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Archive for February, 2009

Powerless?

Posted by lenolea on February 17, 2009

Adolfo Azcuna, ponente or author of the Supreme Court decision ordering the transfer of custody of US Marine Lance Corporal Daniel Smith to Manila recently admitted that Washington could not be compelled to comply with the decision.

Smith, a participant in the RP-US Balikatan military exercise, had been found guilty of raping a Filipino identified only as “Nicole” on November 1, 2005. Makati Judge Benjamin Pozon sentenced him to a minimum of 20 years to a maximum of 40 years imprisonment.

He was initially detained at the Makati City Jail but was later transferred to a facility inside the US Embassy compound in Manila. The verdict is under appeal before the Court of Appeals.

Voting 9-4 with two justices inhibiting, the High Tribunal ruled that the agreements signed by Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo and US Ambassador Kristie Kenney on Dec. 19 and 22, 2006, which allowed the detention of Smith under US military custody at the US Embassy, were “not in accordance with the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).”

Passed by the Philippine Senate and signed by then President Joseph Estrada in 1999, the VFA, among other things, grants extra-territorial and extra-judicial “rights” to US servicemen visiting the Philippines for “military exercises”.

Azcuna, who retired Feb. 16, said that the US is not a party to the case. The Court, he added, cannot order the US to negotiate for the transfer.

In other words, Azcuna himself admits that the Supreme Court’s order for Smith’s transfer is pointless.
The High Court only asked the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to negotiate with the US Embassy regarding Smith’s transfer to a facility under the Philippine government’s control.

Article V, Section 10 of the VFA states, “The confinement or detention by Philippine authorities of United States personnel shall be carried out in facilities agreed upon by appropriate Philippine and United States authorities. United States personnel serving sentences in the Philippines shall have the right to visits and material assistance.”

The said provision is vague. The facilities mentioned in the provision do not necessarily mean detention facilities. If ordinary criminals convicted of crimes are automatically sent to the New Bilibid Prison, Smith may end up to anywhere but the New Bilibid Prison.

Already, Press Secretary Cerge Remonde said the government would keep the status quo on Smith pending the outcome of the appeal on his conviction.

Upholding the constitutionality of the VFA has rendered the Philippine government’s hands tied. Nine Supreme Court justices treacherously opted to perpetuate the Philippine government’s subservience to the US government.

Only four Supreme Court justices stood up for the country’s dignity and declared the VFA as unconstitutional. In his dissenting opinion, Chief Justice Reynato Puno called the VFA a continuing “slur on our sovereignty.” He argued that the VFA has not been ratified as a treaty by the United States and that its provisions are not fully enforceable under US law.

But Puno’s voice and of three other justices were drowned by the executive’s clear influence on other Supreme Court justices.

If the Philippine government is powerless in taking jurisdiction over an American soldier convicted of raping a Filipina, then the US soldiers can go on committing heinous crimes and the US government can always take care of the rapists, murderers and what-have-you within their forces.

The Supreme Court decision provides legal basis for the permanent “visits” of American troops in the country. The US soldiers will continue to render humanitarian missions while they engage in actual combat operations, surveillance and counter-insurgency operations. Direct military intervention is disguised as “military exercises.”

Why can’t the Philippine government just junk the VFA? What is there to lose with the abrogation of the VFA? The dilapidated Chinook helicopters and other Vietnam vintage war materials? The covert military operations of the US forces in Philippine soil under the guise of so-called military exercises? The modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)? The Philippines’ status as a second front in the US’ war of terror?

No, we will not lose anything of real value. We will, in fact, regain our dignity as a nation. If only we have good leaders, we can choose not to be powerless even in the face of a powerful nation trampling upon Philippine sovereignty.

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World Crisis Serious, Impact on the Philippines, Severe – Economist

Posted by lenolea on February 17, 2009

“The seriousness of this crisis is such that we cannot expect any solution within the system and certainly not from the US administration, certainly not from the G-20 because within that group, except for a couple of exceptions, is the dominant Washington consensus of the neoliberal agenda, ” said Michel Chossudovsky, a progressive economist and academician.

“In the Philippines, this crisis will be extremely severe because it is imposed upon an existing situation…of dependency, lack of sovereignty, crisis of the real economy, and poverty of the large majority of the population.”

