Mong Palatino

blogging about the philippine left and southeast asian politics since 2004


@mongster is a filipino activist, former legislator, and blogger/analyst of southeast asian affairs. he lives in manila

Published by Bulatlat

Excuse the dramatic appeal of the headline but I feel it’s necessary to emphasize the life-changing impact of the decision to become an activist. It’s also to quickly refute what activism is not: a deviant behavior that requires a corrective action, a dangerous addiction, a temporary lapse in judgment, a rebellious tendency among the young, and a political racketeering scheme.

One doesn’t become an activist by joining rallies in the same way a Catholic cannot demand deliverance by going to mass every Sunday. If activism is mere attendance in rallies, then every president of the Republic from Ferdinand Marcos to Noynoy Aquino can boast of being a former activist.

The essence of activism is commitment to the Cause which is openly manifested through persuasive political actions. But commitment is also silently expressed. What we often notice is the activist enacting his beliefs but not his personal struggles. The truth is that it takes some time before a person can truly affirm that he is ready to embrace the activist way of life. And often, he doesn’t immediately realize how activism has already redefined his perspective on almost everything in life.

Everything, from the insignificant to the essential. At first she thinks her changing worldview is part of growing up in an institution of learning. She welcomes this like a student equating the accumulation of facts with knowledge. Later, she realizes that her activist education is different from mainstream pedagogy. The first is focused on integrating theory with practice while the second fetishizes the world of ideas irrespective of what’s happening in the real world. The first involves a search and generation of useful ideas in aid of social transformation while the second preserves the dominant ideology in the name of Capital.

It is a non-stop learning and unlearning process, an individual undergoing political ‘conscientization’, a victim of the educational apparatus struggling to be free.

When his ideals no longer conform to popular opinion, and when his views are mocked because they appear subversive, he risks failing the standards of excellence and financial success as he stubbornly clings to his principles. But for him, this is petty loss compared to what he gained.

A new way of seeing things, a practical and progressive guide for better living, and an enriching experience in the social movement – all of this to advance the politics of liberation, the pursuit of truth and the building of a new future.

Yet she is accused of rejecting bourgeois morality in favor of utopia. She is told to be more realistic in her political outlook which means her quixotic struggle for social change must be tempered by redirecting it to everyday bread and butter issues. She can fight imperialism but only after she improved her personal circumstances. Like what politicians often argue, people must change first before they demand change in society.

He understands the concern as a sophisticated attack against activism. He insists that a person, especially an activist, is capable of being self-critical while clamoring for a new world. His participation in the politics of revolution already transforms him as an individual. Indeed, he is guilty of repeating big words such as patriotism, collectivism, and radicalism but it doesn’t mean he ignores vital issues concerning the self and family ties.

She asserts that the aims of activism may be broad but doable and necessary. The world is knowable, the world can be changed.

An activist has a long-term goal which inspires him to strategize in a comprehensive way. He has a concrete vision of what he intends to accomplish. He tests old and new ideas in the political battlefield. He knows his priorities, he has micro and macro tasks to perform, and his action reflects his taking side in the class struggle.

She is quite bewildered by the accusation that she only thinks of impersonal concepts such as classes and imperialist nations. Her political work may be a collective undertaking but it is also sustained by her sincere affections for persons and places that are dear to her. Her important realization is that love for others is best expressed by winning the political struggle for genuine change. Love for family motivates the activist and this family grows bigger as she develops closer ties with the basic masses. Love, solidarity, serving the people – multiple, distinct meanings but united by the politics of struggle.

An activist develops the lifelong passion for scientific learning (class analysis), the sharpening of the instinct to fight oppression, and trust in people power. He dedicates his life to the mass movement and there he explores new skills and attitudes that allow him to confront the unjust world with more confidence. He meets his fellow-travelers, fellow warriors, friends for life, and comrades. Together, they celebrate every small and big victory of the struggle. They see a glimpse of tomorrow through the people’s resistance.

Filipinos worldwide celebrated the ruling issued by The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration with regard to the case filed by the Philippine government against China’s unilateral imposition of a “nine-dash line” claim in the South China Sea (known in the Philippines as West Philippine Sea).

The court favored the petition of the Philippines by debunking China’s assertion of ownership based on its historic rights over the South China Sea. Further, it affirmed the criticism of the Philippines against China’s activities such as reclaiming lands, destroying marine resources, and harassing Filipino fishermen.

