Achieving Happiness

October 19, 2011

Peace advocates press for release of 3 NPA hors de combat in Mindanao

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ina Alleco @ 2:01 pm

Wrote this for

MANILA – Gabriela Women’s Partylist representative Luzviminda Ilagan recently visited New People’s Army (NPA) hor de combat Vanessa Delos Reyes who is currently detained in the Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC). The lawmaker pressed for Delos Reyes’ immediate release on humanitarian grounds.

Human rights advocates are calling for the immediate release of three New Peoples Army hors de combat Vanessa Delos Reyes, Ariel Haducana and Jason Casilum. They say that the release of the three who are prisoners of war of the Government of the Philippines (GPH) will be a positive move for the peace talks between the GPH and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

Hors de combat is a French term meaning “outside the fight.” Under the International Humanitarian Law (IHL) they are protected from any attacks. Hors de combat, whether AFP or NPA fighters, are combatants who have been injured, rendered incapable of engaging in active combat, and are accorded rights to medical care and other rights under international humanitarian law.

According to the veteran women’s rights leader, Delos Reyes should be treated like any other woman who have rights that should be protected and respected regardless of what many may well view as the “radical” path of struggle she chose.

Human rights advocates are calling for the immediate release of three New Peoples Army hors de combat Vanessa Delos Reyes, Ariel Haducana and Jason Casilum. They say that the release of the three who are prisoners of war of the Government of the Philippines (GPH) will be a positive move for the peace talks between the GPH and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

“Gabriela fully supports the call for Vanessa’s immediate release. We also reiterate the urgent need for a general, omnibus and unconditional release of the rest of the 350 political detainees in the country, all of whom are incarcerated for practicing and exercising their political beliefs,” Ilagan said.

On May 29, 2011, a unit of the Conrado Heredia Command-Guerrilla Front 20 Operations Command, under the Merardo Arce Command of the NPA in in Southern Mindanao, engaged and resisted a platoon of the 2nd Scout Ranger Battalion-First Scout Ranger Regiment (FSRR) as the latter attacked an NPA tactical position in Sitio Karampil, Barangay Aliwagwag, Cateel, Davao Oriental.

The FSRR — considered an elite unit of the Philippine Army — reportedly suffered 11 casualties, eight being killed while the rest were wounded. In the meantime, two members of the NPA were killed and four others were reportedly wounded.

After receiving first aid from the NPA medical personnel, the three critically-wounded NPA members, Delos Reyes among them, were transported to medical facilities.The three were airlifted from Bislig, Surigao del Sur, but the two other NPAs Ariel Haducana and Jason Casilum were taken to Davao City, while DelosReyes was taken to the SPFM. The last wounded NPA member remained with the NPA in its guerilla base because his injury reportedly required no special medical facility, and the medical care given by NPA combat medics was already sufficient.

Delos Reyes, Haducana and Casilum are now considered by the Philippine Army’s 10th Infantry Division as its de facto prisoners of war (POW).

Based on reports, the emergency process was carried out via civilian channels under the auspices of Davao City Vice Mayor Rodrigo Duterte. Duterte sad the medical evacuation is a positive gesture to reciprocate the humanitarian actions previously undertaken by the Medarde Arce Command, particularly the release of the NPA prisoners of war in the region.

“Vanessa has manifested sheer courage in living out her political beliefs. Some may not agree with the path she took, but the fact remains that she is proof of how women and the youth are desirous of real political change, and that they play a role in the over-all struggle for genuine change and democracy,” said Ilagan.

Meanwhile, Fe Salino, an ex-detainee and leader of the group Samahan ng mga Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA), announced the creation of the Free Vaness Delos Reyes! Free All Political Prisoners Movement. She said there are 24 other political detainees in Southern Mindanao, and most of them are facing trumped up charges.

“Political detainees like Vanessa are now victims of the Ilagan Doctine — a legal principle established by jurisprudence which states that a writ of habeas corpus is no longer available after criminal information is filed against the person detained and an arrest warrant or a commitment order is issued by the court where the said information has been filed. Under the Ilagan Doctrine, the unlawfulness of an arrest becomes moot and academic or an illegal arrest becomes “legal” once charges are filed in a court of law,” she said.

Release of hors de combat good for peace talks

In Davao City, bishops belonging to the clergy-led Exodus for Justice and Peace continue their appeal for the release of the three NPA hors de combat on humanitarian grounds. They said the release of the three will aid in the pursuance of peace talks.

“Our call is ever more important, now that we are tracking peace talks,” convenor of the group Bishop Modesto Villasanta said. “The release of the three will definitely aid in confidence building for both the government and the NDF in pursuing peace talks,” he said. “Instead of using peace rhetoric for military operations and insisting that the NPA is a local terrorist, the military must heed the call to support peace negotiations by observing and respecting signed agreements between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).”

Villanta appealed to the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GPH) to observe international conventions such as the Geneva Conventions that provide rules on war and international humanitarian law.the Geneva Conventions for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and the Sick in the Armed Forces in the Field, and Additional Protocol relating to the Protection of Victims of Non-International Conflicts as well as the GRP (now GPH)-NDFP Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law in the conduct of their military actions.

“These agreements provide what is prohibited – such as the use of public places, including schools and barangay gyms, for military operations and provide mechanisms on how to protect persons no longer taking direct part in armed hostilities, for example, relatives, hors de combat and medical professionals among others,” he said.

Based on IHL provisions, the AFP cannot and should not engage in any act of reprisal against the three NPA hors de combat who, owing to their medical condition, no longer take active part in hostilities. Any move taken by the 10th ID and the AFP that would be inimical to the rights and condition of the NPA wounded personnel, their families and other civilian entities would constitute a serious breach of IHL and the CARHRIHL.

For his part, group convenor Bishop Delfin Callao made the observation that the AFP continues to ignore the fact that the GPH is involved in peace negotiations with the NDFP. He said the military continues to tag NPAs as terrorists and file criminal cases against them. “Clearly, this does not help the peace talks, ”he said.

The bishops said that they have in previous times also appealed to the NPA, appealing to them to release it own POWs on humanitarian grounds. They said that in response, the NPA released captured AFP soldiers and officers, allowing them to reunite with their anguished wives and families.

Exodus for Justice and Peace has already submitted an an appeal to Lt. Gen. Arthur Tabaquero, chief of the Eastern Mindanao Command and Major General Jorge Segovia, commander of the 10th Infantry Division of the AFP to release the three NPA hors de combat. They also commended Davao City Vice Mayor Duterte for transporting the three NPA hors de combat, allowing them immediate access to life-saving medical treatment.

“We believe that reciprocity is incumbent upon both protagonists in the civil war. As the NPA has released prisoners of war in the past, the time now calls on the AFP to reciprocate with its own humanitarian gestures. If heeded by the AFP, this will be a significant step to humanize the dire impact of civil war on human lives and, more importantly, to bring forth confidence in the peace talks between the GPH and the NDFP,” they said.

The bishops, however, warned against the filing of criminal charges and not rebellion charges against the NPA hors de combat to justify their continuing detention.

“While this has made their hospital arrest arguably legal or illegal, ours is a humanitarian appeal for their immediate release to their families,” they said.

Among the individuals and formations supporting Exodus for Justice and Peace are those from United Church of Christ in the Philippines, the Missionaries of the Assumption, Lay Forum Philippines; the Davao Episcopal Church; the Bana Sisters’ Association in Mindanao; the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines Southern Mindanao; the Religious of the Virgin Mary (RVM) Social Ministry Community in Davao; the Missionaries of the Assumption Community in Davao; and the United Church of Christ in the Philippines Southern Mindanao District Conference.

September 7, 2011

Despite setbacks caused by the GPH, the NDFP remains committed to Peace Talks

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ina Alleco @ 6:45 am

Solve problems, overcome obstacles.

National Democratic Front of the Philippines' (NDFP)peace panelists Luis Jalandoni and Coni Ledesma declares the NDFP's continuing commitment to the peace talks. Jalandoni says that the NDFP will never give up efforts to forge a principled peace agreement with the Government of the Philippines (GPH) because "the Filipino people desire an end to the conflict and want peace based on justice" in the country.

National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) chief negotiator Luis Jalandoni is determined to exhaust all diplomatic and principled means to ensure that the peace talks with the Government of the Philippines (GPH) pushes through. Even as others might find it understandable to throw in the towel given how the GPH panel — specifically negotiator Alex Padilla — has been rudely behaving and speaking, Jalandoni and the rest of the NDFP’s peace panel including Coni Ledesma and Fidel V. Agcaoili remain steadfast in pushing for the talks.

In a forum sponsored by Pilgrims for Peace, an ecumenical formation of religious groups and lay associations, Jalandoni and Ledesma gave the background story on the not-so-rosy developments in the negotiations with the Aquino administration’s so-called peace makers.
There is no doubting the panelists’ sincerity when it comes to the peace talks. Jalandoni answered at length what exactly is going wrong in the talks — the GPH’s refusal to uphold the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantee (JASIG) and honor its word to release the NDFP consultants in the custody of its armed forces — but not once did he betray frustration.
“This is not something we can give up on easily. We are talking about our country’s chances of securing a just and lasting peace and putting an end to the armed conflict. These are aspirations that all peace-loving Filipinos share, and we should persevere in the peace talks. If there are problems, we have to find solutions to them; if there are obstacles, then they should be overcome,” he said.

In the last month, the NDFP and the GPH have been exchanging sharp words over the media. The fiery exhange was triggered by loose statements made by GPH’s Padilla and another panelist Ding Deles saying that (1) the Jasig is no longer operable; and (2) the GPH was under no obligation to release any political prisoners, much less captured NDFP consultants.

“The NDFP always sits at the negotiating table with a readiness to talk peace and a preparedness to uphold previously signed agreements with the GPH. These are serious matters which we all take pains to handle correctly and with sincerity,” he said. He seemed unable to hold back a measure of disappointment when he explained how the GPH is engaging in double-speak and deliberately failing to carry its end in implementing previously forged agreements on the release of consultants. Even then, however, he is careful with his words.

“It is expected that both panels prove sincerity by carrying out the agreements. Releasing the NDFP’s consultants is a good-will building measure, it is true; but at the same time, it’s also a promise previously made by the GPH when we began negotiations earlier this year in February. As for the Jasig, neither the GPH panel or the GPH itself can simply declare it’s inoperable — it will only lose effect if and when the head of the NDFP and the GPH agree to declare it so by one party sending a letter to the other,” he said.

In any case, human rights groups assert that even now the Aquino government continues to refuses to address the issues of torture, enforced disappearances and extra-judicial killings of Jasig-protected individuals, among them Leo Velasco, Prudencio Calubid, Rogelio Calubad, Sotero Llamas ; as well as hundreds of others without Jasig protection.

Jalandoni clarifies that despite all the negative setbacks, however, the NDFP leadership is determined that the peace talks proceed.

“NDFP chairman Mariano Orosa remains committed to the talks, and so are we,” he said. “It has to be said, however, that the life of the GPH-NDFP peace negotiations depends on compliance with the Jasig. If the GPH cannot comply with the Jasig, then there is no way that we can trust the GPH to comply with any other agreement.”

Confidential Letter to Aquino
Further proof of the NDFP’s sincerity to talk peace with the GPH is how the NDFP peace panel sent a letter to GPH President Benigno Aquino in January 2011. Jalandoni explained that in the letter, the NDFP offered a “special track” to the peace talks.

“This letter to Aquino was of a confidential nature, but the NDFP has decided to now inform the public that such an offer was made to encourage the talks with the GPH. The NDFP laid down its concerns affecting the Philippine’s economic and political situation as well as issues involving human rights. In it, the NDFP also stated its readiness to engage in talks and forge an agreement on socio-economic reforms that will also serve to support and the strengthen the previously signed Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CAHRIHL). It was good that the GPH received this letter positively, and the talks began in February,” he said.

These days, however, the positive atmosphere that first enveloped the talks the Aquino administration as represented by its peace panel in the talks have somewhat turned gray. Various spokespersons form Malacanang such as presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) have taken to issuing statements which are, to say the least, detrimental to the talks.

Again, Jalandoni is firm yet diplomatic in his reaction to this.

“There are those who would much rather have the talks collapse and the expense of the Filipino people’s hopes for peace; but there are many more people who do want the talks to proceed. Who is Lacierda, who is Gen. Eduardo del Rosario? Who are they among the thousands and thousands of Filipinos who desire for an end to the armed conflict and the beginning of soceity where is peace based on justice?,” he said.
According to Jalandoni, the NDFP would welcome members of the congress and the senate, as well officials from local government units if they went to be represented in the peace negotiations.

“The talks between the NDFP and the GPH affects the entire nation, and we do want all Filipinos to be concerned with it. What is necessary is for those involved is to cultivate, maintain and show resoluteness to come up with solutions and to remove obstacles. I am certain that most if not all ordinary Filipinos would speak out in support of the peace talks if asked,” he said.

The peace negotiator’s statements are not off the mark as in the last eight months, various people’s organizations representing the poor and marginalized sectors of society have been declaring their support for the talks. Pilgrims for Peace, for instance, and the Promotion of Church Peoples’ Response (PCPR) have led gatherings wherein workers and farmers groups were joined by urban poor, fisherfolk, women and children organizations stated how much they want the talks to prosper. All over the country, fora, symposia and other peace consultations have also been taking place.

Aquino’s silence
As for the GPH president, however, critics say that he has been less than active in promoting the peace talks with the NDFP. The Aquino administration has focused more on negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation front (MILF), but insiders have become a little disillusioned with how these talks are proceeding.
“It’s good that the GPH is also negotiating with the MILF, and the NDFP also desires a good outcome for their talks,” Jalandoni said. He clarified, however, that Aquinoshould take seriously recognize that the goal of peace talks is not to make the other party surrender arms and give up the struggle for liberation, but to come up with agreements that would lessen the devastating impact of the armed conflict on civilians.

