Secretary Butch Abad must go! Full accounting of the funds must be made – promptly! Those who misused DAP must be punished! THERE is still a consolation to the half-baked ruling of the Supreme Court, which, while specifying that certain “acts and ...
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Secretary Butch Abad must go!
Full accounting of the funds must be made – promptly!
Those who misused DAP must be punished!
THERE is still a consolation to the half-baked ruling of the Supreme Court, which, while specifying that certain “acts and practices under the DAP” are unconstitutional, does not categorically declare the entire Disbursement Acceleration Program as, well, unconstitutional. A leading newspaper correctly editorialized that the decision “merely strikes down certain ‘acts and practices under the DAP’ … (but) not the DAP itself … (although) those ‘acts and practices’ … form the very core of the DAP!” Anyway, this supposedly economic stimulus program has at least been formally categorized as an illegal presidential pork barrel similar to its congressional counterpart, the much despised PDAF or Priority Development Assistance Fund that was bilked by Janet Lim-Napoles and her cohorts.

Hence, the ruling has removed the DAP’s “legal” justification, forcing the government to prove beyond doubt that the funds were indeed used to “fast-track” the economy or have bankrolled projects that really benefited the masses. The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) later clarified that P114.57 billion was used in 2011 and 2012 from the P136.75 billion available DAP funds. Malacañang also later professed that it “spent properly” 91 percent of the DAP funds, but admitted that it “could not vouch for the remaining 9 percent” or about P12.8 billion that it “allocated for projects identified” by senators and congressmen. Incidentally, any of these amounts given within two years only would make the P10 billion looted by Napoles, et al. over the span of 10 years looked like peanuts.

In this regard, as pointed out by a research think tank, the problem with the DAP lies not only on its legality but also on its propriety. It is very plausible that both the executive and legislative DAP funds were used for “patronage purposes” or bestowed by Malacañang to curry favor with the legislators. Indeed, it is even “economically irrational … (as) the supposed stimulus effect is only a cover for various self-serving political agendas.” For instance, there must be something fishy about issuing multibillion-peso DAP funds to members of Congress at the height of the impeachment trial of then Chief Justice Renato Corona, a nemesis of President Aquino. Although Corona deserves to be ousted from office, using public funds to ensure this objective is patently wrong.

In reality, little was known about the DAP until Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, in his privilege speech last September, disclosed that senators who voted to impeach Corona each received P50 million “incentive” of “additional PDAF” from the DBM. It was only then that Florencio Abad, DBM secretary, finally identified the funds as the DAP, not PDAF, while denying that these were a form of “bribe.” Interestingly, the DAP was launched through a DBM memo – based on National Budget Circular (NBC) No. 541 – approved by Aquino on October 12, 2011, which authorized the initial release of P72.110 billion, parts of which were intended for “fund requests” of legislators starting November 2011 – or during the time when the Aquino camp was intensely gathering support for the Corona impeachment. The next DAP memo allowing the release of P13.379 billion for “additional projects” was issued on December 21, 2011 – or 10 days after 188 congressmen had impeached Corona. Another DAP memo approving projects worth P32 billion, including P8.3 billion for “various local projects,” was released on June 27, 2012 – or about a month after the impeachment trial, when 20 senators voted to convict Corona. In particular, there are allegations that a total of P6.5 billion DAP funds were used “before, during and after” the said impeachment trial – as much as P5 billion went to the House of Representatives, and P1.5 billion to the Senate.

Likewise, coinciding with the May 2013 midterm elections, at least three multibillion-peso DAP releases were approved, as shown in the DBM memorandums on September 5, 2012, December 21, 2012 and “sometime” in May 2013.

At first, the Supreme Court ruling was seemingly silent on whether those unconstitutional “acts and practices” – withdrawal of unobligated allotments from implementing agencies in the middle of the fiscal year and redeployment of funds already allocated by Congress in the annual national budget or the General Appropriations Act – are punishable posthaste or will only become a crime after the release of the said high court’s decision. This worried the citizenry that the apparently principal “offenders” – led by Abad, who cunningly crafted these enormous presidential discretionary funds that allegedly reached close to P353 billion from state savings and unprogrammed funds from 2011, when the DAP was started, to 2012; and Aquino himself, who knowingly approved these very potent coffers – might go scot-free.

