Asian Correspondent » Tonyo Cruz Asian Correspondent Wed, 27 May 2015 15:00:43 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Cambodia hosts BlogFest.Asia 2012 Thu, 01 Nov 2012 10:23:07 +0000 Cambodia’s growing number of bloggers are hosting this week’s BlogFest.Asia 2012 in Siem Reap, which aims to gather bloggers from across the continent for several days of discussions and debates, fellowship and fun.

More than a hundred Cambodian bloggers and scores more from other Asian countries have started to arrive for the event to be held at the Build Bright University’s Siem Reap Study Center.

Siem Reap hosts third edition of BlogFest.Asia.

Organizers are expecting bloggers from Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, and Myanmar to join Cambodian bloggers for the event.

Opening the event is a welcome remarks by organizers and by BBU council chairman Dr. In Veracheat.

Spider Center’s David Isaksson will deliver the keynote on the topic “Internet Power”.

Plenary topics include: ”Practical Aspects of Internet Empowerment: Gender, Language & Civic Engagement”; Freedom of Expression, Information and Press in Southeast Asia; and country reports from participating countries.

Topics of breakout sessions range from mobile and photo blogging to internet security and the Cybercrime Law in the Philippines.

Khieu Kanharith, Minister of Information, will be speaking at the end of the event.

Check out the full program here.

BlogFest.Asia events have been held in 2009 in Hong Kong and in 2010 in Penang, Malaysia.

The Siem Reap gathering is organized by bloggers and netizens Chak SopheapKounila KeoRamana SornTharum Bun and Anirudh Bhati.

The 2012 edition is sponsored by SpiderU.S. Embassy Phnom PenhBritish Embassy Phnom PenhThe Asia FoundationGlobal Voices OnlineWikimedia DeutschlandWikimedia Foundation, and Sabay. Contributors include:Cambodia Center for Human RightsOpen InstituteRising VoicesSoutheast Asia Press Alliance, and the Mozilla Foundation.

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After Corona conviction, Filipinos expect even more from Aquino Tue, 29 May 2012 14:29:11 +0000 Benigno Aquino

Benigno Aquino. Pic: AP.

President Aquino today scored a historic political achievement with the decision taken by the Senate impeachment court to convict Chief Justice Renato Corona for misdeclaring his assets, liabilities and net worth.

But the Senate’s 20-3 vote against Corona may turn out to be a pyrrhic victory for Mr. Aquino as it sets a higher standard for the President and his administration insofar as fighting corruption and perfidy in government.

Mr. Aquino who campaigned and won on a slogan of taking “the righteous path” has his work cut out for him after successfully toppling Corona who he and his spin doctors have labeled as a “stumbling block” to anti-corruption efforts.

For instance, many are waiting for the President himself to speak on Corona’s and the public’s demands for greater transparency starting with the signing of waivers by all government officials regarding their foreign currency deposit accounts.

The public also wants to see the President to certify as urgent the bills seeking to enact a Freedom of Information Law. The Philippines currently belongs to a small minority of the world’s countries that still refuse to pass such a law which empowers citizens to make their governments transparent and accountable.

Corona’s conviction also paves the way for Mr. Aquino to go back to his campaign promise to prosecute his predecessor, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. As of now, there is only one case against Arroyo that has reached the courts. We wonder what has happened to the boxes upon boxes of evidence that backed up the past impeachment cases against Arroyo, all of which should provide ammunition against the former president and make her accountable. We expect nothing less than a presidential order to the entire government to run after Mrs. Arroyo, with the same zeal Malacanang has shown in the anti-Corona campaign.

As for the House of Representatives and Senate, its members have set a higher standard for themselves. The public hopes to see more government officials to be held accountable, regardless of party affiliation or position. The public expects them to pass a Freedom of Information Law, and amendments to the Foreign Currency Deposit law and other laws cited as problematic or conflicting during the course of the Corona trial. Whether through investigations in aid of legislation, or through impeachment, the public expects them to make the heads of corrupt officials roll.

The Philippines has had similar historic moments in the past – the overthrow of Marcos and Estrada, for instance – but no thanks to the political beneficiaries of such moments, all had been lost and the public became more cynical as ever.

Indeed, the Senate decision puts a period on Mr. Aquino’s campaign against Corona, but it also signals what more and more Filipinos hope would be an end to Mr. Aquino’s sloganeering and deliver blows against Mrs. Arroyo, her henchmen and even his own partymates and supporters who have committed offenses and acts worse than those pinned against Corona.

As we move forward, anything less than the grand, bold steps against Corona would turn this political achievement into a costly, pyrrhic victory. The next verdicts would be handed out by citizens themselves in 2013 and 2016.

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Philippines: Clamor for waivers from government officials Tue, 22 May 2012 14:13:37 +0000 Senator Franklin Drilon, a partymate of President Noynoy Aquino, and the 188 congressmen who signed the impeachment complaint against Chief Justice Renato Corona, have snubbed the challenge from the accused that they sign individual waivers authorizing the release to the public of any and all information about their foreign currency deposits.

Corona’s signing of a conditional waiver and his challenge to his accusers were among the highlights of his dramatic and action-packed testimony today before the Senate impeachment court.

A ray of hope emerged from the House of Representatives, with ACT Teachers Rep. Tonchi Tinio agreeing to sign the waiver.

Under the law, the secrecy of foreign currency deposits is absolutely protected. It is this fact that has trumped the prosecution in its vain efforts, and which perhaps led the Ombudsman to present unverified information before the court.

Some say Corona’s gambit should be rejected for what it is. But saying so would unduly limit the crusade for good governance and accountability. Looking at it anew and against the backdrop of our long-running complaints towards a corrupt state populated by corrupt officials, Corona’s challenge is sensible and should open the floodgates to holding all these officials accountable to the public.

President Aquino, who has styled himself as a paragon of virtue and champion of integrity, should take up Corona’s challenge. Corona’s challenge opens opportunities to a top-to-bottom shaking down of government corruption. Who knows, there may be a legislator or two out there with more than 82 dollar accounts and with balances of more than 12 million dollars.

As President Aquino and his supporters say, they themselves have nothing to lose if they have nothing to hide. But more than this, the public have a right to such information in order to make and keep these officials accountable in exchange for the public office they occupy and enjoy, and to show the world that the real boss in the Philippines is not the president but the people.

Whether or not Corona submits his signed waiver to the Senate, many of us feel rightly that our public officials should sign their own waivers.

Now more than ever, we have to fight for our right as citizens to information from our government and from our government officials.

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Philippines: Aquino a failure in human rights compliance, says HRW Mon, 21 May 2012 07:00:08 +0000 An international human rights watchdog today did not mince words in highlighting the Aquino administration’s “failures” in protecting human rights of Filipinos.

New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) made the initial assessment in the run-up to the Aquino government’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) before the United Nations Human Rights Council set for May 29.

According to the HRW:

The administration of President Benigno Aquino III has failed to take significant measures to prosecute members of the military, police, and militias implicated in extrajudicial killings, torture, and enforced disappearances

HRW’s Elaine Pearson called on UN member-states to “see through the Philippine government’s rhetoric and question the lack of progress on accountability over the past four years” which happened mostly under Aquino who campaigned and won on a platform of reform.

UN member-states undergo the UPR every four years to check countries’ human rights record and allow others to make recommendations.

HRW zeroed in on the Aquino government’s claims that the Philippines has achieved “progress in some areas” like so-called training that educates state security forces about respect for human rights.

HRW said such claims “deflect attention from the more serious problem of failing to investigate, arrest, and prosecute those responsible for abuses”.

Read the Aquino government’s human rights report to the UN here.

The Philippines underwent its first UPR in 2008, under the regime of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

In its first UPR, the Philippines accepted 11 out of 17 recommendations made by the UN member-states. HRW said the Arroyo government accepted the recommendations “to completely eliminate torture and extrajudicial killings” and “to intensify its efforts to carry out investigations and prosecutions on extrajudicial killings and punish those responsible.”

