Archive for the ‘Socio-Political’ Category

Dear Mar,
It has been a difficult 40 days for the Filipino people and the families of all those who died in the Mamasapano incident. I could imagine it has been a difficult period for you as well.

I heard your radio interview today as you announced that the Board of Inquiry report will be out soon and that you also sought answers to the questions on everyone’s mind. I also saw your TV interview and how you said that despite being kept in the dark about Mamasapano, you think it was still the President’s call and that you seemed to accept that. But you said it, seemingly with a heavy heart.

Both in the radio interview and in the Senate hearings, you always stopped short of bringing the issue of accountability to the President. Reasonable people believe that the President, in assigning his suspended buddy Gen. Purisima, violated the Ombudsman suspension order as well as the PNP chain of command. This violation, which was the basis of the utter lack of coordination among government agencies, proved to be fatal for the SAF.

How can you be so blind to this basic conclusion when it is already staring you in the face? You of all people should know this.

How can you stand the constant lying of the President; when he said that he would wait for the BOI probe on why you and Gen. Espina weren’t informed, when clearly he already knew WHY you weren’t informed. Aquino after all coordinated only with Purisima throughout the entire planning, preparation and execution of the operation to get Marwan. Aquino already knew of Napenas’ recommendation that Espina and the AFP would only be informed “time on target”, meaning you and the PNP chain of command will be kept out of the loop up to the last minute. How can you accept the lie that the President was only consulting Purisima about the jargon of the operation, when text messages reveal that Purisima was providing updates to the President and that the President in turn was giving instructions to Purisima.

Aquino even said in his first televised addressed that he previously discussed the Marwan operations with you, yet in the briefing with Napenas on January 26, you clearly said you had no idea of previous attempts to get Marwan.

How can you convince people of your leadership qualities when you meekly accept that you were left out of the loop in Mamasapano; that when you reported to the President, all he texted was “thank you” along with the reminder that you shouldn’t publicly discuss details of the operation?

Mar, it is not enough to tell the public that you didn’t know of the operation in Mamasapano. It is not enough to claim ignorance. That does not establish the accountability of those who knew. That does not render justice to those who died.

Mar, your current position is untenable and downright pathetic. How long will you go along with the lies? How long will you allow yourself to be treated like a presidential doormat? How do you expect people to respect you as a leader when you allow yourself to be disrespected by the person you claim to serve?

Are you still waiting for Aquino’s endrosement for 2016? Seriously, do you think that would do you any good?

But this is not just about you and your personal political ambitions. There is a lot more at stake here. By allowing yourself to be part of the grand cover up, you disrespect the memories of the men who died under your watch. You commit a great disservice to the Filipino people. And you again show us what kind of a leader you are in the face of a crisis.

Mar, please do yourself a favor. Please do everyone a favor. Stop defending Aquino. Make a stand. Give up your post as a sign of protest. In doing so, you will gain a lot more respect now than you ever did during the last 5 years. ###

 

After talking with the AFP generals in Zamboanga about Mamasapano, Aquino proceeded with his original schedule of visiting the Zamboanga blast site.

In an interview today on DZMM, AFP Chief of Staff Gregorio Catapang who was with the President in the morning of January 25 said that he did not inform the President of the ongoing Mamasapano encounter as he did not think it was yet that important compared to Aquino’s original agenda in Zamboanga. Aquino was already in Zamboanga at 8am while the firefight between the PNP SAF and various armed groups was ongoing.

It was only at 2:00 pm says Catapang that the President asked him what was going on in Mamasapano. By this time, the entire 55th SAF was already overrun by armed groups, having sent their last radio transmission.

News reports say that it was around this time that Aquino met with the military officials who were with him in Zamboanga. The meeting caused a delay in the President’s itinerary. Aquino would emerge from the meeting with the AFP officials and proceed to the Zamboanga blast site at 3:30pm and a hospital visit.

Catapang tells DZMM that he was not the one who informed the President and that Aquino was the one asking the questions in the afternoon of January 25. Strangely, it was only then that Catapang started updating Aquino of developments in Mamasapano up to 11:30pm that day, when the President had already returned to Manila.

