Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Train overshoots station in the this photo from PhilStar.com

 

  1. The MRT was a BLT project where private investors will build the system while government will operate it. As a BLT project, government will pay the private investors equity rental for 25 years, after which government will supposedly own the train system. When the project started with the MRTC, the investors included Fil-Estate group of the Sobrepena’s, Ayala Land, Anglo Phil Holdings, Ramcar Inc, Greenfield Development Corp, Antel Land Holdings and DBH Inc
  2. The private investors from the Metro Rail Transit Corporation only invested $190 million from 1995 to -1997. The rest of the project was financed through $488 million in loans that the government of the Philippines fully paid by 2010. It was the Philippine government who was actually shouldering the majority of the cost of the project.
  3. Despite their relatively small investment, the private investors were guaranteed a 15% return on their investment by the government. DOTC estimated this to be a total of $2.4 billion from 2000-2025, or nearly 13 times their original investment. The BLT agreement assures the private investors that they will be paid, no matter what, even if there is no upgrade in the system or if ridership falls.
  4. According to the government, we have paid the private investors of MRTC a whopping $779 million or P32.5 billion in equity rental payments (ERP’s) from 2000-2013. That’s already more than 4 times their original investment. And according to the government, for the period in question, no new trains and significant upgrades in passenger capacity were installed.
  5. Since the ERP’s were guaranteed payments, the private investors securitzed some 77.7% of the future payments. The MRTC shareholders basically sold the rights to collect payments from the Philippine government. Some of the original private investors already cashed in on their future income and used the proceeds from the bond sales to get even more profits. This has given rise to a complicated ownership structure which even involves Manny Pangilinan’s Metro Pacific.
  6.  To corner the profits from advertising and commercial space development, the private investors created a spin-off company called MRT DevCo. This firm received most of the commercial profits from advertising, space development from the MRT system. While in other countries advertising revenues were used to subsidize fares, in our case, the revenues go straight to the pockets of the private investors. In fact, the DOTC is locked in a dispute with MRT Dev Co because the private firm owes government some P1.8 billion.
  7.  From the onset, the train system was maintained by private firms paid by government. During the first 10 years of the contract, maintenance of the train system was handled by Sumitomo, a Japanese firm that was also one of the banks that lent money to finance the project. We paid the private firm around P100 million a month, which is way higher than the P20-30 million a month paid for the maintenance of the government-owned LRT1 and LRT 2.
  8.  After two extensions, the contract with Sumitomo was not renewed. The DOTC proceeded to bid out the interim maintenance contract. Unfortunately for the riding public, the interim contract involving CB&T and PH Trams was mired in controversy after it was discovered that one of the officials of the private consortium was an uncle of the wife of then MRT GM Al Vitangcol. Again it was the taxpayers who paid $1.43 million (P61 million) a month to this private firm at a time when so many maintenance problems in the train lines were recorded. When the contract expired, another bidding took place and this time APT Global won the one-year maintenance contract worth P685 million or around P57 million a month. It was during APT’s term that the worst MRT accident took place after one of the trains overshot the terminal in Pasay Taft.
  9.  Seeing that the 15% guaranteed ROI will only place the government deeper in debt, the Arroyo regime, through Land Bank and DBP, bought 80% of the economic interests of MRTC, including bonds and other instruments representing future payments. This meant that government banks are now entitled to collect 80% of the ERP’s that government itself was paying.
  10. While government bought 80% of the economic interests in MRTC, it is not the same thing as buying ownership of the train system. The original private investors, through MRT Holdings, still claim to be the ones who own the train system. MRT Holdings still own shares of MRTC and even managed to sue the Philippine government over the purchase of new trains.
  11. Government is willing to spend P53 billion, to “buy back” MRT 3, but with the future intent of privatizing its operations and maintenance. Meanwhile, MRT Holdings thinks P53 billion for the buy out is not enough and will not give government ownership of the train system.
  12. MRT Holdings wants to be the one to purchase new trains because it thinks that it can charge the government another 15% for the installation of new passenger capacity. Government is right in rejecting this arrangement by the private investors. However, government officials involved in the purchase of trains also want to profit from the transaction through kickbacks. Remember the incident involving the Czech ambassador and Inekon?
  13. Despite the problems besetting the MRT, government has a pending proposal to raise the fares of the train system from P15 to P28 (North Ave to Taft) or an additional P8 per trip based on the average distance traveled by commuters.
  14. Both the government and the private investors are to blame for the woes faced by commuters. Over the years, the BLT contract and the privatization policy have caused unbearable burden on commuters and taxpayers. The truly sad part is that government, while seeking to “buy-out” the MRT, still seeks to privatize it eventually, bringing us back to where we started. 