Read more at The Diplomat

Philippines Enters the Duterte Era

On June 30, Rodrigo Duterte took his oath of office as the 16th president of the Republic of the Philippines. As mayor of Davao City in Mindanao for almost three decades, Duterte became prominent primarily because of his tough methods against crime.

During his inaugural speech, Duterte acknowledged that some sectors are not comfortable with his “unorthodox” ways of fighting crime, the sale and use of illegal drugs, and corruption. But he told the public that he will not violate the law.

Read more at The Diplomat

Published by Manila Today

As host of the 2015 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit, the Philippines has vowed to provide a spectacular and warm welcome to world leaders, investors, media, and all participants of the annual meeting. Interestingly, the world famous Filipino hospitality will be offered to our visitors sans the residents of Metro Manila. The government has declared a weeklong holiday and it even reminded the people that it’s better to have a long vacation in the province than to stay in the city. With main roads declared closed to the public, government work suspended, offices on reduced hours, businesses and commercial establishments closed, and classes cancelled, APEC delegates will arrive and stay in a different kind of Metro Manila. Perhaps it’s a kinder and more livable urban center but ordinary residents will find it strange and unreal.

Some are defending the temporary metro makeover as necessary to make our guests comfortable, but others are asking why the government is unable to commit the same quality of service to our people.

Is it also proper to showcase a Photoshopped version of Manila? Is it ethical to modify the truth about our situation? Should we highlight only the good, the happy, and the Disney version of the country?

APEC delegates will learn many things during their brief stay in the country but they will also fail to experience how to live like a true Metro Manilan.

Below are some of the everyday kalyeserye happenings in Metro Manila that APEC delegates are going to miss:

1. EDSA’s notorious ‘parking lot’ traffic

APEC delegates will not be able to confirm news reports condemning Manila for having the worst traffic problem in the world. They will have no need to allot two to three hours each day in order to reach the conference venue on time. They will not endure an hour of traffic for a measly 5-kilometer distance of travel, especially if traversing EDSA, Roxas Boulevard, Quirino Highway and other major thoroughfares. Through the APEC lane, delegates will swiftly pass through EDSA and other major roads in the central business district. Their efficient ‘traffic app’ is courtesy of the police escort who will magically give them a fast ride in the city center.

2. MRT-LRT rush hour

Who needs trains when 200 BMW cars are available for APEC delegates? Besides, would we risk international embarrassment by encouraging delegates to use the MRT-LRT? Or even inspect it to see how far development aid or government funding goes in this country. They will easily notice the defective escalators and elevators, locked bathrooms, and dilapidated train coaches. If it rains, they might even experience the rain leaking through the trains. For the adventurous first time travelers, they might want to try a train ride. They will not experience the long queues outside and inside the train stations, the pushing around for ‘survival’ or the tightly-packed coaches where all have learned to give up their ‘personal space’ (had we any concept of it)—all being testament to Filipino resilience and perseverance, if we are looking for anything positive about the situation. Fortunately for the APEC delegates, classes and work are suspended during the APEC week so there will be a substantial decrease in the number of train passengers, while there is also news of train operations being suspended or shortened during the APEC Summit. They might not see our infamous trains after all.

3. Road and drainage repairs

One cause of traffic in Metro Manila is the non-stop road and drainage repairs in almost every part of the metropolis. A cemented road this week will be covered with asphalt the following week. And when road improvements are almost over, the same road is excavated for drainage expansion; or in the case of Manila, the laying of foundation for the establishment of a so-called Wi-Fi City. The incessant repairs are rampant during months nearing election period until before government spending ban, which many Filipinos believe to be a source of corruption and election funds of incumbent officials. APEC delegates will never experience or understand the connotation of this inconvenience.

4. The homeless, street children, and sidewalk vendors

During the visit of Pope Francis last January, the homeless and street children mysteriously vanished from the streets. A month later, the government’s social welfare agency confirmed that these people were brought to a ‘family seminar’ in a spa resort outside Metro Manila. Today, the same agency is providing rent money to the homeless. Manila’s street vendors and other entrepreneurs of the informal economy are also indefinitely displaced by the APEC summit. Sidewalk vendors are also experiencing dispersal from the police Highway Patrol Group for reasons of clearing alternate routes (despite some having permits to operate), coincidentally benefitting the clean up campaign of the social welfare and traffic agencies in time for the APEC Summit.

