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May 10 and beyond

Posted on 05 May 2011 by admin

Paninindigan January 2010

On May 10, the Philippines will mark a significant day in its electoral history. For the first time, the national elections long beset by credibility and integrity issues will use a fully automated system. By employing modern technology in the counting, transmission, and canvassing of votes, poll officials hope to reduce “human intervention” that influences election results. The Commission on Elections (Comelec) also promises an electoral process “unprecedented in rapidity”, with all winners declared within 36 hours.

To be sure, maximizing the benefits of modern technology to reduce the likelihood of electoral fraud is a track that must be pursued. The problems confronting elections in the country however require more than a technological fix. It must be pointed out that automation is being carried out under a much discredited, corrupt and brutally violent US-Arroyo regime and a Comelec that has little credibility after the 2004 “Hello Garci” expose that unmasked a cheating mafia inside the poll body.

Recent developments in the political arena and Comelec’s bungled automation efforts continue to fan public skepticism about the May 10 polls. The hope of some that at least the elections will signal the end of the despised nine-year old administration quickly dissipated when Gloria Arroyo  filed her candidacy for Congress in Pampanga’s second district. One scheme for a “Gloria Forever” scenario suddenly became a very real threat with Arroyo capturing either the Speakership of the House of Representatives or the Prime Minister post through Charter Change or simply wielding a sizeable bloc in the House to thwart any moves to make her and her regime accountable for countless crimes.

The Arroyo clique is determined to stay in power beyond June 30th, Arroyo’s last day in office and it is scheming different options to do so. Failure of elections remains a distinct possibility  reinforced by the many delays and glitches as well as anomalies and lack of Comelec transparency that have marked the automated election system (AES) from the signing of the  contract to the conduct of field tests and mock polls. With May 10 elections nearing, public distrust on the automation technology (i.e. precinct count optical scan or PCOS) chosen by Comelec remains widespread. Meanwhile, the one-week imposition of Martial Law in Maguindanao following the Ampatuan massacre last November 23, 2009 is widely perceived as a dry-run for similar declarations in other parts of the country to derail the elections. The clear intent of Malacanang to select the next Supreme Court (SC) Chief Justice despite an expressed  Constitutional prohibition on this and to consolidate its hold over the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) via the appointment of an Arroyo loyalist whom previously headed the Presidential Security Group are also meant to guarantee maximum leverage for the Arroyo clique in these institutions.

Attacks on the people’s democratic movement, the staunchest opponent of the anti-people and pro-imperialist US-Arroyo regime are being scaled up as the May 10 elections draw near. This must be seen squarely within the framework of the overall scheme to perpetuate Mrs. Arroyo in power. The arrest of 43 health workers, including two doctors, a nurse, and a midwife, last February 6 while conducting a health training-seminar in Morong, Rizal is just the latest proof of  escalating state terrorism. Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL) I and II, the US-Arroyo regime’s counter-insurgency programs which grandiosely aimed to end the communist-led armed struggle in the countryside by terrorizing its base of support among the peasantry and assassinating or arresting alleged supporters in the urban areas have failed to achieve its 2010 deadline. Nevertheless, the US-Arroyo regime intends to frustrate the renewed foray of progressive candidates into the electoral arena which has been markedly successful as seen by the increasing number of seats they have captured through the partylist system since 2001.

US imperialism has been closely following these developments in the Philippines leading to the May 10 automated polls. On the one hand, it is in the interest of the US that the elections achieve an acceptable degree of “credibility” and would prefer a smooth transfer of political power to provide legitimacy to the would be President and most likely next US puppet. On the other hand, it strongly supports the political repression of the people’s democratic movement, which has been firmly anti-imperialist, to prevent it from gaining ground through, among others, greater electoral victories. It is also likely that the Arroyo clique has powerful backers within the US corridors of power for its continuing efforts to hold on to power beyond 2010 through Cha-cha since Cha-cha itself will promote US interests and has long been in its agenda, and also since Arroyo has proven to be a very reliable ally and champion of US’s imperialist interests in the Philippines.

