June 2014

By Val G. Abelgas

OFW-LaneIn the last few weeks, the Philippines was reminded why it should start seriously reconsidering its labor export policy. Reports on the abuses that Filipina domestic helpers in the Middle East and in Asian countries suffered from their employers, including the pouring of hot water on a Filipina maid in Kuwait, and the dangers that Filipino overseas workers face in countries facing conflict crisis such as Thailand, Iraq, Syria and Libya should have moved our leaders to seriously look for viable alternatives to sending hundreds of thousands of Filipino workers as export commodities.

But it’s not just the dangers and abuses that many Filipino workers face abroad that should motivate Philippine government leaders to find ways to generate local employment for these people. It’s not just the permanent injury to children who have to grow up without their parents.

It is the wound that exporting of labor inflicts on our national pride that should finally move our leaders to find ways so that the country could minimize sending our hapless people to distant shores.

Recently, Singaporean bloggers have been telling Filipinos to their face that they are not welcome in Singapore. The online harassment forced organizers of a Philippine Independence Day celebration in a Singapore mall to cancel the event.

In Hongkong, a textbook that asks students to identify the race a particular group of people belongs to states that the correct answer to domestic helper is Filipino. Just last week, a “racist” insurance commercial depicting a male Chinese actor as a Filipina maid drew outrage on social media in Hong Kong, with groups representing the city’s legions of domestic helpers calling for an apology.

Aimed at the employers of Hong Kong’s 300,000 maids, who mainly hail from the Philippines and Indonesia, the domestic helper insurance advertisement for Malaysia’s Hong Leong Bank shows the Chinese actor wearing dark orange make-up and a curly wig as he plays clumsy maid “Maria.”

Also recently, reports that the Oxford Dictionary defines a Filipina as a domestic helper drew angry reactions in the social media.

These are not isolated reports. For years, Filipina female visitors were interviewed lengthily in Hongkong because immigration officers suspect them to be visiting the former Crown Colony to work illegally as maids. Before that, Filipinas going to Japan were thought to be “japayukis” or Filipinas working in the country’s bars and nightclubs.
The government has repeatedly protested such abuses and discriminations, but continues to send its teachers and other workers to work as maids to these countries.

In 1998, when reports on a Greek dictionary defining a Filipina as a domestic helper came out and the Philippine government protested, a leader of a group protecting immigrant rights in that Mediterranean country, said:
“The kneejerk reaction from the Philippine government makes us a laughing stock. In Greece, every rich Greek has a Filipina or two. No amount of diplomatic protest can change that image, because the reality is that as long as the Philippine government continues with its policy of exporting human resources (including domestic workers) the image will prevail. The issue at stake is why in heaven’s name do we have such an image for our women.

“A dictionary is supposed to reflect present reality. This is the reality. It has been there for decades, since the Philippine government started its policy of exporting “human resources”. Sometime in 1991, members of Parliament belonging to the New Democracy Party revolted against their party leader, saying “we are not your Filipinezas!” My reaction was to write a protest letter. Then I realized that no amount of protest could change the situation. Every time you call an MP at home, a Filipina answers the phone. The word Filipina has come to mean someone who not only comes from the Philippines, but someone who does domestic work in Greece. THAT IS THE REALITY.
 Philippine women in Greece work as domestic workers, except perhaps the Filipina staff at the Philippine embassy in Athens, who have Filipina domestics working for them.

“The Philippine government can ill afford the luxury of spending time protesting a dictionary definition. Because the Philippine government is the no. 1 exporter of domestic workers of the world,” he concluded.

Economists and even the World Bank have repeatedly warned developing countries, including the Philippines, not to depend on the inflow of remittances and foreign investments to sustain the growth momentum.

Instead of gloating over the increased remittances, it should be a cause for concern because it only means that local jobs are not available and this clearly shows that whatever growth the country is enjoying now may be temporary. What if the Middle East countries suddenly decided not to hire Filipinos because of security threats or for political reasons? Or Singapore and Hongkong suddenly decided the Sri Lankans would make better maids?

It is folly for the government to depend on overseas workers for economic growth, not to mention economic survival. The government must look at OFW deployment as a temporary solution to the country’s economic ills, and should have a clear program to generate local employment to at least stop the exodus.

Obviously, exporting labor remains a major economic policy of the Aquino government. And that is precisely the problem with the continued dependence on exported labor; it lulls both the government and the people to complacency. The government has become less serious in coming out with a more solid economic program, while the remittance-receiving families are content with receiving those monthly manna from their toiling family member and becomes passive in finding other ways to boost their income.

The recent developments in the Middle East, the worldwide recession, the recent encounters with the law of some Filipino workers, the continued abuse and exploitation of domestic workers in the Middle East and Asia, the death of Filipino workers throughout the world, and the other troubles that accompany Filipino workers worldwide should awaken the Philippine government to the reality that it cannot rely forever on remittances from these workers.

Something has to be done to stop treating Filipino labor as export, and the export of labor as economic policy. And it has to start now.



Frankly Speaking
By Frank Wenceslao

??????????????????????A Filipino-American partner in a New York law corporation asked me how he and Pamusa can help President Aquino hasten conviction or at least the retribution of the guilty in the pork barrel and other scams which, according to US-Pinoys, may go down as the most shameful corruption conspiracy in Philippine history worse than Marcos’ rapacity that only involved him and a few cronies.

How Janet Napoles succeeded in convincing virtually the controlling factions of the Senate and the House to participate in the scams and were carried away by the sweet-talk of her operatives composed of people who’ve not been heard before such as office clerks, relatives, drivers and members of the lowest echelon of Philippine society is and in itself a big blot in the Filipino psyche that will take years to erase like trauma suffered by a young lady rape victim.

Senate and House members, their aides, mid-level administration officials couldn’t have been convinced to participate in the scams if Napoles didn’t show close connection with the Aquino administration’s highest officials that her operatives invoked such as ES Paquito Ochoa whose “former” law firm (MOST) fronted for him and Budget Secretary Butch Abad who approved Priority Development Assistance Fund releases without completion report certified to by representatives of COA and the agencies concerned such as DPWH, DE, Dept., DILG, DA, DENR, etc.

After reading the NY law firm’s government investigations practice, my colleagues and I agreed to ask it to be Pamusa’s counsel in fighting government corruption and recovering the ill-gotten assets amassed by current and former top-level Philippine government officials, close associates and family members, or businessmen and individuals that colluded with them. I submitted Pamusa’s credentials to be whistleblower or qui tam plaintiff to recover the Philippine government assets lost to corruption.

The law firm is abreast with international cooperation agreements against corruption (ICAACs) such as UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) enforced by the U.S. in its National Strategy to Internationalize Efforts Against Kleptocracy and President George W. Bush’s Presidential Proclamation 7750 (PP7750) distinctly and separately from the Philippine laws violated that has made this aspect of law practice as lucrative as defending those accused of having enriched themselves from the proceeds of corruption.