The HRW notes that Philippines achieved some notable improvements since 2008: The anti-torture law was passed in 2009, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court was ratified in 2011 and the judiciary instituted the “Justice on Wheels” program to help indigent litigants.

“The number of extrajudicial killings has fallen sharply from the high levels of the past decade, but those responsible have not been prosecuted and serious abuses continue,” HRW said.

HRW said that despite a $5-million 18-month European Union-funded project to strengthen the capacity of the criminal justice system, the Philippines has successfully prosecuted only four cases of extrajudicial killings, all under the Arroyo administration.

HRW also said that not a single suspect has ever been prosecuted in the aftermath of at least 10 extrajudicial killings which happened in President Aquino’s first year in office.

HRW’s Pearson also lashed out at the parade of task forces formed under Arroyo and Aquino, which all purportedly seek to address political violence.

“The Philippine government is relentless in its pursuit of creating human rights task forces,” Pearson said. “If only officials were just as relentless in pursuing the perpetrators of military abuses so that the victims might get justice.”

HRW called on UN member-states to make the Aquino administration accountable, by making time-bound recommendations including: ordering the police and National Bureau of Investigation to pursue vigorously serious rights violations linked to the security forces; and banning all paramilitary and militia forces because of their long and continuing history of serious human rights violations.

Two outstanding cases of political violence have been stonewalled by the authorities’ failure to arrest the accused in both cases: the notorious Gen. Jovito Palparan, said to be the brains behind the string of political murders under Arroyo, and former Palawan Gov. Joel Reyes, who figured in the killing of journalist Gerry Ortega.

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Lady Gaga in the Philippines: The moment of truth Mon, 21 May 2012 04:16:13 +0000 In a matter of hours, the Philippines will witness something that challenges the values and sense of morality of Filipinos in a first-of-its-kind way. No, it is not Chief Justice Renato Corona taking the witness stand at his impeachment trial. It is Lady Gaga’s two concerts in Manila.

Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga arrives at her hotel in Manila. Pic: AP.

Varied reactions have met the sideshows mounted by Catholic and born-again leaders. The most vocal among us have posted diatribes against the bishops and pastors, pointing out one and another thing about the protesters’ warped sense of values and morality, and their questionable taste in music.

The only ingredient missing now is government intervention. We worry less about Lady Gaga, but more about ourselves just in case any portion of government takes action in a wrong and stupid way – like the Indonesian government did when they stopped her from performing.

Lady Gaga has more countries to visit and perform in, but we only have one country. These religious and political leaders don’t know the daily amount of shame they give us as a people and we hope they give us no bigger daily allowance of shame when Lady Gaga finally takes the stage near the Manila Bay.

For whatever criticism the moralists throw at Lady Gaga, we Filipinos think she and what she expresses in her songs and how she performs them are many times more beautiful compared to the ugly state of affairs of the church and government (as well as business, by the way). If these bigoted pricks were artists, nobody would buy their songs.

That is the tragedy of the tribes of men and women who claim to be the moral compass of this country. They don’t pass muster. Imagine their shame if Lady Gaga dedicates her songs to Filipinas and Filipinos deprived of the right to reproductive health (Read: RH Bill) or to the victims of the infamous massacre in Maguindanao. That is not fatfetched. Such will break the fake moral compass of these self-righteous cabal who routinely and publicly bless thieves in government and business.

Let the shows begin. Let Lady Gaga’s concerts put to shame the reign of greed, thievery, misery and hypocrisy that prevails in the country. Let our people, especially the kids, party. For our kids know good music more than some of our elders.

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Is President Aquino allowing legal shortcuts against Chief Justice Corona? Tue, 15 May 2012 15:53:15 +0000 The impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona has so far produced a mixed bag in terms of possible outcomes.

What is obvious though is how President Aquino, the chief architect of the oust-Corona enterprise, has authorized legal and political shortcuts to help advance the impeachment case.

Take, for example, the presentation given by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales before the Senate, based purportedly on a report from the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC). We wonder why the AMLC was so eager to fish and then present such information to the Ombudsman, and why the Ombudsman prioritized it over other cases pending before the anti-graft office.

It also appears that many pieces of “evidence” presented by the Prosecution before the Senate and the media come from the AMLC.

Both the office of the Ombudsman and the AMLC are governed by laws and rules to protect all citizens from unjust persecution and unjust searches. We wonder how many strings were pulled to assemble the rickety case of the Prosecution and the kind of precedents that have been made that could potentially be repeated against any or all foes of the Aquino regime.

The Office of the Ombudsman, a high constitutional office, is there to investigate cases against public officials in the interest of the Republic and not on the say so of a defeated Aquino stooge or of Aquino himself. By taking action on complaints against Corona, even as the Senate is holding a trial against him, the Ombudsman is wittingly or unwittingly taking the side of the President and his Prosecutors. Prudence and respect for constitutional processes would have dictated that the Ombudsman allow the Senate to conduct its own constitutional duty until the senator-judges decide on Corona’s fate.

The AMLC meanwhile came into being because of a law and there are rules that govern its operations. Rules are laid down because the AMLC handles work that intrudes into people’s finances that normally are under constitutional lock and key. Capricious application of rules against the President’s opponents or on the President’s direction is anathema to the very principle of accountability which the oust-Corona efforts purportedly champion.

As to the mobilization of all government aga

Renato Corona

Renato Corona. Pic: AP.

ins Corona, I totally don’t mind as long as President Aquino’s hatchetmen obtain the required court orders, faithfully follow legal processes, and show the same vigor vis-a-vis individuals serving the President under a cloud of doubt.

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‘Demolition jobs': Why Philippines’ literal war vs. poor ain’t working Thu, 03 May 2012 06:06:48 +0000 The brutal demolition operations against so-called informal settlers in Metro Manila and elsewhere in the Philippines bring to fore many festering social, economic and political issues in the country.

And as Manila hosts a grand meeting of the Asian Development Bank, the demolitions and the reported erection of walls to hide the slum areas from the view of visiting dignitaries betray and indict the government for its failure to make a dent in expanding the middle class and lifting the poor from a state of destitution.

While some would allege that the “squatter” problem is a mere hodge-podge of “isolated incidents” between aggrieved property owners and scores of law-violating poor folk, the reality is altogether different.

We have in Metro Manila and many other places across the country “squatter colonies” where poor folk occupy private and public lands for the simple reason that they have nowhere else to go to. Some colonies are found under bridges and by river banks. These urban poor are so many that traditional politicians view them as voting blocs, big enough to sway election results.

The urban poor situation is also said to be the flipside of the unresolved problem in the provinces where, like the case of Hacienda Luisita, landlords continue to control large landholdings and evade the policy of agrarian reform. Many farmers and farmworkers flee the provinces in search of a better life in the city, only to be shocked by a different kind of a situation in metropolitan areas.

This is not to say that property owners whose lands are occupied by squatters should stop fighting for what is rightfully theirs. It is a plea for responsible and intelligent middle class Filipinos to stop their anti-poor vendetta and train their sights on the government for using violence and brutality against what is clearly a national social, economic and political problem that is poverty. (It is partly understandable why the middle class feels aggrieved so much by the squatter problem: They are maybe just a pink slip or a few tens of thousands of pesos in savings away from falling down from middle class luxury to being “isang kahig, isang tuka”.)

The government has the duty to make sure that everyone, especially the poor, would have a fair chance to obtain a better life. This is where policies of agrarian reform in the provinces, urban land reform in the cities, a government-run socialized mass housing program, a mass entrepreneurship program and the strict implementation of minimum wage laws, among others, should come in.

However, it seems the hacendero President Aquino is so allergic to such policies. The killing of a Silverio compound resident in the last violent and brutal demolition job is a wake up call to everyone that the moratorium belatedly declared by Aquino’s interior and local government secretary should only be the first logical step in finding poverty-reduction solutions where the poor are not considered “enemies” to be violently and brutally crushed but as partners for development.