5. Urban poor villages

The shamefully elitist, Imeldific approach of ‘beautifying’ Metro Manila is still surprisingly a standard procedure of the government during international events. If demolishing an urban poor enclave is politically unpopular (elections are only a few months away), the tried and tested option is to hide the slums with painted walls or billboards. Remove the sight of poverty by making it invisible or colorful.

6. Lumad protest camp

The Lumad have been evicted from the Liwasang Bonifacio freedom park. APEC leaders and investors will not be able to see how their development projects (read: development aggression) in Mindanao are destroying the lives of indigenous peoples. They will not understand how the greedy pursuit of super profits is robbing the Lumad of their lands and future. Instead, they will leave the country with the impression that large scale mining, expanded plantations, and tourism-related land conversions are eradicating poverty in the countryside.

7. Anti-APEC rallies

The police said they will strictly enforce the ‘no permit, no rally’ policy. But activists are expected to defy this anti-democratic imposition. How can they ban rallies in a nation that made ‘People Power’ popular in the world? And how can they stop the people from expressing their sentiments against the monstrous legacy of APEC? However, we expect that the police will brutally ensure that rallies are not held near the APEC Summit venue. This is unfortunate since rallies will serve as an alternative platform to present the real impact of APEC on ordinary people. APEC leaders will only cite meaningless statistics while rally participants will testify how APEC prescriptions have weakened the domestic industries, undermined the agriculture sector, worsened contractualization in the labor sector, and eroded the purchasing power of consumers. Finally, APEC delegates will not be able to witness the creativity and militancy of Filipino protesters.

8. Manila public markets

The historic public markets have been demolished already. The rest are struggling to survive because of looming privatization, intense competition from supermarkets and mini-malls, and lack of government support. Because of lopsided trade deals, public markets today are flooded with imported or smuggled goods, including agricultural products. Philippine-made products are becoming harder to find. Soon, even fish will be imported because of the amended fisheries code, which bans commercial fishing within municipal waters. Native souvenirs and delicacies are increasingly being bought in specialty shops, expo events, and big malls.

9. The ugly photobomber Torre de Manila

Majority of APEC delegates will find time to visit the Rizal Monument in Luneta. When they see Torre de Manila, they will probably not think of it as an eyesore. They might even describe the unfinished condominium as a sign of progress. APEC delegates are mainly tourists who would not immediately appreciate the cultural importance of Rizal and our seething disgust against the national photobomber.

10. Kotong cops, hulidap, budol-budol gang, riding in tandem

During the APEC summit, the crime rate will go down. Either the cops are on full alert against street criminals or the petty uniformed criminals are busy protecting our honored APEC guests.

If what the APEC talk, agree and sign on are truly for the development of its member countries, it is extremely ironic that the underdevelopment and maldevelopment of this nation’s capital shall be hidden from view during the APEC Summit in the Philippines. And we have not even looked at the situations of the regions outside Metro Manila.

On one hand, the leaders of big economies must know very well that their businesses here have siphoned the natural resources of this country, along with it the uprightness of most of our leaders. Their interests in this country have brought on this underdevelopment. But with all the makeover the Aquino government is doing, our foreign visitors won’t get the slightest picture.

Myanmar’s Htin Kyaw has received praise for being the country’s first civilian president in more than half a century. But the media has also labeled him a ‘”proxy” and even “puppet” president because his position was granted through the support of National League for Democracy (NLD) party leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Interestingly, it’s not the first time that a head of state in Southeast Asia has been accused of leading by proxy in the past five years. In 2014, Indonesian president Joko Widodo, popularly known as Jokowi, was accused of being a proxy for of former president Megawati Soekarnoputri. In 2011, Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra was called a “clone” by her own brother, ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

Read more at The Diplomat

A Month of US Human Rights Concerns in Southeast Asia

The United States’ democracy and human rights concerns have long put Washington at odds with Southeast Asian governments. But during this month or so, these issues have really been in the spotlight in several countries at once.

In Myanmar, nationalist monks staged a protest after the U.S. embassy used the word ‘Rohingya’ in an official statement. In Thailand, some parliament leaders want the U.S. ambassador expelled for expressing concern about the country’s human rights record. And in the Philippines, President-elect Rodrigo Duterte threatened to sever ties with the United States after the U.S. envoy criticized him during the campaign period.

