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Helping Yolanda-displaced indigenous people

Farms association in Leyte intensify production for bigger market

Militant labor group calls for the ouster of Aquino

Karapatan chairperson assails Human Rights Victims Claims Board

Jessica Minh Anh lights up New York atop One World Trade Center

Army encounters NPA rebels, seizes claymore mines and other war materials in hinterland village of Ormoc City

8ID joins the nation in commemorating the 116th Philippine Independence Day

Government’s failure leads to a pregnant woman being stoned to death

7 billion people have a Red Cross or Red Crescent story







TUCP warns Petilla of “pimps and whisperers” on power crisis

July 31, 2014

QUEZON CITY – The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) warned Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla to be cautious of vested interests in handling the proposed emergency powers to address the looming energy crisis.

“The TUCP warns that the power emergency of Icot Petilla is now opening doors for salesmen, opportunists and pirates of all stripes peddling very expensive power solutions that will preserve the prerogatives of the private independent generation sector who seemingly willed the power shortage to existence,” said Louie Corral, TUCP executive director.

He said the TUCP received reliable information suggesting that Petilla is being swarmed by some interest groups to offer to President Aquino power solutions that will make people pay more for their electricity.

“We support emergency powers for the President, but it must be based on clear policies of what constitutes “secure power” and what government means as “competitive power rates”. The DOE secretary is now on sifting sands, first he wants to buy generator sets, now, he says he wants to commercially rent power barges for 3 years which will run only for 20 days. Which is which? How much is Juan dela Cruz paying? What is the game plan?” Corral stressed.

He added that the country is faced by a financial triple whammy – as consumers, as taxpayers, and through a damaged economy “that is why TUCP cautions Secretary Petilla to institute a clear, categorical timetable for the consultations that President Aquino directed DOE to undertake during his SONA.”

Corral said Petilla should refrain from scaremongering and giving the President a deadline but rather ensure that consultations are transparent and the policies that are arrived at must be acceptable to the economic cluster of the cabinet, to businessmen and the workers and consumers who will bear the burden. “Maraming aninong gumagalaw at maraming bumubulong na pagkakitaan ang krisis na ito. Kung kaya’t pinag-iingat namin ang butihing kalihim,” he said.

Meanwhile, TUCP spokesperson Alan Tanjusay said the TUCP is prepared to join the process now directed by Aquino to help solve the problem.

“If Secretary Petilla does not make the consultation transparent and time-bound, we will not just have a failure but a failure of governance. The economic legacy of the Aquino administration is what at stake. In bearing the ultimate command responsibility, he must look at a full-options approach to solving the problem rather than just the narrow suggestions being eagerly whispered to his ears,” Tanjusay said.

Tanjusay added that TUCP was the first group to ask Aquino to declare a national emergency on the power sector in April this year. He said they asked for Aquino to establish a presidential task force to address the problem of lack of power and the spiraling power rates.

The TUCP is also proposing to Aquino for government to return to power generation business until there is at least 20% reserve in all island grids.





Karapatan welcomes release of POW, asks GPH to reciprocate by releasing political prisoners

July 31, 2014

QUEZON CITY – “We welcome the release of the four prisoners of war by the National Democratic Front of the Philippines. We view the release as a gesture of goodwill in the peace negotiation with the Philippine government. It is about time the Aquino administration releases political prisoners to reciprocate the NDFP’s act and to honor its commitment as stated in the 2011 GPH-NDFP Oslo Joint Statement,” said Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan.

Palabay said there are currently 504 political prisoners in various jails nationwide. Among them are 15 peace consultants of the NDFP who are protected from arrests and other human rights violations under the Joint Agreement for Safety and Immunity Guarantees of the GPH and NDFP. Karapatan cited the cases of Eduardo Serrano and Eduardo Sarmiento, NDFP peace consultants from Southern Tagalog and Eastern Visayas, respectively.

