Monthly Archives: June 2008


With the recent Sulu kidnapping on the agenda of President Arroyo’s meeting with US President George Bush, Gabriela Women’s Party Representative Liza Largoza Maza warned against using the incident as a pretext for increased US military presence in the country.

“US military presence and intervention will not resolve kidnap for ransom incidents in Mindanao just as it has not resolved the presence of armed groups, criminal activities and even insurgency. On the other hand, with the growing anti-US sentiment of Mindanaoans, increased US military presence can even breed further unrest in the already war-torn island,” said Maza.

According to Maza, “While President Arroyo remains very much interested, if not desperate in having the US government support her continued stay in Malacanang, there is no doubt that despite protests, she will cede to the US government’s intent in keeping military presence as a forward base in the Asia Pacific region. And with the recent kidnapping of Ces Drilon and her crew, even volunteer this unfortunate incident as a convenient excuse.”

The Gabriela solon reiterated that aside from reported incidents of sex trafficiking and prostitution in areas near US military installations, there have been too many unresolved incidents of human rights violations in Mindanao resulting from the intervention of US troops. The massacre in Maimbung, Sulu was reportedly carried out by joint US and Filipino forces, with the raid supposedly led by the Philippine Navy Special Warfare group. #

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As President Arroyo sets to leave for her trip to the United States, women’s Partylist group Gabriela today called on President Arroyo to include in her agenda, the US military and government’s accountability in the rape case of Hazel, the Filipina migrant worker who was raped by a US soldier in Okinawa February of this year.

“In her meeting with the US President, it is President Arroyo’s political and moral obligation as a woman and as a leader of this country, to include in her agenda, Hazel’s call for justice. We challenge President Arroyo to stand up for Hazel and give substance to her government’s supposed high regard for Filipino migrants,” said Gabriela Rep. Liza Maza.

The Gabriela solon said “Hazel deserves, at the very least, an apology and a commitment to justice, similar to the pronouncements of US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice on the rape of an Okinawan girl also in February 2008.”

“Wherever there are US military bases, there are documented cases of rape and sexual abuse, of sex trafficking and prostitution. Whether in Okinawa, the Philippines or Afghanistan, the abuse of women and children is part of the social cost,” said Maza.

Representatives Maza and Luz Ilagan of Gabriela, are throwing their full support to Hazel and her family. They are set to support and join Hazel’s mother in a planned “Mission to Okinawa” in the following weeks. Aside from getting a thorough assessment of Hazel’s case and legal options, Gabriela Women’s Party and the “Mission to Okinawa” intends to also look into the situation of Filipina migrants and entertainers in Okinawa.#

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“More than being a case of sexual violence, the rape of our “kabaro”, Hazel, an Overseas Filipino Worker in Okinawa is a showcase of government neglect and inutility and of lopsided foreign military relations that the Philippines refuse to stand up against. We throw our support for Hazel and her continuing battle for justice.”

This was the statement given by Gabriela Women’s Party Secretary
General Cristina Palabay in a press conference with the women’s alliance Gabriela, Migrante International and “Nanay Melly”, Hazel’s mother. The women’s partylist group is joining Hazel’s mother in a “Mission to Okinawa”.

“Nanay Melly hopes to be with Hazel and be completely appraised of her situation as well as her case. This was something that the Department of Foreign Affairs failed to do and something that we, as concerned women’s groups, migrants’ organizations and individuals hope to achieve through our concerted efforts,” said Palabay.

It was learned that the DFA had not been in touch with Hazel’s family to give an update on her case other than to tell them that the case had been dismissed by the prosecutors last month.

According to Palabay, Gabriela Women’s Party Representative Luz Ilagan will be personally accompanying Hazel’s mother in Okinawa next week. Aside from getting a thorough assessment of Hazel’s case and legal options, Gabriela Women’s Party and the “Mission to Okinawa” intends to also look into the situation of Filipina migrants and entertainers in Okinawa.

“Filipina migrants, especially those working as entertainers in places near US military bases are in such vulnerable circumstances. More often than not, their situation invites and even allows sexual abuse. This is exacerbated by the fact that the Japanese government, no different from the Philippines, cannot stand up to the US government who continues to protect their military personnel, even those found criminally liable.”

Palabay further said that it is no surprise that the recently concluded International Migrants Assembly attended by over 90 migrants’ organizations as well as Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Ilagan in HongKong, immediately approved a resolution forwarded by Gabriela and Gabriela Women’s Party condemning the Okinawa rape case and declaring support for Hazel. Part of the resolution reads as follows:

“This conference resolves to commit to condemn the rape of Hazel by a US Soldier, condemns the inutility and neglect of both Philippine and Japanese governments, their seeming complicity with the US government that robs Hazel of justice”#

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While the Department of Education’s (DepEd) Memorandum No. 291 giving public school teachers a six-hour workday as opposed to the previous eight-hour is a welcome change, Gabriela Women’s Party representative Luzviminda C. Ilagan said that it is not enough.