Read more at The Diplomat

3 Events That Could Heat up Southeast Asia This Summer

Though a series of events are expected to shape Southeast Asia throughout 2016, we are also gearing up for some developments over the next few months that could heat up the regional landscape. In particular, the July 12 ruling of the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) on the South China Sea disputes, the August 7 constitutional referendum in Thailand, and the Panglong Peace Conference in Myanmar in late August are highly anticipated. Here is a closer look at these three events and what they could mean.

Read more at The Diplomat

Written for Bulatlat

Respect for diverse beliefs is one of the prescriptions of political correctness so therefore your decision to become an activist should no longer provoke scandalous reactions. But the menacing tentacles of Red Scare and Philippine-style McCarthyism continue to wield considerable influence in our social institutions. The result is that your activism is publicly tolerated and despised at the same time. You have the right to dissent but your dissenting is deemed pathetic. Sometimes this is reflected in the social ties you cultivate. You have dear friends from school, work, and the community but unknown to you or perhaps you chose to ignore it, some of these friends of yours harbor reactionary and anti-activist views.

Or maybe you are the token activist friend. Your presence absolves the barkada of the sin of apathy; your activism assuages the group guilt induced by their secret worshiping of elitist politics; and your friendship is flaunted to prove their adherence to pluralism.

Yet you refuse to clash with them on divisive political issues. Your attitude is to patiently persuade and enlighten them about the necessity of activism. You seek to understand their politics by attributing it to the hegemony of conservative ideology in society. Can you blame them if they were systematically schooled to reject the Left?

On the other hand, it is crucial to have reliable friends who can provide a lifeline during emergency situations. If there’s a political crackdown, your support network must include friends who will not compromise your safety. These friends are not the friends who can be easily unfriended on social media if their posts annoy you.

It is important, therefore, to keep count of real friends who can become active participants or allies of the people’s movement for social change.

However, it is extremely difficult to distinguish friends who are victims of misinformation from those who are consciously denigrating your activism. But there are some hints that can lead you to rethink how some of your friends are responding to your politics.

To start with, a real friend who is aware of your activism will be naturally curious about what you do and she will most likely ask about some of your causes. Meanwhile, there are some who will sarcastically inquire about your latest anti-government campaign despite your clarification that activism is more than just a rant against politicians in power.

A real friend will readily share resources in support of a cause; others will mockingly ask about your source of funds every time you hold rallies. You initially excuse a friend’s subtle attack since he could be referring to the hakot crowds of trapos. But then you realize he is not a stranger but someone who is supposed to know better that you are capable of doing something beyond pecuniary reasons. There’s a difference between a friend wanting to know more about sustaining an advocacy and a so-called friend insinuating that activists are beholden to a sinister patron.

Related to this, there are friends who will casually point out that some activists are rich forgetting that activism is not restricted to the poor and lower middle classes.

Some will probably accuse you of hypocrisy because of your petty bourgeois lifestyle yet you earlier emphasized that activists are encouraged to live simply but, unlike church people, do not have a vow of poverty. You do not integrate with the basic masses to fetishize poverty but to study the conditions of the poor and mobilize them to end poverty and the exploitation of man by man.

Some will sneer at your ‘Made in America’ consumer goods even if you already explained that the anti-imperialist movement should not be equated with the boycotting of some Western products.

You are surprised to hear your apolitical classmate or relative praising your activist dedication while alluding to the purported luxurious life of communist leader Joma Sison in Europe. You suddenly realized how an insidious government propaganda can be manipulated and disseminated as a believable piece of information.

Sometimes you wonder whether some of your friends are naïve or simply tactless when they invite you to a charity event by reminding you to do something different and effective like giving direct assistance to the needy. They add that unlike rallies, some forms of intervention can immediately and concretely benefit the marginalized. You have mixed thoughts about this invitation: you are delighted to see your friends assume greater social responsibility on one hand; but you are also frustrated to learn that they think rallies are not helping the people on the other. You feel the urge to speak about the dynamics of social movements and how political reforms should be analyzed in a historic way but you fear you might appear arrogant and preachy. Besides, it would take more than a brief rejoinder to counter the dominant thinking that seeks to measure everything in monetary terms. Political advocacy? Did it feed the poor instantly? Did you earn something from this work?