“The NDFP’s commitment to the talks is founded on its determination to push for substantial reforms that will immediately and directly benefit the Filipino people — for instance, the NDFP wants an end to the human rights violations being committed by the AFP. The NDFP also stands for the aspirations of the poor sectors and their demands for genuine agrarian reform; for an end to destructive and irresponsible mining practices; for the furtherance of reforms that will provide free health, housing and educational services to the poor. This is why we engage in the talks; this is why we are willing to face the GPH and forge principled agreements with it,” he said.

The Joint Monitoring Committee
Peace panelist Ledesma for her part appealed to the public to support the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) of the NDFP and the GPH which has its office in Cubao.

“A lot of people don’t know that there’s a JMC, and that it’s a product of the CARHRIHL. This is a functioning office that receives complaints about the abuses of either the forces of the GPH or the NDFP. It’s existence alone proves the equality between the NDFP and the GPH as political forces, and it is to the benefit of the Filipino people that the JMC continues to operate,” she said.

Ledesma, however, explains that the JMC’s two secretariats — one of the NDFP, the other of the GPH– have not been able to formally meet since 2004 when the GPH under ex-president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo scuttled negotiations with the NDFP.

“The JMC will only be able to fully convene whenever there are peace talks — this is not a rule, but this is so far what has happened. It would be the best thing for the Filipino people and the country’s thousands of human rights victims if the JMC is able to fully perform its function to investigate and make recommendations on the complaints on HRVs the JMC receives. This is one other reason among so many others as to why the peace talks should continue,” she said.

GPH’s History of violating the Jasig and the Carhrihl

Latest reports in the meanwhile have it that the Royal Norwegian Government (RNG) has made an appeal to both the NDFP and the GPH to temper their respective statements to the media and find means to settle the issues of the Jasig and the release of the NDFP consultants.

NDFP negotiating panel Agcaoili has already declared the NDFP’s readiness to proceed with the talks, provided that the GPH respect and uphold the Jasig and its committments in the Oslo agreement.

Agcaoili in a statement said that in the next round of talks, they will present to the GPH the history and continuity of violations against the Jasig and the Carhihl by the GRP/GPH from the regime of Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA) to the current administration.

Agcaoili said that the NDFP expects that these violations would be acknowledged, discussed and rectified so that the peace negotiations can lead to the formal meetings of the Reciprocal Working Committees on Social and Economic Reforms (RWCs SER).

“The non-compliance with and brazen violations of JASIG by GRP/GPH since the GMA regime have been carried over, continued and further extended by the Aquino regime,” he said. According to Agcaoili, the GPH is guilty of the so-called suspension of the Jasig and the conversion of the list of JASIG-protected individuals into a manhunt list in 2004.

He also said that in 2007, the GRP/GPH colluded with the Dutch government in arresting Prof. Jose Maria Sison, the Chief Political Consultant of the NDFP, and raiding seven residences.This, Agcaoili said, resulted in the “fouling up” of the decryption code and non-return of the most important diskette for the decrypting of the photographs in the deposit box.

Agcaoili’s last assertion is bolstered by recent WikiLeaks reports exposing the how the GRP/GPH coordinated with the Dutch government to have Sison arrested. This was narrated in a September 4, 2007 memo sent by former US ambassador Kenny to the State Department wherein the US official reported a visit made by then foreign affairs secretary Alberto Romulo to her residence for a private breakfast.

The peace panelist also said that apart from the Jasig, the GPH should also be held accountable for violations of the Carhrihl: as of now, about 350 alleged political offenders remain in jail on on trumped up charges of common crimes. The 9,500 victims of human rights violations under the Marcos regime also remain uncompensated.
(Written for

August 23, 2011

Someone get me a gun (an old blog entry on F. Sionil Jose)

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ina Alleco @ 9:36 am

Thursday, October 27th, 2005

Right before I went to to the Bukluran para sa Katotohanan-sponsored mass this afternoon in Brgy. San Miguel within the garisson that is the Malacanang grounds, I first visited Mr. and Mrs. F. Sionil Jose in their bookstore Solidaridad in Padre Faura.

I practically grew up in that store, and Mr. and Mrs. Jose are like family. My parents met in Solidaridad 35 years ago, and nine months after that they got married. As children, my sister Majalla and I knew every nook and cranny of that store — we knew what titles the store carried, how the books were classified, and we loved the dry and light smell of the place, the feeling of always being on the verge of discovering new worlds between the pages of the hundreds of books that lined the shelves.My very first awareness of the power of literature and art came to me in that store, as I sat in a corner leafing through coffee table books on Georgia O’ Keefe’s works, or whispering lines from Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero’s plays.

Every year since I was nine years old, I could count on a beautiful journal from the Joses. I was instructed to fill every page, and to come back when I’d done that and again get a new notebook. As a child, I was also taken to PEN conferences at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) and listened to the likes of Isagani Cruz, Alejandro Roces, Nick Joaquin, Andres Cristobal Cruz, Cirillo Bautista discuss literary theory (or whatever. Remember, I was a child. For the most part, just sat there and doodled.)

I also grew up reading Mr. Jose’s books. The first certified short story I read and was affected by was his Waywaya (which means freedom in Ilocano.); the first Filipino books I read were the Rosales novels — Poon; Mass; My Brother, My Executioner. Mr. Jose always had time for me whenever I visited the store with my parents, and more often than not before we left, I’d have a new book or two with me in my backpack.

Like I said, I practically grew up in that store.

And I grew up being aware of Mr. Jose and his beliefs about this country, it’s history, where it’s going, and what the heck is wrong with Filipinos.

When I was in college but already an activist — a member of the League of Filipino Students (LFS) and a writer for the Philippine Collegian, I would just sit and listen to Mr. Jose while he vented his anger and frustration.I didn’t want to get into a debate with him (was too polite, was too young, was still learning about the movement and Philippine society), and for the most part I just took his comments quietly. They made me sad –his views. They were often angry and despairing, as if he couldn’t find any hope for the country and he wanted so much to give up on everything if only giving up didn’t mean accepting things as they are, period.

Now that I’m officially an adult (whatever the heck that means), I have taken to talking to Mr. Jose as if we were, well, equals. Now I’m prepared, even eager to defend my views; say what I think, and explain the truth as I know it.

Actually, Mr. Jose’s views about politics are not so different from mine — only his are less…diplomatic. My opinions and views are in fact quite tame compared to his. That’s why its really weirds me out that there have been articles or talk about him being “anti-Filipino” and an agent of the CIA (One time I even heard some of my teachers say so. I bet they never once talked to Mr. Jose and really heard his views. I’ve asked Mr.Jose about the CIA thing.”I’m a CIA agent as much as you are one, sweetheart”).


Mr. Jose has a list of people he thinks the New People Army (NPA) should kill.

“Sweetheart– these big, unscrupulous businessmen should die.They’re exploiters, they’re the ones bleeding this country dry. They exploit the workers, suck up the profits and then hie off to Europe whenever there’s a new economic, political or natural disaster. Line them up and shoot them one by one.”

“You and your movement! All this talk about the work of dead intellectuals like Marx and Mao! Your people are dying at the hands of the businessmen and landowners, monsters like the Cojuangcos, Henry Sy, Lucio Tan, the Zobel-Ayalas, and issuing an angry press release is the best you can do? And don’t you start talking to me about protracted people’s war — haven’t Filipinos suffered long enough? Isn’t it time you brought the war to where the real enemies are?”

“It’s a class war, hija. Never forget that. They’re killing off the masa one by one, or the masa are being massacred like what happened at the Hacienda Luisita or Lupao or Escalante. How can you bear to talk to the likes of them?”

He looked tired, Mr. Jose. Tired and sad. On his desk were piles of newspapers — the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the Manila Times, Businessworld, Malaya, the Philippine Star; various Philippine magazines like Free Press and Graphic. We were in his study, its walls lined with books — hardbound volumes on Descartes, Proust, Soviet literature; translations of Pramoedya Ananta Toer, Albert Camus, Jose Rizal. Books and books and other reading materials, music CDs and documentary DVDs on art, literature and politics.

So much information, yet there he was, sitting there, frustrated and sad and looking for answers.

I answered.

There is hope for this country, Mr. Jose. Whatever biases you have formed all these years against the revolutionary movement, against its leaders and against the means we are using to rip out the cancer from the heart of this nation, you should know that there is still hope. And this hope still lies with the revolutionary movement. It’s the only movement one with a clear-cut program on how to confront and end the ills of Philippine society: we’re the ones who are very familiar with these ills because the people we represent and serve – the workers, the peasants – are the main victims .There will be no compromising when it comes to their interest and welfare. The economy and political system will be rebuilt according to what the poor and working people need – independent, self-reliant industries; genuine agrarian reform; nationalist, scientific, mass-oriented culture and education; a sovereign foreign policy. As for the class enemies, they will be dealt with, and the punishment will fit the crime.

From January to October 26, 2005, the human rights group KARAPATAN documented the cold-blooded murder of 50 activists and 70 other civilians. The perpetrators are from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), and their death squads and paramilitary groups.

120 lives, brutally taken.

120 deaths that will one day be avenged.

In a way it was funny. There I was, a full-time activist, no money in my pocket (well, I still have P200 til next allowance day), and 50 or so years younger than the Ramon Magsaysay awardee seated in front of me, yet it was to me that he was asking for explanations.

I wanted to tell him about the struggle for reforms, the peace talks, the alliances being forged between political organizations, human rights groups and progressive or at least enlightened members of the ruling elite and the ranks of the intelligentsia. I wanted to tell him about the books, the music, the plays and other forms of art the movement is producing. I wanted to tell him about how the movement is also working to convince even members of the AFP and the PNP to capitulate and side with the revolution.

About how the genuine government of the Filipino people, the true government of the poor and exploited continues to grow and strengthen in the regions.

But I didn’t. Instead I just told him: “We’re trying, Mr. Jose. Believe me, we are. There are hundreds and thousands of young Filipinos like me who have learned from the mistakes and errors, the failures and weaknesses of our elders and we will make sure the same errors will be committed again. Our mistakes will be many, but they will be minor; and there is no way we will not let the Filipino people down again.”

It was surreal. Such a serious conversation. Neither of us smiled the entire time. The room was quiet except for the hum of the airconditioner, and the creak of our chairs whenever we moved: myself to fidget; Mr.Jose to throw his hands in the air in a gesture of despair. I sat there across him, told him my experiences at work, the rallies, the developments in Congress, my views on the burgeoning dictatorship. And when I told him about the Movement, it was like I was making some sort of vow.

I suppose I was.

It was raining when I left the bookstore. I took a jeep to Quiapo and got off to where the jeepneys heading for Brgy. San Miguel were lined up. All the while I was thinking of my conversation with Mr. Jose.

Revolution is simple, hija. You kill all the people’s exploiters, the killers of the sons and daughters of the soil, the murderers of activists like you.
Would it be that it was simple as that, Mr. Jose. If it were, I’d get a gun right now and head off to Malacanang, the White House, to the business centers of Makati, Ortigas, Manhattan, the offices of the G-8.

July 15, 2011

Building socialism through people’s economic participation in Venezuela

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ina Alleco @ 9:13 am

“Doesn’t it make sense that the working people take charge of the industries. and the farmers the agricultural lands? They’re the ones who keep society running, who grow the food that feeds society. Everything in the economy, in the schools, even the military should be shaped to meet their needs and provide for their development and improvement. What we want is a society where every member takes
responsibility not only for their own individual concerns, but for all aspects of life in society and how it’s run,” said Venezuelan educator and activist Alexis Adarfio.


It’s not every day that one gets to hear about a society where workers are given the respect they so well deserve as creators of society’s wealth.

Last July 12, the Philippine Chapter of the International League of Peoples’ Struggle sponsored a talk with Venezuelan activist Alexis Adarfio. He was a delegate to the ILPS’ recently concluded 4th International Assembly held July 7 to 9 and works with the Ministry of Popular Economy in Venezuela. An experienced and respected trade
unionist, and he is also a well-known advocate of state intervention to convert major industries into worker-controlled, socialist industries.

He was an active participant in the drafting of the “Socialist Guyana Plan” to transform Venezuela’s basic industries into less energy-intensive, worker-controlled enterprises directed towards meeting domestic needs rather than export.

“It was a great honor to have been part of the ILPS’ assembly and I sincerely hope this starts a strong and productive working relationship between the people’s movement in Venezuela and the Filipino people,” he said.

Despite the difficulties poised by the difference in languages (Adarfio is not fluent in English and the audience comprised of members of various peoples organizations under the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan), Adarfio’s audience found his talk about the struggle of the Venezuelan people against imperialism and for economic and political sovereignty highly inspiring.
He gave a short rundown of the twists and turns in Venezuelan history from 1800s when Venezuela declared its independence from Spain, through the centuries when it was led by various military leaders and coup de etats erupted; and finally to the present as a country and a
people resisting against the attacks of imperialism.

The main focus of Adarfio’s talk focused on the social reconstruction Venezuela is currenly undergoing under the presidency of Hugo Chavez. According to Adarfio, the country is fighting to erect roots in socialism and break away from capitalism, and the experiment is proving to be highly challenging.

“This is a challenge that the Venezuelan people is more than up to the task to meet and overcome,” he said.

According to Adarfio, the Chávez adminsitration is going to allot 45 billion bolivars (US$ 10.5 billion) in government bonds as set out in the Law of Additional Debt. The ruling was passed by the National Assembly the previous June. He said that the money will be mainly used for the the maintenance and development of three of the nation’s main social programs — the state housing mission; projects for
national agricultural production; and projects for food sovereignty
through mission Agro Venezuela.

