Posts Tagged ‘Aquino’

Many Filipinos seemed to welcome the arrival of US troops to aid in relief efforts for victims of Typhoon Haiyan, believed to be one of the strongest storms recorded in history. The devastation was just too extensive and the Philippine government was incompetent, disorganized and unprepared to meet the needs of the victims.

It was during the first 48 hours in the aftermath of the storm that US forces began establishing a presence in the Eastern Visayas region. In a matter of days, US air and naval assets were being moved from Japan to Tacloban City in Leyte. About 300 US forces were initially deployed. In the first week of the calamity, the US Department of Defense said it would ramp up its ground presence to 1,000 US troops. The USS George Washington also arrived from Hong Kong and was stationed off Samar Island. Some 8,000 US troops were reported to have been involved in the relief operations.

On November 15, newscaster Noli de Castro, a former Philippine vice president, said that US troops were the ones directing air traffic at the Tacloban airport.

The US has a long history with the Samar and Leyte islands. It was in this region that Filipinos fought American colonizers, resulting in the Balanggiga massacre of US troops in 1901. In retalitation for the massacre, Samar was declared a “howling wilderness” by US Gen. Jacob Smith, who ordered the killing every male over the age of 10 capable of bearing arms. The church bells taken by the US soldiers from the Balanggiga town still remain in American custody and are considered trophies of war. It was in Leyte where Gen. Douglas MacArthur landed with Philippine leaders as the US led the “liberation”of the Philippines from the Japanese colonizers, only to have the Philippine revert to being a US neo-colony saddled with two of the largest overseas US military bases.

The return to Leyte of the US soldiers has been hailed as some kind of “second coming” of MacArthur. Now US troops are helping bring relief goods and evacuating people from disaster-stricken areas. The US was said to be “liberating” the people from hunger and despair.

But behind the humanitarian rhetoric and military show of force is a disturbing agenda by the superpower that calls us its “special friend”. Some have in fact openly praised the US humanitarian efforts as a brilliant way of reestablishing US presence in the Philippines more than two decades after the dismantling of US bases. They have pointed out how the so-called US humanitarian mission came just at the right time, when the US and Philippine governments were negotiating increased US military access to Philippine facilities.

In an eye-opneing op-ed piece on USA Today, Jonah Blank said that “deploying military resources for disaster relief is a remarkably effective — and inexpensive — investment in the future.”

One of the largest such deployments in history, the deployment of the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln and other assets following the Asian tsunami of 2004, is estimated to have cost $857 million. That’s roughly the price of three days’ operations in Afghanistan last year,” Blanks said.

Like any investment, the US hopes to get some positive returns from its engagement in Eastern Visayas, as Blank explains.

The goodwill the tsunami relief brought the U.S. is incalculable. Nearly a decade later, the effort may rank as one of the most concrete reasons Southeast Asian nations trust the long-term U.S. commitment to a strategy of Asian rebalancing. The Obama administration recognizes the value of disaster relief. As the Pentagon attempts to shift more of its weight to the Asian Pacific region while balancing a shrinking budget, this could turn out to be one of the best decisions it could make,” Blank said.

Blank by the way describes himself as a “senior political scientist” for the conservative think-tank RAND Corporation which provides research for the US armed forces and is funded by the US government. He has also worked as a policy director for the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Jonathan Bogais of the University of Sydney also situates the US deployment in Eastern Visayas within the onging negotiations for greater US military access to the Philippines. He cites the rotational presence of US troops in Mindanao, the setting up of a US private defense contractor in Subic to service US warships, and the tensions between China and the Philippines as current issues related to the expanding US presence in the country.

In the midst of this humanitarian tragedy, Typhoon Haiyan has delivered the means for the US to show solidarity to its Pacific ally. It has also allowed the US to send a clear message to China that it has the muscle needed to intervene at short notice in the region to protect its national interest if it feels it necessary,” Bogais said.

It is clear that the national interest Bogias was refering to is not the Philippines’ own but rather the US’ strategic economic and security interests in Asia.

