Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Yellow for bananas

I WILL GIVE Pres. Benigno “PNoy” Aquino III’s First 100 Days speech an excellent ‘A’ – an ‘A’ for acting.

It always seems to me that whenever PNoy delivers a speech it is as if he is in some kind of drama show. His speech seemed well rehearsed complete even with humorous quips. Even the town hall meeting style question and answer segment appeared too scripted like that of a talk-show to help PNoy highlight and underscore his so-called accomplishments.

The whole report appeared very conceited and full of ironies.

At the end of his speech, PNoy said “Kung mayroon po tayong pagkukulang, ito marahil ay ang hindi natin naging kaugalian na ipamalita ang mga tagumpay na atin pong nakamit.” Well, isn’t that what he just did exactly in his “Report kay Boss” speech, brag about his administration’s so-called ‘accomplishments’?

In his speech he bragged about strengthening the fight against corruption and leading a frugal government in his First 100 days in office. Aquino mentioned his administration’s unearthing of irregular benefits of officials of Government Owned and Controlled Corporations (GOCCs). He also boasted an improved Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa), with weather forecasting now done hourly.

“Ngayon, mayroon na po kayong gobyernong handang makipag-usap at magsabi ng totoo; handang makinig sa makabuluhang usapan; handang iangat ang antas ng pampublikong diskurso ukol sa mga isyung makaaapekto sa ating lahat, at maging sa mga darating na henerasyon,” PNoy said.

However, PNoy failed to mention about more important issues like that of Hacienda Luisita and genuine land reform, reproductive health, jueteng , the Quirino Grandstand bloodbath, a legislated wage increase, the worsening human rights situation, the budget cut on state universities and colleges, etc.

He boasted an increase in the Department of Education’s budget without mentioning that the true cause of the increase of the DepEd budget is the mandatory increase of salaries of DepEd employees and not due to conscious prioritization by the government. Not to mention that while the budget for SUCs will have a gargantuan cut, the budget for military spending will increase doubling that of the budget for education.

He stressed that the creation of jobs is the focus of his government while one of his priority project is the conditional cash transfer program called Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program or 4P program (a program from PGMA’s administration) which does not generate sustainable livelihood for the poor but promotes patronage politics.

There is no tinge of humility in his speech.

The president boasted the approval of the government’s application to the Millenium Challenge Corporation Grant which granted the government 430 million dollars. He stressed that two past administrations failed to achieve what he has done in only 3 months.

“Ididiin ko lang po: dalawang beses nag-apply, ni-reject sa loob nang hindi bababa sa siyam na taon, tayo po sa tatlong buwan, inaprubahan,” he said.
What is wrong here is that PNoy is bragging of begging for money from other countries. I can’t see how anyone can be proud of being given dole outs in exchange of policies that will not benefit the Filipino people.

Listening to his ‘bosses’ – the people was what he promised in his first “Kayo ang boss ko” speech, however, it is quickly becoming clear who is PNoy’s real bosses are.

It appears that PNoy’s priority is the same as the past administration - to lure more foreign investors here and even strengthen their grip on our economy evidenced by his recent trips to the US.

The Philippines do not need more foreign investors controlling the economy. We need to focus in building our own independent economy based on modernized agriculture. We must stop depending on foreign investments creating jobs for the Filipino people but rather begin focusing on creating jobs and industries of our own.

PNoy compared the previous administration to “Tatlong Matsing,” for being deaf, blind, and for lying. Well, after a hundred days of PNoy’s administration and seeing not much difference, I now know what PNoy’s yellow color stands for.


SHE PLAYS ON HER MOTHER’S LAP. Occasionally, twisting and turning to look at the unfamiliar faces that surround her and her mother. She gives up a frown while examining each face that she sees and then retreats to a smile returning to her playful demeanor.

Someone calls her name, she turns and quickly a camera captures her image, smiling, unaware of the events that lead to that moment. For an instance, she was taken aback by the camera flash. The photographer tries to get her attention a second time but this time she was too embarrassed to sport the usual beam.

