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Inquirer Headlines: Nation

A World with Extreme Poverty is a World of Insecurity.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

2 governors, mayor share best practices in governance

June 16, 2008 03:41:00
TJ Burgonio
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—And then there were three—all leading lights in local politics who have joined hands to preach good governance in the hope this would be replicated elsewhere.

In their first much-awaited meeting, Naga City Mayor Jesse Robredo, Isabela Gov. Grace Padaca and Pampanga Gov. Eddie “Among Ed” Panlilio plotted on Tuesday night their future, and the country’s.

Over dinner of sinampalukang manok, pancit molo and bistek Tagalog at Club Filipino in San Juan City, the three officials agreed to tackle together problems, and more importantly, share their “best practices” in governance with other local chief executives.

“We are a fragmented nation and what we want is to group together, make a commitment and advocate the same advocacy,” Panlilio said in an interview. “The country deserves better governance.”

One quick way to reach out is through cyberspace. The three officials are planning to set up a “group blog,” where they can write down their thoughts, in the hope of luring others to their cause, according to Robredo, who keeps a blog like Panlilio.

There have been calls for the three officials to get together and talk about what’s good for the country, but it was only last week that they got around to doing it. After all, they are the new breed of reform-driven public servants.

Harvey Keh, director for Youth Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship of Ateneo de Manila University School of Government, arranged and joined the meeting of the three, whom he calls the “hope of the country.”

“If bad people in our government can join forces to wreak havoc in our country, then why can’t the good people join forces as well and promote good governance in our country?” he said.

In their two-hour meeting, the two governors and the mayor made an amusing, but otherwise not surprising discovery about themselves: They’re advocating the same reforms.

Greater transparency

These are ensuring greater transparency and accountability in government dealings, curbing the pervasive illegal numbers game “jueteng” and illegal logging, and fighting for more local autonomy in the maintenance of law and order.

And with less than two years to go before the 2010 national elections, the three officials are now pushing for computerized elections and voters’ education.

After the dinner, Padaca, 44, went home feeling a certain “lightness of heart.”

“I thought to myself. ‘I’m not alone anymore,’” she said by phone on her way to a remote village on a mountainside in San Agustin town in Isabela province for a regular dialogue with her constituents on Friday morning.

Robredo, 50, winner of the 2000 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Government Service and one of Ten Outstanding Young Persons of the World for efficient, good governance, said the main consensus was cooperation.

“Since we’re not getting any help from the national government, we agreed to cooperate in solving our common problems,” he said by phone from a domestic airport in Naga. For one, they could share strategies, he added.

Choice of police chiefs

One of their more pressing concerns now, especially in Panlilio’s case, is getting regional police officials to respect their choice of police chiefs, which is crucial in the campaign against jueteng.

The mayor was happy to note that Panlilio employed the same tack he took when faced with the same problem in the past: Call the senators’ attention.

If a solution entails getting a law amended, the three officials said they would write lawmakers to file a bill to this effect.

But over and above their local concerns, the three agreed to share “best practices” on how transparency and accountability work in their respective turf with other like-minded officials.

“Good governance starts with simple lifestyle, low-cost expenses in the capitol, transparency and accountability, efficient delivery of services,” Panlilio, 54, said in a phone interview before giving a talk on good governance at Xavier University in Cagayan de Oro City on Friday morning.

The priest shot to national prominence following his crushing victory over the popular Gov. Mark Lapid and moneyed Lilia Pineda in last year’s gubernatorial elections in Pampanga province.

Best practices

Among the best practices that can be replicated elsewhere are Naga’s practice of allowing NGOs to sit at deliberations of special bodies and the city council, and in effect, help run the city, and posting the disposition of its funds and results of its bidding processes on its website; Pampanga’s efficient collection of quarry taxes; and Isabela’s efforts at food sufficiency.

The three plan to meet again, hoping to see other “like-minded” officials next time around.

“We’re very sure there are a lot of others out there who have their own success stories, but have yet to be discovered,” said Padaca, who thrashed the heirs of the Dy family in the 2004 and 2007 gubernatorial elections in Isabela.

