Oil deregulation, Power industry, Privatization, Water crisis

Overpriced oil inflates costs of El Niño, power crisis

Petron and other oil firms have been jacking up pump prices in recent weeks (Photo from http://www.petronmarketing.com)

Those who are ready to absolve government for the harmful effects of El Niño should think again. While El Niño is a natural phenomenon, its impact on the people and the economy could have been eased by right government policies. Sadly, the policies in place have exposed the country not only to the strongest blows from what experts describe as a “moderate” El Niño. These flawed policies have also exposed us to El Niño’s magnified impact.

Deregulated, privatized energy

Take the case of power and oil – strategic sectors that have been privatized and deregulated by government. As the water level in dams around the country fell, hydropower generation also declined. Consequently, more power is generated from plants running on expensive and overpriced oil. To make the situation worse, oil prices have been on an uptrend again in the past few weeks. Electricity bills, which are also artificially bloated, climbed as a result. Prices of other commodities and services are sure to follow.

Such predicament could have been capably addressed by a government that has the needed policy tools. But it threw away these tools when it allowed private corporations to take control of the entire energy sector. It tried to reclaim some of these tools through emergency powers but was met with understandable public skepticism. In the end, the reality that Congress could not be convened at this point in the election season forced government to give up the plan.

As an alternative, government now intends to lease modular generating sets that could produce an additional 160 megawatts (MW) of electricity for Mindanao. By itself, this plan is already costly with an initial tab of P5.5 billion aside from increasing power rates in Mindanao by P14 per kilowatt-hour (kWh). But it is made even costlier by overpriced oil that will be used in great amounts to feed the generating sets.

Amid the El Niño, energy companies, with their greed and abuses un-moderated, are having a heyday.

P8.12 per liter overpricing

In the coming months, households not only in Mindanao will have to pay for higher electricity bills. The reason is not only the limited supply of cheaper hydropower due to El Niño. As more power is generated by oil-fed power plants, consumers also become more exposed to the impact of frequent oil price hikes and overpriced petroleum.

Under Republic Act (RA) 8479 or the Oil Deregulation Law of 1998, oil companies are allowed to increase pump prices at whim. They are not even required to inform the public about their price changes, much less explain their price hikes. This policy has been abused to the hilt by the oil firms. The National Economic Development Authority (Neda) itself has once confirmed that oil firms are indeed overpricing their products.

As of January 2010, oil products in the country are still overpriced by an average of P8.12 per liter. This figure is based on the monthly difference between the ideal and actual changes in pump prices from January 2008 to January 2010. The ideal pump price adjustment is computed using the difference in the monthly averages of Dubai crude and foreign exchange (forex) rate during the said period. The actual price movement, meanwhile, is based on the Department of Energy’s (DOE) monitoring.

There is no consolidated data yet on actual pump price movement for February and March. But note that in February, there should have been an 83-centavo per liter rollback based on Dubai crude and forex monthly movements. The actual pump price of diesel, however, did not move during the said month while kerosene prices even jumped by 25 centavos a liter. In other words, the overpricing could be much higher (aside from the fact that even before imported oil reach our ports, they are already overpriced due to global monopoly control by the oil giants).

Daily overcharges of P7.44 M for Minda extra power

Meanwhile, government’s plan to lease modular generation sets to produce

Power generated by the Agus and other hydroelectric power plants in Mindanao has drastically fallen due to El Nino (photo from http://static.panoramio.com/)

an additional 160 MW of electricity in Mindanao will require millions of liters of petroleum. For purposes of comparison, let us look at the 1 MW Generac Diesel Power Module manufactured by Mitsubishi. This generator, running at 100 percent capacity, consumes 238.56 liters per hour of diesel; at 75 percent, 178.92 liters; and at 50 percent, 119.28 liters.

Using this as yardstick, and factoring in the P8.12 per liter in overpricing, we can estimate how much the people will needlessly spend for additional electricity in Mindanao. We shall use the 100 percent capacity level since the generating plants that will be leased need to run at full capacity to augment the power shortage in the region.

