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9 ‘deadly sins’ for cops By AARON B. RECUENCO April 2, 2010

Friday, April 2, 2010

9 ‘deadly sins’ for cops
 

By AARON B. RECUENCO
April 2, 2010, 6:13pm
 
If the Roman Catholic Church has Seven Deadly Sins to do away with, the Philippine National Police (PNP) has nine for this year's national and local elections.

Director General Jesus Verzosa, PNP chief, said copies of the nine prohibited acts for all policemen to follow will be distributed in English and Filipino languages to all police units across the country starting next week.

Verzosa said prohibited acts include:

1. Forming organizations, associations, clubs or groups of persons for the purpose of soliciting votes or undertaking any campaign for or against a candidate....More

Source: MANILA BULLETIN
URL: http://www.mb.com.ph/articles/250789/9-deadly-sins-cops

Black Saturday marks end of 40-day Lenten Season By CHRISTINA I. HERMOSO April 2, 2010

Black Saturday marks end of 40-day Lenten Season

By CHRISTINA I. HERMOSO
April 2, 2010
 
Christians will mark the close of the 40-day Lenten Season today, Black Saturday, with meditations on the Passion and Death of Christ, and His descent into hell before His Resurrection on Easter Sunday.

No masses will be held in all Catholic churches this Saturday. Instead, the faithful are encouraged to venerate the image of Christ lying in the tomb as well as to reflect on the Seven Sorrows (Dolors) of Mary: The Prophecy of Simeon in the Temple, the Flight into Egypt, the Disappearance of the Child Jesus in the Temple, the Carrying of the Cross on Mount Calvary, the Crucifixion, the taking down from the Cross, and the Burial of Jesus....More

Source: Manila Bulletin
URL: http://www.mb.com.ph/articles/250788/black-saturday-marks-end-40day-lenten-season

Local Polls Reflect the True State of Philippine Elections By BENJIE OLIVEROS

 Local Polls Reflect the True State of Philippine Elections


By BENJIE OLIVEROS
Analysis

Originally published at Bulatlat.com on March 29, 2010

MANILA — The campaign for local posts has just begun. And the fanfare surrounding the presidential and senatorial campaigns are nothing compared to that of local campaigns. Even before the local campaign period had officially begun on March 26, every secondary and side street is already full of campaign posters,
banners, and banderitas (small banners tied across streets) not only of candidates for national posts but also that of local candidates, minus the position they are running for. With the start of the local campaign period, walls and posts in secondary and side streets would surely thicken with all these campaign paraphernalia, with that of one candidate pasted over another’s over and over again. But beneath the clutter lies the violent nature of local elections.

Local elections are historically fought out with the use of guns, goons, and gold. Thus, the discovery not only of powerful weapons but election paraphernalia as well during raids at the residences of the Ampatuan clan, during the aftermath of the Maguindanao massacre, is not unexpected. In fact, the Maguindanao massacre itself is not surprising nor is it an isolated event. It just raised the ante in terms of the level of violence that is to be expected in the coming elections. Killings of local candidates and their ward leaders have already begun all over the country. And this is expected to escalate with the start of the official local campaign period.
After the Maguindanao massacre, Malacañang made a show of moving to dismantle private armies by creating a commission headed by retired Justice Monina Arevalo-Zeñarosa. But even the commission and the Philippine National Police admit that, a little over a month before the May 2010 elections, they have hardly made a dent in dismantling private armies.

Why?

Because the so-called private armies are not so private after all. First, every powerful political cum landlord clan has one. It is regularly used to suppress attempts by landless peasants to claim the land they till. These even include members of the local police, as the Maguindanao massacre has shown.

And these “private armies” are not only condoned but even supported by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). The Arroyo government and the AFP admitted that the so-called private army of the Ampatuan clan that carried out the massacre of 57 journalists, relatives of the rival Mangungudatu clan, and other civilians are units of the Civilian Volunteer Organization (CVO). The government also admitted that the high-powered weapons discovered in the cache of the Ampatuan clan have markings of the AFP.

Training and arming CVOs, which are actually the private armies of powerful landlord/political clans, are part of the counterinsurgency strategy of the Arroyo government. These are used to augment the AFP in counterinsurgency operations and are supposed to “hold and secure” communities after major military operations. They are, in turn, fed and financed by landlord/political clans.

It is also used to harass critics and opponents of the national government and the political/landlord clan in power, as, again, what was shown by the Maguindanao massacre. It is perhaps the privilege of having his own army armed, trained, and officially recognized by the government, which is essential to keeping power in the locality, that motivates the Mangungudatu clan to remain within the ruling party.

Another motivation for the party in power in supporting private armies of dominant political/landlord clans in the localities is its own need to keep itself in power. National elections do not determine the results of local elections. It is the other way around. Local elections determine the results of national elections. What motivates local politicians to support a candidate for president is not party loyalty, but rather, who could enhance their chances of victory.

