Tag Archives: Aquino Administration

[Press Release] Groups launch 8 Days of Actions in time for Yolanda Disaster Commemoration -PMCJ

1 Year of Yolanda Disaster, Stormy Year of Injustices
Groups launch 8 Days of Actions in time for Yolanda Disaster Commemoration

Manila, Philippines – In the lead up to the first year commemoration of the Yolanda disaster, the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ), with its members and allies, comes up with its assessment on government’s handling of the Yolanda disaster, from preparation, response and rehabilitation.


“From the very start, the Aquino Administration has failed miserably! By saying that it is ‘under control’ which is contrary to its government’s level of preparedness was, in a way, already a death wish to all who perished when Yolanda struck Central Visayas. To sum up, the Aquino government was over-confidently, inappropriately prepared.” Gerry Arances, National Coordinator of PMCJ lamented.

The groups have lined up series of actions, highlighting the many injustices that the Yolanda victims and survivors have incurred, in the lead up to November 8, 2014 commemoration.

Arances further commented on the state of rehabilitation efforts that “After one
year, without a clear people-centered rehabilitation plan, tens of thousands still leaving in tents and bunkhouses, no substantial economic activities and sustainable jobs, among others, we can fairly say that what the government has done is that it has added more insult to injury to our kababayans who have suffered the wrath of Typhoon Yolanda and is still continuously suffering the ineptness of this government.”

According to the assessment of groups affiliated to PMCJ on the one year Yolanda response, there are eight (8) injustices that the people of Central Visayas and other Yolanda-affected areas had to bear for the past year.

The government is also accountable for not only neglecting the people and the rehabilitation efforts by passing its obligations so easily to the private sector but also for encouraging further the degradation of the environment in these affected areas. “One concrete example of government’s neglect is when it continued to push for extractive projects in the devastated areas instead of protecting the natural resources of the country and preventing the worsening of climate change impacts and disasters. Instead of making sure that rehabilitation efforts are on the way, the government agencies and local government units ensured that mining operations continues in mineral rich areas in Samar and Leyte.” asserted Jaybee Garganera, National Coordinator of Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) and a
member of the Coordinating Committee of PMCJ.

According to ATM, In Manicani Is., Eastern Samar, it was Sec. Panfilo Lacson of the Presidential Assistance for Recovery and Reconstruction (PARR) himself, through an official letter to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, gave a go signal to the continuation of mining operations in the Island in the guise of pursuing rehabilitation efforts.

Another major problem with the rehabilitation plans as planned by the government was its imposition of a blanket policy regarding the, “40-meter no build zone” in Yolanda-affected areas, including the coast of Tacloban City. “The government imposed the policy without coming up with a clear guidelines and thorough consultation with the communities. We understand the need to transfer them to safer sites, however, if there are no additional supports from government and provision oflivelihood, this policy will be rendered ineffective because it will endanger the people further. Also, reports have reached us that the government is saving those premium lands from the coast to big corporations for tourism and commercial purposes. If this is true, then it is a clear violation of the people’s right to decent housing and access to livelihood in case of our fisherfolk kababayans.” said Pascualito Ilagan, PMCJ Eastern Visayas and President of Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) Samar-Leyte Chapter.

Indigenous Peoples communities are troubled as well. “The commitment of the government was building back better. a year after Yolanda, did Indigenous women’s access to basic services improved? No! They remained isolated and excluded and are even pushed to a much worst situation of struggling every single day to ensure that there is food on their tables.” said Cheryl Polutan, Campaigner of Purple Action for Indigenous Womens Rights (LILAK)

The one-year assessment of PMCJ has enumerated eight injustices: 1) lack of government accountability 2) corporate capture versus a people-centered rehabilitation; 3) ineffective policies and lack of implementation of climate change laws and mandates; 4) loan-driven rehabilitation effort; 5) prioritization of dirty and harmful energy; 6) massive dislocation policy – no build zone policy; 7) lack of incorporation of sustainable development principles and addressing inequality; 8) inadequacy of international response.

The injustices, as exposed by PMCJ and its members, also include the inadequacy of international response and the Aquino government’s failure to lead in this arena. PMCJ also points out in its assessment the message that the Aquino administration raised during his speech in United Nations Climate Summit in New York and the failure of developed countries’ response to the lessons of Yolanda disaster.

“There is a need to push for all pending commitments based on responsibilities of the developed countries. We need to press for adequate climate finance under the Green Climate Fund with at least $100 Billion starting in 2020 and corresponding funds before 2020, as well as the long standing issue of radical and ambitious emissions reduction led by the developed countries that would limit the global emissions to 1 – 1.5 degrees Celsius.“ explained by Manjette Lopez, President of Sanlakas and head of Emissions Cuts Working Group of PMCJ.

PMCJ is asserting that one of the lessons of the Yolanda disaster is that we need to also address the loss and damages that countries like the Philippines are incurring due to the increasing impacts of climate change. Aside from Adaptation needs, or the measures to adopt to the changes brought about by climate change, a Loss and Damage international mechanism has to be set up immediately and that corresponding funds has to be put in place based on responsibilities of the developed countries.