Panlilio agreed: “If we put more emphasis on those who really work for good governance to change the political system, and we work together, it will have a big impact on our country.”

The idea of bringing the three officials together was to create a “coalition” of local government officials who are committed “to promoting good governance, transparency and accountability,” Ateneo’s Keh, 29, said.

“I want to make the organization grow, to include other local government leaders who want to see genuine change in our country,” he said.


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Corruption preys on RP poor: UN study

By DAVID DIZON
abs-cbnNEWS.com

Petty corruption is taking a toll on poor people in the Asia-Pacific, including the Philippines, by curbing economic development in the region, according to a United Nations Development Program study.

The report, "Tackling Corruption, Transforming Lives," said small scale corruption is draining economic growth across the Asia-Pacific region and affecting people's access to basic services. It called on governments and citizens across the Asia-Pacific to tackle corruption together by focusing on areas that impact daily life such as health, education, the police and natural resources.

"Corruption undermines democratic institutions, retards economic development and contributes to government instability. It attacks the foundation of democratic institutions by distorting electoral processes, perverting the rule of law and creating bureaucratic quagmires whose only reason for existence is the soliciting of bribes," said Hafiz Pasha, director of UNDP's regional bureau for Asia and the Pacific.

"Economic development is stunted because outside direct investment is discouraged and small businesses within the country often find it impossible to overcome the ‘start-up costs’ required, because of corruption."

The report cited a global study which shows that corruption tends to slow the income growth for the bottom 20 per cent of the population. It said corruption slows down poverty reduction by lowering growth rates and reducing the effectiveness of social programs.

The report said corruption often hinders the delivery of many of the goods and services targeted for the poor. Instead, the goods often finish up in the hands of well-off and connected households who can afford to bribe the officials. It also said that the rice and powerful get the best deals when there is a general shortage of services, public or private.

Politicians, police least trusted

According to the report, politicians are seen as the most corrupt group in government followed by the police, with the judiciary running a close third. Nearly one in five people claim to have paid a bribe to police during the previous year. Other sectors also tainted by corruption include tax collection, education, medical services, utilities and registry or permit services.

The report cited a 2005 study commissioned by the Asian Development Bank that showed that power projects in the Philippines are more expensive than international norms due to delays, heavy reliance on international consultants and contractors, corruption and extensive use of foreign currency loans.

It said corruption was involved in almost all phases of a project, from tendering and bidding to operation and maintenance as well as in privatization and the awarding of independent power-producing contracts.

The report warned that corrupt policemen could extort, abuse or even rape suspects and force them to pay for their freedom. It added that police can also seize people they know to be innocent, threatening them with arrest and demanding payment for release.

On the other hand, the report cited a number of studies that found that two-thirds or more of the Asian population consider their court system to be corrupt and admit that they consider it wise to pay bribes.

The report said governments should ensure that complaints against the police are dealt with by a truly independent body while making changes on police structures and operations
to make them more efficient and responsive. Other solutions include applying rigid recruitment criteria, reallocating individuals across tasks, modifying transfer patterns, and carrying out ethical evaluations of those who are up for promotion.

For corrupt justices, the UNDP recommended that governments ensure that judges are appointed by independent bodies, serve fixed terms, have salaries that match their experience and qualifications and are offered all necessary protection. The judicial system should also require judges to give written reasons for their judgements – making greater use of information technology to offer easier access to court documents.

Strong civil sector involvement

The report also noted the strong involvement of civil society groups in fighting corruption in the Philippine government.

Several of the anticorruption initiatives and groups cited were:

- The Action Program for Judicial Reform initiative, which monitors the selection of the chief justice, ombudsman and election commissioners

- The Transparent Accountable Governance project, which monitors textbook procurement and delivery in the Philippines

- The Concerned Citizens of Abra Good Government, which monitors government projects in the Abra region

- The Transparency and Accountability Network, which monitors road-building in the country.