“Funds will also be utilized for the establishment of infrastructure projects and the state’s new work mission. The Chavez government is determined to create ‘productive, humanist and socialist’ jobs and provde employment to 3.5 million Venezuelans before 2019,” he said.

Adarfio takes pride in declaring that Venezuela is not reliant on loans from financial organizations such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

“We have seen the destruction of the Venezuelan economy and the welfare of the people because of the IMF and its impositions. The IMF and the various transnational corporations (TNCs) have had decades sucking the lifeblood of the Venezuelan people and millions of people — farmers, workers — were hungry, homeless and helpless. We had rich oil resources but because of the trade agreements with the US, we did not benefit from the oil and poverty was widespread. The social revolution that continues to be waged in Venezuela is against poverty and its roots — mainly the inhuman and profit-driven greed of TNCs and agencies like the IMF,” he said.

US imperialism has long stood in the way of assertions of self-determination and democratic rights in Latin American countries. There’s already a very long list detailing the crimes US imperialism committed against the peoples of Latin America. To name a few, there’s the 1983 invasion of Grenada; the the 1985 invasion of
Panama; the Contra war it instigated in Nicaragua, the counter-insurgency war in El Salvador. More recent examples of the US’ continuing attacks included the counter-insurgency war in Columbia where it aids the puppet government; the continuing threats
against the nationalist Chavez government in Venezuela.

Recent reports have it that the Barack Obama administration has laid down sanctions on Venezuela’s state oil company Petróleos de Venezuela (Pdvsa), and the people of Venezuela have called the calling the sanctions an “imperialist attack.”

The U.S. State Department enforced the sanctions in an attempt to put further pressure on Iran to halt its nuclear program by penalizing companies which continue to trade with it. Between December 2010 and March 2011 Venezuela, which has friendly bilateral relations with Iran, exported $50 million worth of a fuel additive to the latter.
The US said that it wants to wanted to send a “clear message” to companies which continue to “irresponsibly support Iran. Iran in the meantime maintains that its nuclear program is purely to supply energy to the public, but the US claims that Iran is developing nuclear weapons.

The Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of the Americas (ALBA) said because PDVSA is a Venezuelan state enterprise, not an enterprise of transnational interests, the US sanctions are also in violation of the fundamental principles of international law codified in the Charter of the United Nations and particularly in Article 1 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights.

The Covenant stipulates that “all peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development,” and that “all peoples may, for their own ends, freely dispose of their natural wealth and resources without prejudice
to any obligations arising out of international economic co-operation, based upon the principle of mutual benefit, and international law.”

“Before president Chavez moved to nationalize Pvsa and the whole of the oil ndustry, TNCs including those in the other industries were able to stay and make a profit for 100 years. We could only do business with the US and supply it with oil and we were at the losing end. Foreign oil companies damaged Venezuela’s national interests and
that reclaiming them represented a historic victory for the people,” he said.

It was in 2009 when the Chavez government started the process to nationalize 60 oil service contractors and place them under the control of Pvsa. Oil giants Exxon Mobil and Conoco Phillips were forced to quit the nation and sue for compensation, but lost in the legal battle.
“These are our resources, we should be the ones to benefit from them. The Venezuelan people are the ones who will determine how these resources will be used and how much they will cost. The policy of nationalization has also been implemented tin 125 sectors of the economy. The industries of telecommunications, electricity, water, gas, transportation, cement, sugar, salt — all of these have been
nationalized and are now being run by workers’ collectives all over the country,” he said.

Addressing food security through nationalization Adarfio said that among the most urgent concerns the Venezuelan government needs to address is over food production. He said that as of 2010, Polar, a major private food distribution company controls
most of the food market and that there is a serious conflict between the government and the management the company “But we are introducing systems like Mercal or the state-run food stores and there some 30,000 Mercal supermarkets across the country.
These provide basics for people so they don’t depend on private networks. Nationalization of the food industry is important if you want to ensure that food sovereignty,” he said.
Cargil, a Canadian-based seedling company was nationalized a couple of years ago. Along with Monsanto, they control seed and transgenic products internationally.These companies, Adarfio said, tried to foment social unrest by withholding supplies of the foofd products they also distributed like rice, and corn flour. The Chavez government used the law on sovereignty and food security — which is a constitutional law ensuring Venezuelans get an adequate and safe supply of food — to nationalize the companies,” he said.

Workers Control for a just society
Adarfio is also an educator with Venezuela’s Moral y Luces (“Morality and Enlightenment”) program, which aims to raise consciousness and promote public discussion about the new socialist values that underpin the Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela. He writes regularly on issues facing the revolution for Venezuela’s main news website, Aporrea, and in his writings he frequently discusses the Workers Control
Essentially, the Workers Controls Collective is a movement towards empowering workers. Workers collectives and the leadership elected by assemblies lead the administration of important factories and industries.
“Representatives from workers by the hundreds are empowered to submit proposals, including developing workers’ control and participation in management; measures to eradicate corruption and bureaucratism and the elimination of casualization by giving workers regular and permanent jobs. It’s also important that workers are given
ideological and technical education, and taught about socialism is infinitely a more humane and compassion economic system that puts the welfare of the people and society way ahead of private gain or profit,” he said.

Adarfio said that during fora and symposia, workers discuss issues like removing the division between “mental” and “manual” labor in the workplaces. They also want to transform trade unions into schools for socialism and organize production in all industries on a national scale.

“Doesn’t it make sense that the working people take charge of the industries. and the farmers the agricultural lands? They’re the ones who keep society running, who grow the food that feeds society. Everything in the economy, in the schools, even the military should be shaped to meet their needs and provide for their development and
improvement. What we want is a society where every member takes responsibility not only for their own individual concerns, but for all aspects of life in society and how it’s run,” he said.

Then Adarfio gave a concrete example on how to practice socialist consciousness which he said was also about producing things for the good of society. “If workers have socialist consciousness, they will see that there is no need at all to produce products like cigars and cigarrettes that cause cancer. Why should we create things that we have no real need for and can only do us harm?”

At the end of his talk, Adarfio expressed a wish that Filipino activists will continue to be in solidarity with the Venezuelan people.

“There is much that we can learn from each other about building a just and humane world. Our enemies are the same, and so are our victories because they are all for the cause of true freedom and a more compassionate way of life,” he said.

ILPS Philippines chapter president Rey Casambre and Agham Scientists for the People chairman Dr. Giovanni Tapang gave Adarfio a copy of ILPS president Jose Ma. Sison’s Philippine Economy and Politics which was co-authored by Julieta de Lima. They also gave the Venezuelan activist and educator a banner of the ILPS.

July 8, 2011

National Liberation Movements for Humanity

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ina Alleco @ 3:23 am

When we think of Superman — the quintessential superhero who has his residence in the United States as the mild-mannered journalist Clark Kent — we think of how he saves thousands of lives through his amazing strength and speed. But when has he ever been a defender of human rights, of collective human rights? He saves kittens trapped in trees, schoolchildren from buses tipping into abyss, passengers from airplanes and trains suddenly losing control. Rescuing people from accidents are his forte, even if occasionally he saves them from catastrophes created by Lex Luthor. He has no obvious political views, no overt political stands that go directly against forces who make a living from peddling war and weapons.

If Superman was a real individual and he acted the same way in the real world as he does in the comic books, it’s not likely that anything can be expected from him by way of fighting the genuine evil destroying the planet: US imperialism. He might even have enlisted himself alongside the US armed forces, a symbol — like another superhero Captain America — of US might, power and in this day and age when the United States government is more than ever determined to assert its supremacy in the midst of its rapidly deteriorating economy, brutality.

Superman protects the people of his adopted planet earth in many cases, individually, or but sometimes in groups. On occasion he is a defender of human rights, when he acts on behalf of the White House or the United Nations against generic terrorists. He has not, however, been a defender of their collective rights — the unseen rights that are however intrinsically part of every individual who toils for a living, whether it’s in the factories or in the fields, or as rank and file state employees in the various government agencies and institutions.

Human rights as collective rights

There is always a dialectical connection between the human rights of the individual member of society and the collective rights of a people. But “human rights,” or the rights of the individual, have become more generally accepted and codified in modern Western law than the collective “rights of peoples.” Western policy-makers, the political and cultural instrumentalities of the media and the law deliberately de-emphasize definitions of peoples’ collective rights and the manifestations of movements to defend these same rights.

In the last three decades, the United States intensified its human rights cultural expansion as the for its diplomatic campaign. It was a movement to sell the “universality” of human rights. In the mid 1970s, the the US government began using human rights as a foreign policy tool to mask its ulterior intentions. This human rights diplomacy, however, was easily exposed.

The US’ attempts, however, did not stop. It needed a human rights concept that was was acceptable to people of all countries in the world. This has given rise to a human right concept modeled on the US human rights standards–universal human rights or universalism. There is a continuing debate regarding universality in human rights as against cultural relativism, but we will leave it to the sociologists, but what we can focus on is how US imperialism uses universality, how it makes of it and the concept of peoples rights to serve its purposes.

The US, during the criminal, war-mongering government of George W. Bush utilized a twisted definition of people’s rights by subverting it under the concern of “national security;” there was the deliberate trickery, the justifying of the relentless and horrific bombings against the Iraqi people, the curtailment of civil liberties and the intensified military operation everywhere else where the US threw its weight around. Now, under the administration of Barack Obama, the same campaign against terrorism and the enemies of US imperialism continues under a different name. We have time and again seen how the cold-blooded abuse of individual rights and freedoms have taken place in the name of doctrines associated with “human rights,” such as “national security.”

But let’s backtrack a little.

Collective rights or people’s rights
In an effort to more fully elaborate and legitimize the concept of peoples’ rights, the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Peoples (also known as the Algiers Declaration) was drafted on July 4, 1976, by a gathering of distinguished jurists, political leaders, and figures of high moral authority brought together largely at the initiative of the late Italian legislator, Lelio Basso and founder of the Permanent People’s Tribunal (PPT). The document articulates the rights of a people to existence and political self-determination, to control over its resources, economic system, culture, and environment. It also elaborates the rights of minorities and calls for the protection of liberation movement combatants under the humanitarian law of war.

Since the drafting of this declaration, other important international documents have been adopted that establish a legal basis for peoples’ rights in dialectical relationship to human rights; these include the 1986 United Nations Declaration on the Right to Development and the 1981 African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, both of which are discussed by van Boven.

What cannot be easily separated in the sometimes conflicting connection between human rights and people’s rights is the relationship between external and internal self-determination. According to Salvatore Senese, the General Secretary of the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal (PPT) external self-determination is “the recognition that each people has the right to constitute itself as a nation-state or to integrate into, or federate with, an existing state.” Implied in this right, of course, is the right to defend that state.

Sense describes Internal self-determination, on the other hand, as as “the right of people to freely choose their own political, economic, and social system.” Or, as defined by Theo van Boven , the essence of internal self-determination is captured by the phrase: “the will of the people shall be the basis of authority of the government.”

(Van Boven, is a Dutch jurist and professor emeritus in international law.From 1986 to 1991, he was the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the Right to Reparation to Victims of Gross Violations of Human Rights and, from 2001 to 2004, Special Rapporteur on Torture. He is also a member of the International Commission of Jurists. From February 1994 to December 1994, he was the first registrar of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.)

Now, the term collective rights or people’s rights is more less recognized particularly among those who study, practice and defend international law. For instance, in documenting the impact of various structural adjustment programs funded by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank (WB) and implemented by governments in developing countries, advocacy groups speak of violations against the collective rights of workers, or farmers, or indigenous peoples. The massacre of Mexican migrants attempting to enter the US by crossing the border without visas is called a violation against their human rights and their collective rights as migrants.

The most definitive reason for the acceptance of the term “collective or people’s rights” however is because of the campaign for the same in various parts of the world. These are campaigns that go beyond the demand for reforms through the legislature via amendments in laws, or through changes in presidential decrees.

Various political sociologists and political theorists are united in pointing out that the recent adoption of language in international law that asserts peoples’ rights are hands down because of the struggle of peoples in countries outside the West such as those in Southeast Asia, Latin America and Africa. Revolutions and peoples uprisings have in the last century erupted against colonial exploitation and interference.

What do people of the world struggling against US imperialism want but to establish, maintain and enforce a proper relationship between these rights — individual and collective, internal and external? This is what will lead towards the creation of just and equitable society. The complex struggle to accurately define and implement that relationship is being waged throughout the world today where people’s democratic movements and national liberation movements struggle against imperialism and local reaction.

What liberation movements want is to comprehensively and decisively correct imbalances between individual and collective rights and needs.

I’m not saying that individual rights be neglected as we pursue collective rights, but cannot stress enough in these days where the cultural offensive of imperialism is to stress individuality and an I-me-mine mentality that the rights of the collective are as important if not even more so. Human rights, even as they are applied to all individuals, should also be considered as part of a whole series of rights — collective or people’s rights.

This is to ensure that when one speaks of human rights, one does not only consider violations against the physical sanctity and the political security of individuals as attacks against human rights. One must also see that attacks against rights to enjoy just and living wages, job security, and ancestral lands, education, health and housing are also attacks against human rights and collective rights : individuals are members of a sector and as a class, and as such, comprise part of society alongside other sectors, other classes.

Concretely let’s consider Cuba. In the last sixty years, Cuba’s adamant defense of its people’s right to self-determination is what has allowed for the realization of its people’s right to education, housing, and health care.The Cuban government’s struggle against imperialism is the struggle of its people for national independence and it is what ensures that Cuba is able to focus on the creation, running and maintenance of internal systems that serve the needs of the Cuban people. Who has not heard of how Cuba has doctors for every neighborhood block? It’s healthcare system is the best in the world.

Built on a strong foundation in primary care, Cuba provides comprehensive health care to all residents of the island. Given extremely limited resources Cuba has amassed an impressive set of accomplishments in public health. Despite Average life expectancy is 77.5 years, compared to 78.1 years in the United States, and infant and child mortality rates match or beat those of the US. There’s one doctor for every 170 people, more than twice the per-capita U.S. average.

