Go not gently into the night, rage against the dying of the light!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Agreement on Enhanced Defense Cooperation:

Legitimizes Increasing Deployment of US Troops, Military Hardware in PH

 

Kilusan para sa Pambansang Demokrasya (KILUSAN) call on critical-minded Filipinos to closely scrutinize the newest security pact between PH and the US that is said to be ‘80 percent done’ as recently articulated by Defense Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino. Batino coincidentally heads the PH negotiating panel that has been brokering this deal since August last year.  

 

Rather than meekly accepting that the Agreement on Enhanced Defense Cooperation  (AEDC) formerly known as Agreement on Increased Rotational Presence‘ will merely implement the general provisions of the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) and the Visiting Forces Agreement,  we need to look closer at what is really at stake under this new deal.

 

New Basing Arrangements

 

             If the Visiting Forces Agreement opened the door to the controversial presence of more than 600 fully-armed and highly skilled Joint Special Operations Task Force – Philippines (JSOTFP) in the heart of Mindanao, for the past 12 years, making these areas cooperative security locations (CSLs), a new basing arrangement.

 

AEDC will put in place another form of US military presence by accessing PH military bases and other areas to their rotating presence along with the right to pre-position their war machines and other military hardware in our territory. This is what is known as the Forward Operating Sites or FOS.

 

Another disturbing facet of the deal is that civic operation and disaster rescue are used as a flimsy cover by the US to showcase its capacity to respond to threat. Militarizing rescue operations sends the wrong signal altogether and actually de-sensitizes our people to the fact that these foreign troops are fully-armed and deadly soldiers. They are not gallivanting civilian tourists, like what Olongapo Mayor Paulino would like us to believe.

 

No Mutuality of Interests

 

            It is highly unlikely that a small country like ours will have the same agenda as the United States who wants to establish sole dominion in the Pacific, using its numerous allies in the region to project its military might against perceived rivals such as China.

 

            In common parlance, we’re letting our territory be used as a springboard for US aggression and power-play like in the past, where US troops from Subic and Clark were deployed to fight its enemies in Korea and Vietnam and even to Iraq and Afghanistan.

 

Have we forgotten how vulnerable our OFWs were in the Middle East when we aligned ourselves with the US backed “Coalition of the Willing” against Iraq, which was a war of aggression to secure Iraq oil resources for the US? By siding with the US, our government is putting our national security at risk rather than protecting it. 

 

            If we align ourselves with a bully like the US, how can we expect to exist peaceably with our neighbors?  

 

            This deal is a win-lose situation. A clear win for the US as he has another legal cover tucked under its belt to enable it to make use of our strategic location as well as resources for its own ends, while we are left at the losing end, left to absorb the cost and danger of allowing access to foreign military troops in our lands and seas at the expense of our sovereignty and independence as a nation.        ####

ASSERT THE PEOPLE’S SOVEREIGNTY over the NATIONAL TERRITORY and PATRIMONY


            The Filipino people certainly want peace and development not only in Mindanao but throughout the country. But to state and corporate entities, both local and foreign, the desire for peace in Mindanao flows from varying and competing interests but nonetheless, are together marginalizing the local population, especially the poor and laboring masses.  

             As the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Philippine Government signed on March 27, 2014 the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro (CAB), WE in the Kilusan sa Pambansang Demokrasya (Kilusan) challenge the signing parties to guarantee unified sovereignty and patrimony with the accord they enter in the name of one Filipino nation, Moros and non-Moros alike.

             We respect the efforts of members of the two panels in working-out the peace accord but  still there is a need to maintain vigilance.  Though we believe CAB will indisputably lead to “relative transformation” in the lives of Christian settlers, Lumads, and Moros in the defined areas, we detest branding as “spoiler” any individual or collective view that would be critical of the accord or any of its provisions.  

             Reviewing recent and present history, we see US interests working through local cohorts, waylaying not only the right to self-determination of the Moro people but of the entire nation.

             There are reasons to be wary about the CAB. Its framework and that of its precursor, the 1996 peace agreement between the MNLF and the Philippine Government, are cut from the same neoliberal cloth.

 Unhampered Entry of Foreign Capital in Mindanao

             Prof. Kenneth E. Banzon, in his paper, Ruminations on the Bangsamoro Struggle and Neo-liberal Globalization, concluded that “the 1996 peace agreement between the government and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) was essentially a neoliberal formula designed to bring an end to the MNLF’s more than two decades of insurgency.” 