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After Labor Day: Philippines to raise salaries… of president, top officials Thu, 03 May 2012 05:58:15 +0000 Philippines President Benigno Aquino’s Labor Day rejection of workers’ demands for a much-deserved wage hike has been heightened by news that he, along with Vice President Jojo Binay and other top government officials, is set to receive a salary increase in a few months.

Benigno Aquino III

Philippines President Benigno Aquino III. Pic: AP.

Labor groups of all stripes, from the conservative Trade Union Congress of the Philippines to the militant Kilusang Mayo Uno, have demanded meaningful wage hikes for the nation’s minimum wage earners who for many years have been given paltry increases and so-called “non-cash” benefits. These steps taken by the previous Arroyo regime and the current Aquino regime satisfy employers’ greedy demands that the public’s pleas for an economic reprieve via a wage hike should not be at the expense of their superprofits.

Wage hikes are good for everyone. Of course, they are primarily good for minimum wage earners and their families. A P125 (approx US$3) across-the-board minimum wage hike nationwide would be a corrective measure to keep up with inflation and the unending increases in prices of fuel and basic goods. Businesses too would benefit from wage hikes as it will provide workers extra money with which to buy products and services.

The so-called “reforms” under Aquino have not included meaningful wage increases and it is a source of disappointment among Filipinos. Since the global recession of 2008, the Arroyo and Aquino governments have rolled out “reforms” that save and bailout businesses and the rich, while continuing to reject measures that common folk badly need. No wage hikes, no controls of prices of fuel and basic goods, no tuition fee moratorium, etc. It is thus no surprise that Aquino’s poll numbers are said to be going down as more and more Filipinos see with clarity that the “Daang Matuwid” (Righteous Path) promised by Aquino is nothing but an empty slogan.

Meanwhile, Aquino and his ilk are about to get salary increases. Yes, the same Aquino who the public says is “Noynoying” (doing nothing) to help them.

We could only guess how the masses of minimum wage earners feel as this interesting bit of news starts to spread.

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No trees in Aquino’s ‘righteous path’ to Baguio City? Tue, 10 Apr 2012 18:12:41 +0000 President Aquino has so far been mum about the outcry of the residents of Baguio City asking for the protection of the summer capital’s last remaining patch of trees. This is so disappointing, for here is an opportunity for the President to make his Daang Matuwid (righteous path) principle a concrete reality.

Mr. Aquino himself is a de facto resident of Baguio City, where the president’s summer residence is located. Ditto for the Supreme Court – its chief justice and justices.

Citizens of Baguio City poke fun at SM's trademark line "we've got it all for you" as they fight a plan to destroy the summer capital's last green zone.

Baguio City is just like other places in the Philippines, where most people want development. Unfortunately, some equate development with destroying the environment for a quick buck. Think mining. Think malls. The drive towards this kind of elitist development has given rise to such inventions like “the right to build a parking lot,” “the right to mine areas to smithereens.” Baguio City, which so many Filipinos love, has seen better days and we could only reminisce the time when you could see pine trees in many places and the mountain range is free from all sorts of structures.

The outcry in Baguio City is less about trees, I tell you. For while we agree 100 percent with those who seek to protect the several dozen trees in that last green zone of our summer capital, this issue is about the kind of development our government supports wittingly or unwittingly. I’m sure the city government and the barangay council where SM Baguio is located are only too happy for the taxes that come their way. A good number would also profess love for the convenience the mall has given them. But at what cost and at whose expense?

Not even the mayor of Baguio City is moved by the righteous protests of his constituents. In an interview, Mayor Mauricio Domogan said he cannot do anything as SM Baguio is armed with all sorts of permits from the national government. What he did not say however is that he has not volunteered his office and his own self as co-petitioners in the court proceedings initiated by his constituents.

The people of Baguio City are fighting a lonely fight as we have yet to see the President, Members of Congress and other national figures come to their rescue. Their silence is deafening. But that is all understandable if we remember that the President is a landlord who also wants his family’s “right to own land as big as two cities in Metro Manila” and the fact that the President’s landlord background is common among Members of Congress. If they open their mouths in election grandstanding style, they would be opening themselves to problems closer to their haciendas.

I also wonder what would be the use of parking lots in SM Baguio when they as soon as they are built, Mr. Aquino and Mr. Sy might realize that less people would want to go there because there are no more trees to see.

The people of Baguio City could still emerge as winners here if they manage to compel the President to take a stand and to take action. He could still order the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to take back its permits. He could also ask Mr. Henry Sy to reconsider his crazy quest to destroy Baguio City’s last remaining green zone. Mr. Sy should also understand that managing to score a Pyrrhic victory by quickly and brazenly destroying the green zone to build his malls parking lot does not augur well to his company’s reputation. It is not good for any businessman to create as many enemies in one’s place of business. Mr. Sy should count his blessing and consider being allowed to build a mall in Baguio City already a big privilege. The people of Baguio City and the rest of the Philippines who love the city already lost much when he had his mall built right smack at the center of the city.

The broad alliance leading the protests should be able to make this a national and international issue — which should put the spotlight on Mr. Aquino and Mr. Sy, to put them to shame, to make them explain and to make them stop their silence and madness.




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Opinion: Rappler, Inquirer coverage lets Aquino off the hook Fri, 20 Jan 2012 04:34:49 +0000 Since the start of the new year the online journalism outfit Rappler and the Philippine Daily Inquirer have virtually joined forces to determine the national media and political agenda, specifically on the impeachment of Chief Justice Renato Corona.

Both media outlets are free to attempt to do so, but not at the expense of the public who demand a modicum of fairness in their respective reportage of events surrounding Corona’s impeachment.

Renato Corona

leaguered Philippine Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona. Pic: AP.

While we do not begrudge them of their right to take editorial positions, methinks both Rappler and the Inquirer should be more fair. It is quite obvious to the readers that they are supportive of the Corona impeachment, whatever their motives may be.

When Rappler recently tweeted an “infographic on the Corona impeachment”, there was never a disclosure that the infographic was purely and exclusively anti-Corona. True, it was an infographic but it was one-sided and should have been identified as such. No subsequent infographic showing Corona’s defense has since been posted.

Both the Rappler and Inquirer appear to swallow – hook, line and sinker – the Aquino administration’s claim that the Corona impeachment seeks to remove the chief justice as a stumbling block to the prosecution of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. There is no critical reportage whatsoever on the basis of this administration claim.

The public is not served when media outlets that swear to present both the broadest and most substantial reportage on current affairs are wittingly or unwittingly reporting merely on the basis of the say so of the administration or the House prosecutors now appearing before the Senate.

I am writing this because the Aquino administration has been getting away with its gross incompetence and wily responses to demands that it deliver its promises. The biggest failure thus far is the prosecution of Mrs. Arroyo and her cabal. The administration could only show one puny case against Arroyo: That of electoral sabotage, which was abruptly filed purportedly to provide the Aquino administration a legal basis to deny Arroyo’s attempts to flee the country. The various complaints of corruption and human rights violations filed by citizens, those recommended by the Senate and those which could be filed based on the previous impeachment complaints against Arroyo, are all pending in the Office of the Ombudsman, the Department of Justice, and rotting in the files controlled by the impeachment-crazy members of the majority bloc of the House.

For if the Aquino administration is genuinely concerned about Arroyo’s prosecution, it could have mobilized the ruling party and gave marching orders to prosecutors to speed up and priotize the bringing of Arroyo before the courts. The House itself, especially the justice committee of Rep. Niel Tupas, has in its possession boxes upon boxes of documents pertaining to the criminal acts of Arroyo which were the basis of impeachment complaints against her in the past. We see nothing moving towards the judicial system from either Padre Faura, Commonwealth or the Batasang Pambansa.