To sweeten the prospect of success I submitted for consideration the criminal charges against three top members of the Philippine Senate, namely: Juan Ponce Enrile, Marcos’ defense minister who led the 1986 People Power Revolt that toppled him; Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, son of former President Joseph Estrada; and Ramon Revilla Jr., a popular movie star who wishes to follow Estrada’s footsteps and run for president in 2016; and Napoles, the confessed architect of illegally spending P10 billion ($220 million) Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), a euphemism for congressional pork barrel. Not included are aides and lower echelon government officials charged with graft.

I also submitted a summary of the Ombudsman’s charges that the three senators committed plunder (violation of RA 7080 with each pocketing and causing the loss of P50 million or more of public funds) by taking undue advantage of official position, arranging the release and illegally diverting their respective PDAF allotments to Napoles’ owned and controlled non-governmental organizations (NGOs) of dubious legality to implement the various projects. As principal contract condition, each senator got a kickback of 40% of the agreed contract price payable upfront after the funds are released by the Department of the Budget & Management (DBM).

However, no project was satisfactorily and completely finished. Napoles’ NGOs awarded the contracts turned out as were feared of being “fly-by-night” entities. After each senator’s 40% kickback was paid, 60% went to Napoles’ NGOs for implementation cost but most of which went to her bank accounts and was likely remitted overseas. The money now overseas surely can be recovered by Pamusa and the law firm bringing U.S. legal actions against the guilty parties regardless of what steps the Philippine government make take.

Based on the Ombudsman’s evidence, each senator received his kickback with Enrile’s amounting to P345 million ($7.70 million), Revilla’s P517 million ($11.50 million), and Estrada’s P278 million ($6.20 million) through a modus operandi crafted by Napoles of a combination and series of overt criminal acts repeatedly taking place over a number of years. Plunder is a capital non-bailable offense and punishable by reclusion perpetua and forfeiture of ill-gotten wealth in favor of the government, which has surely a U.S. counterpart such as the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and other financial crimes extending to the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) Act which causes nightmares to organized crime or Mafia members.

I hastened to add and induce acceptance by the law firm to be Pamusa’s counsel that the ill-gotten assets during the time of Marcos and succeeding presidents including of those able to ingratiate themselves with every administration to actively engage in corrupt practices and illegally enrich themselves are easier to recover now after 28 years since the fall of Marcos. The country’s justice system and our U.S. legal actions need only to be interfaced with the ICAACs, UNCAC, etc. that have gone a long way and multiplied the effectiveness of anticorruption efforts by the latter’s provision, among others, as follows:

“Countries agreed to cooperate with one another in every aspect of the fight against corruption, including prevention, investigation, and the prosecution of offenders. Countries are bound by the Convention render specific forms of mutual legal assistance in gathering and transferring evidence for use in court, to extradite offenders. Countries are also required to undertake measures which will support the tracing, freezing, seizure and confiscation of the proceeds of corruption.” (Emphasis supplied).

I made it clear that Pamusa’s authority from USDOJ allows us to submit through counsel to the FBI any evidence of corruption in the Philippines and what we can dig up in the U.S. If the evidence we have is reinforced by what the Ombudsman would share with the law firm, it will warrant the FBI to access the databases of the U.S. Dept. of the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). The FBI can verify if there was money transferred from the Philippines or U.S. property acquired by a Filipino with unusually large amounts beyond the statistical probability of it being earned by a suspect, his spouse or children or close relatives and close associates, this may well serve as evidence of foreign corrupt practices worth digging deeper into.

In this situation FBI investigators’ hunches never go wrong. It may mean the monies allocated for the Senate to convict former Chief Justice Renato Corona are now part of the kickbacks from the PDAF and other scams.

Would President Aquino open the Pandora’s Box for Corona to ask for a new trial, or throw his whiz-kids Ochoa and Abad under the bus for their stupid advice of bribing the Senator-judges to convict Corona so PNoy will after all smell like newly blossoming Sampaguita?

By Angie M. Rosales and Charlie V. Manalo
The Daily Tribune 

miriam-santiago.13For lack of any worthy presidential timber, will the Liberal Party (LP) bite the bullet and recruit an outsider, in the mold of Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago as its standard bearer for the 2016 presidential elections?

The Palace was coy about it yesterday, saying the question should be addressed to the LP itself but Santiago’s supposed “major announcement” on Wednesday next week and the supposed reluctance of the Palace to give even a hint on who President Aquino will annoint as his successor despite the common knowledge that Interior Secretary Mar Roxas is the only LP presidential bet at this time had stirred speculations.

“If Malacañang can’t even say categorically who the party standard bearer will be, then it could mean they have a problem with their presumed standard bearer Mar Roxas,” United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) secretary general, Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangco said.

“The problem is, Mar has been moving like a candidate. Based on news reports, he spends more time in the provinces giving out checks rather than overseeing the concerns of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) like peace and order,” Tiangco added.

He added that Malacañang’s non-committal stance is clearly “bad news” for Roxas who expects Aquino to anoint him.
Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. did not give a categorical statement on the possibility of Santiago being the administration’s 2016 bet, only saying Aquino is too busy to worry about any political scenario in 2016.

“Politics in 2016 is not in our agenda since the administration’s focus remains the implementation of programs on reform and the delivery of what was committed under the Philippine Development Plan,” Coloma said.

Santiago, who claims to be afflicted with chronic fatigue syndrome, recently gave up her post at the International Criminal Court and is a habitual absentee at the Senate due to her claimed health condition. It is not clear if she will be able to stand the rigors of another presidential run but she had hinted on her plans in saying “the next national elections would be an opportune time to elect the country’s third female president.”

“It would be best if we just wait for whatever statement Senator Santiago would make and we do respect whatever opinion she has,” Coloma added.

The choice of an administration bet is an internal matter within the LP but the Palace’s reluctance to categorically name Roxas as its 2016 standard bearer signals that all is not well within the ranks of the ruling party, according to Tiangco.

“I don’t understand why Secretary (Edwin) Lacierda has to make up stories that I mentioned Sen. Grace Poe, as their possible candidate. I am categorically saying I never mentioned her name and whoever will be their official candidate will never be part of my concerns,” he stressed.

“The choice of their standard bearer is their problem. They can even make their announcement the day after the 2016 election if they want, and it won’t bother me at all,” Tiangco said.

“It seems that the LP and Lacierda, who is LP’s unofficial mouthpiece, are all now afflicted with paranoia. That issue about their candidate is their internal problem and not of the UNA (United Nationalist Alliance),” he said.

According to Tiangco, the fact that the LP has not settled on their presidential candidate in 2016 tend to validate reports of growing problems within the LP leadership.

With two of his partymates from the Nacionalista Party (NP), Senators Antonio Trillanes IV and Alan Peter Cayetano already openly declaring their intention to run for the two highest posts in 2016, the third perceived “presidential aspirant” from their ranks, Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. has opted to remain evasive saying he’s keeping his options open.