Of course, Aquino, as a President, has immunity from suit while in office; him renouncing it is highly improbable. He also rejected Abad’s purported resignation the other week, which was not irrevocable and already belated. As a portent of things to come, Aquino apologists are floating the idea that his government should invoke the “doctrine of operative fact” or it should not be held liable for implementing a program thought to be legitimate – or done in good faith? – but only later found out by the court as unlawful.

Yet even the individual justices’ concurring opinions somehow provided “hints” to the government on how to redeem themselves: That while Aquino “castrated” or “usurped” Congress’s power of the purse, the “noble end” of DAP was recognized, which led the high court to specifically cite the doctrine of operative fact in allowing “noble” DAP projects to stay or could no longer be undone; and that while “(T)he doctrine of operative fact … cannot apply to the authors, proponents and implementors of the DAP,” an exception may be allowed if “there are concrete findings of good faith” among them.

Getting this cue, the Aquino camp will therefore insist and highlight the “noble end” of the DAP and its implementation “in good faith.” Thus, one of Aquino’s mouthpieces brazenly stated that no apology is needed over the DAP fiasco because the so-called economic stimulus program was crafted in “good faith.” This evasive pretext must be vigorously questioned by the Filipino people so that truth and justice will prevail.

Interestingly, again, Aquino cannot claim ignorance of the law or of not knowing that DAP is illegal and prone to misuse and abuse. On March 4, 2009, when Aquino was still a senator, he filed Senate Bill No. 3121 or “The Budget Impoundment Control Act,” which sought to limit the power of the President in impounding or refusing the release of funds already appropriated by Congress. This anti-pork bill supposedly aimed to stop the misuse and abuse of the President’s discretionary funds, which was rampant during the regime of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Aquino’s arch foe. This bill was later consolidated with other similar Senate bills and apparently was not passed. Clearly, SB 3121 of then Senator Noynoy Aquino and the DAP of now President Noynoy Aquino are poles apart and utterly contradictory.

In the same vein, Abad, with a topnotch educational background, a lawyer, and a congressman for about 11 years, including chairing the House Appropriations Committee, which handles budget and budget-related legislations, should know full well both the legal foundations and the workings of state funds. This prompted one Supreme Court justice to comment that Abad “may have knowingly” created the unconstitutional DAP.

Almost two weeks after releasing the 92-page decision on July 1, the Supreme Court announced – finally, but with a “twist” – that heads will roll in the DAP anomaly but did not say who exactly will be held liable. A similar half-baked ruling was also issued for the PDAF scam case. The high court said that it will just provide “guidance on how to determine accountability.”

We cannot have the political situation exacerbated further by the intransigence of the President’s apologists and other political interests exploiting the opportunity to destabilize the country’s political institutions. At this stage, Secretary Abad has to resign irrevocably, if only to facilitate an orderly transition into an impartial investigation and accounting by government institutions. We therefore call on social movements, civil society organizations and other vigilant groups to initiate a Citizens’ Audit and investigate where the DAP funds actually went. The Office of the Ombudsman and the Commission on Audit (COA) should work with the Citizens’ Audit to ensure that there is afull and scrupulous audit, – meaning, examining complete and unadulterated list of DAP projects as well as identifying the specific persons (senators, congressmen, etc.) who received the funds.

This is no longer just about the intentions of individual people. This is about where our taxes really go – and who should truly enjoy them.

Therefore, the Filipino people, including the trade unions, must demand full disclosure of the DAP allocations, whether released to the executive branch or to congressmen and senators or local governments. Either a joint or separate but complementary auditing and investigation of DAP funds and system must be conducted by the COA, Office of the Ombudsman, and an independent body composed of civil society. This must be done judiciously and without delay. All culprits, even top government officials, must be tried – promptly. The trade unions and other mass organizations and the public must intently and consistently guard the entire process of auditing, investigation and trial to ensure that the DAP and similar pork barrels will be abolished, and the guilty will truly be punished.