             The new Bangsamoro Political Entity being created by the new peace agreement between the government and the MILF is aimed at the most fundamental weakness of ARMM:  its inability to create conditions for an unhampered operation of private capital, especially foreign capital. 

 When war ends, a logical consequence of the CAB, will pave the way for the unhampered flow of capital in Mindanao. Rephrasing Prof. Banzon, the current peace agreement will provide “the legal cover for the entry of capital—both  domestic and foreign and both commercial and philanthropic—to facilitate the integration of an otherwise untapped region into the global neoliberal world economic order.”  

            The fundamental problem of the ordinary Moro people—the very conditions, created by the long history of the Philippines being a US neo-colony, were never part of the peace agenda nor of the new comprehensive peace agreement.

             At best, it only addressed peripheral facets of the problem like marginalization, monopoly of land, constricting territory for the Moro people and private interests within the Moro lands.

             Like other Filipinos, the residents of the new political entity continue to grapple with poverty, inability of the government to provide basic social and economic services as it passes on this responsibility to the private sector; and, the continuing presence of US military forces in Mindanao-Sulu that has already resulted to US troops involvement in human rights violations among the Moro populace.

             In the entire Mindanao-Sulu, is primed for unhampered foreign plunder.


            For instance, Liguasan Marsh in mainland Mindanao has natural gas deposits worth $580 billion. The 288,000-hectare Liguasan marsh is a case not only of the difficulty of upholding people’s sovereignty over natural resources  but also of conflicting local interests  such as former ARMM Governor Zacaria Candao who has stakes over 40 percent of the wetland and the Mangudatatus and the Pendatuns who have claimed another 40 percent, at the least. The Ampatuan and the Alamada clans were also mentioned as having claims in the Liguasan marsh.

             The seas of Sulu and Tawi-tawi are proven to be rich in oil, running also in billions of dollars.Agribusiness banners the route towards agricultural development. Expansion of palm oil, business process outsourcing (BPO) and tourism are on top of the list.

             Consistent with the Philippine constitution, the basic law that comes after the comprehensive agreement will declare that “vested property rights shall be recognized and respected.” 

             This cannot be far off from other areas of the country where mineral-rich mountain ranges are sealed off to be mining enclaves for multinational corporations. Several tribes of Lumads in Mindanao, after having been awarded with Certificates of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT), will have to enter into contracts with agribusiness corporations to finance their Ancestral Domain Sustainable Development Protection Plan (ADSDPP). This practice is gradually transforming the Lumads into plantation workers. 

             Any genuine resolution of conflict should surface the contradictions operating in a society and decisively resolve these in the interest of the overwhelming majority of the  people. For most of the Christian settlers, the Lumads, and the Moros,  joining the bandwagon of neo-liberalism is to give away our national sovereignty and patrimony.

             Paraphrasing another author, peace that does not render social justice on the collective rights of the people is no peace, but “piece-meal” peace that is only for the privileged few.

             Assert and defend Filipino people’s sovereignty over the national territory and patrimony!

 

 

             ####

 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

A case in Sitio Warwick Barracks, Brgy. Ermita Cebu City



Uphold and support the Carbon fire victims claim to humane life!
Uphold and support their claim for gainful employment and humane settlement!

A bigger calamity now threatens the over 2,000 victims of the recent fire in Carbon. 

In the January 11 fire they lost their wares, most material belongings, what they call homes. Some were hurt; a family lost a child.  

But while victims of other calamities -  Yolanda, Ondoy, Sendong, Pablo – are supported in picking up the pieces and rebuilding their lives, in the face of international concern,  the victims of the Carbon fire face the exact opposite.  They are being denied the opportunity to rebuild their lives.  The government that they thought would be there to lend a supporting hand is itself the source of the impending bigger disaster. 