It is time for the government to take over the MRT 3, and fix the problems  of capacity and poor maintenance. A government take-over costing billions will be all for naught if it’s direction is re-privatization.  Government should invest in the train system as a necessary mass transport system benefiting taxpayers and the economy as a whole. Government must not abdicate on its role of providing this service to the public, even as we continue to call on government to stamp out corruption within its operations. 

 

 

The real reason for DAP

Posted: July 13, 2014 in Uncategorized

A lot has been said about the Disbursement Acceleration Program especially after the Supreme Court came out with its unanimous decision declaring acts and programs under DAP and NBC 541 as unconstitutional.

A lot has also been said about the good intentions of DAP.

But what was the real intent of the DAP? Was it really aimed at stimulating the economy? Think-tank Ibon believes DAP was economically irrational and disputes that claim that DAP was a stimulus program that had a significant impact on the economy.

So if DAP wasn’t all that, what was it for? Why was it introduced by the Aquino government?

From documents submitted by the DBM to the Supreme Court, it would appear that economic stimulus was never really the intent of DAP. Centralizing and controlling funds were. It was never about the economy. It was all about giving the president control and discretion over billions of pesos, using this as his own slush fund to influence other branches of government and to serve as a well of corruption for those in power.

Why do we say this?

Two DBM memoranda issued on October 12, 2011 and December 12, 2011 indicate that the practice of centralizing unreleased appropriations began as early as November 25, 2010 or barely five months into the term of President Benigno Aquino III.

According to the two memos, the President declared as “savings” some P21.544 billion in unreleased appropriations for “slow moving projects and programs for discontinuance” in November 2010. The so-called “savings” were centralized under the office the President and were cleared for use for “other priority projects.” This happened BEFORE there was even a DAP.

The defenders of DAP will argue that such a move was necessary then because there were presumably questionable projects that were part of Arroyo’s enacted national budget. Remember that Aquino took office on June 30, 2010, after the budget had already been enacted.

However, the unconstitutional practice of declaring as “savings” the “unreleased appropriations”, as well as unprogrammed funds, would continue until 2011 and 2012, even under the budget supposedly scrutinized by Aquino and formulated under the ‘daang matuwid’.

So if the presumption was that there were no more anomalous projects under this regime, why not release appropriations for projects? What was the government’s definition of “slow-moving projects” that funds would not be released? Why allow the withholding of funds?

Meanwhile, since billions were not being released for government projects, there were already reports that the government was under-spending. Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda even claims that the slowdown in GDP growth was already being felt during the last quarter of 2010 and way into the start of 2011.

When Aquino declared as savings P21.544 billion in unreleased appropriations from 2010, he did not immediately spend the amount even if he approved its use for “priority projects”.

He waited until he could centralize more funds at which time the slowdown would be more pronounced or felt.

On October 2011, Aquino and Abad placed more funds under the control and discretion of the president. This included P12.336 billion from the 2010 unprogrammed funds, P30 billion in unreleased personal services appropriations for 2011, and P482 million in unreleased appropriations for “slow moving” and discontinued projects for 2011. Also placed under presidential control were P7.7 billion for realignment within agencies.

The P30 billion unreleased personal services appropriations could have come from the failure to hire now personnel or the streamlining or firing of government employees. Certain funds for the benefits or bonuses of government workers normally given at the end of the year were centralized and declared as savings.

Towards last quarter of the year, the slowdown and underspending were becoming more apparent and so government thought it was the perfect time to introduce a “stimulus program”.  Nearly a year of government underspending became a convenient justification for DAP

By October 2011 when the DAP was first introduced, Aquino already had discretion over P72.1 billion in DAP funds which he could appropriate for projects not found in the national budget and for augmentation of special purpose funds like the PDAF of lawmakers. The practice would continue for the next two fiscal years as savings would be declared midyear, for projects that were not completed or finally discontinued.