The report also cited the role of journalists in reporting cases of public interest. It said the Philippine press has helped create public pressure for reform even as some reporters admitted receiving bribes.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

'Irrigate more rice lands for self-sufficiency'

From ABS-CBN News Online, May 5, 2008

A former agriculture secretary said the government needs to irrigate at least five million hectares of rice lands to achieve its self-sufficiency goal for the Philippines after President Arroyo's term ends.

Sorsogon Rep. Salvador Escudero, former president Ferdinand Marcos's agriculture chief, said the government should be able to do what Vietnam and Thailand did: irrigate five to eight million hectares of rice fields.

"When we left [the agriculture department] in 1998, there [were] only 1.44 million hectares of irrigated land and I don't know if this number was maintained," Escudero said.

He said the government should immediately release funds for developing irrigated lands. He said the development of these lands will ensure the country's rice self-sufficiency for the next three to four years.

Mrs. Arroyo has announced the government's plan to release up to P43 billion funds for agricultural development starting this year up to 2010. Part of the plan is to develop more irrigated lands in rice-producing provinces, particularly in Luzon regions.

Billions poured into food program

The President announced a "wide array" of agriculture initiatives she dubbed as FIELDS (fertilizers, infrastructure and irrigation, extension and education, loans, drying and other post-harvest facilities, and seeds) during a food summit in Pampanga on April 4.

At least P43.7 billion funds for agriculture were allotted by Mrs. Arroyo during the food summit. The funds include:

* P500 million for fertilizer support and production.
* P6 billion per year for large and small irrigation systems.
* P6 billion per year for farm-to-market roads and Roll-On-Roll-Off ports.
* P5 billion for research and development, capacity building, and improving educational efforts for the agriculture and fisheries sector.
* P2 billion for hybrid seeds (for the remaining five planting seasons, up to 2010).
* P6 billion for certified seeds (also up to 2010).
* P2 billion for dryers and other post-harvest facilities.
* P15 billion for agricultural loans to farmers, most of which will be coursed through Landbank.

The Philippines has been tagged as the biggest rice importing country in the world, despite having vast agricultural land.

The government has been banking on imported rice from Vietnam, Thailand and United States to sustain its needs during the lean months of July until September.

The agricultural department said 1.7 million metric tons of imported rice are expected to be shipped into the country to augment the National Food Authority's depleted rice stock.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Increasing poverty caused by corruption

By Neal Cruz
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:04:00 03/10/2008


MANILA, Philippines - For lack of anything else to be proud of, President Macapagal-Arroyo likes to boast about her “economic achievements” because very few Filipinos understand economics. She cites numbers written on pieces of paper—like “the Gross Domestic Product grew by so much percent last year”—and you have to take her word for it. It is very difficult to check these figures. So what she says becomes the official statistic. And it usually gives a wrong image of the nation. For example, our image now is that we have an improving economy.

But there is another statistic that everybody can see every day and that is very easy to understand: the number of poor people is increasing. There are more children and old people begging in the streets, squatter colonies where the poorest of the poor lead wretched lives are expanding. More and more people are looking for jobs and finding too few; recruitment agencies are always awash with people hoping to get jobs abroad. The Department of Foreign Affairs can’t cope with the demand for passports as more and more Filipinos try to escape the poverty at home for greener pastures overseas. All of these are clear signs that something is very bad with the economy: it cannot support our population. But GMA does not want to see them; instead she sees only the numbers that somebody probably picked out of thin air and put down on paper as official government statistics.

Actually we don’t need the statistics just released by the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) to know that poverty is worsening because we can see it day by day. Nevertheless, the NSCB has made it official: One out of every three Filipinos is poor. The Inquirer editorial last Saturday spelled it out very clearly: Within the presidency of GMA, from 2003 to 2006, the number of poor families—those that earn less than P6,274 a month, the amount a family of five needs to be able to afford the basic necessities—grew from 4 million in 2003 to 4.7 million in 2006. The number of poor Filipinos grew by 3.8 million, from 23.8 million to 27.6 million. The number of families that did not earn enough to buy the minimum amount of food they needed grew from 1.7 million to 1.9 million—meaning 14.6 percent of the population, 12.2 million souls, were not eating enough.

