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Enrile before history

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Enrile before history appeared first on Bulatlat.

People’s lawyers face false charges, Red-tagging, murder

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Last Tuesday night, human rights lawyer Benjamin Ramos, who assisted the families of the nine farm workers massacred in a Sagay City hacienda on Oct. 20, was gunned down by a tandem of motorcycle-riding men near his home in Kabangkalan City. He was a founding member of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) and secretary-general of its Negros Occidental chapter.

That his killing has tremendous implications and consequences can be drawn from the denunciations raised by the NUPL, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (the national lawyers’ organization) and its regional chapters, national and international human rights formations, the Commission on Human Rights, the Philippine National Police, and Malacañang.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said he had ordered the National Bureau of Investigation to determine whether “there is any indication that the incident is related to the previous killings of the farmers” in Sagay City. This is a positive step on the part of the government.

Related matters that need serious attention are the following:

Before Ramos was killed, the Sagay police had filed a charge of “kidnapping and serious illegal detention” against another NUPL lawyer, Katherine Panguban, after she assisted the mother of a 14-year-old boy survivor of the massacre to regain custody of her son. On Nov. 4, the newly designated commander of the Philippine Army’s 303rd Infantry Brigade in Negros, Col. Benedict Arevalo, railed against Panguban and the human rights alliance Karapatan over the alleged kidnapping. In a press statement, Arevalo tagged Karapatan, which had organized a fact-finding mission on the Sagay massacre, as “NPA-Terrorists supporter.”

In a press conference by the massacre survivors last Wednesday, Panguban and the boy-survivor’s mother effectively refuted the kidnapping charge. They showed to the media a written document on the turnover of custody, signed on Oct. 25 by both of them and an official of the Sagay City Social Welfare and Development Office. The boy’s biological father, who police claimed had initiated the kidnapping charge, himself signed the custody document as witness.

NUPL lawyer Katherine Panguban during the indignation rally against the killing of Atty. Benjamin Ramos. The military filed kidnapping charges against Panguban. (Photo by Carlo Manalansan/Bulatlat)

Also on Wednesday, in a separate press conference in Cebu City, NUPL-Visayas vice chair Ian Sapayan said that the Negros Oriental police had distributed fliers that named Ramos and 60 other persons from Negros as members of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

Topping these political assaults, NUPL president Edre Olalia revealed that, of late, members of the pro-bono lawyering group have been receiving death threats for handling cases of “political prisoners, suspected rebels, environmentalists, and suspected poor drug users.” The NUPL and its key officers, he added, have been “increasingly labeled and branded pejoratively by the police, military, vigilantes, some bigoted columnists, and online trolls, in open contempt of basic principles on the role of lawyers in society.”

Olalia may have been referring to the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, adopted in September 1990, by the 8th UN Congress on the Prevention of Crimes and Treatment of Offenders. The document prescribes two requirements for UN member-states:

• That governments ensure that lawyers are able to perform all their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference; and

• That State authorities provide adequate safeguards when the security of lawyers is threatened as a result of discharging their functions.

The same principles were cited by lawyers in 2012, when then IBP president Roan Libarios observed that in the previous 10 years, at least 200 lawyers and judges had been shot in cold blood. He added that most of the cases had remained unsolved, with the police authorities claiming “lack of evidence and witnesses” thereby “generating a feeling of helplessness among the general public.”

These universal obligations have continued to be disregarded by the Philippine government, Olalia said, pointing out that Ramos was the 34th lawyer killed under the 28-month administration of President Duterte. “Excluding judges and prosecutors, he is the 24th member of the profession killed and the eighth in the Visayas,” he said.

“These beastly attacks by treacherous cowards cannot go on,” Olalia emphasized. “Not a few of our members have been attacked and killed before while literally practicing their profession and advocacies in the courts, in rallies, in picket lines, in urban poor communities, and in fact-finding missions.”

In the past few years, the NUPL has campaigned for a stop to the attacks against human rights lawyers, ruthlessly killed or attacked in various ways because of their work and advocacies as “people’s lawyers.”