Why are local elections so hotly contested? Victory in local elections provides the political/landlord clan the opportunity to expand its landholdings by taking control over the local government unit, which determines the classification of lands and is the repository of land titles. It enables the clan to corner local government contracts. And it is in the locality where real political power resides because there is actual control over a segment of the population. This control of a segment of the population is what the Arroyo government is counting on to propel Gilbert Teodoro to power.

As more candidates contest local positions, the more violent local elections become. While personality politics shows the triviality of national elections, warlord politics reveals the violent character of local elections. And no amount of vague calls and covenants for peaceful and fair elections would put a stop to these. Only an organized citizenry wielding its political power could change the nature of Philippine politics and elections. (Bulatlat.com)

(Reprinted with permission from Bulatlat.com)

Benjie Oliveros | Party-List Elections, a Failing Democracy Project?

Benjie Oliveros | Party-List Elections, a Failing Democracy Project?


By BENJIE OLIVEROS
Analysis
Originally published at Bulatlat.com on March 21, 2010

MANILA — Two recent news reports do not bode well for party-list elections. In February, Pulse Asia reported that its January 2010 survey revealed that only three out of 10 Filipinos are aware of the party-list system. Pulse Asia added that it is only in the National Capital Region where party-list awareness is high at 51 percent of voters. Worse, Pulse Asia also reported that awareness regarding the party-list system plunged compared to April 2007 when nearly 6 out of 10 Filipinos knew about it.

In March, media watchdog group the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility reported that only 23 of the 187 party-list groups vying for a seat in the House of Representatives were covered by the three major news programs from the three major networks.

“There was almost no coverage of the party-list process, and very few parties received airtime. There was no discussion of the importance of the party-list elections as an opportunity for the marginalized to receive representation in Congress, or stories on crucial party-list sectors such as those on labor, agricultural workers, women, indigenous peoples,” CMFR said.

Worse, nine out of the 16 in the top 10 most covered party-list groups — as seven are tied in 10th place with 11 seconds of coverage each — are identified with the Arroyo government. Topping the list is 1-UTAK, with a measly one minute and 39 seconds, mainly because of Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes’s refusal to tender his resignation after the Supreme Court ruled that government officials running in the May 2010 elections should be considered resigned. Reyes is the first nominee of 1-UTAK.

Unless these trends are reversed, chances are participation in the party-list elections in the May 2010 elections would also be dismal.

How important is the party-list system?

Let us go back to the purpose of the party-list elections. In a November, 2008 interview with Bulatlat, Dr. Wilfrido Villacorta, a co-sponsor of the 1987 Constitution’s party-list provision together with Christian Monsod, said that their objectives in pushing for a party-list system were the following:
(a) to empower and articulate the interests of the marginalized sectors of Philippine society who don’t have the political base nor the financial resources to be represented in our legislature;
(b) to strengthen the party system and make Philippine politics more issue-oriented;
(c) to consolidate the national consensus and genuine democratization of the electoral process by bringing to the legislature the marginalized and the under-represented groups of our country; and to ensure peace and unity throughout our nation by reinforcing people’s trust in peaceful change

Indeed, the two most important objectives of the party-list system are increasing the representation of the marginalized sectors and transforming the party system in the country to make it more issue-oriented, as party-list groups promote their advocacies, and not their nominees, to gain votes. However, the country is nowhere near these two objectives.

The bigger blame for this sorry state of the party-list system is on the Arroyo government for corrupting it by fielding Malacañang-sponsored party-list groups to pursue its self-serving ends. Second is on the Commission on Election (Comelec) for not fulfilling its task of educating voters on the party-list system, and for making it difficult for genuine representatives of marginalized sectors to gain accreditation while allowing the entry of those identified with the Arroyo government.

Part of the blame goes to the media for not covering party-list groups and not doing its share of informing the public regarding the party-list system.

Part of the blame also goes to party-list groups who have representatives in the Lower House. From a mere 20-25, representatives of party-list groups increased to 50 after the Supreme Court changed the formula in computing representatives with the objective of filling up the 20 percent of seats in the House of Representatives, which are reserved for party-list groups. However, only a handful of these party-list representatives, mainly those belonging to the Left and the opposition, have pushed for meaningful legislation and resolutions, and made use of their privilege speeches to defend and promote the interests, rights, and welfare of the marginalized sectors. Projects benefitting the poor and the marginalized are also sorely lacking.
What have the majority of the party-list representatives been doing? Some are even enmeshed in in-fighting as to who should be the legitimate representative of their group. And there are those — namely, Jun Alcover of ANAD and retired Major General Jovito Palparan of Bantay — who do nothing except conduct a smear campaign against Bayan Muna, Anakpawis, Gabriela Women’s Party and Kabataan.