If the economy is improving as the GMA administration claims, why are there so many poor Filipinos? Why can’t so many Filipinos find jobs at home? Why are they forced to leave their families to earn a living abroad? Why don’t so many Filipinos have enough to eat?

If the economy is really as good as GMA trumpets, there would be few poor Filipinos, they would have jobs here, they would have enough to eat, there would be few squatters.

Every time her countrymen ask what their President is doing about this or that problem, she answers: “I am concentrating on the economy.” What economy? An economy that keeps so many Filipinos poor?

Administration apologists are quick to make excuses for the growing incidence of poverty: It is because of inflation brought about by the increase in oil prices, they say. It is because of the typhoons. Excuses, excuses.

Other countries were also hit by the high oil prices; other countries were also hit by typhoons. But we are the only country that had such a big increase in poverty.

No, it is neither Opec nor typhoons that are to blame; it is corruption. Companies find it expensive to do business in the Philippines because of corruption and red tape, so no jobs for Filipinos. Funds that should go to projects and to basic services to the people go to private pockets. Commissioners and brokers are no longer content with 10-percent commissions. They now collect 100 percent of the original cost, thus doubling the cost of the project. The ZTE-NBN and NorthRail projects are just the tip of the iceberg.

Although the Arroyo administration has sold and is still selling assets and has increased taxes, we are still deep in debt. From China alone, the Arroyo administration borrowed in recent years $8 billion (that’s billion). In pesos at the time they were borrowed, they were worth P450 billion! Needless to say, hard-pressed Filipino taxpayers will have to pay for them.

And what do we have to show for that P450 billion? Probably half of that went to private pockets.

GMA also claims in her speeches that poverty and the unemployment rate have gone down. Now we know she has been lying all along. The President lying to her people? Not surprising anymore.

Has anybody noticed that corruption has jumped as the Arroyo administration winds to a close? Kickbacks have also increased tremendously. The explanation is simple: Knowing that they would be out of jobs when GMA is no longer President, top government officials are providing for their future. Knowing that this or that character got so much in kickbacks, succeeding commissioners demand bigger and bigger kickbacks. It was a case of oneupmanship. And immoderate greed. GMA officials’ motto seems to be: “Take as much as you can while the getting is good. Time is running out on us.”

Cabinet meeting called to intensify anti-poverty programs

By Michael Lim Ubac, Cyril Bonabente
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 19:22:00 03/11/2008


MANILA, Philippines -- Saddled by the increasing number of poor Filipinos under her watch, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo convened on Tuesday a full Cabinet meeting to monitor the progress of the government's hunger-mitigation programs.

The Cabinet meeting came on the heels of the latest Social Weather Stations survey showing that some 6.1 million households, or 34 percent of Filipino families in the last quarter of 2007, said they considered themselves poor in terms of food.

SWS said the figure was the lowest recorded since June 2004, when 35 percent of Filipino families said they were food-poor.

Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Anthony Golez said the meeting focused on the Arroyo administration's program of “enhancing activities addressing poverty.”

Golez said the number of poor people indeed increased despite government's intensified campaign to arrest hunger around the country.

The President told the Cabinet “to accelerate programs for milk, corn and wheat production, including spending on rural infrastructure -- irrigation, post-harvest facilities, cold storage facilities, decreasing the cost of transporting goods, including access to education, health and other social services.”

Arroyo, however, treated this disturbing figure as a temporary setback.

“The President expects the figures of poverty incidence would go to a steady downward trend especially after the 2008 budget has been signed, which will focus on investing more in our economy, education and environment,” said Golez.

The Fourth Quarter Social Weather Survey also showed signs that many Filipinos, or 34 percent, were tightening their belts and eating less.

The survey, conducted from November 30 to December 3, 2007, asked 1,200 adult household heads from all over the country to rate their families based on the type of food they eat and to rate themselves as poor, not poor, or somewhere in between.