Lopez added that “Pres. Nonoy, during his speech in the New York Summit, left these needs of the country unsaid and he lend the culprits of the climate crisis – the developed countries and their big corporations – not accountable and off the hook.”

Part of the eight days of action for the Yolanda disaster 1 year commemoration, a People’s Caravan for Climate Justice will be organized around the offices of the developed countries, including the US and EU offices, who are accountable for the climate crisis.

“In honoring our dead kababayans due to the Yolanda disaster, those that have been orphaned, as well as those who continuously suffer the ineptness of the Aquino Administration, we need not only learn from this, we also need to exact accountability. Let this 1 year commemoration of the Yolanda disaster be the start of a movement that will exact accountability to those that have neglected the need of our kababayans in the face of increasing wrath brought about by climate change.

Justice to all those devastated by Yolanda disaster and the ineptness the Aquino government! Climate Justice Now!“ Arances concluded.

Phone: +63.2.433.0954
Website: http://www.climatejustice.ph |Email Address: pmcj2012.sec@gmail.com

OCTOBER 29, 2014

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[Press Release] Workers face more malicious charges under Aquino-CTUHR

Workers face more malicious charges under Aquino-CTUHR

CTUHR logoMalicious filing of criminal cases (criminalization) against workers and unionists intensified under Aquino according to labor NGO, Center for Trade Union and Human Rights from an average of 7 cases per year between 2004-2009 to an average of 12 cases per year between 2010 to 2011.

CTUHR documentation also showed that the number of individuals victimized by these malicious or trumped up criminal charges more than doubled in the same period—from an average of 42 individuals charged per year between 2004-2009 to an average of 90 individuals every year between 2010-2012.

The group noted two forms of criminalization against workers and unionists: one is when workers are charged by capitalists with criminal offenses whenever the worker/s filed complaints against the former’s non-compliance with legal standards or when the union is in conflict with the management; the other type of criminalization is perpetrated by state agents reportedly by the military wherein union leaders of militant labor centers are maliciously linked to operations of armed groups particularly the New People’s Army.

Arman Hernando, CTUHR coordinator for documentation expressed alarm over this heightening spate of criminalization and said that it undermines workers right to unionize and jeopardizes the very few mechanisms where workers can seek redress when in conflict with their employers.

The group also pointed to the state’s counter insurgency program, Oplan Bayanihan, as culprit to most of these “legal offensives” and violations of workers’ freedom to unionize. “Like the previous administration, the Aquino administration and the military continue to malign legitimate people’s organizations and unions by linking them with the NPAs. And same with, if not worse than, past counterinsurgency programs, Oplan Bayanihan has resulted to volumes of human rights violations including these harassments through filing of trumped up cases, extrajudicial killings and others,” Hernando added.

Late last year, leaders of militant unions, Roy Velez and Amelita Gamara of Kilusang Mayo Uno and Randy Vegas and Raul Camposano of Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE) were charged with murder linked to two separate NPA operations in Ifugao and Daet, Camarines Norte. Vegas and Camposano were first abducted reportedly by military agents on December 3, 2012 and this was followed by malicious filing of criminal charges.

The group challenged the Aquino government to comply with the ILO recommendations to uphold workers’ freedom of association and drop criminal charges against workers exercising their right to unionize and strike. In 2010, the International Labor Organization (ILO) released its recommendations to the Philippine Government following the ILO High Level Mission that investigated the spate of human rights violations against unions and workers.

For reference: Arman Hernando, CTUHR Coordinator for Documentation. +632.411.0256, +63923.819.3737


27 February 2012

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[From the web] The Dancing Elephant in the Crystal Shop: SMI -taborasj.wordpress.com

The Dancing Elephant in the Crystal Shop: SMI
Fr. Joel Tabora, SJ

I thought the country was looking for a way of doing responsible mining. And that the Aquino administration was serious in pursuing this.

There are those, of course, who do not believe that responsible mining is at all possible in an archipelago like the Philippines. Where you have a tropical paradise of 7,200 islands with its rich environmental treasures, it is not responsible, they contend, to allow foreigners to destroy the paradise and take away the treasures for returns to the country that are far too small.

In its issuance of EO 79, the Aquino Administration seemed at least to acknowledge the financial problem. Under the current law, it acknowledged the Philippines’ cut in the value of the minerals themselves – “from zero to nill” according to SC Justice Carpio – was too small. By declaring it would issue no new mining permits to companies without Congress first defining a more rational regime of sharing, it seemed to be open to more rationality in mining.

Read full article @taborasj.wordpress.com


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[Press Release] Advocates pitch 5 essential elements to achieve rice self-sufficiency– NFC

Advocates pitch 5 essential elements to achieve rice self-sufficiency

MANILA, Philippines – Days after launching a national campaign on the right to adequate food, leaders of the newly-formed National Food Coalition (NFC) pitched five essential elements or components of a framework for a national program to achieve the country’s goal of rice self-sufficiency.

The NFC has written Pres. Benigno S. Aquino III saying its proposal is “based upon our long experience in the countryside and the urban areas to ensure food on our tables and also backed up by close study and research.”

NFC stressed that rice self-sufficiency can only be achieved if, first, it is anchored on farmers owning the land they till.