On December 21, 2011, Aquino approved additional projects worth P13.3 billion.

On June 27, 2012, Aquino signed and approved another Abad memorandum seeking the “omnibus authority to consolidate savings/unutilized balances and their realignment. The approved projects amounted to P32 billion, including P2 billion for Tarlac roadworks and another P8.3 billion “various local projects”. Aquino also approved the withdrawal of unobligated balances of NGA’s for “slow moving projects”, declaring them savings and authorizing their realignment.

On September 5, 2012, Aquino signed and approved Abad’s September 4, 2012 memorandum seeking the “release of funds for other priority projects and expenditures of government.” Projects for this period amounted to nearly P6 billion.

On December 21, 2012, Aquino approved the release of P33.3 billion in DAP funds, once again chargeable against “available savings and the 2012 Unprogrammed Fund.” This again included the item “other various local projects” this time amounting to P2.79 billion.

In May 2013, Aquino approved more DAP releases amounting to P10 billion. This included again an item called “various local projects” amounting to P4.6 billion, the biggest item for the period.

Lastly, on September 25, 2013, Aquino approved the release of P10.534 billion in funds for the Task Force Pablo Rehabilitation plan, supposedly for livelihood, resttlement, infrastructure and social services.

From November 2010 to September 2013, Aquino had wide discretion over P177 billion, which included funding projects not identified in the General Appropriations Act as well as funding projects outside of the Executive.

It was only on January 29, 2014 that the Solicitor General and the DBM secretary declared before the Supreme Court tha the DAP was already terminated at the end of 2013, supposedly because the goals of stimulating the economy have already been met. The announcement that DAP was terminated was aimed at declaring moot the petitions filed before the SC.

However, the SolGen and the DBM maintained that the “authority” to declare and pool savings and use such savings for priority projects identified by the President still remained. This simply meant that while there was no more DAP, the program can be resurrected in the future, under different circumstances, but with the same end of centralizing funds under the control of the President and spending these funds as presidential pork. One wonders, had the SC not declared the DAP unconstitutional, a new incarnation would take place just before the 2016 elections, when the President would need to secure the victory of his LP llies.

The real reason for DAP was fund control. All along the chief executive wanted to have discretion over billions of pesos of funds. DAP was no doubt the president’s special all-purpose fund that could be allotted based on the sole discretion of the chief executive. With the DAP, the president usurped the congressional power of appropriation.

The DAP did not meet its own criteria for disbursing projects; namely  their multiplier impact on the economy and infrastructure development, their beneficial effect on the poor, their translation into disbursements. Instead, DAP would end up in projects not at all beneficial to the poor, and with little impact on economic growth. In the worst cases, DAP would end up lining the pockets of corrupt officials, as can be seen in the DAP funds that went to bogus Napoles NGO’s.

There can be no good faith if there was an intent violate the law, all because of one’s bid to centralize funds and usurp the power of a co-equal branch of government.

Whenever the President would speak on DAP, such as on July 14 and in his upcoming SONA on July  28, let us remember one thing: DAP is presidential pork. In order to enlarge this pork fund, government took away funds from other projects and from its own employees from 2010 to 2013. In order to fulfill DAP’s role as pork, it was dispensed as a bribe or incentive to lawmakers and was used to grant favors for local officials and served as a well of corruption for those in power.

The authors and implementors of DAP thus have to be made accountable. The President has to be made accountable. On Wednesday, we will file an impeachment complaint.  ###

 

 

 

noynoyAquino’s much-awaited DAP speech is upon us. The speech will be televised live tomorrow, July 14, 6pm, and can be viewed on all major networks. After disappearing from public view for 10 days after the DAP decision was issued by the Supreme Court, and after rejecting the resignation of Budget Secretary Butch Abad,  Aquino finally decides to address the nation. 

The last time the president spoke on the subject, we were caught by surprise as he interrupted primetime programming without much of a warning for viewers. This time around, we have some time to ready ourselves. 