“The time will come, of course when 2016 will come, I will be a candidate. The obvious thing to do is for me to run for reelection. Again, if the time comes, I will make the decision. But much close to 2016 elections. That’s my opinion, obviously others feel differently,” Marcos said.

“I don’t think there is a moment, either you have to decide by this time, I don’t know. I always go back to the example of Aug. 2009. (when then) Senator ( now President) Aquino was not even a candidate. May of 2010, he was the President. The absolute deadline is when you file your CoC (certificate of candidacy). Whether or not there is a proper or correct way to decide, I don’t know if there is such a thing. I’ve always been advised to keep my options open so I always try to keep my options open for as long as possible,” he said.

While Cayetano as well as Vice President Jejomar Binay has been quite vocal on their intention to seek the presidency two years from now, the former even has a television commercial airing this early, Marcos said he does not intend to follow suit, for now.

“That is based on their personal planning. To me the time is not right yet, it’s just too far away,” he said.

“There’s two years left in this term, there’s still so much to be done. There’s a lot that needs to be done for the remainder of the year. So, there’s no time or there’s no space in our working lives to be discussing that or to be planning that or to be campaigning,” he said.

Besides, Marcos pointed out, the NP will be the one to decide what role they will play come 2016 elections.

“I heard he (Trillanes) announced that he intends to run for the vice-presidency but he also said in his announcement that he will defer to the decision of the party. Again, that will come from an assessment for each individual, an assessment of the political circumstances at that time, the political context and what the party wants to do.

“You can only assess that once we know what’s going on. What may be going on now, may not be going on in a year. It’s not a static analysis, it’s a moving target. That’s why it’s so complicated,” he said.

Contrary to the impression of many that the NP is expected to decide by the last quarter of the year as to who will be their standard bearer, Marcos said it’s actually the period in which the party will start talking on what will be their involvement in the national elections of 2016.

“It’s more of a party thing or what’s the NP going to do. What will be the alliances, will we be still in coalition with the LP? Will we be in a different place? Who are going the candidates and for what positions?

“What was the decision was that the NP will definitely be involved in the 2016 elections. No because (our party president former) Sen. (Manuel) Manny (Villar Jr.) not being a candidate does not mean that the NP will stop functioning as a political party,” he said.

“The NP will still continue to function as a political party but how we will do that, that has to be decided by the party and you cannot do that instantaneously. As for the presidency, I don’t know if they will decide that early,” he said.


No Limitation 
By Ted Laguatan

Mabini-Reef-Chinese-reclamation.2Lodging the complaint with the International Tribunal on the Law of the Seas (ITLOS) against China’s illegal and immoral invasion and use of brute force to take over Philippine atolls and islands was a good move. A favorable decision would affirm Philippine ownership of certain real estate, marine and energy resources within the country’s 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone as defined by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS).

However, it will take another two years or so before a decision is made. Moreover, China has refused to play by the rules and defiantly declared that it would not respect the decision of ITLOS. As such, the Philippines cannot rely on this court action to solve this difficult problem of a deceptive and powerful bandit-like rogue state stealing islands, atolls and valuable resources.

Meanwhile, knowing that the Philippines neither has the navy nor the air power to stop it, China continues to take over more Philippine islands and atolls. Chinese fishermen also poach continuously in Philippine waters. The Chinese are now even rushing land reclamation military bases projects in various areas they seized inside Philippine territory. These future bases are within easy striking distance to major cities in the Philippines and surrounding ASEAN countries. Once these military bases are built, it would practically be impossible to remove them.

Having enemy fighter planes and missiles so proximate to potential target cities is like having a bag of explosives padlocked on one’s neck by a bad guy with a remote control, which he could explode anytime. The baddie has the poor guy under his complete control.

With these bases in place, China can demand anything from the Philippines and take anything it wants. For all practical purposes, the Philippines will then be a slave nation. We would be fools to block this unpleasant reality from our minds and not try our damndest to prevent this terrible situation. We cannot afford to be cowards and be intimidated.

China could also claim later that since they now owned these islands under UNCLOS, all of the areas within 200 miles from the baselines of these islands belonged to them.

China is ruled by dangerous hard-hearted, immoral unethical leaders devoid of Christian or moral principles, who pose a danger not only to the Philippines but to the whole world. They have already announced in Chinese government media their plan to control the whole West Philippine Sea region through sheer military might. Planting bases in Philippine territory is part of that plan.

Even the millions of good people in China are victims of their oppression, greed and ego. Gone are the days when the ethical principles of great Chinese philosophers like Lao Tzu and Confucius dominated Chinese culture and society, where philosopher kings ruled.

The Philippines has already practically exhausted diplomatic efforts and joint exploration offers. The terrible fire-breathing dragon is dealing in bad faith – demands that for any meaningful talks to proceed, the Philippines must first agree to accept that the whole West Philippine Sea (or South China Sea as they call it) belongs to them — including those belonging to the Philippines under UNCLOS.

These aggressive, repeated series of invasions and land grabbing are acts of war. Building military bases inside PH territory are acts of war. China shows no signs of stopping these oppressive actions. The US has repeatedly asked China to stop its coercion and intimidation of smaller countries and to play by the rules. The US Senate has passed two resolutions condemning China, affirming the use of military resources if need be if it continues with its abusive ways. China has not complied. Instead, her arrogant reply to the U.S. is: “Don’t interfere.”

There are those who say: “We cannot risk war with China.” In truth and in fact, we are already at war with China.

If the small nation of Israel were faced with this kind of military base construction from an aggressive enemy state, without hesitation, its fighter planes and drones would immediately destroy these structures. Justifiable self-defense directly related to the security of the Israeli people compels such an actions.

Military bases have only two purposes: To use as defenses from enemy attack; or to attack enemies. No nation is attacking China. As such, China cannot justify the construction of these bases by claiming that it needs them for self-defense. These bases are deep in Philippine territory, in commandeered atolls and islands in violation of international and civilized laws. China’s aggressiveness clearly indicates its nefarious plan to use these bases for coercive, attacking purposes.

The Philippines and surrounding Asian nations have no choice: These future bases must be destroyed now. The fighter planes and missiles that will be deployed there will be daggers aimed at the major cities of these countries. We and they simply cannot allow these bases to be constructed.

“But we are not Israel, we don’t have fighter planes or drones,” would be the reaction of many Filipinos. We can get them.

President Benigno Simeon Aquino III must definitely exercise courageous, decisive leadership at these critical times. If he does not, China’s military bases will be completed. Aquino cannot afford to be shy in these critical times.

Consider this: The Philippines has mutual security arrangements with four wealthy powerful countries. The United States, Japan and Australia. Now, if these Chinese military bases in Philippine territory become realities, aside from the Philippines, the national security of several nearby countries will be at risk: Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, Japan, Palau, Taiwan, Cambodia, South Korea, Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, Singapore.

China is acting like a rogue country, which does not play by the rules. Its political and military leadership follows the former Communist Party Chairman Mao Tse Tung’s dictum: “Political power grows from the barrel of a gun.”