The campaign has won the support of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL), the European Association of Lawyers for Democracy and World Human Rights, the European Democratic Lawyers, the European Bar Human Rights Institute and other progressive lawyers’ groups in the United States and other countries.

In 2015, the IADL Monitoring Committee on Attacks Against Lawyers issued its first report, titled “Attacks on Lawyers: A Threat to Democracy.” It focused on lawyers in the Philippines, and covered the period from Jan. 1, 1999 to Dec. 31, 2014.

The report culled its data from Philippine media reportage, the report of a Fact-Finding Mission of Lawyers for Lawyers in 2006, UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings Philip Alston’s report in 2007, from the IBP, NUPL, Karapatan, PNP, and interviews with activists, academics, lawyers and others.

The 15-year period covered corresponded with the 108 months of the Gloria Arroyo government and 54 months of the Benigno Aquino III administration. Over that period, the IADL report tallied a total of 114 lawyers killed, of whom 23 were judges, 8 were prosecutors, and 83 practicing lawyers.

The period covered by the study under the Arroyo regime was twice longer than that under the Aquino administration. Also the number of lawyers killed under Arroyo – 78 – were twice as many as those killed under three-fourths of Aquino’s watch – 36.

Now consider this: under Duterte’s first 28 months in office, already 34 lawyers have been killed: just two less than those killed in 54 months under P-Noy. Is the current president, a compañero, bent on overtaking the tally racked up under his predecessor?

* * *

Email: satur.ocampo@gmail.com

Published in Philippine Star
Nov. 10, 2018

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Apat na Pirasong Tanso

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Ni JHIO JHAN NAVARRO

Apat na pirasong tanso
ang tinanggap niyang kabayaran
matapos masugid na ipaglaban
karapatan ng mga nasa sakahan

Apat na pirasong tanso
na di inabot sa kanyang palad
bagkus itinarak sa laman
dagling ibinaon sa awang katawan

Apat na pirasong tanso
na putok ang kilingling
puot, hinagpis at dalamhati
ang ugong at halinghing

Apat na pirasong tanso
na pinakintab ng kanyang dugo
ngunit nagpalamlam sa hustisya`t
katarunga`y pinalabo

Apat na pirasong tanso
apat na pirasong tanso
ang kumitil sa buhay ng
manananggol Benjamin Ramos

Apat na pirasong tanso
apat na pirasong tanso
apat na pirasong tanso ay di
kailangan, bagkus hustisya
sa mga pinaslang na lumalaban!
(http://bulatlat.com)

Ang may-akda ay isang Psychology major 1st Year student at U.P. Miag-ao and Staff Writer of student publication, PAGBUTLAK

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Irresponsible Australian mining in the Philippines persists

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The open-pit mines of OceanaGold in Nueva Vizcaya. The military has accused anti-mining groups opposing the open-pit mining operations as fronts of communist rebels. (Photo credit to Amianan Salakniban)

The more disturbing issue, however, is the ever-increasing human rights violations and extrajudicial killings of human rights activists who advocate for ordinary people and local communities opposed to large-scale mining operations.

By REYVI MARIÑAS
Bulatlat.com

In 2008, I met Manoy Tony, an elder from the island of Rapu-Rapu in Bicol region, and Frances Quimpo, from the Centre for Environmental Concerns in the Philippines (CEC), in a public forum held in Melbourne about large-scale mining activities in the Philippines.

In the forum, they pointed out how huge mining companies like the Lafayette Philippines Inc, a subsidiary of an Australian mining company, have substantially destroyed the environment and community’s livelihood as a result of cyanide spills, pollution and depletion of water resources.

In fact, Lafayette’s two mine spills in Rapu-Rapu that happened in 2005 was amongst “the worst mining disasters in the Philippines”. Recent report shows that rehabilitation work on the mine site and surrounding coastal communities in Albay and Sorsogon has been very slow and the cost of rehabilitation has now ballooned to P310 million (‘Slow progress in Rapu-Rapu mine rehabilitation’, Rappler, 08 May 2018).