At today’s Senate hearing, Catapang, DILG secretary Roxas and DND secretary Gazmin all said that they were not the ones who informed the President of the unfolding crisis in Mamasapano.

If not Catapang, Roxas and Gazmin, who then was updating the President? When did the President know of the Mamasapano crisis and what did he do upon finding out? Only the president can answer this question.

It certainly appears that someone else, very likely the suspended Alan Purisima, was updating the President. If the President was indeed informed earlier of the incident, what did he do? Why did it take him between 1pm and 2pm to meet his military officials in Zamboanga, at which time the entire SAF blocking force was already decimated. And why did the President simply went on with his original itinerary as the crisis was unfolding?

Was Purisima giving Aquino assurances that the crisis was being handled? If so, why was Aquino taking advice from a suspended official? Was Aquino simply clueless as to the gravity of the situation in relation to the lives of his own men and in relation to the peace process? The guidance he reportedly gave AFP Western Mindanao Command chief Lt. GenRustico Guerrero .was to exert “best effort” in the rescue of the SAF.

The situation in Zamboanga also raises questions about the role of Purisima. If indeed he was the one informing the president and even AFP’s Catapang, it only shows that the operation was being run by the suspended PNP official.

When Purisima was asked by the Senate on whether or not he informed the President at any time about the debacle in Mamasapano, he avoided the question and instead requested for clearance from the President.

That answer alone tells us a lot about what was going on and who the President was listening to all the time.

The Aquino-Purisima clique is at the center of the Mamasapano incident. The two share responsibility for the bloody incident. The two cannot invoke executive privilege to cover up their involvement. ###

 

philippines-us-special-forces-training-afpDespite the stonewalling of the AFP and PNP officials every time the issue of US involvement in Mamasapano was raised at the Senate hearing, we now have more information to show that the US was indeed a part of the operation to get Marwan.

The involvement of the US is important since they were providing training and funding, dangling a $7 million reward, and most likely, dictating the terms for the operations. That a foreign government can set the terms for a domestic operation that involves sacrificing the lives of Filipinos is definitely a problematic situation. Mamasapano also demolishes the long-propagated myth that US forces are not involved in combat operations in the Philippines.

Based on the Senate hearings and recent news reports, here are 5 indicators of US involvement in Mamasapano.

  1. Napenas admits that the tissue sample of Marwan was immediately brought by the SAF to FBI agents waiting in General Santos City. This indicates that the US had prior knowledge of the operation and were already present in Mindanao to receive the tissue sample for DNA testing. The SAF did not even bother to inform the PNP Headquarters or any other agency, and instead went straight to the FBI. Why was the FBI already in General Santos City? Napenas testimony before the Senate may shed light on this. In his statement, he says that on the eve of the operation, “the three Police Commissioned Officers moved to General Santos City for the final mission planning and coordination together with all the unit commanders and key personnel involved in the operation.” The final mission planning in General Santos could explain the presence of the FBI in that city.
  2. One news article quotes a SAF trooper who joined the assault on Marwan saying that a drone was overhead at the time of the Mamasapano operation. He reportedly takes a video of the drone.
  3. During the Senate hearing, the Mayor of Mamasapano said he saw a white object hovering above during the operations. He believes this was a drone.
  4. SAF Director Leo Napenas testified that he was able to directly ask help from US forces based in Zamboanga indicating that there was already prior coordination between the SAF and US forces in that province. This level of coordination is important after another article pointed out that the SAF and US forces were training in a secret facility in a resort in Zamboanga and that the US was funding the operations to get Marwan.
  5. Every time US involvement is being asked, the PNP and AFP would invoke national security and ask for an executive session. It is the clearest sign that something is going on that they don’t want people to know.

More information from this article.

Does the end justify the means? Is US involvement made acceptable because the SAF got Marwan? The question is no different from the one asking if the death of Marwan was worth the lives of the 44 SAF. These questions can best be answered by examining the bigger context of US involvement and the Aquino government’s subservience.