These future Chinese military bases are the guns meant by China’s leaders to possess global political power, an extremely perilous situation for all the countries in the region. American economic and military interests are also at risk, as is regional stability. As such, the affected countries also don’t want these bases to be constructed. Not only will they be sympathetic to the Philippines destroying these future bases, they will support it.

The Philippines must request from her mutual security partners the means to destroy these future bases now and the assurance of full support against retaliation. Enough persuasive reasons can be presented to the leaders of the US Japan and Australia to provide to the Philippines the needed planes, smart powerful bombs, drones and technical advice.

After these bases are destroyed, the US, Japan, Australia, the Philippines and other allies must immediately announce a message to this effect:

“In its legitimate exercise of self defense, the Philippines has destroyed future Chinese military bases deep within Philippine territory that were being illegally constructed by China on Philippine atolls and islands in violation of international law. Not only is the national security of the Philippines threatened by these future military bases, they also threaten the national security of several surrounding countries: Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, Japan, Palau, Taiwan, Cambodia, South Korea, Thailand, Laos, Myanmar and Singapore.

If China retaliates against the Philippines in any manner or form, it will face the same retaliation from the United States, Japan, Australia, Vietnam and other allied nations.”

With this fair warning, if China still retaliates, it risks annihilation — military, economic or otherwise.

We really have no choice: We have to destroy these future Chinese military bases now.

Note: Ted Laguatan is a San Francisco based human rights lawyer and California State Bar Certified Immigration Law expert.

Read more: http://globalnation.inquirer.net/107213/no-choice-destroy-chinas-future-ph-military-bases-now#ixzz35rukI42V
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Source: The Daily Tribune

South-China-Sea-Chinese-official-mapIn its latest move emphasizing its claims of sovereignty over the South China Sea, Beijing has released a new official map of its territory which increases the number of disputed marked as officially part of China, including the islands claimed by the Philippines and other neighboring states.

China’s assertions of ownership in the disputed waters have put it at odds with at least four Southeast Asian nations.

The new, longer map dispenses with the box, and shows continental China along with its self-declared sea boundary in the South China Sea – stretching right down to the coasts of Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines – on one complete map.

“The islands of the South China Sea on the traditional map of China are shown in a in a cut-away box, and readers cannot fully, directly know the full map of China,” the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily said on its website.

The government-run Xinhua news agency of China published photos of the map made by Hunan Map Publishing House which said the publication was of “great significance in safeguarding the nation’s water sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

“(This helps to) correct misconceptions that territories carry different weights, and fosters a raised territorial awareness and marine consciousness with the public,” editor-in-chief Lei Yixun of the publication house was quoted by Xinhua as saying.
China’s foreign ministry said the goal in issuing the new map “is to serve the Chinese public.”

“As for the intentions, I think there is no need to make too much of any association here,” Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying was quoted as saying.

“China’s position on the South China Sea issue is consistent and extremely clear. Our stance has not changed.”

Beijing claims about 90 percent of the South China Sea, but parts of the potentially energy-rich waters are also subject to claims by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

But the Philippine government, through the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), branded China’s new official map as “unreasonably expansive” as it includes areas within Philippine sovereignty as part of Chinese territory.

“We reiterate that such a publication only shows China’s unreasonably expansive claim that is clearly contrary to international law and United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea,” DFA spokesman Charles Jose said in a statement.

Reports said China has unveiled a new map that marks a huge area of the South China Sea as part of Chinese jurisdiction, encroaching on the territories of its neighbors like the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

“It is precisely such ambitious expansionism that is causing the tensions in the South China Sea,” Jose said.

China claims 90 percent of the South China Sea – a major shipping route and home to groups of islands, rocks, reefs and cays. Beijing says its claim over the resource-rich waters is indisputable.

The Philippine government has renamed parts of the waters that are within its exclusive economic zone as West Philippine Sea.

Manila challenged China’s claim before an international tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, where a resolution is pending.
Relatedly, a member of the House of Representatives yesterday said the neighboring countries – Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Indonesia – should join forces with the Philippines by bringing their case against China to an international arbitrator.

“Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, and Indonesia must join forces with our country as the 5 SEA (Southeast Asian) Tigers and settle this dispute with China in an international court,” said Rep. Sherwin Gatchalian in a statement.

Gatchalian expressed belief that the Philippine case against China will have stronger impact and positive results if they will unite and act as one to ensure a louder voice.

Tribune wires and Arlie O. Calalo



(After steadfastly standing her ground on the incursion by China in her territorial waters, Vietnam received in Hanoi Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi.)

Bong-Revilla-arrested.2Well, it finally happened…

The first lawmaker (lawbreaker?), senator Ramon Revilla, Jr., who allegedly committed, through the pork barrel scam, the heinous crime of plunder, a crime punishable by death until Ms. Gloria Arroyo had the death penalty abolished, is now in jail… well, what passes for a jail.

Already, Revilla has indicated he would like to have an air-cooler, while the other would-be jailbird, senator Jinggoy Estrada, said he would like to have cable TV in his cell. Otherwise, he said he would prefer to be under house arrest. Geeez! At least the nonagenarian senator Juan Ponce Enrile seems to be taking his pending incarceration in stride, although he has filed a petition for bail due to his age and frail health. No hospital arrest?

What is it with these people? Their alleged crime is a lot worse than those committed by many others. Yet, they are being treated differently, better, like they are VIPs (Very Important Prisoners!)

Look at that pork barrel queen Janet Napoles… she even has her own bungalow! And the government has to spend a huge amount of money every time she is brought to court or to the hospital. Is that part of the deal she struck when she surrendered to President Noynoy Aquino who even accompanied her to Camp Crame? Why couldn’t she be incarcerated there? Isn’t that a more secure place to be? These are questions that Noynoy’s bosses are asking, in case he doesn’t know.


I can’t help remembering what a friend, Jun Bautista, commented on a column I wrote eleven months ago entitled “Abolish the Pork Barrel”.

Jun said: “Abolish the pork barrel?! Good luck Rey! But there is no harm dreaming!”

A month later, he wrote: “Hi Rey, we finally got our miracle. The pork had been abolished! It will probably be replaced by a new congressional Baka or milking cow.”

If we let our guard down Jun, I’m sure they’ll attempt to do that. And, of course, we all know that Noynoy has not even deigned to give up his pork barrel. In fact, he, together with his leech-like and rhinoceros-skinned budget secretary Florencio Abad, the alleged mentor of Janet Napoles, created another barrelful of pork in the form of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

A slice of the DAP was apportioned and given to the 20 or so senators who voted to impeach former Chief Justice Renato Corona, with each receiving from P50 million to P100 million!

If that isn’t bribery, I don’t know what is.


But what happened to Revilla is just the beginning…

We still have to see the incarceration of Estrada, Ponce Enrile and others charged with plunder, including those who remain to be indicted by the Ombudsman, as well as those still to be charged.