In another article entitled “Military’s aid operations help promote US interests”, Dan De Luce of the Agence France-Presse notes that “the rapid deployment of US naval ships, cargo planes, helicopters and troops to the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan underscores America’s growing emphasis on disaster relief missions.These are seen as a strategic tool, allowing the United States to exert ‘soft power’ through means usually tied to ‘hard power’.”

“The US military’s relief efforts in the storm-ravaged Philippines will save lives, but also illustrate how humanitarian operations promote Washington’s interests in the Asia-Pacific,” the aritcle said.

That growing emphasis on disaster response is also evident during the annual Balikatan exercies between the US and the Philippines and has been used a justification for the permanent and continuing presence of the US military in the country under the Visiting Forces Agreement. In the course of these exercises, the US is able to project its military power in the region and asserts its role as a Pacific power.

“This (disaster response) is a classic example of why we need to be forward deployed and forward engaged, why we conduct theatre security cooperation, why we establish these relationships,” De Luce quotes a senior Marine Corps official.

“The speed with which US forces are able to respond to Typhoon Haiyan highlights the importance of the humanitarian assistance and disaster relief exercises we carry out regularly in the Asia-Pacific,” de Luce quotes Pentagon spokesman George Little told a news conference Tuesday.

De Luce too notes that the US deployment in Eastern Visayas takes place during the negotiations for expanded US access to the Philippines’ bases and ports.

Finally, we have Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto del Rosario to confirm our suspicions.

“What [we have seen] in Central Philippines as a result of this typhoon, and the assistance provided in terms of relief and rescue operation … demonstrates the need for this framework agreement that we are working out with the United States for increased rotational presence. It accentuates one of the main purposes of this framework, which is to make humanitarian assistance and disaster relief and response one of the major aspects of this agreement,” del Rosario told the media.

Del Rosario is practically begging the US military to reestablish permanent bases in the country. After all, the Philippines is visited by typhoons every year, apart from being part of the earthquake belt. Disasters are almost a certainty in this country.

From a negotiating standpoint, Del Rosario just showed the other side that we need them more than they need us. He just laid all his cards on the table and gave the US the upper hand.

Del Rosario also affirms a well-known fact, that the Aquino government does not have any long-term plans for disaster preparedness and would likely just wait for the next US aircraft carrier to bail us out in the event of another calamity. Disaster response, a basic function of the national government, is now dependent on a foreign army.

Now some would argue that philanthropy is philanthropy, whatever the motives are. Those C-130’s and Osprey’s still delivered relief to storm-ravaged communities, whatever geopolitical interests are at stake. Who could dispute the fact that typhoon victims were airlifted out of the province? Or that relief goods were air-dropped from US helicopters?

American activist and blogger David L. Swanson has this to say in reaction to the US deployment: “Good will is dependent on not dominating people militarily and economically — yet that seems to be exactly the goal (of the operations)”. He calls Blank’s earlier suggestions of using the relief operations to boost US presence in the Philippines as “taking advantage of the suffering Filipinos”.

As de Luce said in his AFP article, the US relief mission saved lives, but in the process promoted US geo-political interests. Military deployment is not always about humanitarian assistance. The primary objective of military deployment is war, or the preparation for war, which is what the US is undertaking through its rebalancing or pivot towards Asia. The US is pre-positioning troops and weapons in Asia not because it wants to help the next country that would be hit by a storm, but because it wants to strengthen its position as a global power, capable of imposing its will on other countries. 

With del Rosario’s latest statements, it now seems that the Philippines is close to concluding an agreement that would allow de facto US basing in Subic, Clark and other Philippine facilities. To make the proposal acceptable, the Aquino government will simply flash images of Haiyan and Tacloban. Never mind developing self-reliance and the capacity to prepare for future calamities. Never mind securing the people at the first instance, even before foreign assistance arrives. Never mind sovereignty.