The US is carrying out its war on terror without regard for the lives of Filipinos, whether combatants of civilians. It carries out its war on terror without regard for the national sovereignty of the countries were the alleged terrorists are supposedly hiding. In other countries, the US employs drones to target so-called terrorists, often ending up killing civilians. Here they send Filipino foot soldiers right into a death trap.

It is important for the US and the Philippine governments to emphasize Marwan’s record of terror so that even the violation of national sovereignty and the loss of lives of 44 SAF troopers as well as 5 civilians who ended up collateral damage, would somehow be acceptable.

In one news article, a police source explained that “because of the Americans’ obsession to get Marwan, many SAF men died.” He pointed out that the Americans were more interested in getting the location of the SAF team that had Marwan’s finger than in helping the SAF blocking force trapped in the corn field. All but one of the 36 member blocking force died. The SAF assault team proved to be more important for the US because of what they had, the source laments. ###

 

 

aquino-purisima-0912

We have heard enough from the Senate hearings to be convinced that suspended PNP Chief Alan Purisima was indeed running the Mamasapano operations against Marwan, despite his suspension by the Office of the Ombudsman. No amount of palusot can save Purisima. His distinction between an “order” and an “advice” is one for the books. No one believes any of that.

 

Based on the testimonies, here are the strongest indicators that Purisima was running the show.

 

  1. Former PNP SAF Director Leo Napenas called Purisima the “focal person” constantly consulted by the President on the operation. By definition, being a focal person means you’re at the center of things.

 

  1. Purisima brought Napenas and other SAF officials to the President’s official residence in Bahay Pangarap on January 9, 2015 so that the SAF director can give “mission updates” to the President. Napenas made it very clear that it was Purisima who brought them to the President. The meeting took place just two weeks before the actual Mamasapano operations.

 

  1. Purisima was texting Napenas on January 19, 5 days before the actual operation, asking for the final details of the plan to get Marwan

 

  1. Napenas keeps reporting to Purisima. He follows Purisima’s orders-slash-advice on operational matters, including the “advice” not to inform the PNP OIC Espina and Interior secretary Mar Roxas until the SAF reaches the target. Purisima would justify this as part of “operational security”, an explanation that no one is buying. Napenas also continued to meet with Purisima at the White House in Camp Crame despite Purisima’s suspension.

 

  1. Purisima met with top AFP officials including Chief of Staff Gregorio Catapang and officials of the Western Mindanao Command in December 2014 at Camp Aguinaldo to discuss the use of precision bombs to get Marwan. Purisima was already suspended at the time of the meeting.

 

  1. During the January 9 meeting in Bahay Pangarap, Purisima told Napenas that the former would be in charge of informing the AFP Chief of Staff once the SAF troopers are in the area. “Ako na ang bahala kay Catapang,” was what Napenas told the Senate. How can a suspended PNP Chief be coordinating with the AFP COS?

 

Of course, the Senate failed to ask the most obvious question. How can a suspended official run an operation while keeping the PNP OIC in the dark? Where was Purisima getting his authority?

 

During his first televised speech on Mamasapano, Aquino told the nation that he was merely consulting with Purisma on the operations jargon by the time he was suspended. He also told the media that the Board of Inquiry will have to determine why Espina and Roxas were kept out of the loop.

Well Aquino doesn’t need a BOI to answer that question because he could very well answer it himself as he was present during the meetings.

 

Aquino lied about Purisima’s actual involvement in the operation. Aquino also feigned ignorance on why Espina and Roxas were kept in the dark. The President, in allowing a suspended Purisima to run the operations, and in disregarding the chain of command, violated his oath of office to uphold the laws of the land. It is a ground for his removal from office. ###

 

benigno-aquino-mamasapano-truth-commission

By now it is clear that President Benigno Aquino III is not telling the whole truth about his involvement in the Mamasapano operation that led to the deaths of 44 PNP SAF troopers, 18 MILF fighters, 2 BIFF fighters and at least 3 civilians.

The demand for an impartial investigation, for an independent body, is gaining ground because of the gravity of the allegations and the obvious inability of the PNP’s Board of Inquiry to uncover the truth and hold accountable the highest official of the land.

Others have called for Aquino’s resignation over the bloody incident.