Like it or not, we have to give some credit to Noynoy for this turn of event in our history. For, if it had been someone else in his position, I think chances are these alleged plunderers would still be merrily stealing the people blind.

What is sad, very sad, is that Noynoy chose not to go all the way by having his friends, political allies and government officials who have also been implicated in the pork barrel scam and other irregularities, investigated and prosecuted.

Sayang!!! Had he done so, his place in our history as the reformist president, indeed the greatest president ever, would be secure.

Too late? It is never too late. He still has two years left in his tenure. Enough time, I say, to hit the ground running, something he promised to do and should have done four years ago, to set in motion the reforms this country needs. He should go back to his daang matuwid and step on the accelerator like there is no tomorrow.

While he is at it, he should throw overboard, without hesitation, those cabinet members and other officials who have not come up to expectations and continue to give his administration a bad name. I do not have to mention their names. He knows who they are. It’s time to shed his attitude towards his KKKKKKs for the sake of his bosses. “Kayo ang boss ko!”, remember?


Super Amboy Albert del Rosario, foreign secretary, strikes out again! (The bigger Amboy is, of course, Noynoy! He should also shed that attitude for the good of the country.)

When he heard that US Assistant Secretary of State Danny Russel informally suggested a moratorium on activities by territorial claimant countries in the South China Sea, Del Rosario hastily picked it up!

No sooner had he publicly stated that he would take up the proposal at the next meeting of ASEAN than China shot it down. That was to be expected. And, as if to add insult to injury, China even scornfully told us to leave the areas we occupy in our Exclusive Economic Zone!

To begin with, one would think that Del Rosario realizes by now that any proposal for ASEAN to take a common stand on anything that would be against China’s position on the South China Sea dispute, like the Code of Conduct, is not likely to prosper. The presence of Cambodia alone, not to mention Laos and Myanmar, will see to that. Malaysia too, another claimant in the South China Sea, has explicitly stated that she will never jeopardize her relations with Beijing. Del Rosario keeps forgetting, or chooses to ignore, the fact that ASEAN decides by consensus.

When I, as DFA assistant secretary for ASEAN Affairs, suggested in 1989 to then Foreign Secretary Raul Manglapus that we propose the crafting of an ASEAN Charter, uppermost in my mind was to get rid of the association’s decision-making rule by consensus. I believed then, as I believe now, that it has retarded to a great extent ASEAN’s effectiveness as a regional body.

And, precisely because of it, the consensus rule is now embodied in the ASEAN Charter. Pity!


The mountain went to Mohammed…

After steadfastly standing her ground on the incursion by China in her territorial waters, Vietnam received in Hanoi Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi.

Yang had talks with Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh on the Chinese oil rig set up in Vietnamese-claimed territorial waters in the Paracels.

Although nothing concrete reportedly came out of the talks, the important thing is that the Chinese saw it fit to go and see the Vietnamese to discuss the matter.

Tayo? Sinabihan pa tayo ng “alis dyan!” Walang galang ang mga damuho!



I have raised a number of times in this space the rising criminality in the country. The frequency of killings by tandem-bikers has reached alarming proportions. I have also cited the apparent failure of the designated (by Noynoy) crime czar, executive secretary Paquito Ochoa, to do his assigned task.

Now that Noynoy himself has raised the matter, his DILG secretary, the quintessential sidekick, Mar Roxas, readily echoed his master’s sentiments. But nothing at all was heard from Ochoa.

Sino ba talaga ang may hawak ng Philippine National Police (PNP)? Si Roxas ba o si Ochoa? There are rumors that Roxas doesn’t even talk to PNP chief Alan Purisima who is now under fire for building a P25 million “white house” inside Camp Crame.

Funnily, when the call was made for increased police presence in the streets, Purisima and his top brass were featured on TV and newspapers “modeling” the new police uniform. A coincidence perhaps, but police presence does not mean a change in the style and color of the policeman’s uniform.

Now that Noynoy himself has issued the directive to curb crime incidence in the country, let’s watch what happens, as his favorite Frank Sinatra song goes.

And, as usual, chief presidential spokesman Sonny Coloma brushed aside calls for the resignation of Ochoa, Roxas and Purisima for bungling their jobs, by saying that they continue to enjoy Noynoy’s full trust and confidence.


The government’s folly of negotiating with only the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), to the exclusion of all other interested parties, has resulted in the rejection by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) of the agreement.

Reports quoted OIC Secretary General Iyad Ameen Madani as saying that the government and the MILF failed to incorporate the Tripoli (1976) and Jakarta (1997) agreements brokered by the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) led by its founding chairman Nur Misuari. He then proposed a linkage of the government’s peace pacts with the MILF and the MNLF.

Madani reportedly added this was necessary because “all factions” of the MNLF opposed the CAB which does “not mention or build explicitly” on the Tripoli and Jakarta Agreements with the MNLF.

Without a doubt, OIC’s support for the CAB is essential for the peace accord to prosper. Back to the drawing board?


Reminders (for Noynoy):

1) Filing of charges against officials of the National Food Authority (NFA)

during Arroyo’s illegitimate regime. Noynoy himself said on several occasions that there is documentary evidence to prove the venalities in the past in that agency. That was four long years ago.

2) Investigation of reported anomalies in the GSIS during the watch of Winston Garcia and order his successor, Robert “Pretty Boy” Vergara, to file the proper charges, if warranted, against the former.

Noynoy should also order Vergara to report to him on COA’s findings that:

(a) He received the obscenely excessive compensation of P16.36 million in 2012 making him the highest paid government servant then, as well as how much he received in 2013; and

(b) That over a year ago, at least P4.13 billion in contributions and loan payments made by 12 government offices to the GSIS had not been credited to the offices as of Dec. 31, 2011.

COA also said at the time that the amount of unrecorded remittances could go much higher because only 36 agencies have so far responded out of the 186 that were sent confirmation requests by government auditors. Of the 36, 27 confirmed “discrepancies” in their premium and loan payments ledgers when compared with those of the GSIS.

There are three questions being raised when remittances, or parts thereof, of government agencies are not recorded by the GSIS on time: a) Where are these huge sums “parked” in the meantime?; b) Do they earn interest?; and c) To where (whom?) does the interest, if any, go?

Pray tell, Mr. Vergara, what is the present status of these funds, including those that may have been remitted since and not yet recorded by the GSIS?

I believe it is time for COA to follow up on what Vergara has done on the above findings so that affected GSIS members would know the status of their contributions!


Today is the 59th day of the eighth year of Jonas Burgos’ disappearance.

Eight weeks ago, Jonas’ mother, Edita, reminded Noynoy in a letter of his promise to conduct a “dedicated and exhaustive investigation” on her son’s enforced disappearance.

“Our hope was anchored on your promise to do what you could ‘on the basis of evidence’ when I personally pleaded for your help. This was almost four years ago, May 2010,” she wrote.

Mr. President, Sir?


From an internet friend:


Sinner: Bless me Father, for I have sinned. Last night, I killed a politician.