“Inclusive growth in this area cannot exclude the rice producers, particularly those who still await the completion of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program with extension and reforms (CARPer). Such a move needs the support of direct services, the insufficiency or the absence of which in the past eroded if not nullified the benefits to farmers. Landownership and government support will progressively raise the farmers’ savings and incomes and also reduce the number of impoverished people,” NFC said.

Second, the rice self-sufficiency program must be less dependent on oil-based inputs and shift toward organic production, it said.

Organic rice production “is not only viable but also more productive and healthier,” NFC said, adding that with state support, the current yield of 4.5-5 tons per hectare of most organic farms could be raised to 7-8 tons. “Dependence on high-breed rice varieties that require more expensive petro-chemical fertilizers is radically reduced,” it said.

The third element is government action to decisively address the threats of climate change on irrigated areas.

Citing Bureau of Soil and Water Management (BSWM) data, the NFC said that 2.32 million hectares, or 74.52%, of potentially irrigable areas are at risk to climate change.

“The decimation of our forests by, among others, illegal logging and mining, which greatly contributes to the destruction of rice crops, must be decisively and justly addressed,” NFC added.

The fourth component to achieve rice self-sufficiency entails consultations with rice farmers, especially those in areas where the agrarian reform program still has to be completed.

“It is imperative that any National Rice Sufficiency Program should be coming from and uplifting the quality of life of the millions of poor farmers and their families,” the group said.

Lastly, the coalition urged the government to respect the ancestral lands of indigenous peoples. This can be done if the government fulfills its obligation to protect them from destructive mining, illegal logging, and the spread of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the Philippines.

Last Monday, NFC launched its National Food Campaign for a comprehensive national policy on the right to adequate food with the slogan “Pagkain: Sapat Dapat!” The group said that the lack of a comprehensive national food policy is one of the major reasons why the country has a high incidence of hunger.

Aurea Miclat-Teves, president of the FoodFirst Information and Action Network (FIAN)-Philippines said crafting such a policy needs the full and active participation of all stakeholders, especially those most vulnerable to hunger. The proposed national food policy must conform with the recommendations of the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) in General Comment No. 12 (1999) and the FAO’s Voluntary Guidelines on the Right to Food (2004).

The letter to the president was signed by Teves, Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates chairperson Max de Mesa, Philippine Human Rights Information Center executive director Nymia Simbulan, FIAN Philippines vice president Ricardo B. Reyes, Indigenous People representative Danilo Salonga, peasant representative Amado Higante, urban poor representative Erlinda Macatunao and Pasig Libre representative Marilyn Pablo.

National Food Coalition
Secretariat: FIAN Philippines, 91 Madasalin St., Sikatuna Village, Diliman 1101 Quezon City
Phone: (02) 351-7553 | Email: ria.teves@yahoo.com.ph

Contact persons:
Aurea Miclat-Teves, FIAN Philippines president, +63.918.991.1910
Bobby Diciembre, Communication and Media, +63.932.872.6162

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[In the news] Government taking steps to stop rights violations, says Justice Secretary Leila de Lima | Sun.Star

Government taking steps to stop rights violations, says Justice Secretary Leila de Lima | Sun.Star.

September 26, 2012

MANILA — Justice Secretary Leila de Lima told a group of human rights watchdogs that had been instrumental in cutting United States military aid to the Philippines that the Aquino administration has taken steps to reduce cases of extrajudicial killings and related violations.

In a meeting on Tuesday at the Philippine Embassy in Washington D.C., De Lima said the government has not used violence, intimidation or threats to curtail rights of individuals.

Militants have since accused the government’s counter-insurgency program Oplan Bayanihan of killing members of leftist organizations but the military claimed otherwise, saying the program is centered on resolving conflicts through peace process and community work.

“This Aquino administration can honestly and sincerely say this because we absolutely have nothing to hide,” said de Lima, former chair of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR).

Read full article @ www.sunstar.com.ph

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[In the news] SWS: PNoy rates poorly on oil prices, Maguindanao massacre -InterAksyon.com

SWS: PNoy rates poorly on oil prices, Maguindanao massacre
Abigail C. Kwok, InterAksyon.com
July 26, 2012

The Aquino administration is getting “poor” ratings from the public over a perceived inability to control oil prices, and for the lack of justice in the 2009 Maguindanao massacre, a recent Social Weather Stations survey suggests.

First published on BusinessWorld, the poll results revealed that the administration posted a -12 rating in ensuring that oil companies do not take advantage of rising global fuel costs and a -16 score in resolving the Maguindanao massacre case.

Public satisfaction with the Aquino administration also slipped after Filipinos gave the government lower scores about its performance in other issues.

Sixty-three percent of those polled by the survey taken from May 24 to 27 said that they were pleased with the government’s general performance.

The rating is equivalent to a +44 net score, down from March’s “good” score of +46.

Read full article @ www.interaksyon.com

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[In the news] Impunity in human rights abuses persists under Aquino gov’t—US report -INQUIRER.net

Impunity in human rights abuses persists under Aquino gov’t—US report.

