Archive for the ‘Socio-Political’ Category

The National Council of the Kabataang Makabayan. Jose Ma. Sison, Charlie del Rosario, Leoncio Co, Ibarra Tubianosa, Arthur Pangilinan.

  1. The youth group Kabataang Makabayan was founded in 1964, or four years before the reestablishment of the Communist Party of the Philippines. Its leaders would be instrumental in the reestablishment of the CPP in 1968 and of the New People’s Army in 1969.
  2. The KM was a national seeding machine for the Philippine revolution. It helped in the rapid nationwide expansion of the CPP-NPA especially after Marcos declared Martial Law in 1972. The fascist dictatorship forced thousands of KM members to go underground and engage in the nationwide expansion of the revolutionary movement.
  3. During the 60’s, the KM trained and developed intellectuals and national leaders such as founding chair Jose Ma. Sison, Monico Atienza, Satur Ocampo, Julius Fortuna, Bal Pinguel and many others. The KM would be at the forefront of the First Quarter Storm of 1970 and the Diliman Commune of 1971.
  4. The KM was founded on November 30, 1964, on the 101st birthday of Andres Bonifacio. The group was inspired by the Katipunan and the democratic revolution against Spanish colonialism. The group advances what is known as the new-democratic revolution against imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism. The official symbol on the KM is the alibata for letter K, also adopted from the Katipunan.
  5. Nationalist stalwart Senator Lorenzo M. Tanada delivered the keynote address to the founding congress of KM in 1964. He suggested that KM have a publication called Kalayaan, named after the publication of the Katipunan edited by Emilio Jacinto. The publication remains to this day and can be found online.
  6. There were 80 charter members when the KM started in 1964. They came from the ranks of students, workers, professionals and peasant groups.
  7. Many of the names found on the Wall of Remembrance at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani are members of KM who were martyred during the Marcos dictatorship. They include Charlie del Rosario, Merardo Arce, Armando Mendoza, Romulo Jallores, Nimfa del Rosario, and many others.
  8. Well-known CPP spokesman, the late Gregorio “Ka Roger” Rosal, was a member of the Kabataang Makabayan from the ranks of the peasantry.
  9. KM inspired the founding of another comprehensive youth organization called Anakbayan, which was also established on November 30, 1998. Anakbayan vowed to continue the work of Kabataang Makabayan in the legal democratic movement. Anakbayan works to arouse, organize and mobilize the Filipino youth for the national democratic struggle.
  10. Fifty years after its founding, the KM remains an active underground revolutionary organization and is a founding member of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines. It is the oldest of the national democratic mass organizations that still exist today. Its founding chair Prof. Sison remains active as the leader of the International League of Peoples Struggle and chief political consultant of the NDFP in the peace talks. He continues to take an active role in the Filipino people’s struggle for national and social liberation.

KM cegp.org

Photo from Bayan USA

 

The Philippine negotiators of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement are working overtime to spread lies and misinformation about the recently signed military agreement. They want to make it appear that we are not on the losing end and in fact have everything to gain from the agreement. It is important that we debunk these arguments and expose the EDCA for the one-sided pact that it is.

 

  1. The Myth that EDCA is mutually beneficial – The EDCA has been described as mutually beneficial for the US and PH. It is portrayed as something we need to modernize our backward AFP. In fact, because of the supposed mutual benefits from the EDCA, the PH government has decided that we should let the US troops use of facilities for free and our utilities tax-free. What does the US stand to gain? A lot. The US gains free access to PH lands and waters, existing AFP camps and other facilities, for the stationing and rotational deployment of troops, giving the US a platform for power projection in the region, as well as a launching pad for possible military intervention. And they get this at the cheapest possible price. The Philippines on the other hand is supposed to benefit from this pact through the modernization of the AFP. However, nowhere in the EDCA does it state how the AFP will modernize through the frequent war games, the storage or prepositioning of weapons and other forms of interaction with US troops. The agreement does not say how the AFP will acquire X amount of weapons, ammunition, vehicles, vessels and technology as benefits for the use of our facilities. In fact, all relocatable or movable items owned by the US forces will be brought back to the US, leaving us with only empty buildings. Prepositioned materials which include weapons shall be for the exclusive use of US forces and can be moved out of the country anytime. Finally, if indeed US military presence will lead to modernization, we should have accomplished this a long time ago when we had US bases for 44 years and the VFA for 15 years now.

