Youth and Student Unified Statement vs. Pork Barrel and Corruption

ImageFilipino Youth Overseas Demand an End to Government Corruption in the Philippines

We, Filipino youth and students overseas, stand with our sisters and brothers in the Philippines who are taking to the streets in the “Million People March vs. Pork Barrel”.

We join the call to abolish the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and the presidential Special Purpose Fund (SPF). For too long, these discretionary funds have been used to fatten the pockets of corrupt politicians at the expense of our people’s welfare.

We demand that the Philippine government prioritize funding our people’s needs and not their own luxurious lifestyles. In the upcoming 2014 National Budget, the Aquino administration is set to allocate P1.2 trillion ($28.2 billion) for the president’s SPF and P25 billion ($565 million) for congress and senate’s PDAF. Despite his “Tuwid na Daan” (“Righteous Path”) rhetoric, the amount of pork barrel fund has actually doubled during Aquino’s administration and government corruption has only worsened. We demand the immediate rechanneling of all these funds directly to vital social services that our poorest sisters and brothers need, such as public education, health, housing, protection and welfare for overseas Filipino workers and even flood control.

We also call for the immediate, independent, and thorough investigation and prosecution of all parties involved in the misuse of the people’s money. The Pork Barrel must be emptied and the stench of all corrupt politicians and public officials must be aired out. Investigation and trial must be led by independent entities and not the politicians in senate and congress themselves. This process must be made public and televised. We want justice and accountability.

We recognize that this is bigger than Janet Lim-Napoles and the corrupt politicians involved in the current Pork Barrel Scam. This is about a system that breeds corruption and serves the interests of the wealthiest few while neglecting the poor majority of our people. We understand that it is exactly this type of corruption that is one of the main root of the ongoing economic crisis in our homeland, which forces millions of migrants like our parents to search for livelihood in other countries.

That is why, though we are thousands of miles away from our motherland, we are one with the people in fighting against systemic corruption in the Philippines. August 26th is only the beginning. No damage control nor deception by Aquino’s public relations team can stop the growing tide of people’s anger. The entire corrupt system must be changed in order for future generations to live in a society that is truly just and free.

ABOLISH ALL PORK BARREL FUNDS NOW!

RE-CHANNEL FUNDS TO SOCIAL SERVICES!

INVESTIGATE AND PROSECUTE ALL INVOLVED IN CORRUPTION!

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To be a signatory now, click here.

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Toronto Filipino youth to Aquino: act now on Lumad exodus and LEP

Toronto Filipino progressive youth group Anakbayan-Toronto decry the spate of forced displacement of about a thousand residents of Barangay Kauswagan, Municipality of Loreto in the southern Philippines. The native people called generally by the term Lumad, sought help from the Agusan del Sur provincial government and now from the Davao City local government.

Kilab bakwet3

Villagers have denounced the intensified presence of Bagani paramilitary troops of 26th Infantry Battalion of the Armed Forces of the Philippines that started on July 27. According to the village folk, the soldiers have been hunting down members of the New People’s Army (NPA) and have illegally captured and tortured four young individuals, namely Allan, 16 years old; Rico, 18; Roland, 19, and Jay-R, 17. They were allegedly the same troops who forced some residents to sign a blank document on behalf of a company who wants to establish a biogas plantation in the area.

Community-based Kahugpungan Alang sa Kalambuan (Kasaka) spokesperson Marilyn Egdames said the deployment of military personnel in the villages is “a smokescreen for government collusion with corporate interests in mineral resources, natural gas, jatropha, and palm oil – all of which Loreto is rich in.”

She also said that since 2012, Seng Hong Exploration has signed a contract with the Philippine government to explore Loreto, which is a part of the Agusan Marsh claimed to have rich natural gas deposits. The mainland Chinese oil company has been conducting geological and geophysical studies, including drilling of three exploratory wells in a portion of 750,000 hectares straddling the Davao Agusan basin.  Since 2003, the energy department has embarked on an aggressive promotion of oil and gas exploration in the country. Even as contracts with foreign companies wanting to explore potential oil sites in the country are being eyed.

Under the Petroleum Act, the government will earn some 60 % in royalty of whatever oil or natural gas will be drilled by oil companies from the site. While the petroleum sector is deregulated and liberalized, the pump pricing increase thus government officials looking for its most affordable alternative will continue to attract foreign companies to tap into the country’s oil and natural gas reserves.

With this in mind, the government ensures these projects be not derailed to boost oil production.

Massive military counterinsurgency operations are caused by these mining interests to which local people are demanding be withdrawn from their ancestral lands. According to Davao-based alternative online publication Kilab Multimedia, food blockades, harassment, arbitrary detention and other forms of human rights violations were experienced by the people not just in Barangay Kauswagan but also in Municipality of Patin-ay, Prosperidad, Agusan Del Sur. According to a statement by Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KAMP) “half of this number are women, and there are 300 children among the thousand bakwit (evacuees.) Violence brought on by Aquino’s Oplan Bayanihan is a scourge to the lives and rights of our women and children.”