Eliza, only one year old will never again experience how it is to grow up with a father. His father will not be able to send and fetch her from school and buy her ‘baon’. There will be no ‘pasalubong’ or kisses. No fatherly advice or tight embrace. No father to carry her on his shoulders. No father to tell her stories of ‘mangkukulam’ and ‘aswangs’. No father to reprimand her for staying up late with friends or on going on dates. No father to walk her on the isle when she gets married. No father to see her own children grow up.

But she does not realize that yet.

Today she is still oblivious to the grim reality that she is a victim of human rights violation. That her father, Elmer Valdez, was allegedly mistaken by elements of the military and killed on the hills where her father makes a living by making furniture out of bamboo. That they are today before a human rights commission seeking justice.

She is still oblivious to the state her father’s body was found – decomposing, almost beyond recognition because of the extent of the damage it sustained but mostly because it was missing a large portion of the head.

She does not know yet that she has become one of the thousands of victims of human rights atrocities. She does not know that the same has happened to countless others and the peril that many more will suffer the same tragedies still persist.

If she did know, she wouldn’t be smiling. She would be the one protesting against the injustices that thousands have suffered under numerous regimes.

She would protest that under a so-called democratic country, how could anyone suffer such gruesome fate as her father? How could a one-year old be left fatherless under a government that has promised reforms under its slogan of “tuwid na daan”? How could she and her mother be left as victims seeking justice against the same government that promises “pagbabago”?

She would question the government’s true intent in extending the murderous counterinsurgency program “Oplan Bantay Laya.”

She would point out that there is no significant change under this government and the previous one.

She would say that despite the bright yellow color of PNoy’s campaign his first one hundred days are stained red with the blood of victims of state terrorism.

Eliza is only one of the thousands of children stolen of a complete and normal childhood. It will not take long until she will wonder why she no longer sees her father and probably it will take many years before she realize why so.

Until the government makes a true stand for the interest of the people and against the perpetration of human rights violations, until programs such as Oplan Bantay Laya is continued by the government, until the government stands for genuine social change, more Elizas will emerge.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Student orgs strongly oppose mandatory ROTC revival

Various student organizations have expressed their strong oppositions against the reinstitution of the mandatory Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program in tertiary schools. The College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP)-La Union Chapter, the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) and Kabataan Partylist said that the students are better off without the revival of the mandatory ROTC program.

The different organizations asserted that there were valid reasons why the program was replaced by the National Service Training Program (NSTP) which made it optional and those reasons remain true up to this time.

Kabataan Partylist and other student organizations believes that Rep. Eduardo Gullas’ House Bill 737, which aims to reinstate the mandatory ROTC program for male college students and optional for female students and abolish the National Service Training Program (NSTP) will only mean more problems to students rather than solutions.

The youth sectoral partylist asserts that there is no real reason why the ROTC program should be reinstated as a mandatory program other than to increase the militarization in colleges and universities.

Heightened military presence and repression

In an interview with Lovely Ulpindo, the chairperson of CEGP-La Union Chapter, she said that the revival of the ROTC program may very well lead to the heightened repression against student organizations and bring back the irregularities that ultimately lead to its abolition .

“We have to remember that the ROTC was made optional after the death of Mark Welson Chua way back in 2001 and because of the irregularities in the ROTC implementation. The government is trying to bring a failed and unjust program, “Ulpindo said.

Ulpindo also believes that the revival of the ROTC program will mean intensified military presence in the campuses. Ulpindo alleged that the ROTC program was and is being used by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in their Student Intelligence Network (SIN).

“The College Editors Guild strongly opposes its revival because it will mean greater military presence in the campuses. I am afraid that it may also result to repression of student leaders because of the possibility of the reactivation of the Student Intelligence Network (SIN) as a necessary force for surveillances and other illegal activities.