 

  1. The Myth that we are in control – Philippine negotiators say that the EDCA is different from the RP-US Bases Agreement because we are in control. US troops are here upon the consent of the PH government. The Philippines retains ownership of the facilities and the Philippine base commander or the designated representative has access to the US facilities. The Philippines also retains primary responsibility for security. All these look good on paper. The reality however is that the US will retain operational control of the “agreed locations” and shall “exercise all rights and authorities” to ensure their operational control. This includes putting in place security measures that would necessarily limit access to their facilities. Philippine access will have to comply with the “safety and security requirements” that will be imposed by the US.  There lies one of the great ironies under the EDCA. We entered an agreement that allows the US unlimited access to our facilities while limiting our access to theirs.  A historical footnote: In 1979, when the RP-US Military Bases Agreement was reviewed, the US bases were placed under the formal control of the Philippines, and were considered US bases within Philippine facilities. They were even placed under a Filipino base commander. The Philippine flag also flew in these bases and the Philippine government was to provide security along the bases’ perimeter. None of these acts diminished the fact that the bases still violated our sovereignty. Lastly, the idea that US troops are here upon our consent and invitation is just a fee-good provision that does little to mitigate the one-sidedness of this pact.

 

  1. The Myth that EDCA is a deterrent against China – This myth is related to the first myth of mutual benefits. The argument is that the EDCA will help us modernize our AFP thus enabling us to stand up to China’s incursions. Since the EDCA will not help our AFP modernize, we are left with the next best thing; that is for the US to come to our defense if attacked by China. However, nowhere in the EDCA does it say that the US will come to our aid if attacked by China. Neither does this assurance appear in other agreements like the Visiting Forces Agreement and the Mutual Defense Treaty. In fact, when US President Barack Obama was asked the same question during his Manila trip, he did not give any categorical answer nor firm commitment.

 

  1. The Myth that EDCA does not require Senate ratification – PH negotiators say that the EDCA is not a basing treaty therefore does not require Senate ratification. It is merely an implementation of existing treaties like the MDT. Sec. 25 of Art. XVIII of the PH Constitution states that “foreign military bases, troops, or facilities shall not be allowed in the Philippines except under a treaty duly concurred in by the Senate… and recognized as a treaty by the other contracting State.” So long as it involves foreign troops or facilities (even for the sake of argument they are not bases), the agreement must go through the Senate. EDCA deals with the activities of foreign troops including their right to put up their own facilities in the so-called agreed locations. To be valid under our Constitution, EDCA should have been ratified by the Philippine Senate and recognized as a treaty by the US Senate.  So why didn’t they just do that? The Executive was rushing the signing of the secretly negotiated agreement in time for the Obama visit. Bringing it to the Senate would mean a long, tedious process of public hearings and debates. Also, the Executive wants the agreement so badly it was not sure if it wanted to take the risk of subjecting the EDCA to the 2/3 Senate vote requirement stated in the Constitution.

 

  1. The Myth that these are not bases – Related to No.4, PH officials say the EDCA does not deal with bases and thus does not require Senate concurrence. First point we should consider is how the US will operate these “agreed locations”. Article III, Sec. 1 of the EDCA grants US force and private contractors access to “agreed locations” where they can conduct a broad range of activities including but not limited to; training, support, refueling of aircraft, bunkering of vehicles, temporary maintenance of vehicles, temporary accommodation of personnel, communications, prepositioning of equipment, supplies and materiel, and even deploying forces and materiel. Those are the operations of a base. But these are different from the old bases in Clark and Subic, they say. The US military pivot now calls for flexible basing opportunities that are not necessarily in the mold of formal bases like Clark and Subic. Second point we should consider is permanence. An indefinite number of US forces will be rotated in the country, meaning, at any given time, there will always be US troops stationed on our soil. The prototype of this is the US Joint Special Operations Task Force Philippines, 600 US Special Forces who have been based in Zamboanga since 2002 supposedly providing counter-terrorism training to PH troops. Third, US forces will be allowed to put up permanent structures, which imply that the presence of US forces will be for the long haul. Fourth, the agreement itself enables the permanent presence of US forces because the EDCA is in effect indefinitely, beyond the so-called 10 year term. Yes, the EDCA will remain “automatically” in effect even after 10 years, unless it is terminated by one of the parties.

 

We need to expose and shatter the myths being propagated by the Aquino government regarding the EDCA. The Aquino regime did something worse than the sell-out of our sovereignty. It gave it away for free. It betrayed the Filipino people. None of us were consulted. None of us even saw the contents of the pact before it was signed.

We don’t need to wait 10 years. For our sake and those of the future generations who stand to experience life under another US military occupation and a back-slide to colonialism, we have to scrap the EDCA now. ##

 

 

Photo from DZRHNews

 

  1. The scope is very broad. Article II, Sec.4- The Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement ((EDCA) provides US forces “agreed locations” where they can conduct a broad range of activities. The agreement does not set any limits on what areas throughout the country could be accessed by US troops, how many troops can be allowed in these areas or facilities, and for how long these troops will be allowed to stay. For all intents and purposes, the entire country can host US troops. US forces can access and put up facilities in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, making the agreement broader in scope compared to the 1947 Military Bases Agreement where bases were confined to Clark and Subic. There is also the question on the limits of the activities that can be undertaken in the “agreed locations”, for example, if the US would operate secret prisons or rendition sites in the Philippines, which would be contrary to law.