Perhaps the funniest reaction of some of your friends to your activism is to treat you like a brainwashed victim of some mysterious totalitarian sect. In order to save either your soul or sanity, they try to convert you back to ‘reality’ by recommending a bible study or an exorcism-like spiritual session. Some would probably tease you to remember the hedonistic appeal of ordinary civilian life. You appreciate the concern but you candidly assure them that you are normal and rational. Indeed, you may sound esoteric every time you mention uncommon words like praxis and dialectics but it doesn’t mean you are afflicted with a deadly disease. You insist that activism is not a problem but a cure.

And then there are friends who will say nothing against your dream to change the world, some may even volunteer to join your struggle in the future, but they will also insist that change of self is paramount over other matters. Reform the individual first before seeking the reform of society. What a seemingly harmless and logical assertion yet ideologically biased against the progressive cause. Even politicians and the state have no problem echoing this mantra. If we focus too much on ourselves, we risk losing interest in fulfilling our citizen duties. We may inflame self-love, not solidarity. And it’s incorrect to assume that a person cannot change his self and society at the same time. When we link arms with others to build a new world, we are also transformed as individuals. Through activism, you learn the importance of remolding your old worldview and feudal habits.

To conclude, what is the proper attitude toward friends and old acquaintances as we move forward the struggle for meaningful social change? To borrow a few words from an unlikely and even politically-incorrect source, we should keep our friends close and our so-called friends closer. We need friends and allies as we raise the banner of the revolution; and we have our other ‘friends’ whose misconceptions about activism should embolden us to be more aggressive in improving our education and information-awareness campaigns.

Published by Manila Today

The palengke economy is under attack: The amended Fisheries Code bans commercial fishing within 15 kilometers of municipal waters. Meanwhile, several local government units in Metro Manila are privatizing (read: demolishing) public markets.

The fish ban will allegedly stop big operators from depleting our fish stock. Further, it is touted as an environment-friendly legislation to restore our polluted seas.

In Manila, the proposed privatization of 22 public markets aims to modernize the city infrastructure by tapping the support of the corporate sector. Local officials insist that it is more accurate to call the market ordinance as ‘joint venture’ rather than privatization because the government is not selling any public property to prospective investors. The claim is ludicrous because the joint venture as a variant of the build-operate-transfer scheme is essentially a privatization program.

In Quezon City, the Balintawak market demolition is presented as a public welfare ser
vice to protect consumers against unsafe food and unsanitary commercial establishments. The threat of demolition is also reported to be a penalty against the market owners for tax evasion.

The sectors affected by these laws and programs have loudly protested in recent weeks. Fish operators and their workers have declared a ‘fish holiday’ aside from gathering in Mendiola, Luneta, and in front of the Senate. Meanwhile, Manila market stall owners organized a ‘market holiday’ against the planned privatization. They succeeded in persuading the local government to conduct a dialogue and a series of consultations with market officials and other stakeholders.

According to the government and some NGOs, only the big commercial operators will be covered by the fish ban but the nationwide protests showed that the law will displace ordinary fisherfolk and their families.

The Manila vendors’ march was supported by several parishes, homeowners’ associations, and community organizations which disputed the allegation of the local government that opposition politicians are leading the campaign.

The protesters are right to argue that the government is pursuing reforms that will instantly eliminate the jobs and livelihood of thousands of small workers, shopkeepers, and fishers.

The fish ban and market demolition must then be named for what they really are: bureaucratic political acts aimed at removing the small and middle economic players in favor of big and transnational corporate interests.

When the European Union downgraded the trade rating of the Philippines, we panicked and quickly amended the fisheries code so that we can continue exporting our products and earn more Euros. We ignored the unacknowledged fact that the EU was simply protecting its own fish industry. And what is more tragic is that we uncritically accommodated the EU at the expense of our domestic fishers. (Traydor! Punyeta!)

It is not difficult to ascertain how the fish ban will destroy the primary economic activity in our coastal villages. The government is forcing small fishers to compete with big fishing vessels in the open seas. We are prioritizing fish export instead of boosting our food security.

Environment protection is everybody’s concern but it should be accompanied by a comprehensive understanding of the socio-economic context. When we demand the preservation of our marine resources, it should include an analysis of the political and economic conditions. Protect the municipal waters, but for whom? Ban commercial fishing, but for whom?