Per hour, the overpricing would be equivalent to P1,937.11. If a 1-MW generator runs for the entire day, the extra cost would be P46,490.57. If the entire 160 MW is generated in a day, the figure would be P7.44 million. For one month (30 days), the overpricing would be P223.15 million. If the 160-MW generators were commissioned for three months (April to June), taxpayers will unjustly shell out around P669.45 million on top of the real price of diesel and the cost of leasing the generating plants.

Unabated oil price hikes and overpricing also worsen the people’s burden due to El Niño in other ways. For instance, farmers who rely on irrigation pumps and fishers who use motorized bancas will have to pay more for gasoline. Note that due to El Niño, more farmers turn to irrigation pumps. Fishers also consume more gasoline as they spend more time fishing (warm temperature drives fish to deeper waters, fishers claim).

Overpriced power, too

Meanwhile, outstanding issues in the power sector continue to unjustly burden the people with or without an El Niño. Due to the ongoing implementation of RA 9136 or the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (Epira) of 2001, power rates remain exorbitant and continue to shoot up. Automatic adjustment in generation charges, for instance, allowed Meralco to again hike its rates for March by P1.38 per kWh. Just last year, Meralco jacked up its distribution rates by 41 centavos per kWh.

The Epira-created Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM) also gave more opportunities for the new private power monopolies to manipulate electricity rates. In February this year, for example, power rates in the WESM spiked to as much as P68 per kWh, which Arroyo’s own economic adviser Albay Gov. Joey Salceda described as “unspeakable”. Apparently, power companies trading in the spot market withheld supply, a market abuse easily done by firms in control of both distribution and generation, jacking up prices in the process. Power sold in the Luzon grid is dispatched through the WESM, a mechanism that will also be set up in the Visayas soon.

These increases become more deplorable as power companies, like the oil firms, also overcharge the consumers. In its December 2009 report, for instance, the Commission on Audit (COA) said that Meralco’s illegal charges could reach more than P7 billion. And Meralco has not even com-

Activists call for the nationalization of the oil industry (photo from http://www.bayan.ph)

pletely refunded the P34.12 billion in overcharges that it illegally imposed on its almost 5 million customers in the past.

Nationalized energy

The energy sector is a lucrative industry but the billions of profits it makes come at the expense of the people and national development. Such greed and abuse become more deplorable during times of natural calamities such as the current El Niño when the people’s poverty and hunger intensify and the domestic economy is further undermined.

What we need is an oil and power industry that is not privatized and deregulated, and that is not controlled by the Cojuangcos, Aboitizes, Lopezes, Pangilinans and their American, European, and Japanese partners. What we need is an energy sector that is nationalized, state-owned, and effectively controlled by the Filipino people. Only then can we stop overpricing in petroleum and electricity, and better plan the energy needs of our people and economy.

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2010 elections, Fiscal issues

Debt and deficit as election issue

The state of public coffers as an electoral agenda in the coming May polls is not getting the national attention it rightfully deserves. Except for a recent statement by Liberal Party standard bearer Noynoy Aquino that he will not impose new taxes and raise existing ones if elected, presidentiables have not touched the crucial issues of the burgeoning budget deficit and mounting debt that government faces. Vows to curb graft and corruption, meanwhile, are statements too general to pass as a concrete platform in terms of protecting and raising public revenues.

But the reality is that whoever becomes the next President will have to run a government that is almost P5 trillion deep in debt and with a budget deficit of P300 billion or more. Thus, whatever promises about providing for the basic needs of the people especially the poor are empty rhetoric unless candidates disclose how they intend to address the worsening fiscal situation.

Debt accumulation

Every second, the country’s debt is growing by P8,394.54. That’s the average pace in the last nine years and it is still accelerating. Last year, it was expanding by P8,462.36 per second. The rate at which the debt stock is accumulating is indeed alarmingly high.

As of October last year, the total debt of the national government including its outstanding and contingent liabilities was about P4.99 trillion. Outstanding debt refers to unpaid obligations while contingent debt includes government guarantees to state-owned corporations and financial institutions.