The treatment of the fire victims was shabby from the start.  They were made to transfer form one area to another for temporary shelter and at this moment what was offered was a temporary space to stay on, along the road along the viaduct in the South Road Properties land.   Five hundred seventeen (517) victim families, who have lost their life’s belonging,  who have nowhere to go to, took the offer to share tents and  three portalets.  There is no water source other than that rationed;  no electricity supply for their temporary use.  The victim families were made to sign receipts for P10,000 while actually receiving only P5,000 as support from the local government.  Little did they know that this meagre support would be a send-off token. The Cebu Port Authority is now in such haste to drive them out of that area.  And the City hall bigwigs tell them they can no longer go back to their  vending in the area; they cannot take off from whatever life they lived pre-fire. They simply have to disappear from sight.  

The victims were vendors, trying to eke out a living sans opportunities for other gainful employment. They belong to the “jobless, but employed” people  Mahar Mangahas of SWS talk of.    They were homeless and thus have to make do living in their cramped, filthy place of work. Definitely, not the type of domicile a family with choice would choose.  But then they had no choice.  The meagre income they get from vending does not allow them to buy a decent home. 

Now, post-fire, the victims were told they could no longer go back to the only means of livelihood they had – vending in Carbon, unless the few who can be accommodated in a prettified public market can shell out the P50,000 bond required.  There is no plan nor offer of livelihood for those who do not have the means and those who cannot be accommodated.  Neither is there any offer for a humane and fitting resettlement. The vendors and their families simply have to go, no matter where.

The bigwigs in city hall including the supposed “father” of the constituents of Brgy. Ermita are preoccupied with their big plans for the so-called ‘development’ of that piece of Carbon, and several other sections in the market area. They want to make a spacious quadrangle for parking space with an obelisk at the center, bordered by better-looking stalls that will be leased with prepaid bond.  Plans that will purportedly provide the city better revenues both from rental and tourism.  And for them, the poor vendors are a deterrent to implementing that plan of a “development of the city”, which seemingly has long been in the drawing board.
The city hall bigwigs’ attitude towards the poor of Cebu City is best articulated by the Cebu City Market Administrator  who, when announced the plan not to allow the victims to go back to vending in the area said,  “I am here not to consult,  but to inform you, this is an informative meeting”  of the plan.  What gall!   Now where is all that talk of democracy?  Of inclusive growth and development?

What Cebu City is there to “develop” without the million of its poor people, who have to live their miserable lives, not by choice, but by force of circumstances? What city will exist and operate without the poor people  who do their daily grind to make the city live – the poor workers, the poor drivers, the poor stevedores,  the poor caregivers, the poor food providers, the poor vendors. They are the biggest bloc of consumers and thus of e-vat taxpayers. Yet the fire victims, among the city’s poor, do not figure in the city’s “development” planning.  

The poor are not parasites, unlike the robbers in government who steal by the millions and  billions of pesos.  In this society that fails to fairly and productively harness their productive capacity, they creatively find ways in order to work, earn their keep and thus assert their right to life. Joblessness and poverty is not of their own doing.  It is the condition of life society reduces them to.    And they are not anti-development.  They simply demand that development include them as human beings, as part of human society; not eyesores nor trash that can be thrown out when and where the powerful pleases. In fact in a real democracy, it is their will that should prevail, they being the majority. 

 We thus say, enough is enough.  No more of any anti-poor “development”.  We call on the Cebu City government:  provide the poor, especially the victims of calamities such as the recent  fire,  the opportunity for decent employment; gainful employment that can provide for food on their tables to nourish their body, education for their children to nourish their mind; shelter and clothing to protect them from the elements.  Provide them the more humane settlement close to their means of livelihood so they do not have to live in their workplaces and amidst the filth of a market.  A community where their children can safely study and play, where they breathe a fresher air; homes with provisions for the necessary utilities – water, power and for proper waste disposal, for privacy for women, for rest and relaxation after a hard day’s work.  Our working people,  those whose labour provides for society’s needs, deserve no less.  Until these are achieved, then and only then, can we talk of real, meaningful development for our people.

 And we call on those who aspire for a really humane society, join us in this call. Let the victims of disaster caused by fire know they are not alone in their aspiration and struggle for a more humane existence and life.

Kilusan para sa Pambansang Demokrasya-Cebu (KILUSAN-CEBU)
19 February 2014

 

Monday, February 17, 2014

Assert Justice! Support the Citra Mina Workers’ Struggle for their Rights




Today, for the nth time since September, the National Conciliation and Mediation Board (NCMB)  of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) is calling a mediation session between the union of Citra Mina workers and the Citra Mina Group of Companies’ (CMGC) management.  The issue of dispute : the arbitrary, summary dismissal of 180 workers and employees of Citra Mina Group of Companies  last September 16, 2013, in the wake of the workers’ formation of their union. Majority of those dismissed are union members and officers.  The mass dismissal forced the workers to go on strike on November . 