Every year, the government has been consistent in pointing out that fishers are the poorest of the poor in the Philippines. But it seems determined to make the lives of fishers more destitute by criminalizing their livelihood. Now we know that the enemy of our fisherfolk is not just the oversized quasi-military fishing vessels from China but also our own government.

In the case of Manila, it wanted to modernize the public markets by demolishing these old but valuable structures and replace them with mini-malls or supermarkets. If Manila is interested in demolishing something, it should begin with the ugly Torre de Manila. Modernizing public markets is necessary but it should not dislodge our struggling entrepreneurs.

Is modernization the real goal or is it simply a money-making scheme of politicians and their campaign donors? Does Manila truly lack the financial capability to build and rebuild its markets or is the problem an issue of misplaced priorities?

The Manila market modernization is a localized version of the Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) of the national government. It is hailed as an innovative program but it is merely a fancy name for privatization. It hides the sinister intention of spreading the tentacles of big business in the last remaining spaces available for small and medium producers and entrepreneurs.

For greedy capitalists and smugglers, it is not enough that the palengke must be undermined by surrounding it with malls and supermarkets in town centers. The palengke as we know it must go.

The looming demolition of markets in Manila symbolizes the systematic assault on our local economy.

In the past three decades, we embraced trade liberalization even if it destroyed the backbone of our domestic manufacturing and agricultural sectors. Markets were flooded with cheap goods from other countries instead of locally-made products after the government removed trade protection measures.

Balintawak, the grand bagsakan of agricultural products from the North, is perhaps the most popular link between the rural and urban. If demolished, it will disrupt the supply chain which could force other markets in Metro Manila to procure from big traders and smugglers. If transformed into a mall, it means the big business retailer can dictate the prices of goods which could mean smaller profits for independent suppliers and entrepreneurs. Worse, the mall owner can bankrupt local producers by sourcing supplies from other countries.

These are precarious times for small local businesses. We have a callous government bent on serving the needs of big business and foreign companies. It’s bad enough that we have poor infrastructures, high electricity rates, inefficient transport system, and corrupt bureaucracy. Instead of addressing these issues, the government is aggravating the situation by preventing our people from earning a decent living. Its economic doctrine is unabashedly anti-poor and anti-Filipino: Ban fishing, demolish markets. Damn local production, promote lopsided foreign trade.

Policies are “business-friendly” even if these are highly discriminatory against the people, especially the poor. We praise tycoons even if their businesses have weak links to our domestic economy or even if they destroy our environment. They thrive by hiring contractual labor and bribing our politicians. Development is equated with business profit even if workers are subjected to wage slavery. Progress is measured by counting large-scale infrastructures such as the Laguna Lake Expressway Dike and Manila Bay reclamation even if these will uproot residents and fishers from their homes.

A business magazine once featured a car company for the successful sale of an old Japanese SUV brand. It’s heartbreaking because the Philippine car industry exists by marketing the products of another country.

Meanwhile, the genuine local producers are burdened with onerous policies and unjust impositions. Fishers simply want to sell their goods in our local markets and vendors simply want to do business in our cities. But the government is blindly following neoliberal trade prescriptions. Perhaps small producers who are displaced by global competition and economic adjustments can apply for assistance through the conditional cash transfer program. Our people wanted to work with dignity but they are being forced to beg for cash.

Greater tragedies await as we open our country to foreigners who will attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in November. It is more than a talk event since it will reinforce the economic policies that downgraded our capabilities to produce and develop our own industries. During the APEC summit, think not of foreign dignitaries, Filipino hospitality, and insincere praises for Daang Matuwid. Ignore also deceptive spins such as inclusive growth, transparent governance, and sustainable development. Instead, think of the fisher who can’t fish in our waters, the vendor evicted from a public market, and the farmer who is unable to sell his produce while imported goods flood the country.

What’s behind this so-called “Black Monday” campaign? It began last month when four officers of the human rights group ADHOC and an election official were arrested by the police for allegedly bribing a young woman to remain silent in relation to a sex scandal case involving Kem Sokha, the country’s second most prominent opposition leader. ADHOC insists the group was merely extending legal aid to the woman as part of its advocacy work.

To press for the release of these persons, various groups launched a campaign urging the public to wear a black t-shirt every Monday as a sign of protest against the repressive policies of the state.