Aquino merely has to invoke his government’s incompetence to justify its subservience. ###

 

Photo Retuers

The dictionary defines the word “hijack” to mean to take control of a moving vehicle such as a plane. I have been hearing  the word quite often in reference to rallies against the pork barrel system. Every time there is a rally, there seems to be the unfounded fear that the Left would “hijack” the event. I have come across such accusations on social media, on Twitter and Facebook. Some questions are well meaning, while others are just plain malicious with no other intention but to see the mass action fail.

I have tried my best to answer the well-meaning questions on Twitter and FB. I appreciate the efforts of  other netizens who try to put some sense into the discussions, not because they are leftists or anything but because they have enough common sense to know that we need a united front.

I say that the fear is often unfounded because this is hardly ever substantiated by anything other than one’s bias, or by an insidious motive to divide the broad front against pork corruption. One version of this is that the Left will hijack the rally and use it as a platform to attack Aquino. The anti-pork rally will become an anti-Aquino rally.

There are some issues we must answer here. Can the Left indeed hijack a rally such as the one in Luneta or Ayala? So how does one hijack a rally?  And what’s wrong in directing the protest at Aquino?

Yesterday, someone posted that a group of about 500 people at Ayala were hijacking the event by unfurling placards calling for the ouster of Aquino. I personally did not see this group that was being referred to so I doubt its accuracy. But assuming the report was true, I seriously doubt that a group of 500 people can hijack an event, not when there is an organizing committee that takes charge of the program and the conduct of the rally. The Left is part of that organizing committee as it works among the various groups and individuals helping out the event. The program committee is also supported by professional artists. We had an excellent director and various support staff. The program line up was more or less fixed. Unless the so-called 500 people got a bigger stage a, louder sound system and a bigger mobilization than the one that was already in Ayala, they couldn’t really do much in terms of hijacking the event.

Photo Val Rodriguez, Phil Star

The same fear was also raised in Luneta last August 26, that the Leftists with their streamers and placards and loud sound system, would hijack the rally. Well, there wasn’t much to “hijack” during the first Luneta rally since for the most part, there wasn’t even a centralized program as rally organizers did not want to have one. People could basically just do their own thing and find their own spot in the park. Unless you had a crowd and sound system as big as an El Shaddai Sunday gathering, hijacking Luneta would not be possible.

Rallies have organizing committees that prepare the program and conduct of the event. Groups discuss how the rally will take place. The Left is often part of the organizing committee. And the Left has always been upfront with its intentions. For example during the first Luneta rally, we informed other organizers early on that we would be marching to Mendoza after Luneta. We wanted to address our demands straight to the President.

I’ve seen a lot of ridiculous reactions in the run up to rallies, often coming as attempts to divide or scare people.

For example before the first Luneta rally, I got asked regarding the burning of an effigy. Apparently some folks saw a media report on a “pork” effigy which would be brought to Luneta. Some folks started raising the alarm that an effigy would be burned. They made a big deal out of it. When I checked what they were referring to, it turned out to be a papier mache’ of a small pig and it was not meant to be burned. (Some questions were well-meaning but others were just far-out).

Pero may mas OA pang reaksyon.

At the command tent in Luenta, as we were preparing for the rally, one person exclaimed, “Oh no, they’re burning an effigy!” When we looked, it turned out to be a group using incense for a morning prayer. OA di ba? Pero buti sana kung simpleng OA lang ang problema. Making a big deal out of these issues is a calculated attempt to scare and confuse people, a move that would serve the interests of Malacanang and the pork defenders.

A  day before the August 26 Luneta rally, a malicious and anonymous “Ibagsak and rehimeng  US-Aquino”  SMS  started circulating. The text said that the uprising was to start in Luneta and end in Mendiola. The text message was obviously a scare tactic. Bayan had no problem denouncing the SMS since it was never ours to begin with. Other netizens reposted our disclaimer. A similar SMS circulated a day before the Ayala rally, again designed to make it appear that the text came from the Left. Some netizens quickly exposed the scare tactic even before we even had to. (Meanwhile, a tweet by one Leah Navarro, staunch supporter of Aquino, said that that SMS was proof that the rally had already been hijacked. So gets nyo na sino nakikinabang sa mga ganung text?)