The worst thing that could happen with the expected low participation in the party-list elections is that it would create an opportunity for the Arroyo government to pad votes for Malacañang-sponsored party-list groups. The Arroyo government would surely do so because it has plans of flooding Congress with its loyal minions — by fielding candidates vying for seats in the Lower House as well as fielding nominees for its party-list groups — in order to install Arroyo as House Speaker and later Prime Minister, if and when its charter change maneuver succeeds. At the same time, it is trying to disenfranchise the voters of progressive party-list groups such as Bayan Muna, Anakpawis, Gabriela Women’s Party, Kabataan, as well as newly accredited Act and Katribu party-list groups by killing and harassing its officials, organizers, and supporters. These are the most active organizations fulfilling the mandate of party-list groups and yet they are the ones being attacked by the Arroyo administration.

The Arroyo government did these things during the 2004 elections, courtesy of former Comelec Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano and the Armed Forces of the Philippines. They did it again during the 2007 elections, courtesy of former Comelec Commissioner Lintang Bedol and the AFP. They could do it again in May 2010.

If they succeed, it would debase the party-list system more, and with it, erase any glimmer of hope of making even just a small dent in the political party system in the Philippines. (Bulatlat.com)

(Reprinted with permission from Bulatlat.com)

A Fulfilled Promise: Lumads Graduate from School Harassed by Military

A Fulfilled Promise: Lumads Graduate from School Harassed by Military

Originally published at Bulatlat.com on March 27, 2010

By MARIFE MAGBANUA
Alcadev



Wearing Manobo-designed vestments adorned with colorful bead necklaces and earrings, 24 graduating indigenous youth proudly marched during the third graduation ceremonies of Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV). Tears of joy filled the morning of March 10, 2010 as students, parents, teachers and other guests celebrated the end of another school year full of achievements and challenges.

It has been a custom for traditional schools to cap the school year with graduation or recognition ceremonies to acknowledge the achievements of the year. But for the alternative school for Lumads in the hinterlands of Lianga, Surigao del Sur, the completion of a school year is in itself a reason to celebrate.

Thanksgiving 

The celebration had already started a day before the actual graduation. Parents and guests from other provinces arrived early and spent the night in the school compound in preparation for the early morning activity. Community members helped the students and teachers in preparing for the ceremonies and setting up the venue. At sunset, a ritual was performed to forge unity and as a sign of gratitude. Guests were asked to wear the saya, a native skirt, and participate in the indigenous dance.

“There is a reason to celebrate today. It is part of our culture as Lumads that we incorporate the sacred rituals in thanksgiving celebrations. We are very thankful for the educational achievements this year and the completion of the construction of function hall building amidst hardships and disruptions,” Han-ayan community tribal chieftain Datu Tayadan who officiated the ritual said.



There is a reason to celebrate today. (Photos by Marife Magbanua / bulatlat.com)
When he mentioned about hardships and disruptions, Datu Tayadan was referring to the recurring military operations in Andap Valley Complex, which affect the school and the communities surrounding it. The Andap Valley Complex is being eyed for exploration and development by huge mining companies. Economic activities in the Andap Valley have been disrupted after a series of evacuations in 2005, 2007 and 2009.

“I asked the baylans (tribal priests) in this ritual to chant and beseech Magbabaya to drive bad spirits, which are attempting to ruin what we have started, away and to bless all the developments in this ancestral land so we can build a better society for the next generation. It has been our dream for our children to be educated so that we will no longer be deceived,” Datu Tayadan said in Manobo.
With the theme “Alternative education: a venue for collective sharing of sustainable agricultural skills and practices for environmental protection,” the third graduation rites was successfully held despite the disruption of classes from July to August 2009 because of the militarization in Han-ayan, which forced the communities and the school to evacuate for 40 days. The graduation event was attended by some members of the different indigenous communities from Agusan del Sur and Surigao del Sur, the datus, Manigaons, leaders and members of the Lumad organization. ALCADEV also invited religious groups, professionals, youth, and non-government organizations who are supporting the school’s cause and the Lumads‘ struggle in defense of their ancestral land. Mr. Johnny T. Pimentel, Surigao del Sur provincial administrator, Lianga town Mayor Roy Hegino Sarmen , Vice Mayor Robert Lala and Barangay Diatagon village council also joined the celebration.

Alternative Education

“Despite the vilification (of the military) against this school and the communities, I am thankful to visitors who came and join this meaningful achievement of Lumads. It was a painstaking yet fulfilling task to push for the realization of this kind of education in the hinterlands. It was also impressive as ALCADEV is a highlight and landmark in the continuing history of Lumads. The Lumad communities in this province consider it a proud achievement. It symbolizes their aspiration for a better future for their children, their pride in their culture and their hope which is rooted in the struggle for their ancestral lands. ALCADEV is a fruition of years of cooperation with various groups and individuals both foreign and local,” ALCADEV Program Director Marife Magbanua said in her welcome speech.

