Monthly Archives: July 2008


Gabriela Rep. Liza Maza today urged the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs to waive former UN envoy Lauro Baja’s diplomatic immunity to give due course to the trafficking, forced labor and slavery cases filed by domestic worker Marichu Baoanan in the US courts.

Baja, with his wife Norma and daughter Maria Elizabeth, filed a motion in the Southern District Court of New York to dismiss Baoanan’s complaint, invoking diplomatic immunity against criminal, civil and administrative cases under the provisions of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and the treaties under the United Nations Charter.

“In the interest of truth and out of delicadeza, the DFA should waive the Bajas’ immunities to  ferret out the facts and arguments on the case. Ambassadors and foreign service officers accused or charged of trafficking and enslaving Filipina domestic workers should not hide behind the cloak of blanket and indiscriminate immunity,” said Maza.

Maza cited Article 31 of the Vienna Convention, which provides immunity for diplomatic agents from the receiving State’s criminal jurisdiction except in cases related to actions regarding any professional or commercial activity exercised by the diplomatic agent outside his official functions, among the three provisions on exemptions.

“Even under the international treaty, Baoanan’s allegations of trafficking and slavery against the Bajas fall under a commercial activity that exploits the poor and vulnerable for personal profit or gain,” Maza said.

The Gabriela solon also noted  a Philippine Supreme Court decision in 2000 which cautioned and ruled against the DFA when it granted full diplomatic immunity to an employee of the Asian Development Bank, an act which the Court said was a violation of the rights to due process both of the accused and the prosecution.#

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Gabriela Women’s Party Representative Liza Maza today criticized President Arroyo’s SONA double talk on the government’s population policy as one driven by her administration’s need for survival. “Nakakadismaya na maging sa usapin ng panganganak at matris ng kababaihan ay nagsisinungaling pa rin si Presdiente Arroyo.”

“At her SONA, President Arroyo claimed to have successfully reduced the country’s population growth rate through natural family planning and glossed over the fact that the government has also been implementing artificial family planning methods. P180M have been allocated in the 2007 General Appropriations Act for Family Planning and Reproductive Health, including P150M for the distribution of artificial family planning commodities and education. Moreover, the Arroyo government has been receiving USAID grants for artificial family planning,” said Maza.

“Moreover, hard data do not support the President’s claim. The UP Population Institute reveal that only 15.1% of married women aged 15-49 are using natural and traditional family planning methods while 35.6% are using artificial contraception.”

“President Arroyo lied. But by towing the line of influential Catholic groups for natural family planning methods in her SONA, President Arroyo is impeding the passage of the Reproductive Health Bill pending in Congress.”

According to Maza, “Promoting natural family planning as a national policy would automatically limit women and couples’ choices, by making alternative family planning methods unavailable; it is tantamount to denying their basic right to women’s healthcare and to choose.”

“We are a country where about 10 to 12 women die every day due to pregnancy-related causes. Maternal mortality rate is at 162, still a far cry from the Millennium Development Goal target of 52. UNESCO statistics puts us at #49 among countries with high maternal mortality rates. Education and reproductive healthcare alternatives must be made available to women if we are to address maternal mortality and women’s reproductive healthcare in our country.”

The Gabriela solon called for the immediate passage of the Reproductive Health Bill pending in Congress. “A pro-women, pro-poor healthcare policy inevitably includes the provision of reproductive healthcare services, facilities and alternatives.” #

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Gabriela Women’s Party Online

Visit Gabriela Women’s Party’s official website. Access the latest press releases, copies of bills and resolutions filed and privilege speeches. Get updated on campaign issues and whats going on in Gabriela Women’s Party’s regional chapters.

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“Terrorism in Mindanao is State-initiated, therefore, it follows that poverty in Mindanao is also caused by the Arroyo government.”

This was the statement of Gabriela Women’s Party Representative Luzviminda Ilagan, following President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s claim during the State of the Nation Address that her administration’s failure to alleviate poverty in Mindanao, is due to the endless conflict in the Philippines’ second largest island.

“The State-declared ‘war on terror’ supposedly aimed to maintain peace in Mindanao turned out to be a ‘war of terror’ intended to protect the US and Arroyo’s financial and political interests. She deployed members of the military even in conflict-free areas to silence the people who oppose her so-called development projects,” the solon from Davao said.