By Jerry E. Esplanada, Philippine Daily Inquirer
May 27, 2012

MANILA, Philippines—Impunity in the area of human rights violations persists under the Aquino administration, according to the US Department of State.

In a report posted on the website of the US Embassy in Manila, the State Department said the Aquino administration faced more than 20 cases of major human-rights violations, including extrajudicial killings, but investigated and prosecuted only a few of those cases.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said her department’s human rights reports “chronicle the stories defending human rights in almost 200 countries around the world,” including the Philippines.

Read full article @ globalnation.inquirer.net

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[From the web] ‘Noynoying’ is about the kind of government we have -RAPPLER.com

‘Noynoying’ is about the kind of government we have.

by Renato M. Reyes, Jr., RAPPLER.com
March 25, 2012

The problem is not so much that activists are “having a hard time attacking government policies,” but that people like Joel Rocamora and his Akbayan friends are having a difficult time seeing anything wrong with the Aquino administration despite the overwhelming evidence staring them in the face.

“Noynoying” is not simply a personal attack on Aquino but rather an assessment of the kind of government that we have today, one that is grossly insensitive to the plight of the Filipino people.

Aquino represents that kind of government. He is the main articulator of its policies. He’s the one not acting when he is expected to act. More than being funny, there’s a truth to the term noynoying and that’s probably the reason why it has caught on in social media.

For one who heads the National Anti-Poverty Commission, an agency that supposedly is attuned to the needs of the poor, Rocamora apparently sees nothing wrong with Aquino’s refusal to scrap or lower the VAT on oil. Rocamora sees nothing wrong with Aquino’s rejection of a P125 wage increase–a measure that would greatly help Rocomora’s supposed constituents.

The NAPC chair sees nothing disturbing with the Aquino government’s oft-repeated response of “wala tayong magagawa,” whether it’s about oil prices or tuition increases. (Neither do we see Rocamora’s Akbayan friends protesting in the streets against economic ills, not like they used to anyway).

Rocamora attempts to explain Aquino’s different priorities at this stage of his presidency. “The bulk of PNoy’s time is spent on economic issues… but getting at GMA and Corona, earlier Merceditas Gutierrez, is necessary to dismantle the apparatus of impunity put together by GMA for her cabal”.

Unfortunately, Aquino’s performance has been found wanting on both economic issues and the issue of making GMA accountable.

Read full article @ http://www.rappler.com/thought-leaders/2972-noynoying-is-about-the-kind-of-government-we-have

[Press Release] Human rights groups urges Aquino “Tuldukan na ang tortyur’! Announce policy of total elimination of torture -UATC

Human rights groups urges Aquino “Tuldukan na ang tortyur’! Announce policy of total elimination of torture. Photo by TFDP

Human rights groups urges Aquino “Tuldukan na ang tortyur’! Announce policy of total elimination of torture

As the country marks the 26th anniversary of the 1986 EDSA “People Power”, several human rights groups called on the Aquino administration to take all necessary measures to announce a policy of “total elimination” of the vestiges of Martial Law.

While the Anti-Torture Act or Republic Act (RA) No. 9745 is enacted to criminalize the acts of torture, the United Against Torture Coalition (UATC)-Philippines, made the call noting there are reports cases of torture being routinely practiced by authorities against suspects despite the law criminalizing such act.

In its statement, Ernesto A. Anasarias, Executive Director of Balay Rehabilitation Center and currently the head of UATC Secretariat, said “the authorities’ partiality not to comply with the law runs in the ‘institutional impunity’ we have right now.”

“The persistence of torture casts doubts on the effectiveness of the law. Despite the law, in practice, there are insufficient legal safeguards for arrested suspects and detainees, including among others, failure to bring them promptly before a judicial authority, restricted access to lawyers and medical doctors, and failure to contact family member immediately after their arrest,” Anasarias added.

Edeliza P. Hernandez of the Medical Action Group (MAG) likewise claimed the government seems to be dragging their heels on the investigation of torture cases. No member of the police and military has been arrested for alleged torture case since Aquino took office, and no superiors have been put on trial for their suspected involvement in or acquiescence to the alleged acts of torture.

“We cite as an example the case of Lenin Salas and his four companions in Pampanga against Police Supt. Madzgani Mukaram for violation of the Anti-Torture Act. The victims were tortured which was medically documented and verified. But last July 21, 2011, the prosecutor disregarded the evidences in favor of the accused and the case was dismissed for insufficiency of evidence,” Hernandez said.

The group reiterates its concerns over the increasing number of cases which expose the weak implementation of “command responsibility” as stipulated in the Anti-Torture Act and the Law on the International Humanitarian Law, which embolden perpetrators in doing acts of torture. This situation breeds and perpetuates impunity.

Max M. de Mesa of the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA) said “the many perpetrators of unresolved cases of torture have become obstacles to the announced “paradigm shift” in Aquino’s administration that it would adhere to the primacy of human rights.”

“Particularly those experienced by Abdul Khan Balanting while in custody of the Army’s 39th Scout Ranger Company in Sumisip, Basilan and that of Lenin Salas and companions in the hands of security forces headed by PSupt. Mukaram expose the collution between the responsible command and the rank and file to acquiesce or cover up the violation and/or crime. This is tantamount to superior or command conspiracy,” de Mesa added.