 

What is the best way to watch such a highly anticipated speech that is expected to focus on the DAP? Here are some ways.

1. Watch it with a group, with your organization, or family. Watching it alone may cause severe anxiety and possible anger management issues.

2. Choose a place. Public viewing let’s you see the spontaneous reaction of the people. Watch it at the jeepney terminal, tindahan sa kanto, covered court, palengke etc. We will be watching at Plaza Miranda by the way.

3. Eat ahead and be ready for possible loss of appetite after the viewing. 

4. Bring a sign. Every time you feel insulted by the speech, raise the sign.

5. Make your opinion heard after the speech is concluded. Wag kimkimin ang galit at sama ng loob. Huwag ding pigilan ang tawa at baka mautot. Ilabas ang tunay na saloobin ng mamamayan. Maudlot man nya ang primetime viewing, nasa atin namang manonood ang huling salita. Tandaan, mahalaga ang opinyon mo. Mahalaga ang pakikisangkot mo.###

Sa gawain ko sa org, minsan din akong napagkakamalang ibang tao. Heto ang ilan sa mga nakakatawa at nakakatuwang halimbawa. #truestory

1. TV/Radio talent – Minsan sa jeep may lumapit at nag-abot ng maliit na papel, “Ser, pakibati naman misis ko sa programa nyo,” sabi nung tao. “Ano po, wala po akong programa,” sagot ko. “Ah hindi po ba kayo si Joe D’ Mango?” sabi nya.

2. “Reporter po ba kayo?” – Madalas mangyari ito. It raw yung Joseph Morong effect o di naman kaya’y epekto lang ng malabong signal sa TV.

3. “Uy, si Teddy Casino” – Marahil dahil si Teddy ay talagang kilalang lider masa, “Teddy Casino” na rin ang generic na katawagan sa ilang mga aktibista. Ika nga, household name.

4. “Si ano yan, sa Anakbayan/ Akbayan / Anakpawis / Bayan Muna etc” – Madalas na reference ang militanteng organisasyon na kinakatawan natin, kahit minsan hindi eksakto yung pangalan ng organisasyon. Nakatatak na kasi sa isipan ng madla ang mga grupo, dahil na rin sa ilang dekadang pakikibaka. Dun lang sa pangalawa ako di matunawan. Isang malutong na “HINDI PO!”

5. “Bakit po wala kayong security? Di ba congressman kayo?” – Hindi po, aktibista lang po.

6. Basketball player – Minsan sabi ng security sa checkpoint ng UP, “Di ba basketball player kayo?” Nasa loob kasi ako ng sasakyan. Kung bumbaba siguro ako, nagbago isip nya.

7.  Sorry po wrong number – Minsan may tatawag para sa interview. “Hello po, pwede po makausap si Fr. Robert Reyes?” Meron ding malupet na “Hello, ito po ba si Chief Justice Renato Corona?”

8. “Magkasama/classmate/kapitbahay tayo sa …” – Minsan may makakasalubong at mag-uusap kayo sa inaakala mong shared experience ninyo. Babatiin ka ng “Uy kamusta na? Dun ka pa rin sa inyo?” etc. Saka mo maiisip na hindi pala kayo pareho ng pinag-uusapan, na hindi pala kayo classmate/kapitbahay/ka-probinsya etc. Awkward.

 

Sa mga pagkakataong ito, isa lang ang magiliw kong sagot. “Sa BAYAN po ako.”

“Ang BAYAN po ay isang alyansa ng iba’t ibang organisasyon. Iba pa po ito sa Bayan Muna na isang partylist group,” ang madalas ding dagdag na paliwanag.

Bukas Mayo 5 ang ika-29 na anibersaryo ng organisasyong ito. Maligayang kaarawan sa Bayan, ang Bagong Alyansang Makabayan!

