Urgent Appeal for Aid for Mayon Evacuees

UCANews 19 January 2018

Legazpi Diocese has appealed to Catholics to open their doors for displaced residents and provide them temporary shelter.

Father Rex Paul Arjona of the diocese’s social action office said the church has launched a volunteer shelter program that aims to ease crowding in evacuation camps.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said more residents have been evacuated to safer areas.

There at present about 34,000 people who have sought temporary shelter in 30 evacuation centers.

Mayon volcano eruption attracts tourists

Mount Mayon, an active volcano 500 kilometers south of Manila, continues to discharge lava on Jan. 18. (Photo by Jun Santiago)

As residents around Mount Mayon, an active volcano expected to erupt within days, flee their homes, tourists are flocking to the area to watch the mountain’s spectacular lava discharge.

Most visitors are domestic tourists, said Dorothy Colle, head of the tourism office in Albay province, about 500 kilometers south of Manila.

“If the weather improves, we expect more tourists to come to witness the volcanic activity,” she said.

“It’s a spectacle to watch. It’s beauty and fury in one, especially at night,” said Danny Garcia, also of the tourism office.


Anti-Dynasty Group: Con-Ass Disempowering and Self-Serving

Photo credit: Philstar

19 January 2018

A group actively pushing for the anti-dynasty law slammed the adoption of Resolution no. 9 by Congress that convenes itself into a Constituent Assembly. ANGKOP, a civil society group and one of the conveners of the anti-dynasty movement took a swipe at the 17th Congress for ‘railroading’ the Con-Ass resolution.

“We can NOT entrust the process to this current rubberstamp Congress. These political bullies have time and again proven to be exclusionary, draconian, and outright selfish, egotistic and bigoted. Their hitherto lackluster legislative performance, penchant for railroading measures, and their inclination to intimidate and silence dissenting voices give us an idea of the kind of outcome this Con-ass will deliver – one that robs the people of effective and meaningful participation” ANGKOP Chairperson Atty. Eirene Aguila asserted.

“The Speaker’s shameful disregard of the sense of the Senate towards Con-Ass gives us a glimpse of their disrespect for process. To expect them to listen and to hold themselves accountable for the process is thus a stretch to the imagination. We know that this Congress is not a fan of checks and balances and therefore can not be trusted to tinker with the fundamental law of the land.” she added.

Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez recently insisted in pushing through with the Con-Ass deliberations with or without the presence of the Senators.

“This Congress is off to a bad start. Initializing the process of such monumental proportion such as changing the fundamental law the land and will impact future generations through a process that is most exclusionary betrays the trust of the people. We have to be reminded that the overwhelming majority if this crop of legislators is, by and large, a product of patronage, pera, and pamilya politics.” Atty. Aguila said.

Journalists risk death for the truth

Daphne Caruana Galizia is a Maltese journalist, writer and anti corruption activist. Photo credit: IB Times

Fr. Shay Cullen
18 January 2018

Journalists, writers, reporters, commentators will just have to curb their passion for speaking and exposing the truth if they want to continue to live. Too many end up a corpse in a cold dark morgue, silence their only companion. That is just the way it is in the Philippines and elsewhere. More than a 146 journalists have been assassinated since 1986.

Last November 23 was the 8th anniversary of the mass murder of 58 Filipinos 32 of them journalists, in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao province, in 2009. This was the worse of all violent assaults on the freedom of the press anywhere in one single blow. A powerful political family allegedly carried out the killings against their opponents and killed the 32 journalists covering the elections. No one has been convicted for the brutal heinous killings.

The sheer audacity of politicians or corrupt business personalities to quell the truth and the blind power behind the greed and personal vanity that orders killings of journalists is outrageous and there is little that can be done to stop it.

Journalists are just ordinary people with a story to tell; yet to tell the truth is to risk one’s life in many cases. Exposing what is corrupt and damaging to the public, is to challenge the seat of political power and it has dire consequences. No vengeance is as fierce as that of a corrupt politician exposed, a shady business corporation laid bare, no ignorance as painful as an uninformed and uncaring public.