Serrano was arrested under the Macapagal-Arroyo regime and has been detained for more than 10 years. He was arrested on May 2, 2004, a few days after a consultation with panel members Fidel Agcaoili and Connie Ledesma on the formation of the Joint Monitoring Committee for the Comprehensive Agreement for the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL). He is detained at the Custodial Center of the Philippine National Police in Camp Crame, with other peace consultants Benito Tiamzon, Wilma Austria-Tiamzon, and Renante Gamara.

On the other hand, Sarmiento was tortured when he was abducted and then brought to jail after trumped-up criminal charges were filed against him. On December 11, 2013, he was sentenced with reclusion perpetua and is now detained at the maximum security compound of the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa.

“The government slapped fabricated criminal charges against the political prisoners to keep them in jail. Legal shortcuts and defective warrants were used to arrest them, including false witnesses hired by the military. This practice has become prevalent especially under the Aquino administration,” Palabay stated.

Palabay added, “Aquino resents the political prisoners who work for just and lasting peace in the country and puts them in jail, while coddling those who plundered billions of public funds to evade accountability.”





Karapatan on BS Aquino's SONA: Delusions, lies, crocodile tears - all signs of a beleaguered President

July 29, 2014

QUEZON CITY – "The web of lies woven by BS Aquino during his SONA on the alleviation of poverty in the country, job creation, and immediate response to disasters reflects his disconnect with the real world. By all indications, the lives of the majority of Filipinos have deteriorated immensely under his watch. Shedding crocodile tears to gain the sympathy of the public is straight out of a poorly made script to save face amid rising people’s protests and three impeachment cases,” Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan said on BS Aquino’s SONA.

Karapatan also condemned the arrest of four activists during the SONA - Maria Luisa Garcia, 46, and Rosita Labarez, 57, of Controlled Economic Zone Federation; and Rodel, 33, and Rochel Ann Tortola, 12, of Migrante International, all resident of Bgy. Holy Spirit, Quezon City. A stun gun was used to immobilize Rodel and Rochel Ann Tortola, while they were inside a jeepney. All were released after intervention by Karapatan paralegals and lawyers from the National Union of People’s Lawyers.

"The repressive measures used against the protesters – the overkill presence of police and military, the layers of barriers and concertina wires and container vans, and the water cannon and stun guns are tell-tale signs of a beleaguered presidency. The layers of barricades literally and figuratively show the isolation of BS Aquino from the people," Palabay said.

"In just four years, Aquino has used up all of Cory’s magic," Palabay said. Aquino now faces three impeachment complaints for his presidential pork, the Disbursement Accelaration Program (DAP) and the signing of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with the Obama Administration. "Caught with nothing to gain people's trust, BS Aquino resorted to emotional blackmail by again invoking the name of his parents," Palabay said.

"BS Aquino even had the gall to boast of the arrest of the Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Austria-Tiamzon when the arrest was a violation of the Joint Agreement on Security and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) signed with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines. The peace negotiation between GPH and the NDFP has been stalled despite billions of pesos poured into the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP)," Palabay said.

Karapatan has documented 204 victims of extrajudicial killings and 207 cases of frustrated killing committed under the Aquino regime. There are 99 victims of torture, 21 enforced disappearances and 504 political prisoners. "With Aquino’s desperation to stay in power and the full blast modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, more rights violations will be committed as its protector, the AFP, sow terror to silence opposition," she said.

"But the Filipino people will bow down. With pride and courage, we will continue fight to break the bankrupt system which the rich and the powerful, like BS Aquino, benefitted from at the expense of the Filipino people," Palabay ended.





Gaza - ICRC invokes the humanitarian imperative: Stop the killing!

By JACQUES DE MAIO, ICRC's head of delegation in Israel and the occupied territories, back from Gaza
July 29, 2014

North Gaza, middle of the afternoon, on a street in front of a seven-storey building.