The massive military operations in the southern part of the Philippines effectively displaced thousands of families, who, for fear for their lives chose to leave their homes and their sources of livelihood behind. Small farmers have complained that in eking a living, they are constantly starting all over again.

Mindanao, the food basket of the Philippines, was reported to have six out of the ten poorest provinces in the country and has the highest incidence of hunger in the nation. The food crisis, which pegged the price of rice at an all-time high of P50 per kilo, increased the number of people who can not meet their daily food needs to 64% this year from 62% in 2007. The rate of malnutrition among children also rose, especially in ARMM were it reached 35% from 31% in 1995, as children were forced to skip meals.

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Gabriela Women’s Party Representative Liza Largoza Maza today said President Arroyo’s defense of the Value Added Tax at the State of the Nation Address is the biggest of all lies at yesterday’s 57-minute, tall-tale marathon.

“It is not true that 90% of the country’s VAT on power collection is being paid for by the rich and well to do,” said Maza, citing research conducted by the consumer group, POWER and statistics from the Department of Energy which reveals that:

While 62.4% of energy consumption may be consumed by the industrial and commercial sectors, the VAT collected from these is immediately passed on to customers and end-consumers. An estimated 90% of the 34% energy consumed by residential customers go to lifeline consumers or those who consume less than 500 kwh.

Maza further said, “It is also not true that the 12% VAT on oil impacts greatly only on the rich who supposedly consume 84% of the nation’s oil. The president deliberately ignored the impact of high oil prices on the transportation and other costs that contribute to the high prices of food and basic commodities that poor Filipinos consume. Inflation of food prices is currently at 17%.”

According to the Gabriela solon, “The VAT’s retention will be politically costly for President Arroyo. People are not buying Mrs. Arroyo’s Katas ng VAT propaganda. The subsidies are not enough. These are dole-outs that do not spell long-term economic growth for the majority of the people.” #

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KATAS NG VAT NI GLORIA: Kukurakot Aabuso Tiba-tiba si Arroyo Sa VAT

Pahayag ni Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Liza Maza
SONA ng Mamamayan, Commonwealth Avenue, Quezon City
Hulyo 28, 2008

Mainit na pagbati sa bawat isa sa ating tumitindig at nagpapahayag ng tunay na kalagayan ng mamamayan, ng tunay na SONA. Ang pagbuhos natin sa lansangan sa araw na ito hindi lamang sa Maynila kundi sa mga probinsya ay patunay lamang na isinusuka natin ang mala-pantaseryeng drowing ng kaunlaran ng peke, korap at abusadong lider ng sindikatong nasa Malakanyang, si Gng. Arroyo.

Sabi ni Gng. Arroyo, “Ramdam ang Kaunlaran”. Ang totoo, ramdam ng mga nanay at kababaihan ang kirot ng sikmura sa bawat pagtaas ng presyo ng bilihing pinatawan ng VAT. Ang totoo, ramdam na ramdam natin ang init ng araw, at buhos ng ulan habang parang timawa tayong pinapipila sa mga limos na subsidyo sa kuryente’t bigas. Sabi ni Gloria, magpasalamat kayo, ito raw ay “Katas ng VAT”.

Pawang panloloko! Alam ba ninyo kung ano ang totoong ibig sabihin ng KATAS ng VAT?  Kukurakot, Aabuso, Tiba-tiba si Arroyo Sa VAT. Kaya sa kabila ng malwakang panawagan ng mamamayan para ibasura ang 12% VAT na ipinapataw sa lahat ng ating mga bilihin at binabayaran, ayaw itong alisin ni Gloria. Malaki ang pakinabang niya sa Katas ng VAT. Kukurakot Aabuso Tiba-tiba si Arroyo Sa VAT.

Nitong nakaraang buwan naglaan daw si Gloria ng P4B Katas ng VAT para sa subsidyo sa mga tsuper, sa mga senior citizen, sa mga pautang at sa mga biktima ng bagyong Frank. Dapat ba nating ipagpasalamat yun? Alam ba ninyong mula nang masimulan ang maanomalyang Northrail project ay may binabayaran tayong P18M kada buwan? Walang proyektong nagaganap, pero may mga kickback at panunuhol na matagal nang naganap. Saan galing ang pinambabayad sa proyektong ito? Katas ng VAT.