Transport union asks SC to junk ‘excessive, illegal’ JAO 2014-01

STEPPING UP the widespread opposition of various transport organizations to the Joint Administrative Order (JAO) No. 2014-01, members and supporters of the National Confederation of Transportworkers’ Unions (NCTU-APL) picketed today the Supreme Court and filed another petition to nullify the said order for being unauthorized, unreasonable and unconstitutional.

The NCTU complaint described JAO 2014-01 as “ultra vires” or beyond the legal capacity of the government agencies that created it because they do not have even “quasi-legislative power to revise fines and penalties.”
It added that the said ordinance is “unreasonable” for its “extortionate” or excessive fines, and also “unconstitutional” for usurping the legislative powers of Congress.

“In short, JAO 2014-01 is illegal, unjust and a form of ‘legal extortion’,” Ernesto Cruz, national chairperson of NCTU, said.

The JAO 2014-01, which substantially increased “fines and penalties for violations of laws, rules and regulations governing land transportation,” was jointly crafted by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) and the Land Transportation Office (LTO) and later approved by their mother agency, the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC).

Issued last June 4 by the DOTC, the JAO 2014-01 supposedly aims to instill discipline especially among drivers of public utility vehicles (PUVs), prevent road accidents, ease the perennial traffic jams, clamp down on unregistered or “colorum” vehicles, among others.

Romeo Macailao, NCTU secretary general, reiterated that transport workers and union members support road courtesy and safety, concern for the commuters as well as pedestrians, and other programs and policies for the well-being of the riding public.

“We do not condone abusive and unscrupulous drivers and other transport workers, and we also want better and safer transport services, but the government should not use JAO 2014-01 at the expense of the lowly transport workers and small-time operators,” Macailao stressed.

The labor center Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO) to which NCTU and APL is affiliated commented that higher fines will not force “discipline” but will in fact “encourage further corruption” as “added penalties mean added kotong or bribes” particularly to traffic enforcers, whether staff of certain LGUs (local government units) or staff of the nationwide task force composed of LTFRB and LTO enforcers.

The DTOC-LTFRB-LTO JAO took effect last June 19 after the Supreme Court failed to grant a temporary restraining order (TRO) filed against it by several transport groups last June 10, when the high court merely ordered the three agencies “to comment within 10 days from notice (of the complaint).”

Short of a general strike, a “transport holiday” was also held by different transport groups last June 19 in protest of JAO 2014-01. Thousands of commuters were stranded.

Under the JAO colorum bus operators will be fined P1 million; truck and van operators, P200,000; sedan operators, P120,000; jeepney owners, P50,000; and motorcycle operators, P6,000. It likewise covers “other PUV-related violations like refusal to convey passengers to their destination; overcharging; employing reckless, insolent, discourteous or arrogant drivers; operating PUVs with defective parts; using tampered taximeters; and trip cutting. Each violation has corresponding fines and penalties as specified in the order.”

The JAO specifies that LTFRB will create a nationwide task force composed of LTFRB and LTO enforcers who are the only ones authorized to apprehend violators of said offenses, thus excluding any other LGU traffic personnel or even enforcers of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA).

NCTU-APL-SENTRO is also a member of the global union International Federation of Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF).


The WTO pushes through bad deal in the final hours; Developed countries and TNCs are the big winners

The 9th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO) pushed through a Bali Package in the final hours, extending the Conference to December 7, but at the cost of the developing countries, the poor and the hungry.