At the end of 2000 before the current Arroyo administration took over, the total debt was P2.65 trillion. It means that under the incumbent regime, government’s debt increased by P2.34 trillion. Such huge amount of accumulated debt makes President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo the heaviest borrower among all post-EDSA presidents.

In addition, the domestic economy despite the aggressive hype about its growth by the Arroyo administration is not coping with the rapid accumulation of government debt. From 2001 to 2008, government’s annual outstanding debt as a portion of the yearly gross domestic product (GDP) was pegged at 67.8 percent. Comparing it with its immediate predecessor, the Estrada administration (1998 – 2000), the debt-to-GDP ratio was at 60.1 percent. Note that the GDP under Arroyo supposedly expanded by 4.8 percent per year and only 3.5 percent per year under deposed President Joseph Estrada.

For creditors, the higher the debt-to-GDP ratio, the higher the risk of default or inability to make future payments. But for the great majority of the people, it means that the economy, already hampered by structural issues of highly skewed distribution of wealth, would be further unable to provide opportunities for decent living.

Impact on the people

Current debt levels mean that each of the 92.23 million Filipinos is now practically in debt by around P54,093.46 to government’s creditors. And at the rate that government debt is growing since 2001, each Filipino would have a debt of about P56,965.97 by the end of 2010.

But the direct impact on the people of this huge debt can be measured by how much pressure it puts on public resources. The Arroyo administration has shelled out more than twice the amount it borrowed from creditors. From 2001 to 2009 (until November only), government has so far paid its creditors a total of P5.06 trillion for interest and principal payments.

It means that every second, the country is giving out P17,970.90 to pay for government debts. It also means that each Filipino has practically shelled out P54,832.39 to pay for such debts and yet still owes government’s creditors almost the same amount.

Every year since 2001, the amount of debt servicing has been equivalent to 42.7 percent of annual government expenditures and 67.4 percent of annual revenues. Stated more simply, it means that for every P10 that government spends more than P4 go to its creditors while out of every P10 it collects from the people’s taxes and other revenue measures, almost P7 are used to pay for its debt.

More money that go to debt servicing means less money that go to the people for social services. To compare, in 2008 (latest available data), debt servicing for interest and principal payments comprised 47.6 percent of total public expenditures. Education, culture, and manpower development accounted for only 14.5 percent; social security, welfare and employment, 5.5 percent; health, 1.2 percent; land distribution, 0.3 percent; housing and community development, 0.02 percent; and other social services, 0.1 percent. Even if we add the share of these social services together, they will still not comprise even half of public expenditures that went to debt servicing.

Note that the public expenditures for health, education, and housing cited above include spending for police and military schools, hospitals, and housing programs. Thus, actual spending that directly benefited the civilian poor are much smaller. Unfortunately, such data for the said period are not available.

Budget gap and debt trap

Government justifies its heavy borrowing by pointing to the budget deficit, or the gap between its revenues and expenditures. To bridge this gap, government is forced to borrow. And just how big is this gap? As of November 2009, the budget deficit is pegged at P272.52 billion – already an all-time high in absolute terms (and the December figures have not yet been accounted for). It is also P22.52 billion higher than what government anticipated for the whole 2009.

From January to November last year, total revenues was at P1.02 trillion but total expenditures was bigger at P1.29 trillion. To finance the deficit, government raised P541.02 billion through borrowing during the period, mostly through the foreign and domestic bond markets. But if government’s deficit is only P272.52 billion, why did it borrow almost twice the amount? Because portion of the borrowings will cover not only interest payments (which is 20.1 percent of the reported expenditures) but also for principal amortization, which reached P332.91 billion during the 11-month period. In other words, government borrows not only to bridge the deficit gap but to settle as well its old and existing debts.

This cycle goes on and on, worsening in every turn.

What must be done?

One way is to raise revenues. But it does not necessarily mean new (such as the text tax) and higher taxes as the Arroyo administration repeatedly claims. There are numerous ways to raise public resources without subjecting the people to additional burden – curb corruption and bureaucratic wastage, reverse trade and investment liberalization, improve tax collection efficiency, collect proper taxes from the biggest foreign and local corporations instead of giving over generous fiscal incentives, to name a few.