This cannot be said of the United States. For the last decade, the world has witnessed how US unemployment rates began to steadily increase, pulling in their wake the number of homeless people and those denied to live on welfare checks which in turn have also decreased in value because of severe cutbacks on social security benefits. The slogan here is “sink or swim,” and there is not one sector of the working people in the US which has not been affected.

In no other time in history than in the last ten years has the rest of the world questioned the US government’s commitment to human rights when it has launched a global war against terrorism where in the process it committed genocide again and again and again. In its own states the US government continues to undermine and attack the rights of Black, Hispanic, and Native American, millions of people tied to permanent poverty and hopelessness.

Friends and comrades, some of the most important developments that contribute to the shaping and redefinition of the relationships between the individual, a people, and political power are taking place in the countries where there are national liberation movements, armed struggles seeking socialist changes.

Salvatore Senese said that the contradictions that exist between human rights and collective rights are part and parcel of the global crisis — workers in developing countries are being pitted against workers in advanced economies; political dissidents championing the cause of US imperialism in countries against US imperialism; farmers in the Third World battling against the entry of produce grown by farmers from agriculturally developed countries.

Where we begin to recognize and assert human rights, we also begin fight for collective rights. Concepts such as democracy, human rights, and self-determination are neither universal nor politically neutral, and by concretely analyzing the political and economic dimensions surrounding global developments, we will see how there really is one central focus of struggle in the end: the working people of the world against imperialism and its agents.

Domination, Self-Determination, and Liberation

Now we arrive at the crux of the matter.

It is impossible to address the issue of human rights and peoples’ rights without discussing the matter of imperialism and foreign intervention. As Prof. Richard Anderson Falk (Richard Anderson Falk is an American professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University, the author or co-author of 20 books and the editor or co-editor of another 20 books, speaker, activist on world affairs, and an appointee to two United Nations positions on the Palestinian territories.
and Francis Boyle argued (Boyle is a harsh critic of the foreign policy of former American President George W. Bush. In 2007 Boyle denounced the “ongoing criminal activities perpetrated by the Bush Jr. administration and its nefarious foreign accomplices in allied governments such as in Britain, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Georgia, etc.” He also stated that the Bush administration “would welcome the outbreak of a Third World War” and “is fully prepared to use tactical nuclear weapons against Muslim and Arab states and peoples.” He also stated that American treatment of Muslims and Arabs since the attacks of September 11, 2001 is “almost to the same extent that America inflicted upon the Japanese and Japanese Americans after Pearl Harbor.” He concluded his speech by calling on American lawyers to “lead the fight against the Bush Jr. dictatorship.” Boyle has requested that the International Criminal Court Prosecutor obtain International Arrest Warrants for George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, George Tenet, Condoleezza Rice, and Alberto Gonzales.), the struggle to uphold human rights all over the world is a struggle not only in their defense but to fight against the forces that undermine them.

As is clear to everyone here, the United States government continues to play the leading role in obstructing human rights and peoples’ rights all over the world. This through its refusal to ratify major international treaties or to abide by existing international law; and through its conduct of covert and overt interventions against various resisting governments and movements. It consistently involves itself in global affairs because of its extensive economic interests, and never has its interference benefitted the cause of social justice in the countries it interferes in.

The US is able to wield its military might all over the world because of the existence of its bases and installations globally. Historian and journalist Nick Turse has said that there are no less than 1,077 US bases or sites in foreign countries. The US Defense budget is now about the equal to military spending in all other countries combined, and since 9/11, military and security expenditures have soared 119 percent.

Only recently, Obama has rejected Palestinian plans to seek statehood at the United Nations. He said that Washington’s commitment to Israel’s security is “ironclad”, and that the US will stand up against efforts to single Israel out at the UN or in any international forum “because Israel’s legitimacy is not a matter for debate.” The US Congress is also virulently against the plans for unification between Hamas and Fatah, two Palestinian movements and opposing political factions now seeking to unite in the call for a Palestinian state.

Those who have monitoring the Palestinian-Israeli conflict know how the Palestinian people have long struggled for sovereignty and recognition, but it’s only been in the recent years that their demands focused on unity as a means towards the establishment of a Palestinian State. Palestinian youth have been inspired by activists in Tunisia and Egypt and last May organized and networked Palestinians from Gaza, the West Bank, and refugee camps in Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan. Their protests and other activities aimed to call for unity between Hamas and Fatah to unite not as political parties, but as Palestinians. These protests were barely reported in any media outlets, and now the US is actively against any unity between the two factions.

Pro-Israeli and anti-Palestinian lobby groups in the US are known to wield major influence in both US legislative bodies. These lobby groups have members in important committees that influence and set the White House’s fund appropriations and foreign policy. US Congress representatives receive campaign funds and other support from the Israeli lobby establishment, including, according to reports, regular all-paid luxury tours to Israel for so lawmakers can meet with senior Israeli officials so they can supposedly be briefed on Israel’s security requirements in the region. Israel is the largest recipient of US foreign aid, receiving more than $3 billion annually or about $8 million every day.

The US also proclaims itself as a champion of human rights as its reason for involving itself in the conflicts in southern African states where the citizenry are demanding the ouster of corrupt and puppet governments the US placed in power.
As the people of Egypt filled the streets in protest and in the process many were being killed, beaten, or rounded up in the streets of Cairo, US Vice President Joe Biden defended Mubarak.

He said, and I quote” Look, Mubarak has been an ally of ours in a number of things and he’s been very responsible on, relative to geopolitical interests in the region: Middle East peace efforts, the actions Egypt has taken relative to normalizing the relationship with Israel. I would not refer to him as a dictator.” (PBS Newshour, Newsmaker Interview, January 27, 2011)

The US has had Mubarak for a reliable ally for a long time, and it has showered the Mubarak regime with billions of dollars in aid. As the revelations from WikiLeaks exposed, the US government and its past administrations have never been blind to Mubarak regime’s fascism and corruption. Mubarak has been fully complicit in aiding Israel in its crimes against Palestinians and this has been said to be one of the main reasons behind the US’ relentless support for regime.

US imperialism also stands in the way against self-determination and democratic rights in Latin American countries. There’s already a very long list detailing the crimes US imperialism committed against the peoples of Latin America. To name a few, there’s the 1983 invasion of Grenada; the the 1985 invasion of Panama; the Contra war it instigated in Nicaragua, the counter-insurgency war in El Salvador. More recent examples of the US’ continuing attacks included the counter-insurgency war in Columbia where it aids the puppet government; the continuing threats against the nationalist government of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela; the 50 year old illegal trade embargo against Cuba and the repeated terrorist attacks against that country; and the ongoing US/UN military occupation of Haiti.

Recent reports have it that Obama administration has laid down sanctions on Venezuela’s state oil company Pdvsa, and the people of Venezuela have called the calling the sanctions an “imperialist attack.”

The U.S. State Department enforced the sanctions in an attempt to put further pressure on Iran to halt its nuclear program by penalizing companies which continue to trade with it. Between December 2010 and March 2011 Venezuela, which has friendly bilateral relations with Iran, exported $50 million worth of a fuel additive to the latter.

The US said that it wants to wanted to send a “clear message” to companies which continue to “irresponsibly support Iran. Iran in the meantime maintains that its nuclear program is purely to supply energy to the public, but the US claims that Iran is developing nuclear weapons.

The Iranian government has previously accused “nuclear nations” led by the US of “monopolizing” science and technology in order to protect their own interests and to stop other countries from the “peaceful use of nuclear energy.”

In recent years, however, heroic struggles of the working people all over the world have been gaining ground as liberation movements wage war against imperialism and its local agents. There are liberation movements in n Ecuador, Bolivia, Venezuela, Peru, Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay comprehensive movements for social and economic emancipation and directly against US imperialist domination.

There are also the permanent targets other US’ aggressive and interventionist policies who continue to resist: Cuba and People’s Democratic Republic of Korea. They declare not only their national independence but also the socialist aspirations of their respective peoples in fighting against US acts of military and economic aggression and intervention. Then there’s Palestine, Syria, and Iran and others that invoke national independence and oppose the abusive demands and impositions of the US on their economies.

According to James Petras (Rethinking Imperialist Theory), between 2000-2005 major popular upheavals and mass mobilizations took place In Latin America , overthrowing incumbent neo-liberal client regimes, calling for the renationalization of privatized firms, the renunciation of the foreign debt, radical agrarian reforms and income redistribution. Neo-liberal ideology was totally discredited and US foreign policy was subject to a thorough discredit. Anti-imperialist, if not anti-capitalist ideology held sway among broad sectors of the working, middle and even elements of the political class.

The struggles in these countries are not defined as struggles for human rights alone, but for people’s collective rights – an encompassing, and carrying deep within them the political undertones of militancy and even revolution. The campaigns being waged are not only in defense of human rights, but for national liberation, sovereignty, independence and true democracy based on justice.

Democracy and Rights: Redefining the Terms
There is always the threat of war when the old world lashes out against all attempts to establish a new world. The old world is what we know today where monopoly capitalism struggles to revive itself but fails again and again to do. The new world is the one where we seek to create . The old world led by US imperialism and its cohorts seek to fold, staple and mutilate dissent in all forms and hence worsen already rampant social, economic, political, and cultural disorder. But there is no stopping the new world from emerging.

As Prof. Jose Ma. Sison, the chairman of the International League of Peoples’ Struggles (ILPS)is always affirming, the days of imperialism are numbered. It’s of course wrong for us to assume that just because this inevitably so, we can all relax. On the contrary, greater effort is required of all those in peoples movements and national liberation movements all over the world to hasten the death of imperialism and usher the birth of victory of struggles of the oppressed and working people. Hence there is a need to strengthen anti-imperialist national liberation movements in all countries.

The present Philippine liberation movement of the broad masses and different forces of the Filipino people is represented by the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, the Communist Party of the Philippines, the New People’s Army and the other revolutionary organizations in the Philippines. They comprise what qualifies as a legitimate national liberation movement from the point of view of international law, particularly international humanitarian law.

In the last four years of their existence, these organizations that lead the national liberation movement in the Philippines have made consistent and firm representations. When they entered into peace negotiations with the Government of the Philippines, their status was further elevated as their participation in the talks expressly announced them as a co-belligerent. The NDFP, the CPP and the NPA have proven themselves to possess a strong and responsible command, with readiness and willingness to assume their responsibilities in accordance with international human rights and humanitarian law.

What makes the national liberation movement in the Philippines a force to contend with its army. The NPA continues to strengthen itself as a fighting force, and successfully meets the requirements it has set for itself: continuous political and military training, building the organs of political power and the mass organizations, carrying out land reform and other campaigns and intensifying tactical offensives.
Members of the people’s army are trained beyond military skills, but as importantly organizing skills. They are equipped in knowledge to implement a sound economic program, and their commitment is bolstered by the determination to overcome individual and collective weaknesses. Being directly under the command of the Communist Party of the Philippines, the New People’s Army sees the revolutionary war’s eventual victory to to the systematic processes of “concrete analysis of concrete conditions” vis-à-vis the strategic and tactical formulation of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism on the prevailing semi-colonial and semi-feudal situation in the Philippines.

All throughout the conduct of its ideological, political and organizational tasks, the NPA affirms to unite completely with the CPP, and revolutionary people’s organizations among the peasants, workers, ethnic groups, women, youth students and other marginalized groups, and the whole people in the advancement of people’s war in the Philippines.

The NPA had exceedingly small and modest beginnings, but it has reached its current level of development mainly through self-reliance. It has achieved countless victories on many front because of the inexhaustible participation and whole-hearted support of the Filipino people. The NPA undertakes production for a portion of its needs in addition to the contributions made by the masses. The need for firearms and other war materiel is met through successful tactical offensives against enemy forces. The NPA is also the effective instrument for enforcing the taxation policy of the people’s democratic government.

Never before in the the history of this country has there ever been an army like the NPA. It is resolute, resourceful and vigorous ]in waging the people’s war to complete the new-democratic revolution. For this reason the Filipino people cherish the NPA as their own revolutionary army, and in supporting it they also fight for their own national and social liberation.

To win the people’s war in the Philippines is the greatest contribution the national liberation movement in the Philippines can make to the struggle of all oppressed peoples in the world against imperialism. Even now the NDFP remains steadfast in its commitment to proceed with peace negotiations with the Government of the Philippines (GPH). It’s the will and commitment to defend the collective rights of the Filipino people that strengthens the NDFP and its correct assessment of what will bring a just and lasting peace to the Philippines. This is why the NDFP was determined to ensure the creation of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL); and this is why it is also assiduously working for the creation of an agreement for socio-economic reforms.

Fight imperialism for a just and humane society

Friends and comrades, all the destructive forces of imperialism — its wont to destroy all that is sacred to life and maintaining, improving and beautifying life –have their opposite but greater match in the righteousness, creativity, sophistication and will of national liberation movements.

The innate power of social forces to redefine reality is a theme addressed by Eduardo Galeano in a discussion of democracy in Latin America:

“This democracy won’t be any truer because it looks more like the models of Western Europe or Eastern Europe, or anywhere else. It will be true democracy to the extent that it unleashes the participatory will and creative energy of the people, which is an energy for the transformation of reality. Because that which copies best is not best; best is that which best creates, even when mistakes are made in creating.”

