Monthly Archives: May 2006

Erap and the beauty queen

First published in Yehey!News….

Joelle Pelaez, the second runner-up during the 1999 Binibining Pilipinas beauty pageant, has accused former President Joseph Estrada and his cronies of using her name to ‘launder’ P2.07 billion worth of shares, stock, securities and bonds shortly before the impeachment trial in 2000.

Pelaez even narrated how she was wooed by the former President to be his mistress by showering her with expensive jewelries, cars and a luxury condominium unit.

The camp of Mr. Estrada denied the charge. They said Pelaez was not telling the truth and that she was being used in a vilification campaign against Mr. Estrada. They believe the enemies of Mr. Estrada want to distract the deposed leader who is scheduled to talk about the Jose Velarde account in his plunder trial.

Ms. Pelaez has filed a P500 million lawsuit against Mr. Estrada in the United States while the camp of the former President is set to file a libel case against the former beauty queen and the Manila Standard Today which published the expose.

So far, Malacañang has distanced itself from the issue. Even though the National Bureau of Investigation has ordered an investigation on the matter, Malacañang was quick to clarify that it is still premature to conclude that Mr. Estrada is guilty of being involved in a money laundering operation.

The narrative of Ms. Pelaez on how she almost became the mistress of Mr. Estrada is not really surprising. We heard more juicy tales on the lovelife of the former President in the past.

But the story about the money laundering operation deserves to be probed further. It reminds us of the numerous reports and allegations during the impeachment trial on how Mr. Estrada benefited from jueteng money or how he embezzled the peoples’ money.

At the same time, it made us realize again how Malacañang can easily connive with greedy businessmen to steal billions of pesos and hide them in foreign banks with almost no paper trail.

Mr. Estrada is advised not to dismiss the charges of Ms. Pelaez by threatening her with a libel suit. He should come up with a satisfactory explanation and debunk the detailed and believable story of Ms. Pelaez.

Was he involved in money laundering? Did he use government banks to steal money? The public is eagerly waiting an answer.

On the other hand, Ms. Pelaez should explain why it took her so long to publicize her case. She should also anticipate the move of her detractors who are expected to question her credibility especially after her mother was once reported to be involved in a demolition job
against Senator Panfilo Lacson in 2001.

So who should we believe: the former President or the former beauty queen?

You will be the judge in the end.

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Picture during my stay at Benguet State University last Sunday.

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Theme of the week: Preserve mineral wealth for the future.

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Chacha dance during the monsoon season

Two good news for Gloria Arroyo: First, the rainy season has arrived. Second, everybody in the Opposition is dancing the Chacha.

It is always easy to mobilize people during the first half of the year when there are no heavy rains to dampen outdoor protest activities. The summer heat may be unbearable but people are more discouraged to join street rallies when it is raining.

During the anti-Arroyo rallies last year (June-July), the placards, effigies and streamers were either destroyed by the rain or used by the people to cover their heads. The media (especially TV) cannot capture the intense drama of a political rally when rallyists are in the waiting sheds hiding from rain instead of listening to the program.

This may be one reason why major uprisings in the country have always occurred during the first quarter of the year.

In the meantime, while the Opposition has failed to entice the people to go back to the streets, activities condemning the Charter Change proposal of Arroyo have proliferated.

In fact, for the past month, I have attended the ‘Stop Chacha’ assembly in Club Filipino, KME’s ‘Ayoko kay Gloria Ayoko sa Chacha’ forum in St. Peter’s Parish and Josie Lichauco’s anti-Chacha assembly in Manila Polo Club.

The Church has issued a pastoral statement against the People’s Initiative. The White Ribon Movement has a “Tango, hindi Chacha” (Tanggalin si Gloria) lecture series in schools. The signature campaign against Chacha continues to make rounds in different communities. Even the media has given more attention to Chacha (aside from the Mt. Everest race to the top).

What’s wrong with anti-chacha activities, especially if they all renew the call for Arroyo’s resignation?

I fear we are being distracted from our real battle: how to overthrow the fake government of Arroyo.

Instead, we readily accepted the Malacanang bait. We focused our time and resources to defeat the Chacha but we have not been aggressive in forcing Arroyo’s ouster.

We sponsored seminars to expose Arroyo’s motive for pushing the Chacha instead of deliberating tactics on how to rally the people to join the Oust Movement.

We visited communities to explain the evil design of Chacha instead of quickly pointing out the sins (cheating, lying, stealing) of Arroyo and why she must be removed at once.

We hated Chacha so much that we encouraged lawyers, scholars, lawmakers and the media to discuss the intricacies of Chacha and to compare the Presidential-Parliamentary-Federal-Unicameral types of government forgetting that these types of debates discouraged the masa from participating in any political activity.