It is important and necessary to arouse, organize and mobilize the people to expose and oppose election fraud. The objective is not to legitimize the next regime or to foist illusions about elections as a so-called democratic exercise but in order to push the limits of the limited space provided by the elections to advance the people’s nationalist and democratic demands. It means not only helping ensure the victory of progressive party list groups and allies who commit to carry out political and socio-economic reforms in response to the people’s issues. More importantly, it means making the most of the opportunity provided by the elections to reach out to more people, educate them about the deep-seated social problems confronting the country, and mobilize them in the struggle for national freedom and genuine democracy beyond the May 10 elections.
For these reasons, Bayan supports the broad campaign Kontra Daya as a poll watchdog and anti-fraud network of various groups and individuals interested to make the elections, to the extent possible, clean, honest, and free. Pagbabago! People’s Movement for Change is  also active in the electoral arena by  popularizing the “People’s Criteria”, a set of 12 questions that can assess current candidates vis-à-vis the most pressing political, economic, and social issues that affect the people. These engagements during the elections go side-by-side with Bayan’s core mandate as the center for mass campaigns and alliances working against high prices, low wages, lack of jobs and social services, landlessness and land grabbing in the countryside, militarization and human rights violations, unfair international agreements, US political interference and military interventionism, corruption and abuses in government, etc.

We do not harbor the illusion that the elections by themselves can bring about the fundamental changes that the Philippines need to become truly democratic, sovereign, and prosperous. The absence of genuine land reform and national industrialization, and the presence of continued US domination will not be addressed by the simple transfer of power from one faction of the ruling elite to another. Our struggle is thus waged during and beyond the May 10 elections. ###

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Troubled times

Posted on 05 May 2011 by admin

Paninindigan September 2009

There are huge expectations that the 2010 elections would bring about much-needed changes in Philippine society.

Indeed, the expectations stem from the fact that we are living in deeply troubled times. Corruption at the highest levels persists. Our sovereignty is in tatters as a foreign army remains stationed on our soil. Human rights abuses are still committed with impunity, though activists have fought back with some success.

It is understandable that the expectations for change are fueled by the belief that the nine-year rule of the despised puppet and fascist Arroyo regime will likely end in 2010. We could say that the Philippines may have hit political rock-bottom with Mrs. Gloria Arroyo. Surely, things can’t get any worse and there’s hope that things may finally get better.

There are, however, serious challenges that await those seeking higher office in 2010. The mantra of change should not be a mere abstraction, an empty rhetoric or an opportunistic way of getting elected into office.

Change in this case should be spelled out clearly as not just a departure from the policies of the Arroyo regime, but a radical rupture with many of the decades-old policies of foreign subservience, economic inequality and state repression. Yes, many will run on a platform which predictably will be opposed, at least on surface, to the policies of the current regime. But how far would their drive for change go?

There are many policies that need to be reversed. Amid the world’s worst recession since the 1930s, government must now put the brakes on neoliberal economic policies and restore and strengthen protection for the domestic economy. Land reform must be seriously addressed without fear of antagonizing big landowners.

National sovereignty must be asserted against foreign impositions such as the presence of foreign troops and military bases, or highly unequal free trade deals. Those behind the human rights abuses and political killings must be made accountable. The plunderers in government must be brought to justice.

The electoral area provides some avenues for change, true. But these avenues grow ever narrower as the class interests of those seeking power assert themselves. Will the landed political elite advance a genuine land reform program? Will the candidates with ties to big business take a stand against imperialist globalization? Will the big campaign spenders be trusted in curbing government corruption? Will those candidates seeking US support dare to abrogate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA)? Will those seeking the military’s support have the political will to make top military officials accountable for human rights abuses?

There is reason to be hopeful, but this hope has to be tempered by the political realities we face. We must recognize the ultimate limitations of the electoral exercise under a neocolonial set up. Even now, there are serious doubts as to the credibility and even workability of the upcoming automated polls. And lest we forget, the Arroyo clique has never ceased in its machinations to stay in power beyond 2010.