 

  1. Bakit ba kayo tutol sa presensyang militar ng US? Hindi ba sila makakatulong laban sa panghihimasok  ng China?

Tutol tayo sa presensyang militar ng US dahil labag ito sa soberanya natin, magdudulot ito ng maraming problema, at porma ito ng panghihimasok ito sa ating bansa at tanda ng hindi pantay na relasyon. HINDI ito makakatulong sa atin laban sa China, tulad nang hindi nakatulong ang US Bases para gawing moderno ang AFP matapos ang mahigit 40 taon. Hindi nakatulong ang mga US bases noon kaya nga hindi na pinalawig ang mga ito mtapos ang 1991. Di rin naging moderno ang AFP matapos ang 15 taon ng VFA at mga Balikatan exercises. Ilusyon lang na tutulungan tayo ng US. Pati yung armas at barko na nakukuha natin sa US ay mga pinaglumaang gamit na sobrang magastos ang maintenance. Sa huli, ang pinoprotektahan ng US ay ang sarili nitong interes at ginagamit lang nito ang hidwaan sa China para maisulong ang agenda nito. Gusto ng US na sya ang maging dominante sa Asya, at ginagawa nitong tuntungan ang Pilipinas.

  1. Pero hindi ba mas OK na andyan ang US para matakot ang China?

Paano naman natin masasabing matatakot nga ang China kung andyan ang US? Eh paano kung hindi natakot at lalong lumala pa ang sigalot? Paano kung magpaligsahan sila sa South China Sea? Paano kung ang presensya ng US ay makapagdagdag pa sa tension? Maiipit tayo sa gitna ng 2 nag-uumupugang higante. Wala tayong panalo dun dahil magkaka-iba ang interes na pino-protektahan nila. Mas malaking probelma ang ireresulta ng presensya ng US kung gayon.

  1. Pero hindi ba susuportahan tayo ng US kung umatake ang China?

Hindi. Walang kasunduan sa ngayon ang nagsasabi na obligado ang US na awtomatikong rumeskbak sa China. Ang anumang aksyon ng US ay kailangan pang dumaan sa Kongreso nito. Malabo ding makipag-gera ang US sa China dahil sa laki ng utang ng US sa China na abot $1.28 trillion. Malaki din ang pakinabang ng US sa investments mula sa China, na umabot sa $14 billion noong 2013. Ang daming produkto ng US ang gawa sa China. Di hamak na mas malaki ang economic interest ng US sa China kumpara sa mga pinag-lalabanang isla at dagat sa South China Sea.

Larawan mula sa Anakbayan

 

  1. Eh bakit hindi kayo mag-rally kontra sa China?

Tutol ang Bayan at mga progresibong grupo sa panghihimasok ng China. Katunayan ay ilang ulit na ring nagprotesta ang mga grupo sa konsulado ng China mula pa nang manghimasok ang China sa Scarborough o Panatag Shoal.

 

Larawan mula kay Noel Celis, galing sa http://www.abs-cbnews.com

  1. Hindi ba ang pagkontra sa US ay pagsuporta sa China?

Hindi tamang lohika ito. Para na ring sinabi na pag ayaw mo ng Jolibee, gusto mo ng McDo. O pag hindi ka Kapuso, Kapamilya ka. Ang pagtutol sa isang bully ay hindi nangangahulugan ng pagsuporta sa isa pang bully. Di natin kailangang pumili kung sino mas gusto natin, yung rapist o yung magnanakaw. Ang nais natin ay maging tunay na independent, nagsasarili sa usapin ng patakarang panlabas. Nang sa gayon, maisulong natin ang pinakamabuti para sa ating pambansang interes, hindi yung mabuti para sa interes ng dayuhan.

  1. Kung ayaw nyo sa sundalong Kano, paano sa tingin nyo dedepnsahan natin ang bansa laban sa China?

Una ay may mga larangang internasyunal na pwede tayong gamitin para sa mapayapang pag-resolba ng problema sa West Philippine Sea. Andyan ang International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea, isang larangang legal. Andyan din ang international opinion para kondenahin ang panghihimasok ng China. Kailangang gamitin ang lahat ng paraang diplomatiko para itaguyod ang ating soberanya. Pero sa long-term, kailangang umunlad ang ekonomiya ng Pilipinas para magkaroon ito ng kapasidad na depensahan ang teritoryo nito. Sa pag-unlad ng ekonomya, magkakaroon tayo ng barko at iba pang gamit para depensahan an gating teritoryo. Magagawa lang ito kung tunay na independiente tayo. Hangga’t umaasa tayo sa mga dayuhang kapangyarihan tulad ng US, mananatili tayong mahina. Estratehiya yan kasi ng US, yung panatiliin tayong nakaasa para madali nila tayong nadidiktahan. Kailgangang kumawala tayo sa anumang dayuhang dikta, mula sa China man o sa Amerika.