 

  1. The EDCA will mean permanent US presence – Article I, Sec.1 (b)- US troops will be given authority to access “agreed facilities” on a rotational basis. The agreement does not define what “rotational” means. In practice, under the VFA rotational deployment would mean the changing of personnel deployed in an area, resulting in the permanent presence of the troops. In Mindanao, 600 US Special Forces are being rotated, resulting in their permanent presence in the island since 2002. Rotational presence is euphemism for permanent presence. The provision that the EDCA will not lead to permanent presence or basing is worthless.

 

  1. The US will operate facilities as military bases and will drag us into overseas conflicts- Article III, Sec. 1 – The EDCA grants US force and private contractors access to “agreed locations” where they can conduct a broad range of activities including but not limited to; training, support, refueling of aircraft, bunkering of vehicles, temporary maintenance of vehicles, temporary accommodation of personnel, communications, prepositioning of equipment, supplies and materiel, and deploying forces and materiel. From the description above, the “agreed locations” will be operated as US military bases. One new feature of the EDCA is that it explicitly allows the Philippines to be a staging ground for US operations overseas.  This could range from being a launching pad of drone strikes, and other offensive operations that would make the Philippines involved in US conflicts abroad.

 

  1. The entire country could be an operating base- Article III, Sec. 2 – The Philippines shall assist transit or temporary access by US forces to “public land and facilities (including roads, ports and airfields), including those owned by local governments, and to other land and facilities (including roads, ports and airfields). Again, the entire country can be used by US forces, making the EDCA much broader in scope than the previous RP-US Military Bases Agreement. It bears stressing that the pact does not define what “temporary access” means, except that it is distinct from “transit” or US forces just passing through.

 

  1. US forces will get a lot of perks under the EDCA. Article III, Sec.3 – US forces shall have access to “agreed locations” “without rental or similar costs”. So not only will US troops get unlimited access, they can also stay here rent-free. Article VII, Sec. 1 – US forces and their private military contractors can use utilities such as water and electricity but will be tax-exempt, with their supposed taxes being paid for by the Philippine government. Article 7 Sec.2- US forces will also be allowed radio frequencies free of charge.

 

  1. The illusion that we’re in-charge. Article III, Sec.4 – US forces will retain “operational control” of the “agreed locations” and will have authority to undertake construction of permanent facilities and improvement of existing facilities as well as put in place their own security measures. In Article 3 Sec.5, Philippine authorities shall have access to the entire area of the “agreed locations but this will be subject to the “safety and security requirements” agreed upon by the parties. Based on this, PH access to the US operated facilities will still have to go through “safety and security requirements” set by the US.  The Philippines will retain ownership of all facilities, at least on paper. Agreed locations, including permanent facilities built by the US will be turned over to the PH once the US no longer uses them. There is the possibility that the US will be compensated for the improvements and construction that they will undertake. So yes, on paper we own these facilities but these will only be returned to us if the US no longer has use for them, and we also might have to pay the US some form of compensation.

 

  1.  The Philippines as weapons depot. The US will be allowed to preposition equipment in the “agreed locations” and facilities (Article IV, Sec.1). These prepositioned equipment and war materiel shall be for the exclusive use of the US. These include, but not limited to, supplies for humanitarian assistance and disaster response. Weapons and other possible hazardous materials may be among the items that can be stored in Philippines. The country will become a huge weapons depot, where Filipino troops become glorified security guards for the US forces and their equipment (Article VI, Sec 2). Surely this does nothing to help modernize the AFP.

 

  1. Our hands are tied. – Under Article XI, the PH cannot bring disputes arising from the agreement to any local or international court or third-party arbitration. All disputes will be settled exclusively through consultations by both parties. This effectively ties the hands of the Philippines and as a Atty. Sarah Arriola pointed out, grants immunity to US troops before the ICC. In cases such as environmental damage similar to the Tubbataha reef grounding of the USS Guardian, the EDCA does not provide guidelines for compensation (Article IX on the environment). Even in the event of the unintentional release of hazardous materials or waste, or an oil spill, the EDCA says the US will take action contain the hazard. However, the EDCA is silent on damages. (A side note, Article IX Sec.3 implies that the US will indeed be bringing in hazardous materials and hazardous waste into the country.)