“Do we want another Mark Chua to make us realize that the ROTC should be rightfully abolished?” , Ulpindo added.

Kabataan Partylist Representative Raymond Palatino said through a press statement that the ROTC must instead be scrapped as it is being used to harass progressive student groups critical of the government.

“The AFP uses the program in its red-baiting campaign against progressive student groups. In many ROTC lectures, soldier-instructors conveniently tagged student activist groups as affiliated with the New People’s Army. The ROTC is clearly a threat to academic freedom,” he said.

Revival will reverse students’ gains

Kabataan Partylist. Rep. Palatino said that proposed revival would “reverse and disregard the gains of the students in their fight against an unjust military training”.

The ROTC was abolished in 2001 as a result of nationwide protests from students and victims of harassment and extortion following the death of University of Santo Tomas student and ROTC cadet Mark Welson Chua from alleged ROTC “hazing”.

In December 2000, COCC cadets Mark Welson Chua and Romulo Yumul filed a complaint before the Department of National Defense alleging corruption, extortion and hazing in the University of Santo Tomas (UST)-ROTC unit.

On March 16, Mark Welson Chua was reported missing and on March 18 his body wrapped in big red carpet was discovered floating in the Pasig River near Jones Bridge. His head was reportedly wrapped with silver packaging tape, his hands tied with shoestring while his legs bound by packaging tape.

On April 30, then AFP Chief of Staff General Diomedio Villanueva and then DECS Secretary Raul Roco vow to work for the immediate abolition of the ROTC.

ROTC is not needed to teach patriotism to students

Palatino also disputed the bill’s claim that the AFP-ran program would teach the students how to be patriotic.

“The ROTC has taught its cadets how to become blind and docile servants. With its grim and bloody human rights record, the AFP has no right to meddle with the academic affairs of our youth. A war-mongering and mercenary institution must not be allowed to infiltrate schools and teach students,” he said.

Einstein Recedes, national chairperson of the National Union of Students in the Philippines (NUSP) in an interview also rejected the argument that a mandatory ROTC program is needed to teach students patriotism and discipline. He said that the AFP through the ROTC program will only teach students blind obedience and will not necessary teach them patriotism.

Moreover he said that ROTC will teach the contrary to students citing the AFP’s human right records

“A quick glance at the human rights violations of the military and the corrupt practices within it is enough to negate the claim that ROTC will cultivate good citizenry among the youth. The youth who practice good citizenry by asserting the democratic rights of the people are surveilled and harassed in schools. Countless others have already been killed by reported military members,” he said.

Focus on strengthening NSTP instead

Kabataan Partylist Rep. Raymond Palatino said he intends to file a bill against the mandatory ROTC proposal which will instead focus on the strengthening of the community service components of the National Service Training Program (NSTP).

According to Palatino, the proposal to make ROTC mandatory under the pretext of the need for an active citizenry and nation service ignores the fact that there is a current NSTP program with service components: Literacy Training Service (LTS) and Community Welfare Training Service (CWTS).

“The youth should appreciate volunteerism and love of country without the unnecessary initiation to fascistic military tradition,” says the youth solon.

Under the LTS, the youth are trained to be literacy and numeracy teachers to younger students, out-of-school youths in communities, indigenous people and other sectors in the society who needs their instructional assistance while the CWTS implements programs that address the social services of the people in the community such as the enhancement of facilities intended for improving health, education, environment, entrepreneurship, safety, recreation and morals of the citizenry.

Palatino’s proposal will contain specifications which will include in the NSTP curriculum disaster preparedness trainings, hands-on teaching in communities, medical missions, and livelihood trainings among others.

“If the AFP urges that we need more machinery for disaster response and relief operations, then we should make that as a major component of the NSTP, in fact, some schools at present teach disaster preparedness trainings under NSTP,” said Palatino.