Our group has always been upfront with our position on the Aquino regime. We never hid the fact that we are opposed to this regime on many issues such as land reform, human rights, sovereignty, economic development and so on. We hold protests during Aquino’s State of the Nation Address, and that’s no secret. So expect that the participation of the Left in these broad anti-pork rallies will also include a sharper critique of and a more direct message addressed to the President.

And why not? The pork barrel issue clearly calls for it.

Aquino is THE biggest hindrance to the removal of the pork barrel system. We have enumerated the reasons in our previous public statements.

  1. Aquino refuses to scrap the pork barrel system, both the congressional pork and the much bigger presidential pork. In the 2014 budget, while PDAF is no longer there, the funds were merely transferred to other line agencies while lawmakers retained the “right” to nominate their pet projects which will appear as line items in the budget. That’s still pork, no matter how you cook it.
  2. Aquino has asked the Supreme Court to lift the TRO on the release of the remaining 2012 PDAF and the Malamapaya funds.
  3. Aquino has given special treatment to Janet Napoles, threatening to undermine the investigation and prosecution of those involved in the scam. This may lead to selective prosecution.
  4. Aquino has been caught red-handed in disbursing so-called government “savings” as a form of pork and incentive for politicians. Many have pointed out the unconstitutionality of the Disbursement Acceleration Program, yet the Palace is sticking to its defense. Aquino wants to preserve the system of lump sum discretionary funds and the corrupt system of patronage that pork makes possible.

Which brings us to the next point. Why shouldn’t the rally be critical of Aquino? What’s wrong if groups carry placards that say Aquino is the Pork Barrel King? What’s wrong with directing the demand to abolish pork squarely at Malacanang?

(Of course the event itself has a common theme and all participating groups and individuals agree to that. However, the common theme is just that. It’s a common theme but it is not the ONLY call nor is it the maximum demand that some groups  can push. The common theme or call is not a ceiling or a cap. It is the minimum basis of unity for holding the event. )

Now, the usual modus of the die-hard Aquino supporter is this: they spread on social media that the protest against pork will be turned into a venue to attack Aquino. They believe that since Aquino is SO popular, portraying an event as ANTI-Aquino will make the event flop. It will turn off people. Grabe din ang arrogance no?

Now some folks easily fall for this trap for one reason or another. They will make the unnecessary disclaimer that this is NOT an anti-Aquino rally in order to pacify the die-hard pro-Aquino intrigeros on social media who keep saying that an anti-Aquino call would prevent others from joining. They sometimes fail to see that the intention of the intrigue is to force the organizers to say that the rally is NOT anti-Aquino, NOT oppositional to Aquino, in order to blunt the message. So that later on, the President can say that he and the protesters are on the same side. The rally is in fact in support of the Daang Matuwid and the President. The President’s officials are even willing to meet with the rally organizers so they can sit down and discuss alternatives. We’re all in this together. Damay-damay na etc etc. .

Galing di ba? So who’s  hijacking the rally now?

What I also find bothersome and insulting is that in the attempt to appease these so-called “pro-Aquino yet anti-pork netizens”, some protest organizers, wittingly or unwittingly, reinforce the unfounded allegations and biases against the Left.

So what if some groups carry anti-Aquino calls, isn’t that within their right to express themselves? That doesn’t negate the character of the Ayala event as an anti-pork rally. So why make a disclaimer that can be turned and used against the rally organizers? Why make a disclaimer that can be used to attack one of the participants of the rally, particularly the Left?

I saw one accusation, though no direct reference was made, that the Left was “nakikisakay at nanggagamit” and that they are no different from politicians. If indeed it was the left that was being referred to, I would want that person to know what the Left did for the Ayala rally so that the person could be disabused of the notion that the Left was “nakikisakay at nanggagamit”.

The Left brought in people early to the Ayala rally, occupying a huge space that was there when the program was about to start and the Makati employees had not arrived. Kumakalog ang Paseo nung simula dahil wala pang tao. The Left also brought in other allies and anti-pork groups and personalities, some of whom were hesitant to join the Ayala rally because they thought that the message was too soft on Malacanang. (Yes there are those types too.) We mobilized artists, support staff, speakers as well as resources. It was the Bayan forces who stayed throughout the program at Ayala, even when the heavy rains started pouring. They stayed up to the end of the rally. Hindi sila bumitiw.