Cambodia’s ruling party, which has been in power for three decades already, is claiming that what exists in the country is a so-called pluralist democracy. But the continuing “Black Monday” campaign is a potent reminder that human rights, justice, and democracy are still under attack in the country.

Read more at The Diplomat

Cambodia Rejects Europe’s Human Rights Criticisms

The European Union resolution cited the “escalation of politically motivated charges and judicial harassment of human rights defenders and activists” in Cambodia. Aside from filing several criminal charges against some Members of the Parliament, the Cambodian government also detained four NGO members for allegedly bribing a witness in a sexual scandal case involving an opposition leader.

This legal offensive is seen by many as a systematic crackdown of the opposition by the ruling party, which has been in power in the past three decades.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation immediately issued a statement describing the EU resolution as a document “based on so many false accounts.”

In the past month, Cambodia received a lot of flak for its human rights record and its perceived pro-China policy at the expense of ASEAN unity. While Cambodia is right to assert that its sovereignty as an independent nation must be respected, it also has the obligation to take note of the legitimate concerns raised by various institutions about some of its policies. At the minimum, it has to address these issues and assure the international community that the government is still committed to protect human rights, democracy, and rule of law.

Read more at The Diplomat

Stop Environmental Crimes

June 30th, 2016

Published by the Philippine Daily Inquirer

During the campaign period, then presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte promised to solve rampant criminality and corruption in three to six months. He vowed to end the reign of drug lords, kidnap-for-ransom gangs, and other big-time criminal syndicates across the country.

Now that Duterte has been proclaimed as the country’s elected president, we implore him to take a closer look into the environmental crimes that are being committed with impunity. Environmental crimes are worse since they affect the present and succeeding generations, they are more costly in terms of social and economic impact, and they lead to the displacement of the poor and worsen the underdevelopment of the country.

Foreign large-scale logging and mining operations, land conversion, propagation of genetically modified organisms, plastic pollution, plunder of marine resources, poaching and the killing of environmental defenders—these are some of the underreported crimes that, albeit not as sensational and visible as illegal drug use, pose a serious threat to the future of the Filipino people.

We believe that the national leadership should be committed to the protection of our fragile ecosystem to stop the rapid deterioration of our quality of life. The incoming administration should lead—in ending the plunder of our natural resources, in conserving our wildlife, and in upholding animal welfare. More importantly, the incoming administration must draft a national development plan which makes sustainable use of our resources for the development of the Filipino people.

The many environmental crimes that are exacerbating the suffering of the poor can be addressed in three to six months by a government which has the political will to end the greedy, dirty and antipeople activities of monopoly firms, corrupt politicians and multinational entities.

We urge President-elect Rodrigo Duterte to work toward solving the country’s environmental crimes, and demand the following:

– Stop animal cruelty and illegal wildlife trade! Pass more laws protecting wildlife and strictly implement the amended Animal Welfare Act (Republic Act No. 10631) and the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act of the Philippines (RA 9147).

– Stop large-scale logging, mining operations and land conversion.

– Stop reclamation! Scrap the national reclamation plan and terminate the Laguna Lake Expressway Dike Project.

– Stop the construction of new coal plants! Focus on renewable energy resources.

– Stop the persecution and killing of environmental defenders.

– Stop plastic pollution. Draft a clear plan for solid waste management. Strictly enforce the Solid Waste Management Act of 2000 (RA 9003).

– Stop propagating GMOs. Ensure food security.

– End impunity for environmental crimes. We demand justice for victims of mining operations, lumad killings, oil spills and coral reef destruction; and for the victims of state neglect in climate change response, like the farmers affected by El Niño and the “Yolanda”- stricken communities.

(Nilad is a network of environmental organizations all over Metro Manila fighting the reclamation projects along Manila Bay and Laguna Lake, while Earth Island Institute Philippines focuses on wildlife conservation, marine mammals and animal welfare.)

Suharto and Marcos died several years ago, but their legacy is still being debated. They were humiliated when they were ousted from power yet their names have undergone rehabilitation in recent years.

It is not simply enough to resist proposals recognizing Suharto and Marcos as national heroes. The more important question that requires urgent answering is this: Why are an increasing number of Indonesians and Filipinos still open to naming both dictators as heroes?

