Jun 27, 2006


TXTPower nears 5th birthday

In two months, TXTPower will turn five years old. Looking back and forward, there are more battles to fight and win.

TXTPower started as a consumer advocacy group in 2001 when it stood up against the then-planned reduction of free text allocations. With the support of texters nationwide, TXTPower spread a texters' manifesto, campaigned for a one-day boycott, demanded congressional action and took on the legal and public relations chiefs of the telcos.

The campaign resulted in what has become arguably as the first victorious consumer initiative of the millenium. Smart and Globe were forced to delay the plan's implementation. Free text allocations were cut only months later and on two installments.

The telcos' undisputed superprofiteering, and the Arroyo government's insatiable greed for new taxes and for fake anti-terrorist measures both kept TXTPower on its toes.

In no less than five instances, the Arroyo government attempted to impose a tax on text messaging, hoping to cash in on the texting craze. The attempted extortion was defeated five times, the last even landing on the Inquirer frontpage.

That last anti-text tax campaign pitted texters against the most-promising Speaker of the House, Jose de Venecia. We obtained and passed on his mobile number, asking in a text message to send him a clear message against the text tax. The next day, the Inquirer put De Venecia's response to the consumer action: No more text tax.

The Arroyo government, through its allies in Congress, also tried to require all prepaid subscribers to register their SIM cards with the NTC and, purportedly, also with the PNP, as an anti-terrorist measure. As to how they arrived at this insipid proposal, nobody knows.

TXTPower put its foot down and demanded that the Arroyo keep off its citizens' cellphones. We said privacy is very important, especially in the face of the growing paranoia of the government, and its readiness to stifle dissent. As to curbing terrorism, the proposal to require SIM registration is as ineffective and wrong as imposing a national ID.

The telcos meanwhile kept conniving and conspiring for the longest time in the utterly superprofiteering acts of offering similar rates and prices of services. We demanded lower rate and prices, and asked government to monitor network quality.

We demanded that telcos offer "unlimited" call and texting plans to subscribers.

Newcomer Sun took on our challenge, with its 24/7 offerings. Smart and Globe were forced to follow suit. Hopefully, this trend of "bulk pricing", a standard fare for US mobile subscribers, would be able to benefit more subscribers.

Smart, Globe and Sun are up to now evading the issue of spam text. The NTC seeks to impose new regulations, but the three telcos continue to abuse their access to subscriber numbers. These telcos and their content providers should stop immediately from stealing prepaid/postpaid credits and for violating consumers' privacy.

Last year, TXTPower marked its fourth year in its biggest campaign yet -- the Hello Garci ringtone campaign, which became a snash hit despite threats from the justice department. Ringtones and mobile phones have become political tools as TXTPower joined the growing anti-Arroyo movement.

In two foreign trips last year, TXTPower convenors proudly shared our experience in mobile activism, be it for consumer rights or for overtly political purposes.

At the MobileActive meeting in Toronto, TXTPower swapped notes with other mobile activists, shared the Philippine experience and lessons, listened to others's own, and championed the idea that people should drive technology and not the other way around.

For indeed, five years of TXTPower have taught us that mobile technology are the newest weapons for people's movements for social change. Mobile phones, per se, may not effect reforms. But if socially-conscious people use them creatively and consistently, the mobile phones become tools for organizing and mobilizing many others.

Five years since TXTPower was born, we should press on and win more battles..


Bantay Impeachment 2

Anyone wanna know updates on the impeachment of Pres. Arroyo should check the Bantay Impeachment 2 blogsite at http://bantayimpeachment2.blogspot.com.

Jun 24, 2006


The inside story: Ka Satur's almost-aborted trip to Geneva

In about two hours, Ka Satur and wife Ka Bobbie are set to arrive in Geneva to the warm embrace and cheers from members of Migrante International-Switzerland chapter. I am sure Ka Satur will go straight to work, to perhaps frantically reschedule meetings with human rights monitors and fellow parliamentarians who have all expected to see him earlier this week.

Frankly, I did not expect Ka Satur to be able to go to Geneva last night. Yes, he secured a permit from the Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 57. Yes, the Supreme Court has issued a status quo order against the justice department. But I was truly convinced that the Arroyo regime would move heaven and earth to stop Ka Satur from leaving Manila and taking his just cause to Geneva.

As soon as an immigration officer at the airport punched his passport number on a computer at about 5:30 pm yesterday, a red flag was up and Ka Satur and Ka Bobbie were ushered into a small, cramped room just beside the immigration counters. They were soon shown a copy of a memorandum coming from Justice Sec. Raul Gonzalez alleging that the court order Ka Satur obtained was not yet final and that he be barred from leaving the country.