On the medical documentation findings, Ajid was heavily tortured. He suffered first and second-degree burns in different parts of his body, including the head, face, private parts, abdomen, lower back and buttocks, among others.

“Hangad namin ang katarungan sa pag-tortyur kay Lenin at sa kasamahan niya,” said a Salas family member. “Hindi kami magpapatakot.” (We will seek justice for the torture of Lenin and his companions. We will not be intimidated.”)

The group underscored the necessity that for the government to effectively address the issue of torture, it should publicly announce a clear policy of “total elimination” of all acts of torture, and by fully implementing the laws and international human rights instruments against all human rights violations.

The UATC-Philippines is a coalition of human rights non-government organizations and civil society organizations working together in defending human rights and campaigning against the use of torture in the country.

[From the web] Missing by Ellen Tordesillas

by Ellen Tordisillas
February 20, 2012

The fact that retired Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan has not been arrested two months after the Malolos Regional Trial Court issued a warrant of arrest for him for the 2006 disappearance of UP students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeno and farmer Manuel Merino should have made us realize that there are forces in the government who have remained unenlightened despite President Aquino’s much-vaunted reform agenda.
There’s also the disappointing lack of action by the Aquino administration on the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance which has been signed by 92 countries , 31 of which have ratified the Convention.

The Aquino government also never replied to the annual requests by the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances for official invitation to visit the country.

That’s why I’m worried about the three missing Muslim men – Najir Gumuntul Ahung,38;Rasdie Bisita Kasaran,21; and Yusup Cadlus Mohammad,21, all residents of Al-Barka,Basilan – who were last heard last Jan. 3, when one of them texted a brother, Jamih Arawi, Barangay Captain of Barangay Guinanta. Al-Barka, Basilan, of their arrival at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport 1.

They came on board Air Philippines flight from Zamboanga city. They were scheduled to leave the next day for Khartoum, Somalia. They were going to Sudan to study Arabic language at the International University of Africa on scholarships.

Read full article @ www.ellentordesillas.com

[In the news] PH economy slows down under Aquino – RAPPLER.com

PH economy slows down under Aquino – RAPPLER – Philippine News | Multimedia | Citizen Journalism | Social Media.

by Katherine Visconti, RAPPLER.com

January 30, 2012

 MANILA, Philippines – In 2011, the first full year of the Aquino administration, the Philippine economy slowed down to 3.7% from a robust 7.6% the year before due to factors beyond the government’s control–global economic woes and bad weather–as well as the well-criticized delays in government spending on crucial infrastructure.

This confirms previous forecasts that the government missed its GDP growth rate target of 4.5% to 5.5% for 2011. Gross domestic product (GDP) is one of the primary indicators to gauge the health of an economy.

Read full article @ www.rappler.com

[In the news] AFP challenges Human Rights Watch to prove claims – PhilStar.com

AFP challenges Human Rights Watch to prove claims
By Alexis Romero, The Philippine Star
January 25, 2012

 MANILA, PhilippinesThe military yesterday challenged the New York-based Human Rights Watch to prove that soldiers were involved in unexplained killings.

Armed Forces spokesman Col. Arnulfo Burgos Jr. said the group, which had criticized the Aquino administration for its alleged failure to address abuses, should present evidence to the military so they could act on the complaints.

“Human Rights Watch should coordinate directly with us. Give us evidence to support their claim that we committed human rights violations,” Burgos said.

Burgos claimed that the military has posted gains in promoting respect for human rights and adherence to International Humanitarian Law (IHL).

He said the strengthening of the Armed Forces Human Rights Office and its replication to field units has enabled them to ensure compliance with existing polices.

“In fact, the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) had already achieved milestones in human rights advocacy efforts with the publication of the soldiers’ handbook on human rights and IHL,” Burgos said.

He said the AFP even released a guidebook on ways to conduct intelligence operations without violating human rights.

On Monday, Human Rights Watch criticized the Aquino administration for supposedly failing to prosecute members of security forces tagged in unexplained killings.

Read full article @ www.philstar.com

[In the news] Watchdog: Little progress in human rights in PH – RAPPLER.com

Watchdog: Little progress in human rights in PH – RAPPLER – Philippine News | Multimedia | Citizen Journalism | Social Media.

January 23, 2012

 MANILA, Philippines – The Aquino administration has made “very little” progress in curtailing violations of human rights, international watchdog Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Monday, January 23.

“Extrajudicial killings and torture of leftist activists, alleged communist rebels, and accused criminals continue, but the government has failed to acknowledge and address involvement in these crimes by the security forces and local officials,” the HRW said in a statement Monday.

The group said the current administration hasn’t fulfilled its promises of reform. “His administration will ultimately be measured by what it achieves, not by his stated intentions,” said Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director at HRW.

The country report summary, part of the 676-page World Report 2012, said the Aquino government is “working overtime” to prevent new human rights cases and to solve old ones, but is still on the slow lane.

“[Despite] promises of reform, his administration has made little progress in addressing impunity,” the report stated.