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Bid to shutter Philippine online news site sparks outrage

Credit: Sunstar

Media agency highly critical of President Rodrigo Duterte’s government has license revoked


Joe Torres,  UCANews Manila Philippines January 17, 2018

The Philippines’ securities regulatory body has revoked the license of an online news agency highly critical of President Rodrigo Duterte’s government, especially the deadly war on drugs.

Media and human rights groups denounced the Jan. 15 decision against news site Rappler calling it a blow to press freedom.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines expressed its “outrage” and called on Filipino journalists “to unite and resist every and all attempts to silence us.”

The group said the move against Rappler was one of many threats Duterte has made against media organizations critical of his policies.

According to the country’s Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Rappler violated the constitution in regard to foreign ownership because it received funds from the Omidyar Network of eBay founder Pierre Omidyar.

The Philippine Constitution states that, “ownership and management of mass media shall be limited to citizens of the Philippines.”

Rappler said it would continue to operate while it takes the closure bid to the courts.

The online news site has been a target of Duterte’s ire over its reporting especially on the government’s war against illegal drugs, which has reportedly killed up to 13,000 people.

Rappler has rejected the ownership allegations, saying its foreign investors are not the owners.

“They invest, but don’t own. Rappler remains 100 percent Filipino-owned,” read the new site’s statement.

Palace washes hands of decision

The presidential palace said the SEC decision was not an attack on press freedom.

“The constitution sets restrictions on the ownership and management of mass media entities to which all must abide,” said presidential spokesman Harry Roque.

“We respect the SEC decision that Rappler contravenes the strict requirements of the law that the ownership and the management of mass media entities must be wholly-owned by Filipinos,” said Roque.

“The issue at hand is the compliance of 100 percent Filipino ownership and management of mass media. It is not about infringement on the freedom of the press,” added Roque.

Media groups slammed the decision.

The Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines expressed “deep concern” over the move, describing it as “tantamount to killing the online news site” and an “assault against democracy.”

The Photojournalists’ Center of the Philippines said it was “alarmed at the decision,” and “strongly condemns any form of intimidation and harassment of media practitioners.”

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club in Hong Kong said it was “appalled” by the decision, which “marks a dark day for press freedom and democracy in the Philippines.”

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand said it is “deeply concerned” by a decision that “will have profound and negative consequences for media freedom in the Philippines.”

Chilling effect on media freedom

Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said the move would result in self-censorship by the media fearful of government reprisals for critical reporting.

He said the move against Rappler “suggests a sinister use of state regulatory processes to stifle critical media voices.”

Amnesty International called the SEC decision “an alarming attempt to silence independent journalism.”

James Gomez, Amnesty International’s Southeast Asia and the Pacific director said, “The Philippine government should focus on ending and investigating violations, mostly against poor communities, in the ‘war on drugs,’ not trying to silence the messenger,” he added.

Cristina Palabay, secretary-general of rights group Karapatan, said the revocation of Rappler’s license “is clearly a move to constrict press freedom.”

“It also attests to the reality that this regime is gradually moving towards a dictatorship,” said Palabay.

Luis Teodoro, former dean of the University of the Philippines’ College of Mass Communication, said Rappler can continue operations if it moves out of the Philippines.

“They are online, they can continue to operate wherever they are,” he said.

DAR document bares Cojuangco agribiz venture illegal, made farmers poor

Task Force Mapalad News Release – January 18, 2018

Credit: SunStar

Negros peasants urge Duterte to void Danding deal, install them in 5,000-hectare hacienda


About a thousand Negros Occidental peasants are calling on President Rodrigo Duterte to end Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco Jr.’s greed and deception that enabled the businessman to still control a vast agricultural landholding in the province for the last two decades even though the property should have long benefitted its tillers.

“Mr. Cojuangco has been fooling us for the last 20 years and sadly, the government, since the Estrada administration, just chose to close its eyes to the injustice. We thus urged President Duterte to end our grief by also ending Danding’s abuses by voiding his agribusiness deal with us and immediately installing us in our land,” said Noel Magan.

Magan is the president of ECJ CLOA Holders’ Association, the agrarian reform beneficiaries of the Cojuangco-controlled Negros haciendas, who are members of national peasant federation task Force Mapalad.

Magan is referring to the joint agribusiness venture arrangement (JVA) that Cojuangco forged with his farm workers right after a 4,654-hectare landholding in Negros consisting of 11 haciendas was supposedly given up by Danding to land reform in 1998 and was distributed by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to Magan’s group through certificates of landownership award or CLOA.