As pointed out in a previous article: “even without modifying our existing commitments with the World Trade Organization (WTO) and other free trade deals, the Philippines can hike tariffs across the board and raise billions of pesos in revenues. Note that due to continuing trade liberalization, total collections from tariffs on imported goods and services under Arroyo now only account for 2.8% of total revenues and gross domestic product (GDP), compared to around 4.5% for most of the 1990s. In the first half of 2009 alone, we are giving up almost P117 million in potential revenues per month due to lower duties.”

In fact, even onerous taxes such as the 12 percent value added tax (VAT) especially on oil, power, and other essential goods and services can be scrapped and still government can raise needed revenues.

But raising revenues in a pro-people way is just one aspect of the urgent fiscal reforms that we need today. Unless we plug the largest fiscal hole that is debt servicing, our resources will continue to be drained. Thus, all presidentiables must also outline how they intend to address the country’s debt crisis that has been raging on for almost three decades now.

More concretely, what do candidates intend to do with Executive Order (EO) 292 or the Administrative Code of 1987 that provides for automatic debt servicing at the expense of social services? What do they intend to do with odious debts or those debts incurred by past and present administrations that were tainted with corruption and anomalies ala-NBN-ZTE? Or those that only caused death and destruction of livelihood for marginalized communities such as the San Roque Dam?

These are some of the most pressing questions that those who want to steer government in the next six years (if Arroyo’s Charter change scheme will not push through) will have to answer now. ###

Tables

NG debt (in P billion)
Indicator 2000 2008 2009*
Outstanding 2,134.12 4,220.90 4,424.08
Contingent 514.69 545.58 564.96
Total 2,648.81 4,766.48 4,989.04
*As of October
Source: Bureau of the Treasury
NG debt servicing for interest & principal (in P million)
Year Total Interest Principal
2001 274,439 174,834 99,605
2002 357,959 185,861 172,098
2003 469,990 226,408 243,582
2004 601,672 260,901 340,771
2005 678,951 299,807 379,144
2006 854,374 310,108 544,266
2007 614,069 267,800 346,269
2008 612,682 272,218 340,464
2009* 593,055 260,147 332,908
Total 5,057,191 2,258,084 2,799,107
*Jan to Nov
Source: Bureau of the Treasury
Debt servicing vs social services expenditures (in P million), 2008
Indicator Amount % of total (w/ principal payments)
Total expenditure (social services + others) 1,015,597.59
Total expenditure with principal repayments 1,287,815.59 100%
Debt servicing (interest & principal) 612,682 47.6%
Education, culture, & manpower development 186,619.70 14.5%
Health 15,729.22 1.2%
Social security, welfare, & employment 70,307.56 5.5%
Housing & community development 274.42 0.02%
Land distribution 4,166.94 0.3%
Other social services 1,266.45 0.1%
Source: Bureau of the Treasury, BESF 2010
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2010 elections, Human rights

Mission accomplished? Arroyo lifts martial law

Photo from Reuters

Of course, the decision by Mrs. Gloria Arroyo to lift martial law in Maguindanao last night (Dec. 12, 9PM) after one week must be welcomed. But looking at the bigger picture, the people must also be alarmed. Why, what are the dangers?

The lifting of Proclamation 1959 preempted Congress and the Supreme Court (SC) from deciding on the legitimacy of martial law. As such, questions on its legality have remained unresolved. House Speaker Prospero Nograles and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile already said that they are adjourning the joint session on Proclamation 1959 on Monday, Dec. 14. As for the SC, it is hoped that it would still pursue the seven petitions versus martial law filed before it last week. The SC is supposed to determine whether or not Mrs. Arroyo abused her constitutional power to declare martial law.

As of this posting, however, there is still no official announcement from the SC. It only said its order for Malacañang to answer the petitions will stay. But the SC also added that the executive can manifest that martial law has been lifted (and thus the subject of the petitions no longer exists). If it decides to discontinue hearing the petitions, then we are in an even more precarious situation. Mrs. Arroyo can just impose martial law at whim, anywhere, using flimsy grounds like concocted rebellion. All she has to do is lift it before Congress and the SC can intervene. And then she can get away with murder.