Read full article @ http://www.rappler.com

[Blog] Achieving Universal Health Coverage by Medical Action Group

Rx for the Ailing Health Sector: PhilHealth reforms

By the Medical Action Group

 IN MARCH 2011, Dr Shin Young-soo, the World Health Organization’s regional director for the Western Pacific expressed concern over “the continued absence of sufficient healthcare coverage in the country.” The WHO official noted that some 250,000 families “fall into financial hardships” because of the excessive cost of health care.

This observation comes in the midst of the Aquino administration’s avowed push for Universal Health Coverage, especially for indigent Filipino families, as one of its health agenda. Such a universal health care system would bridge the healthcare disparities between the rich and the majority poor.

The 1987 Constitution provides that all Filipinos should have access to health services. This policy finds full expression in Article II, Section 15: “The State shall protect and promote the right to health of the people and instill health consciousness among them.” Article XIII, Section 11 provides that “The State should adopt an integrated and comprehensive approach to health development which shall endeavor to make essential goods, health and other social services available to all the people at affordable costs. There shall be priority for the needs of the underprivileged, sick, elderly, disabled, women and children. The State shall endeavor to provide free medical care to paupers.”

And yet, from one administration to another, the same issues and deficiencies continue to plague the country’s health sector. Key healthcare issues crippling the nation like the healthcare inequities, failed public healthcare financing, the continuous exodus of health professionals and weak health regulations pose critical challenges for the Aquino administration in attaining Universal Health Coverage.

Badly broken

Calling our country’s health care system “badly broken” and in need of repair, President Benigno S. Aquino III outlined his plans for a reform package based on universal health coverage for all Filipinos. This plan would put the national government at center stage for funding healthcare services by amending Republic Act No. 7875 (otherwise known as the National Health Insurance Act of 1995) or enacting a new law by developing more extensive and equitable tax-based systems, or social health insurance-based systems or mixes of those. To ensure universal health coverage it will be necessary to increase the extent of prepayment and reduce the reliance on out-of-pocket payments and user fees.

This reform agenda for universal coverage is anchored on the provision of comprehensive but accessible and affordable healthcare services to all Filipinos. It focuses on expansion of coverage of the national health insurance system to include all Filipinos within the next three years and provision of effective and affordable health care services that shall be accessible to all Filipinos in private and public hospitals.

While every Filipino is entitled to healthcare as provided by the Constitution, here in the Philippines, healthcare happens to be a privilege. The majority of the Filipinos rely on the private sector for their healthcare needs, thus making these services more of a commodity rather than entitlements. The majority cannot afford such services, resulting in grim statistics: for example, an estimated 60 percent of Filipinos die without seeing a health professional. Putting a stop to these healthcare inequities would require immense political commitment from the present administration.

Universal Healthcare

Universal coverage of healthcare means that everyone in the population has access to appropriate promotive, preventive, curative and rehabilitative healthcare when they need it and at an affordable cost.1 Universal coverage thus implies equity of access and financial risk protection. It is also based on the notion of equity in financing, i.e., that people contribute on the basis of their ability to pay rather than according to whether they fall ill. This implies that a major source of health funding needs to come from prepaid and pooled contributions rather than from fees or charges levied once a person falls ill and accesses health services.2 According to the World Health Organization (WHO), universal coverage requires choices to be made in each of the three components of a health financing system:
• revenue collection: financial contributions to the health system have to be collected equitably and efficiently;

• pooling: contributions are pooled so that the costs of healthcare are shared by all and not borne by individuals at the time they fall ill (this requires a certain level of solidarity in society); and

• purchasing: the contributions are used to buy or provide appropriate and effective health interventions.
WHO further said that countries that have achieved universal coverage have developed prepayment systems that are commonly described as tax-based or social health insurance-based (SHI). In a tax-based system, general tax revenue is the main source of financing, and the available funds are used by the government to provide or purchase health services. In an SHI system, contributions come from workers, the self-employed, enterprises and government. In both, the contributions made by all contributors are pooled and services are provided only to those who need them. The financial risks associated with ill health in the population as a whole are shared by all contributors, and the pooled funds therefore perform an insurance function.

In tax-based systems, however, the insurance is implicit (in general, people do not know how much of their taxes fund health services), whereas in SHI it is explicit (in general, people know what they are paying for health). In both systems, the funds are usually used to purchase or provide services from a mix of public and private providers.
Health for all Filipinos

The country’s deteriorating healthcare situation is urgent not just for the poor themselves but for all Filipinos whose general welfare depends on the good health of all. Radical changes in various arenas of the healthcare sector are imperative in order to reverse these rends.

To make health services available, accessible and affordable, the reform agenda seeks to resuscitate the largely sluggish health sector and promote efficiency, economy of scale and effectiveness in service delivery. One of these measures is the institutionalization of reforms in the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth).

