Monthly Archives: January 2008

SOLONS CROSS PARTYLINES TO UPHOLD PRESS FREEDOM

Crossing party lines, 50 members of the House of Representatives found themselves agreeing on the issue of upholding freedom of the press amid the brewing speakership row that currently divides Congress.

 

House Resolution 431- “A Resolution Expressing the Sense of the House of Representatives that the Philippine Government should Uphold the Freedom of the Press, Speech and Expression at All Times in the Light of the Numerous Attempts to Control the Flow of News and Information, Criminalize the Exercise of Press Freedom and Curtail this Basic Right Especially in Times of Crisis and State Emergencies” was filed today by Gabriela Women’s Partylist Representatives Liza Maza and Luz Ilagan with 48 other solons as co-authors.

 

“It is high time that the House of Representatives speak on the issue of press freedom, a fundamental ingredient in a democratic state. We commend members of the press and media organizations that immediately stood in the face of repression. This resolution is Congress’ contribution in defending freedom of the press and our civil liberties. Certainly, any attempt to curtail or repress the mass media should be met upfront and nipped at the bud,” said Rep. Maza.

 

The Gabriela solon cited as recent attempts to curtail press freedom, the illegal arrest of members of the media during the Manila peninsula standoff; the Department of Justice advisory threatening members of the media and network organizations of criminal liabilities in effect restraining media from performing their duties and; the rumor-mongering that implicates a female reporter to the escape of Marine Capt. Nicanor Faeldon.

 

“Press freedom is being threatened. It is a Constitutional right and we are duty bound to defend it,” said Maza.

 

Members of Congress who co-authored the resolution were: Reps. Ocampo, Casino, Beltran, R. Zamora, Villar, Tupas, Escudero, Locsin, Abaya, Barzaga, Golez, Susano, Aggabao, Joson, Binay, Villanueva, Chipeco, Crisologo, Cayetano, Coquilla, Vinzons-Chato, Cerilles, Cruz-Gonzales, Fernandez, Velarde, De Guzman, Alcala, Baraquel, Teodoro, Padilla, Yap, Gunigundo, Roxas, Abante, Mandanas, M. Zamora, Ungab, Dayanghirang, Ferrer, Yu, Mangudadatu, Climaco, Guingona, Hataman, Cagas, Rodriguez, Almario and Custodio. #

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Filed under Human Rights, News Release, Political Repression, Press Fredom

GABRIELA SOLONS PUSH FOR LEGISLATION AS URBAN POOR WOMEN SIGN-UP, LOBBY FOR REMOVAL OF VAT ON OIL

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Gabriela Women’s Party Representatives Liza Maza and Luz Ilagan met today with at least 200 women who trooped to the House of Representatives expressing their support for legislators’ moves to remove the 12% VAT on oil and petroleum products. The women, mostly from nearby Quezon City and San Mateo barangays signed a petition to help speed up legislation to amend the RVAT law.

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“Kailangan namin ng mga hakbang na makakapagbigay alwan sa paghihirap ng mga pamilya namin. Malaking tulong sa amin ang pagtatanggal ng VAT sa langis na agarang magpapababa ng presyo ng langis at bilihin. Hindi naming kailangan ng mga ga-mumong tariff cut at ng mga pampapogi natulad ng energy summit,” said Fhe Ramirez, a Gabriela leader from Bgy. Batasan. They vowed to bring the petition to their communities and come up with more signatures in the next few weeks.

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“The P1 reduction in prices that oil companies promised to implement by February 1 as a result of the tariff cut can barely be felt by commuters and consumers after consecutive oil price hikes. Moreover, these price cuts can just as easily be withdrawn when oil companies eventually decide to arbitrarily jack up their prices,” said Maza explaining that oil price cuts were eventually voided by subsequent and higher increases.

Maza said independent think tank Ibon Foundation monitored the implementation of LPG price cuts seven times in 2007 while hiking up prices 15 times. Gasoline on the other hand increased 17 times while diesel increased 14 times.

Ilagan meanwhile criticized the energy summit, with Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes announcing that it does not intend to bring down oil prices, virtually backtracking on its objectives of coming up with a solution to the increasing oil prices in the world market.

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The Gabriela solons reiterated the urgency of bringing down oil prices since women are the first to feel the crunch of the increase on oil prices and the consequent hike in the prices of goods and basic commodities and services. “Always, it is the women who have to find ways to make ends meet and sacrifice in order to augment the family income.”