To my mind, that was expected. Mrs. Arroyo and her henchmen have again shown that there is no fair play and rule of law in this country. To cut Gonzalez's story short, he was enforcing a mere motion for reconsideration filed by his prosecutors regarding the travel permit obtained by Ka Satur. More importantly, he was defying, ignoring and violating a valid court order signed by Judge Reinato Quilala allowing Ka Satur to go to Geneva.

Prominent human rights lawyer Neri Javier Colmenares, Bayan Muna's general counsel, was on hand to give the immigration officials led by Immigration Commissioner Alipio Fernandez the scare of their lives. He just matter-of-factly told them that they are liable for contempt and other criminal, civil and administrative for barring Ka Satur without a valid court order and with only an illegal order from the DOJ. Colmenares also demanded a certification that they have stopped Ka Satur even after being shown an authenticated copy of Judge Quilala's order, and re-informed of the Supreme Court's status quo order on the DOJ, the mother unit of the immigration bureau.

What I was already thinking at the time is how to best come out of the airport with the best-possible look on our faces. I didn't want the media to feast on Gonzalez's pyrrhic victory and gloat on the Ocampo couple's sad plight. I was also thinking of calling friends who are behind the Kapihan sa Sulo Hotel so Ka Satur could vent his ire at the authorities who were bent on violating his constitutional right to travel.

By 6:30 pm, I raised the white flag and sent out a press release announcing the DOJ's defiance of the court order and its decision to bar Ka Satur from leaving for Geneva. We've raised the white flag and prepared for a bigger political battle that will hold the Arroyo regime liable for the harassment at the airport, and make sure the government would have another blackeye it fully deserves for what they did to Ka Satur.

Unknown to us, Ka Satur was already calling Presidential Chief-of-Staff Mike Defensor, asking him why he is being stopped at the airport despite valid orders from the court. Perhaps sensing that the administration may suffer terrible political damage from a fallout, Mr. Defensor asked Ka Satur for a few minutes. We could only guess what Mr. Defensor did right after his talk with Ka Satur. Mr. Defensor later called up Ka Satur and told him that he should call Mr. Gonzalez.

In their animated telephone conversation, Ka Satur asked Mr. Gonzalez for fair play, for fairness. Ka Satur told the DOJ secretary that he cannot overrule a valid court order allowing his travel and that notwithstanding the motion for reconsideration filed by the DOJ, the said court order remains in force. The 30-minute call went beyond the intended departure date of Ka Satur's flight by about five minutes.

All the while, ground personnel of Lufthansa were going back and forth the immigration area and the plane, anxious to find out whether to get back the Ocampo couple's checked-in luggage.

In the end, Mr. Gonzalez caved in. He allowed Ka Satur to leave the country. He just wanted to ask Ka Satur to sign an affidavit where he promises to come back by June 30 and to respect the laws of the Philippines and Switzerland. Mr. Gonzalez wily tried to twist Ka Satur's arm and to gag him by asking for a "pledge not to criticize the government" but the Bayan Muna leader was adamant.

"This is also my country. I will not shame the country," Ocampo repeatedly told Gonzalez. I guess Ka Satur was trying to teach Mr. Gonzalez that country is different from government. Activists, democrats, liberals and all progressives should rest assured that Ka Satur did not surrender his rights and allowed himself to be gagged in this trip to Geneva. Besides, Ka Satur did not endure years of solitary confinement, torture and arbitrary detention just to make Mr. Gonzalez happy.

Just to be sure, it was Colmenares who hurriedly drafted the simple, handwritten note-cum-affidavit which was read to Sec. Gonzalez over the phone and was soon signed by Ka Satur.

True to form, the bureaucratic immigration officers still tried to delay the stamping of "departure" on the Ocampo couple's passports! The immigration officer said she was waiting for the final go-ahead from the BID! Howls of protest greeted her stupid reason, and she then forced to finally stamp and hand over the passports to Ka Bobbie.

And they were off to cheers from other immigration officers and to sighs of relief from the Lufthansa pilot and stewards who personally came to pick up the two pssengers held by the immigration.

Minutes later, Colmenares faced GMA and ABS-CBN reporters at the check-in area. Said Colmenares: "This harassment shows that we cannot be lax in asserting our rights. Only after Ka Satur asserted his constitutional and court-backed right to travel did the government respect that same right."

He likewise denied reports that Ka Satur signed an affidavit gagging himself while in Switzerland. "Ka Satur goes to Geneva precisely to complain before the UN and the IPU over the political persecution and killings. The government has no right or power to stop him from doing such task and exercising his rights in Geneva."

On behalf of Ka Satur, we wish to thank Mr. Defensor for helping convince Mr. Gonzalez to follow the law and valid court orders. We also wish to thank the Lufthansa personnel for bearing with Ka Satur and Ka Bobbie as they faced down the evil forces of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo who sought to stop them from leaving.