Samantala’y, tuloy na tuloy pa rin daw ang Cyber Education Project. Hindi natin ito kailangan. Pero, ang halagang inutang para dito? P20B. Limang beses na mas mataas sa P4B inilaan daw sa maralita. Sino ba ang makikinabang? Kani-kaninong mga bulsa ba ang nag-uumapaw dahil sa mga proyektong ODA ni Gng Arroyo na bumubuo sa mahigit 40% sa mga utang panlabas ng ating bansa? At sinong magbabayad nito? Sabi nga ni Gng. Arroyo, Katas ng VAT. Kukurakot Aabuso Tiba-tiba si Arroyo Sa VAT.

Magnanakaw! Sa bawat pisong dagdag sa presyo ng bilihin dahil sa VAT iisa lang ang nakikinabang sa Katas nito. Wala na ngang maibadyet ang mga kababaihan, ang ating mga pamilya’y walang na ngang makain, pamasahe, maipampa-aral o maipang-ospital, pinahihirapan, pinagnanakawan niloloko pa tayo ng sindikato ni Gng. Arroyo. Papayag pa ba tayo? Tama na, sobra na! Gloria Arroyo, paalisin na natin, ngayon na! #

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“Nakakasuka na. What with lies as your staple and empty promises for dessert. President Arroyo’s SONA is replete with fake economic gains and band-aid solutions to the worsening poverty.”

Thus said Gabriela Women’s Party Representative Liza Maza who, in contrast to the glitter of gowns and jewelry, donned her faded maong jeans and rubber shoes on Congress’ red carpet, walking out of the Batasan after attending the morning session.

“The situation of Filipino women and our families have been downhill since President Arroyo assumed power in 2001. And as the crisis takes a turn for the worse, subsidies and cash transfers give no hope for reform or relief,” said Maza.

According to the lawmaker self-rated hunger is now at 16.3% or 14.5M Filipinos, a far cry from the 9.8% when President Arroyo first delivered her SONA in July 2001, with those experiencing severe hunger now reaching 4.2% from 3.7%. She also noted that latest statistics reveal that 2.9M Filipinos are unemployed while 6.62M are underemployed. The NSO has likewise pegged food inflation rates at 17.4% in July 2008, which is almost 15 points higher than last year’s 2.6%.

“The worsening unemployment amid rising inflation showcases this administration’s incompetence. This has made it so much more difficult for families to cope with the crisis. This is the reality felt by every Filipino family, the reality that subsidies cannot sugarcoat,” said Maza

The Gabriela solon said “these subsidies are mere dole outs that fail to give President Arroyo and her VAT the much needed spin. VAT collections were never meant for the poor. Fact is, the Arroyo government collects more than it gives back with the VAT. Malacanang already had P1B in its pockets before it gave out P500 subsidies to lifeline users.”

Maza explained that studies conducted by Bayan, AGHAM and POWER reveal that the national government may have collected as much as P1.8 billion in VAT from Meralco’s 1.7M lifeline customers. The one-time P500 power subsidy doled out last month totaled P852 million. “If this government sincerely wanted to allay the impact of the crisis, it could very well let go of its VAT collections.”

“Hunger mitigation programs and subsidies that President Arroyo showcases in her SONA provide no solutions, not even relief. Long term policies toward genuine agrarian reform and agricultural development, job creation and a national policy for healthcare and education should be pursued. Until then, her removal from office remains the only alternative that women and our families must pursue for a better life.”

Maza, along with fellow Gabriela Rep. Luz Ilagan and members of the progressive partylist bloc from Bayan Muna and Anakpawis, opted to be among the thousands protesting outside the Batasan as President Arroyo delivers her 8th SONA. #

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“GMA’s incompetence as a leader stunted the growth of our children,” Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan said during a press conference entitled ‘State of Nation’s Children Address organized by the Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns today. “She deprived 29 million children in the Philippines their basic rights to life, survival and development as enshrined both in the Constitution and the UN Declaration of the Rights of the Child.”

According to Ilagan, Arroyo’s anti-people policies forced a large number of people below 18 years of age to work. A lot of children from poor farming and fishing communities are employed as factory workers, construction workers and domestic helpers in the cities and some girls are trafficked to become prostitutes in other countries such as Japan, China and Taiwan.

“During her first SONA in 2001, she promised three kids from Payatas to improve the quality of life in the Philippines by providing every Filipino access to quality education. Seven years have passed but statistics show that 1 out of 10 school age children is unable to go to school, two to three students have to share a textbook and 60 to 75 students have a mango tree as their classroom. Is this her definition of quality education and better life?” asked the former professor from Davao.