To effect the mass termination of employment, the CMGC employed the old, long-exposed trick of so-called “independently-operating” sister companies, where one is made to appear losing while the other is making money.  

CMGC  claims, after the union was organized and duly registered with the Bureau of Labor Relations, that they have five independently-operating sister companies – the Citra Mina Seafoods Corporation (CMSC), the Mommy Gina Tuna Resources (MGTR), Philfresh, Tuna Exporters, Inc and the Citra Mina Seafoods Market, Inc. (CMSI), the retailing arm. And that they have decided to cease the operations of CMSC because it was losing due to “reduced market demand for fresh frozen fish”.  

The fact is that all the first four so-called independent companies are operating as one under the CGMC.  CMGC’s operation is divided into divisions, not companies – the CMGC Human Resource Department, the CMGC Administrative Department, the CMGC Accounting Department, the CMGC Plant Production Department,  etc. This singular operation is centered in a single compound in Tambler, General Santos City with a signage as Citra Mina Group of Companies, in just one building within the compound with no distinct production areas. The production hall is divided not along “distinct companies” but rather, along product line with no distinction in employers.  Regular lead persons listed as CMSC workers are likewise listed as MGTR lead persons. Meanwhile the bulk of the workforce is provided on contractual basis by another Lu-operated labor only-contracting company, the Manpower  

There is a common employee ID card issued by the CMGC CHRD in 2010, common CGMC-issued forms from each department to be filled-up by all employees without so-called employer distinction; common office policies and employee manual. Production groupings are formed without distinction as to distinct “employers”. The single CMGC CHRD can transfer production workers from one product line to another; can hire, suspend and dismiss any of the employees; can transfer workers from so-alled “CMSC” list to “MGTR” lists. Each CMGC fishing vessel is manned collectively by a crew without “employer” distinction – the boat captain maybe listed as MGTR employee, the boat engineer, a CMSC employee. 

The claim of “reduced market demand for fresh frozen fish products” does not hold water. Just a day after the arbitrary termination of employment of the union officers and members, the CMGC, through “Mommy Gina Tuna Resources” posted an announcement for urgent hiring for the same positions vacated.

The claim of “ CMSC losses” will likewise not hold.  CMGC was hiring new probationaries in 2013 prior to the arbitrary dismissal of workers, in fact listing 49 of these probationaries as new CMSC employees and workers.  

The termination of 180 employees and workers is plain and simple union busting.  There was no “cessation of fresh frozen fish operation” as claimed.  The urgent hiring for the same positions vacated attests to this. It clearly demonstrates that the Citra Mina management simply cannot, and will not, allow the workers to exercise their right to free association, i.e. to organize a union. The workers cannot be allowed to have a collective voice on matters of common concern.

A considerable number of those dismissed have been with the company for more than a decade, some for more than a score.  Yet they still receive only the daily minimum wage of P270  while being made to assume bigger responsibilities.  A boat captain, a boat engineer, a boat oiler receive the same wage as a vessel crew.  Worse they are made to poach in Indonesian waters, and face the risk of incarceration, as indeed a whole vessel crew were caught by Indonesian authorities in 1995 and imprisoned for two years.  

Suspensions are imposed arbitrarily even for minor infractions. Worse, even for the most unreasonable pretexts.  Last year, when a boat oiler refused to fish in Indonesian waters without the proper legal documents, he was arbitrarily suspended. A worker who got dizzy due to inhalation of hazardous gas while at work, sent home by his supervisor, and suffered the lingering effect of such inhalation for days was arbitrarily suspended when he reported back for work. 

And minor infractions are used to cut short the employees work record.  Thus an old boat captain who has been with the company since 1992 is recorded as hired only in 2005. In fact, the company’s employees record show the earliest hired employee as being with the company only since 2002.     

In 2010, the workers were made to work for extended hours (2-4 hours more) for months without extra pay, purportedly to help the company take off. Yet when the company did take off, the workers’ condition never improved.