Maza and Ilagan explained they have filed HB 3433 to repeal the RVAT and HB 3458 removing the 12% VAT on oil products. and are supporting several measures in Congress that seeks to amend the RVAT approved in 2005. They have likewise co-authored HB 1724 that seeks to repeal the Oil Deregulation Law. #

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Filed under News Release, Oil Prices, VAT

GABRIELA SLAMS AFP MOVES TO FURTHER MILITARIZE MINING COMMUNITIES

Gabriela Women’s Partylist Representative Luz Ilagan today slammed proposals hatched by AFP Chief Gen. Hermogenes Esperon to train and provide militias to mining corporations in the country.

 

“Undoubtedly, this will lead to more human rights violations and displacement of tens of thousands in mining areas all over the country. This has been the experience of many Lumad communities in Mindanao and even in other regions when indigenous groups opt to oppose the destruction of their land and the disruption of their lives by the operations of big mining firms all over the country,” said Rep. Ilagan.

 

The Gabriela solon from Mindanao cited the massive evacuation in 12 lumad communities in November last year due to military operations intended to protect mining explorations around the AndapValley Complex, the second largest coal deposit in the country and where Chinese mining corporations have investments. “Military activities threatened the lumad and peasant communities in the municipalities of Tago, Cagwait, Marihatag, San Agustin, Lianga and San Miguel in Surigao del Sur who are actively opposing the mining operations.”

 

According to Ilagan, “It is very alarming that instead of conducting consultations in communities, mining firms and multinationals opt for the military solution in order to continue operations and pursue profits at the expense our communities. We have received reports that the increasing presence of military detachments and the installation of police checkpoints are observed in other mining-affected areas nationwide, including Lafayette in Rapu-Rapu island, Albay, Filminera in Masbate island, Marcopper in Marinduque island, TVI in Zamboanga del Norte, NMRDC in Mt. Diwalwal, Rio Tuba in Palawan, Crew Minerals in Mindoro Oriental, Climax Arimco/Oxiana in Nueva Vizcaya, Abra, Batangas, and Zambales.”

 

Ilagan further said that of the 886 victims of extrajudicial killings documented by the human rights organization, KARAPATAN from January 2001 to July 2007, 17 have been identified as being active or leading the campaign against mining projects in their respective communities.

 

News reports revealed, that the AFP has offered to assist mining firms in their security requirements, offering to organize, train and equip private security guards to protect exploration and production sites from rebel attacks. “This is clearly a move towards the intensification of militarization of mining communities and has to be stopped.” said Ilagan. #

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Filed under Indigenous peoples, Militarization, Mining/Envi, News Release

GABRIELA ON ENERGY SUMMIT: MAKE CONSUMERS PRIORITY, PUSH FOR RVAT REPEAL

As the energy summit opens today, Gabriela Women’s Party Representatives Liza Maza and Luz Ilagan renewed calls for the immediate removal of the 12% Value Added Tax on oil products to stave off the effect of rising oil prices on ordinary commuters and consumers.

 

“No less than the ordinary consumers should be the priority of the energy summit. Malacanang would do well not to reduce this summit to a mere spin that will wash its hands off its responsibility on the worsening crisis. The summit should focus on measures that would immediately bring down the price of oil such as the repealing the RVAT ,” said Gabriela Women’s Partylist Representative Liza Maza.

 

“We challenge the Arroyo government to certify as priority legislation, bills that seek to amend or repeal the RVAT. Several measures have been filed by various solons to exempt food products, oil products, medicines and purchases made by senior citizens from the 12% VAT. These can easily be consolidated, studied and debated on, especially if identified as priority legislation.”

 

The Gabriela solons said it is urgent for congress to make its move as the effect of the RVAT can no longer be ignored. Maza cited studies made by Ibon foundation which indicates that the prices of unleaded gasoline, diesel and LPG has increased by 19%, 18% and 32% respectively since the RVAT was imposed in 2005. The price of  an 11-kg LPG tank has likewise increased by Php134.79. #

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Filed under News Release, Oil Prices, VAT

Despite Human Rights Record, Corruption in AFP: MILITARY-DEPENDENT GMA EXTENDS ESPERON TERM

“The extension of AFP Chief of Staff Hermogenes Esperon’s term of office up to May of 2008, smacks of political payback. We are not at all surprised that Mrs. Arroyo will do what she can, including that of violating the law, to ensure that the last of the “Garci Generals” stay for as long as he could.”