Rappler and the Inquirer could argue to the heavens that such views may be too political. Or maybe too political as to put the Aquino administration to shame. But that’s part of the job expected by the public from journalists, to check administration claims, to hold it accountable to its own campaign promises, and to check whether the public’s minimum expectations that Arroyo is prosecuted are being met.

The least Rappler and the Inquirer could do is to insert in their hectic Corona impeachment coverage special, in-depth reports on what has transpired since Aquino assumed office insofar as Arroyo’s prosecution is concerned. What is the status of each citizen complaint filed with the Ombudsman, DOJ and other government entities? What has the Liberal Party done to the many pieces of evidence it has in its possession and control that could make and win cases against Arroyo.

I think more people would support the impeachment of Corona if there is ample proof that he indeed is a threat to Arroyo’s prosecution. As things stand, all that the Aquino administration has done is to waste precious time and file the flimsiest of charges against Arroyo.

Which brings us the role played wittingly and unwittingly by the Rappler and the Inquirer: The laser-like, lopsided focus on Corona has allowed Aquino get away with the ultimate offense: letting Arroyo get away sans prosecution.

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Philippines: Take 5 on the impeachment trial of Renato Corona Wed, 18 Jan 2012 04:49:04 +0000 The impeachment trial against Chief Justice Renato C. Corona which has started in the Senate has all the hallmarks of a new stage of combat between warring factions of the Philippines’ ruling classes.

On one hand is President Benigno Aquino III and the Liberal Party-led House majority which instigated the impeachment proceeding. According to them, Corona’s impeachment is important to ensure the prosecution of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

On the other hand, there is Corona himself and his allies inside and outside the Supreme Court, including trial judges, court employees and the current leadership of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines. Corona and his camp say they are standing solidly behind the constitutional principles of checks and balances, and the independence of the judiciary.


The Aquino camp perhaps thought that the railroading of the impeachment proceeding at the level of the House of Representatives in Dec. 2011, just before the Christmas holidays would shame Corona so much that he would resign. Not a few independent-minded citizens were shocked by the swift action of the pro-Aquino congressmen to impeach Corona — which is in stark contrast to the snail-paced treatment given by the same pro-Aquino congressmen on such measures demanded and needed by the public such as the measures for Reproductive Health, Freedom of Information and Nationwide Across-the-Board Minimum Wage Increases.

President Aquino, who has set for himself a very high moral standard, has much to explain and to account for for bringing the country to this political crisis. Indeed, what is there for Corona to stonewall or sabotage when the Aquino administration wasted more than 500 days in office by failing to file plunder, human rights violations and other charges against Arroyo. Things came to a head when Arroyo appeared to be trying to flee the country — it was only then that the Aquino administration filed charges against Arroyo, using the weakest charges of electoral sabotage, to obtain an arrest warrant.

Aquino’s apologists might venture to explain this away by claiming that the President has much to do and Arroyo’s prosecution is just one of them. That, of course, is baloney. It was Aquino himself who promised to hold Arroyo accountable and the impression he made to the public was that it would be speedy too.


Methinks, President Aquino owes the public a complete explanation on the status of the court cases filed by the government against Arroyo and her cabal, as well as the status of the charges filed by citizens that remain pending in the Department of Justice and the Office of the Ombudsman.

Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Benigno Aquino III

Aquino has not done enough to hold Arroyo accountable as he had loudly promised in the 2010 campaign. Pic: AP.

Media, including the Inquirer and Rappler, should be able to check on these too (and balance their lopsided anti-Corona, pro-Aquino coverage) empower the public to take positions and make decisions that would make Aquino be true to his many high-standard campaign promises.


Remember the Freedom of Information Bill? President Aquino promised to make this a priority legislation but it has not been enacted into law due to his own administration’s objections.

Had the FOI Bill been made into law within the first six months of his presidency, the measure would have helped keep the public motivated to carry on the crusade for good governance, aided investigation and prosecution efforts against Arroyo et al, and provided legal basis for House prosecutors in the Corona impeachment trial to obtain government documents pertaining to the chief justice.


Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, the ultimate and quintessential politico, hit the nail in the head in his remarks during the opening of the Senate impeachment trial against Corona. He said the trial is no easy task for the Senate as it touches not just on constitutional accountability but may also affect the constitutional concepts of checks and balances, and co-equal status of the three branches of government.

Let’s see how the Senate does its work and whether we would get our money’s worth.

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PHILIPPINES: How to help typhoon Sendong (Washi) victims Mon, 19 Dec 2011 07:32:52 +0000 The typhoon-struck cities of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan in southern Philippines continue to need urgent relief aid as people come to grips with the horrible death toll and as families continue to search for hundreds of others who are still missing.

For Filipinos abroad and our friends from other countries, Philippines-based international courier company LBC has announced it is now accepting donations in all its branches in the United States, Canada, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Singapore, Hong Kong, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, United Kingdom, Spain and Italy.

Following is a list of drop-off points for relief aid, and conduits for monetary donation (credit/debit cards via Paypal, cash and cheque deposits and fund transfers).

Volunteers use rubber a boat to ferry residents to safer grounds following a flash flood that inundated Cagayan de Oro city, Philippines, Saturday, Dec. 17, 2011. Pic:AP

Relief aid from Metro Manila

  • Tulong Kabataan: No. 89 K-7 Street, Kamias, Quezon City | 09261703655 (Vanessa), 09473168407 (Rainier), 09324015588 (Athena)
  • Citizens Disaster Response Center: 72-A Times St., West Triangle, Quezon City | 9299822
  • Bagong Alyansang Makabayan: 1 Maaralin cor. Matatag Streets, Bgy. Central, Quezon City | 4359151
  • StartArt Project: 10A Alabama St., New Manila, Quezon City | 09267112450
  • National Union of Journalists of the Philippines: 4/F FSS Building Annex, 89 Scout Castor, Bgy. Laging Handa, Quezon City
  • #oneforiligan: 3553 Durango St., Palanan, Makati City | 09065777812 or 09227130006 (Migz)
  • #oneforiligan: 6-D Cypress Gardens Condo 112 VA Rufino St. Makati City | Meikah Delid
  • #oneforiligan: Berkeley Residences, Katipunan Avenue, Quezon City | 09157744244 (Jamie)
  • #oneforiligan: Madison Square Condominium, Taft Avenue, Manila | 09228446777 (Roden)
  • Team Manila stores, studio and warehouse
  • All LBC branches
  • All JRS Express outlets

Relief aid from the Visayas

  • #oneforiligan: Seawalk Trading, A.S. Fortuna, Cebu City

Relief aid from Mindanao

  • Tulong Kabataan: 700A E. Jacinto St., Davao City | 2216589 and 09266453953 (Krista)
  • Panday Bulig Relief and Rehabilitation Center (Tabang Mindanao Center): 12th-22nd streets, Nazareth, Cagayan de Oro City | 088-8566413
  • Rural Missionaries of the Philippines: Room 01, Kalinaw Lanao Center, 16 Bougainvilla Puti, Villaverde, Iligan City (Ida Bucog)
  • #oneforiligan: St. Michaels’ Cathedral, DXIC Radio Staion, City Hall, Rizal Park, and Calda Pizza – all in Iligan City
  • NUJP Media Safety Office: St. Joseph’s Hall, 5th cor. 7th Streets, Lazareth, Cagayan de Oro City
  • Xavier University: KKP-SIO Office, Cagayan de Oro City

Relief Aid from Singapore:

  • LBC AirCargo: 04-077 Lucky Plaza, Orchard Road, Singapore

Online donations (credit and debit cards)

Monetary donations (cash and check)