It took years before the workers succeeded to form a union that can serve as their collective voice.  Yet that success in exercising that right became their own curse.  They lost their jobs; their families are now starved, penalized for the workers’ effort at building a capability to seek more humane terms and conditions of work.
The right to free association is an inherent workers’ right, a right borne out of their being members of the human specie, the most social of living species. And this right, and the accompanying rights to bargain collectively and to concerted action when justified have been enshrined for nearly a century in international statutes and for decades in local statutes.  Yet the family of Joaquin Lu, out of greed for profit, can shamelessly, arrogantly trample on these rights.

The condition in Citra Mina mirrors the condition of workers elsewhere in the country. Workers get short-changed; perpetually kept on contractual employment; paid with starvation wages; denied their rights. No wonder poverty is high even among employed wage-and-salaried workers. And why despite the gargantuan increase in the labor force, the number of unionized workers nearly halved in the past ten years.

This injustice to workers cannot be let to pass. We stand with the workers of Citra Mina in their struggle to assert their rights : to a fair share of the fruits of their labour; to associate and address common concerns in concert; for humane conditions of work and life. And we call on all those who value justice and democracy to join us in this struggle.

We call on other similarly situated workers : Dare to assert your rights. Break free from the chain of submission that have kept you passive while your rights are violated.  You will not be alone.

We call on the DOLE: Perform your constitutional duty to uphold the workers’ rights.  Let your action on this issue speak on the PNoy government’s attitude and policy on human rights.

 Kilusan sa Pambansang Demokrasya
18 February 2014


 


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

A STATEMENT OF CONCERN: A CALL FOR JUSTICE FOR UNITED WORKERS OF CITRA MINA GROUP OF COMPANIES UNION


We, advocates for justice and human dignity, express our concern over the arbitrary termination of employment of 112 regular workers from various divisions and production lines of the Citra Mina Group of Companies. The mass dismissal came in the wake of the formation of the United Workers of Citra Mina Group of Companies Union and its notification to the Citra Mina Group of Companies’ management of the union’s claim for recognition.   That no valid cause was presented and established for the dismissal of each of them immediately smacks of injustice.  The Lu family’s claim that they are no longer needed can hold no water, as replacements are being installed to take their place.

The right to association is an inherent human right.  It stems from man’s nature as social beings. People organize themselves to address common concerns.  For workers, this immediately expresses itself in their desire to form unions to collectively address common concerns relating to their conditions of employment and work. These rights, to form unions and collectively bargain, have long been recognized locally and globally, and have been universally enshrined as fundamental rights, recognized by the International Labor Organization (ILO) and various countries, among them the Philippines, that are signatories to the International Covenant on Human Rights.

The fundamental law of the land, the Philippine Constitution of 1987, upholds these rights in no uncertain terms.  Section 3, Article XIII of the Constitution states: “The State shall afford full protection to labor, local and overseas, organized and unorganized, and promote full employment and equal employment opportunities for all. It shall guarantee the rights of all workers to self-organization, collective bargaining and negotiation and peaceful concerted activities including the right to strike in accordance to law. . . “

That the Lu family, owners of Citra Mina Group of Companies, can penalize workers and their families, denying them their means of livelihood and thus life,   for simply exercising an inherent human right that is in fact already legally enshrined, is clear defiance of human rights and the law.  That they can do it against their own workforce who had spent their prime years contributing to the fast growth of the company, even working for free on extended hours when company interests demand it, is gross injustice of the worst kind.    
This injustice cannot be condoned.  For when injustice is done to some members of society, it is done to society.  The culture of tolerance to injustice will eventually catch up on everyone.  If it is made to pass now, it will become commonplace among workers.  If it is allowed against workers, it can be perpetrated against students, teachers, the media and other sectors of society. The dark years of martial law and the many victims of injustices under it should always be a reminder to what tolerance of injustice can do to society.   
We therefore raise our collective voice against the suppression of the rights of the workers of Citra Mina Group of Companies, and of workers in other workplaces in Mindanao and elsewhere in the country who are similarly victimized. We call on state instrumentalities: the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), the local government units, the House of Representatives and Senate, and the courts, to perform their constitutionally-mandated duties.   UPHOLD THE WORKERS’ RIGHTS! ENSURE PROMOTION AND PROTECTION OF THESE RIGHTS! Compel Citra Mina Group of Companies and other violators, under pain of proper sanction, to respect workers’ rights and the laws protecting these. Compel them to reinstate illegally-dismissed workers, and recognize their unions. Only by doing so can justice be rendered.    CMGC and other violators CANNOT, and SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED TO SUBSUME HUMAN RIGHTS AND THE LAWS OF THE LAND, TO THEIR GREED FOR PROFIT.       
Advocates for Justice and Human Dignity
February  2014