Cracks are showing within the administration as the police and military continue to hurl accusations against each other. The crisis is the inevitable result of Aquino’s actions in relation to Mamasapano.

No doubt, Aquino should be held accountable. His actions constitute grounds for his removal from office. And he should be criminally charged when he is no longer in office.

Once again, here are the six deadly sins committed by Aquino which led to the bloody Mamasapano clash.

 

1) Violating the chain of command by placing the suspended Gen. Alan Purisima in charge of the operation – When one is suspended from office, one is stripped of any official functions. One ceases to be part of the chain of command. The President of all people should know this. His decision to place Purisima in charge of the operation, even during the period of his suspension, is a serious offense. It also creates an untenable situation where there are two chains of command within the PNP organization. Former SAF Director Napenas affirms several times that it was Purisima who was running the Mamasapano operation. It was Purisima who told Napenas not to inform PNP OIC Leonardo Espina up until the SAF troopers have commenced the operation.

 

2)  Violating the suspension order of the Ombudsman – In making Purisima in charge of the Mamasapano operation, Aquino violated the suspension order of the Ombudsman. This is a clear violation of the law. Purisima is under investigation by the Ombudsman for his alleged involvement in a corruption case within the PNP.

 

3) Failing to inform his own PNP OIC and DILG secretary of the operation – Aquino apparently had plenty of time to consult with Purisima and SAF director Napenas, but never had the time to inform both DILG secretary Mar Roxas and PNP OIC Gen. Leonardo Espina. Why so? Aquino says he is leaving that point to the Board of Inquiry!? Will the BOI invite Aquino to answer this question? We don’t think so. The omission is obviously deliberate. Aquino is aware of the conflict between Purisima and Roxas and in this case, the President chose to side with his barkada rather than uphold the mandate of his office.

 

4) Failing to coordinate with other cabinet officials and the AFP– The lack of coordination between the PNP SAF and the AFP proved to be fatal for 44 PNP SAF troopers. There was no air support, no other means of extracting the PNP SAF elements. Of all the people who knew about the operation, Purisima and Napenas included, Aquino was in the best position to inform other government agencies such as the DND and the DILG but such was not done. It is untenable that for such a major operation with immense implications, Aquino would just remind the SAF director to coordinate with other government agencies. It is also quite an anomaly that Purisima would tell the SAF director otherwise, and that Aquino would just be fine with it.

 

5) Failing to inform the government peace panel and the MILF, thus violating the ceasefire agreement – Aquino practically violated the ceasefire agreement by authorizing an operation into MILF areas without proper coordination. OPAPP’s Ging Deles says she knows nothing of Oplan Wolverine. The MILF thought there areas were under attack. The ceasefire mechanisms were only alerted when the heavy fighting was already underway. The AFP’s Gergorio Catapang, in an interview on ANC admits that launching an operation within the area would “unnecessarily provoke” the MILF and BIFF. What Aquino did was to put deliberately put his troops in harms way, marching them into a death trap. The use of the SAF for example, is a deliberate attempt to circumvent the ceasefire with the MILF by making the operation a “police operation” e.g. serving a warrant.

 

6) Allowing the participation of a foreign government in an internal operation – Former SAF director Napenas has admitted that the US was involved in Operation Wolverine. Various accounts have placed the US government as the source of the actionable intelligence on Marwan and Usman, via US assets within the MILF, as well as drone surveillance and GPS tracking. It is very likely that it was also the US that asserted the operation be compartmentalized between Aquino and Purisima and the SAF director. It is very likely that it was the US that directed Aquino to undertake the operation despite the potential loss of lives and huge political costs. Several news reports already point to this. One source says that it was the US obsession with Marwan that led to the deaths of the 44 SAF.

 

The Filipino people should not allow a cover-up of Mamasapano. Aquino, Purisima and their US handlers should be held accountable for their crimes. We cannot allow government to be run barkada-style, without regard for laws and without a shred of accountability.

 

For the sake of truth, accountability and justice, Aquino must go. ###

 

aquino-purisima-0912

 

 

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

edca ibasura.jpg

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.