  • National Union of Students of the Philippines: Chinabank (Quezon Avenue Branch) Account No. 107-248551-3
  • Rock Ed Philippines: BPI (Loyola Heights Branch) Account No. 3080-0073-44
  • #oneforiligan: Pay/deposit to Revilla N. Carbonell-Noel, Unionbank Account No. 109451077611
  • Deaf Benildeans Multipurpose Cooperative: BPI (Vito Cruz Branch) Account No. 2771-0017-02
  • Panday Bulig Relief and Rehabilitation Center: RCBC (Velez CDO Branch) Account No. 1095029776
  • Citizens Disaster Response Center: Metrobank (Examiner Branch) Account No. 636-3-63600741-3
  • National Union of Journalists of the Philippines: Metrobank Account No. 229-722-9507-458
  • Xavier University: BPI (CDO Divisoria Branch) Account No. 9331-0133-63
  • All 7-Eleven stores
  • All Cebuana Lhuillier pawnshops

Monetary donations (checks only) from across the United States accepted by National Alliance for Filipino Concerns:

  • North East: Checks Payable to “Philippine Forum”
    Mail to 40-21 69th St. Woodside, NY
    Contact: Michelle Saulon, (347) 8671550
  • Mid West: Checks Payable to “Good Shepherd Congregation”
    Mail to 4707 W. Pratt Ave Lincolnwood, Il 60712
    Contact: Lorena Nabua, (224) 6783415
  • Nor Cal: Checks Payable to “FOCUS-Filipino Community Support”
    Mail to 4681 Mission St. San Francisco, Ca 94112
    Contact: Angelica Cabande, (415) 9469904
  • So Cal: Checks Payable to “Tulong Sa Bayan (TSB)”
    Mail to: 519 S. Spring St., Los Angeles, CA 90013
    Contact: Alex Montances, (253) 3817444
  • North West: Checks Payable to “Pinay Sa Seattle”
    Mail to 5740 Martin Luther King Junior Way Seattle, WA 98118
    Contact: Freedom Siyam, (206) 659 – 1130

Finding Lost/Missing Persons


Find other lists here: Here’s to Life! | VICMADZ | BlogWatch

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Philippines: Storm kills 600; bloggers launch donation drives Sun, 18 Dec 2011 00:13:29 +0000 More than 600 persons are feared to have been killed or missing by typhoon Sendong (Washi) in Southern Philippines.

Bloggers in Iligan City and Cagayan de Oro City, two areas which bore the brunt of flash floods, swiftly took action and launched online donation campaigns for typhoon victims:

  • Iligan Bloggers’ #oneforiligan campaign: Paypal ID
  • CDO Bloggers’ #HELPCDO drive: Paypal ID

Volunteers use rubber a boat to ferry residents to safer grounds following a flash flood that inundated Cagayan de Oro city, Philippines, Saturday, Dec. 17, 2011. Pic:AP

Interaksyon reports that:

Iligan City Mayor Lawrence Cruz said many people were caught by surprise when water rose one metre (three feet) high in less than an hour, forcing people onto roofs. “Most of them were already sleeping when floodwaters entered their homes. This is the worst flooding our city has experienced in years.”

Benito Ramos, head of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, told reporters Mindanao residents were warned about the dangers posed by the storm days earlier but elected not to move to safer areas.

“We expect huge damage, especially on agriculture,” Ramos said.

Other affected areas on Mindanao included Bukidnon province, where 47 people died, while nine others were killed elsewhere on the island, Pang of the Red Cross said.

Both Iligan and Cagayan de Oro cities have since been placed under a state of calamity in order to further empower the local authorities to help its citizens as much as possible.

The United States’ NASA already predicted extraordinarily heavy rains from typhoon Washi, but the Philippine weather bureau reportedly did not issue any storm warnings in several areas.

Straight from Washington D.C., Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued a statement on the disaster:

On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I want to send my deepest condolences for the devastation and loss of life caused by flooding from Tropical Storm Washi in southern Philippines. The U.S. government stands ready to assist Philippine authorities as they respond to this tragedy. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of those affected.

The US maintains a presence in several parts of Mindanao where the storm unleashed deadly flash floods. It is unknown whether US soldiers are deployed in storm-hit areas.

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Philippines’ chief justice impeached in House, faces trial in Senate Mon, 12 Dec 2011 11:48:15 +0000 Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona, whose controversial appointment by President Arroyo in the run-up to the 2010 elections caused a stir among constitutionalists and the then-political opposition, was impeached today by the House of Representatives.

Corona’s impeachment effectively eclipsed big news early Monday — the assumption of the new chief-of-staff of the Armed Forces, and the installation of the new Catholic archbishop of Manila.

According to House majority leader Neptali Gonzales, 188 members of the lower house of the Philippine Congress signed the complaint against Corona or about twice the required  the one-thirds of the membership of the House of Representatives to automatically and swiftly send articles of impeachment to the Senate.

Basic references:

Chief Justice Renato Corona (Photo by AP)

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, a stalwart of President Aquino’s Liberal Party, also signed the impeachment complaint.

The speedy action by the House to impeach Corona shocked many observers, who noted that such sense of immediacy and urgency is sorely lacking when the chamber is pressed by the public to consider and approve measures such as the Reproductive Health Bill and the Freedom of Information Act, both of which remain pending.

TV5’s InterAksyon news website reports that:

The summary of the impeachment complaint cited at least eight major grounds for Corona’s impeachment. It said that he “betrayed the public trust through his track record marked by partiality and subservience in cases involving the Arroyo administration.” It said that apart from Corona’s “midnight appointment” being a violation of the Constitution, Corona’s voting pattern overwhelmingly favored Arroyo.

Corona also allegedly committed “culpable violation of the Constitution and/or betrayed the public trust when he failed to disclose to the public his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth.” It said Corona “is suspected of having accumulated ill-gotten wealth, acquiring assets of high values and keeping bank accounts with huge deposits (among others, a 300-sq. meter apartment in the Fort in Taguig).”

The Makabayan partylist bloc also endorsed the impeachment complaint.

One bloc member, Kabataan Partylist Rep. Raymond Palatino, said in the statement that:

The blind support of Chief Justice Renato Corona to former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and by extension to the crimes of the latter against the people warrants an impeachment case on the basis of betrayal of public trust. But I stress my vote for Corona’s impeachment with a caveat against Palace machinations to establish an Aquino court

Palatino added:

This impeachment complaint strongly reminds public servants to keep their fidelity to their mandated oath to always put above all else the rights and welfare of the people. This reminder also applies to President Aquino and his allies who seemingly want to exploit the situation by repeating, instead of traversing, the crimes of Arroyo. The next Chief Justice should be pro-people, not pro-Aquino

Media reports have quoted Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile that the upper house would only be able to act on the articles of impeachment when session resumes in January 2012. Congress goes on break this week.

Under the constitution, impeachment proceedings start in the House. If a complaint garners at least 1/3 of all House members as endorsers, the complaint would be transmitted to the Senate sans hearings.

The Senate meanwhile would have to convene itself as an impeachment court to hear the articles of impeachment.

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Winners of the Philippine Blog Awards 2011 Sat, 03 Dec 2011 19:45:04 +0000 The Philippines’ best blogs received peer recognition at the national awarding ceremonies of the annual Philippine Blog Awards on Dec. 3 at the RCBC Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium in Makati City.

Here is the honor roll:

The Philippines' top bloggers for 2011 take a bow in front of their peers.

Gang Badoy of Rock Ed Philippines hosted the event.

Also awarded last night were the best blogs for Luzon.

Some weeks back, the award-giving body already handed out citations for best blogs in the Visayas and Mindanao.

Set to close the 2011 blog awards season is the Pinoy Expat/OFW Blog Awards later this month.

Congratulations to all the winners!

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Philippines: Blowing the ‘Red Whistle’ to stop spread of HIV/AIDS Wed, 30 Nov 2011 20:15:27 +0000 Today is World AIDS Day, an opportunity for us Filipinos to come together, blow the red whistle and commit ourselves to an important cause: Zero HIV/AIDS incidence in the country and among Filipinos wherever they may be.