 

  1. The EDCA gives almost the same treatment as regular US forces to private defense contractors.  Contractors can have “unimpeded access” to the “agreed locations” and to the prepositioned materiel and supplies (Article IV, Sec.4). US private contractors are notorious worldwide for their violations and for shielding the US government from accountability. EDCA will see a rise in the number of private contractors operating in the country. Article VIII Sec. 1 allows US forces to hire private contractors without restriction as to choice of contractor, supplier or person who provides materiel, supplies and services. These same private contractors are also tax-exempt when it comes to the use of utilities such as water and electricity.
  2. The agreement is in effect indefinitely. While Article XII Sec 4 says that the agreement is in effect initially for 10 years, “it shall continue in force automatically unless terminated by either Party.” Now given the indefinite nature of the agreement, and the rotational presence of US troops all over country, free of charge by the way, the EDCA is worse than the RP-US Military Bases Agreement.

The EDCA is an affront to our sovereignty. It highlights our unequal relations with an imperialist power. The EDCA violates the 1987 constitution as it ensures permanent presence of US troops and the return of US bases under a broader, more flexible and more insidious arrangement and that this is done absent a treaty. As for the supposed benefits, nowhere in the agreement does it state how the AFP will actually modernize through the so-called joint exercises, rotational deployment of US troops and the prepositioning of weapons and materiel. Indeed, the benefits are close to nil. It is the US who stands to gain from the pact as it gets a stable foothold for power projection and military intervention in Southeast Asia.

 

Our duty is to fight this agreement, to fight the new US military occupation of our land.

 

Photo from Manila Bulletin

Two days ago, the Manila Standard reported the supposed P2 billion Tarlac road projects funded by the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program which first appeared in this blog. The news report confirmed funding for the road project, with Malacanang saying that there is nothing wrong if the President pours in P2 billion for public works in his home province. Malacanang seems to have forgotten that time when Arroyo was being criticized for funding so many projects in her home province of Pampanga.

In any case, we should look closer at the projects being funded by the so-called DAP. Some projects are either implemented because of patronage politics or because they provide an opportunity for corruption (or both). The DAP spending submitted by the DBM to the SC belies the government propaganda that the DAP was supposed to stimulate the economy and have a positive effect on growth.

In all their memos to the President, Abad and the DBM always claim that the proposed additional projects have been chosen based on three criteria:

a)      their multiplier impact on the economy and infrastructure development

b)      their beneficial effect on the poor

c)       their translation into disbursements

Against these criteria, let us now examine some of the uses of DAP based on an October 2011 memo to the President by the DBM.

The DAP was used by the Department of Agrarian Reform to pay P5.432 billion as landowner’s compensation. DAP’s beneficial effect and multiplier impact on the economy is achieved by paying landlords? How much do you think would go to compensating landlords that are political allies of the regime? Was DAP also used to compensate Luisita landlords?

The Department of Justice used P11 million through DAP for the operating requirements of 50 investigation agents and 15 state attorneys.

The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPPAP) was given P1.819 billion through DAP as supplementary budget for unfunded GPH-CPLA peace pact livelihood projects, support for so-called peace and development communities of the MNLF, PAMANA communications plan, support for reintegration of CPP-NPA rebels, farm-to-market roads, health centers, multi-purpose halls, livelihood and agriculture production etc. So OPPAP now wants to play congressman with its own set of infrastructure and livelihood projects for the implementation of questionable peace deals?

The DPWH had P5.5 billion for “various infrastructure projects” usually upon the recommendation of politicians. To quote the DBM, “the requested amount shall provide for additional priority infrastructure projects of the DPWH which include road, bridges and flood control projects. Many of the identified projects are quick-disbursing projects below P40 million which will be implemented by the district offices nationwide”. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out how corruption will take place in this set up.

There’s also the P6.5 billion “LGU support fund” also released through DAP which was justified as a buffer for the cut in the IRA share of LGU’s. The support fund was set up for “LGU’s requiring financial assistance to implement projects under a prescribed menu”. This definitely stinks like pork. LGU’s lining up to the DBM and DILG to get “financial assistance”? Good old-fashioned patronage politics.

There’s the P8.592 billion ARMM Transition and Investment Support Plan that covers “improvement of service delivery performance, creation of enabling environment for PPP towards equitable growth, improvement of public safety and security, cleansing the electoral system etc. This DAP allocation is supposed to be implemented by several agencies. The very description of the project raises a lot of questions on its legitimacy.

Still on the DILG, there is the P250 million Performance Challenge Fund that claims to be “People Powered Community Driven Development”, an empowerment fund that covers “various capacity building activities for the poor and participatory poverty action planning and budgeting projects in crafting local anti-poverty plans in the poorest municipalities. The project is jointly undertaken with the DSWD and NAPC. Pork, this time in the guise of poverty alleviation.

Residents of North Triangle in Quezon City should know that P11 billion was supposedly allotted for in-city housing for “20,000 informal settler families”, along with the construction of a Medium Rise Building in Camarin, Caloocan. We should find out the status of this housing project, especially in the aftermath of the very violent demolition of residents recently. Are they even aware that an MRB project is waiting for them in Caloocan?