With elections just around the corner, this is dangerous since military rule can be used to sabotage the polls. Imagine a scenario when martial law is declared on Election Day, or days before to lay the ground for fraud or election failure in certain areas. These unnerving possibilities are not farfetched especially with an incumbent President who will at all costs prolong her stay in power. The lifting of Proclamation 1959 did not ease fears of what Sen. Miriam Santiago called a “conspiracy” to expand martial law outside Maguindanao. We can thus expect more beheadings, hostage takings, clan wars, bombings, etc. in the months leading to the 2010 elections.

The other danger involves the cases facing the Ampatuans. Five members of the Ampatuan clan have already been charged with multiple counts of murder for the massacre. One of them is main suspect Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr. But other important members of the clan, including its patriarch Andal Sr. have been charged with rebellion instead. Pundits noted that the rebellion charge is actually an escape route for the Ampatuans. Because most of them were accused with a political crime (i.e. rebellion) and not a criminal case (i.e. murder), there is more room for compromises including pardon or even acquittal.

There is also a chance that evidence such as the caches of arms and ammo seized from the Ampatuans during martial law could be questioned in courts. Ampatuans’ lawyers may argue that such evidence was illegally seized under Proclamation 1959, whose legitimacy was not resolved. Thus, martial law was effectively used to dilute the case versus the warlord clan.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said they lifted martial law because it has already achieved its objectives. If these objectives are to make Proclamation 1959 a dry-run for future wider martial law and to weaken the criminal liability of the Ampatuans, then it is indeed mission accomplished for Malacañang.

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Human rights

Human Rights Day: 3 civilians killed weekly under brutal Gloria counterinsurgency, 2 people killed monthly by one Arroyo-backed warlord alone

Independent human rights group KARAPATAN Alliance for People’s Rights released Tuesday, Dec. 8 its 2009 report. The report was made public two days before the International Human Rights Day on Dec. 10. In their press release, the group described Arroyo’s counterinsurgency program –Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL) – as the “most brutal” in history. Since Arroyo became president in 2001, KARAPATAN has monitored a total of 1,118 victims of extrajudicial killings (EJK). That’s almost three civilians killed every week by suspected elements of the military and police.

Thus, even before the gruesome Ampatuan massacre last Nov. 23, political killings have been already happening on a massive scale. The alleged role of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in these killings is widely known. United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur Philip Alston, for instance, noted this in his report on the Philippines. But very few of these cases have been solved. High ranking AFP officials directly linked to the killings remain untouched. The most notorious among them – Gen. Jovito Palparan Jr. – even became a congressman. Civilian officials said to be behind the OBL also get promoted in the Arroyo bureaucracy. Former National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales is now Secretary of National Defense. This created a climate of impunity and reign of terror, and obviously emboldened warlords close to Malacañang like the Ampatuans.

That such reign of terror by state-backed warlords has long been happening is slowly being confirmed today. New witnesses now with the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) claim that the Ampatuans have killed at least 200 people in the last 10 years. That’s almost two people killed every month by one warlord alone. We could only imagine the number of helpless civilians killed by warlords all over the country. According to the AFP, there are at least 132 private armed groups linked to politicians nationwide. More than 10,000 men armed with powerful weapons that rival the military’s are enlisted in these groups.

These warlords and private armies are in fact extensions of the AFP and PNP under Mrs. Arroyo’s counterinsurgency plan. They have been armed and legitimized by Malacañang through Executive Order (EO) 546. This EO allowed local officials to convert their private armies into so-called Civilian Volunteer Organizations (CVOs). They are supposed to be “force multipliers” in the fight against insurgents. But the world has seen in Ampatuan, Maguindanao the real picture. These CVOs instead became bringers of death and terrorism in the name of their patron warlord.