Under the business deal, Cojuangco, through ECJ and Sons Agricultural Enterprises, would still have control over the landholding consisting of 11 haciendas planted to mango, durian, pili, banana, and other fruits by providing capital, facilities, and technical expertise to operate the farms in exchange for 70 percent equity of the JVA.

Meanwhile, Magan’s group or the CLOA holders, would assign the use of their landholding to the JVA in exchange for a 30-percent equity.

Danding biz deal illegal, voidable, has no approval from President’s council

But after 20 years since the memorandum of understanding was signed between Magan’s group and ECJ and Sons, which led to the formation of the Cojuangco-controlled South Negros Joint Venture Corporation (SNJVC) that managed and operated the haciendas the farmers’ group recently found out from the DAR that the JVA was in fact illegal as the agency did not approve of the arrangement.

The haciendas are found in the cities of Bago and La Carlota and the towns of La Castellana, Isabela, Hinigaran, Murcia, San Enrique, Himamaylan, and Pontevedra.

A memorandum from a DAR panel mandated to review agribusiness venture arrangements (AVA), a copy of which was recently obtained by Magan’s group, stated that Cojuangco’s arrangement with the CLOA holders, though already implemented, “can be considered as a voidable contract” because it did not get approval from the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council (PARC), which is now headed by President Duterte.

The July 7, 2017 eight-page memo by the National AVA Evaluation Committee (NAEC) chaired by DAR Undersecretary Rosalino Bistoyong informed the PARC that while ECJ and Sons submitted the JVA for approval on August 26, 2005, the latter failed to complete the submission of documents for the PARC to act and decide on the JVA application.

“Completion of documents is the operative fact that would commence the 30-day prescriptive period,” the NAEC told the Duterte-headed PARC, referring to the number of days that the council should act from the time of the completion of the documents submitted for the JVA application.

But “since the documents…were not completed,” the NAEC said, “the 30-day period within which the PARC…is to act on the JVA did not commence.”

“Record shows the JVA has not yet been approved, in fact, it is still pending before the NAEC,” the panel said in the same memorandum.

Ariendo/Lease also illegal

The NAEC also bared that despite not having the green light to operate, the Cojuangco-controlled SNJVC placed the farmers’ landholding under “ariendo” or lease through a production management service agreement (PMSA) with Miguel Hinojales, which led to the conversion of majority of the fruit farm areas to a sugar plantation.

The committee noted that the PMSA “entered into by the SNJVC was not presented” to Magan’s group and other agrarian reform beneficiaries “nor was it approved by the PARC.”

NAEC added that since the SNJVC’s “primary contract is not approved, the subsequent auxiliary contracts” or the agreement with Hinojales, “are devoid of legal existence.”

If JVA was approved, it still has to be revoked because farmers remain poor

Moreover, the NAEC said that even if the PARC had approved the JVA, the same “can be revoked” because Magan’s group’s joint venture scheme with Cojuangco did not improve their economic status because each farmer/landowner only received P10,000 as yearly dividend/profit sharing or P833 monthly.

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Key Issues on Federalism: A Policy Action Conference

The Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG)  invites the public to a Policy Action Conference on Federalism to be held at the Conference Area of UP Center for Integrative and Development Studies (CIDS), Ground Floor, UP Balay ng Alumni, UP Diliman, Quezon City, on February 7, 2018. Registration starts at 8:00 am and the conference will be from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.  Former UP President Jose V. Abueva will deliver the Keynote Address.

Duterte’s Cha-Cha is a Self-Serving Recipe for Term Extension, Enrichment and Dictatorship

Statement by the Movement Against Tyranny


January 15, 2017

As Congress resumes it’s session today, it is poised to fast-track Pres. Rodrigo Duterte’s supposed agenda for a shift to a federal system of government through Charter change.

At this point, the Movement Against Tyranny is ringing the alarm bells on what is turning out to be a plot to skirt term limits and extend the terms of office of President Duterte and other incumbent public officials, enrich themselves through various perks and increased powers, and impose a one-man dictatorship by giving the President blanket executive and legislative powers during an unspecified transition period to the new federal system.

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