BY RONALYN V. OLEA
Bulatlat

Debunking claims of financial analysts, a scholar asserted that the global economic crisis is a result of financial manipulation. Michel Chossudovsky, director of the Centre for Research on Globalization, also said that the current proposed solutions to the crisis will ultimately fail.

In a forum entitled “Global Financial and Economic Crisis: Exposing Capitalism, Looking for Alternatives” held February 10 at the Asian Center of the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Chossudovsky, said, “We are at the crossroads of the most serious crisis of our history. Its comparison is with the Great Depression of the 1930s… we are really dealing with the first major global economic crisis.”

The forum is part of the two-day lecture of Chossudovsky organized by the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, Ibon Foundation and RESIST!.

Chossudovsky has taught at universities and academic institutions in North America, Western Europe, Latin America, Asia and the Pacific. He is currently teaching in the International Development and Globalization Studies Program at the University of Ottawa.

He is the author of several international best sellers including The Globalization of Poverty and the New World Order (2003) and America’s “War on Terrorism” (2005) and more than 500 articles. His writings have been translated into more than 25 languages.

Chossudovsky said, “We must understand that it’s not a spontaneous downturn as some financial analysts suggested that this is some kind of downturn of a business cycle and it goes up again. This crisis is a result of financial manipulation. It is the result of derivative exposure, the use of very complex speculative instruments which have the capacity of moving markets up and down.”

Neoliberal policies

Chossudovsky said that in Southeast Asia and the Philippines, this crisis takes its roots in the debt crisis of the 1980s. “It is a continuum but at the same time there are sub-stages which have led up to the meltdown of the global financial markets.”

He said that 1980s is the beginning of neoliberal economic policies which led to the Western countries’ restructuring of the State, the phasing out of social programs, privatization of state assets. “It is essentially an agenda which serve the interests of financial institutions and large corporations at the expense of the social project which emerged in the post-war years which is largely based on the notion of welfare state…”he said.

Chossudovsky continued, “They also established a new agenda in the developing countries which is an imposition of strong economic medicine under the auspices of the International Monetary Fund (IMF)-World Bank.”

He said that there were impositions of deadly macroeconomic reforms resulting from the increase in the levels of external debt in the Philippines and other developing countries. The IMF and WB lend money with strings attached, the structural adjustment programs (SAPs), which according to Chossudovsky, include prescriptions such as closing down schools and hospitals, sending off the state assets to the private capital, liberalizing trade, cutting subsidies to agriculture, among others.

“They [IMF-WB] lend money to trigger the reimbursement of the debt and in the process, they impose conditions which in effect establish a parallel government, there is no sovereignty under that kind of arrangement,” Chossudovsky explained.

1997 Asian crisis

Chossudovsky said that from the 1980s onwards, the structure affecting developing countries remains the same. “It’s part of the same process, it leads into another major occurrence which is the Asian crisis of 1997,” he said.

He maintained that the Asian crisis is somewhat a variant of the traditional IMF-WB reform because it was an attempt on the part of Western financial institutions to destabilize currencies and to trigger the collapse of the national currencies with the view of gaining control of essential bank reserves and of gaining control over assets. Countries most affected Korea, Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines were targeted by institutional speculators. The region was impoverished.

Chossudovsky said the whole movement from ‘97 onwards has been essentially to develop a whole range of speculative instruments which have led financial markets, commodity markets, foreign exchange markets, oil markets to go up and down using speculative instruments.

Chossudovsky said the Wall Street conglomerate were largely but not exclusively behind the onslaught of these speculative attacks.

He said that Malaysia was the only country in Southeast Asia which managed to resist the attacks of speculators. “They did this because they have some carefully-designed mechanisms to protect their foreign exchange market and defend themselves against the speculators.”

Financial conglomerate

Chossudovsky said that in the wake of the Asian crisis, the 1999 Financial Services Modernization Act (FSMA), a major piece of legislation in the United States, came. He said the FSMA is important in understanding the present crisis.

The FSMA repealed the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 which prohibited commercial banks from collaborating with full-service brokerage firms or participating in investment banking activities. Enacted during the Great Depression, it protected bank depositors from the additional risks associated with security transactions.