Galeano makes the stand that those who participate in struggles for social change are able to survive even the darkest of moments and return with sharpened intelligence, greater clarity, and stronger will. He also issues a challenge to the all those who think and feel to use their common sense against the tragedies inflicted by imperialism:

“Many of the worst crimes and injustices on earth are carried out through these three international organisations: the IMF, World Bank and WTO. Their victims are the disappeared – not the people who vanished under military dictatorships but the things that have gone under democracy. Over the past few years, my country, Uruguay, has seen jobs, decent wages, pensions, factories, lands and even rivers disappear. The story is the same all over Latin America and in many other regions. We are even seeing our children disappear, reversing their forebears’ emigrant dreams and heading for Europe and elsewhere. Does common sense tell us that we have to endure avoidable suffering and accept these tragedies as the work of fate?”— (Superducks and underducks)

Mexican philologist González Casanova (Pablo González Casanova is an outstanding Mexican critical sociologist and decorated by UNESCO in the 2003 with the Premium International Jose Martí by his defense of the identity of indigenous people of Latin America. Also he is known to defend the Cuban Revolution and to see the political system of Cuba like democratic.) likewise describes the process of internal transformation that has accompanied the struggles of the liberation forces:

“Having experienced defeats and aware of their weaknesses, they are interested in rethinking the role of the working class in the revolutionary processes, the role of class and vanguard, the role of the material base, the urban base, the rural base, and of the production and reproduction of life itself as key to the revolutionary struggle….”

The challenge that always lies in the path of individuals and groups alike who want to consider themselves progressive or even revolutionary is the rethinking of their ideas of regarding the nature of human rights and the balance between individual and collective rights. To see that the greatest struggle of humanity is to champion the cause of the poor and working people and to end the oppression and exploitation. It is their human rights that need to be upheld, because in doing so, the collective rights of the rest of society are defended.
Often these are issues that prove to be at the core of what moves individuals forward or forces them to remain static or worse, tip towards the direction where reaction pretends to be liberal. Recognizing that human rights can only truly be upheld in a society where collective rights are recognized and defended are central to the effectiveness of the organizations and movements struggling for the creation of truly democratic societies.

Clearly, many complex and critical questions regarding human rights and peoples’ rights have been raised. One of the great strengths of organizations like the ILPS is that it brings together activists and intellectuals from many corners of the globe in dialogue about such concerns.

Lastly, I would like to leave you with something Arundhati Roy wrote about India and how the people of India need to fight against the global war of terror because of its destructive impact on the civil rights in India. US imperialism and the Coalition Against Terror, she said, created “ congenial international atmosphere” for the ghastly debut of fascism in India. Her words apply for the rest of the world today where people assert their collective rights for genuine freedom and true democracy against imperialism:

“Fascism is a about the slow, steady infiltration of all the instruments of state power. It is about the slow erosion of civil liberties, about unspectacular day-to-day injustices. Fighting it means fighting to win back the minds and hearts of people. Fighting it does not mean asking for the religious schools to be banned, it means working towards the day when they are voluntarily abandoned as bad ideas. It means keeping an eagle eye on public institutions and demanding accountability. It means putting your ear to the ground and listening to the whispering of the truly powerless. It means giving a forum to the myriad voices from the hundreds of resistance movements across the world which are speaking about real things – about bonded labour, marital rape, sexual preferences, women’s wages, uranium dumping, unsustainable mining, weavers’ woes, farmers’ worries. It means fighting displacement and dispossession and the relentless, everyday violence of abject poverty.”

The relentless attacks against the collective human rights of all the poor and working people in the world by imperialism more than clearly defines for us what humanity’s struggle must be about. We cannot be true liberators unless the liberation we will achieve guarantees to all the rights of the poor and working people to life, health, happiness and development. Our liberation would be untrue to itself if it did not. There is always a light shining through an endless pitch black night. Let us all pledge to commit to hope and fight against despair and all that lies between us and a free and prosperous country and world where workers and farmers do not live as slaves, where intellectuals create and pay tribute to those who give shape and form to their visions, and where we can begin to realize the fullest and best potential of our humanity.

June 2, 2011

Improve women’s quality of health and life, support the RH and Divorce Bills

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ina Alleco @ 6:37 am

The best thing about writing for is that I get to write about issues that I really care about and support, and I learn a lot during the processes of research, interviewing and coverage.

I am rabidly in support of Gabriela Women’s Party’s Reproductive Health (RH) bill, and I am a fan of their proposal for legislating a process of divorce in the Philippines. These are very concrete measures and proposals that aim to improve the quality of life of Filipinos in general and women in particular.

It’s been personally frustrating for me to acknowledge the depth of many Filipinos’ backwardness when it comes to embracing positive changes in the way we live our lives and go about living with others. I won’t even start going into the monumental political and economic changes that need to be done to lift the country from its perpetual and constantly worsening state of poverty and hopelessness; but instead focus on changes in how we function as individuals and as members of society. How do we view ourselves and our bodies? How do we view others and do we treat each other with the necessary respect?

Both the RH and divorce bills have attracted much debate, and some have taken to dismissing the two proposals as attacks against the Filipino way of life, against Filipino families. But are they, really? What is the Filipino way of life, anyway? To believe blindly in a concept of a deity who will damn your soul to hell for thinking what is best for your health and your children? Is the Filipino way of life a way of living without knowing what will help women have better maternal health care and how they can prevent unwanted or dangerous pregnancies?

All life is sacred (some more than others, some much less so), but how do you preserve the sanctity of life if you can’t protect, feed, care for it when it comes? The terrible and condemnable reality about this country is that so many children die daily because of neglect, malnutrition, diseases and hunger because their parents simply cannot provide for them. And the poor cannot be blamed — it’s the government I blame for destroying the sanctity of life for millions of Filipinos. Mothers die, too; and so many children are left half-orphaned.

And is it right for Filipinos to pretend to cling to the idea of what makes a good family (merely the presence of both mother and father who are married to each other) while ignoring the statistics of spousal abuse, violence against children (rape, incest,physical battering or even just the mere unwillingness and inability to provide for them and their needs), cruel infidelity and betrayal?

I really don’t get it. How will it help anyone to stop them from choosing what it right for their families, their health, their future? And how could it hurt anyone to provide them with options on how they can improve their quality of life?

But when the debate begins to swerve towards what the Roman Catholic Bible and the Church says, how can you begin to argue with God who is supposed to be all-knowing and omnipotent? How do you argue when the main charge is that you go against the will of God when you choose to control the number of children you have because you know you cannot take care and provide for them if you have too many of them?

Nevermind that soem of those who attack the RH Bill could, honestly, take a lot more lessons in human compassion and honest-to-goodness exposure to social realities and how the majority of Filipinos live and die (they live in poverty and want, surrounded by squalor, exposed to violence and disease, denied education and information on their rights; and then they die as a consequence of hard and oppressed living ). They care about saving people’s souls (so they say), but they do very little helping people live, take care of their bodies and become productive members of society.

I am a woman, a mother, someone’s wife and partner. What little benefits I enjoy from having been raised educated and aware of the kind of society I live in I want other women, mothers and wives/partners to also enjoy: information on my rights, access to social services, a measure of protection, and the right to demand that the government stop wasting my taxes and instead improve public health infrastructure and service.These are not things that are freely given– they all need to be fought for. This is why I support the RH Bill.

As for the divorce bill, who the hell wants to be chained to a relationship that no longer feeds and nourishes my soul and instead kills me in minute but myriad ways or through a few but extremely painful methods? I don’t want that, I doubt any other Filipino wants that either. One can only protect a family if there’s love and respect between its members. The option to be free from hurtful, oppressive relationships should be made available to everyone, and no moral judgments, please.

“The sanctity of marriage is not based on the number of marriages existing but on the quality of marital relationships. When a marriage is no longer viable, divorce should be an option.”

Iwrote this for

Unhappy marriages where the parties have resorted to hurting and abusing each other should be allowed to end.

This was among the calls made by Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Luz Ilagan as she made an appeal to the House of Representatives to seriously address the issues being raised in the proposals in House 1799 for the implementation of a divorce policy in the Philippines.

The Gabriela lawmaker once more brought up the issue in congress in the wake of reports that Malta’s recent referendum resulted to an affirmative vote to legalize divorce in the largely Catholic Mediterranean island. As a result of the referendum, Malta’s parliament is soon expected to pass a law to legalize divorce and the Philippines is left to be the only country in the world without a law on divorce. Almost three-quarters of Malata’s electorate voted last May 29, and 72 percent voted in favor of having divorce in the country.

Ilagan appealed to representatives to “not keep our country in the dark ages.” The Committee on Revision of Laws is set to tackle HB 1799 “An Act Introducing Divorce in the Philippines,” which Ilagan filed together with Gabriela Rep. Emmi de Jesus. Ilagan said that the proposal is based upon the concrete experiences of married Filipinos and that it does not derive from divorce laws in other countries.

“I appeal to my colleagues in Congress to let the legislative mill run its course on the Divorce bill without further delay and give Filipino couples in irreparable and unhappy marriages this option. We cannot ignore the fact that existing laws just do not suffice. Getting an annulment can be very expensive while legal separation will not give estranged couples the right to remarry.”

Ilagan said that the proposed divorce bill elaborates on the need for a measure to address the commission of violence in marital relations. “Women in abusive marriages will definitely benefit from this legislation,’she said.

Official figures from the Philippine National Police (PNP) in 2009 showed that 19 women fall victim to marital violence every day. Among the forms of violence and abuse against women committed in 2009, wife battery ranked the highest at 6,783 or 72 percent of all cases.

Ilagan’s proposal aims to introduce divorce as another remedy to marriages on the brink of dissolution. Currently, the the Family Code provides three options, the declaration of nullity, annulment and legal separation. HB 1799 introduces another remedy, the remedy of divorce.

Divorce, Filipino style

The lawmaker said that the proposal is based upon the concrete experiences of married Filipinos. “These experiences were studied in their religious, socio-economic, political, cultural and legal settings, their lessons and insights were drawn and processed into the HB 1799 provisions,” she said.

Ilagan said that because the bill’s recommendations take off from the actual experiences of Filipinos, especially of Filipino women, proves that the proposal was not”plucked from thin air” and that it was animated by the collective experience of married Filipinos desperately searching for real solutions to to failed marriages.

“The country’s legal system has been unable to respond to the reality of failed and broken unions and marriages. This bill is uniquely Filipino. It is not modeled after divorce systems of other countries. And, most importantly, it is sensitive to the rich and diverse cultural – including moral and religious – environment of our country,” she said.

Ilagan said that she and other proponents prefer to call the proposal that seeks to introduce as “divorce-Filipino style.”

HB 1799 proposes that divorce should be granted petitioners (1) who have been separated de facto from their spouse for at least five years and reconciliation is highly improbable; (2)who have been legally separated from their spouse for at least two years and reconciliation is improbable; (3) when any of the grounds for legal separation under paragraph (a) of Article 55 of the Family Code has caused the irreparable breakdown of the marriage; (4) when one or both spouses are psychologically incapacitated to comply with the essential marital obligations; and (5) when the spouses suffer from irreconcilable differences that have caused irreparable breakdown of the marriage.

Ilagan said that common and basic to all the grounds for divorce under the bill is that the marriage has already reached the “point of no repair.” She explained that the proposed measure also has provisions against possible abuses in resorting to divorce and that it has safeguards so it may not be used to destroy marriage and family as social institutions. These safeguards, she said, are the same with the safeguards for legal separation as can be found in Articles 56, 58 to 61 of the proposal.

“HB 1799 provides for equity between the spouses in divorce. It provides that the assets shall be equally divided between the spouses in order to provide for the well-being of each spouse and the children. It dissolves, in effect, the absolute community or conjugal partnership of gains since this property regime is inconsistent with divorce,” she said.

In the meantime, the proposal also leaves to the courts the duty to decide regarding the issue of custody of minor children based on their best interest and with provisions for their support. It states that in proper cases, the aggrieved party can claim damages in accordance with the Civil Code provisions on damages. It also provides that the parties will be disqualified from inheriting from each other by intestate succession and that any donation made by the innocent spouse in favour of the offending spouse may be revoked.

The proposal also takes into consideration the matter of divorce obtained in foreign jurisdictions. It said that these will be considered valid in the Philippines as long as the divorce is grounded on the circumstances enumerated in Article 55 (B) of the proposal.

“The sanctity of marriage is not based on the number of marriages existing but on the quality of marital relationships. When a marriage is no longer viable, divorce should be an option,” said Ilagan.

Divorce in Philippine history

The proponents of the divorce bill say that divorce had been part of the country’s legal system even before the arrival of the Spanish colonizers in the 16th century.

“Before the Spanish colonial rule, absolute divorce was widely practiced among ancestral tribes such as the Tagbanwas of Palawan, the Gadangs of Nueva Vizcaya, the Sagadans and Igorots of the Cordilleras, and the Manobos, B’laans and Moslems of the Visayas and Mindanao islands. Divorce was also available during the American period, starting from 1917 (under Act No. 2710 enacted by the Philippine Legislature), and during the Japanese occupation (under Executive Order No. 141) and after, until 1950,” said Rep. de Jesus.

It was only on August 30, 1950, when the New Civil Code took effect, that divorce was disallowed under Philippine law. Only legal separation was available. The same rule was adopted by the Family Code of 1988, which replaced the provisions of the New Civil Code on marriage and the family, although the Family Code introduced the concept of “psychological incapacity” as a basis for declaring the marriage void.
In recognition of the history of divorce in the Philippines, the framers of the 1987 Philippine Constitution left the wisdom of legalizing divorce to the Congress. Thus, the 1987 Constitution does not prohibit the legalization of divorce.

In the meantime, de Jesus said that the divorce proposal is respectful of and sensitive to differing religious beliefs in the Philippines. She said that it recognizes that the plurality of religious beliefs and cultural sensibilities in the Philippines demand that different remedies for failed marriages should be made available.

“It’s because of this that we retained the existing remedies of legal separation. Couples may choose from these remedies depending on their situation, religious beliefs, cultural sensibilities, needs and emotional state,” she said.

De Jesus also said that while divorce under their bill severs the bonds of marriage, divorce as a remedy is not necessary for the purpose of re-marriage.