In 1995, the National Health Insurance Law, which established PhilHealth, called for health insurance for all Filipinos by 2010. However it is disturbing to know that since PhilHealth was created fifteen years ago, out-of-pocket payments have shot up from 40 to 54 percent of health financing in 2007. Ironically, even the country’s national insurance program ends up devoting much of its resources reimbursing healthcare facilities and providers in the more developed and urbanized areas, while its coverage remains very low among rural and poorest areas. PhilHealth coverage according to the 2008 NDHS is lowest in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Based on the 2006 Family Income and Expenditures Survey (FIES), about 70 percent of the population could not afford to pay for health care services due to their low income and the high cost of medical care. These are the same Filipinos that suffer from worse health outcomes because they are not able to access healthcare when they need it and where they need it. They are more likely to die without the benefit of seeing the inside of a hospital or receiving care from a medical professional. This is not surprising, given that the Philippines has a “highly resourced private sector”, where seven out of ten health practitioners are working in the private sector and servicing only 20-30 percent of the population (the same population that can afford healthcare services).

The disparity in access to and use of health care services, resources and outcomes resulted in a wide gap in the health status between the rich and poor Filipino families. This situation threatens to get even worse because of the failed public healthcare financing. Based on the national budget allocation, a Filipino taxpayer spends only about P1.10 a day for health care compared to P21.75 spent by the government on debt servicing. With the increasing cost of healthcare services, even among those with a regular income, surviving a major ailment or illness is nothing short of a miracle.

As we race to reach the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, the health sector should be prioritized by the State today. However, the government’s response remains anemic: total health expenditure only accounted for 3.8 percent of the country’s GDP (2006), well below the 5 percent standard set by the WHO for developing countries like the Philippines.

Due to increasing cost of healthcare services and the lack of appropriate social protection, illness becomes a catastrophic experience, especially for the poor Filipino families. Out-of-pocket payments for health care services are increasing in the Philippines. Of the total health spending, according to the 2007 Philippine National Health Accounts (PNHA), only 9 percent was shouldered by social health insurance, both the national government and local government shared 13 percent, other sources at 11 percent, and 54 percent came from out-of-pocket payments made by the patients. This trend spells doom for individuals and families from the lowest income groups who have no pockets to begin with.

Based on the 2008 NDHS, only 42 percent of Filipinos are covered by some form of health insurance. Although it is the dominant insurance provider, PhilHealth coverage at the national level remains low at 38 percent of the population. Coverage through the Social Security System (SSS) is 11 percent, while the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) covered about 2 percent of the population. Moreover, 2 percent of Filipinos are covered by private insurance or membership in health maintenance organizations (HMOs).

It will be impossible to achieve Universal Health Coverage without greater and more effective investment in health systems and services. Beyond these, central to attaining Universal Health Coverage are reforms to be instituted in PhilHealth.

The government must admit that PhilHealth has fallen short of its target, as health insurance barely protects 38 percent of all Filipinos (2008 NDHS). It is clear that the Social Health Insurance scheme as currently implemented by PhilHealth is not working towards the envisioned “sustainable, affordable and progressive social health insurance, which endeavors to influence the delivery of accessible quality health care for all Filipinos.”

How can reforms in the PhilHealth be done? Certainly it will begin with making sure that over 11 million Filipino families who are the poorest of the poor will be supported and covered by an allocation of P15 billion to cover their PhilHealth premium.

Such reforms must go beyond the distribution of PhilHealth cards. The overarching philosophy is that access to health care services is based on needs and not on the capability to pay. Universal Health Care should mean that every Filipino will get not merely the card, but more importantly, the affordable and appropriate quality healthcare services that are their right. Thus in the medium-term, the development of an initial package of basic health services to be made available to every Filipino given the present resources available to the health system should be implemented.

1. See the background document “Social health insurance—Sustainable health financing, universal coverage and social health insurance” to the Resolution of the Executive Board at its 115th Session (Resolution EB115.R13), http://www.who.int/health_financing

2. Technical Brief for Policy-Makers 2 on Designing Health Financing Systems to Reduce Catastrophic Health Expenditure

Visit: http://magph.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=92:achieving-universal-health-coverage

[in the news] It’s more dangerous–not fun–in PH, says anticrime group – INQUIRER.net

It’s more dangerous–not fun–in PH, says anticrime group
By Jerome Aning, Philippine Daily Inquirer
January 9, 2012

 The Aquino administration should adopt a stronger peace and order drive this year, especially if it aims to attract more tourists, an anticrime group said Sunday.

The Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC), in its yearend report, described the crime situation in 2011 as “disturbing,” saying that media reports the last six months showed that the crime rate had “reached such proportion that crime syndicates were no longer afraid of the laws of the land and had a field day sowing violence.”

“The killings all over the Philippines is a clear indication that the government does not have an effective peace and order agenda. The Department of Tourism’s latest travel slogan ‘It’s more fun in the Philippines’ should read ‘It’s more dangerous to be in the Philippines,’” said Dante Jimenez, VACC president and founding chairman.

The VACC said that from July to December 2011, more than 1,300 crime incidents were reported—an average of 217 a month or 55 per week.

Among the “alarming developments” identified by the group were the unchecked murders of journalists that earned for the Philippines the dubious tag as one of the world’s most dangerous places for the media; the “unabated” incidents of kidnap-for-ransom targeting even foreign nationals; and the rising number of assassinations by suspected guns-for-hire targeting political figures and other prominent personalities.