I miss the days when groups are proudly telling the people that the political issues are really simple, that they are black and white. No room for middle ground.

We speak of Sigaw ng Bayan, con-ass, concon, prime minister, etc. But lately, we have not been reminding the people about Jose Pidal, Hello Garci, Philhealth scam, fertilizer scam, Gen. Garcia, Impsa and Diosdado Macapagal Blvd.

The 2nd anniversary of the fraudulent 2004 elections was marked by an absence of any protest action. Would we repeat the same mistake next month, a year after the Hello Garci scandal was exposed?

This is the time to talk and brainstorm about civil disobedience and people power. Forget the Constitutional debates. The people are hungry, the people wants a change of leadership. What are we doing?

To hell with Chacha. We want Gloria out. Now.

Related entries:

To the streets, what are we waiting for?
Memorable rallies of the year, maulan noong hulyo
GMA is next, nauna si Thaksin pero nakabalik eh

Congress goes back to work

First published in Yehey!News….

The next two months is expected to be exciting, if not momentous, for Philippine Congress.

Will the Senate be abolished? Will the Lower House succeed in revising the Constitution through a Constituent Assembly?

Can Speaker Jose De Venecia hold on to his coveted post? Will Senate President Franklin Drilon voluntarily give up his position in favor of Senator Manny Villar?

We will have the answers to our questions starting this week as Congress resumes its sessions. In short, its back to normal as far as Philippine politics is concerned.

But Congress must refrain from endorsing bills or proposals which are self-serving. Our appeal to our lawmakers is for them to prioritize the issues that need urgent attention.

Instead of deliberating the merits of lifting the term limits of public officials, Congress should tackle energy reform measures. Review the oil deregulation law. Give incentives for usage of alternative fuel. These are old proposals which deserve to be given special notice in times of crisis such as today.

Instead of spending taxpayers’ money on useless bickering on who should become Speaker of the House or Senate President, Congress should devote its time on how to solve the country’s problems.

Aren’t they concerned that hunger has worsened today or that poverty is more endemic than ever? Shouldn’t they conduct inquiries regarding the state of education or the preparation of the government for the school opening next month?

The Senate is encouraged to continue with its investigations on the misuse of public funds during the 2004 elections. Even the ‘Hello Garci’ case must be opened again for the sake of truth and accountability.

Members of the Lower House must not be too thrilled over the prospect of an extended term until 2010. Senators must not fear political commentaries predicting the institution of a new (unicameral) Parliament by July.

Congress must not be distracted from their real work. They have to pass laws. They have to conduct public hearings. They have to investigate anomalies in the government. They have to serve the people.

In the end, it does not matter whether a new Constitution is drafted or another impeachment against the President is filed. What is essential is that the welfare of our people is prioritized among all things.

alien alien

Una ko itong sinulat noong Abril para sa Tinig….

Bakit kailangang pag-aralan at tutulan ng bawat Pilipino ang nilalaman ng Sensenbrenner bill o HR 4437 na pinag-uusapan ngayon sa Kongreso ng Amerika?

Dahil ang pinakamalaking konsentrasyon ng mga Pilipino sa ibang bansa ay nasa Estados Unidos. Katunayan, mahigit 60,000 kababayan natin taun-taon ang umaalis ng Pilipinas upang manirahan sa Amerika.

Ang HR 4437, imbes na pangalagaan ang karapatan ng mga migrante, at kilalanin ang kanilang papel sa paghubog ng lipunang Estados Unidos, ay nais ituring na kriminal ang mga ilegal na migrante pati ang mga kumakanlong sa kanila. Bahagi ito ng pag-ayuda sa ‘ gera laban sa terorismo’ ni Bush.

Delikado ito dahil nakita na natin ang brutalidad kung paano pakitunguan ng gobyernong Bush ang mga taong pinaghihinalaang terorista.

Hindi nakapagtataka at nagbunsod ng malawakang protesta ang kontrobersiyal na panukala. Sa pangunguna ng Justice 4 Immigrants (J4I) ay nagkaroon ng mga malalaking demonstrasyon sa iba’t ibang bahagi ng Estados Unidos, lalo na sa California.

Bitbit ang mga plakard na may mensaheng "we are not criminals," pati ang mga estudyante ay naging bahagi ng mga kilos protesta.

Noong Marso 27, mahigit 100, 000 mag-aaral ang napabalitang lumiban ng kanilang mga klase sa mahigit 40 eskuwelahan sa California. Sa Los Angeles, mahigit 40,000 estudyante mula sa 26 high school ang nagwalk-out at nagmartsa papunta sa city hall.