OceanaGold in the spotlight

Today, the issue of negative impact of large-scale mining in the Philippines continues. Another Australian-Canadian mining giant, OceanaGold, is the subject of a major research study done by the Institute of Policy Studies and Mining Watch Canada in relation to the company’s dangerous and irresponsible mining activities in Didipio, Nueva Vizcaya.

The report is based on a number of years of study and site visits on numerous fact-finding missions in the country since 2013. It found that OceanGold has violated several national and provincial laws and decrees and concluded that the mine “has significant negative impacts on water, forests, land, indigenous peoples, human rights, biodiversity, and workers’ rights” (Robin Broad et al, OceanaGold in the Philippines: Ten Violations that Should Prompt Its Removal, 31 October 2018).

As a result, the study recommends that the Philippine government should refuse OceanaGold’s renewal of its licence after June 2019 as well as requests by the company for new exploration permits.

The OceanaGold’s Didipio Gold and Copper Mine Project in the Northern Luzon province of Nueva Vizcaya is indeed one of the manifestations of the country’s utterly flawed, anti-people policy on mining. It shows the ‘dark side’ of mining liberalisation on the Philippine economy, particularly the violation of the country’s sovereignty and national patrimony.

Many people are led to believe that foreign investment is good for the country because it generates income, economic development and local employment for the poor people in the communities.

But this view is deeply flawed and short-sighted. How can a responsible mining industry contribute to the national development of a country whereby people’s lives and natural habitat of the local community are being disregarded?

The Philippines ranks amongst the world’s mineral-rich countries when it comes to gold, copper, nickel and chromite. But the country’s mineral resources only benefit large foreign companies and not the Filipinos who can use these resources to develop its national industrialisation (IBON, ‘PH minerals benefit foreigners not Filipinos’, 14 Mar 2017).

Since the passage of the Mining Act of 1995, the Philippine government has been actively pursuing the implementation of a neoliberal program for the mining industry, under which twenty-five percent of the country’s land area becomes potentially devoted to mining (section 5 of the Act).

Huge incentives are given to mining firms by way of tax-free operations for the first five years and the relaxation of mining permit applications and the implementation of environmental regulations, assessment and its impact.

Human rights violations and Australian involvement

The more disturbing issue, however, is the ever-increasing human rights violations and extrajudicial killings of human rights activists who advocate for ordinary people and local communities opposed to large-scale mining operations.

Several studies reveal that human rights violations against anti-mining activists and environmental advocates are in fact perpetrated by the Philippine military and its security forces (Aytin 2016; Holden, Nadeu and Jacobson, 2011).

It is no coincidence that mining-related political killings have intensified since the creation of Investment Defense Force (IDF) to silence any opposition to mining.

Here, it is worth noting Australia’s continuous military and intelligence support to the Philippine military in the wake of the Marawi crisis. In the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) website, it states that the Australian Defence Force (ADF) provided surveillance support and counter-terrorism specific training to the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Specifically, it reveals that “approximately 100 AFP, PCG, and DND personnel undertake education and training in Australia each year, while several hundred participate in training provided through MTT [ADF Mobile Training Team] visits to the Philippines” (DFAT, ‘Philippines country brief’).

Given the continuing escalation of armed insurgencies in the Philippines under the Duterte regime, it remains to be seen whether Australia’s military support of “advising, assisting, and training” to its Philippine counterparts would certainly materialise in a more direct involvement of Australian military personnel on the ground.

Political killings continue

Since Duterte came to power in 2016, “there have been 30 extrajudicial killings related to mining; 12 of the victims are indigenous people” (Paul Christian Yand-Ed, ‘Mining in the Philippines: The steep price our people pay to line the pockets of a few’, Bulatlat, 23 October 2018).

Sister Patricia Fox, the 71-year-old Australian nun, who has been recently deported by President Duterte on the 3rd of November, urged the Australian government to take more pressure on the President over human rights issue.

She strongly called for the Australian government to investigate the mining activities of Australian companies whose project are displacing indigenous communities.