“The DepEd memo will only give teachers more time to prepare their lesson plans and perform other duties, not solve their more pressing problem of how to pay for their families’ basic needs or augment their meager income. What our teachers need more is an increase in their salaries,” Ilagan said.

The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) has been demanding a P9000 across the board wage increase for all public school teachers and non-teaching personnel. Ilagan , a former Ateneo de Davao University professor, said that it is time for public school teachers to get what they want, especially with the oil and rice crises in the country.

Public school teachers, among the lowest earners in the country, earn an average of only P10,000 monthly, less than half of what the National Wages and Productivity Commission said a family of six in the National Capital Region (NCR) needs, which is P871 per day or P26,130 per month.

The P20-P25 increase in the price of rice these past months had made matters worse for our teachers. Food now takes up 60 percent of their meager salary, leaving very small portions to their other needs such as clothing, shelter, and transportation.

The women’s partylist representative commends the Senate for approving on second reading Senate Bill No. 2408 entitled “An Act Providing for Additional Support and Compensation for Educators in Basic Education,” which seeks to grant a P9,000 across-the-board salary increase for all public school teachers and non-teaching personnel. Under this bill, the increase in teachers’ salary will be given in three equal tranches over three years.

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Following the call of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) for a salary increase, Gabriela Women’s Party representative Luzviminda C. Ilagan urges her fellow legislators to work on giving public school teachers what is due them.

“It’s high time that we increase our teachers’ salaries. Theirs was among the lowest in the country and we must ensure their welfare in the midst of soaring prices of rice and oil,” the former college professor from Mindanao said.

ACT, a progressive, militant and nationalist organization of teachers, wants a P9000 across-the-board wage increase for all public school teachers and non-teaching personnel. Chairman Antonio L. Tinio said that the teachers’ current earnings of P10,933 monthly officially ranks them among the poor. This amount, from which after standard deductions teachers take home only P8,000, is hardly enough to pay for basic needs such as food, clothing, shelter, and transportation. According to the National Wages and Productivity Commission, a family of six in the National Capital Region (NCR) needs P871 per day or P26,130 per month, more than twice the public school teachers’ salary.

The ongoing rice crisis makes the matters worse for the poor public school teachers. The prices of the staple food of the Filipinos have increased from P25-P30 to P35-P45 in Metro Manila following the rice shortage. It now accounts for 60 percent of a family’s expenditure.

To meet their daily food needs, many teachers were forced to work in educational institutions abroad. Some teachers and education graduates even chose to become domestic helpers or caregivers in other countries because these jobs offer salaries higher than what they will receive as teachers in the Philippines.

Ilagan pointed out that the mass migration of teachers to other countries compromises the quality of education in the Philippines.

“We are losing our best teachers to educational institutions abroad because of the much better compensation they offer,” Ilagan said.


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The Gabriela Women’s Party representatives call justice for Eugenia Baja, the overseas Filipino worker who died of a mysterious cause in Saudi Arabia on February 24 and whose body has just recently been repatriated.

“The unknown nature of her death warrants an investigation. We are calling on the Philippine government to cooperate with the proper authorities to know the real cause of and thus give justice to her death,” Gabriela solon Luzviminda C. Ilagan said.

According to Migrante International, Baja’s family was informed on March 3 that the OFW died of an illness in a hospital in the Middle Eastern country. A second report from the Department of Foreign Affairs, however, stated that she committed suicide.

One month before her death, Baja’s family received a text message from her asking for help.

The partylist representatives also called on the Philippine Overseas Employment Authority (POEA) to investigate on the anomalous nature of Baja’s recruitment. She signed a contract with a US-based company to work as a patient server in Saudi Arabia but was employed as a domestic helper. Her family also mentioned that she complained about not being given her salary.

“Our OFWs are not given enough protection by the government despite their help in keeping our economy afloat,” Ilagan said. “It is alarming how many of our so-called heroes fell victim to illegal recruitment, illegal detention and exploitation in other countries.”


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“Extending the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) is extending the suffering of our farmers,” Gabriela Women’s Party Representative Luzviminda C. Ilagan said when asked to explain her “NO” vote to Committee Report No. 506 or the House Bill 4077 which will extend the implementation of CARP.

Ilagan explained that her vote against CARP extension does not mean that she is against agrarian reform. It is in fact one of the advocacies of the Gabriela Women’s Party to distribute lands to Filipino farmers without condition. She does not approve the extension of CARP because it is a program that never pursued the interest of the peasant farmers in the country.

“Under CARP, there will be no genuine distribution of lands to the farmers. This program applies non-distributive schemes as forms of agrarian reform,” she said.