Chossudovsky deemed, “The FSMA allows for the formation of global financial conglomerates through the merger of the commercial banks and the stock brokerage companies, export banks, merchant banks together with the large insurance companies and accounting firms.”

He cited as an example the JP Morgan Chase which is the integration of Chase Manhattan, a commercial bank and JP Morgan.

Chossudovsky said, “This is extremely important because it essentially means that the functions of credit now are overseen by institutions which are involved in speculative activity and the reason why they introduced this separation in the 1930s was precisely to prevent the kinds of occurrences.”

The Act, said Chossudovsky allows speculators to control the financial system. He said there are several speculative actors operating commodity markets and energy markets which push the price up and down . “Then you have a situation where the oil market has absolutely no link to the actual cost of production of a barrel of oil. The price has no relationship to the real cost of the commodity which is the object of speculation. The same thing with food commodity where speculators push up the prices of rice, grain using exactly the same mechanism,” he explained.

Chossudovsky further said, “When I say global financial architecture is that once it was established on Wall Street that commercial banks and stock brokerage firms coalesce, it became a worldwide process. Today, we no longer have a tight separation between commercial banks and stock brokerage firms and that means that financial institutions are increasingly controlled by speculators and then we have the development of all the derivative instruments, the fact that the hedge funds are not regulated in any way. All the US banks have their hedge funds where they can transfer money. The hedge funds are essentially controlled by fund managers who are private individuals but they may be connected to the interest of particular financial institutions or banks.”

“In the present context, it is interesting to note that every single financial institution in America, JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America say they are technically bankrupt. Now you say why are they technically bankrupt? They’ve been taking money from their own bank and transferring this money to their related hedge funds and they are also using the money from the bailout to enrich themselves. What you have is that FSMA setting the stage for the current crisis,” he added.

Architects of economic disaster

Chossudovsky said the architects of the FSMA which create these global financial institutions are very powerful.

He said that the the people who are behind the global financial architecture are precisely the people who are part of the new Obama economics team.

He said that Timothy Geithner, chief executive officer (CEO) of Federal Reserve Bank of New York, has been appointed to head the Treasury and Lawrence Summers who was the architect of the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999 has been appointed as economic adviser of the White House, chairman of the council of economic adviser.

“The CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York which is a private banking institution controlled by the major banking conglomerate is appointed to the Treasury and the Treasury now is in charge of acting on behalf of taxpayers. In effect, the whole process has been hijacked and what we are dealing with is a tremendous accumulation of private wealth by these Wall Street financial conglomerate,” he said.

“What you see is that the architects of economic disaster, those who set the financial agenda in 1999, Lawrence Summers, Robert Rubin, members of the financial establishment, the Rockefeller family and so on, these people are now part of the new economic team,” he added.

“There’s continuity. We have to understand that continuity. The Obama administration does not break that continuity,” Chossudovsky said.

He said that the same people who are behind the financial crisis mainly the Wall Street banks, the big players such as the JP Morgan Chase which is closely linked to the Rockefeller family, Bank of America, the oil companies, what we refer to as military industrial complex which are the major Anglo-American defense contractors, the producers of weapons – the Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, General Dynamics, Boeing, British Air Space remain in control.

‘Solutions’

Chossudovsky said, “The architects of economic disaster are those who are being called in to provide solutions. Within that frame of reference, there are no solutions because the solutions lead to the exacerbation of the crisis, they don’t lead to resolution of the crisis.”

He said that the logic of the first bank bailout which was implemented by the Bush administration is very similar to the logic of Obama’s stimulus package with some differences.

Solutions first proposed by the Bush administration, the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) at the time was a $700-billion rescue package which was to help the troubled financial institutions.

Chossudovsky said that even with this bailout, you will never resolve the problem of the accumulated debts in the banking system.

He explained, “You have a $700 billion Treasury emission which requires running on a budget deficit. You can’t hand over $700 billion to the banks out of thin air. The Treasury needs to finance this. What do they do? They remit $700 billion worth of government bonds and Treasury bills. Now, who is going to buy 700-B worth of government bonds and Treasury bills? Maybe the Chinese, Japanese and some stupid people in Southeast Asia will buy these but they have to go through the banks, they are the brokers of this public debt so that they will help the Treasury to transact this public debt but they will also hold a portion of the public debt.”