A little boy is playing alone with a football. A man kneels down in front of him and smiles. Taking the boy's hand in his own and holding it as a caring uncle would, he says: "May God protect you."

Abdel (not his real name), the boy’s father, notices the man talking to his son and does not like it: the stranger is a ‘wanted’ member of a militia. In military jargon the man is a ‘high-value target’; everybody knows this.

He calls his son over and sends him to his mother, on the fourth floor. A few minutes later, the building has been sliced in half by an airstrike. There no longer is a fourth floor.

When the father awakens in the hospital - the very hospital that was shelled a few days before, killing patients and injuring scores of civilians, including medical staff - his first words are: "Where is my family?"

The doctors will tell him soon enough that his family is dead. His little boy, his wife and his mother, among others. That his left leg is gone too in an above-the-knee traumatic amputation. Beside him, a three-year-old girl, Fatima grimaces in pain. She has shrapnel in her spine, and her teenage cousin by her side is visibly shell-shocked.

Is this little boy the 226th Palestinian child to die here since the resumption of this high-intensity conflict? The 228th? Has this man’s young son been reduced to yet another statistic?

Meanwhile, fear permeates the eyes of Israeli children too. For a nation’s civilian population at large, daily life is disrupted by the threat of indiscriminate shelling and constant running to shelters. I look back at Fatima*, who had no shelter to run to, and who may never run or walk again.

The ICRC engages in discussion with ‘both parties’ about the ‘rules of war’. We talk about principles such as ‘precautions in attack’, ‘legitimate targets’, ‘concrete military advantage’ and ‘proportionality’. We remind everybody that if an attack is expected to cause ‘excessive incidental civilian casualties’ in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated, it must be cancelled or suspended. We say loudly and clearly that in this war, as in any other, it is not acceptable that soldiers minimize their risks at the expense of civilians on the other side. We also say it is not acceptable to use civilians as human shields, in any conflict. We attend diplomatic conferences, we organize workshops, we ‘raise awareness’ among belligerents to ‘minimize casualties’. How effective is all this?

In Gaza, we evacuate war-wounded patients and old people trapped in the rubble of what had been their homes only a few hours earlier. We visit prisoners captured in the combat zones. We repair electrical and water lines. Meanwhile hundreds of thousands of people are ordered to evacuate their homes in the middle of the night. What happens to those left behind who cannot flee? Where should they go? To overcrowded centres that may be bombed? To hospitals or medical emergency services that are not spared by either of the warring parties? To destroyed neighbourhoods where even Palestine Red Crescent ambulances are shot at? How many more Shujaiyas – a sea of rubble, previously home to almost 100,000 thousand people - does it take before everybody opens their eyes to the gravity of the situation?

By the side of a maimed father without a family anymore, of a little girl deprived of the future she is entitled to, I am overwhelmed by a sense of inadequacy.

The human cost is simply too high. Too many women and children are wounded, dying or damaged in their minds and bodies. This is not about who is to blame for not respecting this or that specific rule of war, or even about whether the expected military advantage outweighs the collateral damage. Academics, lawyers, NGOs, journalists and keyboard warriors will attend to those questions.

For us, at the ICRC, this is about stopping the inhumanity of this war. It’s about doing the right thing.

As an ICRC delegate, I simply raise my hand and say: "I am not just invoking the law now, I invoke the humanitarian imperative – stop the killing, stop the destruction."





Every Filipino family should get VIP treatment

Cayetano presses for equal allotment of gov’t resources across the regions

By Office of the Senate Majority Leader
July 25, 2014

PASAY CITY – Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter S. Cayetano is pushing for the equitable distribution of government resources in all regions across the country, as he cited data that the lion’s share of the government’s budget for infrastructure is focused in the National Capital Region (NCR).

"Why are we so Metro Manila-centric? Bakit ang mundo ng Pilipino ay napapaloob sa Metro Manila? From 2001 to 2010, some 70 percent of all projects nasa Metro Manila. Thirty percent or the rest, sa buong Pilipinas," Cayetano said.