The Department of Health reports:

  • More and more Filipinos have become afflicted with HIV/AIDS: 253 new cases in Sept. 2011 alone. This is 65 percent higher than the number of new cases in Sept. 2011.
  • 15 Filipinos so far have died this year due to HIV/AIDS.
  • HIV/AIDS attacks Filipinos regardless of sexual orientation: More and more heterosexuals have been reported to have HIV/AIDS
  • 16 of the 253 new HIV/AIDS cases reported in Sept. 2011 were overseas Filipino workers – considerable six percent of the total.
  • All in all, since 1984, there have been 339 HIV/AIDS-related deaths, and a total of 7,684 Filipinos reported to have HIV/AIDS.

The "red whistle" is now a leading symbol of Filipinos coming together for zero HIV/AIDS incidence in the country. Photo from

The numbers may be small compared to our national population, but these represent cases reaching the government. Who knows how many Filipinos are afflicted with HIV/AIDS unknowingly or refuse to report due to fears of discrimination?

Taken at face value, the government HIV/AIDS statistics make the Philippines a certifiable major global problem area for HIV/AIDS. According to a United Nations report, the Philippines is among  seven countries which have reported a big increase of HIV/AIDS cases amid decreases in most countries worldwide.


First, raise awareness on HIV/AIDS in our homes, communities, schools, companies and offices and wherever Filipinos may be.

Second, spread the word via social media:

  • On Twitter, use the hashtags #zeroHIVph #redwhistlealert.
  • View and share Red Whistle Campaign videos.
  • Blog and post status updates/notes/links

Third, join the Red Whistle Campaign and be part of a growing community of Filipinos taking action.

Finally, if you know a relative or a friend with HIV/AIDS, make a pledge to be their advocate.

(Please feel free to post the link to this post on your Facebook and Google+ accounts, on Twitter and on Tumblr. If you wish to repost this on your blog, just put a link-back to this post.)

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Philippines: Court gives land held by Aquino’s family to farmers Wed, 23 Nov 2011 18:35:40 +0000 The Philippines Supreme Court has issued a unanimous decision, expected to reverberate across the feudal Philippine countryside, which effectively hands over ownership of the bulk of the Hacienda Luisita to its farmers and farm workers.

ABS-CBN reports:

Saying farmer-beneficiaries will not benefit from distribution of shares of stock, the Supreme Court has ordered the distribution of 4,915.7466 hectares (has.) of Hacienda Luisita, the sugar estate owned by the relatives of President Benigno Aquino III.

GMA News, meanwhile, put it this way:

In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court ordered the distribution of land to the farmer beneficiaries of Hacienda Luisita, the sugar plantation which the Cojuangco side of the family of President Benigno Aquino III owns.

Farmers in Hacienda Luisita and across the country are expected to celebrate the Supreme Court's unanimous ruling.

The total land area of Hacienda Luisita, 6,435 hectares, is bigger than the combined land area of the Metro Manila cities of Makati and Pasig.

The decision sends shockwaves through the ranks of big landlords in the Philippines, starting with the family of President Aquino. Landlords dominate national and local government, allowing them to negate or water down the implementation of a succession of failed land reform programs.

The exemption of the Hacienda Luisita from actual land distribution under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program has been a long-running critique to the democratic credentials of Presidents Corazon Aquino and Benigno Aquino III.

If the Cojuangco family would heed and not seek a reversal of the decision, it could embolden farmers and farmworkers nationwide to work for the same results.

Critics of the land distribution scheme say that farmers would only sell the land to be granted to them — missing the point that the farmers already own those parcels of land and that government has to provide auxiliary and ancillary services to the farmers to help them as they become landowners themselves. It seems these critics would wish to continue the anti-democratic and poverty-spawning policy of land dispossession and the reign of despotic landlords and usurers.

Despite the growth of urban centers and modernization, the Philippine economy remains generally agricultural in character, dependent on imported finished goods and on the export of raw materials. Globalization policies have led to the removal of state support to farmers and the entry of imported food, including rice.

The court ruling is significant in many ways: It is a victory for Hacienda Luisita farmers and farm workers who, in 2004, struck against the Cojuangco family’s corporation demanding land distribution. State security forces dispersed the strikers, resulting in the deaths of 12 farmers and farm workers and two minors.

A supreme bishop of the Philippine Independent Church, Alberto Ramento, and a councilor of Tarlac City, Abel Ladera, both supporters of the Hacienda Luisita farmers, were killed in separate incidents of extrajudicial killings. Also shot to death in the aftermath of the 2004 strike were union leaders Ric Ramos and Tirso Cruz, and peasant leader Marcelino Beltran.

Similar acts of violence by state security forces and private armed groups of landlords usually confront the periodic peasant revolts and strikes in the Philippines.

The court ruling also implies that the judiciary would have nothing to do with any continued attempt to deny Hacienda Luisita farmers and farmworkers their due. As things go in semi-feudal Philippines, there would always be forces in and out of government who would work to maintain the land monopoly setups in huge swaths of the countryside, to the extent of trying to tell the public that land dispossession among farmers and land ownership concentration is good. Of course, that’s a total lie.

If genuine land reform is implemented, landlords would begin to lose economic and ultimately political power — and this would be good to the cause of democratization.

For now, we join the Hacienda Luisita farmers and farm workers in celebrating this moral, political and legal victory, and wish more victories to those in other feudal areas in the country.

(Featured image courtesy of

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Self-fulfilling prophecy: Noynoy Aquino and impunity in the Philippines Tue, 22 Nov 2011 16:01:39 +0000 Referring to extra judicial killings and the killing of journalists in the Philippines in his July, 2010 State of the Nation Address, President Benigno Aquino III declared that his administration would “hold murderers accountable.”

Despite that pledge, six journalists have been killed since then, or a total of 10 since the Ampatuan Massacre of November 23, 2009 claimed the lives of 58 men and women, of whom 32 were journalists and media workers.

In addition to the killings that have continued in the Aquino administration, a number of community journalists have also been threatened, sued for libel on the flimsiest grounds, barred from attending interviews and press conferences, and physically assaulted. In a recent incident, unidentified persons also burned a Catholic Church-owned radio station in Occidental Mindoro. All are indicative of a state of mind among those who want to silence the press that could, in the present circumstances, lead to murder.

In office for over 500 days now, Mr. Aquino has yet to take decisive steps to crack the culture of impunity behind the killings of journalists and activists. Today, groups worldwide hold an International Day to End Impunity with the Philippines as a poster-child.

And yet, except for increasing the budget of the Witness Protection Program, the Aquino administration has taken almost none of the steps agreed upon in the August, 2010 meeting between media advocacy and journalists’ organizations and his communication group and the department of justice as necessary to stop the killings. Among these steps were Malacanang support for changes in the rules of court to speed up the judicial process, and the inclusion of media representatives in the formation of Quick Response Teams to immediately investigate the killing of journalists and assure the preservation of evidence in the crime site.

After his pledge in his 2010 SONA to prosecute murderers, Mr. Aquino has been surprisingly silent when it comes to the killing of journalists, despite the possibility that a statement from him each time a journalist is murdered declaring his displeasure over the failure of the police to prevent it, and ordering immediate police action, could prod the police to greater efficiency and warn the would–be killers of journalists that things have changed since the Arroyo regime, and they will now be prosecuted. Even more meaningfully, Mr. Aquino has also refused to dismantle private armies, despite their role in the November 23 massacre and in a number of other cases of journalists’ murders in other parts of the country.

Only by demonstrating that the killers and would-be killers of journalists can no longer get away with murder can the killings stop, and begin the process of dismantling the culture of impunity. That only 10 cases have resulted in convictions since 1986, out of 124 cases of journalists killed for their work, encourages the continuing killing of journalists in the Philippines. That much has been known to the national and international press freedom and media watch groups since 2003, when Philippine press freedom groups and the Committee to Protect Journalists found that the killing of journalists had become a part of the media environment because of the weaknesses of the justice system in the communities.