Monday, January 28, 2013

SWEEPING PHILIPPINE SOVEREIGNTY IN THE DAMAGED TUBBATAHA REEFS


PRESS STATEMENT
January 25, 2013
Reference: Atty. Virgie Lacsa- Suarez, Secretary General, 09209190267

 
             The USS Guardian’s running aground into the Tubbataha marine sanctuary, declared by UNESCO as one of the World’s Heritage Site, was simply dismissed by the US Navy as a navigational “accident”. Yet any sea vessel (commercial, private and military) charts its course leading to its destination before leaving its port of call. And the navigational courses are defined by established navigational lanes.

The accident was not a product of a faulty navigational map. The minesweeper deliberately veered away from the navigational lanes. Facts showed the US Guardian’s officers did not even coordinate with local authorities beforehand. They did not respond to the warnings and radio calls of the Park Rangers who introduced themselves as authorities in the area.

Past and present history shows that the US military forces are engaged in covert as well as overt operations in the country. Was the USS Guardian in a military mission to retrieve something from the reserved marine park?  What is it that is valuable for a US Navy minesweeper to take the risk of running aground into the corals?  Is there something highly confidential and must be secured that the US troops in the vessel did not allow the Philippine authorities to do the protocol inspection of the ship and instead took battle positions?

This action by the US troops against Philippine authorities exemplifies their utter disregard of the country’s sovereignty and signifies that they have something to keep secret.  This is yet another one of several incidents attesting to the fact that the US military is keeping secret facilities or moving highly sensitive equipments inside the Philippine territory. There are certain spots inside the former US Naval Base in Subic that remain restricted. There had been several reported incidents of US military personnel driving away indigenous Filipinos from a portion of Mt. Kitanglad in Bukidnon that hosts a US communication facility.

The main headquarters of the US Joint US Special Operation Task Force Philippines (US JOSTFP) inside the headquarters of Western Mindanao Command in Zamboanga City is off limits even to ranking military officers of the AFP.The deafening silence both from the US embassy and Malacanang somehow “corroborates” the theory of a retrieval operation by the US Navy in the Tubbataha marine sanctuary. It took a week for the US Seventh Fleet to issue its first official statement on the incident.  Malacanan has never filed a diplomatic protest since the January 17 incident.  It never demands for an immediate investigation by an independent international body nor initiates a full  investigation.  The PNoy government even allowed the officers and crew of USS Guardian to be extracted and brought to undisclosed place.

This inaction by the Philippine government towards US military’s violations of Philippine sovereignty and territorial integrity is never comparable to its reactions with regards Chinese fishing vessels intruding into Philippine fishing grounds.

The incident involving the USS Guardian comes at the heels of the retrieval of a US military drone in the waters nearby Ticao Island, Masbate and the dumping of toxic wastes from US naval vessels in Subic Bay. Incidents of drone crashes were earlier reported in Jolo and in Central Mindanao. These series of high display of US military related disasters are direct affront to Philippine sovereignty.

The consistent inaction or dismissive moves and passive statements by the Philippine government confirm its willing subservience and servility to US designs.

As to the USS Guardian’s tragedy all that PNoy could put forward is the question: “With so much sophisticated navigation equipment, what happened?” The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs’ call for investigation in the intent of claiming payment for damages to the Tubbataha marine sanctuary is all the PNoy government could do, never to the extent of pursuing full investigation of the incident.   

For the latest US Navy-made disaster, the US has trivialized the nation’s sovereignty. It has put a price on it. The US has promised to pay   Php300,000 for the damages it caused on the marine sanctuary.

For the US, nothing is irregular in their activities. Their military activities are  “justified” under the US-Ph Mutual Defense Treaty as well as Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and the erstwhile Mutual Logistics Support Agreement (MLSA).   Both agreements sanction their military ships to freely sail around and anchor anywhere in the Philippines. Correspondingly, US troops base and operate anywhere they want to.

