Feb 25, 2006


Arroyo gov't arrests Crispin Beltran; Ka Satur eludes capture

Elements of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group of the Philippine National Police this morning arrested without warrant House of Representatives member Crispin Beltran.

Also taken into custody were Beltran's wife Rosario and several others who were with the Anakpawis partylist representative as he was leaving his family farm in Bulacan.

Beltran, the chairman emeritus of the Kilusang Mayo Uno, was also arrested and imprisoned under the Marcos dictatorship.

UN Justice Romeo T. Capulong is now at Camp Crame to provide legal counsel to Beltran.

About two hours later, fully-armed soldiers surrounded the main entrance and exit of Sulo Hotel in Quezon City where the House Minority was holding a press conference. Staff of Bayan Muna, Anakpawis and Gabriela smelled a rat and promptly took extra-precautions in securing the life and liberty of their partylist representatives.

House Deputy Minority Leader and Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo and four other solons eluded certain arrest. Two of his security aides on board his Toyota Revo were arrested. Reps. Ocampo, Liza Maza of Gabriela, Teddy Casiño of Bayan Muna and Rafael Mariano of Anakpawis eluded arrest by taking alternate exits and by boarding different vehicles.

Ocampo was also a political detainee under the Marcos dictatorship. All of the charges of subversion and rebellion were not ever proven in any court of the Marcos dictatorship. Rearrested under the Aquino regime, Ocampo was freed in 1992 after a court said the charges of murder, kidnapping and illegal possesion of firearms were baseless.

Feb 24, 2006


How Filipinos and GMA marked 20th year of People Power

In a clearly desperate strategy to stop attempts of disgruntled soldiers and policemen to join the broad nationwide movement seeking her ouster, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo today put the country under a "state of national emergency" and launched barefaced fascist attacks on Filipinos' rights and freedoms.

From the wee hours of the morning, Arroyo was in a flurry of meetings with her henchmen in the cabinet and the military-police establishment, scampering to contain a reported "expression of protest" by rebellious military elements.

Their next actions were ominous: Arroyo ordered that Malacañang Palace be turned into a garrison, with dozens of container vans placed across streets leading to the presidential residence and office. Troops and tanks were moved to the Palace and in the major camps in Metro Manila. Tens of thousands of police and military personnel were deployed in traditional rally sites, including the People Power Monument and the Edsa Shrine.

By mid-morning, police prevented Caloocan Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez and Catholic nuns from praying the rosary at the monument.

By noontime, police used truncheons, batons and a water cannon against a peaceful convergence at the Edsa Shrine. The protesters included Vice President Teofisto Guingona and dozens of known stalwarts of the anti-Marcos resistance like Bayan Muna Representative Satur Ocampo, Anakpawis Representative Crispin Beltran and urban poor leader Nanay Mameng Deunida.

In a clear violation of laws, many policemen brandished high-powered weapons while some wore no nameplates. While negotiations went on between Vice President Guingona and the ground commander Col. Velasquez, a fascist brute could be seen egging the anti-riot police to attack the protesters who were in a defensive position.

A policeman tried to use a water cannon on protesters and the leaders who were on top of the stage but was single-handedly stopped by the heroic Neri Colmenares, the people's lawyer and convenor of the Counsels for the Defense of Liberties.

With a handful sustaining head injuries from the baton-wielding anti-riot troops and a good number getting separated from their groups, this 15,000-strong contingent of the Gloria Step Down Movement nevertheless preserved its ranks and marched to Ortigas corner Santolan in San Juan in order to wait for the Laban ng Masa who were at that time marching from Cubao.

At the head of march were film director Carlitos Siguion Reyna, civil libertarian RC Constantino and leaders of GSM member-organizations: Bayan's Dr. Carol Araullo and Renato Reyes Jr., Bayan Muna Reps. Teddy Casiño and Satur Ocampo, KMU's Bong Labog and Lito Ustarez, Gabriela Rep. Liza Maza, Gabriela leaders Lana Linaban and Emmi de Jesus, Youth DARE spokesperson Raymond Palatino, LFS chair Vencer Crisostomo, Danilo Ramos of KMP, Anakpawis Reps. Rafael Mariano and Crispin Beltran, and a host of others.

By the time we started to take the long march from San Juan to Makati through secondary streets, we received reports that the Laban ng Masa march had been crushed by anti-riot police, with their leaders arrested and detained.

The march was long and hard. We were under the scorching heat of the sun for four hours, and had to contend with street blockades put up by Arroyo's loyal police. As we were about to cross Shaw Blvd. to Nueve de Pebrero, Mandaluyong police tried but failed to block us. The alert rally command structure managed to get through by taking the opposite lane. The hapless Mandaluyong police forces were no match to a movement that had 40 years of experience in street demonstrations and marches.

We arrived at Ayala exhausted but fulfilled. The diabolical attempt by Arroyo to crush all the separate but coordinated marches did not succeed.