There is no guarantee under CARP that the farmers will own the land they till because the Certificates of Land Ownership Award, Certificates of Land Transfer and Emancipation Patents to be given to them can be forfeited.

CARP also subjects agricultural lands into massive land conversions and exemptions, and therefore contributes to the rice crisis our country is experiencing at present.

Farmers, especially women farmers, cannot depend on CARP. CARP offers false hope or illusion that it will offer women support services needed for them to do their duties and responsibilities as farmers and as mothers.

“Gabriela Women’s Party cannot let a bogus agrarian reform program to continue denying the Filipino farmers ownership of their lands,” Ilagan said.

Ilagan also calls on to her fellow members of the House of Representatives to give attention to House Bill 3059 or the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB), explaining that this bill will give the farmers what they want and need. GARB offers an agrarian reform program wherein the distribution of lands to the farmers is not based on amortization, but instead on providing support services to them.

The women’s partylist representative reasons that if the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill will be approved, this country might achieve its goal of food self-sufficiency and effectively resolve its rice crisis.

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Gabriela Women’s Representative Luzviminda C. Ilagan asked the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to exhaust all efforts to help an Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) illegally detained in Kuwait.

In a letter to DFA Sec. Alberto G. Romulo, Ilagan asked the department to provide immediate assistance to Amando Abando, an automotive mechanic who was arrested last February by Kuwaiti police for allegedly acting “lasciviously” .

He is still held as a prisoner in a Kuwaiti jail for unknown reasons. Abando’s family was informed of his whereabouts through seven former detainees in the Middle Eastern country who had recently been repatriated.

Abando left the country in June 2004 to work for the Arabian Motors Group W.L.L. He transferred to another company after his contract ended and a negotiation with his previous employer to increase his salary failed.

His wife, Ma. Luz Abando, came to the women’s partylist representative’ s office to seek help for her husband’s repatriation, after the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) and the DFA allegedly ignored her calls for help.

“The Philippine government should work for the immediate release and repatriation not only of Amando Abando, but of all Filipinos detained in other countries,” she said.

The Philippine government hails the OFWs as heroes as their remittances keep the economy afloat. For the first quarter of this year, the overseas workers have remitted $4 billion.

“All the Philippine government can do is to secure the safety and welfare of its heroes and protect them against all kinds of abuses and exploitation, ” Ilagan said.

As of the first quarter of 2008, 206 Filipinos have been detained in different countries abroad, 21 of which are in the deathrow.

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Gabriela Women’s Party Representative Liza Maza today said Malacanang is gearing up into using the food crisis as an excuse to give President Arroyo more space for political maneuvers amid brewing unrest by giving her emergency powers.

“No special or emergency powers are needed by President Arroyo to properly address the food crisis. As a matter of fact, save for the provision on emergency powers, the National Food and Energy Council which is supposedly tasked to address this crisis merely duplicates the tasks that the council members are already mandated to perform,” said Maza.

The council will be headed by the President herself and the NEDA Secretary as vice chair. Secretaries of the Departments of Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources, Energy, and the heads of the National Anti-Poverty Commission, National Security Council, National Power Corp., and National Food Authority will be sitting as members.

Maza expressed doubts that the council’s mandate to recommend the use of emergency powers is meant to counter whatever public unrest may result from the skyrocketing prices of oil, rice and other commodities, the ZTE Senate hearing which is set to resume with the possible testimony coming from former Speaker Jose De Venecia and the resumption of Jun Lozada’s school tours.

“Again, we reiterate that President Arroyo can very well address the soaring prices of oil, rice and basic commodities by suspending if not removing the 12% VAT on oil, electricity and food. The creation of this council is but a sinister attempt at giving the President a new ammunition– that of emergency powers– which she can very well use against her critics.”

Maza warned against using emergency powers and political repression against a people already battered with poverty. “This will add fuel to the fire of unrest, at great political cost to the Arroyo regime.”#

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“Once more press freedom suffers a serious blow with the conviction of Ms. Ninez Cacho Olivares.”

Thus said Gabriela Women’s Party Representative Liza Maza today as courts find Tribune editor and columnist Ninez Cacho Olivares guilty of libel. “Without a doubt this conviction is meant to send a chilling message against those who dare to expose, criticize and oppose policies of the Arroyo administration.”

The libel case was filed by Atty. Arthur Villaraza against Olivares who in 2003 had written about “The Firm” or the Carpio Villaraza and Cruz law firm as being singled out by the ombudsman in handling cases related to the NAIA Terminal 3 contracts. Olivares likewise identified “The Firm” to be the personal lawyers of the president, and very much involved in the first family’s legal concerns.

“We throw our support behind Olivares and all those who dare keep press freedom alive in this country by exposing anomalies in the Arroyo administration despite threats of harassment, suits and even murder.” #

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