Recently, the PNoy administration has allowed the increasing number of US troops in the country on the so-called rotational basis. It also gave the go-signal for US military operations in more areas inside the Philippines. With these developments the Filipino people could only expect more violations of their sovereignty and territory.

More than protecting the marine sanctuary as a World Heritage, let us expose and oppose the increasing deployment of US troops and war materiel in the country. Let us frustrate the escalating intervention and interference of US in our domestic affairs.

            Moreover, even as we condemn the brazen conduct of the US Navy before, during and after USS Guardian’s running aground in the marine sanctuary, let us not miss exposing more so reproaching the Philippine government’s mishandling of the issue.

The Filipino people by asserting their sovereign will would pursue the abrogation of the Mutual Defense Treaty and other laws and agreements that subject the nation to US schemes and designs.

             

Thursday, October 18, 2012

GPH-MILF FRAMEWORK OF AGREEMENT: A MEETING OF SIMILAR MINDSETS AND COMMON INTERESTS



 The 32nd round of the Exploratory Talks between the Negotiating Panels of the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) finally reached a “Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro”.  A product of 16 years of negotiation, this document was preceded by the GPH-MILF Decision Points on Principles last April, 2012. 


Louder  than before, a global chorus of alleluias is heard from the United Nations, US, Japan, Britain, Switzerland, Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Christian and Muslim political leaders, Mindanao business community, the AFP, and the peace movements in the country, with a definitive aura of certainty that peace is finally on the horizon.  UN, Australia and EU called it a “historical leap” to reach a “landmark agreement”. 


With pomp and grandeur, the “peace accord” was formally signed, October 15, at the Malacanan Palace. 


Yes, everyone have long desired for peace in Mindanao.  But any framework for agreement could only arise from the question why war was waged in the first place. At the ground, the ordinary people have long wanted to have peace – free from bombings, displacement, atrocities, and killings. Nobody wanted to become collateral damage of the war – war whose outcome is far from what the people wanted in the first place.
 


The United States, admittedly, plays a role in the Mindanao “peace” efforts. The United States Institute of Peace (USIP) Special Report 202 in February 2008 had this to say: “Without question, the US government could and must take an active lead role in any peace process in Mindanao.  Apart from its official status and responsibilities, the US government has many more resources at its disposal than does USIP………..the US government wields significant leverage to encourage both the MILF and the GRP to sign and implement a sound agreement. US policy instruments in Mindanao include diplomacy, conditionality of US economic and military assistance programs, and more punitive measures on counterterrorism front.” USIP facilitated the peace process from 2004-2007.
 


Soon enough, the US had struck a level of collaboration with the MILF, as the other negotiating party. A cable released by Wikileaks last August 2, 2011 said that MILF leader Murad Ebrahim “had tagged the US as the ‘only country’ that could help the rebel group solve its decades-long conflict with the Philippine government. By then, the MILF had consciously allowed itself to be an indispensable player in a peace game whose contours are defined by the US. 


The earlier Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE) was the best proof of this capitulation.  But the BJE turned to be a fiasco when section of the ruling class (both at the national and local levels) vehemently opposed the scheme. The Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) creating the BJE was finally rendered unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. 


In less than a year after the botched MOA-AD, the International Contact Group (ICG) was formed in 2009.  Its members are United Kingdom, Turkey, Japan and Saudi Arabia as well as representatives from Muhammadiyah (an Indonesian –based international Islamic NGO), Conciliation Resources (a UK-based international NGO), Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (a Swiss-based international organization), and the Asia Foundation (TAF). The ICG “exists to complement the work of the Malaysian facilitator, including though giving impartial advise to the parties and accepting tasking from the facilitator or the parties”. (UK in the Philippines, 2012).
 


Undeniably, both the Malaysian facilitator and the ICG provided the mediation normally considered as “external involvement to the talks”.  The participation of The Asia Foundation (TAF) as one of the members of ICG is most instructive. TAF has long been identified and documented as a front of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).  TAF came in after the USIP. 