“People can resort to it to achieve peace of mind and facilitate their pursuit of full human development,” she said.

She also explained that HB 1799 aims to make Philippine law consistent in the way it treats religious beliefs with respect to termination of marriage. Philippine law through the Code of Muslim Personal Laws of the Philippines (Presidential Decree No. 1083 [1977]) allows divorce among Filipino Muslims, in deference to the Islamic faith which recognizes divorce.

“Non-Muslim Filipinos should have the same option under Philippine law, in accordance with their religious beliefs,” she said.

Women already applying for divorce

Women activists from Gabriela Southern Tagalog have already thrown their support behind the divorce proposal and demanded that President Benigno Aquino III support the bill as well.

“This is yet another important issue that the president should take a stand on. If Aquino really had a solid grounding on the issues affecting the Filipino people and women in particular, then he should not hesitate to give this proposal his support,’ said Rona Jane B. Manalo, Gabriela-Southern Tagalog secretary-general.

Manalo said that there is an obvious need for a divorce bill in the country, and that in the communities their group help organize, there are already residents who want to apply for divorce if it would already passed into law.

“We have no intention of dissolving or destroying the Filipino family as an institution, but what we want are communities and a country where individuals have respect for one other and violence is not committed against women in faulty marriages. We have no need for unions or marriages where there is no respect, where the partners in it have no peace or happiness. Marriages that are no longer happy and those where the parties have resorted to hurting and abusing each other should be allowed to end,” she said.

In an interview with media, Ilagan said that some 800 cases for legal separation and annulment are filed before the Office of the Solicitor General each month. In the meantime, over 43,650 applications were recorded from 2001 to 2007. Women account for 61 percent of applicants, while 92 percent are Roman Catholic.

May 27, 2011

Happy birthday,Ericson

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ina Alleco @ 6:44 am

I did not particularly like Ericson back during our days in the Philippine Collegian. He always struck me then as some kind of mad man. Sometimes when he spoke he adopted accents: American, British, Chinese. Like a bird on speed he sang at the top of his voice during unexpected moments. On some mornings during weekend presswork, he could be found sitting at the conference table, his head cradled in one hand while his other held a burning cigarette. More often or not he’d be hung over, and, inevitably hungry. He’d try to wheedle/jokingly threaten younger staff members including myself into shelling out money (as a “loan”) to so he could go downstairs to the University Food Service cafeteria and buy a meal. Then afterwards he’d come back up to the office and he’d have a plate with him — one of the food service bone-white, heavy ceramic plates: he said he ‘merely “borrowed” it and will return it soon enough.

The plate already had at least a dozen siblings in the pantry, but to be fair some of them got there courtesy of some other felon.

My liking for Ericson grew as soon as I saw that he was not really crazy and that he really did mean it when he smiled and said hello (a mutual friend once told me that Ericson was so mercurial, so seemingly unstable that when he smiled one couldn’t immediately be certain if he was sincere or if he was preparing to pull a prank on you). He was a good writer, I immediately saw. He wrote reviews and critiques and poems and he was obviously artistic (he strengthened views that artists really did straddle the divide between lunacy and genius). And music, he was also so deeply into it because he would sing even in the middle of meetings, and he sang at daybreak and he sang at midnight and he sang in the bathroom and we could all hear his voice through the wall and some of us would roll their eyes, “Ericson!”

I could write hundreds of lines devoted to Ericson’s antics. About how he once took one of Amy’s sleeveless blouses and wore it with a pair of skimpy maong shorts which I don’t know where the hell he found. Then he went traipsing around the Collegian office like some kind of demented geisha with a plastic umbrella held afloat, an angry Amy at his heels demanding that he take off the blouse or die.

Then there’s the horror of sleeping on the mat next to the one that Ericson would eventually collapse on after an evening of downing beers at Sarah’s or Gulod: the unfortunate staffer would wake up and find himself or herself lying alarmingly close to a small pool of vomit, and it’s owner indifferent and dead to the world.

But I’ll reserve stories like those for when I’m with other friends who are equally awed and incensed by and fond of Ericson.

I never got to ask, but I don’t know how the heck he managed to get his hands on my essay about joining the League of Filipino Students (LFS) and the strangeness of discovering my country for the first time as it really was. I wrote the essay for my creative writing class under Prof. Cristina Pantoja-Hidalgo; it was mostly a personal piece because it was class on autobiographical writing. I must have left a copy on one of the computers and Ericson saw and read it. I didn’t know that it was going to be included in F1, the Literary Folio (also known as the FliterFlary to some of us) he edited until it came out and I held a copy in my hand.

Ericson, hindi ka nagpaalam na gagamitin mo yun. It was a personal essay, not meant for other eyes but Prof. Jing’s and having other people read it made me feel embarrassed, did you know? But I understand why you did it.

Hmm, now that I think about it, he also took a short story I wrote for Prof. Butch Dalisay’s Fiction II class and printed it in the Collegian, in the Kultura pages ( I was from the Features section or Feats). The story was about a unit of the New People’s Army (NPA) and how they were saved by a family of ghosts: they were farmers killed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and they gave the NPA unit shelter in their ghost bahay kubo. Maybe he found it a bit funny, a somewhat political ghost story!

(Don’t tell me about dialectical materialism: it was a a NON REALISTIC FICTION class, and again, it wasn’t like I ended to have the thing published. I intended for it get at a 1 in Prof. Dalisay’s class, but he only gave me a 1.25 and a kindly letter saying that he didn’t know what national democrats would think about my story if they read it.)

But I’m rambling. I have other memories of Ericson where he showed me kindness, where he displayed sensitivity for my feelings. It had to do with my being the girlfriend of the person who placed second in the editorial exams for the Collegian but cried foul, said there was cheating (there wasn’t) and insisted that he was the rightful editor-in-chief (he wasn’t, he really wasn’t.) In any case, it was a terrible time and everyone else looked at me with accusing eyes but Ericson, well, he didn’t even tell me (like the others did) to break up with the guy and good riddance.

Ericson talked to me in a quiet voice, and he asked if I knew what I was doing, if I was sure, and if I was, I should at least consider what the implications were on the campaign for the truth on who really placed first in the ed exams. It’s a complicated story and I earned a lot of grief from it, but my point is, Ericson was not self-righteous, he didn’t lecture me, and he was for all intents and purposes, a friend.

Fastforward to his work as poet, a cultural worker, an activist. He organized and headed Alay Sining, lead the establishment of Stand UP, wrote, directed and performed in a play about Andres Bonifacio he titled “Monumento.” His poems were transformed into songs and a decade later students still sing them as they played on guitars in picketlines, during student-led rallies, cultural activities. When he decided to go to the regions, he left many comforts behind but he was firm in his belief that he would be better off serving the poor in the provinces.

Through the years I only saw Ericson occasionally. His work kept him in the provinces, writing and doing research for farmers organizations and helping organize cultural groups among the peasants. Sometimes he came home and we’d see each other with a few other friends and he’d give me copies of publications he helped put together, show poems he’d written, artwork. He was thinner than I would’ve liked, but he always said that he was happy and that his work was the best kind in the world nevermind that it paid zero.

“Imagine doing the work you love everyday for the rest of your life. You don’t even miss money,” he said.

Before the first time left for the regions, I saw his and Kerima’s baby a few days after he was born. K looked a little worried about her new role, but Ericson exuded pride. We all sat there in their room full of books and paintings he made when he was younger and Ericson was a new father.

Now he’s a father away from his only child, his son. Away from his wife, away from his parents, away from friends and former colleagues who all have fond memories of him. Everyone worries for his safety, and hopes for his immediate release from detention.

Happy birthday, Ericson. Crossing my fingers and toes that your freedom comes soon and we can all hear you sing, do monologues, sing, recite poems, sing and be your happy, hopeful and amazing self again.


May 24, 2011

Six month-old baby Airish is an argument for the passage of the RH bill

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ina Alleco @ 10:10 am

Six month old baby Airish is an argument for the passage of the RH bill

Ginalyn Ortiz is only 17 years old but she’s already a mother. She was only able to attend school until the third grade, and from the time she was 14, worked as a live-in housemaid in Galas, Quezon City.
She met her partner, Robert Yu,29, at her former employer’s house where he also worked as a houseboy. When they realized that she was pregnant, they immediately went home to Pitogo, Quezon where Ginalyn’s father and twin sister still lived. Robert originally hailed from Atimonan, also in Quezon. He was accepted into Ginalyn’s family and planned to get married as soon as they had enough money to do so.

Baby Airish Ortiz Uy has meningocele and has a growth next to her small head that's much bigger in circumference. It grows at an alarmingly fast rate as Airish also develops. Her parents Ginalyn and Robert are at a loss as to where they will get funds for Airish' medical needs.

Then Ginalyn gave birth. She named her daughter “Airish Robelyn,” and the baby is now six months. Most five-month old babies can already lift their heads or to roll over from their backs on to their stomachs; six month olds like to wriggle around the bed and enjoy flipping themselves over like pancakes being turned in a pan. Airish, however, can do none of these things. She can only lie on her back and gurgle her happiness or discomfort from the same position all day, all night.

Ginalyn can benefit greatly from a reproductive health law. The RH Bill provides for for more than just family planning and making artificial contraceptive methods available to the poor. The proposal aims for making prenatal and maternal healthcare more accessible, as well as giving the youth necessary information on reproductive health and safety.

Airish has meningocele, meaning she has a growth next to her small head that’s much bigger in circumference, and it grows at an alarmingly fast rate as Airish also develops.

According to online medical websites, meningocele is a form of spina bifida, which in turn refers to any birth defect involving incomplete closure of the spine. It is a congenital malformation, an error in the development of the central nervous system and particularly affects the spinal cord and spine.

As descriptions go, a child with meningocele has an an out-pouching of the coverings of the spinal cord that results in a defect in the bone and soft-tissue coverings of the back part of the spine. This pouch, or sac, is filled with cerebrospinal fluid can lead to a bulging mass on the back. The malformation does not include any malformation of the spinal cord itself or any of the spinal nerves. In Airish’s case, the sac is connected directly to her head, resting against her skull and the top of her spine.

No prenatal, maternal healthcare

Airish with her mama, papa, and aunt

Ginalyn said that the entire time she was pregnant with Airish, she not once went to a doctor. Their house in Pitogo is a three kilometer-walk from the main highway, and even then there’s no nearby hospital, only a clinic. She was only checked by a midwife, one employed by the Department of Health who went around villages and towns in the provinces trying to deliver healthcare to the impoverished residents.

“The midwife came every month from the time I was two months pregnant. We had no money to go to Gumaca or Lucena to consult a doctor, so we were already grateful for the midwfe’s visits,” Ginalyn said.
According to Ginalyn, the midwife only told her to drink ferrous sulfate tablets but did not recommend vitamins. Neither did the midwife give her any advice to stop lifting heavy objects, get proper rest and nutrition. Ginalyn did not benefit from ultrasound check-ups, or receive information on how pregnant women should always take calcium and folate tablets or capsules to help strengthen her body and to help in the development of her yet-unborn baby.

In the meantime, because of poverty, she was also unable to eat the kind of food that obstetrician-gynecologists usually order pregnant women to eat and make sure that she ate the proper amounts.
According to local health standards, the following should be done during a prenatal check-up are: (1) weight check; (2) height check; (3) blood pressure check (4) urine examination ; (5) blood sample examination ; (6) consultation about pregnancy complications; (7) instruction and preparations as to where to go for pregnancy complications; (8) tetanus toxoid injection; and (9) ensure iron supplementation and intake of prenatal vitamins.

Ginalyn can only remember having her blood pressure checked and that it was always low. The midwive did not tell her to do anything about the low BP much less to take anything to regulate and normalize it. As for to other prenatal check up necessities, there were none.

“The midwife just told me to take the little red iron tablets. It was good that the tablets were cheap,” she said.

When Ginalyn reached her fifth month, the midwife felt her stomach and said that Ginalyn might be having twins.

“She told me that she felt two heads, but she couldn’t feel the body of the other baby. I was worried at first because even then my stomach felt uncomfortably heavy like the baby inside was going to come out anytime soon. The midwife didn’t raise any alarm afterwards, so we thought that nothing was really wrong,” she said.

The entire time that she carried Airish, Ginalyn also worked as a laundrywoman. She lifted heavy pails of water and bundles of clothes. Robert in the meantime worked as a farmhand for a small agricultural company that grew ampalaya (bitter gourd), eggplants and tomatoes. For his labor he earned P200 a day.

When Airish was finally born on November 27, 2010, she weighed a healthy 3.5 kilos. Her skin was a creamy white and she had a head full of coal-black hair. She had her mother’s slightly chinky eyes and her father’s thin lips. Her parents thought she was perfect, but there was a sac filled with fluid connected to her skull and spine.

Folic acid prevents neurological disorders in newborns

What makes Airish’s condition tragic is that it could very well have been avoided.
Online medical sites refer to various research studies saying that insufficient intake of folic acid – a common B vitamin – in the mother’s diet is a key factor in causing spina bifida and other neural tube defects. Prenatal vitamins that are prescribed for the pregnant mother typically contain folic acid as well as other vitamins.

For the most part, the medical sites say that meningocele is unknown. They go on to say that low levels of folic acid in a woman’s body before and during early pregnancy is thought to play a part in this type of birth defect. The vitamin folic acid (or folate) is important for brain and spinal cord development.

Prenatal screening is also said to be valuable in diagnosing neural disorders like Airish’s. During the second trimester, pregnant women can have a blood test called the quadruple screen. This test screens for myelomeningocele, Down syndrome, and other congenital diseases in the baby. Most women carrying a baby with spina bifida will have a higher-than-normal levels of a protein called maternal alpha fetoprotein (AFP).

