’s events show that it is indeed possible to hasten the filing of cases against the former president. We hope electoral sabotage will not be the first and last case filed against GMA. Cases of plunder and human rights violations should also follow suit. We urge the public to remain vigilant since the Arroyo camp will not cease its maneuverings to evade justice. For now, Arroyo’s plans of leaving the country has been frustrated.

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Bayan and allied groups gather in front of SC

Posted on 17 November 2011 by admin

News Release

November 18, 2011

The umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan today gathered in front of the Supreme Court for the special en banc session on former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s travel abroad. The group is calling for the withdrawal of the Temporary Restraining Order of the SC on the Department of Justice which earlier sought to keep Arroyo in the country.

Carrying placards that read “Gloria Panagutin, Huwag Patakasin!”, the groups expressed indignation over the TRO issued by the SC that will allow Arroyo to travel abroad.

“We have to make it known to the SC that the people want Arroyo to be made accountable and that there are valid concerns she is trying to evade justice. We oppose the issuance of the TRO which many believe was unnecessary and was issued in haste. The withdrawal of the TRO is the proper thing to do now,” said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr.

“Let us not forget the crimes of the former president which include human rights violations along with plunder and electoral fraud. There is no assurance she will return. We find no comfort in her P2 million bond nor with Atty. Ferdinand Topacio’s offer of his testicles. There are no assurances or strong guarantees provided even by the SC that Arroyo will indeed return,” he added.

Bayan said that if the SC decides to uphold the TRO, and GMA does leave, the High Court would have to put in place stronger guarantees that she will return and face the charges against her.

Even as it awaited the SC’s decision, Bayan also called on the Aquino administration to “exert all efforts to file the necessary cases against GMA in the proper courts at the soonest possible time.”

“The burden of prosecuting GMA lies with the Aquino government. Criminal complaints have been filed. The public is waiting for these cases to be filed in court, with Aquino being in power for more than a year now,” Reyes said.###

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Licensed to Flee – GMA must come to court with clean hands while Pnoy twiddles his fingers

Posted on 17 November 2011 by admin

16 November 2011
Reference: Atty. Edre U. Olalia, NUPL Secretary General (09175113373)

Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s attempts to escape justice and frustrate efforts to prosecute her is in plain view that nobody could have missed it. The minute she steps out of the country, the quest for justice will almost certainly fall apart. She will most probably wait it out till the political atmosphere and conditions are more conducive or accommodating to her political rehabilitation while she is “recuperating” or dodging imagined “political persecution.”

Amidst the competing views and the complex legal and political implications surrounding the issue, it is sad that prudence took the back seat. The Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) was seen by not a few as having been issued with rather undue and unusual haste even as there is no compelling urgency for it. Oral arguments and studied contemplation should have been done first. Arroyo’s health condition is, fortunately, not life threatening.

While the Arroyos cry that their rights are being violated, the speedy issuance of the TRO has made some sectors of our society squirm in astonishment. It does not help any that there are pervasive perceptions that the results appear to hew to clear partisan lines. It could be seen as giving a relief that is precisely the meat of the petition and may in fact result in irreparable injustice that can not be undone, to the utter disadvantage of the Filipino people and their interest in making high public officials really accountable and that impunity must stop, once and for all. There also is an apparent double standard with which the cases of privileged litigants with power and influence, like the Arroyos, are being treated.

The situation must be put into perspective. Needless to say, the surrounding facts and circumstances show that Arroyo is abusing the right to travel as a plausible ruse to escape accountability for the grave crimes she allegedly committed of which there is strong evidence. Even the “devil can quote the Scriptures,” so to speak.

But the law should not be taken in abstraction; instead it must be applied in a concrete legal and political situation, with the dispensation of justice as the overriding goal. As has been said before, “general propositions do not decide specific cases.”

Ironically, it bears noting that DOJ Department Circular 41 was issued during Arroyo’s time. It is downright odd and curious that she and her allies cry justice and due process now that things have turned and they are on the other receiving end. She and the former First Gentleman must come to court with clean hands. They must also drop the tasteless “persecution complex” and poor victim stunt.

We support all efforts to exhaust all possible remedies to stop attempts of the Arroyos to flee. Too many tyrants, here and abroad, have tried to escape accountability through the hospital door. For history not to repeat itself, we should be vigilant as the events that surely have long term effects on our nation unfold before our eyes. We can argue how many angels can dance on a head of pin but at the end of the day, the issue all boils down to accountability of our public officials. Can we really get justice?

Had President Aquino accompanied the rhetoric and blame game with prompt and concrete legal actions in prosecuting the Arroyos as part of its campaign against corruption, it would not have come to this high drama. While the Arroyos are rushing to leave the country, Pnoy was twiddling his fingers in decisively filing cases in court against them not only for big time corruption and unmitigated plunder but also for the most heinous violations of basic human rights#

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