Thirty-four percent said they were food-poor, another 34 percent said they were not, and the remaining 32 percent put themselves on the borderline.

By region: Self-rated food poverty declined in Mindanao (from 59 percent in September 2007 to 39 percent last December), Metro Manila (from 33 to 28 percent) and in Luzon (from 41 to 35 percent), but remained steady in the Visayas (from 33 to 32 percent).
Respondents were also asked: “In your opinion, how much money would your family need for food expenses each month in order not to be called poor anymore in terms of food?”

SWS found that the food poverty threshold for those who considered themselves food-poor failed to increase significantly. “[This] is a sign that the poor are actually lowering their real living standards,” SWS said.

Median thresholds for food-poor households went up slightly in Mindanao (from P3,000 in September to P4,000 in December) and Metro Manila (from P4,500 to P6,000), but stayed at P3,000 in Luzon and the Visayas.

“These levels had already been reached and surpassed several years ago,” SWS noted.


Saturday, March 8, 2008

'Queen' enthroned for helping Maranao poor

'Queen' enthroned for helping Maranao poor


By Jocelyn Uy
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:36:00 03/08/2008


MANILA, Philippines -- She shunned the glitter of the law profession in favor of a life of service to her war-weary province in Mindanao.

Now 36-year-old Baicon Macaraya will be enthroned by chieftains in Lanao del Sur as its "queen" (or as the Bai Labi Ko Shakba) to look after the poor, and the victims of war that flared up in the region and other neighboring provinces eight years ago.

The enthronement ceremony has been set on March 23 in Ditsaan Ramain town after more than two months of deliberation.

Macaraya herself chose the date because she wanted the rites celebrated during Women's Month, which officially starts Saturday.

Traditionally, leaders or sultans in the province award one leadership title to a woman. According to Macaraya, the selection system for the "crown" is primarily based on blood lineage and the government position the woman has handled in the past.

In a phone interview with the Philippine Daily Inquirer (parent company of INQUIRER.net) Friday, Macaraya said the appointment was a "transformation of traditional governance" in her province as she was handpicked based on her service to the community.

Although her forefathers were once sultans, Macaraya (her first name Baicon means princess) has never held any political position nor does she have a lot of wealth or resources.

"This is also the first time they are enthroning someone who is below 40 years old. I am happy they chose me because of what I did and what I can still do for the community," she said.

Another road

Macaraya never intended to abandon her law studies in 2000. In fact, she decided to pursue law after finishing her degree in political science because she wanted to help alleviate the human rights situation of her fellow Muslims.

But a trip to her hometown of Marawi City, one morning in March 2000, opened another road for the promising law student.

Macaraya, mother of three, narrated that she and her husband were on their way to a lower court to file her application for internship when she saw truckloads of grim-faced mothers and children being brought to a school.

She convinced her husband to pull over and to find out what was happening. She later learned that thousands of families had fled their homes in the neighboring province of Lanao del Norte because of the war.

Truckloads evacuated

At the time, then President Joseph Estrada had just declared an all-out war against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the bandit group Abu Sayyaf. But Macaraya never realized the gravity of the situation until she saw the truckloads of homeless mothers and children.

"We were caught unaware. I knew that there was a conflict in Mindanao but I never thought it was massive until I saw people arriving in trucks with nothing except the clothes they were wearing," she said, recounting her painful encounter with evacuees.

Every three days, a fresh batch of displaced families arrived in Marawi City seeking shelter in vacant buildings, gymnasiums and schools.

More evacuees came from the neighboring towns of Lanao del Sur and much later, from Maguindanao.

"I was scared for myself because I knew the armed conflict could escalate anytime to our city. But I pitied the [evacuated] people and I felt that I was needed so I decided to help," Macaraya said.

Helping displaced families

She and her husband went home and started collecting pots and pans, as well as clothes to give away to displaced families.

Eventually, Macaraya forgot about her internship and became the founding chair of the youth organization, Bangsamoro Youth-Ranao Center for Peace and Development. She oversaw the daily needs of thousands of evacuees staying in schools.