"Every Filipino family should feel like a VIP. It is high time the government gives the families in the provinces the support they need."

Cayetano cited that in 2013 alone, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) approved P184.2 billion worth of 10 major infrastructure projects, eight of which are located in the National Capital Region (NCR). The two other projects are the Bulacan Bulk Water Supply Project worth P24.4 billion and Mactan Cebu International Airport Expansion at P17.5 billion.

He said many Filipino families are robbed of opportunities because the biggest chunk of the national budget pie is allocated to NCR. Under the 2014 General Appropriations Act (GAA), 13.07 percent of the total P2.265-trillion national budget will be spent on the capital region.

"Sabi ide-decongest daw ang Metro Manila dahil masikip na pero dinadagdagan ng skyway at highways para lumuwag ang mga kalsada sa dami ng sasakyan. Pero sa mga probinsya at ibang rehiyon, sira-sira ang mga kalsada. Kaya tuloy ang mga investors at big businesses, pinipili talaga ang NCR compared to other regions," he said.

"Bakit nga ba nasa Metro Manila lahat ng pondo? Kasi, ang presidente, nasaan? Nasa Metro Manila. Nasaan ang Kongreso at Senado? Nasa Metro Manila. Nasaan lahat ng departamento? Metro Manila. Nasaan ang mga embassy? Metro Manila," Cayetano added.

Cayetano challenged the government to deliver on its promise of rapid inclusive growth by exploiting the potential of other regions, and implementing projects that will benefit each and every Filipino family through employment, health care services, and accessible infrastructure and public transportation.

He said the national government should partner with local government units (LGUs) and officials to improve the delivery of services across the country.

Cayetano likewise urged Filipinos, especially the youth, to use social media to demand from government leaders the services they need and deserve.





Aquino government’s dependence on coal is costing the Philippines its climate

A Greenpeace report shows how coal fuels more extreme weather events

July 25, 2014

QUEZON CITY – The Philippine government’s continued fixation with coal-fired power plants as our main energy source will push the country to more climate catastrophes that will cost the economy, as well as endanger the lives of present and future generations of Filipinos. This was the pronouncement of Greenpeace as it launched the second volume of The True Cost of Coal Volume 2: Costs of Climate Change in the Philippines.

“Our country is at the forefront of climate change-influenced extreme weather events and we’ve seen it happen more frequently, with typhoons becoming more intense and more deadly like Yolanda,” said Reuben Andrew Muni, Philippine Climate and Energy campaigner from Greenpeace Southeast Asia. “While we cannot prevent super typhoons from entering the country, we can address what causes these storms to be stronger and more frequent, and we tag coal as the culprit- the main driver of climate change.”

Worldwide, coal-fired power plants are the biggest source of man-made carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions which causes global warming. In 2011, globally, coal was responsible for 44% of carbon emissions from fuel – a higher percentage than oil (35%) or natural gas (20%). This makes coal energy the single greatest threat facing our climate.

In 2012, the Department of Energy (DOE) reported that power generation in the Philippines was still dominated by coal at nearly 38.76%. With 13 operational coal-fired power plants that already burn coal to produce electricity, the Philippine government plans to bring online another 45 coal-fired power plants. Operating 45 new coal-fired power stations would increase the Philippines’ CO2 emissions by over 64.4 to 79.8 million metric tons a year. Increasing our CO2 emissions will greatly damage the Philippines’ credibility in fighting for a good climate change treaty from which we could benefit greatly.

The second of three-parts, the True Cost of Coal Volume 2 (TCC) examined the country’s historical climate data and found that manifestations of climate change are now more evident. Increasing trends in annual mean temperature have been noted and extreme weather/climate events, like increasing number of hot days and warm nights and intense 24-hour rainfall, are being seen to be more frequent. These are not unusual anymore and are becoming the norm.