“Ultimately, the service training program should be an enlightening and empowering experience which will breed nationalism among our youth and genuine intent to serve the poor and oppressed. The ROTC obviously failed in that aspect during the time of its implementation; it bred hatred, corruption, violence and docility. There is no reason to revive it,” he said.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Youth solon scores P-Noy’s budget cut to higher ed

Kabataan Partylist Representative Raymond Palatino today scored President Noynoy Aquino’s move to reduce subsidies for state college and universities (SCU) in his proposed 2011 budget, stating that his proposition was an “abandonment of government’s responsibility to provide the Filipino youth with quality and affordable education.”

Based on the proposed 2011 budget, the PNoy administration allocated P 23.4 billion to the country’s 112 SCUs, 1.7 percent lower than this year’s budget.

“Aquino and his budget team should refrain from issuing statements that education is a major priority in the current administration when in fact, he is slowly abandoning the youth. State abandonment of higher education is a trademark of Arroyo’s administration. If the Aquino administration really intends to correct the mistakes of the past, then it should seriously review and overhaul the longstanding policy of reducing subsidy to public tertiary education,” the youth solon said.

In his budget message, Aquino said reducing the subsidy to SUCs will “push them toward becoming self-sufficient and financially independent, given their ability to raise their income and to utilize it for their programs and projects.”

Palatino said an imposed policy of “self-sufficiency and financial independence” in SCUs through tie-ups with private corporations and tuition and other fee increases places the burden of financing tertiary education to the Filipino students themselves, many of whom will be unable to afford it.”

“Allowing SCUs to generate their income and enter into partnerships with the private sector would only mean higher tuition, and consequently, higher drop-out rates and decreased access to tertiary education. This diminishes the public character of SCUs, which are supposed to provide quality and accessible education to those who cannot afford it,” he said.

P1.1B or 28.16% was cut from the maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) from SCUs.

Seven SCUs’ MOOE were slashed by more than 50% namely:

* Southern Philippines Agri-Business & Marine and Aquatic School (-66.27%)
* Southern Leyte State University (-64.03%
* Central Bicol State University of Agriculture (-57.96%)
* Partido State University (-56.83%)
* Nueva Vizcaya State University (-53.65%)
* University of the Philippines (-51.85%)
* Aurora State College of Technology (-51.84%).

Among the SCUs with the worst budget cuts by percentage are:

* Philippine Normal University (-23.59%)
* Aurora State College of Technology (-22.21%)
* Cerilles State College (-21.95%)
* University of the Philippines (-20.11%)
* University of Southeastern Philippines (-20.03%)

While the SCUs with the worst budget cuts by nominal value are:

* University of the Philippines (-P1.39 billion)
* Philippine Normal University (-P91.35 million)
* Bicol University (-P88.81 million)
* University of Southeastern Philippines (-P44.39 million)
* Central Bicol State University of Agriculture (-P31.65 million).

Palatino said the reduced subsidy to tertiary education comes at a time when Filipino youth are actually flocking to SCUs because of the increasing cost of studying in private universities and colleges. Based on the latest available data from CHED, 35 percent of tertiary students were studying in SCUs in 2008 as compared to 21 percent in 1994 and 10 percent in 1980.

“Such budget cuts will only urge SCUs to follow the footsteps of the 300% increase in UP. With continuous slash in budgets, we fear that tuition and other fees increase will be rampant in the years to come. Sooner or later, the 112 SCUs will be semi-privatized.”

Palatino further stated that instead of abandoning its responsibility one by one to the people, the Aquino should rechannel debt servicing funds to education. The youth solon earlier filed House Bill 1962 which repeals automatic debt servicing while institutionalizing the appropriation of six percent of the country’s gross domestic product to the public education sector.

“We must implement, at the minimum, the six (6) percent prescription by the United Nations in order to address the tragic condition of our education sector. And when we say education, we are talking about all levels of learning. In implementing this automatic appropriation for education, we are securing not only the future of our youth, but the future of our dear nation,” said Palatino. ###