But who is the biggest patron warlord? Who gave the Ampatuans the arsenal of more than a thousand pieces of firearms including mortars, sniper rifles, machine guns, and anti-tank equipment? Where did the Ampatuans get the almost half a million rounds of assorted ammo? They even had armored cars and vehicles marked as police cars. Gen. Palparan has a simple explanation for this. The arms and ammo – the ones used to slaughter 57 people, including 31 journalists – were “pasasalamat” from government. Palparan said it is because the Ampatuans have been fighting alongside the military against the Moro rebels. But we also know about that fateful phone conversation in 2004 between ex-COMELEC Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano and Mrs. Arroyo. Maguindanao will surely deliver the votes, Garci assured his anxious caller then.

Many sectors, including some journalist groups, have rightly pinned accountability on the Arroyo regime for the Ampatuan massacre. Justice is not realized even when all the Ampatuans are jailed and their private army dismantled. Justice means making Mrs. Arroyo liable and justice entails ousting her from power.

But we are being made to believe that justice is now swiftly being served, thanks to Proclamation 1959. Placing Maguindanao under martial law however has raised legal and constitutional issues. Various petitions are now filed before the Supreme Court. Congress as of this posting has also begun deliberating whether or not to revoke Proclamation 1959.

For human rights, Proclamation 1959 sends a chilling message. Since 2001, the extrajudicial killings, abduction, torture, etc. have been happening without martial law. With the atrocious human rights record of the regime, the terror sowed by Proclamation 1959 is not unfounded. But it is only in Maguindanao and it is only for 60 days, some may argue. But if Mrs. Arroyo can declare it in Maguindanao for dubious reasons, she can declare it anywhere, indefinitely. She has the motive (to stay in power beyond 2010) and she has the track record. The worsening economic decay and dwindling wealth to plunder make her even more desperate to cling to power.

The intention of political repression, warlordism, and martial law is to silence dissent. The only way to fight back and defend our human rights is to refuse to be silenced.

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2010 elections, Human rights

Martial Law: Today Maguindanao, tomorrow the Philippines?

(Below is the full text of Mrs. Gloria Arroyo’s Proclamation No. 1959 placing the province of Maguindanao under Martial Law.)

Proclamation 1959: Proclaiming a State of Martial Law and suspending the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in the province of Maguindanao except for certain areas.

Whereas, Proclamation No. 1946 was issued on 24 November 2009 declaring a state of emergency in the provinces of Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat and the City of Cotabato for the purpose of preventing and suppressing lawless violence in the aforesaid areas.

Whereas, Sec. 18 Art. VII of the Constitution provides that “in case of invasion or rebellion, when public safety requires it, the President may, for a period not exceeding 60 days, suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus or place the Philippines or any part thereof under martial law.”

Whereas, Republic Act 6986 provides that “the crime of rebellion or insurrection is committed by rising publicly and taking arms against the government for the purpose of depriving the Chief Executive or the Legislature, wholly or partially, of any of their powers or prerogatives.”

Whereas, heavily armed groups in the province of Maguindanao have established positions to resist government troops thereby depriving the Executive of its powers and prerogatives to enforce the laws of the land to maintain public order and safety.

Whereas, the condition of peace and order in the province of Maguindanao has deteriorated to the extent that local judicial system and other government mechanisms in the province are not functioning; thus, endangering public safety.

Whereas, the implementing operational guidelines of the GRP-MILF agreement on the General Cessation of Hostilities dated 14 Nov. 1997 provides that the following is considered a prohibited hostile act: “establishment of checkpoints except those necessary for the GRP’s enforcement and maintenance of peace and order and for the defense and security of the MILF in their identified areas as jointly determined by GRP and MILF.”

Now, therefore I, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, President of the Republic of the Philippines, by virtue of the powers vested in me by the Constitution and by law, do hereby proclaim as follows:

Sec. 1: There is hereby declared a state of martial law in the province of Maguindanao except for the identified areas of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front as referred to in the implementing operational guidelines of the GRP-MILF agreement on the General Cessation of Hostilities.

Sec. 2: The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall likewise be suspended in the aforesaid area for the duration of the state of martial law.

Done in the City of Manila this 4th day of December in the Year of Our Lord, Two Thousand and Nine.