The participation of Turkey came also as no surprise. The US ambassador to Turkey is Francis Ricciardone.  The ambassador  “was principally responsible in asking for MILF clarifications on their position on the war and eventually the State Department came out with the US policy on the Mindanao conflict in response to the letter of Salamat Hashim” in the earlier period. (Ishak Mastura, Geo-political games and why peace talks matter, April 2, 2011). US ambassador to Indonesia Scott Marciel was the “Asean envoy of the US who carried the State Department’s letter to Murad Ebrahim in November 2009 regarding US policy on the Mindanao conflict (Ishak Mastura, ibid.). 


In his speech on October 6, 2012, the President announced that the new political entity “deserves a name that symbolizes and honors the struggles of our forebears in Mindanao….That name will be Bangsamoro”.
 


The Filipino people, in general, and the people living in Mindanao, in particular,  should be  the reapers of the real peace dividends. Unfortunately, they could end empty handed.      


Kilusan para sa P
ambansang Demokrasya (KPD) views that honoring the Bangsamoro struggle is, first of all, to uphold and put into place the content of the struggle in the agreement, that is, assertion of national sovereignty.  Bangsamoro emerged out of the anti-colonial struggle during the early part of the Moro resistance in the 1970s.  Its roots can be traced farther back to the 1906 Bud Dajo and 1913 Bud Bagsak massacres of Tausugs who defied the payment of a head tax and disarmament policy of the American troops.
 

The fundamental problem of the ordinary Moro people – the very condition that is created by the long history of neo-colonialism in the country was never part of the agenda of the BJE nor of the new agreement. At best, it only considers peripheral facets of the problem like marginalization, monopoly of land, constricting territory and private interests within the Moro lands. 


The new framework agreement clearly declares that, “vested property rights shall be recognized and respected”.  Without any doubt the new framework could be a mechanism wherein vested interests (of the Moro and non-More elite and of foreigners) will get the best terms. The agreement could very well provide the local ruling class wide latitude in their maneuvers within the new political entity.”   


The key positions of the new state apparatus would again become “prized trophies to be won and plundered”.  The long history of feudal relations n the Moro territories will all the more establish the personal power of the propertied class.  Patronage will again be the main mechanism to integrate the Moro people in the new political entity. 


PNoy has also earlier indicated that the cessation of war, as a logical consequence of the agreement, will pave the way for the unhampered operation of capital in the profitable sections of the new political entity (NPE).  In the whole island of Mindanao, the imperialist plunder is yet to unfold in these areas.   The Liguasan marsh in the heartland of Mindanao has natural gas deposit with an estimated worth of $580 billion. The Sulu and Tawi-tawi Seas are proven to be rich in oil, running also in billions of dollars.  Expansion of palm oil plantations, business process outsourcing (BPO) and tourism are eyed this early. 


Foreign equities in Mindanao and the rest of the country could be further widened should the constitutional provision of 60-40 Filipino-foreign rule on ownership of land and businesses is relaxed. This provision has been consistently referred to as an obstacle to foreign direct investments (FDI) in the Philippines. 


PNoy admits that the Framework Agreement is “still a work in progress, there are still details that both sides must hammer out”.  But unlike the BJE debacle before, the latest agreement is welcomed with relief and hope by both the local elite and the people, especially the war-weary constituents of the viewed as failure and almost derelict entity, the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). The new framework is additional feather in the cap of the still popular President Noynoy Aquino who vows to complete the institutionalization of the new regional set-up until his term ends in 2016. The agreement is meant to urgently end the war. If it stops here the new agreement could only mean the perpetuation of a system where the dominance of vested interests (whether Moro, non-Moro and foreign) is accentuated. 


Cessation of hostilities is most welcome. However, what is most important is the elimination of the roots of conflict and war.  The continuing quest for just and lasting peace that has since been through negotiations could only be more real and meaningful to the people if they are the main actors in the process and not those who have monopoly vested interests in the forsaken “Land of Promise”.  The people’s legitimate and fundamental interests -- national sovereignty, national patrimony and genuine democracy—should be the main agenda. 


KPD and its member organizations would stay keenly vigilant to expose and oppose the Framework Agreement for what it is - a structure to perpetuate the system ruled by elite class interests; a disservice to the Christian, Lumad and Moro martyrs who laid down their lives in the long struggle against the colonialism by US imperialism.The hands of the US Armed Forces and government are quite obvious in the whole process of crafting the documents of the “peace agreement”.  


 Kilusan para sa Pambansang Demokrasya (KPD)October 15, 2012