No thanks to House Speaker Jose de Venecia who refused to issue a travel authority after being prevailed by the illegal intrusions and influence of Mr. Gonzalez. The Speaker admitted this in a June 22 letter signed by the House legal counsel "by authority of the speaker". Because of this cowardly act of the Speaker, Ka Satur was not able to use his diplomatic passport that would have allowed him visa-free entry to Switzerland. Instead, Ka Satur had to use his regular passport and had to apply for a visa with the Swiss Embassy in Makati City. The maltreatment of Ka Satur by the Speaker speaks volumes of the sham independence of the House from the Executive, and the latter's overweening influence on the former. The last time I checked, Ka Satur remains a Member of Congress and is entitled to all right and privileges as such. I wonder what the other congresspersons would say once Ka Satur tells them the whole story.

Now that Ka Satur is set to arrive in Geneva, we hope the IPU and the human rights bodies of the UN would give him an opportunity to speak on the real issue at bar and the complicity and accountability of the illegitimate government of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo

About an hour after Lufthansa Airlines flight LH 789 left for Geneva, we Ka Satur's staff were already in Quezon City celebrating the political victory with a sumptuous dinner of pusit, liempo, tuna belly, bulalo, and some bottles of beer, of course.

(Photo of Ka Satur while in detention by the Marcos dictatorship is courtesy of Abante.)

Jun 17, 2006


Arroyo gov't liable for allowing murders of 10 judges, 13 lawyers

An international mission to probe the killings of 13 lawyers and 10 judges since Mrs. Arroyo assumed the presidency is now on its second day, with the European participants visiting the exact spot where Atty. Felidito Dacut was felled by assassin's bullets nd speaking with the human rights lawyers's family and clients, mostly barefoot farmers, farmworkers and victims of all sorts of injustice.

The family of Judge Henrick Gingoyon (murdered on Dec. 31, 2005) and Justice Romeo T. Capulong (a target of at least two assassination attempts on March 7, 2005 and 30, 2005 for his role as counsel of Hacienda Luisita farmworkers) would be interviewed by the European lawyers tomorrow.

Capulong is the country's preeminent people's lawyer. He is founder and president of the Public Interest Law Center. He is the legal counsel of SELDA, the association of human rights violation victim against Marcos that filed and won a class action in the US. He served as a private prosecutor in the impeachment of President Estrada, and was the lead prosecutor in the Citizen's Congress for Truth and Accountability. He is the general counsel of the National Democratic Front's negotiating panel and helped craft the 11 bilateral agreements the NDF signed with the Manila government. It is a tragedy that lawyers like Capulong are being attacked by malignant forces of evil now roaming all over the country.

In a statement of solidarity, the International Association of Peoples' Lawyers (IAPL) lamented that many of the victimized lawyers and judges are noted human rights defenders, public interest lawyers, public defenders and counsels of mass organizations.

The larger International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL) meanwhile said that attacks on lawyers and judges are threats to civil liberties and subverts the right to counsel, the right to a speedy trial and the efficient administration of justice.

The IADL said that government's must adhere to established international principles and agreements that call on all States to ensure that lawyers and judges are able to perform their duties freely, independently and without any fear or intimidation.

Some may contend that the lawyers and judges may not have been killed along the line of duty. But Atty. Jose Anselmo Cadiz, president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, retorts that such view could be due to the sad reality that many have been inured to violence as a daily occurrence. Cadiz said during the Mission's opening press conference that any killing should be condemned and its perpetrators punished.

We look forward to the Mission's success in helping the grieving families, friends, colleagues and clients of all the slain lawyers and judges the best way they can: Help ferret out the truth and expose the inaction, or refusal to act, or witting approval of authorities led by President Arroyo in the continuing attacks on lawyers, judges, journalists, churchpeople and activists.


The day the nation prayed for freedom from Chacha and repression

Here are photos taken during the June 12, 2006 march led by Bayan and the Panalanging Bayan (an interfaith worship service for the nation) spearheaded by Catholic, Protestant and Evangelical bishops, Muslim ulama and a Hindu representative.

The mid-afternoon march from Welcome Rotonda to Liwasang Bonifacio elicited attention from the people of Sampaloc and Quiapo. Cheers greeted Ka Satur and the other leaders as they emerged from the underpass connecting Lerma and Quiapo, with one denizen at the Nazarena basilica approaching the elder leftist statesman and handing him sampaguita garlands (you could see Ka Satur holding them in one of the pictures).

Meanwhile, nilangaw daw ang Luneta activity ni Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Marahil, mismong si Rizal ay gusto sanang umalis at magmartsa!

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

Subscribe to Posts [Atom]