Her organization tied up with Tabang Mindanao and pioneered the Integration Return and Rehabilitation Program to help displaced families get back on their feet.

Later, her group handled the reconstruction of about 500 houses, six mosques and five schools destroyed by the fighting in Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur.

Mothers for Peace

In 2003, she helped launch the advocacy group, Mothers for Peace, to push for an end to the conflict in Mindanao because women and children are the greatest casualties of war.

Macaraya recalled bringing a bleeding infant to the hospital since the mother had no money to consult a doctor or to buy medicine.

"I was worried about [which hospital] I could take my child who also had a bad cold at that time. Then there was this mother, who had no money, who couldn't do anything except wait for her son to die," she narrated.

Macaraya is now involved with the United Nations World Food Program, touring schools to distribute rice, to make sure children stay in school and to address the food security needs of people living in conflict-affected areas.

Lessons from parents

Her parents also taught Macaraya--the youngest in a brood of five-- to be independent and to work hard for their "wants and needs."

She recalled helping her parents sell goods at the barter trade every weekend and whenever she did not have classes so she could earn extra money.

Her compassion for people in need, she also attributes to her parents, who sold cellophane and ice candy at the barter trade center in the 1970s in Zamboanga City.

One incident Macaraya cannot forget was the night her father returned home from work with a bag of rotten tomatoes he had bought from an old vendor.

"I asked him why he did not buy the good ones. He told me that if he did not buy them, the old man would have stayed longer out on the streets selling tomatoes," she said.

A good heart

Her mother, on the other hand, believes in simple acts of charity.

Macaraya said her mother would always cook extra food so they could always serve something to an unexpected visitor.

"She would also always eat last to make sure everybody has enough. Those simple things really instilled in us the value of helping others," she said.

"I learned so much from my mother. She always told me a good heart is the best quality of a woman," Macaraya said.

Outsourcing firm makes workplace woman friendly

By Ronnel Domingo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 18:34:00 03/08/2008

MANILA, Philippines -- Consulting and outsourcing firm Accenture on Friday said it will strengthen efforts to make its workplace more conducive to women, especially in the Philippines where the proportion of men to women is higher compared to elsewhere in its global network.

Kevin M. Campbell, Accenture's chief executive for its outsourcing group, said in a briefing there was a one-to-one ratio in the firm's 15,000-strong workforce in the Philippines.

"The statistics are lower outside this country," Campbell said. "We view this as one of the strengths of our operations here."

He said the sex ratio of Accenture's local workforce evened out in the past three or four years when more and more women were hired as working women became more and more socially acceptable and necessary.

"A big boost to motivate women as half our workforce here was having a female country managing director," Campbell said. "From there, it became more of finding out culturally what works for this country."

He was referring to Beth G. Lui, who has been at the helm of Accenture in the Philippines since 2002.

Lui said Accenture has adopted programs that encourage women employees to stay with the firm "for a long time."

She said these programs include flexible working hours, remote working (from one's home), and ways that help them enjoy social activities without spending too much money.

"We have parts of community programs that are specifically for working women, especially mothers, who enjoy their careers but need to spend more time with their families," she said.

For example, if an employee has DSL service at home, it is possible that she can work from there two days in a week.

Lui said there also was training on managing personal finances, crafts like jewelry and bead-making, and the traditional sport-oriented activities.

She said one reason for the large number women in Accenture's local workforce was that outsourcing work suited women because they are good in multi-tasking and because of their leadership qualities and empathy.

"The job is not dependent on physical abilities," Lui said. "It is process-oriented and uses one's intellect, it is about discipline."

"We want to keep our female employees with us for the long haul and the challenge to that is to help them build self-confidence as well as exposing them to role models," said Campbell, who is based in the United States.

Both Campbell and Lui said another program that showed how the company appreciated its women employees was its decision to celebrate International Women's Day every year.

Accenture commemorated the occasion a day early on Friday, the fourth year in a row, with this year's celebration themed, "Discovering opportunities in a multi-polar world.”