Read more at The Diplomat

What’s Behind the New Communist Scares in Indonesia and the Philippines?

There has been a noticeable rise of anti-communist sentiment in Indonesia and the Philippines in the past several months. What gives?

Communists are far from dominating the governments of Indonesia and the Philippines. But there are political forces which are ready to adopt red scare tactics in order to either hide the truth (Indonesia) or bring down an elected leader (Philippines).

Read more at The Diplomat


Talumpating binigkas sa rali noong 2014 State of the Nation Address

Mga kababayan, si Noynoy Aquino kandidato raw para sa Nobel Peace prize. Tama ba yun? Naniniwala po ba kayo na si Aquino ay nagtataguyod ng kapayapaan sa bansa?

Narinig naman po natin ang mga naunang tagapagsalita. Malinaw nilang pinaliwanag ang pananagutan ni Aquino kung bakit lalong tumindi ang kahirapan, kawalan ng katarungan, at korupsiyon sa bansa. Paano magkakaroon ng tunay na kapayapaan kung ang pinuno ng bayan, ang pamahalaan mismo, ay hindi binibigyang solusyon ang mga ugat ng karahasan sa lipunan?

Ang tunggalian sa ating bayan ay hindi naman po mahirap intindihin. Kaya may lumalaban dahil may nangangamkam ng lupa. Kaya may nag-aarmas ay dahil may nandadahas. Kaya may digmaan ay dahil ang inaapi ay naghahanap ng alternatibo, ng pagbabago, ng katarungan.

At sa halip na baguhin ang sistemang mapang-api, ang ginagawa ni Aquino, mula sa simula, ay agresibo itong ipagtanggol. Sa halip na trabaho, dagdag sahod, kabuhayan, pabahay, kalusugan, edukasyon, malinis na pamayanan – ang dala ni Aquino ay demolisyon, militarisasyon, pribatisasyon. Kaunlaran para sa iilan, ang dusa ay para sa karamihan. Kagutuman, kawalan ng trabaho, tumataas na presyo ng bilihin, maduming kapaligiran – hindi po ba ito ang tunay na karahasan na dapat gapiin ng pamahalaan?

Ang gusto ni Aquino ay kapayapaan ng katahimikan. Kaya kapag ang mamamayan ay lumalaban, tumitindig para sa karapatan at tunay na pagbabago, mabilis po itong winawalis ng pamahalaan. Ang mga kumukontra ay kinakasuhan, dinudukot, at pinapaslang.

Walang kapayapaang maasahan sa pangulong utak-pulbura. Walang kapayapaan kung ang pamahalaan ay bulag sa kahirapang dinaranas ng mamamayan.

Hindi tapat si Aquino sa pagsusulong ng usapang pangkapayapaan. Ayaw kilalanin ang mga pinirmahang kasunduan, ayaw talakayin ang adyenda ng panlipunang reporma, at sa halip na palayain ang mga bilanggong pulitikal ay patuloy ang pag-aresto sa mga consultant ng National Democratic Front. Paano susulong ang kapayapaan kung tinalikuran ni Aquino ang proseso ng usapang pangkapayapaan?

At kahit po ang pinirmahang kasunduan ng pamahalaan at Moro Islamic Liberation Front ay kumakaharap pa ng maraming usapin. Habang nakikipagnegosasyon, ay tuluy-tuloy ang pamahalaan sa pagnakaw ng yamang likas sa Mindanao. Binubukas ang mga lupain ng Lumad sa dayuhang pandarambong. Sunud-sunod ang pagbobomba sa mga komunidad sa kanayunan, lalo na sa mga plantation at mining areas. At dahil ang ugat ng kahirapan at sigalot sa Mindanao ay hindi tinutugunan, walang ibang alternatibo ang mamamayang Moro kundi patuloy na ipaglaban ang kanilang hangarin para sa tunay na pagbabago at kaunlaran.

Si Aquino ang numero unong hadlang upang makamit natin ang isang lipunang maunlad at payapa. Si Aquino ang dahilan kung bakit hindi umuusad ang usapang pangkapayapaan. At sa halip na tulungan ang mahirap, sinisisi pa ang mahirap kung bakit sila lumalaban.

Mga kababayan, para sa tunay na kapayapaan, para sa tunay na pagbabago, dapat nang patalsikin ang pangulong kurakot, pabaya, at pasista.