“They should start looking at Australian companies, particularly mining companies, because they’re hiring goons and … you know we have to start being responsible for what’s happening over there”, she said (‘Australian nun Patricia Fox lands in Melbourne after being deported from the Philippines’, ABC News, 4 November 2018).

People like Sister Pat (as she is fondly called) is relentlessly fighting for the rights and welfare of poor people in the Philippines in the hope of preserving the country’s environment and its natural resources for future generations to come.

It is of great importance that this issue is raised in the Australian public and expose what Australian mining companies are doing to the local communities in the Philippines.

The Australian people can help so much by raising this issue in the wider Australian community to stop the aggressive and irresponsible mining activities as well as the worsening human rights violations in the country. (http://bulatlat.com)

Reyvi Mariñas is an Australian Immigration Lawyer and a Research Assistant at the Melbourne Law School. He is also the Secretary-General of Migrante Australia and the Secretary of Philippines- Australia Solidarity Association (PASA).

References:

‘Australian nun Patricia Fox lands in Melbourne after being deported from the Philippines’, ABC News, 4 November 2018

Aytin, Andrew, ‘A Social Movements’ Perspective on Human Rights Impact of Mining Liberalization in the Philippines’ (2016) 25(4) New Solutions: A Journal of Environmental and Occupational Health Policy 535-558

Broad, Robin, et al, OceanaGold in the Philippines: Ten Violations that Should Prompt Its Removal, 31 October 2018

DFAT, ‘Philippines country brief’

Holden, William, Nadeu, Kathleen and Jacobson, R. Daniel, ‘Exemplifying Accumulation by Dispossession: Mining and Indigenous Peoples in the Philippines’ (2011) Swedish Society for Anthropology and Geography 141-161

IBON, ‘PH minerals benefit foreigners not Filipinos’, 14 Mar 2017

Paul Christian Yand-Ed, ‘Mining in the Philippines: The steep price our people pay to line the pockets of a few’, Bulatlat, 23 October 2018

‘Slow progress in Rapu-Rapu mine rehabilitation’, Rappler, 08 May 2018.

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Arrest of NDFP consultant ‘grave violation’ of peace agreement

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Vicente Ladlad (third from the left) confers with their lawyers before the hearing starts at the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 32, Aug. 6. (Photo by Ronalyn V. Olea / Bulatlat.com)

By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – Human rights group Karapatan warned that the arrest of peace consultant Vicente Ladlad is a grave violation of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG), a peace agreement signed between the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines – Negotiating Panel.

Ladlad, a peace consultant of NDFP, was reportedly arrested late in the evening of Nov. 7, along with elderly couple Alberto and Virginia Villamor, in Brgy. San Bartolome, Novaliches, Quezon City.

Quezon City executive judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert issued a search warrant against Ladlad and two others with aliases of “Kuya Tony” and “Ate Anna” on Nov. 6, saying that they were found in control and in possession of firearms and ammunitions, per the police.

Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said the JASIG provides that peace consultants like Ladlad are “immune from arrests and detention and other harassment and attacks.”

Two other peace consultants, Rafael Baylosis and Adelberto Silva, were arrested on separate incidents since the termination of the peace talks between the NDFP and the Philippine government.

“We are warning the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines to desist from planting evidence against Ladlad and companions, as they have grown accustomed to justify the arrest and detention of peace advocates, rights defenders and civilians, based on trumped up criminal charges,” Palabay said, adding that state security forces have done the same against arrested activists and dissenters.

Lawyer Edre Olalia, one of the legal consultants of the NDFP Negotiating Panel, said that Ladlad’s rights under JASIG, the GRP’s Constitution, and international conventions should be respected, adding that “these serial arrests on peace consultants and activists complicate even further the prospects & status of the peace negotiations.” (http://bulatlat.com)

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‘For the truth to come out,’ CHR offers sanctuary to witnesses of Sagay massacre

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Sagay survivors and supporters [L to R: Atty Josa Deinla, NUPL; Flordeliza Cabahug, mom of rescued minor;Rene Manlangit, NFSW Barbara Sagay chair; John Lozande, NFSW secretary-general (Bulatat Photo)

“We are the victims and survivors yet we are the ones being accused and slapped with cases.” – Rene Manlangit, chairperson of NFSW in Barbara, Sagay

By MARYA SALAMAT
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – After they heard several false claims about them coming from the local police in Sagay City, Negros, some survivors of the Sagay Massacre trooped to the central office of the Commission on Human Rights in Quezon City, November 7.