But it turned out that the Mandaluyong police was a bit better than those who were deployed in Makati to counteract the mammoth prayer rally called by Mrs. Corazon Aquino. The anti-riot police at Ayala were a pathetic bunch. Two police phalanxes blocked the way leading to Paseo de Roxas, in an obvious effort to separate the yellow army of Mrs. Arroyo and Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay, and the predominantly red activist block of Bayan and GSM.

GSM and Bayan did not bite the police bait for a clash. Instead, women activist leaders faced the women police officers who were lined up to face the GSM and Bayan marchers. Minutes later, Gabriela went to the police line and sang for the women police officers.

Soon after the Cory-Binay group arrived, the Makati mayor confronted the police phalanxes, punctured it and paved the way to the entry of the GSM and Bayan marchers, and the merging of the two groups. Remnants of the dispersed Laban ng Masa march also came with their party colors. Also seen were dozens from Bro. Eddie Villanueva's Bangon Pilipinas. Senators and members of Congress were also there.

There was no makeshift stage at the Ninoy monument at Ayala cor. Paseo de Roxas. The rally program was done at the foot of the monument, emceed by Chito Gascon.

Vice President Teofisto Guingona led the battery of fiery speakers, followed by Satur Ocampo and several others. Prayers and songs were offered. Catholics prayed the rosary, Bro. Eddie prayed for the born-again communities, and two Muslims recited supplications to Allah.

By around 7:30 pm, the program was winding down, with the GSM and Bayan contingents preparing for an organized dispersal. But the police had other things in mind: Hundreds, if not thousands, of anti-riot police started pushing and shoving the protesters from Paseo de Roxas to the MRT-Ayala station.

This is how the people, through their commemorative actions and protests, and Arroyo, through her proclamation of a state of emergency, marked the 20th anniversary of the first People Power uprising that ousted the Marcos dictatorship.

Photo courtesy of Associated Press/Vincent Yu

Feb 23, 2006


People Power at 20: Facing the myths and challenge of Arroyo

1. Twenty years ago this week, Filipinos committed a grave error by deposing the Ferdinand Marcos. The Filipinos violated the 1973 Constitution when they decided to give Marcos the boot.

2. In 2001, Filipinos repeated the same mistake when they violated the 1987 Constitution in ousting the popularly-elected Joseph Estrada.

3. This 2006, Filipinos seem bound to do exactly the same thing to Gloria Macapagal.

4. People Power is the culprit behind the destabilized political system, and the reason why foreign investors shy away from the Philippines. Concomitantly, it is a big reason why most Filipinos are poorer and more destitute today.

These four points could perhaps encapsulate the vilest lies about People Power that are being spread by Mrs. Arroyo and her supporters.

Of course, the two People Power uprisings were not mistakes, as what Mrs. Arroyo now claims.

The brutal and kleptomanic Marcos had to go after undertaking what could be considered a nationwide massacre of lives and rights of Filipinos that was important in ensuring that he, his family and his cronies would be able to raid the Philippine treasury with utmost ease. Anyway, the Filipino people have had enough of the brutality and plunder by 1986, especially following how Marcos brazenly proclaimed himself winner of the snap elections he didn't win.

People Power was actually the "final act" in nearly 14 years of continued struggle and resistance. Tens of thousands died fighting the dictatorship, with perhaps an entire generation of Filipinos resisting the status quo and joining the armed revolution and the revolutionary underground.

By the time soldiers announced their uprising in the wee hours of February 22, Filipinos were already sufficiently aroused and organized that mobilization was a matter of time and good timing. The putsch was the right time and the right timing to come out in full force to give the dictator his last stand.

In 2001, Estrada meanwhile had to pay dearly for his immorality, plunder and the way his allies in the Senate tried to crush the impeachment trial.

In both instances, People Power became the expression of the will of the real sovereign power in the Philippines -- the Filipino people. When they speak and take decision in a direct way, as in People Power, no law is above them. They are the law because they are the sovereign.

The uprising in fact involved tens of millions in Metro Manila and in many cities across the country. Overseas Filipino Workers contributed in their own way in vigils and protest actions in front of consulates and embassies.

Short of social revolution, People Power were effective ways to depose the two unwanted leaders who the established processes cannot remove and only invited direct people's action.

Indeed, it is a shameless lie to claim People Power 1 and 2, both or either one, were wrong or were mistakes.

Which brings us to the second and third points I wish to make: People Power actually saved the country from certain ruin under the two deposed leaders. And that it is not the fault of People Power that the people remain engulfed by poverty and despair under a political and economic system that's rotten to the core.

What really riles the people is that the post-People Power regimes miserably failed to demolish all the vestiges of the dictatorship and pursued fake "reforms".

No serious efforts have been undertaken to consistently uphold the civil, political and human rights of the people, and to cut down military influence that held sway under martial law. Thus, the continuing violations of our people's rights and a strong militarist mindset pervades in the supposed civilian government.