To illustrate where congressional and presidential pork intersect, there is the DAP to cover PDAF projects, under the title “Various Other Local Projects”, worth a whopping P6.5 billion. This will be used to augment presumably existing projects already funded by PDAF. That DAP is used to augment graft-ridden PDAF projects shows how this program cannot be but part of the system of corruption.

It gets better for 2012.

In a memorandum to the President dated June 25, 2012, Abad  again sought authority to utilize government savings (DAP) for “big ticket projects” such as the “National Road Projects” in the President’s home province of Tarlac amounting to P2 billion.

Abad also recommended the use of DAP to fund the fraud-tainted Tulay ng Pangulo para sa Kaunlaran project which began under the Arroyo administration. Around P1.8 billion was recommended for this, where P500 million will be sourced from DAR. These bridges are supposed to help farmers, but may have ended up, like in the past, bridges to nowhere.

Abad sought authority to use pooled government savings to fund “urgent” and “critical” projects such as a P5 billion Tourism Road Infrastructure Project, and again the so-called “priority local projects” nationwide amounting to an additional P8.295 billion.

Some P1.6 billion meanwhile was supposed to be allotted for the “Capability Requirements for the Operations of the Philippine Coast Guard in the West Philippine Sea”. How funding the Coast Guard in the West Philippine Sea has a multiplier impact on the economy and a beneficial effect on the poor is not clear from the memo.

Clearly, in many cases, the DAP projects mentioned here do not fulfill the three criteria set by the DBM. Many of the projects do not really have a multiplier impact on the economy or have any beneficial effect on the poor, especially not when projects become wells of corruption. The submission by the DBM to the SC undermines governments own claims that the DAP was a necessary stimulus program. Billions went to infrastructure projects, including those already funded by the PDAF, raising concerns about corruption. Tigilan na ang panloloko sa taong-bayan. The only thing stimulated by the DAP was the appetite for corruption by government officials.

DAP is a tool for patronage politics — for influence over lawmakers and local officials– as well as an opportunity for greater corruption in the form of lump-sum allocations.

What is alarming is that while the Solicitor General says that DAP is no more, the authority invoked to create DAP still remains. Presidential pork still remains. Our work is far from over then.  ###

 

P.S.

 

From Ibon’s November 6, 2013 release:

The Aquino administration defends the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) as, among other things, stimulating the economy in 2011 and creating momentum that continues until today. Pres. Benigno S. Aquino III in particular claimed that the DAP contributed 1.3 percentage points to growth in gross domestic product (GDP) in the fourth quarter of 2011. However this is an exaggerated interpretation of a misleading World Bank report.

  • ·         Pres. Aquino based his claim on the World Bank’s  March 2012 Philippines Quarterly Update which said that “the government’s DAP was partially successful and contributed 1.3 percentage points to GDP growth in [the fourth quarter of 2011]”.  The same report clarifies, although only in a footnote, that this  “1.3 percentage point” contribution actually refers to the contribution of total government consumption and public construction and not just of DAP-related spending.
  • ·         DAP-related spending was only a portion of total government spending in the fourth quarter of 2011. The Php61.4 billion in actual disbursements under DAP accounted for just 19.8% of Php309.7 billion in total government spending in the fourth quarter (Php309.7 billion) and just 5.4% of total government spending for the year (Php1,144.2 billion). Total spending is the sum of government final consumption expenditure (GFCE) and public construction in the national income accounts measured at current prices.
  • ·         The hype about the supposed contribution of DAP to growth is a selective use of statistics. GFCE actually grew slower at 6.4% in 2011 from 2010 compared to 10.6% growth in 2010 from 2009; public construction meanwhile contracted by 29.5% in 2011 after 8.1% growth in 2010. These are measured at current prices. Real GDP growth in 2011 of 3.9% was also a marked slowdown from 7.6% in 2010.
  • ·         The real contribution of DAP-related spending to economic growth is likely just one-fourth of a percentage point at most in the fourth quarter of 2011 and an even more negligible fraction for 2011 as a whole.

 

 

During last week’s SC oral arguments, the Solicitor General said that the Disbursement Acceleration Program no longer exists thus making the petitions before the court moot. The line was new insofar as we’ve never heard this from the President, during his televised defense of DAP or during media interviews. Of course it is a bit of a stretch to argue that the petitions should be thrown out because the DAP has been terminated as early as mid-2013. Constitutional issues remain.

More importantly, accountability issues remain. Look at how DAP was probably used in 2012 based on a memorandum from the Department of Budget and Management.

In a memorandum to the President dated June 25, 2012, DBM secretary Butch Abad sought authority to utilize government savings (DAP) for “big ticket projects” such as the “National Road Projects” in the President’s home province of Tarlac amounting to P2 billion. No other lucky province received such allotment for that year based on the memo. The project had prior approval by the President.