“We went to the CHR for help in investigating what happened that night of October 20. We are the victims and survivors yet we are the ones being accused and slapped with cases,” Rene Manlangit, chairman of a local chapter of National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) in Barbara, Sagay City, told the media. Manlangit survived the strafing that killed nine others only because he happened to be charging his cellphone nearby. They were about to rest from a day spent tilling the field after the current renter had hauled off his last harvest. Tiempo Muerto or dead season is upon them, a time when farmworkers like them no longer could find work with all the sugarcane already harvested and being milled. Tilling the newly vacant land for food crops is their hope for warding off hunger in the coming months.

“The police misrepresented the farmworkers as if they were newly minted members of NFSW that day they began to occupy the farmland, and as if they were strangers who just came into the hacienda,” said John Lozande, secretary-general of NFSW. But according to Manlangit, they have been members of the NFSW since 2012. And they have been working that same piece of land for longer than that as seasonal hired hands.

A long familiar tale of land reform evasion

Since 2000 the farmworkers have petitioned the government to declare the hacienda as covered by the land reform program. With that, it will be up for distribution to farmers and farmworkers. “But the owners, Barbara and Carmen Tolentino, threatened and harassed the sugar workers to force them to retract the first petition for land reform coverage,” Lozande said.

Despite the threats, other farmworkers filed another petition after another. Three times a notice affirming that the land is covered by land reform was issued. First in 2000, then in 2012, and the latest in 2014.

“The police and military claim — that the farmers including those killed were not farmers and not beneficiaries of land reform — is false,” Lozande said. If the land reform program were being implemented, those farmworkers would have been its beneficiaries, he added. Unfortunately, the land owners have “circumvented the land reform program and continued their control of the land,” Lozande said. The latest “circumvention” they did was “donate” the land to 25 beneficiaries, but NFSW attested that they have retained control of the land.

Because of the police and military’s “series of lies” about the farmers and their hunger-coping mechanism called bungkalan (tilling the land according to principles of land reform), the Sagay massacre survivors said they no longer trust the “investigation” being conducted by the police. Lozande said the police seem to already have preconceived notions of who to blame in the massacre even before it investigated or finished its investigation.

Follow the trail here of the National Fact-Finding Mission spearheaded by Karapatan and joined by various organizations.

In response to the farmworkers’ request, Commission on Human Rights Chairperson Chito Gascon welcomed them at the CHR. He offered a sanctuary for Sagay massacre survivors particularly the minor rescued from the police by his mother and the members of the National Fact-Finding Mission.

Chito Gascon
CHR Chairperson Chito Gascon welcomes the delegation of NFSW, Karapatan and NUPL Nov 7, says they are also investigating Sagay Massacre. (Bulatlat Photo)

Gascon said they are also conducting their own investigation into the massacre. He said he will work with the findings to be shared by the Karapatan-led National Fact-Finding Mission. He expressed concern over the government’s treatment of child survivors, witnesses, and human rights defenders. (http://bulatlat.com)

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‘What kidnapping? He signed the turn-over agreement’ — NUPL with mom of Sagay massacre witness

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Flordeliza Cabahug, mom of child survivor of Sagay Massacre. She is showing the turn-over agreement she signed with legal counsel Kathy Panguban, Sagay City Social Welfare Officer Harold D. Mission. The child’s biological father, Vic Pedaso, also signed the turn-over agreement. Pedaso has been separated from Flordeliza and his son for 10 years now. (Photo by M. Salamat / Bulatlat)

By MARYA SALAMAT
Bulatlat.com

MANILA — Lawyer Katherine Panguban disputed with her legal counsel, Josa Deinla, the accusation of kidnapping hurled against her recently by the father of the child survivor of Sagay massacre. Panguban helped in restoring the child survivor to his mother’s custody in Negros. But she is now facing charges, attacks, and vilification. All of it are baseless, she said in a press conference November 7 in Quezon City.