The "reforms" undertaken by all post-People Power regimes were actually poisonous impositions of the same international institutions and world power that backed up Marcos until the end: privatization, liberalization, deregulation and the complete sellout of our economy, patrimony and natural resources. No wonder, we now burden rising costs of living while being made to scrimp on low wages and meager social services.

Arroyo herself faces serious and unresolved allegations that she lied, stole, cheated and suppressed the Filipino people. That she didn't win in the 2004 elections, that she used public funds (including the recovered Marcos loot) for her own personal benefit, that she is baring her fascist fangs with her calibrated preemptive response and all out war, that she is not stopping but abetting the endless rise in prices of petroleum and basic goods and public utility rates, that she is insulting the people with her yarn about People Power.

As the nation marks the 20th year of People Power, let us pause and remember the big sacrifices our forebears made to fight and crush the dictatorship, and what we recently undertook in 2001.

Our remembrance should compel us to give the best kind of tribute to those who gave up their lives and the best kind of social insurance to the future: Cast aside unfounded fears, unite, wield People Power to oust Arroyo and make sure that the replacement would undertake reforms. No more mere changing of the guards. No more politics-as-usual.

Photo courtesy of Philippines Today website.

Feb 6, 2006


Wowowee stampede: The continuing tragedy of mass poverty

Most people, activists included, were silent at watching TV news reports of Saturday's stampede at Ultra. The nation was practically plunged into mourning by the sudden loss of so many lives in an incident that could have been averted but more importantly mirrored society's smouldering problem of poverty.

I do not wish to dwell much on the culpability of ABS-CBN for the network's apparent laxity in preparing for the arrival of tens of thousands of Pinoys whose appetite for the big anniversary celebration they whetted each and everyday for the past weeks. However, it is really important to stress that public interest demands that the network be made accountable for providing false hopes of "quick-rich" contests to victims mass poverty and for its criminal neglect.

ABS-CBN knows how to market its shows, products and talents to the hilt, a fact that we should not ignore because it was again used in order to create a euphoric atmosphere at the Ultra as early as five days before the event. ABS-CBN should be made fully accountable for the repercussion of the pre-anniversary hype and measly crowd-control preparations while not absolving it of exploitative of Wowowee per se. I would not be surprised if the survivors of the stampede and the relatives of those who died would soon recover from their terrible experience and file a class-action suit against the network.

The Ultra stampede however is not just an accident. It is a most powerful demonstration of the real state of the economy and the despair of the poor. The elite and the elitist Government may ignore it only at their own peril.

Those who have been able to watch episodes of Wowowee (and Eat Bulaga) would know the travails of each audience participant who is lucky enough to actually join the show's contests. Some try to join by lining up near network premises for weeks on end. From how they look, how they dress and how they speak, they bear unmistakable signs of peasant or workingclass origin. (These are the people who cannot share the elites' and upper middle class persons' common sentiment of wanting to leave the country and the crisis behind and look for opportunities elsewhere. These, our poor majority, have no such luxury of choice.) In the episodes I managed to watch, I am sure many also cringed at the sight of our countrymen do whatever the gameshow host tells them to do (sing or dance to whatever tune), or plead the Fil-Ams or foreigners in the TFC gallery for a few dollars. Many weep merely upon reaching the contestants' spots near Willie Revillame, perhaps shedding tears of joy at their closeness to the possibility of winning any of the usual Wowowee prizes.

We saw the same thing everyday, six times a week: An endless stream of perhaps the poorest Filipinos trying their luck at winning at Wowowee, especially in Pera o Bayong.

The elite and the comfortable middle classes went with their usual chores last weekend, but for the 50,000 or so poor folk who wanted to a chance at taking home a share of Wowowee's anniversary contest and raffle prizes, it was a date with destiny.

Indeed, the whole incident is a stinging rebuke and a damning indictment of the Establishment's failure to deliver the majority from the morass of poverty. It woke us up to the reality of continued destitution of millions of our people, and the urgent need to address their most immediate economic needs. Moreover, it is a condemnation of Government's most dastardly and now undeniable lies about economic growth.

The mercenary intellectuals who have long used their skills in prettifying the status quo and hoodwinking the people should now shut up and offer their apologies for their part in the worsening economic crisis.

It is hoped that the tragedy would help propel concrete actions, especially measures providing the most immediate economic relief, that would benefit the people. Otherwise, the Government that allows poverty to victimize the people and that adds more burdens on their shoulders through various new and higher impositions, would be bearing the brunt of these hungry and angry masses.

Confronting poverty and actually winning battles against it would be the highest possible honor we could give to those who lives and dreams were crushed at the Ultra stampede last Saturday.

Photo by Jay Directo courtesy of Yahoo! News/AFP

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Subscribe to Posts [Atom]