DBMs Abad also recommended the use of DAP to fund the fraud-tainted Tulay ng Pangulo para sa Kaunlaran project which began under the Arroyo administration. Around P1.8 billion was recommended for this, where P500 million will be sourced from DAR. The project had prior approval by the President.

Abad sought authority to use pooled government savings to fund “urgent” and “critical” projects such as a P5 billion Tourism Road Infrastructure Project, along with “priority local projects” nationwide amounting to an additional P8.295 billion. We suspect that these “priority local projects”, often considered priorities upon the recommendation of politicians, could be where the pork for lawmakers goes. At the time of the memo, the projects have not yet been approved by the President.

Some P1.6 billion meanwhile was supposed to be allotted for the “Capability Requirements for the Operations of the Philippine Coast Guard in the West Philippine Sea”. Another P1 billion was allotted as a credit facility exclusively for agrarian reform beneficiaries, through the Land Bank in coordination with the Department of Agriculture. Both projects had prior approval of the President at the time the memo was submitted.

From the above, DAP has all the markings of presidential pork. It is a mechanism used to pool so-called “savings” then utilize these for “priority local projects” that are often upon the recommendation of the local and national politicians. Abad said that some 116 projects were funded through the DAP. All of these projects had presidential approval, he said.

One justice had asked Abad if the allegations of bribery during the Corona impeachment were true. Abad said there was no bribery and that the DAP funds did not go directly to the lawmakers.

Maybe. But isn’t that what the PDAF was all about? Those accused of corruption in the PDAF always say that they never touched the money; that they simply recommended projects and that implementation was done by government agencies. Yet everyone knows that in the course of implementation, the money does always end up with the politician. DAP is no different, especially when the budget secretary says politicians merely “recommend”.

DAP the stimulus mechanism may be “dead” according to the DBM, but the presidential authority used to pool “savings”, and utilize these for items not included in the General Appropriations Act, that’s a different matter altogether. The authority to utilize “savings” for the pet projects of politicians remains. That authority, if we are to believe the Solicitor General, is a valid exercise of presidential prerogative.

DAP’s not dead. And so is the corruption that comes with this serving of presidential pork.

  Revilla Roxas Aquino
 Did a meeting take place? “Inimbitahan ako ni DILG Secretary Mar Roxas sa kanilang bahay sa Cubao…Ipinatanggal niya ang kanyang plaka, pinaupo niya ako sa likuran at pagkatapos noon ay umalis na kami patungo sa Malacañang.” “Sa isyu naman ng pagpupulong nila ni Pangulong P-Noy, natural sa Pangulo na humarap sa matataas na opisyal ng bayan.” “I was just confirming reports that there were a lot of sectors exerting a lot of pressure on the senators during the trial.” 
What was the meeting about? “Aaminin ko sa inyo, ako ay nabigla dahil tila dinidiktahan ako ng Pangulo (kaugnay ng impeachment).” “Dati kaming magkasama ni Senator Bong sa Senado kaya nang iparating niya na mayroon siyang gustong i-take-up sa Pangulo kasama ang Cityhood ng Bacoor at ang kanyang pagiging Pangulo ng Partido Lakas, gumawa ako ng paraan para magkausap sila. “We were trying to lessen the pressure on all of them (senator-judges).
What happened during the meeting? “Habang nag-aalmusal kami ng pan de sal, kesong puti, itlog, hamon, tapa, sinangag, at mga prutas, bumangka si Secretary Mar tungkol sa mga dahilan kung bakit dapat ma-impeach si dating Chief Justice Corona. Bago kami magtapos, nagulat ako nang sinabi sa akin ng Presidente… “Pare, parang awa mo na, Ibalato mo na sa akin ito. Kailangan siya ma-impeach.” Sabay sunod naman ni Secretary Butch Abad, “Magtulungan tayo Senator.”   “What I was trying to do was basically ensure that they decide on the merits of the (impeachment) case rather than any other outside factor.”
Anything else you want to say? “Sya ang nag-imbita sa akin, si Boy Pick-up…Tamaan ng kidlat kung sino ang nagisinungaling.”
 
“Hindi solusyon sa problema niya ang paglilihis ng isyu, pagbaluktot sa katotohanan at panloloko ng tao.” So was it right for me to just step aside while all these sectors were really threatening, pressuring and doing things to our senators?” (Aquino also admits to meeting with other senators during this period.)

What is clear is that a meeting did take place. All three confirm this.

With the exception of Mar Roxas, both Revilla and Aquino admit that the agenda of the meeting was the impeachment trial. Mar says it is the cityhood of Bacoor and Revilla’s chairmanship of Lakas. No one believes Mar.

Aquino says he was merely trying to lessen the pressure on the senator-judges… by exerting presidential pressure on one of them. Amazing, right? The President believes people are actually stupid enough to believe this shiz.