Noong Marso 28, kahit malakas ang ulan at tangkang paghaharang ng pulis, ay nagrali ang mga mag-aaral ng Carson at Long Beach High School sa South Bay kasama ang mga Fil-Am. Mahigit tatlumpu ang inaresto.
Pati sa Dallas, Texas ay may 4,000 estudyante ang dumagsa sa kalye.

Naitala ang pinakamamalaking rali sa kasaysayan ng Los Angeles, California na kinukumpara sa freeway sit-down strike noong Vietnam War.

Dahil sa lawak ng protesta, napilitan ang Senado na kilalanin ang sentimyento ng mga migrante at inalis na ang mga kinamumuhiang probisyon sa Sensenbrenner bill tulad ng kriminalisasyon sa mga hindi dokumentadong migrante at sa mga sumusuporta sa kanila.

Gayunpaman, malayung-malayo pa rin ito sa pinapaborang batas para sa mga migrante na magtitiyak sa legalisasyon ng pananatili sa Amerika, pagtatanggol sa karapatan ng manggagawa at pagsasama muli ng mga pamilyang matagal na nagkahiwalay dahil sa visa backlog.

Nag-iiba na ang komposisyon ng lipunang Amerika. Lalong gumuguhit ang impluwensiya, lakas at dami ng mga Amerikanong hindi puti. Hindi naman ito nakakagulat dahil isinilang, yumabong at umunlad ang Estados Unidos sa pamamagitan ng pagtanggap ng mga migrante mula sa ibang lupain. Kaya dapat tanggapin na ng mga Konserbatibong puwersa sa Amerika na ang kanilang dominasyon ay may hangganan din at dapat yakapin nila nang buung-buo ang mga migranteng hindi nila kakulay.

Idagdag natin ang ating boses upang biguin ang Sensenbrenner bill. Pinapadalhan nga tayo ng mga dolyares ng ating mga pamilya pero mas malaking yaman ang kanilang naiaambag sa bansang Estados Unidos sa pamamagitan ng kanilang lakas-paggawa, dunong at kasanayan. Hindi mga panukalang tulad ng Sensenbrenner bill ang dapat maging sukli ng gobyernong Amerika sa mga masisipag na migrante.

Ibunyag din natin ang katahimikan ng pamahalaang Gloria Arroyo sa isyung ito. Labing-isang bansa mula sa Latin Amerika ang nagpadala na ng kinatawan sa Washington upang mag-lobby ng mga reporma sa immigration law ng Amerika. Pero itong si Gloria ay sarili lang ang iniintindi kaya cha-cha ang gustong ibenta sa mga Amerikano imbes na isulong ang interes ng mga Fil-Am.

Dapat matyagan natin ang magiging kahihinatnan ng Sensenbrenner bill dahil kung ito’y makalusot sa Kongreso ng Amerika ay maaaring gayahin ito sa Europa na may negatibong implikasyon sa ating mga kababayan doon.

Ito ang kabayaran ng pagiging pangatlo sa nangungunang bansa na nag-eesksport ng tao. Ito ang kapalit ng pagiging paboritong yaya at nurse sa buong mundo. Ito ang kongkretong patunay na dapat pabilisin na natin ang pagbabago sa pamunuan ng bansa at mga pulisiya sa ekonomiya upang wala ng Pilipinong makikipagsapalaran pa sa ibang lupain.

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Pinag-uusapan kung saan-saan ang Da Vinci Code. Eto ang aking kontribusyon: The Brown Version.

A nation of freedom parks?

First published in Yehey!News….

The Supreme Court nullified the calibrated preemptive response policy of the government but upheld the constitutionality of the Batas Pambansa 880 which provides the guidelines pertaining to public assemblies.

The Supreme Court decision contained an intriguing reminder to all local government units that they only have one month to identify a freedom park in their area otherwise all public plaza will be declared as rally zones.

Metro Manila Mayors immediately named twelve freedom parks where groups can hold a program without requesting a permit from the police or city hall.

The police issued a statement warning the public that the “no permit, no rally” policy is still in effect. Meanwhile, the Commission on Human Rights stressed that the interpretation of the law must be in favor of upholding the freedom of speech by every individual as provided by the Constitution.

If we follow the Supreme Court directive, the country may boast of having the most number of freedom parks in the world.

However, after hearing the police reaction to the Supreme Court decision, we wonder whether freedom of expression and freedom of assembly are to be respected in the whole country or only in the freedom parks.

Will the police allow the people to mount protests in the freedom parks but bar them from picketing government offices?