Thus said the women’s partylist group Gabriela in a press conference, further stressing that Esperon’s extension despite the AFP’s bloody track record under his command also betrays the Arroyo regime’s intent to pursue Oplan Bantay Laya, its counter insurgency program that has received much flak in the international community.

Gabriela Women’s Party Representative Liza Largoza Maza said “clearly we have a leadership that is over dependent on the loyalty of the military. Thus, under the watch of Mrs. Arroyo and Gen. Esperon, no military officer has ever been questioned, prosecuted and punished for human rights violations and graft and corruption. Moreover, under their command the military has been given more roles and power in the bureaucracy.”

The Gabriela solon cited that the so-called exemplary performance of Gen. Esperon includes that of withholding documents in the Jonas Burgos Case, and the continuing spate of killings and abductions while consistently denying the AFP’s role in the country’s worsening human rights crisis as noted by the United Nations.

Maza also said that under Gen. Esperon, the AFP reeked of graft and corruption, with the Commission on Audit citing unliquidated cash advances amounting to Php434,482,546.20 not to mention millions of pesos involved in inaccuracies in gas inventories, unsubstantiated book adjustments in 2006. Moreover, in the AFP’s WESMINCOM, supplies and materials supposedly already transferred to other military units amounting to Php1,075,073.92 were also unaccounted for.

“Indeed, because of the crucial roles that Gen. Esperon has played in the 2004 presidential elections and his assurance of the AFP’s loyalty despite growing restiveness, Mrs. Arroyo has no choice but to keep Gen. Esperon in the AFP despite losing billions in corruption and its bloody human rights record.”

Gen. Esperon assumed his post as AFP chief in July 2006. Of the AFP generals involved in the “Hello GArci” election fraud scandal, only Esperon remains in active service.” #

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Filed under News Release, Political

MALACANANG SHOULD STOP HOLDING BUDGET FOR HEALTH SERVICES HOSTAGE; REMOVE VAT ON OIL NOW -GABRIELA

 

Backing proposals for the immediate removal of the 12% Value Added Tax (VAT) for petroleum products, Gabriela Women’s Party Representative Liza Largoza Maza belied claims by Malacanang that VAT revenues from oil shall be allocated for health services.

 

“This government spin to defend its VAT collection on oil products in the midst of rising oil prices is baseless. The finance department has long admitted in committee hearings in Congress that no mechanism has been set in place to segregate sources of VAT collections, more so the segregation of its allocation. There are no guarantees that VAT collections from oil will be allocated for health services. Malacanang should stop holding basic services like health as a hostage to get people to back off from demands of reducing oil prices by removing the 12% VAT,” said Maza.

According to Maza government claims of estimated revenue losses of Php52 Billion shoud the 12% VAT on oil be removed can easily be addressed by addressing graft and corruption in tax collections.

 

Maza cited statistics from the IBON Foundation and the National Tax Research Center which estimate that graft and corruption in revenue collections have cost government Php82 Billion in uncollected corporate taxes in 2006 and an average of Php57 Billion annually in uncollected VAT.

 

The GABRIELA solon further said the Arroyo government’s refusal to implement measures to cushion the impact of rising oil prices on the public by removing or even suspending the VAT is a clear betrayal of its priorities. “While the government can easily do away with tariffs, to ensure profits for big oil companies, it refuses to do away with VAT collections– a move that will definitely give commuters and ordinary consumers a respite from the oil price increases.”

It is estimated that once the 12% VAT on oil is removed, pump prices would go down by Php4.00 per liter and Liquefied Petroleum Gas by at least Php60.00 for every 11-kg cylinder tank. #

 

 

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Filed under News Release, Oil Prices, Social Services

GWP REGIONAL CHAPTERS IN WEEK-LONG PEASANT LAKBAYAN

Lakbayan arrives at Pasay rotonda

Gabriela Women’s Party regional chapters from Bicol and Southern Tagalog were among those who marched in the week-long peasant march for food, land and social justice.

Gabriela along Ayala Avenue

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The Lakbayan which started in Nasugbu, Batangas last January 16 arried in Metro Manila yesterday. Protesters held picket at the EDSA Shrine, to commemorate the EDSA II uprising that ousted former President Joseph Estrada.

Along South Super highway

The Lakbayanis deplored the Arroyo regime’s attempts to extend the sham comprehensive agrarian reform program.

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The Lakabayan will culminate in a rally commemorating the 21st anniversary of the Mendiola Massacre.

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Filed under Peasant, Regions