In fact, when the President was asked who were these sectors purportedly exerting “a lot of pressure” on the senator-judges, he replied… “Do I have audiotapes? Do we have affidavits? I have none,” he said, except “intelligence reports.”

Ah ganun. 

What makes the meeting troubling is that there are indications that the President attempted to bribe Revilla. There is no clearer indication of this than the presence of Budget Secretary Butch Abad. Why did the president need Abad to be there? Because Abad is the chief architect of the Disbursement Acceleration Program or DAP, that special fund considered part of the presidential pork that was believed to be used as reward money for the conviction of Corona, among others. “Magtulungan tayo,” says Abad. That’s like a talking to a guy with a sackful of money asking you to do something for him. What else could “magtulungan tayo” mean? If that’s not an attempt at bribery, I don’t know what is.

That’s an impeachable offense and once again raises questions about Aquino’s fitness to lead the nation. 

 

 

Last December 12, as the country reeled from the effects of Yolanda, a massive power rate hike, and increases in the prices of LPG, the Department of Transportation and Communication decided to hold a “one-time” public consultation on the “proposed” MRT-LRT fare hike. The so-called consultation would be a venue for government to present the new fare matrix and the basis for the new fares. Or so we thought.

Bayan and other cause-oriented groups such as RILES Network, PISTON and Anakbayan had asked the DOTC for copies of documents related to the fare increase as early as June 24, 2013. A letter was sent to the Secretary of the DOTC. We received a reply dated July 2, 2013 which included some links to websites but did not include any of the documents that would explain the basis of the fare increase or the process by which the fares are determined.

Six months later, DOTC calls for a consultation and still we have not been provided with any documents. What the DOTC presented last December 12 was a 64-slide Powerpoint presentation. It was definitely not a proper public hearing.

What have we learned so far? Not much has changed with the proposed increase since it was first presented in 2011. The increase is still very significant as the maximum fares would double in some cases.

PROPOSED LRT 1 FARE MATRIX FOR STORED VALUE AND SINGLE JOURNEY

Stations SV Fare SV Fare  SJ FARE SJ FARE
Baclaran Baclaran 29 Bclrn 30
EDSA 12 29 15 30
Libertad 13 28 15 30
Gil Puyat 13 27 15 30
Vito Cruz 14 26 15 30
Quirino 15 25 15 30
Pedro Gil 16 24 20 30
UN Ave. 17 23 20 30
Central 18 22 20 30
Carriedo 19 22 20 30
D. Jose 19 21 20 30
Blumentrit 20 20 20 20
Tayuman 21 20 30 20
Bambang 21 19 30 20
Abad Santos 22 18 30 20
R. Papa 23 17 30 20
5th Avenue 24 16 30 20
Monumento 25 15 30 15
Balintawak 27 13 30 15
Roosevelt 29 Rsvlt 30 Rsvlt

The current maximum fare for LRT 1 is P20 for stored value tickets. Under the proposed scheme, the new maximum fare would be P29 for stored value and P30 for single journey tickets, a 50% increase from the current maximum fare. The LRTA says the average increase per commuter per trip, based on the average distance traveled, would be P4.70 per trip or P9.40 for a round trip. Single journey tickets will come in P15, P20 and P30 and will be significantly more expensive than the fares for stored value tickets.

PROPOSED LRT 2 FARE MATRIX

Stations SVFare SVFare SJFare SJFare
Recto Recto 24 Recto 25
Legarda 12 23 15 25
Pureza 14 22 15 25
V. Mapa 15 21 15 25
J. Ruiz 16 19 20 20
Gilmore 17 18 20 20
Betty-Go B 18 17 20 20
Cubao 19 15 20 15
Anonas 21 14 25 15
Katipunan 22 13 25 15
Santolan 24 Sntln 25 Sntln

For the LRT 2, the new maximum fare would be P24 for stored value tickets and P25 for single journey tickets, an increase of 66% from the current maximum fare of P15. Single journey tickets will come in P15, P20 and P25 values. The LRTA estimates that the average impact on commuters, given the average distance traveled, will be P5.60 per trip. That’s P11.20 increase if you go round trip. Those who have taken the LRT 2 know that most of its passengers are actually students studying in the university belt in Manila.

PROPOSED MRT 3 FARE MATRIX OF SV AND SJ TICKETS

Stations Fare Fare
North Avenue North Avenue 28
Quezon Avenue 13 28
Kamuning 13 24
Cubao 16 24
Santolan 16 24
Oritgas 20 20
Shaw 20 20
Boni 20 20
Guadalupe 24 16
Buendia 24 16
Ayala 24 13
Magallanes 28 13
Taft 28 Taft

The maximum fare of the MRT 3 will go up from P15 to P28 for single journey and stored value tickets. That’s an 87% increase from the current maximum fare. The minimum fare also goes up from P10 to P13. According to the DOTC, the average increase per passenger per trip of the new fare matrix, based on the average distance traveled, would be a whopping P7.92 per trip or P15.84 for a round trip. That’s nearly P16 increase for a round trip.