Although ALCADEV is a relatively young institution, its roots can be traced in the 1980s. The Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao del Sur (TRIFPSS), one of the institutions that pushed for the creation of ALCADEV, has been providing functional literacy to indigenous children since the 1980s in Surigao del Sur. In 1997, TRIFPSS established 10 schools in 10 indigenous people’s communities in three municipalities of the province. TRIFPSS twice won first place in the National Literacy Award (NLA) that made Surigao del Sur famous for non-formal education. The effort of TRIFPSS has been fruitful until the time came for it to respond to the need of IP youth for higher level of learning. Along with Sildap Sidlakan Inc, TRIFPSS was instrumental in the establishment of ALCADEV in 2004. In 2006, TRIFPSS won fourth place when it forwarded ALCADEV as its output.

Alternative education as a concept is no longer new in the Philippines. Even in other parts of the world where access to education is difficult for the less privileged, its function and work cannot be disregarded. What is also unique with ALCADEV is its program that encourages its graduates to return to their communities to serve using the skills and knowledge they learned from the school. Students are trained to specialize in agriculture, community literacy and numeracy, community organizing and basic health care.

“This school is different from the usual schools we know in the Philippines because this school teaches students how to improve society” said Hans Schaap, country representative of New World, a Belgian NGO working in the Philippines.

“I cannot inspire you because you inspired me a lot instead,” ALCADEV Board of Directors chair Sr Helen S. Makiling, MSM, PhD.

“While walking the aisle going to my seat, I feel proud to show myself to the members and leaders of different indigenous communities to show them the fruit of our hardships now that I graduated. I’m sure I inspired them and I promise to impart the knowledge I learned from this school,” ALCADEV graduate Jether Campos who chose to specialize in agriculture said.

Like many who are trying to live up to the principles they are adhering to, the people behind ALCADEV unflinchingly served the communities’ needs without fear even in the face of threats and harassments.

Disruptions and Vilifications

A week before the graduation rites of TRIFPSS and ALCADEV, soldiers from 58th Infantry Battalion again conducted military operations in the area. Right after the recognition program, soldiers led by Lt. Jayson Marmol, arrived in the community of Mike, one kilometer from ALCADEV School stayed overnight in the community of Km 16, which is near the school grounds. This action was perceived by students and teachers as threatening especially after a series of events in the school year that has passed.

In July 2009, indigenous communities surrounding the school, together with the students and the teachers, were forced to evacuate because of the increased presence of the military in the area. Food supplies were also controlled. The 401st Brigade under then Colonel Danilo Fabian and Col Benjamin Pedralvez of 58th IB accused the school of training students to become communist guerillas. The military based their accusations with the alleged failure of ALCADEV to apply for accreditation from the Department of Education and the provincial council, belittling the alternative education system ALCADEV is espousing. But the communities which benefit from the service delivered by the school and its students belie these false accusations.
In February 8, 2010 ALCADEV staff members, while bringing in rice for the students, were told at the checkpoint to go to the 401st Brigade headquarters. They were then asked by the current brigade commander Col. Tolentino for permit to transport and checked if ALCADEV has done the processing for the school’s formalization. Despite the provision in the 1987 Constitution stipulating that “the state shall encourage non-formal, informal and indigenous learning systems… particularly those that respond to the community needs,” small schools like ALCADEV have difficulties in complying with the stringent requirements for accreditation. More than mere papers of formalization, the legitimacy of ALCADEV as a school can be seen in the students it has produced. These students have committed their service to Lumad communities.

Overwhelming Support

ALCADEV found allies in some local government officials who support the cause of the Lumads in Caraga and have observed the services provided by the school to the communities. Surigao del Sur provincial administrator Johnny T. Pimentel lauded ALCADEV’s efforts.

“I told Mr. Jalandoni Campos (chairman of MAPASU organization) during the evacuation that if I was not able to visit ALCADEV during last year’s graduation, I would have not known what ALCADEV is doing, and would have believed the military’s vilification of this school. I am thankful I was invited again today,” Pimentel said.

“During my talk in General Santos last year to a group of volunteer youth for health, I shared to them how ALCADEV manages health services to indigenous communities,” shared Dr. Herwin Villamor of Medical Mission Group said.

The Mindanao volunteer of Enfants du Mekong, a French NGO working in Southeast Asia, Marion Isoard expressed her happiness over the graduation of the students whom the NGO are supporting.

“My sincere thanks to those who helped us during the evacuation and for the partners who are never discouraged in supporting this school. We as parents and members of the organization are also given knowledge and skills in sustainable agriculture, whcih we can use to cultivate our ancestral land.” MAPASU chairperson Jalandoni Campos said.

After the graduation program, a turn-over ceremony for the new function hall building funded by New World followed.

During the customary solidarity night. Ontong Belandres, a Lumad who was elected member of the village council in San Miguel and also a member of the Lumad organization was asked for words of inspiration. The crowd was surprised to see him on stage wearing his Kagawad uniform, one foot barefooted and the other with a shoe.