When the 14-year old survivor and witness in the Sagay Massacre was turned over to his mother on October 25, the farmworkers and their families heaved a sigh of relief. Since the massacre around 9 p.m. on October 20, the child survivor was taken to the local social welfare office.

“When we arrived in Sagay for the fact-finding mission, the child’s family immediately asked for our help because at the time he was in the custody of the local police and authorities in Sagay City,” Panguban recalled. She accompanied Flordeliza Cabahug to the police station to help her get her son back.

‘Sagay City authorities violate child’s rights’

There were many clear violations of child’s rights committed by the local authorities of Sagay concerning the survivor of Sagay Massacre, Panguban found out. “While he was under the custody of local authorities, he was repeatedly interviewed without his counsel or parent,” Panguban said.

She said the case to return the child to his mother has been complicated enough. It was only later she heard that the biological father who has abandoned the mother and son for 10 years was the one who filed a case against her, accusing her of “serious illegal detention.”

Panguban was instrumental in helping the mother to get back her son. She raised the alarm concerning the police keeping him in custody on October 24, as soon as she ascertained the facts. The resulting uproar prompted the police to deny they had “arrested” the minor. By the evening of October 25, the said minor was turned over to his mother.

Panguban’s counsel, Josa Deinla, blasted the accusation as pure lies. In a press conference at the central office of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), the child’s mother, Flordeliza Cabahug, also rejected the kidnapping charge. She even thanked Panguban for the assistance.

Deinla said that when Cabahug took custody of her child on October 25, “She signed a turn-over agreement with the Office of the Social Welfare and Development in Sagay City, witnessed by Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas and other members of the fact-finding mission.” She emphasized that the turn-over was witnessed by the child’s father who also signed the turn-over agreement.”

Deinla and the child’s mother showed the media a copy of the signed turn-over agreement. It named Panguban as the legal counsel. It bears Panguban’s signature, too. The child’s father signed on the line right beside Panguban’s.

There is no basis to the father’s accusation that Panguban “kidnapped” his son, Deinla concluded.

“We don’t think such an accusation will even be aired if there had been no instigation by the police who took custody of the child,” Deinla told the media. She condemned “this form of attack” against lawyers like Attorney Kathy, “while they are providing legal services to clients who themselves are victims (of Sagay massacre, for instance). She also expressed utmost sorrow at the killing last night of a colleague, Attorney Benjamin Ramos. He was secretary-general of NUPL-Negros.

His clients for the longest time are from the poor and oppressed of Negros, including the farmers and political prisoners, said Deinla. She did not connect the killing yet to Sagay Massacre, but she stressed that Ramos had also been red-tagged for a long time. “He went against big landlords in serving clients such as farmers and members of people’s organizations.”

Commission of Human Rights Chairperson Chito Gascon expressed concern about the treatment of human rights defenders and lawyers. He also said they were alarmed by what they heard about the police treatment of the minor.

“What worries us is that there is one survivor, named Lester, who was with the farmers when they were killed. He managed to escape and he now has important information to share. We are alarmed because a report reached us that while he was in police custody, the police didn’t observe his rights as a minor,” Gascon told the media.

He said the CHR will demand an explanation from the police, “particularly about the police forcing the minor to sign a paper or document saying things which the child maintained he did not really witness as happening.”

Gascon wondered if maybe, that’s the reason the police are worried now that Lester is in his mother’s custody. He said it is clear there had been a formal and agreed upon transfer of custody to the mother who has parental authority over Lester. As such, he also expressed puzzlement that a kidnapping charge is slapped against lawyer Panguban.