As we said, the increase is significant. Coming on the heels of increases in electricity rates, oil prices and premiums for SSS and Philhealth, and without any significant wage increase, the new fares will burn a hole in the pockets of commuters.

Let us now examine the basis for the increase. Is there a legitimate ground for such fares? How did the new fares come to be? What is the basis of the computations? How were the rates approved?

The DOTC justified the increase by saying that the government should be reducing its subsidy for the train lines and that commuters should be the ones paying for the real cost of transportation (users pay principle). It also said that the train fares need to be adjusted so that they would be closer to the fares of other land transport such as buses and AUV/FX. However, the DOTC failed to present any basis for their computations, other than the so called need to reduce government subsidy and the need to continue paying debts incurred in the construction of the train lines.

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Let’s first address the argument that the train fares need to approximate the fares of other land transport. This is obviously without basis, the comparison is between apples and oranges. Land transport such as buses and AUV/FX are being operated for private profits. The train lines receive subsidy and are considered part of government’s service. These train lines are the fastest and cheapest means of transportation to bring workers and employees to their workplaces and to bring students to their schools. It is government’s obligation to provide this kind of service for working people and students because in the end, the whole economy benefits.

As for the question of subsidy, government says that the actual fare for the MRT is P53.96 but that commuters only pay an average fare of P12.40 while government subsidizes P41.56. How and why the “actual fare” reached P53.96, they do not explain.

What they do say is that government has been subsidizing the MRT at about P6-7 billion a year and that this subsidy should be reduced. What they do not sufficiently explain is why the need for a P6-7 billion yearly subsidy. What is government subsidizing here?

Under the MRT’s Build Lease Transfer Agreement, the train line has financial obligations in the form of Equity Rental Payments and Administrative Costs amounting to P5.504 billion and Taxes, Duties and Fees amounting to P2.088 billion. These debts are the result of an onerous contract during the Ramos administration that guaranteed the profits of the private developers. For example, the private developers were given a 15% guaranteed return on investment even if the trains were filled or not. Such were the demands of the private developers before “investing” in this so-called public-private partnership venture. In fact the loans of these private developers were also guaranteed by the Philippine government.

If the government thinks the subsidy is too much, then it should stop honoring the patently disadvantageous BLT Agreement which is the source of the financial woes of the MRT. It is this debt which is being passed on to the commuters via the proposed fare hike. It is this debt which government wants us to shoulder.

As for the LRT 1 and 2, this is a slightly different situation. The people at the LRTA combined the financial standing of LRT 1 and 2 (amounting to P4 billion) to make it appear that both trains were bleeding financially and therefore an increase is necessary for both.

However, in this presentation in 2011, the LRTA showed that even without a fare increase, the LRT 1 would do just fine. It would still have an excess of P23 million at the end of the year. It is the LRT 2 which has a deficit.

It is not clear how much LRT 1 and 2 have respectively in terms of obligations. During the consultation, the LRTA admitted that it is LRT 2 which has the bigger debt. Based on the LRTA’s estimates, LRT 1 will have the bigger revenue from the fare hike at P621 million compared to LRT 2’s P321 million revenues. This is because LRT 1 has a bigger ridership than LRT 2.  By combining financial obligations and revenues of the two different train lines, the effect is that commuters of LRT 1 are also paying for the debts of LRT 2.

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Meanwhile, the MRT 3 hopes to generate an additional P1.122 billion in revenues from the fare hike. All in all, the fare hike from LRT 1 and 2 and MRT 3 will give the government P2.06 billion in additional revenues.

The additional revenues will be used to compensate for the subsidy reduction for the trains. When we asked the MRT officials how much would the subsidy reduction be under the 2014 budget, they said P200 million. So where will the P1.2 billion in additional MRT revenues go? They did not say.

Also noticeable from the presentation was the very low non-rail revenues of the LRT 1 and 2 and MRT3. The non-rail revenues are generated from advertising and development of commercial space in train stations and other facilities. The LRT 1 and 2 had a combined non-rail revenue of P227 million, or just 6.1% of total revenues. For MRT3, non-rail revenues comprise a measly P27 million or 1.2% of total revenues. In other countries, non-rail revenues comprise up to 20% of total revenues. This is indeed strange since so many malls and commercial establishments are connected to the LRT and MRT. The trains themselves are moving billboards. What we know in the case of MRT3 is that the revenues from ads and development of commercial space go not to the government but to a private corporation owned by the original developers. This is another result of the onerous contract between the government and the private developers.

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