“Are you wondering about my attire?” he asked in Manobo.

“This is me functioning as a Kagawad official to our barangay. I have difficulty in fulfilling my responsibilities and enduring seminars and meetings I attend. I only finished grade three and my education is limited. Like my attire now, it feels awkward and vulnerable if we Lumads are not educated,” he said.

One of the English teachers remembered a Year One student who once shared a learning expectation in one class. The student expressed that he wanted to learn how to read and understand English. The student recounted that every time the village council held its session, he trembles. He was always asked by the council members to read and explain documents written in English. He knows leaders are proud of him and was the only one who got into high school in their village. The teacher realized that Belandres was the father of that Year One student.

Since the colonial period, the Lumads have been mistreated and relegated to the periphery of mainstream Philippine society. They have been systematically deprived of their rights to self-determination. Without education, the Lumads will continue to be sidelined. Now that ALCADEV is providing the Lumads of Caraga an education that is responding to their needs and suited to their culture, a better future for the Lumads is being sown in the hinterlands of Surigao del Sur. (Bulatlat.com)

Lack of Voters’ Education for AES in HK, Singapore, Means Disenfranchisement to OFWs

Lack of Voters’ Education for AES in HK, Singapore, Means Disenfranchisement to OFWs

 JANESS ANN J. ELLAO 

 Published on April 1, 2010

 Bulatlat.com


With only a couple of weeks left before the start of the automated overseas absentee voting for Filipino workers in Hongkong and Singapore, voters still have no idea how it would proceed. They were informed that they would just be oriented and assisted on the day itself.

The overseas absentee voting would be held from April 10 until May 10, 2010. It will be held in Philippine embassies worldwide to give the growing population of OFWs an opportunity to vote.

Commissioner James Jimenez of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said educating voters on the automated election system (AES) on election day itself would be enough. He added that posting a list of steps and reminders for voters would already ensure a hundred percent success rate for the elections.

“We could have decided to distribute (leaflets), but we fear that they might just throw it away,” Jimenez told Bulatlat. Aside from the posted reminders on voters’ desks, they would also be hanging two large tarpaulins containing the steps and reminders inside the room where the voting would be held. “So when they look up in every direction, they would be able to see it.”

However, when the Gabriela chapter in Hongkong conducted a voters’ education campaign, they received feedback that OFWs are anxious regarding the voting procedures. OFWs wanted to make sure that their ballots would not be spoiled.

“We hope to familiarize them to the size of the ballot and how to properly shade their candidates of choice,” Cynthia Tellez said in a statement, adding that it took a couple of tries before OFWs could sufficiently and properly shade the ovals especially for those with eyesight problems.

Tellez said their group fears that OFWs are again facing disenfranchisement, saying that there is a high possibility that OFWs who will not be reached by their voters’ education efforts would commit mistakes and have invalid ballots.

“Commissioner Armando Velasco’s overconfidence that the AES will be a simple process and will proceed without a hitch actually scares us,” Tellez said. Velasco was the Comelec representative who came early March to orient OFW leaders regarding the AES.

“The one month election period allotted for us (OFWs) translates to only four days because OFWs could only go out and vote during their day off. How can Comelec expect to educate more than 90,000 registered voters in Hongkong?” she said, adding that the Comelec is always late or worse, downright neglectful when it comes to OFWs and the OAV.

An Experiment? 

Jimenez told Bulatlat that they no longer have time to conduct voters’ education for OFWs in Singapore and Hongkong because the decision to hold automated elections for the two countries came late. “We have spare machines,” he explained when asked what pushed Comelec to hold automated elections abroad.

Of the 82,000 Precinct Count Optical Scan machines, only 76,000 would be used for the elections in the Philippines. Jimenez said that with the 6,000 spare PCOS, Comelec thought that it is high time to introduce the new technology overseas. “To a certain extent we also want overseas voting to move forward. We want to improve the technology we use overseas,” he said, citing that the Philippines was the first country in Asia to hold voting via internet during the 2007 elections.

“This (automation) is just a continuation of the efforts of Comelec to modernize,” Jimenez said.
Jimenez said Comelec is working on a massive roll out theory, comparing the AES to Mini Stop, a 24-hour convenience store in the Philippines. The massive roll out theory as applied by the local convenience store, Jimenez said, translates into the opening of many Mini Stop stores in an area. Eventually, the store that does not gain profits is shut down.

He said the advantage of the massive roll out theory is that one is able to generate learnings in a short period of time compared to a limited roll out.

“If you expose a new technology in various places at the same time, you essentially have many small laboratories (to see the results),” Jimenez said, adding there will be an increase in “net progress.” Yet, Jimenez insisted that the automated overseas absentee voting is not an experiment.