Facilitating Trade for TNCs

Hailed as a victory by the WTO for unlocking the deadlocked negotiations, the Bali Package delivers a legally binding agreement on Trade Facilitation that is costly to developing countries and ensures easier access and profits for Transnational Corporations (TNCs). Trade Facilitation, or the easing of customs procedures and borders, clearly benefits only the big TNCs that already control exports and imports. As the 2013 World Trade Report data shows, “80% of US exports are handled by 1% of large exporters, 85% of European exports are in the hands of 10% of big exporters and 81% of exports are concentrated in the top 5 largest exporting firms in developing countries.”

Added to this, is the hypocrisy that this Trade Facilitation deal will open borders in all Member countries except Cuba, as it does not effectively cancel the 60-year long US blockade against Cuba. The reference to the non-discrimination principle of Article V of the GATT 1994 remains pure rhetoric as it is stated in the Declaration and not in the text of the Trade Facilitation Agreement.

Peace Clause that jeopardizes the Right to Food

In exchange for the costly, legally binding agreement on Trade Facilitation, developing countries received nothing.
– There is a very bad peace clause that violates the right to food and jeopardizes the right to food sovereignty as it places numerous restrictions on the ability of developing countries to give support to their small farmers and poor constituents.
– The peace clause only applies to existing public stockholding for food security programs that exceed the Aggregate Measurement of Support (AMS) or de minimis, as of the date of the decision, effectively meaning that only India can apply it and that no future food security programs of developing countries will be allowed.
– There is a promise of a permanent solution but subject to future negotiations during the next 4 years. What that permanent solution will be is an uncertainty.
– Most importantly, developing countries will have to accept their guilt in violating WTO rules before they can apply the peace clause

Finally, this peace clause is nonsense simply because no country should have to beg for the right to guarantee the right to food. Food and agriculture should never have been included in the WTO in the first place.

Old, Unfulfilled and Failed Promises

The issue of Export Subsidies remains a promise. It was already promised in the Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration that all export subsidies will be eliminated by 2013. Today, in the Bali Package, there is again only a rhetorical promise that “export competition remains a priority issue for the post-Bali work programme.”

In Cotton, a long-standing demand of African countries, also a promise in the Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration that never got implemented. Today, in the Bali Package the promise is to have “dedicated discussions” post-Bali.

The Bali Package has a Least Developed Countries (LDC) Package but with nothing substantial or meaningful. The special and differential treatment and monitoring mechanism are old unfulfilled promises that remain a declaration today.

In summary, the Bali Package delivers a legally binding text on Trade Facilitation, a very bad peace clause on food security that jeopardizes our right to food sovereignty, empty declarations and promises on long-standing developing country demands on export subsidies, cotton and the LDC issues.

We call for an End to the WTO; We demand Economic Justice

The WTO has once again shown that it is an organization for the developed countries and the TNCs, pushing free trade rules that only benefit the rich and concentrate even more wealth in the hands of a few. It has not and never will deliver development for the people.

The WTO is a failed and delegitimized institution that is desperately trying to revive itself with a Bali Package at the high cost of food sovereignty, livelihoods, jobs, and the future of the people.

We reiterate our call for an End to the WTO and the tyranny of the free trade regime. We redouble our efforts in fighting the system and pushing for the peoples’ alternatives. We will continue our struggle to achieve a world without the WTO and free trade agreements and in its place have an Economy for Life.

Members of Gerak Lawan: (Gerakan Rakyat Lawan Neokolonialisme-Imperialisme)
Indonesia for Global Justice (IGJ) – Bina Desa – Serikat Petani Indonesia (SPI) – Solidaritas Perempuan (SP) – Aliansi Petani Indonesia (API) – Indonesian Human Right Committee for Social Justice (IHCS) – Komisi untuk Orang Hilang dan Korban Kekerasan (KONTRAS) – Climate Society Forum (CSF) – Koalisi Anti Utang (KAU) – Koalisi Rakyat untuk Keadilan Perikanan (KIARA) – Institut Hijau Indonesia (IHI) – Lingkar Madani untuk Indonesia (LIMA) – Jaringan Advokasi Tambang (JATAM) – Aliansi Jurnalis Independen (AJI Jakarta) – Front Perjuangan Pemuda Indonesia (FPPI) – Lingkar Studi-Aksi untuk Demokrasi Indonesia (LS-ADI) – Serikat Nelayan Indonesia (SNI) – Kesatuan Nelayan Tradisional Indonesia (KNTI) – Serikat Buruh Indonesia (SBI) – Asosiasi Pendamping Perempuan Usaha Kecil (ASPPUK) – Perhimpunan Bantuan Hukum dan Hak Asasi Manusia Indonesia (PBHI) – Universitas Al-Azhar Indonesia (Dosen Hubungan Internasional) – Asosiasi Ekonomi-Politik Indonesia (AEPI) – Koalisi Rakyat untuk Hak Atas Air (KRuHA) – Aliansi Pemuda Pekerja Indonesia (APPI) – Migrant Care