For those not familiar with organizing rallies, mobilizing people is difficult work. You prepare transportation, food, marshals, placards and stuff. It’s not as easy as writing a press release or making a Facebook meme. And these groups, the workers, the farmers, urban poor, professionals; they all made their own sacrifices to make the event a success by mobilizing their members from the communities and workplaces that were relatively far from Makati.

Contrast the efforts of the workers and farmers say to one Jim Paredes who is noisy on social media but admitted in one of the meetings for the first Million People March in Luneta that he was NOT for the abolition of PDAF (because it can be used for good) but was only supportive of prosecuting Napoles.

Contrast the efforts of the students and urban poor groups mobilizing to folks such as those in the Black and White Movement who during the anti-Arroyo protests only mobilized enough people to fill a van, yet they get to be interviewed all over the place as if they mobilized the entire rally in Ayala. (Ask any of the groups active in the anti-GMA movement and they’ll tell you the same).

The good thing though with these protests is that those actively involved have “leveled-up” so to speak. Hats off to the commitment displayed by netizens, bloggers, artists such as Juana Change and many others, who really worked to make the rally successful. Sila yung totoong nagtatrabaho. Hindi tulad nung nagte-text o retweet lang ng kung anu-anung kabalbalan, kunwari concerned sa kalalabasan ng rally pero sa totoo lang wala naman silang intensyong dumalo ng rally, at ang gusto lang ay manggulo at manghati.

Our understanding of the issue has also developed. The first Luneta rally was expectedly focused on Napoles and PDAF. The succeeding rallies tried to raise the discussion to lump sum discretionary spending. In Ayala, we’ve seen how participants of the rally gained the understanding that pork is not just PDAF. It also includes DAP and other forms of discretionary spending. The call to abolish ALL pork became clearer.

This movement is progressing. This cannot be prevented. The defenders of pork can only hope to divide the movement by attacking the Left, or by arousing some irrational fear of an evil opposition take-over.

The defenders of pork have grown desperate. They will ultimately fail.

Photo Philippine Daily Inquirer

Photo from Interaksyon

1. The calls for abolishing pork barrel and holding accountable those involved in PDAF scam should be sharply addressed to the PH government, chiefly represented by the Aquino regime. Aquino should stop defending pork and those officials benefiting from it. Time to rechannel pork to public services. Time to mobilize all relevant government agencies from Ombudsman to DOJ, from the House of Representatives to the Senate, to flush out the truth and hold those involved accountable.

2. People can go to Luneta via different routes. There can be marches, motorcades, alay lakad, bikes and so on. Whatever mode suits you. All can converge in Luneta.

3. The place is big enough to accommodate all sorts of activities. There could be teach-ins, discussion groups, performances, street paintings, flash mobs and the like. We can maximize the venue so that people can express themselves in different ways.

4. The event should be inclusive and flexible enough to allow various forms of expression and outrage. Each form has its own attraction and advantage. Participants can choose what they think suits them.

5. A mobile sound system, even if there is no stage, is important to keep people updated and informed about the different activities. Groups can also bring their own portable sound systems for their events. Those attending as groups should be responsible for their community or contingents. Those attending as individuals should be welcomed and encouraged to join community activities.

6. At some point, there should be a common symbolic action where all participants can join in. The rally, the coming together, the symbolic action, will be our strongest message to the powers that be.

These are simple proposals that various groups and individuals can easily unite on for the success of the event.

The People’s State of the Nation and the road to change
Today, President Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III delivers his first State of the Nation Address (SONA). It will be his first major policy pronouncement since taking office on June 30. His first SONA should be an indicator of how his administration will differ from previous regimes.

Because it is his first SONA, it should define his programs for the next six years, as well as his plans for addressing the problems left by the Arroyo regime.