Mission Impossible 

According to Jimenez, 20 units of PCOS machines will be sent to Hongkong and seven units for Singapore. He added that there will be back-up machines, five for Hongkong and two for Singapore. But Migrante International, the largest OFW group, said the allotted PCOS machines for both countries are not enough.
The planned automated voting will involve 95,355 registered Filipino absentee voters in Hongkong and 31,851 in Singapore, comprising 20 percent of the 589,830 total OAV voters.

“The ballot box of each PCOS machine is designed to accommodate only 1,000 ballots. In both Hongkong and Singapore, there would roughly be 5,000 voters per PCOS machine. How on earth could 5,000 overseas absentee voting ballots fit into one ballot box?” Migrante International chairperson Garry Martinez said, adding that they fear that the opening of the ballot boxes,once they become full, would be an opportunity for election cheating.

But Jimenez said that with the AES, it is impossible for cheating to happen. He said election procedures will happen so fast that before the person who intends to cheat could think of a way how, the election is already finished, he said.

To further ensure clean overseas elections, Jimenez added, the Comelec would be allowing poll watchers. However, they should be accredited by the Education and Information department of Comelec in Manila. Requests may be done via email, he said.

However, Migrante believes that with “the slack preparations and the machine glitches during the dry-runs”, chaos leading to disenfranchisement is likely to happen. He cited the major transmission glitches and other problems that occurred during the mock elections in Taguig and Quezon City.

Benefits 

Jimenez said that aside from generating the results of the elections faster, there is no clear benefit for OFWs with the introduction of the AES. But Migrante said should there be a failure of elections in Hongkong and Singapore, it is the administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo that would surely benefit.

Migrante noted that presidential bets Manny Villar and Eddie Villanueva are known to have strong support among OFWs in Honkong and Singapore. “It must also be stressed that progressive party-list groups such as Migrante Sectoral Party and Gabriela Women’s Party topped the party-list elections in Hongkong in 2004 and 2007.

Under the current circumstances, Migrante called upon OFWs to be vigilant because they have been robbed of their democratic rights twice – denying them of direct representation to Congress through the Migrante Sectoral Party and the lack of information regarding the AES.

(Reprinted with permission from Bulatlat.com)

Victorious PUP Students Say Protests ‘Symptom of Bigger Problem’ in Philippine Education

Victorious PUP Students Say Protests ‘Symptom of Bigger Problem’ in Philippine Education

By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
Originally published at Bulatlat.com on March 31, 2010



A student demands better education. (Photo by Janess Ann J. Ellao / bulatlat.com)
MANILA — Mrs. Mia Soriano went to the Manila Police District on Monday to bring food and clothes for her daughter Cheysser, one of the five students who were detained there after they were charged with robbery by officials of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines.
Cheysser was among those accused of burning 13 armchairs inside the school during a protest on campus last week against a proposed tuition increase.

Mrs. Soriano, however, was greeted by the news that PUP president Dr. Dante Guevarra had withdrawn the robbery charges against the five and that they were now free. “I am very happy especially because I saw the outcome of their struggle,” Mrs. Soriano told Bulatlat, adding that she is proud that her daughter represented the voices of thousands of students who did not want a tuition hike in PUP.

Mrs. Soriano said she never knew that her daughter was an activist. She remembered her arriving home with a husky voice. “Did you sing in a concert?” she would tease her daughter.

“I know that I would not spend my whole life in jail,” Cheysser told Bulatlat, adding that she is thankful to the youths and students who showed their support for them.

Mrs. Soariano said she was deeply saddened with what happened to her daughter but added that she believes in what her daughter is fighting for. “I have turned nights into days just to provide quality education for my children and this is what they did to them,” Mrs. Soriano said.

Cheysser was also thankful that the PUP administration seemed to have been enlightened about the issue. “We think that we will have a stronger chance of winning if the PUP administration will join us in the struggle to fight for a bigger budget for PUP,” she said.

Not Harassment?

Guevarra went to the MPD personally to see the students. He told journalists there that the five students should not fear expulsion because the school is not even considering it. If the students are expelled, he said, “they will become a social problem, which I do not want to happen.” He said the filing of robbery charges was not a form of political harassment.

The freed PUP 5. (Photo by Janess Ann J. Ellao / bulatlat.com)
Lawyer Julius Garcia Matibag said that the withdrawal of the charges notwithstanding, the chances of the case against the PUP 5 being dropped if it reached the courts was very likely. “There is no intent to gain on the part of the students,” he said, referring to the 13 armchairs that the students allegedly brought out of the campus.
Matibag added that there was also no element of violence and intimidation, as the school guards allowed the students to bring out the 13 armchairs. The armchairs, all already damaged, were brought out in a jeepney that was allowed to pass through the PUP gate. The students had intended to use the chairs in more protests to symbolize, they said, the state of education in the Philippines.
“This matter is pure harassment from Guevarra since the students detained were leaders who led the protests in PUP,” Matibag said.
“This was one of Dr. Dante Guevarra’s desperate moves to get back at us,” said Abriel Mansilungan, one of the PUP 5, referring to the robbery charges. “I am not ashamed or regretful that I am here. I am proud that despite all this, we still won,” he told Bulatlat while he was still in police custody.