 

RELATED: 7 things you need to know about the Obama administration 

 

Protesta laban sa pagkawasak ng Tubbataha Reef dahil sa pagsadsad ng barkong pandigma ng US. Hanggang ngayon ay di pa rin nagbabayad ng danyos ang US. (Larawan mula kay Leon Dulce)

nobama     US President Barrack Obama is set to visit the Philippines on April 28-29 to affirm the supposed “special relations” between the two countries. A media friend commented that Obama would very likely be given a “rock star welcome”, being the first US president to visit in 11 years. The visit puts the spotlight on US-PH relations in a time when the Philippines confronts a regional maritime dispute and when the US seeks to establish itself as a Pacific power to arrest its economic decline. It is important to look beyond the pomp and glamour that accompanies state visits. It is important to take note of the context of America’s efforts to rebalance towards Asia as a means of advancing its own economic and security agenda. Before gushing over the soaring rhetoric about “friendship” and “mutual benefit”, it is important to know what the Obama administration really stands for in terms of its economic and military policies.

  1. Obama has authorized internet spying on a level unheard of until NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden came out. The US National Security Agency gathered all forms of computer data, from phone calls to emails, across the globe, and violated the people’s right to privacy. The Obama administration also had no problem conducting surveillance on its own allies, as European leaders eventually found out. Civil liberties have taken a backseat to Obama’s drive to secure US dominance in the world.

 

  1. More than 2,400 have died in the 5 years of Obama’s drone warfare. Three days into his term, Obama authorized his first drone strike in Pakistan against alleged terrorists, killing at least 9 civilians in the process. In a span of 5 years, the Obama administration has launched more than 390 drone strikes. The Bush regime launched 51 in four years. Drone strikes violate international law and the sovereignty of countries targeted with the strikes. Yet as with the NSA global internet surveillance dragnet, US “national security” trumps human rights and international law any day, civilian casualties be damned. A week after Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize, a missile strike hit a tribal region in Yemen, killing at least 21 children and 12 women. The upcoming Agreement on Enhanced Defense Cooperation (AEDC) opens up the possibility of the US prepositioning its drones in the Philippines, making our country a party to the illegal drone strikes the US conducts overseas.

 

  1. Obama has escalated US intervention worldwide by ramping up deployment of US Special Forces all over the world and engaging in covert wars and power projection. Under the Bush regime, US Special Forces operated in some 60 countries. Under the Obama regime, US Special Forces are deployed in 134 countries worldwide, a 123% increase from the Bush years.  The US Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines of the US SOC has been stationed in Mindanao since 2002, 12 years after the US initiated its “war on terror”. They have been stationed in Camp Navarro in Zamboanga under a rotational deployment scheme. Interestingly, the AEDC’s original title was Agreement on Increased Rotational Deployment and Enhanced Defense Cooperation. The “Increased Rotational Deployment” was eventually dropped from the title of the agreement.

 

  1. The US government under Obama still has not paid a single cent for the damage one of its warships caused in Tubbataha Reef as well as the previous toxic waste dumps in former bases in Clark and Subic. On January 17, 2013, a US minesweeper, the USS Guardian, ran aground in a protected marine area known as the Tubbataha Reef, an area declared by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. No officer of the ship has been made accountable under PH laws. No payment has been made for more than 2,000 square meters damaged by the ship. It is the same story more than 20 years earlier when the US government refused to pay for the clean-up of their former military bases in Clark and Subic, saying that the clean-up of the toxic wastes was not part of the RP-US Military Bases Agreement.

 

  1. The US owes China some $1.28 trillion. Meanwhile, Chinese investments in the US are growing, even doubling in 2013. So that thing about the US going to war with China over some islands in the West Philippine Sea, it’s not likely going to happen. As Sen. Miriam Santiago pointed out in a recent radio interview, it is childish to think that if we are somehow attacked by China, the US will automatically retaliate. The US will base its response on what it deems is beneficial to its own interests and not the interests of its allies, the senator said.