Convenors of Social Movements for an Alternative Asia:
Alliance of Progressive Labor, Philippines, All Nepal’s Peasants’ Federation, Assembly of the Poor, Thailand, ATTAC Japan, Bangladesh Krishok Federation, Bangladesh Kishani Sabha, Bhartiya Kisan Union, India, Coalition Against Trafficking of Women (CATW-AP), Focus on the Global South, FTA Watch Thailand, Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU), Indonesia for Global Justice, Indonesian Political Economy Association (AEPI), Koalisi Anti Utang (KAU), Indonesia, Jubilee South-Asia Pacific Movement on Debt and Development, Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha, Karnataka, India, Kerela Coconut Farmers Association, Kerela, India, Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), La Via Campesina, Migrant Forum in Asia, MONLAR, Sri Lanka, Northern Peasants Federation, Thailand, NOUMINREN, Japan, Peoples Coalition for the Right to Water, Indonesia (KRuHA), Serikat Petani Indonesia (SPI), South Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements (SICCFM), World March of Women-Philippines

FairWatch Italy, ATTAC France, SENTRO-Philippines, Ecologistas en Accion, Spain, World Development Movement, Transnational Institute, Polaris Institute, Freedom from Debt Coalition Philippines, People’s Action for Change Cambodia, War on Want, Alternative Development Information Centre South Africa, Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, Popular Resistance, Sumpay Mindanao, Kilusang Maralita sa Kanayunan (KILOS KA), Migrants Rights International


Killing people, killing the planet — WTO found guilty by peoples’ court


Bali, Indonesia – To the chant of “guilty, guilty, guilty!”, a “peoples’ tribunal” indicted the World Trade Organization yesterday for the “systematic violation of human rights, massive destruction of livelihoods and the environment, privatization and commodification of the commons and the violation of international law”.

The court specifically held to account and answer for widespread damages, private entities that Freeport Indonesia Ltd., PAM Lyonnais Jaya Ltd. and Aetra Air Jakarta Ltd., the Japan Bank for International Cooperation, Donggi Senoro Liquid Natural Gas Ltd., Lafarge Cement Indonesia Ltd., Charoen Pokphand Indonesia Tbk., the mayor of Samarinda – Kalimantan, and corporations of coal and pesticides in Brebes, Central Java . It also decried “corporate impunity”, such that justice cannot be accessed in the current judicial system by grassroots people.

Earlier, farmers, fisherfolk, workers, women, migrants, indigenous peoples and other sectors gave testimonies and implicated the WTO in various issues such as land grabbing, loss of livelihoods, environmental damage and climate change, and commodifying people and nature.

“These testimonies clearly show that the WTO and the global trading system, including FTAs and other related policies are part of the root causes of the violations and corporate crimes….On the other hand, this system has generated maximum profits for corporations and elites and has failed to provide for peoples’ need,” the court declared in its
Indictment. It also pointed out that grassroots people

“These testimonies are clear expressions of peoples’ and communities’ continuing search for justice as the crimes of the WTO and the global trading system, the corporations and complicit governments go unpunished,” the court declared.