But Mansilungan said stopping the tuition hike is just a small victory, as they would continue to be vigilant. “Even if they said that there would be no tuition hike, we are monitoring other fees such miscellaneous fees, as it may be increased.”

Support


The youngest of the PUP 5, Piem Canela, 18, said students were happy to know that there many supported their cause. “A professor came to visit us yesterday to boost our morale,” he said at the police precinct, adding that he also appreciated when a group of professors in PUP recently held a press conference to denounce what Guevarra had done to them.

“This only means that Doc G (Dr. Guevarra) is already isolated. It is not true that the PUP community is against the students who protested against the tuition hike,” Canela told Bulatlat.

On Friday March 26, presidential bet Bro. Eddie Villanueva visited the PUP 5 at the MPD. He called on Guevarra, PUP president, whom he addressed as a friend, to withdraw the case because it would only shame him.
“We have already paid the price during the martial law years. This kind of arrest and false charges should not be happening at the present,” Villanueva, an alumnus of PUP, told journalists.


Real Condition

“We knew we were winning because the tuition hike in PUP has become an issue nationwide,” Cheysser Soriano said, adding that continuing the case against the PUP 5 will only expose the real condition of education in the country.

Ken Ramos, chairman of Anakbayan and fifth nominee of the Kabataan Partylist, said “the root of the problem is the lack of budget for education.”

Ramos said that the National Youth Action Day for Education held on Monday was called upon by Kabataan Partylist to show that the PUP protest was only a manifestation of a bigger problem in the education system. He said there are other schools who face the same situation but have not been covered by the media.

Fellow students and supporters of the PUP 5. (Photo by Janess Ann J. Ellao / bulatlat.com)
Einstein Recedes, national chairman of the National Union of Students of the Philippines, said only 2.7 percent of the gross domestic product is allotted for education when the United Nations recommends at least 6 percent of GDP.

In the national budget, he said, only 14 percent is allotted for education. “This means that only P6.80 is allotted for every student studying in SUCs per day. This is very small because international standards recommends at lest 20 percent of the composition of the national budget.”

Ramos said Kabataan Partylist and its member organizations are challenging all politicians running this May Elections to initiate reforms in the education system. He also blamed the present administration for the continuing deterioration of the education.

The PUP administration had earlier planned to increase the tuition in the state university from the present P12 per unit to P200, or nearly 1,700 percent increase.

“No matter what angle you try to look at it, tuition increase in state universities is never reasonable,” said Ferrin Louise Umagat, 19, one of the students who protested in PUP, told Bulatlat.


PUP president Dr. Dante Guevarra and PUP students at the Manila Police District. (Photo by Janess Ann J. Ellao / bulatlat.com)
The protest actions of the students bore fruit when Emmanuel Angeles of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) said last March 24 that there would be no increase in PUP’s tuition yet. Angeles is also the president of the Board of Regents of the said university.

Judy Anne Fabito, 19, one of the PUP 5 and a B.S. Chemistry student, said one of the most affected colleges of the proposed tuition hike in PUP is the College of Science. She said that laboratory fees would have increased from P60 to P500.

“If the earlier batches of PUP students did not fight for our P12 per unit tuition — when there was an earlier plan to increase it — then I would not have been able to avail of the cheap tuition. That is why I am fighting for the rights of the incoming first year students to education,” Fabito said.

Kabataan Partylist secretary general Vencer Crisostomo said an investigation should be pursued against people who have been trying to rob students of their future by pushing for a tuition hike. (Bulatlat.com)

(Reprinted with permission from Bulatlat.com)

Crisis Worsens at PGH as Topnotch Doctors, Medical Professors Go on Mass Leave By MARYA SALAMAT

Crisis Worsens at PGH as Topnotch Doctors, Medical Professors Go on Mass Leave 

By MARYA SALAMAT


Originally Published on March 30, 2010 at Bulatlat.com

 
MANILA — The crisis at the Philippine General Hospital worsened last week as 75 of the hospital’s topnotch and highly qualified doctors and medical professors went on mass leave starting March 29 to express “anger and dismay over the oppression and dubious removal from office” of the hospital’s director, Dr. Jose Gonzales, and to “strongly protest the lack of democratic process” in selecting the PGH director.

The mass leave, organizers of the protest said, is unusual and unprecedented in the history of the hospital. As the court is expected to decide on the legality of Dr. Gonzales’s removal sometime mid-April, the doctors collectively went on leave also to “protect them from following the orders of a de facto PGH director.”
There are currently two new directors of PGH vying for legitimacy. Dr. Gonzales was elected by the University of the Philippines system’s highest policy-making body, its Board of Regents (BOR), on Dec. 18 last year. But unlike the oath-taking of other officials who were elected in that December BOR meeting, Dr. Gonzales’s oath-taking did not happen as promptly because of a protest by one of the regents. The PGH operates under the UP.