In 2007, Arroyo claimed that her government invested more for education than the previous years, but a consolidated report submitted to the Geneva Convention on the Rights of the Child noted that the education sector’s share in social services actually declined. A report by the Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research also revealed that national government spending on education fell by 22% over the period of 2001-2006.

For 2008, the budget allocated for education is just slightly over P2000 per person or 14% less than in 1998. She also cut the budget and is pushing for the privatization of public schools, moving education further away from many poor Filipinos’ reach.

“The future of our children remains bleak because we still have GMA as our president,” Ilagan said.

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“Hazel was indeed raped, she was a victim of human trafficking and that the Philippine government had been sorely remiss in providing her adequate and proper assistance.” This was the statement of the mission team, headed by Gabriela Representative Hon. Liza Maza, that went to Okinawa, Japan last week to look into the case of Hazel, the 22-year old Filipina allegedly raped by a US soldier.

“We saw the medical records of Hazel. Hazel vividly accounted to us what transpired the night she was raped. And coming from the perspective of a women’s organization which has handled many cases of
violence against women, we are fully convinced that Hazel was indeed raped,” said Lana Linaban, GABRIELA deputy secretary general, who was also a part of the mission team.

“Just as tragically, while the Department of Foreign Affairs paints itself as concerned and supportive of Hazel, the truth is they have callously neglected Hazel at a time when she needed help the most,”
added Linaban added.

According to the team, Honorary Consul Ako Alarcon, Philippine Consulate in Okinawa knew of Hazel’s case the very same time the girl was hospitalized after the rape but Hazel was not provided any legal
counsel during the process of investigation to determine if there was probable cause for the case. Hazel, the team said, was on her own during the whole process of investigation given that she has no
knowledge of the legal system in Japan, does not speak nor understand the local language and that she hardly knows anyone because she just arrived in Japan just three days before the rape happened.

The mission team also said that Hazel is one of the many Filipina victims of human trafficking for the “rest and recreation needs” of US soldiers stationed in the US military base in Okinawa. US military base in Okinawa occupies about 20% of the province’s total area and 75% of US Forces in Japan is stationed in Okinawa. “This scenario makes women, especially Filipinas working as entertainers, in Okinawa vulnerable to abuse,” said Maza.

“US soldiers in Okinawa has a long list of rape cases of women starting way back 1945. From 1985 to 2005 alone, there were 34 cases of rape committed by US military personnel stationed in Okinawa. Buit
as in the experience of the Philippines, justice was denied the victims. The US has distorted and usurped the sovereign right of the country to prosecute US soldiers ,” added Maza.

“Hazel must be served justice. The Philippine government must push the Japanese government to reinvestigate the case. Wherever the US soldiers commit crime, sovereign countries should have the sovereign right to prosecute,” concluded Maza. #


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Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan condemns the massive military operations and human rights violations against the Aetas of Porac and Floridablanca, Pampanga, where the 72nd Infantry Battalion and the 3rd Brigade of the Armed Forces of the Philippines have been deployed since July 10 as part of the Investment Defense Force scheme of the Arroyo government.

“The deployment of military troops in indigenous communities under the guise of protecting the national economy but at the expense of the IPs is ridiculous. It is unlawful as it violates the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which state that the rights of indigenous cultural communities should never be compromised for the sake of development,” Ilagan said in a press conference with the Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KAMP).

The Mindanaoan solon pointed out that it is not only the Aetas of Pampanga who experience state-perpetrated abuses. Since the Revitalization of the Minerals Industry Program was launched in 2004 and 18 indigenous territories were selected to be part of the 24 priority mining areas in the Philippines, complaints of human rights violations committed against indigenous peoples have increased.

“In Mindanao, for example, the Lumads of Compostela Valley and Subanens of Zamboanga del Norte are being pushed away from their homes by the easement rights granted to foreign mining firms by the Arroyo government. Any resistance is immediately quashed through the deployment of military and paramilitary forces and men, women and children who show the slightest hint of opposition are tortured, harassed, raped and murdered,” the militant party-list representative said.

She added that as of 2007, 130 cases of extrajudicial killings that victimized IPs have been recorded.

Ilagan, together with KAMP, supports the call of the Aetas and other indigenous peoples in the Philippines for the government to pullout the elements of Armed Forces of the Philippines deployed in their ancestral lands.

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