Told this information, Ginalyn could only shake her head. She was pregnant at 16 years old and had never had access to medical services even in her early youth. She underwent the period of her pregnancy merely hoping for the best and relying mainly on the advise of family and the midwife who visited every month. She even gave birth at home, with the midwife delivering Airish.

Airish, in the meantime, previous to being brought to Muntinlupa, had never been checked by a pediatrician.

Major operation

Now almost six months old, Airish now lives temporarily in a small apartment rented by Ginalyn’s cousin Irene Cruzat in Muntinlupa.

Irene is currently unemployed and has a three year old daughter. Her own partner works as a pedicab driver. Despite having very small means of survival herself, Irene is determined to help her cousin and her baby.

“I look at the baby and it breaks my heart that she has to suffer such a burden at so young an age. Anyone can see that she’s beautiful. I want so much to help her,” Irene said.

Irene took Ginalyn and Airish to the GMA-7 television station main office in Quezon City, and secured the assistance of the Kapwa Ko, Mahal Ko Foundation. The foundation promised to shoulder the costs of Airish’s check ups at the Philippine Children’s Medical Center (PCMC) as well as the operation Airish needs to have the sac removed. This was in March, and from then on they had been going to the PCMC regularly, initially every two days, then eventually it became every week.

“We spend at least P500 in transportation fares with every visit to the PCMC. A one way trip from Muntinlupa costs P68 for each of us, so imagine how much we spent for fare alone every time, ” said Irene.

Robert explains that he wants to find a job but as yet cannot focus on employment hunting because he wants to help Ginalyn and Airish whenever they go to the doctor.

“Sometimes I feel desparate thinking about my baby and where I’m going to get the money for her medical needs. The doctors told us that the operation will cost at least P100,000, so we’re thankful that the foundation is helping us. The medical expenses after the operation are a completely different thing. We don’t know who else to turn to,” said Robert.

The RH Bill and provisions for maternal health care
As Ginalyn and Robert struggle from one day to the next to keep Airish alive, the debate about the Reproductive Health bill (RH Bill) continues to rage not only within the halls of the House of Representatives and outside in the public arena.

Many critics of the RH bill neglect to acknowledge how the proposal provides for more than just family planning and making artificial contraceptive methods available to the poor. They stand against the RH Bill without acknowledging its other provisions, such as those that provide for people’s right to reproductive health care information.

In a nutshell, the section of the bill lay down the government’s responsibility to the Filipino people to provide them with information about the availability of reproductive health care services, including family planning, and prenatal care. The DOH and government information agencies are being tasked to sustain a heightened nationwide multi-media campaign to raise the level of public awareness of the protection and promotion of reproductive health and rights.

There’s also a provision stating that each province and city, with the assistance of the DOH, must establish or upgrade hospitals with adequate and qualified personnel, equipment and supplies to be able to provide emergency obstetric and neonatal care.

For every 500,000 population, there shall be at least one (1) hospital with comprehensive emergency obstetric and neonatal care and four (4) hospitals or other health facilities with basic emergency obstetric and neonatal care. Those living in isolated and depressed areas will also be provided the same level of access.

In the meantime, there’s also a provision on age-appropriate reproductive health and sexuality education.
This proposed curriculum is aimed to be taught by from grade five up to the fourth year level of high school.The curriculum will be common to both public and private schools, out of school youth, and enrollees in the Alternative Learning System (ALS) based on, but not limited to, the psychosocial and the physical wellbeing, the demography and reproductive health, and the legal aspects of reproductive health. The topics will include knowledge and skills in self protection against discrimination, sexual violence and abuse, and teen pregnancy; physical, social and emotional changes in adolescents; children’s and women’s rights; fertility awareness; family planning methods; and responsible parenthood.
Airish and other babies

As things currently stand, the standard of prenatal and maternal health care in the country remains very dismal. Its necessity is widely accepted, yes; but because of the extreme poverty of most Filipinos, a large majority of pregnant women do not have access to quality prenatal care.

In an August2010 study titled Who Provides Good Quality Prenatal Care in the Philippines, (Rouselle F. Lavado, Leizel P. LagradaValerie Gilbert T. Ulep, and Lester M. TanWomen) , it was stated that women who are older, poorer and with lower educational attainment received poorer quality of prenatal care compared to women who are younger, richer and better educated. Multiparous women are also said to receive poorer quality of prenatal care.

Morbidity and mortality related to pregnancy according to the study are still high. Infant and maternal mortalities are still major problems, where 26 infants in every 1000 live births die and 162 women per 100,000 die due to childbirth. These put the Philippines’ IMR still above its Millennium Development Goal target of 19/1000 live births and its MMR way above the target of 52/100,000 live births in 2015 (NSCB, 2010).

Airish has many challenges ahead of her, and her own mother — herself still a minor — needs to learn so many things to be able to take of her baby. Even if poverty is factored out, the lack of valuable information and immediate access to it makes the battle for Airish’s life and survival an uphill one.
Proponents of the RH Bill say that while the proposal will not put an immediate end to infant and maternal deaths (much has to be done to rework the national government’s fiscal priorities where allocations for public health services and education remain pegged to the floor compared to high appropriations for foreign debt servicing and military spending), babies can at least have a fighting chance of being taken care off even while still in their mothers’ wombs.

If only her mother knew to take a P6.00 tablet of folic acid or folate per day, Airish could have been spared from having meningocele.

May 13, 2011

The Hunger Games and decisions made in a time of want and war

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ina Alleco @ 8:52 am

“May the odds be ever in your favor.”

This salutation is from the Hunger Games, the first of three books by Suzanne Collins about a young girl, Katniss Everdeen who lives Panem, an imagined country/world where Northern America used to be.

Katniss and the rest of the children of Panem are forced to be pawns in the Hunger Games, an infamous competition to the death set by the Capitol, Panem’s seat of government. All children aged 12 to 18, risk becoming contestants or Tributes in the Hunger Names — their names are raffled off as soon as they reach the age of 12, and every District has to send two Tributes, one boy, one girl.

The Hunger Games was created almost a century previous to Katniss’ turn to be become a Tribute as a means to control the Districts and prevent the citizens from staging uprisings or even small protests against the cruelty of the Capitol. The lives of their very own children are sacrificed to make up for the rebellion District 13 once staged before it was defeated and obliterated from existence. This is why the contestants to the Games are called “Tributes.”

In the Hunger Games, there can only be one winner. All 23 other Tributes must die so there can only be one Victor: the girl or boy who managed to escape being killed by the others; a boy or a girl who also had to kill to survive. The prize? The Victor lives, and is rewarded food. His or her District also benefits, as the Capitol gives food packages to every family in the District which the Victor represents.

The Hunger Games are also televised, in much the same reality shows are, but none of the brutality is edited out. If anything, the Gamekeepers, the Capitol’s organizers of the Game, manipulate circumstances that ever force them to defend themselves, to kill. The young Tributes to ignore any and all ideas they might have had of justice, of fairness, of their individual, unique humanity is so they can provide the Capitol grisly, bloody entertainment. The people of the Districts are required to watch the Games on pain of being arrested and even killed.

The Reality of Violence

It’s a violent novel, and so are the two novels that follow it, Catching Fire and Mockingjay. Collin’s books are supposedly meant for the Young Adult audience, but the message in them, the themes carried are for more “mature” (not necessarily older) individuals.

The books carry the themes of war and survival; brutality and compassion; loyalty and betrayal. They speak about the human condition and the impossibility of happiness under a system of oppression. They describe how power corrupts and easy it is for the powerful to rid themselves of compassion and humanity just so they can remain so.

The necessity of justice is also an important theme that runs through the books. One may be able to get through the harshness of poverty through sheer resourcefulness and determination to keep one’s self and one’s family fed; but there is no way to ignore or be indifferent to the cruelties that come with living in a society where injustice is prevalent.

Through Katniss’ eyes, we see human monsters: government officials who cling to their positions by wielding iron fists that never hesitate to crush even the innocent: in the Hunger Games, even 12-year olds are forced to handle weapons — spears, knives, deeply personal instruments of killing that require determined, directed physical force and proximity between the target and the killer.

Katniss, her mother and sister Prim live in the poorest District, District 12 where coal mining is the main livelihood. After the death of her father in a mining accident and her mother falls into deep depression, a 12-year old Katniss was forced to step up. She hones hunting skills her father taught her and becomes a highly capable hunter, a killing machine with a bow and arrow.

She risks capture and punishment by the Capitol’s Peacekeepers, the policemen of Panem, by hunting in the forests and other areas closed off to the citizenry. Forests, lakes, mountain ranges, the resources of the earth and its waters are owned by the government: what is the government’s can never be enjoyed by the people. The people of Panem — excepting those who live in the Capitol– live on the government’s sufferance.

As she begins her training as a Tribute in the 74th Hunger Games, Katniss moves from one discovery to another: all the Districts are forced to produce goods and services for the Capitol while their own people are kept in miserable poverty. Farmers toil in the fields from dawn to after dark; workers run the factories for almost no pay; and miners labor in the deep mine shafts where sometimes explosions or cave-ins occur and lives are easily lost and no bodies are found. Children are not children — that is, they are denied their childhood because the moment they are able to walk and are able to take instruction, they are immediately sent to work. Food is plentiful, but with no money to buy with it, people live half-starved. Diseases are treated with herbs despite the great advances in technology and science in the Capitol.

Katniss begins to questions the inequality, the harshness of the social circumstances the poor people of District 1-12 are forced to confront on a daily basis when she witnesses for herself how those living in the Capitol live in comfort and luxury. Her anger and outrage grows over the indifference of those who have regarding the poverty and suffering of those who have not.; but her fury is reserved for the government led by President Snow and its Hunger Games.

The descriptions of how Katniss survives the Hunger Games are, again, very violent. It’s like watching the reality show “Survivor” except the contest is to the death. What is more violent than the confrontations between the Tributes is the unwritten, the unspoken:children coming to terms with the necessity of killing for no other reason than to save one’s self.

At the same time the Tributes know that outside the Games’ arena, they also exist in a state of war: a war of daily existence where there is no food to be had; where to fall ill is to automatically have one foot in the grave because there is no money for medicine or for consultations with a health professional; where there are often no options for the poor but to either steal or starve or go insane from hunger and desperation. It is because of this that the Tributes, including Katniss, justify wanting to win: it will provide some escape from the war of hunger and want. There is an awareness that grows that it is much easier for one to accept the possibility of one’s own death than to admit the necessity of having to kill others, but kill they must.

With every killing she makes, Katniss loses more and more of what was left of her innocence.

Awareness and responsibility

Coming to terms with The second book, Catching Fire, deals with Katniss coming to terms with what she has experienced in the Hunger Games and its aftermath. She is forced to become a celebrity, but a celebrity that knows the falsehood of her fame and the hypocrisy of those who made her one. She makes a Tour of Victory in the Districts, forced to become an envoy of sorts of the Capitol, but what she sees and hears worsens the nightmares of her recent experience as a Tribute in the Games gradually pushes her to make a decision: will she hide or run from her new awareness of the evil that is the cruel and corrupt government and system, or will she stand and fight it?

As Katniss comes to a decision, readers are also made to think about their own responses to problems and conflict, whether personal or outside their own immediate sphere of existence. The world as we know it is far from being a realm of goodness and peace, and in the last 50 years after World War II, worries of nuclear annihilation has not completely left the public’s consciousness. In the meantime, the international economic crisis caused by capitalism’s unstoppable self-destruction has resulted in chaos: millions of workers globally losing their jobs; once powerful business conglomerates including banks crashing and closing; homelessness and hunger are on the rise especially in the so-called First World countries.

One cannot hide from these realities, and even the once politically indifferent and the socially apathetic have become aware that much is not right in the world. The question is whether one simply resigns oneself to these problems : from the endless traffic jams to the ‘deterioration of social services; to worsened corruption in government and human rights violations of the armed forces against the citizenry; or take action against them.

Katniss takes action against the horrors of her own world.

Rebellion and watchfulness

The third book, Mockingjay, sees the struggle against the Capitol erupt in full force. Her victory in the Hunger Games and how she succeded in defying the Capitol (albeit undeliberately) was witnessed by the whole population of Panem, and the people’s long festering anger can no longer be contained. The death toll rises as the war breaks out, and Katniss accepts her role as the Face of the rebellion.

Those who have accepted that there is a need to speak out and act against injustice will take note of Katniss’ hesitation. Katniss had difficulty trusting leaders who declared themselves to be one with the people and against oppression, but did not participate directly in the fight for freedom. She feared against trusting those who never knew how it was to starve or be victimized, and never shared the pain of those who did. She was warry that those who lead the movement only seek power for themselves in a set-up similar to that established by those they want to bring down.

By the end of the book, her decision and final act of defiance are cause for shock, but it also ellicits understanding and respect for her bravery.

The last pages of Mockingjay reveals a Katniss with no more illusions, and it is primarily the fear that the Hunger Games and the government she helped bring down will return that keeps her awake at night. She has children of her own, and they play in a meadow that was only a decade before a massive graveyard of civilians killed in the war against the Capitol. She lives from day to day, afraid to hope, and but always in her heart prepared to once more fight against anything that threatens to bring back the system that created the Hunger Games.

Katniss learns that injustice and the wars that erupt of because of it destroy more than structures or countries, but the innocence of children and any hope there can be of a future where war is only a memory. And a counter-war, a movement of opposition and liberation that does not keep at its heart the determination to never repeat what the oppressors have done will do nothing to help the cause of humanity for true peace.

There are other characters in the Hunger Games books that influence Katniss and her decisions. For the most part Katniss has no true goals of her own apart from keeping her sister and mother safe and alive; but her friendship with two boys, Peeta Mellark and Gale Hawthorne help her decide the paths she will follow. The relationships she forms with other Tributes, primarily the little girl Rue from District 1, also make their mark on her life and is direction in the context of war.