On Feb. 25, the BOR replaced Dr. Gonzales with Dr. Enrique Domingo after booting out the student regent and nullifying her decisive vote in the Dec. 18 meeting. The protesting doctors noted, though, that only Dr. Gonzales’s election was nullified. The rest of the officials elected by the BOR in that December meeting are still serving their term.

“Our protest is not about personalities or about who is better between the two contending PGH directors,” said Dr. Joey Lapeña, an associate professor at the UP College of Medicine and attending specialist at PGH. Rather, in their statement, the doctors explained that “when a tenured, democratically elected and functioning PGH director in Dr. Jose C. Gonzales can be removed from office without due process and cause, it sends a message of oppression and shock to the PGH community.”

The mass leave was conducted a month after the unceremonious ouster by the BOR of Dr. Gonzales, and about three weeks after the Council of the UP College of Medicine came out with a resolution, which they later affirmed more resoundingly in a referendum (199 vs 19), stating that Dr Jose Gonzales is the legitimate director they recognize.

It appears that the protesting doctors have had enough of being told what to do or of being disrespected as their council resolution and subsequently votes in a referendum recognizing the legitimacy of Dr. Gonzales as PGH director were blithely being ignored by higher ups. Altercations to enforce the college resolution had prompted the resignation last March 24 of the associate dean of the UPCM, Dr. Abundio Balgos. And now the mass leave of doctors.

Spearheaded by an alliance that took shape late last year in response to what its members described as symptoms of a “UP in crisis,” the Laban UP-PGH (Struggle UP-PGH), announced last Monday that the number of doctors going on leave would increase in the days ahead. Laban UP-PGH, according to its website, is an organization made up of volunteers and advocates for justice and truth in the University of the Philippines and the Philippine General Hospital. It groups together students and faculty, PGH employees, health workers and health professionals.

These “protest actions will escalate,” said Dr. Jonas del Rosario, head of the Ibalik ang Tama – Laban UP-PGH movement.

The doctors going on mass leave are no ordinary doctors of UP-PGH. They are mostly experienced, highly qualified doctors such as surgeons or specialists in different fields, explained Dr. del Rosario. At the same time they are professors at the UP College of Medicine. As such, these doctors are consultants or trainers, too, of the residents and fellow doctors in PGH. The resident and fellow doctors are medicine graduates training at PGH.

The protesters are composed of “the most active faculty and consultants, including five chairs of clinical departments, many former chairs of clinical departments and many sitting chairs/heads of other units,” said Dr. Lapeña.

Unprecedented, Unusual Mass Leave


The phenomenon of almost a hundred of the highest qualified doctors and professors of UP-PGH going on a mass leave for the sake of due process and democracy is already unprecedented in the country’s premier public hospital. But their being health professionals has also made their mass leave unusual, in the sense that they are still at work and on call despite their leave of absence. Their mass leave “does not intend to paralyze PGH, just to dramatize its protest, with aspects of eventual slowdown,” said Dr. del Rosario. Their leave would affect mostly the elective surgeries and non-life threatening matters and the bidding of the “de-facto director.”

As doctors, the protesters promised they will not abandon the patients already admitted in hospital and they will be available for emergency cases and critical aspects of patient care. They said their actions “will not affect life-threatening or emergency cases in PGH patients but may only delay elective surgeries attendance to outpatient cases or other non-life threatening illnesses for a limited time only.”

Dr. Lapeña, in fact, spent Tuesday doing surgeries where residents and fellow doctors in PGH also learn how to do surgeries, despite his being on leave. He admitted that in going on leave while continuing to deliver vital services as doctors and trainers, they seem to be at the losing end. But they have to dramatize their protests, said Dr. Del Rosario.

Those in “very sensitive leadership posts will likewise continue working in a limited capacity” despite their leave of absence. So far, five of 14 department chairs in the clinical department have refused to report to Dr. Eric Domingo, said Drs. del Rosario and Lapeña.

Their mass leave of action also “crosses fraternity and sorority lines, contrary to what some people are saying that the issue of PGH directorship boils down to a battle between two rival fraternities,” said Dr. Lapeña. He claimed that even those from Dr. Domingo’s fraternity and sorority are joining the mass leave, and they included Dr Domingo’s classmate and batchmate in their fraternity.

Aside from the mass leave of doctors, the doctors said other members of Laban UP-PGH such as students, nurses, institution workers, orderlies, student councils not just of UP College of Medicine but also of other colleges in Manila, Diliman, Baguio, among others, are expected to join the protest. (Bulatlat.com)

(Reprinted with permission from Bulatlat.com)

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