Also on Friday, the New York Stock Exchange-listed firm released the findings of a recent study which showed that only 43 percent of women professionals worldwide felt they were well-equipped to compete in the business economy of the future.

Sponsored by Accenture, the study titled "One Step Ahead or 2011: A New Horizon for Working Women," surveyed some 4,000 male and female business professionals in 17 countries across Europe, Asia, North America, and South America.

However, the study had no respondents based in the Philippines.

The survey asked respondents to consider their "skill readiness" in six categories -- agility, social responsibility, global skills, technology, inclusion and diversity, and business relationships.

Skills readiness was defined as representing the respondents' perceived importance of the specific skill as well as their readiness in that skill.

Both men and women rated technology at the top of their skills readiness assessment, with 75 percent and 73 percent saying so, respectively.

Further, the study found that women were more likely than men to attribute their career advancement to ambition and drive, to passion for their chosen careers and to family support.

Asked what factors limited their careers, 23 percent of women respondents cited gender, 22 percent said it was the need to devote energy to children and family, and 18 percent said it was an unwillingness to relocate.


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Arroyo goes on attack, doles out goodies

By Christine Avendaño
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:31:00 02/26/2008


MANILA, Philippines -- President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo Monday dug into her arsenal to fight her enemies.

Her weapons: Cash cards, grocery bags, promises of a mass transport system, schools, among other things.

As her political foes called on Filipinos to mount yet another popular uprising against her on the 22nd anniversary of EDSA I, Ms Arroyo urged her supporters to use people power in fighting for the rule of law and democratic principles.

“Political stability is in your hands,” the President said at a peace rally organized by her supporters in Trece Martires City in Cavite province, one of three places she visited during the day.

Before flying by helicopter to Trece Martires, she stopped at Silanganan Elementary School in Bagong Silang, also in Cavite, to lead in the laying of hollow blocks at a school being constructed there.

Earlier, the President went to Caloocan City, where she distributed “Ahon Pamilyang Pilipino” cash cards -- P15,000 worth of medical and education assistance -- to 12 families as well as grocery packs.

She said that the “true spirit of people power” was for the country, especially the rich, to help the poor.

Thousands of Arroyo supporters, some carrying placards saying “GMA all the way,” massed Monday at Liwasang Bonifacio in a show of support for the President. Organizers said the crowd there numbered 35,000, but police said no more than 6,000 were present, including House Speaker Prospero Nograles and the President’s two sons.

The Pampanga Mayors League sent 100 people from each of the 20 towns and cities in the province to the rally.

Lawmakers go to Palace

Later Monday, 100 lawmakers, led by Nograles, trooped to Malacañang to express support for the President.

In Trece Martires, Ms Arroyo told some 4,000 cheering supporters led by Cavite Gov. Ayong Maliksi that she had been asked by National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales to attend their rally so she could “talk about people power or talk about our freedom.”
The President noted that the birth of the country’s freedom happened in Cavite.

Ms Arroyo said just as the freedom that the country gained on June 12, 1896, was a significant event, so was the first people power uprising of 1986.

But she reiterated again her line that while the world celebrated EDSA 1, which drove the dictator Ferdinand Marcos into exile, and tolerated EDSA 2, which ousted President Joseph Estrada for corruption, it would not forgive an EDSA 3.

“We are shooting ourselves and we are not stable,” she said. She asked under this condition, how will investors come to the country.

The government, she said, was doing its part to entice investors to invest in the country but she stressed the country’s political stability lie with the people.

Ms Arroyo told the Cavite residents that the success of a mass transport project that would connect the province to Manila’s Light Rail Transit (LRT) lines lay with them. She said the project was being delayed by a threat of a Congressional investigation.

People power for LRT

Just as people of Cavite rose to gain freedom in the 19th century, the President said they now had a big role to play in the country’s development.

“Let your voice reach the Senate,” she said.

Like the people, Ms Arroyo said she was against corruption. But she reminded Caviteños that their province mate and the country’s first president, Emilio Aguinaldo, fought for the rule of law and democratic principles.

“Let us fight for these,” she said.