Priest: My son, I am here to listen to your sins, not your community service work.


24 June 2014

Email: roacrosshairs@outlook.com

FB: https://www.facebook.com/reynaldo.arcilla.9847

By Erick San Juan

Fukushima-disasterPresident Benigno S. Aquino III went to Japan the other day to re-affirm a collective self-defense agreement between the Philippines and Japan in their territorial disputes with China. China’s leadership has metamorphosed from a sleeping dragon into a fire dragon behaving like a bully to cover its internal problem which many pundits believe will implode soon.

President Aquino’s short trip to Japan was quite fruitful especially when Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe vows easier entry to Japan for Filipino tourists.

But I felt bad and pity the Japanese victims of the multiple explosions at Fukushima’s nuclear plant when a friend emailed me an article from Counterpunch written by Harvey Wasserman of nukefree.org entitled “Fukushima’s Children are Dying”.

Wasserman said that some months after the explosions at Fukushima, thyroid cancer rates among children in the area and nearby have skyrocketed to more than 40 times normal.

“More than 48% of some 375,000 young people and nearly 200,000 kids tested by the Fukushima Medical University near a smoldering reactors suffer from pre-cancerous thyroid abnormalities, primarily nodules and cysts. And the rate is accelerating.”

“More than 120 childhood cancers have been indicated where just three would be expected.”, according to Joseph Mangano, the executive director of the Radiation and Public Health Project.

Wasserman explained that the nuclear industry and its apologists continue to deny this public health tragedy. “Some have actually asserted that not one person has been affected by Fukushima’s massive radiation releases which for some isotopes exceed Hiroshima by a factor of nearly 30. But the deadly epidemic at Fukushima is consistent with impacts suffered among children near the 1979 accident at Three Mile Island and the 1986 explosion at Chernobyl, as well as findings at other commercial reactors.” Wasserman narrated that atomic power could cause such epidemics which has reportedly confirmed by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, which says that an increase in the risk of childhood thyroid cancer would accompany a reactor disaster.

“Nearby children are not the only casualties at Fukushima. Plant operator Masao Yoshida died at the age 58 due to esophogeal cancer. Yoshida heroically refused to abandon Fukushima at the worst of the crisis, thus saving millions of lives. Public anger is rising over local government plans to force families, many with small children, back into the heavily contaminated region around the power plant.”

At the Three Mile Island’s accident in 1979, owners denied the reactor had melted but a robotic camera confirmed otherwise.

A wide range of independent studies confirm heightened infant death rates and excessive cancers among the populace. Excessive death, mutation and disease rates among animals were confirmed by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture and by local journalists.

At Chernobyl, Wasserman stated that a compendium of more than 5,000 studies has yielded an estimated death toll of more than one million people.

Physicians for Social Responsibility and the German chapter of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War have warned of parallel problems at Fukushima. “The situation can only get worse. Radiation from three lost cores is still being carried into the Pacific. Management of spent fuel rods in pools suspended in the air and scattered around the site remains fraught with danger.”

Wasserman confirmed that Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe regime wants to re-open the remaining 48 reactors. It has pushed hard for families who fled the disaster area to re-occupy irradiated homes and villages.

Scientists believe that the Fukushima cleaning system is unable to conduct a full decontamination of the accumulated volumes of liquid radioactive waste nor reduce the nominal concentration of radiation that Japan intends to dilute with clean water and then pour into the ocean. This process does not reduce the final amount of radioactive substances entering the environment and therefore could harm the region’s ecology.

Pouring of water with high content of radionuclides into the Pacific Ocean for a long time will cause serious harm to the region’s environment. It could create a real threat to the economy and food security of neighboring states including the Philippines. It could also lead to the accumulation of harmful to human health isotopes in seafoods, making them unfit for consumption.

I hope that the Japanese government can still do something about it and give the world the true state of the plague and it’s environmental threat.

By Perry Diaz

World War I

World War I

When the Great War broke out in 1914, it came to be known as the “War to end all wars” but years later it was known, and to this day, as World War I. Germany lost the war to the western powers and on November 11, 1918, she signed the Armistice of Compiegne; thus, ending the war that was supposed to end all wars. Wrong!

World War II

World War II

On September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland. Two days later, the United Kingdom declared war on Germany. Thus, the “Second Period” began, which otherwise was known as World War II. On May 7, 1945, Germany surrendered to the Allies, which included the major powers, US, UK, and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).

On August 6, 1945, the US dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima followed by a second bomb dropped on Nagasaki on August 9. On August 15, Japan’s Emperor Hirohito announced over radio Japan’s surrender. World War II came to an end. The geopolitical landscape changed with Europe divided into two blocs. The western European democracies and the US and Canada formed the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) while the eastern European countries, who were taken over by puppet communist regimes after the war, formed the Warsaw Pact to counter NATO. Thus began the Cold War.

Kim Il Sung and Stalin

Kim Il Sung and Stalin

Meanwhile, North Korean leader Kim Il Sung went to Moscow in March 1950 to ask Stalin’s permission to invade South Korea. Stalin gave his permission and on June 25, 1950 North Korea invaded South Korea. Armed with a United Nations resolution, the US led a multi-national expeditionary force to Korea to fight alongside the South Koreans. On October 25, 1950, China entered the war on the side of North Korea. On July 27, 1953, the US, North Korea, and China signed an armistice to end the war. It was a geopolitical stalemate and Korea remained divided. To this day, the two Koreas are still in a state of war.

But no sooner had the Korean War ended than the Vietnam War erupted in 1956 when the French left Vietnam and the US sent military advisers to train the South Vietnamese to fight the Viet Cong. In 1965, a brigade of US marines arrived in Vietnam. It didn’t take too long for the US to get knee deep in the Vietnam quagmire with 543,400 combat troops.

On January 27, 1973, the US, South Vietnam, Viet Cong, and North Vietnam formally signed “An Agreement Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam” in Paris. A cease-fire took effect the following day with the US agreeing to withdraw all troops within 60 days. However, South Vietnam refused to recognize the Viet Cong’s Provisional Revolutionary Government and the conflict continued between South Vietnam and the Viet Cong. On April 30, 1975, Saigon fell and South Vietnam surrendered to the Viet Cong. It was a geopolitical defeat for the US.

Pax Americana

Collapse of the Soviet Union

Collapse of the Soviet Union

In 1991, the Cold War ended when the Soviet Union disintegrated and all the republics in the union went their separate ways. This signaled the end of Stalinist communism in Europe. The remnants of communism – China, North Korea, and Cuba – survived; however, communism ceased as a threat to world peace. The US remained the sole superpower.

After a decade of relative peace, the new millennia began with an attack on America on September 11, 2001 by al-Qaeda suicide bombers. The following month, the US invaded Afghanistan to go after al-Qaeda and its leader, Osama bin Laden. On May 2, 2011, a team of US Navy SEALs killed bin Laden in his hideout in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

US troops are scheduled to leave Afghanistan at the end of 2014. Afghanistan is America’s longest war; however, from a geopolitical standpoint, it was a victory for the US.