With CHR, Gascon reiterated that they will offer support and a sanctuary so that the child witness might be able “to tell the truth as he saw it.” He hopes it will shed light on everything that happened in the Sagay massacre. a href=”http://bulatlat.com”>(http://bulatlat.com)

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Econ slowdown due to failed govt policies, may be sign of worse to come–IBON

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Research group IBON said that the government should take the economy’s 3rd quarter growth slowdown as showing what needs to be improved in its economic policies instead of being dismissive about it. Its flagship Build, Build, Build will only be a short-term boost to the economy at best and direct measures to strengthen domestic agriculture and build Filipino industry are needed. The group noted with alarm that the economic managers are still pushing the same neoliberal framework that has weakened domestic production to begin with.

IBON pointed out that the economy’s acclaimed higher growth trajectory since the 2000s has actually been slowing in the last two years of the Duterte administration. Previously accelerating growth in gross domestic product (GDP) plateaued at 7.1% in the third quarter of 2016 and 7.2% in third quarter of 2017 before markedly slowing to the recently reported 6.1% in the third quarter of 2018.

The worsening state of agriculture and weakening growth in manufacturing – both key production sectors – are important indicators that the administration’s neoliberal policies are failing, said the group. Agriculture is stuck in its cycle of alternating growth and contractions. Agriculture growth has been falling from 3% in the third quarter of 2016 to 2.6% in the same quarter in 2017 until its -0.4% growth in the third quarter of 2018. The last such contraction was three years ago. The fisheries sector has consistently been contracting in the same period for four consecutive years now.

IBON said this chronically poor and deteriorating agricultural and fisheries performance is due to long-standing government neglect of the sector. The administration only exacerbates this by pushing further trade liberalization such as with Administrative Order No. 13 and the Rice Tariffication Bill that prioritizes food imports and export crops production over strengthening domestic agriculture for local consumption and food security, the group said.

IBON also drew attention to the notable slowdown in manufacturing growth to 4% in the third quarter of 2018 from 10.1% in the same quarter of 2017. IBON pointed out that this happened despite a hyped manufacturing resurgence since the Aquino administration and supposedly greater attention to industrial policy in the last two years of the Duterte government.

Among others, the slowdown despite increased government infrastructure spending points to the lack of domestic manufacturing capacity to produce the wide range of materials and equipment used for infrastructure development. These are instead unduly imported which only worsens the chronic trade deficit and adds further pressure on the already weak peso.

The service sector was also not spared, slowing to 6.9% from 7.3% in the same period, the group noted. This likely reflects the slackening of business process outsourcing (BPO) activity, which also greatly slowed services exports down to 2.2% in the third quarter of 2018 from 27.7% in the same period last year. As it is, investment pledges in export zones where BPOs are registered dropped by 58.6% in the first four months of 2018 to Php39.1 billion from Php94.4 billion a year ago.

IBON said that economic growth is disproportionately driven by government spending particularly in public infrastructure and construction. Government expenditures rapidly grew in the past 3 years from 3.6% in the third quarter of 2016 to 8.3% in 2017 and 14.3% in 2018. Meanwhile, growth in public construction spending doubled from 12.7% in the third quarter of 2017 to 25.4% in 2018. Private construction meanwhile jumped from 0.7% to 12.1 percent.

Household consumption slowdown is also worrisome, said the group. It indicates that Filipino households, especially the poor, are buying less, eating less, and suffering even lower levels of personal welfare. Growth in household consumption has been slowing in the past three years – from 7.3% in third quarter of 2016 to 5.4% in 2017 and 5.2% in 2018. There is a similar decline in most expenditure groups except for Housing, Water, Electricity, Gas and Other Fuels and Education. In particular, growth in food and non-alcoholic beverages consumption slowed to 2.8% in the third quarter of 2018 from 4.3% a year ago.

IBON said that the economy fails to ensure sustained growth because it has been eroded by government’s push for trade and investment liberalization, reliance on exports, and obsession with foreign investment as an end in itself. The group said that the government infrastructure offensive will be a short-term boost at best if the foundations of developed agriculture and Filipino manufacturing driven by expanding wage-led domestic demand are not attended to.###