That awareness did not prevent the international press, free expression and media advocacy groups from being shocked when the Ampatuan Massacre occurred. They have declared November 23 the International Day to End Impunity to emphasize the global significance of what happened in the Philippines on that date. And yet, if we’re to judge from his inaction, Mr. Aquino seems to be as unconcerned over the killing of journalists in the Philippines as his predecessor Mrs. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Speaking at a round table discussion on the Ampatuan Massacre and the Culture of Impunity last November 14, an Assistant Secretary from the Presidential Communication Operations Office (PCOO) declared that “we (the government) can’t really put an end to impunity.” Is it perhaps that self-fulfilling prophecy, which has already declared the administration’s surrender even before the battle has begun, that’s driving the Aquino administration’s inability and unwillingness to take the steps necessary to dismantle the culture of impunity so as to stop the killings that since 1986 have widowed and orphaned hundreds of Filipinos?

(This is a pooled editorial for the International Day to End Impunity. Photo and links added by Tonyo Cruz.)

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Philippines: Aquino’s family loses control of Hacienda Luisita Tue, 22 Nov 2011 05:51:29 +0000 The Philippine Daily Inquirer has reported that the Supreme Court has ruled that the Hacienda Luisita, owned by the family of President Benigno Aquino III, be distributed to farmers.

According to the Inquirer:

A senior court official said at least eight magistrates voted to grant the motion for reconsideration of the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council and the farmers’ group Ambala during the high tribunal’s regular en banc session on Tuesday.

If confirmed, the reported Supreme Court ruling on Hacienda Luisita will benefit thousands of farmers.

The 6,435-hectare plantation estate has been the subject of prolonged debate and at least one instance of violence when authorities used force against striking plantation workers on Nov. 16, 2004.

No one has been held accountable for the incident which left 12 farmers and two children dead.

Just how big is the Hacienda Luisita? It is as big as the combined land areas of Metro Manila cities of Makati and Pasig.

Under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program which became a law under President Corazon Aquino, the vast Hacienda Luisita estate did not undergo land redistribution. The owners, citing a controversial referendum, opted for a stock distribution option.

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Philippines under spotlight on Nov. 23 ‘Day to End Impunity’ Tue, 22 Nov 2011 03:08:43 +0000 On Nov. 23, the second anniversary of the Maguindanao Massacre, the world remembers and asks everyone to stand up to impunity.

Now dubbed as “Day to End Impunity”, Nov. 23 will be a day of citizens’ action amid inaction of governments, such as that of President Benigno Aquino III, to shatter the culture and climate of impunity that allows the masterminds and perpetrators of extrajudicial killings to go unchallenged.

Although we have been told that our country has been under a new management with President Aquino, the Philippines is still way up there, along with Iraq and Somalia, in the Impunity Index, a list of countries based on the number of unsolved murders of journalists.

Campus journalists belonging to CEGP march against impunity. Photo from The Huffington Post.

Six journalists have been killed under Aquino. Scores of activists meanwhile have also been extrajudicially killed. As to the long, harrowing record of murders, abductions and harassment under his predecessor President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Aquino has done practically nothing to hold her accountable.

Impunity is toxic to any society that professes faith in democracy and the rule of law. Impunity scares away citizens who seek redress of grievances or who wish to exercise their right to free expression. Each unchallenged or unchecked murder of a journalist, lawyer or activist is a victory for forces who seek to make democracy a sham, journalists impotent, citizens and their organizations silenced, and governments a monopoly for some who have the guns. Impunity also creates a generation of orphans who, already denied of normal lives, we also deny the fundamental measure of justice — finding out, arresting, prosecuting and convicting the killers.

A consolation is that we’re in this situation with a host of other countries, many in Asia, where justice still eludes the families and orphans of victims of impunity. There are many possibilities as we move forward, from learning from successful prosecutions, to remaining vigilant and not forgetting, to making full use of all media and forums available to us to demand government action, to witnessing trials as they ought to happen in the near future.

While the principal responsibility of checking and challenging the culture and climate of immunity rests on government, we citizens could at least never fail to remember, not let authorities forget, and make sure that government does what it is supposed to do: identify and run after the killers, prosecute and convict them, and deliver justice to the deceased and their kin.

Some will say this is a lost cause, the same way they cynically dissuaded victims of the Marcos dictatorship from suing against the dictator’s estate for brutal human rights violations. Of course, we know where such cynical view has taken its proponents — nowhere — while the victims have scored landmark court victories and obtained compensation. It is thus clear that cynicism has no place in our fight against impunity. Boundless hope and faith in what citizens could do would render cynicism ineffective in tolerating and fomenting impunity.

And so tomorrow, Nov. 23, we pause for the victims, and then take even more forceful action so governments would be compelled to deliver justice. Tomorrow, we take a stand against impunity so that there would be no more incentive to warlords and killers from doing a Maguindanao massacre anytime in the future.

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From fiction to fact: What Aquino could do to stop killings Mon, 21 Nov 2011 02:24:47 +0000 Sometime, somewhere in a parallel world:

Recalling the assassination of his own father, President Benigno Aquino III today spoke out and acted strongly on the issue of extrajudicial killings that continue to victimize journalists, activists and lawyers across the country.

In a surprise televised address to the nation, days ahead of the birthday of former Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr., the Chief Executive ordered the Philippine National Police to reopen all “sleeping” cases of extrajudicial killings of journalists, activists, clergy and lawyers, and challenged the Department of Justice to prosecute as many perpetrators and masterminds the police could identify and arrest.

The elder Aquino was shot dead on Aug. 21, 1983 upon his arrival at Manila International Airport. The killing sparked big demonstrations across the country, leading to the first People Power uprising of 1986 which toppled the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos.

“Identify and apprehend the shooters and the masterminds, and file complaints against them. The police should not leave no stone unturned and encourage citizens to come forward by providing them the full protection. My administration is committed to bring before the bar of justice these beasts who prey on our people,” Aquino said.

Today's Blog Action Day is in preparation for the Nov. 23 International Day to End Impunity.

Addressing families of victims of the infamous Maguindanao Massacre, Aquino said that “there will be no compromise with all the accused, except when they come forward and admit to their crimes which will speed up the prosecution of this case. Meanwhile, this administration vows to protect all present and future witnesses who will help the courts ferret out the truth.”

Aquino also surprised the nation by declaring “from this day forward, counterinsurgency operations shall not touch any civilian or non-combatant. All officers and soldiers who wear the uniform of the Republic of the Philippines shall be expected to respect and protect civilians and non-combatants. Extrajudicial killings of civilians, non-combatants and hors de combat is not a policy and will not be tolerated by this administration.”

Aquino said the PNP has until Dec. 31, 2011 to submit a status report on all cases cited by organizations of journalists, activists, clergy and lawyers, “regardless of and blind to their political leanings”.

On the Hacienda Luisita massacre, Aquino said that he will ask newly-appointed Archbishop of Manila Luis Antonio Tagle to lead a Truth Commission to investigate the incident.

Aquino said he will also request a meeting with the chief justice of the Supreme Court, the president of the Senate and the speaker of the House of Representatives “to dramatize the administration’s sense of urgency, and to mobilize the entire machinery of government and full might of the Constitution against those who are behind these extrajudicial executions.”

“These actions are the least that I could do to the families who lost their loved ones, and my humble tribute to those who, like my father, were martyred so we may enjoy the fruits of democracy,” said Aquino.

This post of imagined words and action by President Aquino is my contribution to the Blog Action Day called by the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, and the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines in preparation for the International Day to End Impunity on Nov. 23, the second anniversary of the Maguindanao Massacre.

We could only hope this fictional news item becomes a fact.

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Philippines: Arrest warrant issued for former president Arroyo Fri, 18 Nov 2011 09:06:56 +0000 Former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is set to be served a warrant of arrest today on orders of a local court hearing electoral fraud charges.

It is not known as of now whether the police will arrest Arroyo the same way as ordinary accused.

Filipinos have not forgotten. They want justice for nine years of Arroyo's misrule, corruption and abuses. Visual from

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said Arroyo’s lawyers have been informed of the arrest warrant.