Read full article @ newsinfo.inquirer.net

[Statement] Preservation and turn-over of ML documents, a step towards combating, and eventually ending, impunity – PAHRA

Commemorating the 39th Anniversary of the Imposition of Martial Rule
Ending Impunity and Building an Enabling Environment for Human Rights:
Launching the Process  towards the Preservation and Turn-over
of Martial Law Documents to Civilian Institutions

September 21, 2011
Camp General Emilio Aguinaldo
Quezon City

When I was told of this event,  I said to myself, not without stirrings of hope and expectation: “Aha, now, hopefully,  I would know what happened to a friend named Carlos Tayag, a Catholic Benedictine Deacon, who was head of the ecumenical group called the Student Christian Movement (SCM).  He disappeared during the early years of martial law and not accounted for until now.

Photo extracted from CHR Chairperson Loreta Ann Rosales FB

Gracious ladies and gentlemen, officials of government under the Aquino Administration, Chairperson, Commissioners and personnel of the Commission on Human Rights,  officials and staff of the Diplomatic Community, representatives of Civil Society Organizations and Institutions, and of Media Heads and personnel,

Magandang umaga po sa ating lahat.  Good morning to each and every one.

The Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA), established in August 1986, right after the EDSA People’s Uprising to topple down the Marcos dictatorship and end martial law, wishes to express its solidarity to this auspicious event and commend the convergent effort of the Commission on Human Rights and the Armed Forces of the Philippines, through its Human Rights Office.

This act of launching the process towards the preservation and turn-over of martial law documents to civilian institutions is another step towards combating, and eventually ending, impunity.  It is a significant joint endeavor to break through impunity, to breech “the impossibility of bringing the perpetrators of violations to account – whether in criminal, civil, administrative or disciplinary proceedings – since they are not subject to any inquiry that might lead to their being accused, arrested, tried and if found guilty, sentenced to appropriate penalties, and to making reparations to their victims.”* Thus is impunity defined by the United Nations.

What is happily occurring today is integral to combating impunity as found within the UN Updated Principles in Combating Impunity, i.e., (1) the right to truth; (2) the right to justice; (3) the of victims to have an effective remedy and to receive reparations and (4) the duty of states more broadly to undertake institutional reforms when necessary in order to prevent a recurrence of systemic abuses.

For the purpose of our occasion today, let us look deeper into the right to know, the right to truth.  The Updated Principles present two aspects of this right: the individual(s) right to know as well as victim(s)’ families and relatives to know the circumstances and the reasons for the victim’s torture, enforced disappearance or extrajudicial killing.  The other aspect is the collective aspect, wherein the nation should remember the tragedies that were consequent of the human rights violations.  The obligation to preserve documents and other related evidences to the violations arise from the state’s duty.  So is the obligation that public access is facilitated.

Nonetheless, the state should not only encourage but also protect the documents and other related evidences non-government organizations and institutions have collected to assist in bringing closure and healing to these cases.  It is in this aspect we are eager to monitor the turnover of AFP’s documents during the martial law period and to be able to compare them to the 21,000 documented cases preserved by the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) in its own martial law museum named “The Museum of Courage and Resistance”.  Incidentally, 6,000 of these documented cases were used to help win the class suit case against the Marcos estate in an Hawaiian court.  This turnover would help secure recognition of “parts of the truth as were formerly denied” that “oppressors often denounced as lies as a means of discrediting human rights advocates”, such as “One-sided press reports scored.  No violations of human rights – FM” (Bulleting Today, Sunday, Jan. 23, 1977).

Hopefully, in this collective and convergent effort of remembering and of learning, we take the necessary steps to institute broad reforms so as to ensure that such violations never again recur.  We must also point out that while we commend the administrations that passed the Anti-Torture Bill into law and later its Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR), we also experience that it is not enough to have a law against torture to guarantee its non-recurrence.  We assert at this point that a guarantee for non-recurrence demands accountability and transparency.  Passing the proposed bill on the Right to Information is an integral to the concretization of this guarantee. Passage of the said Bill on the Right to Information cannot but strengthen as well our democracy.

Once again, PAHRA commends the Commission on Human Rights and the Armed Forces of the Philippines for this courageous step towards accountability and healing. As part of civil society whose members have gone through the dark years of martial law,  PAHRA commits itself to journey with you to obtain truth, justice and peace as your partners and co-human rights defenders.

Thank you. And a good morning again to us all.

[In the news] Metro minimum wage workers get P22 increase in daily wage – Interaksyon.com

Metro minimum wage workers get P22 increase in daily wage – Interaksyon.com.


MANILA, Philippines – Minimum wage workers in Metro Manila will receive P22 more in their daily basic pay as the Regional Tripartite Wage and Productivity Board in the region approved the amount to be given as a cost of living allowance (COLA).

Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz, who made the announcement at the Department of Labor and Employment, said the COLA is part of the minimum wage, which now totals P426.

She said that as COLA, it will not be part of the calculation for overtime pay, night differential, and 13th month pay.

Baldoz said the amount will not have an inflationary effect as a Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas study indicates that the threshold is P25.

The increase will become effective 15 days after the publication of the decision in a newspaper of general circulation.

Read full article @ InterAksyon.com