Elizabeth Mpfonu of La Via Campesina led the panel of justices composed of Lidy Nacpil of Jubilee South Asia Pacific Movement on Debt and Development, Nandini Gawadhia of KRRS, Brid Brennan of the Transnational Institute, and Henry Saragih of Serikat Petani Indonesia.

The “Global Peoples’ Tribunal on WTO, Free Trade Agreements, Investments and Transnational Corporations” forms part of the week-long activities of Gerak Lawan (alliance of Indonesian Peoples Movements against Neocolonialism and Imperialism) and Social Movements for an Alternative Asia (SMAA), a newly formed coordination of Asian social movements.


Filipino solidarity activists call for inclusion of genuine peace and democratization in Burma in PH-MYA bilateral talks

Manila, Philippines – One hundred (100) solidarity activists belonging to the Free Burma Coalition – Philippines (FBCP) today held a symbolic action in front of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to press for Burmese people’s demands in the second day of Burmese President Thein Sein’s visit to the Philippines. An open letter addressed to President Thein Sein and President Benigno Aquino III was handed over to the representatives of the DFA, to urge the two ASEAN leaders to include in their ongoing bilateral agenda the urgent need to uphold and advance Burma’s (Myanmar) transition to real peace and democracy now.

“The bond between the peoples of the Philippines and Burma (Myanmar) is anchored on parallel histories of oppression under and of collective resistance against colonial powers and repressive military dictatorships,” Rasti Delizo of FBC-P and SANLAKAS said. “It is in our common yearning for genuine peace and freedom that we, along with the peoples of our countries find solidarity. It is also in this context that we call on President Thein Sein to take decisive steps towards achieving genuine peace and democracy in Burma (Myanmar).”

Peace in the ASEAN Region

The state visit is President Thein Sein’s first to the Philippines since his assumption to office in 2011. The two leaders will meet to discuss issues of mutual concern, particularly in the areas of trade and investment, as well as regional issues, including Myanmar’s historic chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 2014.

“While both countries tread the path of transformation, genuine peace is yet to be achieved. In the Philippines, while we have made notable feats in resolving armed conflict in the Bangsamoro, the burgeoning and deepening social inequalities remain to be insufficiently responded to. In Burma (Myanmar), while there are new spaces and opportunities for engagement, human rights and labor rights violations as well as injustices against ethnic peoples still persist and continue to worsen. These prevailing injustices frustrate the attainment of all-encompassing and sustainable peace in the ASEAN region,” explained Yuen Abana of Partido ng Manggagawa (PM), also a member of the FBC-P.

Open Letter

In the Open Letter addressed to Presidents Thein Sein and Benigno Aquino III, FBC-P called on the Burmese government to:

  • Immediately release all political prisoners, abolish all repressive laws and formally recognize the peoples’ fundamental human rights in Burma’s (Myanmar) Constitution;
  • Speed up the political dialogue and the peace processes between the Burmese government and the ethnic armed groups based on the comprehensive and inclusive framework for peace and the ethnic peoples’ right to self-determination; completely stop the continuing military offensives against ethnic communities of the Kachin and Shan peoples; and uphold the peoples’ right to freedom of religion, especially of the Rohingya people;
  • Guarantee women’s and civil society participation in all decision-making and political processes; and,
  • Ensure transparency, accountability, the protection of the environment, and “free, prior and informed consent” processes for all economic investments, especially those in the extractive industries and essential services.

Philippine-Burma relations

FBC-P called on President Aquino to urge President Thein Sein to heed his peoples’ calls, and to lead the strengthening of the relations of the Philippines and Burma (Myanmar) on the basis of supporting the true struggles of the peoples in Burma, one anchored on justice, democratization and the protection of human rights of all peoples.

“It is our hope that as the peoples of our two countries, Burma (Myanmar) and the Philippines, finds solidarity in their similar past; that our leaders also galvanize the relations of our peoples in this common vision of enduring peace and democracy,” Jun Santos of Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL), also part of FBC-P, concluded.

The Philippines and Myanmar first established diplomatic relations in 1956 and will celebrate the 60th anniversary of their relations in 2016.

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