The issuance of an arrest warrant now prevents Arroyo from flying to Singapore to supposedly seek medical treatment. She has complained before the Supreme Court over a hold departure order issued by Secretary De Lima against her and her husband, Jose Miguel Arroyo.

The country’s highest court recently issued a temporary restraining order against De Lima which paved the way for the prospect of Arroyo fleeing the Philippines. Many have feared she would not return and seek asylum in countries where the Philippines has no existing extradition treaties, such as Spain.

If and when Arroyo is finally arrested, it would be the first real step for Filipinos in our quest for justice after nine years of her tumultuous reign. She faces several complaints pending before the Department of Justice and the Office of the Ombudsman, ranging from electoral fraud, corruption and violations of human rights violations.

Arroyo became president on Jan. 20, 2001, when a victorious second People Power uprising ousted then-president Joseph Estrada. But contrary to her promises to be different from Estrada, Arroyo presided over a period marked by a string of corruption cases, some involving her husband and close allies.

In 2004, she reneged on a promise not to run in the elections. Arroyo beat popular actor Fernando Poe Jr. in that year’s elections where Filipinos witnessed the wanton (mis-)use of public funds and the entire government machinery to favor Arroyo. Years later, evidence of electoral fraud, including a voice tape of calls made by Arroyo herself to elections officials, surfaced.

To cover up malfeasance and blunt growing public outcry over her corrupt government, Arroyo approved an all-out war, resulting the deaths of over 1,000 unarmed, civilian activists. The United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions found in a country investigation that the murders were part of a military operation-plan under then-Commander-in-Chief Arroyo.

Arroyo’s partymates, who dominated the House of Representatives during her entire reign, voted against repeated attempts bring Arroyo before an impeachment court in the Senate.  She also allegedly appointed a close friend of her husband to the post of Ombudsman.

Today, Arroyo faces arrest and Filipinos are happy that she would finally be compelled to explain for her many illegal acts when she was president.

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Obama requests meeting with Aquino – DFA Thu, 10 Nov 2011 03:13:55 +0000 The Philippines foreign affairs secretary on Wednesday announced that U.S. President Barack Obama has requested a meeting with President Benigno Aquino III on Nov. 18 in Indonesia.

Secretary Albert del Rosario‘s office said:

President Benigno S. Aquino III will have a bilateral meeting with President Barack Obama during the 19th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit and Related Meetings in Indonesia on 18 November 2011, upon the latter’s request. (emphasis mine-T.C.)

No formal announcement of Obama’s request for a meeting with Aquino and the latter’s acceptance could be found in the White House website.

The only mention of the prospective Obama-Aquino meeting in the White House website was in the transcript of a briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney:

[Obama will] be meeting for the first time with the leaders of two important U.S. allies in the region, Thailand and then the Philippines.  We don’t have specific times yet for these.  But, again, these are both important U.S. allies.  We have close security relationships with them.  We share an interest in counterterrorism and maritime security and nuclear security with Thailand and the Philippines.  So he’ll have an opportunity to discuss those issues, as well as expanding commercial ties with each of these countries as well.

Obama and Aquino at a multilateral meeting last year. The inverted Philippine flag at the US-hosted meeting caused a minus ruckus. (Photo from

Oddly, Carney forgot or did not know about the first Obama-Aquino meeting last year, which the DFA proudly stated in the press statement:

This is (sic) the 2nd meeting between the two Presidents. The first one was held after the 2nd ASEAN-US Leaders’ Meeting in New York in September 2010.

Or maybe that side meeting just didn’t count for the White House.

Most if not all Philippine presidents desire to meet with the U.S. Chief Executive, and this was no less glaring under Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and Aquino.

Patriotic Filipinos have castigated Philippine presidents for acting like puppets or lackeys of the U.S., and making visits or requesting meetings with whoever sits in the White House.  Malacanang and its press office always try to make such visits and meetings big news, sans substantive discussion on how Philippine leaders defend or champion Philippine interests.

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Hillary Clinton to visit Manila on Nov. 15-16 Wed, 09 Nov 2011 17:16:40 +0000

Hillary Clinton goes to Manila a second time this Nov. 2011.

The U.S. State Department today formally announced that Secretary of State is set to visit Manila again on November 15-16.

In a press statement, department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said:

Secretary Clinton will travel to Manila, Philippines on November 15 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the U.S.-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty. Her visit there will underscore the Administration’s ongoing broader efforts to reaffirm and broaden our alliances. In addition to meetings with Philippine officials on November 16, Secretary Clinton will also participate in a signing ceremony to launch the implementation phase of the Partnership for Growth with the Philippines.

The Philippines’ foreign affairs secretary, Albert del Rosario, made a similar announcement earlier.

Clinton first visited Manila in November 2009.

The U.S.-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty is most recently cited as the basis for the Philippines to seek U.S. help if China resorts to violence over the Spratly Islands and the West Philippine Sea, formerly known as South China Sea.

The Visiting Forces Agreement and the MDT have also been used to justify continued U.S. military presence in the Philippines, purportedly for “war games” or “military exercises”. Years upon years of such events have failed to crush and eliminate the Abu Sayyaf Group in certain parts of Mindanao.

For many, the relations between the U.S. and the Philippines are nothing close to mutual, fair and equitable, except for government and a portion of the intellectual and upper classes who profess the belief that U.S. and Philippines are always one and the same. This naivete has prevented the Philippines from evolving its own, independent foreign policy, among others.

After her visit to Manila, Clinton goes to Bangkok, Thailand, and to Bali, Indonesia for the East Asia Summit and the U.S.-ASEAN Leaders Meeting.

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Philippines: CPP announces death of spokesman Ka Roger Sun, 09 Oct 2011 07:10:20 +0000 The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) today formally announced the death of party spokesman Gregorio “Ka Roger” Rosal from a heart attack last June 22 at a guerilla zone. He was 64.

According one of several statements posted on the party website, the CPP delayed the announcement of Rosal’s death due to military operations that prevented the party officials from informing Rosal’s relatives ahead of the public:

The public announcement was delayed to allow the concerned organs of the CPP to inform Ka Roger’s daughters of their father’s demise. Intense military operations prevented information from reaching his daughters with dispatch. Ka Roger’s siblings have also been informed of his passing.

Gregorio "Ka Roger" Rosal, communist party spokesman, died June 22. Pic: Reuters

Rosal was first appointed as national party spokesman in 1993, after serving as spokesman of the New People’s Army (NPA)-Melito Glor Command in Southern Tagalog.

An endless string of military operations, especially under the Macapagal Arroyo presidency, sought to capture and kill Rosal but they all failed.

Rosal sustained three strokes in recent years, with the third being the most potent. He released his last public message as CPP spokesman on New Year’s Day 2011:

To all the revolutionary forces and the Filipino people: I would like to extend my most ardent greetings on the occasion of the coming New Year. We approach 2011 in the face of intensifying crisis, poverty and suffering. As we have witnessed these past few months under the new Aquino government, we cannot expect any changes that would bring any good or relief to the toiling masses and the people.

With the New Year, let us renew our resolve to achieve revolutionary change. Revolution is the only light that bursts through the cloudy sky and gives hope to the people. Let us achieve many more of the brilliant revolutionary victories we have attained in the past years. In 2011, let us achieve new and bigger victories in all fields of struggle. Despite the hardship and pain, let us devote all our strength and abilities to the advancement and victory of the revolution.

To honor Rosal’s record and memory, the CPP ordered all NPA units across the country to fall in formation on Oct. 15, at high noon, and to give him a gun salute.

Ang Bayan (The People), the party’s official publication, also released a special issue today which contained the CPP Central Committee’s message on Rosal’s demise.

As spokesman, Rosal also helped the party’s propaganda bureau and edited Ang Bayan.

Rosal performed his task as spokesman with gusto, providing the media and the public with a folksy, down-to-earth and clear voice to the revolution.

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