Peeta is the voice of compassionate reason. In the midst of conflict and even as his life is directly threatened, he firmly clings to keep his humanity. He struggles against any course of action that will compromise what he believes to be humane and just, even if will save his life.

Gale, is also an idealist, but his ideals embrace retribution and revenge. He has Machiavellian instincts; and while he cannot be immediately blamed for it living as he did as an essential slave of the Capitol, the crucial decisions he makes in time of war serve to fuel continuing hatred instead of strengthening resolves to do justice.

The Hunger Games is rife with metaphors for how governments of the powerful nations of the world today send the working people to their death by denying them their economic rights, by violating the rest of their human rights, and by systematically creating a climate of impunity wherein the armed forces maim and kill those who chose to voice their dissent.

And at the end of everything, its always the children, the younger generations who suffer the most, and unless one takes a stand, the suffering never ends and the Hunger Games continue.

April 15, 2011

Political detainee poet Ericson Acosta tortured, almost executed by military

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ina Alleco @ 4:07 am

He was not holding a grenade or any explosive at the time of his arrest and he was subjected to torture while in the custody of the military.

These were some of the assertions made by poet and writer Ericson Acosta in counter-affidavit submitted to the National Prosecution Service in Calbayog City Samar on April 12, 2011.

In the presence of the Assistant provincial Prosecutor Agustin M. Avalon and his own lawyer Julian F. Oliva of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), Acosta affirmed that he was a freelance journalist doing research on human rights violations and the protection of the environment in Samar for the Alliance of Concerned Samareños (ACOS) and the peasant group Kapununguan Han Gudti Nga Parag-Uma Ha Weste Han Samar (Kapawa.) He said that during his arrest and in the course of his continued detention, his constitutional and human rights were violated.

“I was arrested without warrant while not committing any crime or doing anything illegal; I not informed of the reason for my arrest at the time of my arrest. I was also denied the right to counsel; denied a phone call and prevented from contacting my family or my lawyer and subjected to prolonged interrogation for 44 hours,” he said.

Acosta said that during tactical interrogation, he was physically and psychologically tortured; deprived of sleep, threatened, intimidated, coerced and forced to admit membership in the New People’s Army (NPA).

“The evidence against me, ‘the grenade’, was planted; the complaint against me was filed in court only after 72 hours and 30 minutes after my arrest; and I was detained in a military camp, which is not of civilian jurisdiction.

Researching human rights violations in Samar

Acosta was arrested On February 13, 2011 in Barangay Bay‐ang, San Jorge, Samar. In reports it released to the media, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said that Acosta was a verified member of the NPA and that he attempted to resist arrest by trying to lob a grenade against arresting soldiers.

In his sworn statement, Acosta denied both allegations.

“I had just completed my research task the previous day. I left Barangay Bay‐ang, San Jorge, Samar at a little past 9 o’ clock in the morning, and headed for what the barrio folk call their ‘port’ – an unmarked quay by the river which was less than an hour’s walk via mountain trail, where a pump boat was scheduled to pick me up at the said place and bring me to San Jorge town proper. I was joined by Vicente Dacles, the Barangay Secretary, and several other residents of Bay‐ang who were all going to town as well for some business,” he said.

Acosta said that Dacles was at the head of their group, followed closely by himself, while the rest, who were mostly women and children, fell behind by at least a hundred meters.

Around 10am and when they were some 200 meters away from their destination, they caught sight of a platoon of soldiers who motioned them (Dacles and Acosta) to stop. Acosta said that he immediately noticed that the soldiers were resting and cooking by the left side of the trail.

“ One of the soldiers approached and asked where we came from and where we were going. We answered them. The soldier then inquired if we knew where they could fetch water. Dacles turned around and pointed to an area somewhere, and gave the soldier brief directions on how to get there. He even added that if it became difficult to locate, the soldier could just ask the rest of our company who were lagging behind. The soldier then told us to carry on, and so we did,” he said.

Barely a minute had passed after Acosta and the rest of his companions began walking when another team of soldiers accosted them. Dacles answered their questions and told them that they had already been questioned by the first group of soldiers. When they turned to go, the soldier again ordered us to halt. He was motioned to the mini‐knapsack that Acosta carried and asked him what was in it.

“ Before I could even reply, the soldier, in brisk movements, had un‐slung the knapsack from my shoulders and had zipped it open. It was my computer notebook and some other complimentary gadgets he found inside my mini‐knapsack,” Acosta said.

The soldier was reportedly quite surprised by what he saw. “You’re in the mountains but you have a laptop?” the soldier said.

The soldier and his team then led Acosta and his companions back to where the main body of the platoon was. There the soldiers took turns body-searching Acosta. They emptied his pockets and his sling pouch; they checked his sides and lifted the hem of his shirt up to his neck looking for concealed weapons. They did not find any.

Then one of the soldiers handed Acosta his computer and told him to turn it on.

“I told them that the batteries had already drained out. I pressed the power button to show them that the computer won’t boot. But another soldier scolded me for pressing the button saying that I might have consciously and slyly triggered the computer t self‐destruct. Then the soldiers, five to seven of them at a time, started to harangue me almost in unison, with raised voices and intermittent invectives and threats. They accused him of being an NPA and that he was probably a ranking official and that’s why he had a laptop. They yelled at him and ordered him to be careful with his movements or he would be sorry and threatened him with physical harm.

“I tried to explain to them that I was doing research in the area but whatever I said was drowned it seemed by their intense excitement to badger and harass me. This went on for several minutes until our other companions from Bay‐ang finally arrived at the scene,” he went on.

A soldier asked the women of the group if they knew me. The women said yes and that they were supposed to go to town with me. Another soldier butted in and shouted and berated the group, “You’re all liars!,” said the soldier, “This man is an NPA!”

An officer finally intervened. He introduced himself as the commanding officer of the platoon. He told Acosta’s companions that they were all free anyway to go to where they were supposed to go, and the soldiers will only take with them the Tagalog (Acosta).

When the women asked where Acosta would be taken, the soldiers merely ordered them to leave. Dacles and the rest of the Bay‐ang group were compelled to leave Acosta with the soldiers and went straight to the port.

An order to kill Acosta

After his arrest, the soldiers led by a 2nd Lieutenant Jacob Madarang told Acosta that he would be taken to the headquarters of the Charlie Company of the 34th Infantry Batallion in Barangay Blanca Aurora. They walked all the way through stretches of rocky and muddy terrain, and during the journey, Acosta herd Madarang inform his superiors that they had arrested him.

It was then that he realized that Madarang was being ordered to kill him.

“ I immediately got the drift of the said conversation. It seemed that Madarang was being told not to bring me anymore to the Company headquarters, but just to ‘get rid’ of me instead. Madarang on the other hand was sort of lobbying or politely insisting that it was wiser to bring me to headquarters for interrogation as he strongly felt that that they could extract from me some valuable information. After the phone call, Madarang told his men that they would take me to the Charlie Company HQ in Blanca. He also commanded a soldier to tie me by the waist before we marched again,’ he said.

After an hour and a half, Madarang ordered one of his men to give Acosta his jacket.

“At first I thought of it as some simple gesture of humanitarian concern on the part of the young lieutenant. As soon however as we entered a village center (this was the barangay immediately before Barangay Blanca), I found out what the jacket was really all about. The soldier behind me who was also the one holding my leash suddenly placed his right arm upon my shoulders. The act made it appear that this soldier and me were casually walking like pals as the platoon passed through the dimly lit steets of the village. The platoon had to make sure that no one in the barrio saw the unit with a captive,” he said.

The soldiers and Acosta arrived at the military headquarters around 9:00 pm and Acosta was turned over to higher military authorities. He was told that he should be grateful that they let him live because he could have been shot and killed instead and the account reported as the result of an encounter with rebels.

For the next few hours, Acosta was subjected to interrogation. He reminded the military of his rights and said that his arrest, detention and interrogation were all beyond the bounds set by law.

“I said that if they are in any way contemplating on charging me with something, then they should just bring me to the nearest police detachment and that I would urgently be needing the assistance of my lawyer,” he said. The military dismissed his requests .

By Acosta’s account, the interrogation by at least eight military persons who took turns began 10:30 p.m. on the day of his arrest and ended only on 6:00 pm of February 15. In the intervening 44 hours, he was only allowed two hours of sleep and only because his interrogators themselves already got too tired and sleepy.

The Grenade

On February 15, Acosta was taken to the San Jorge Municipal Police Headquarters in an SUV. It was there that the soldiers produced a grenade. They proceeded to report to the PNP that the grenade was Acosta’s and that he tried to attack soldiers with it when he was arrested.

After the PNP, the soldiers took Acosta to Gandara Hospital to be examined by a medico‐legal practitioner.

On February 16 at 7:30 a.m., Acosta was made to go through a blotter procedure. The police made him fill up some forms, took his fingerprints and mug shots. After 30 minutes, military officials led by a colonel arrived and took Acosta to the Calbayog City Hall of Justice . He was handcuffed.

During the entire time when he was being charged, no one among the military explained to him what he was being accused of. When he ventured to ask, he was shouted at.

A police official asked the police if it was legally possiblefor Acosta to be handed back to the military under some special custodial arrangements. It was then that Acosta made sure to speak out.

“I made sure that my voice was loud and clear for all the employees in that big office to hear. I stood up and said that the idea was highly irregular and definitely illegal. I then drew their attention towards the colonel and his men by pointing at their group while saying that these men in civilian clothes were the soldiers and officers who illegally arrested me and are now my complainants, and I would never allow them to take me into custody,” he said.

One of the employees told Lucero that I could not be brought back to the military and the best alternative was to bring me to the sub‐provincial jail. Acosta then insisted on being allowed to make a phone call to his family in Metro Manila, saying that the San Jorge PNP had previously denied him the right to do so. The same employee told Lucero to take Acosta to the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO).

Acosta was able to call his mother, but it was a short phone call and then he was taken to the sub‐provincial jail where he was remitted. He later learned that a Complaint for Illegal Possession of Explosives was filed against me before the Regional Trial Court of Calbayog City at 10:30 a.m. of February 16, 2011.

Admiral Work and Advocacy for the Peasantry

The peasant organization Kapawa Western Samar has in the meantime vouched for Acosta, denouncing his arrest and calling for his immediate release.The group said that that the military arbitrarily arrested Acosta and filed against baseless charges of illegal possession of explosives.

Filomino Tabon-Tabon, KAPAWA Chairman, said that farmers attest to his Acosta’s admirable work and advocacy for the peasantry. He said that Acosta volunteered for work with their organization in San Jorge as well as other towns in Samar province.

“He has helped Kapawa with our campaign against hunger, malnutrition, poverty and militarization here in Western Samar. One of his contributions to Kapawa is his research regarding large-scale mining in the province. He wrote articles about the situation of farmers in the province that contributed to the success of the farmers’ rally in Catbalogan, which marked the occasion of Peasant Month and ‘World Foodless Day’ last October, 2010,” Tabon-Tabon said in a statement.

The organization said that they are certain that Acosta did not carry guns or explosives.

“What the soldiers took from him were his personal belongings, including the computer or laptop he uses for his work. Acosta was illegally arrested while he was doing research on the human rights situation in Barangay Bay-ang and other adjacent villages in the towns of Catbalogan, San Jose de Buan, Motiong and Jiabong. Barangay Bay-ang is just one of the many barrios in Samar that fall prey to widespread military operations and abuses ever since the time of Jovito Palparan and up until the current Oplan Bayanihan of the Aquino regime,” it said.

It went on to say that military operations still torment the countryside and that there is repression, oppression and the military abuses against human rights persist under the government of President Benigno Aquino and that farmers remain in extreme poverty, and suffer much from natural disasters.

“We do not feel that the Aquino regime is indeed sincere when he says he will free the peasants of this burden, as the government clearly lacks programs favorable to impoverished farmers. While he fails to implement a nationalist, pro-peasant program for land reform, he supports militarization in the guise of ‘bayanihan,’ which in truth continues to cause serious detriment to the livelihood of farmers in the countryside. Aquino maintains the policy of repression against perceived “enemies of the state,” as in the arrest of peasant leader Dario Tomada of SAGUPA-Sinirangan Bisayas in July of 2010. Despite promises of justice and change, the number of political prisoners continue to increase under the Aquino administration,” Kapawa said.

The group said that it fully supports calls for Acosta’s immediate and unconditional release.

“We believe that it is not a crime to help and serve the needy and neglected – it is never wrong for one to advocate the welfare of the marginalized peasant sector,” it said.

Legal defense fund

Acosta’s friends and supporters have already set up a legal defense fund and is currently calling on all human rights supporters to contribute.

In their letter being circulated in various social networking sites and posted in the University of the Philippines Alumni website, they stated personal details regarding Acosta.

“Ericson was a former editor of the Philippine Collegian in UP, a former chair of the student cultural group Alay Sining, and a former chair of the campus alliance STAND-UP. He is a writer, journalist, poet, thespian, singer and songwriter. His works remain relevant on and off campus. Since his UP days, Ericson has worked closely with the poor and oppressed. We his friends, together with his family and human rights groups, are working for his immediate release and for the dropping of all the fabricated charges made against him.”

“We appeal for your support for the legal defense fund which we have put up for him. The funds raised will go to Ericson’s legal defense and medical needs. There are the inherent difficulties faced by the family who are based in Metro Manila while Ericson is detained in Samar. Through your help, we can see to it that Ericson will be released and be reunited with his family and the people he serves,” they said.

Supporters may send their contributions to the account under Isaias Acosta, Banco de Oro, The Block SM City North branch, with Savings Account number 0251065464. For international donations, they may be sent to Isaias Acosta, the same branch, account number 00-0251065464, Routing number 021000089, Swiftcode: BNORPHMM.

Ericson Acosta's parents Isaias and Liwayway Acosta

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