And the Arroyo regime left numerous grave problems that cannot be addressed simply through anti-corruption slogans, with anti-“wangwang” peroration. The problems are in fact systemic and have worsened from one regime to the next.

The country is mired in a fiscal crisis of unsurpassed proportions. Unemployment and underemployment are at their worst in half a century. Much-needed social services are severely lacking. Landlessness continues to plague most of the peasantry, who comprise the majority of the Filipino people. Human rights continue to be wantonly violated. Foreign impositions impinge on the country’s sovereignty – or what is left of it.

• The budget deficit shot up to an all-time high of P298.5 billion last year. The deficit for the first half of 2010 has gone beyond initial projections. Meanwhile, government spending for health, education, and housing continues to shrink while 42.7 percent of the budget is allocated for debt servicing.

• By conservative estimates, more than 4 million Filipinos are unemployed, while over 7 million are underemployed. Those who are employed have to put up with extremely low wages.

• Power and water rates regularly increase while 30 percent of all barangays have no access to electricity and 17 percent of families throughout the country have no access to safe drinking water.

• Seventy percent of the peasantry – who comprise the majority of the Filipino people – are landless. Poverty is most prevalent in the countryside. Many big landholdings like the Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac and Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco’s plantations in Negros remain untouched by land reform.

• The extrajudicial killings that became rampant during the Arroyo regime, and claimed the lives of more than 1,200 people, continue; no less than five people have fallen prey to extrajudicial killings in the first two weeks of the Aquino administrations. Meanwhile more than 200 victims of enforced disappearances remain missing and more than 300 continue to languish in detention on account of their political beliefs. The counter-“insurgency” plan Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL), which targets unarmed activists and other civilians, has not been abandoned.

• Foreign military presence on Philippine soil continues under the auspices of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), with US troops permanently deployed in Mindanao in violation of the Constitution.

• The country remains tied to unequal trade agreements through the World Trade Organization and the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA).
With these, Bayan challenges President Aquino to undertake the following urgent measures:

1. Prosecute Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her henchmen for their crimes.
2. Immediately address the problems of joblessness and poverty.
3. Increase wages and provide other forms of economic relief for the people
4. Increase the budget for social services.
5. Implement genuine land reform.
6. Stop extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations, and end the OBL.
7. Uphold national sovereignty, abrogate the VFA and scrap the GATT and the JPEPA.

Institutions for accountability have been damaged and undermined by the previous government.The prosecution of Arroyo and her cabal of corrupt officials remains a pressing concern for a people who have long been denied of justice. Expose’ are good only insofar as they will lead to accountability.
We note with great concern President Aquino’s apparent continuation of the failed economic policies of hs predecessors. His economic managers continue to push for new or higher taxes as a way of raising revenues – in effect passing on the government’s fiscal burden to the people. The VAT on toll fees and the drive to have even small vendors issue receipts are some examples. The current government appears to be taking the same neo-liberal path as previous regimes.

While he has made statements against human rights abuses like extrajudicial killings, there has been no concrete action to punish the perpetrators, including the masterminds. The current government has also been non-committal about calls for the distribution of Hacienda Luisita and has not spoken about land reform in general. President Aquino is also silent about even reviewing the VFA, the GATT, and the JPEPA. We note also the current administration’s silence in the face of continuing US military presence in the country and the violation of our national sovereignty.

While Aquino has high approval ratings based on the latest Social Weather Station (SWS) survey, these approval ratings rest on shaky ground. While the survey shows Aquino having an 88-percent approval rating, it also shows that 53 percent of respondents believe he can fulfill only some of his promises, while only 14 percent believe he can fulfill all his promises.

As far as majority of the people are concerned, there are no illusions President Aquino will bring about fundamental changes. President Aquino should take this as a sign that he must immediately address the most basic peoples issues and demands. His approval ratings will ultimately be eroded if no meaningful reforms take place.

At this juncture in our history is important for the people to exercise vigilance and to continue engaging in collective action as the only proven means to achieve social change.

BAGONG ALYANSANG MAKABAYAN
July 26, 2010