 

  1. More whistleblowers have been prosecuted under Obama than in all of the 20th century. Obama has cracked down on whistleblower such as NSA analyst Edward Snowden, former Army Cpl. Bradley (Chelsea) Manning, and Jullian Assange of Wikileaks. The Obama administration has used the Espionage Act twice as many times as all previous US administrations combined. Whistleblowers who leak information concerning government abuses are considered “aiding the enemy”.

 

  1. The Obama administration is desperately pushing for the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement as a means for the US to overcome its own economic crisis. It seeks to tear down any remaining barriers to investments and gives transnational corporations the power to sue governments and undermine their sovereignty. US activists have decried the pact as “NAFTA on steroids”. The push for the TPPA comes at a time when the Philippines is kicking off efforts to change its constitution and remove any restrictions to foreign investments and ownership. The Charter change move now taking place in Congress has been hailed by the Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce as a good first step towards the Philippines eventually joining of the TPPA.

PH_nhi_gregorio_del_pilarAt an early age, Filipinos are taught about the “Boy General” Gregorio del Pilar and the Battle of Tirad Pass. Filipino elementary students got to read about this era in Philippine history known as the Philippine-American War. Del Pilar has been known as a symbol of heroic resistance to American colonization. He fought with 60 men against a much superior US force. To younger folks, that’s kind of the equivalent of Leonidas and his brave 300 defending Thermopylae against the advancing Persian army.

Gregorio del Pilar exemplified tremendous courage amid overwhelming odds that favored the enemy. “What I do is done for my beloved country. No sacrifice can be too great,” he wrote in his journal on the eve of the Battle of Tirad Pass. Del Pilar died in that battle, his body reportedly stripped of his personal belongings. He was not buried until after three days. 

It is therefore such a great irony that the  name “Gregorio del Pilar” is used by institutions and objects that are glaring reminders of US colonialism.

Fort Gregorio del Pilar is home to the Philippine Military Academy whose graduates become officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Majority of these officers have embraced increased US military presence and intervention in the country. Lately, the AFP has supported the Agreement on Enhanced Defense Cooperation which will allow the US to put up facilities inside PH facilities and preposition their war materiel in these facilities. The same officers believe that AFP modernization can only be achieved if the country hangs on to the coat-tails of Uncle Sam. Not surprising since the PMA, ironically, follows the tradition of the US Military Academy.

The US Hamilton-class cutter acquired by the Philippines under the Excess Defense Articles and Foreign Assistance Act was named BRP Gregorio del Pilar. The ship was first used in 1967 during the Vietnam war. Prior to being transferred to the Philippine Navy, the ship was stripped of most of its high-tech equipment. The cost of maintaining the ship is greater than the acquisition cost, according the budget hearings of the Philippine Congress.

PF 15- BRP Gregorio del Pilar [WHEC-715] Official sendoff from the United States  1-798727

 

“Gregorio del Pilar” the ship is a prime example of how neo-colonial relations work. The Philippines constantly depends on the US for military aid, while the US provides us with second-hand equipment to keep our armed forces backward and constantly dependent on US support. The Vietnam War era ship is a glaring reminder of how the US puts one over us in the name of “special relations” and “friendship”. The US has no real intention of modernizing the AFP because it keeps our country dependent on US military aid. This is the leverage used by the US to gain the approval of one-sided military pacts like the Agreement on Enhanced Defense Cooperation set to be signed during US President Barack Obama’s visit on April 28-29.

The meaning and significance of del Pilar has been lost on the present and past neo-colonial puppet governments. The current and future generations of Filipino youth should reclaim “Gregorio del Pilar” as a symbol of heroic resistance to US imperialism. Del Pilar reminds us that it is our duty to oppose foreign intervention, even if the odds are not in our favor. Instead of following the colonial tradition set by the US Military Academy, cadets at the PMA should study and emulate del Pilar’s nationalist and anti-colonial stand.

As del Pilar had shown, one is never too young to stand up for national sovereignty.