TCC Volume 2 also listed climate vulnerability rankings, all of which tag the country as a “climate hotspot” and highly vulnerable to climate change. The report underscored how super typhoon Yolanda, the strongest typhoon ever recorded to make landfall and the costliest in Philippine history, was not a rare occurrence given how the Philippines was previously devastated by typhoon Sendong (2011) and super typhoon Pablo (2012).

“As global temperatures continue to rise, the waters surrounding the Philippines will continue to get warmer and could trigger more tropical cyclones and causing sea levels to rise,” said Lourdes Tibig, Climate Specialist and one of the lead authors of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change AR5 WG3. “In fact, sea level rise has been occurring significantly faster in the Philippine Sea than elsewhere around the world, with increases in excess of 10mm/year. Higher sea levels in turn trigger higher storm surges, which mean that more water is pushed farther inland.”

This amplifies the damage done by tropical cyclones to people, housing and infrastructure. But beyond extreme weather events and sea level rise, climate change triggers temperature shifts, high rainfall variability, flooding, landslides and droughts – all have extreme negative impacts on country’s agriculture as well as on health.

The country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) would also suffer. The report estimated that without expanded climate change mitigation or adaptation, the Philippines could suffer a mean loss of 2.2% of GDP by 2100 on an annual basis, considering only market impact (especially agriculture and coastal zones). The mean impact could be 5.7% of GDP each year by 2100 when including non-market impact (mainly health and ecosystems). This amounts to 6.7% of our nation’s GDP if catastrophic risks are taken into account. In the end, climate change and other weather-related calamities pose huge economic costs for the Philippines.

Given the economic, social and environmental damage that climate change has wrought upon, and will continue to threaten the Philippines, embracing coal is a dangerous policy. Greenpeace is deeply concerned about the DOE’s pronouncement in asking President Aquino to declare a state of emergency to address the country’s dwindling power supply.

“Addressing power scarcity needs a holistic approach. Government’s first order of business should be to promote energy efficiency and introduce more Renewable Energy sources in the power mix,” added Muni. “The short-term benefits of coal to a few elite players in the Philippine economy pale in comparison to the billions that coal is costing the Philippines as a nation, with respect to climate change impacts alone. The Philippines should be part of the global solution to climate change by promoting clean, renewable energy as the long-term solution to the country’s growing power needs.”





Just in time before Aquino’s 5th SONA

Another Impeachment Case filed against Aquino

July 24, 2014

QUEZON CITY – When it rains, it pours goes the saying. Dark and heavy clouds seem to be steadily hovering above the presidency of Benigno Aquino III after another impeachment case was filed against him by cause-oriented groups.

Bringing to a total of five impeachment cases filed versus the beleaguered chief executive after some portions of his Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

Progressive multi-sectoral group Sanlakas led by Atty. Aaron Pedrosa and other leaders of various peoples’ organizations submitted their 51-paged impeachment complaint this morning at the Office of the Secretary-General of the House of Representatives, just two days before Congress resumes session on Monday for Aquino’s 5th State of the Nation Address.

Petitioners anchored their case on the charges of betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the constitution.

“Unlike the previous cases filed, our complaint revolved around the highly questionable spending habits of Aquino, how he deliberately went over and beyond constitutionally-mandated limitations and instituted what legal luminaries would consider as fiscal dictatorship,” said Pedrosa.

In the complaint, petitioners allege that the president committed betrayal of public trust “through tyrannical abuse of power and gross exercise of discretionary powers” when under Aquino’s directives, public funds were used, stopped, revoked and suspended the implementation of government projects and services “in order to corner appropriated funds as “savings” to be expended at his pleasure”.

They also maintained that Aquino is likewise guilty of culpable violation of the constitution when he undermined Congress, the peoples’ representatives in government and its power of the purse “when he declared unreleased appropriations and withdrew unobligated allotments from the appropriations in violation of the separation of powers” provision of the charter.