On March 20, 2003, the US invaded Iraq on the belief that Saddam Hussein was stockpiling weapons of mass destruction. No WMD was found but Hussein was captured and subsequently executed. On December 15, 2011, the Iraq War officially ended with the withdrawal of all American troops. It was a geopolitical victory for the US.

While the US was fighting two long wars, Russia and China were busy building their military capabilities. Recent events in Ukraine and the South and East China Seas saw the emergence of Russia and China from a low-profile leave-me-alone-I-am-not-causing-any-trouble stance to an aggressive land-grabbing behavior.

Tensions in the east

Xi Jinping

Xi Jinping

When Xi Jinping took over China’s three most powerful positions as President, General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, and Chairman of the Central Military Commission, China took a quantum leap in her attempt to dislodge the US as the world’s only superpower. In 2012, China grabbed Scarborough Shoal from the Philippines. The following year, China imposed an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) covering most of East China Sea, which overlaps Japan and South Korea’s airspace over the Senkaku islands and Socotra Rock, respectively.

Recently, it was reported that China was creating artificial islands on several reefs and shoals in the Spratly archipelago. It is believed that China is going to build naval and air bases on these outcroppings in the South China Sea. Once these artificial islands are fortified, they will provide China with the ability strike at the countries — the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, and Vietnam — with overlapping claims on the Spratly islands, which China claims exclusively as an extension of her territory.

Tensions in the west

Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin

This year, Russia grabbed Crimea from Ukraine and annexed it. It is also believed that Russia is behind the unrest in East Ukraine where pro-Russia separatists are fighting Ukrainian forces. It is also believed that Russia would eventually invade East Ukraine and create Novorossiya (New Russia), which covers a large swath of southeastern Ukraine.

The question is: How would NATO react to a Russian invasion of Ukraine? Since Ukraine is not a member of NATO and therefore doesn’t benefit from the provisions of NATO’s Article 5, which says that an attack on a NATO member is an attack on all NATO members. However, it is expected that NATO wouldn’t idly stand by and watch Russia run over Ukraine just like when Hitler’s Germany ran over Czechoslovakia in 1938, which triggered World War II.

Nuclear-War.4Looking back to all these turmoil and unrest going in flashpoints around the world, it makes one wonder what’s driving Russia’s Vladimir Putin and China’s Xi Jinping into taking the risk of a nuclear Armageddon with their aggressive disposition? Or is it their megalomaniac thirst for power that propels them to go to war against those who resist them?

History tells us that nations tried to settle geopolitical conflicts by going to war. It also tells us that war seldom settles geopolitical disputes. Yet war has always been the favored way — Napoleonic complex — of settling geopolitical conflicts. Indeed, one can say that geopolitics and war are mutually complementary – war as an instrument of geopolitics and geopolitics as the seed of war. But what ends war is diplomacy, which begs the question: Why not substitute diplomacy for war to settle geopolitical disputes, which would make Planet Earth a lot safer?

Ahh, strange as it might seem, such is the politics of war.



By Jose Ma. Montelibano

Founders of the Katipunan

Founders of the Katipunan

Indeed, we have freedom. Sadly, we have no independence. There is a struggle to be won, not against an external aggressor, but against our own weakness.

Free but dependent. That is the Filipino, the collective Filipino. There are changes, of course, but not yet enough to earn independence. Not until we rise above our poverty, not until we rise above corruption.

With half of Filipinos believing themselves to be poor, and ten million reported to be working abroad at the cost of separation from their families during the best years of their lives, independence remains a struggle of a free people. Freedom may mean we rule ourselves instead of submitting to a foreign power, but independence is a collective standing on our own two feet – and we do not.

In a homeland that is blessed with awesome abundance, poverty haunts Filipinos in great numbers. Definitely, our Overseas Filipino Workers have dramatically lessened the numbers of the poor. By doing so, they have raised the level of our self-reliance, our independence. But they do so feeling forced, wanting to rise above their inherited poverty in the bosom of their motherland but not being able to. It is a choice made from freedom but difficult to say the choice was independent.

We have paid a great price for our freedom. Four hundred years of enduring the rule of foreign masters, and the wars they had waged against each other, the freedom we gained in 1946 put us squarely against a more insidious enemy – our own patterned conditioning. History had been most unkind these last four centuries. We tasted the loss of our freedom, we tasted the iron hand of colonialism, we even became witness to the betrayal of some of our own who chose to collaborate with the enemy for ten pieces of silver. The harshest of all, though, is that too many of us lost our anger and learned to accept submission as a way of life.

Poverty does that. Poverty keeps a human being and a family at survival mode. Foreign masters had to plunder our native resources; that was why they conquered us in the first place. They had to make us poor, then weak. That was the only way to exploit us on a prolonged and sustained basis. It meant bribing local leaders to help them exercise control over a native population that far outnumbered them. Greed is such a powerful motivation for treason, just as fear, and the foreign masters knew how to stoke both.

When freedom wins for us the absence of foreign rule, it does not win for us everything else. The loss of inner strength, the loss of confidence from a loss of opportunity, and continuing governance that copies the exploitative bent of the past masters instead of one that seeks democratic empowerment had stunted independence despite freedom from external rule.

People can confuse freedom with independence. This confusion is aggravated when leaders do not guide them firmly and effectively away from begging and towards self-reliance, and actually perpetuates exploitation. That exploitation of power, always accompanied with material gain, is what is known as corruption. Nothing encourages corruption more than poverty in the midst of plenty. History, too, negates the assumption that the rich do not need to take advantage of power; it is almost always the opposite.

No wonder, then, that in the midst of plenty, in the midst not only of natural resources so mind-boggling in their abundance but also of an economy that thrives from remittances and the aggressive intelligence of the elite, corruption defines governance at all levels. Statesmanship is lost when power has open access to wealth. The common good is nowhere as inviting as personal gain for those who govern when a country has great wealth but a poor population. Inner temptation can be a more formidable enemy than a foreign invader.

It does not mean that change for the better is not possible. A crusading president, if the crusade outweighs all other considerations, can make history turn. But he needs to be relentless in order to make history change its course. A leader cannot reverse patterns unless he or she has personally risen above these same patterns. All the more when the leader works within the confines of democratic rule because a system based on political maturity makes good governance almost impossible in a reality of selfish politics.

But leave it up to evolution to level the playing field. Tipping points are not only reached by personal efforts but maybe even more so by collective convergence. Our younger generations, complemented powerfully by awesome technological advances, now challenge the patterns of history and are actually winning. They have ripened the tipping point and guarantee radical changes. The culture of corruption dominates still but is severely challenged by the transparency triggered by technology and the surprising nobility of our youth.

The moment nears when freedom will finally find its sought-after independence. The moment nears when the poor will find kinder treatment and more value in society, when they will value themselves more. When they do, they will not tolerate poverty from inheritance. And they will stand up to the corrupt. It can be then said that the maturity of democracy is such a sweet fruit.