Thus, we must remember that during these troubled times, our best hope lies with the people, with the mass movement. The politics of change must be deeply rooted in the people’s struggles and their issues. There are a number of progressives who will seek office in the 2010 polls and they should have our unwavering support.

We must be steadfast in advancing the issues and demands of the people, whatever the results of the upcoming elections may be. And with valid fears of a failure of the automated elections, we must all the more be prepared to do battle with the forces that seek to perpetuate Mrs. Arroyo in power. #

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The road ahead

Posted on 05 May 2011 by admin

Paninindigan January 2009

Almost everyone has predicted 2009 to be a difficult year, especially with the worldwide economic crisis expected to get worse. The Philippines, like many export-oriented economies, is also expected to feel the brunt of the global crisis. The global centers of monopoly capitalism can no longer hide the fact that they are facing a severe recession. The US economy is expected to contract more rapidly in the first half of 2009.

In imperialist countries, the credit crunch has weakened consumption, thereby exacerbating the crisis of overproduction. Not only are working people unable to buy consumer goods, they are faced with mass unemployment.

As if to underscore the imperialist crisis of overproduction, the biggest automotive factories in the US and Japan are shutting down because of weak demand. Semi-conductor and other factories in Taiwan have laid off 3,000 Filipino workers. The lay-offs are expected to reach 5,000. Even Business Process Outsourcing, the much vaunted call center “industry”, is now vulnerable to layoffs.

The current global crisis will surely expose the fundamental flaws of the semi-feudal and neo-colonial Philippine economy. Philippine exports will be hard hit by the global recession as demand for Philippine goods are sure to weaken. Unemployment will be a huge problem as hundreds of returning and retrenched Overseas Filipino Workers cannot find meaningful employment at home.

The proposal of the Arroyo regime to turn displaced OFW’s into “entrepreneurs” is unrealistic. That is why another government proposal is the re-training for re-export is displaced OFW’s. It is another sign that the local economy is unable to absorb the workforce.

Economist Benjamin Diokno as well as think-tank IBON both estimated that there could be as many as 11 million unemployed Filipinos this year. The Arroyo government as usual is quick to deny the gravity of the crisis. Yet they are forced to admit that the economy will contract, with GDP growing only at a rate of 3.7-4.7% as opposed to earlier forecasts of 6.1-7.1%.

On top of the economic turmoil that is expected to happen is the political crisis brought about by the Arroyo regime’s insistence on staying in power. While the people united and mobilized in the thousands against Charter change last year, the Arroyo regime has not decisively put the matter of Cha-cha to rest. The House of Representatives Committee on Constitutional Amendments is expected to release its report on Cha-cha. If approved, the committee report will be brought to the House Plenary for voting. We may see another Cha-cha fight in the next two months. There is still the possibility that the issue will be brought to the Supreme Court once it is ripe for adjudication.

Part of the regime’s drive to stay in power is to suppress progressive activists either by eliminating them or by placing them behind bars. To date, scores of activists are either unjustly imprisoned or are facing trumped-up charges filed by state security forces. The unjust persecution of activists continues.

The regime of corruption and repression would not be “complete” without puppetry to foreign interests. Even as a new US president who promised “change” will take office on January 20, Filipinos do not expect any real changes as far as RP-US relations are concerned. A new round of RP-US military exercises are set to take place this year, with the Bicol region as a new “training ground.”

If there is anything that is constant in 2009 as in previous years, it is the people’s struggle. In this time of severe crisis, repression and oppression, the mass movement is urgently needed. A collective and militant response is the most effective way by which the people’s interests will be upheld and defended.

If there is anything we learned from the current crisis of monopoly capitalism, it’s that the capitalist alternative is no longer viable, yet a pro-people social system can only happen if the people assert it.

Even if the political situation does take a turn towards the 2010 elections, this does not mean that the current issues and problems are on their way to being solved. The people will still have to fight for their nationalist and democratic aspirations, even within the limitations of the electoral arena.

With the New Year starting with bombings in Gaza, and renewed airstrikes in Mindanao, we can only remain hopeful that through our unity, perseverance and continuing struggle, change will come.

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