Will the Mayors establish freedom parks accessible to the public or only in the remotest parts of their cities?

It is one thing for the Supreme Court to uphold free speech by voiding the calibrated preemptive response described by many as a draconian measure. But it is another thing for the police and other officials of the executive branch to speak of limiting the areas where the right to free assembly is to be guaranteed.

We will probably have a situation where democracy is alive in the freedom parks but for the rest of the country, Big Brother government is watching our every move.

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My picture at a Calamba bayside, also a full view of Mt. Makiling.

Identifying the militant

Last May 1, I was at home the whole day nursing a wound in my left foot. It was the first Labor Day protest I missed since 1999. My cable does not have an ANC so I relied on radio for updates. During protest actions, we seldom monitor live reports by the media since we are more focused on the activity, police maneuvers and the people in the sidelines.

After listening to radio reports last Monday, the impression I had was the stubborn insistence of labor groups to march to Mendiola, the brief skirmish in Recto, the arrest of some rallyists near Malacañang, the deployment of police everywhere and Gloria’s Labor Day package for workers.

I heard about the P125 wage hike demand, but that’s it. No soundbyte about the plight of our contractuals, the killings of labor organizers or the increasing number of child workers in the country.

Loud cheering by rallyists was also very perceptible. The gruff voice of a Labor leader was highlighted in the reports. It’s impossible not to think that these groups were just irrational rabble-rousers.

I asked my wife later in the evening if the rally was really as violent as media reports depicted it. She said the day was boring and hot, Ka Bel was not there and the march to Mendiola was peaceful. It was like a traditional Manila rally minus the calibrated preemptive response.

Then I realized that the masa and the distrusting public are faithfully subscribing to media reports. The stereotype of activists as unsmiling, hard-headed individuals waving a red flag with clenched-fists would be impossible to change as long as the media continue to display this kind of image everyday.

The language used to describe street protesters is also revealing. The most commonly used description is militant or militante in Filipino.

Grolier New Webster’s dictionary defines militant as someone “aggressive in support of a cause.”

But media uses the word militant to refer to leftist organizations. And news stories on the activity of leftist groups are always reported with scenes of street rallies.

Cory Aquino is never called a militant despite her aggressive position on moral rectitude. The Hyatt 10 is never labeled a militant group despite their provocative Friday actions. The Batasan 5 are called militant solons yet the other members of the Minority are named as, well, Minority representatives.

It seems the descriptive word (now a persuasive term) militant is reserved for the Left.

Raymond Williams (Keyword) equates the word ‘radical’ with ‘militant’ and contrasts it with moderate. But he notes that it also contains an allusion on dogma, faction on principle or organization.

When news repeats the naming of certain groups as militant, it can shift the attention of the public from the message of the group to its political orientation. It therefore has the effect of reducing the legitimacy of a ‘militant’ group’s advocacies. The group will be questioned whether they have a right to air their demands given their affiliation to a militant = leftist = dogmatic = communist movement.

Wikipedia gives a background on the problematic definition of what constitutes militancy:

“The word militant has come to refer to any individual or party engaged in aggressive physical or verbal combat, normally for a cause… The mass media often uses the term "militant" in the context of terrorism. Journalists often apply the term militant to movements using terrorism as a tactic. The mass media also has repeatedly called terrorist organizations militant groups or radical militants.”

I searched the keyword ‘militant’ in google news and the results yielded news items referring to suicide bombers, terrorists, jihad warriors, fundamentalists and militant groups in the Philippines.

Imagine a foreigner reading a news article on inq7.net about militant groups staging a rally near Mendiola. He/she may deduce how chaotic the situation in our country given the fact that ‘militant’ (terrorist) groups are able to assemble near the seat of power.

I seldom use the word militant to describe our group in our press releases. But other comrades use the word often. The other school of thought is ignoring the misconceptions associated with the term and proving to the public that it is an honor to be called a militant.

My proposal is to name groups for what they seek to represent. Bayan Muna is a political party. KMU is a Labor center. KMP is a peasant group. Anakbayan is a youth group. Satur Ocampo is deputy minority of the House. Is it really essential to affix the word militant to the name of these groups and individuals?

Are we sure the public can distinguish between militant, leftist, socialist and communist groups? What is their difference anyway? I myself will not boast of really understanding the demarcations between a militant and a communist. All I know is that in this country, the militants, communists and everyone accused of supporting a Marxist ideology are targets of the military.

Related entry: Seeing Red, why it is dangerous to call someone a communist in this part of the globe

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Pictures during our press forum with the famous graduate who led a protest in front of Gloria Arroyo.