(Originally Signed)

Gloria M. Arroyo

By the President:

(Originally Signed)

Eduardo Ermita

Executive Secretary

Watch the press conference called by Exec. Sec. Eduardo Ermita on Proclamation 1959

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2010 elections, Charter change

Arroyo running: “Gloria Forever” scheme now in the open

Photo from Reuters

Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo today confirmed what the public knew all along, that she is not giving up power next year and will seek a congressional seat in Pampanga’s second district. Their game plan is to use Congress only as a route toward clinching the position of Prime Minister in a parliamentary form of government that shall be created through Charter change (Cha-cha).

If this sinister scheme will push through as planned, it will indeed be “Gloria Forever” as repeatedly warned in the past by critics and political observers. This move by Arroyo and her political operators is a travesty of democracy in the highest order. Nothing in existing laws of course prevents Mrs. Arroyo from running as congresswoman. But for many people including even legal experts, the issue is no longer simply about what the law allows but what decency and delicadeza dictate – which today Mrs. Arroyo has again made clear are virtues beyond her comprehension.

Mrs. Arroyo will not give up power and will do everything she can, at all costs, to use government in order to avoid accountability for the very long list of crimes she has committed against the Filipino people since 2001. Her administration has earned the notoriety as the most vicious, most brutal regime in terms of repressing the people’s basic human rights and has done this even without formally declaring Martial Law like Ferdinand Marcos. Almost 1,110 people have already been killed by her terrorist regime aside from almost 200 people who have been abducted by suspected military, paramilitary and police elements and remain missing to this day.

This climate of impunity emboldened her allied warlord clans like the Ampatuans to massacre people as they please, knowing that they can get away with it because their patron is the biggest warlord at the helm of Malacañang.

Her regime challenges the Marcos dictatorship not only in terms of human rights violations but also in terms of massive corruption. The Philippines has consistently ranked among the most corrupt countries in the world. Mrs. Arroyo’s personal declared wealth has jumped by 164% since becoming president in 2001 (from P66.75 million to P177.18 million) and certainly this is just the very small tip of a very large iceberg. By the way, the number of poor families during the same period increased by 2.3 million or an additional 11.5 million poor people as Arroyo, her family, her cronies and allies enrich themselves.

That Mrs. Arroyo declared her intention to run at a time when the public is deeply outraged by the Ampatuan massacre and her lack of swift action against a favored warlord is only but a fitting move for a regime so absolutely detested, so totally isolated from the people.

Sige lang at gatungan pa ninyo ang galit ng taumbayan. May araw din kayo.

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Human rights

Ampatuan massacre: we mourn, we rage

Today (Nov. 26), said Mrs. Arroyo, is a national day of mourning for at least 57 people – including women, human rights lawyers, and members of media – brutally massacred in a town called Ampatuan in Maguindanao province.

Indeed, we should mourn. Not only for those killed in the mass slaughter of unarmed civilians that is unprecedented in the world’s recent history, at a time when democracy supposedly reigns, in a country that prides itself as a beacon of democracy.

We should mourn the death of the rule of law and justice, the demise of decency and accountability in government that Malacañang has repeatedly and blatantly massacred with impunity.

We should mourn the decay of our society where the police and military could not touch mass murdering warlords because their Commander-in-Chief has political debts to pay, including electoral victories clinched through fraud and terrorism waged by mass murdering warlords.

We should indeed mourn when the police and military, without fear of retribution, kill, massacre, torture, abduct activists, lawyers, teachers, farmers, workers, priests, bishops, local government officials, government employees, women, children, students, human rights defenders, environmentalists, and anyone that the presidential mafia tags as its enemy.

We should indeed mourn when the butchers who carry out these killings are promoted as generals and become makers of laws in a country where the law only applies to those without power, to the poor and oppressed, to those not in the mafia’s good graces.

We mourn, and we rage.

We rage.

We rage against the impunity, the human rights atrocities, the cover-up, the fraud, the political patronage, the corruption, the injustice.

We rage until we get justice for those killed by the Arroyo regime, and the Palparans, and the Ampatuans.

We rage.

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