What stands between today and that coming moment is sacrifice and commitment. Those who seek a better life must invest more towards it. Those who advocate for change must be more single-minded in its pursuit. There will be no quantum leap from poverty and corruption to justice and prosperity, no quantum leap from freedom to freedom and independence without paying the price, a steep price.

Filipinos are paying the price.

By Paul Atienza  
The Daily Tribune


State-DepartmentThe Philippines under President Aquino remains a hot bed for human trafficking, which was described as the modern form of slavery, based on a recent US State Department report on the transit of persons for 2014 in which the country was retained on the Tier 2 list.

Tier 2 countries are those whose governments do not fully comply with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s (TVPA) minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards, according to the State Department report.

The report cited the country as a source and, to a much lesser extent, a destination and transit country for men, women and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. It said government efforts under President Aquino against human trafficking remains lacking.

“The government continued to prosecute sex and labor trafficking offenses and to impose stringent sentences on convicted sex traffickers, but it did not make progress in convicting labor traffickers and its overall number of convictions remained low compared to the size of the problem,” it said.

The US State Department noted that during the reporting period, the Philippines National Police (PNP) investigated 155 alleged cases of trafficking, 90 of which were cases of forced labor, 58 were cases involving sex trafficking, and details of seven were unknown.

“The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) also initiated 82 trafficking investigations, 25 cases of which were recommended for prosecution,” it added.

It said during the reporting year, 317 new cases of trafficking were filed at the Department of Justice (DOJ) and prosecutors’ offices nationwide, and of these 317 cases, 190 were filed in various courts and 663 defendants were prosecuted,” it said.

It added the government convicted 31 sex trafficking offenders, compared with 25 during the previous year but it did not obtain any convictions for labor trafficking.

“A significant number of the estimated 10 million Filipino men, women, and children who migrate abroad for skilled and unskilled work are subsequently subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor, including through debt bondage, in factories, at construction sites, on fishing vessels, on agricultural plantations, as engineers or nurses, and in the shipping industry, as well as in domestic work, janitorial service, and other service sector jobs in Asia, throughout the Middle East, and increasingly in Europe,” according to the report.

The Filipinos cited in the report are mostly those known as overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) which the Aquino administration depends on in terms of their huge monthly dollar remittance to sustain economic growth.

Policies undertaken by the government are more of providing support to the local families of OFWs rather than bringing the Filipinos home by providing more employment opportunities through the development of local industries.

The US government report stated that many victims exploited overseas and domestically experience physical and sexual abuse, threats, inhumane living conditions, non-payment of salaries, and withholding of travel and identity documents.

“Forced labor and sex trafficking of men, women, and children within the country also remains a significant problem. Women and children from rural communities, areas affected by disaster or conflict, and impoverished urban centers are subjected to domestic servitude, forced begging, forced labor in small factories, and sex trafficking principally in Manila, Cebu, Angeles, and cities in Mindanao, as well as within other urban areas and tourist destinations such as Boracay, Olongapo, Puerta Galera, and Surigao,” the report said.

It added men are subjected to forced labor and debt bondage in agriculture, including on sugar cane plantations, and in fishing and other maritime industries.

Hundreds of victims are subjected to sex trafficking in well-known and highly-visible business establishments that cater to Filipinos’ and foreign tourists’ demand for commercial sex acts.

The report also cited child sex trafficking, which it said remains a serious problem in the country and “occurs in private residences, facilitated by taxi drivers who have knowledge of clandestine locations.”

Child sex tourists include citizens from Australia, New Zealand, and countries in Northeast Asia, Europe, and North America, it said.

Increasingly, very young Filipino children are coerced to perform sex acts for internet broadcast to paying foreign viewers, it added.

It also cited government and NGOs reported an increasing prevalence of boys becoming victims of sex trafficking.

Traffickers, at times in partnership with local organized crime syndicates and corrupt government officials, recruit family and friends from villages and urban neighborhoods, sometimes masquerading as representatives of government-registered employment agencies, it said.

The report also noted that traffickers increasingly use email and social networking sites to fraudulently recruit Filipinos for overseas work.

Fraudulent recruitment practices and the institutionalized practice of paying recruitment fees leave workers vulnerable to trafficking, it said.

Illicit recruiters used student, intern, and exchange program visas to circumvent the Philippine government and destination countries’ regulatory frameworks for foreign workers.

Recent catastrophes that hit the country provided a new dimension to human trafficking, according to the report.

“In November 2013, Typhoon Haiyan caused widespread damage in the Philippine provinces of Leyte and Samar, impoverished areas which are known to be source locations for victims of trafficking, and resulted in the displacement of more than four million people,” it said.

Although the full extent of the typhoon’s effect on trafficking in the Philippines is unknown, media sources reported isolated allegations of trafficking and illegal recruiting, and the Department of Justice (DOJ) investigated at least two suspected cases of typhoon-related trafficking.

“Children and adults in conflict-afflicted areas were particularly vulnerable to trafficking; a violent crisis between the government and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in Zamboanga City and Basilan Province in September 2013 resulted in the displacement of more than 120,000 people and increased the vulnerability of children to recruitment by the MNLF, including for use as human shields,” the report said.

It cited a United Nations (UN) report that other armed militia groups operating in the Philippines, including the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the New People’s Army, the Abu Sayyaf Group, and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters recruited and used children, at times through force, for use in combat and noncombat roles during the reporting period.

“The UN noted concerns that the Armed Forces of the Philippines occasionally forced children—including those intercepted from armed groups—to act as guides and informants during military operations,” it added.
Presidential Deputy spokesman Abigail Valte, in response to the report, said the Aquino administration has vowed to exert more efforts on curbing human trafficking.

The United States government has been providing funds for the program of anti-human trafficking in the country.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry released the 2014 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report on June 20 in a ceremony at the State Department in Washington, D.C.

Kerry’s report was considered as the most comprehensive report on governmental efforts worldwide to combat human trafficking.

Valte said that the accomplishment of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) was contained in the report, adding that the DoJ should be commended for having assigned a number prosecutors focusing on the anti-human trafficking cases.

“In fact, from the last 21 convictions, there was an increase for this particular year to 32 and there are more cases brought to the court,” Valte said.

Valte said the agency of the Bureau of Immigration has a role also after some 101 employees were charged administratively who were doubted to have facilitated trafficking.

“The government is doing its best to file these cases and to see that the prosecutions are properly done. However, since there are three branches in government also, we have continued to encourage our counterpart in the judiciary to cut down on the lengthy trial processes,” Valte said.

Valte said one of the reforms that President Aquino has been pursuing would be the judicial reform on how to shorten the tedious legal processes.

Valte said the only thing that the government could do would be to prosecute the offenders, but could not impose higher or stiffer penalties unless given by law.

“Now, it will be up to our legislators if they want to increase the penalties,” Valte said.