Kilab bakwet4

Militarization,  has been one of the main factors why there are numerous forced evacuations or bakwet occurring in Philippine rural areas. Dots can can easily be connected to draw the big picture on the phenomenon of migration of Filipinos, who are trying to provide a better life for their families, internally to informal settlements in urban core areas or abroad to countries like Canada.

Moreover, Canadian mining corporations remain to be one of the top investors in this sector in the Philippines. Extractive operations, for example, by Toronto Ventures, Inc in Bayug, Zamboanga del Sur, caused forced displacement of Subanons from the area. By far it is the first mining company doing such, which claimed the life of Jordan Manda, 11, on September 4, 2012 while his father outspoken tribal leader Timuay Manda was dropping him to school. Over a score more of indigenous Lumads have been slain from the beginning of the Aquino’s term in June 2010 until the present for resisting the land grabbing and destruction of their ancestral lands.

While national minorities are being neglected, the government has not answered the call for a genuine reform. Since July of this year, the progressive bloc in the House of Representatives is seeking the repeal of Republic Act (RA) 8479, otherwise known as The Downstream Oil Industry Deregulation Law of 1998, which oil firms have used as license to impose almost weekly oil price adjustments.

Labour export policy has continued further to be the major factor in the shift to global migration of Filipinos from the dictatorship Ferdinand Marcos to the current Aquino regime.

Kilab bakwet2

Anakbayan-Toronto denounces Oplan Bayanihan and calls for the immediate pull-out of all military units in ancestral territories.

We continue to call for ending the Labour Export Policy! Struggle for National Industrialization!

Photo credit: Kilab Multimedia

Contact Reference: Rhea A. Gamana at anakbayan.toronto@gmail.com or 647.281.0652

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Open Letter to the Aldovino Family

To the Aldovino Family,

We would like to extend our sincerest condolences on the loss of your family.

Edna Aldovino

We see Edna’s passing as a case of the precarity of working conditions as a result of the negligence the government to its people’s welfare.

Before her death on Aug. 6, 2013, circumstances surrounding Edna have been brought by enticement by some compatriots for work that supposedly provides better compensation. She has had to endure many hardships starting with being a victim of release-upon-arrival scheme. She’s been one of the overseas Filipino workers who refuse to return to the country to look for replacement jobs for fear for unemployment, unable to meet the family’s needs. Rather, she had to stay in Canada for a few months before she could find someone who was willing to hire her with the proper arrangement under the Live-In Caregiver Program.

Her graduation from the program and finishing the work requirements have not been a guarantee for her to escape from the risks and hardships. Despite her being diagnosed with cancer in 2011, she opted to work day and night in between chemotherapy sessions. She had waged battle to make use of productivity of precarious working condition. She had a job in affective work immaterial of her bearing a lot of sacrifice.

Philippine envoys to Canada have tried to pay close attention to her case yet the time- and resource-consuming procedures follow. One would surely wonder if the purpose of the offices of the government is to provide assistance to the people they ought to represent and serve for (as written in the country’s constitution, why is not being a member of Overseas Workers Welfare Administration suddenly deprives a migrant worker of their assistance?

On the other hand significant delays in the processing of visa for Edna’s son Kenneth’s visit show how the austerity measures by even a developed country such as Canada interrupt and let the process of precarity be the normal, thus, continuing exploitability, especially of migrant workers.

We, members of progressive youth organization, mourn with you, for Edna’s departure. We encourage you to join other families who have suffered from this vicious cycle of warm bodies for export. May this be a reminder that your case is not an isolated one: almost 92% of LCP applicants are Filipino women who either are coming in directly from the Philippines or other parts of the world—from the fraudulent practice of recruitment agencies to the tied “temporary” work permits and the mandatory live in requirement thus making them vulnerable to different forms of abuses other workers in Canada normally would not experience. These issues create a negative effects on the transnational lives (physically, mentally, psychologically).

We would be glad to let you know that we continue our work in criticizing the government in its increased neoliberal economic policies that mainly serves the interests of foreign investors and only the countries’ elites. The state of Overseas Filipino workers under the Aquino administration remains to have been overlooked in PNoy’s cure-all “Daang Matuwid”—contradictory to cliches for OFWs as the “bagong bayani” among other people. The current government has failed to address the very basic rights, safety and welfare of OFWs worldwide This has been evident in various diplomatic issues OFWs continues to face today.

ABT with Edna Aldovino

Edna’s passing will not be in vain. Her life and memory would not be taken for granted that the cancer in our society should not only be coped with but treated from the very core problems. We are here at your side together with Migrante Canada, BAYAN-Canada, iwWorkers, Filipino Migrant Workers Movement and Gabriela Ontario. Root causes of migration would have to be addressed and resolved while we try to argue for our human rights. Together we call for development not for profit, but for the people.

Sincerely,

Anakbayan-Toronto

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