The young lawyer stressed that Aquino’s DAP was merely the tip of the iceberg considering the long history of abusive and arbitrary fiscal malpractices of the Aquino administration. “For as early as August 2010, he had already declared that the Zero-Based Budgeting program was his spending strategy and a cornerstone of his Daang Matuwid and when it backfired and reaped criticisms for underspending, he rectified his miscalculation by operationalizing DAP to cover for lost ground”.

Among the programs they claim that were capriciously defaced by Aquino as early as August 2010 were the 2009 budget-approved Department of Education’s Food for School Program, which he transferred to the Social Welfare Department; the Department of Agriculture’s Input Subsidies and the Kalayaan Barangay Program.

On the likely possibility that the allies of the president in Congress will quash all their efforts and not endorse the cases filed before the Lower House, Pedrosa explained that, “despite the tyranny of numbers being employed by this deceitful regime, the actions and statements of Aquino and coconspirators shall only expose their brand of “good governance and democracy” to the poor majority”.

“Tyrants and plunderers will come and go but the resolute masses shall fight on for they have none to fear after “representa-thieves” have taken away everything but their will to liberate themselves from graft, corruption and elite supremacy,” Pedrosa articulated.

Among the petitioners included Leody de Guzman of Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino, Sonny Melencio of Partido Lakas ng Masa, Flor Santos-Assidao of Metro Manila Vendors Alliance and Lidy Nacpil, the current national chairperson of Sanlakas.

They all claimed to be determined to mobilize thousands upon thousands of their members on Monday to reveal the true and appalling state of the nation to counter what they called “Aquino’s recycled lies, insignificant motherhood statements and doctored statistics and reports”.





Rights group signs impeachment complaint vs. BS Aquino for EDCA

July 24, 2014

QUEZON CITY – "For giving away the Philippines to the dogs, BS Aquino should be impeached," said Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay as they signed the impeachment complaint against Pres. Benigno Simeon Cojuangco Aquino for entering into the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with the government of the United States.

On the bases of culpable violation of the Constitution and the betrayal of public trust, this third impeachment complaint was filed today at the House of Representatives, endorsed by Makabayan bloc representatives Antonio Tinio, Luz Ilagan and Emmi de Jesus.

"For entering into a lopsided agreement which puts United States' interest over the civil and political rights of the Filipino citizens, BS Aquino deserves to be impeached. This agreement is a portent of more rights violations to come. The ancestral lands of the indigenous peoples, the lands of the farmers, even public roads, seaports and airports may now be occupied by the American troops under the "Agreed Locations" provision of the agreement. These facilities may accommodate and be used to transport or preposition US personnel and war materiel. This is worse than the rejected treaty in the 1990’s," Palabay explained.

She added that "the US may employ any form of security measure to defend its troops against any opposition in the use of these 'agreed locations.' More so, we Filipinos may not file a case in any court, local or international, for the offenses that the US troops will commit."

"Our signing of the impeachment complaint also means we are holding the US government co-accountable for all the human rights violations in our country," Palabay said. "THE US HAS COMMITTED CRIMES AGAINST THE FILIPINO PEOPLE: for guiding the implementation of Aquino's Oplan Bayanihan; for providing continuous and increasing foreign military aid to Aquino’s killing machine, the Armed Forces of the Philippines; for the victims of US troops during the Balikatan exercises in Mindanao," Palabay said.

"We sign this impeachment complaint remembering those who were victimized by the US-Aquino government – for the 204 victims of extrajudicial killings, for the 12 enforced disappearances, for the 99 victims of torture, the thousands of internally displaced people due to military operation, and the hundreds of arrested and detained persons. This impeachment complaint will only be one of the many acts of defiance, we Filipinos will make against the US imperialism and BS Aquino. There are more to come," Palabay ended.



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