Countering allegations that people close to her, including her husband, were involved in the bribery and overpricing of the now scuttled national broadband network deal with China’s ZTE Corp., Ms Arroyo asked that the controversy be brought to the courts. Courts decide cases on the basis of evidence, not rumors, she said.

“If we are to talk about freedom, if we are to talk about democracy, let’s talk of the rule of law,” the President said. With reports from Michael Lim Ubac, Tonette Orejas, Inquirer Central Luzon

Across RP, calls for truth, ouster

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 04:34:00 02/26/2008


MANILA, Philippines -- Leftist, religious and civic groups in cities and towns outside Metro Manila on Monday marked the 22nd anniversary of the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolt by staging anti-administration marches and rallies and vowing to continue to fight corruption in government.

Groups from the Southern Tagalog region gathered in Calamba City to form a regional alliance against poverty and corruption, while in the Bicol region, a prayer rally led by the Catholic Church, militant organizations and civic groups in Legazpi City in Albay pledged to stand united in pursuing the truth and justice.

Protest actions were also held in key cities and towns in Cavite, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon.

While most leftist groups called for the ouster of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, a number called only for her resignation, while still others were “playing it safe by only calling for truth and accountability,” Tessa Lopez, spokesperson for Bayan-Bikol, said.

In Cebu City, the leftist Akbayan-Cebu presented “The Okrays” awards to recognize what it called corrupt officials in government.

The group named President Arroyo as the “best corruptress” and the President’s husband, Jose Miguel Arroyo, as the “best corruptor.”

In Bacolod City, thousands marched to the public plaza, demanding the government disclose the truth about the allegations of corruption and the ouster of the President.

In Iloilo City, around 200 protesters belonging to the militant Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) marched on the city’s main streets before holding a rally at the Iloilo provincial capitol.

In Aklan, around 150 protesters led by Bayan held a picket at Crossing Banga in the capital of Kalibo.

In Tacloban City, the League of Filipino Students held a 20-minute noise barrage calling for Ms Arroyo’s resignation but the police dispersed them.

In Mindanao, 500 members of Bayan staged a rally at Magsaysay Park in Cagayan de Oro City, and called for the launch of another people power uprising.

Some 800 protesters gathered at Freedom Park in Davao City, while in Iligan City about 100 members of Bayan threw tomatoes at a streamer with a photo of President Arroyo.

In Cotabato City, about 50 militants held a lighting rally on Sinsuat Avenue.

Nina Catherine Calleja and Jaymee T. Gamil, Inquirer Southern Luzon; Jhunnex Napallacan, Carla Gomez, Joey A. Gabieta and Nestor Burgos Jr., Inquirer Visayas, and Ma. Cecilia Rodriguez, Franklin A. Caliguid, Edwin O. Fernandez, Jeffrey M. Tupas, Frinston Lim, Inquirer Mindanao

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Church protest fails, QC passes sex ed law


A Church-led protest outside their session hall failed to deter Quezon City councilors from approving a proposed ordinance to teach reproductive health lessons in all of the city's public high schools.

ABS-CBN News correspondent Apples Jalandoni reported that priests, nuns and other members of Catholic religious organizations picketed outside the session hall as the council voted on the proposal.

The protests was aimed at stopping the approval of the city ordinance that according to the ralliers, "violates the beliefs of the Church."

The ordinance states that all public high schools in Quezon City will teach sex education to its students, including the use of contraceptives.

The ordinance also recommended the use of artificial family planning methods.

"[It's] not good to teach adolescents about sex... it will perpetuate sex early... results may be abortion...," said Cubao Bishop Honesto Ongtioco.

After the rally, the bishop and the protesters gained entry to the session hall. They, however, found out that the council already passed the ordinance.

The councilors, meanwhile, defended the ordinance.

"It's time for family planning, because this is really a poverty issue," said Councilor Joseph Juico.

The council also said that five out of every 100 children in Quezon City are underweight and one of the reasons is successive births.

The protesters, meanwhile, said they will not be deterred. They said they will elevate their case to the Supreme Court.