He said further, “The mechanics is the following: The banks say we need $700-billion to get rid of this toxic asset etc. The money goes into acquisition of other financial institutions, a part of it is diverted to the hedge fund, it goes into the hands of private financiers connected to the financial institutions.” “The recipients of the bailout are also the creditors of the state which are financing, providing them the money either directly by holding a portion of the debt but also by selling of the debt in the international market.”

Chossudovsky said that to finance this bank bailout, the Treasury needs to slash public expenditure in a massive way. He said, “…[I]n effect, the US state is financing its own indebtedness, it is handing money to the bank and then it is asking the banks to help them finance the deficit and in turn, the public debt goes up dramatically. And I’m not talking about one bailout package, there were several others and then what happens is the whole structure of the public finances of the country goes damn, you can’t fund the schools, you can’t fund the hospitals why? Because you have to give money to the banks.”

“You lend money to the bank and the bank lends you money to finance the money that you handed to them and then they impose also a very major repacking of old categories of expenditure and virtually a situation where the state becomes totally privatized…What is happening in the US is the situation where the banks are overshadowing the entire structure of public expenditure,” Chossudovsky continued.

Chossudovsky said that the financial institutions which call the shots in public policy will then start to transform this massive amount of paper wealth. “What is happening is that this massive concentration of private wealth in the hands of financiers. There’s a lot of cash money capital available at this moment in the hands of a handful of institutions and wealthy individuals and they will start buying up airlines, automobile companies, high-tech firms, universities etc, hospitals. In other words, we’re going to see this shopping spree where the upper echelons of the financial establishments will start buying up the real economy.”

Chossudovsky said even stimulus packages will not solve the crisis. He said it is the IMF and World Bank, the financiers, which will set the guidelines for stimulus packages. “And the IMF-WB are institutions or bureaucracies which in effect are controlled by the Wall Street. They don’t have any authority in their own right, they are very much integrated into the Wall Street establishment,” he said.

He said that any kind of stimulus package has to go to Washington.

Philippines

“This stimulus package is really based on an existing structure of interference and hegemony in the internal affairs of the Philippines…it goes back more than 20 years and is precisely on that basis, on this type of environment of conditionalities and economic reforms imposed by the creditors that this stimulus package is going to be implemented,” he said.

He added, “And it’s going to be implemented on borrowed money obviously because the external creditors are there and they are also now imposing particular directives on how the money is going to be spent.”

Chossudovsky said there are two programs of the WB that is important in the present context. One is called the PIP or the Public Investment Program which essentially is a list of investment projects and is entirely under the control of the WB. The second one, he said, is the Public Expenditure Review.

“They say there is some corruption in the allocation of the WB fund but they [WB] are complicit in that corruption because they deal with the people [involved in corruption],” he said.

Severe

“The seriousness of this crisis is the fact that as far as solutions are concerned, we cannot expect any solution within the system and certainly not from the US administration, certainly not from the G-20 because within that group, except for a couple of exceptions is the dominant Washington consensus of the neoliberal agenda,” Chossudovsky said.

“In the Philippines, this crisis will be extremely severe because it is imposed upon an existing situation…of dependency, lack of sovereignty, crisis of the real economy, and poverty of the large majority of the population. The measures which are currently being formulated must be challenged in a very consistent and meaningful way.”

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Ka Roda, Most Loved Driver

Posted by lenolea on February 16, 2009

Medardo “Ka Roda” Roda is probably the most loved driver in the world. On Valentine’s Day, more than 350 people gathered to pay tribute to the long-time leader of Pinagkaisang Samahan ng Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (Piston).

BY RONALYN V. OLEA
Bulatlat

Medardo “Ka Roda” Roda is probably the most loved driver in the world.

On Valentine’s Day, more than 350 people gathered to pay tribute to the long-time leader of Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (Piston).

The Bonifacio Hall of the School of Labor and Industrial Relations (SOLAIR) at the University of the Philippines in Diliman was adorned with red balloons, with the texts, “Labs ko si Ka Roda” (I love Ka Roda.) Members of Piston-Kamuning chapter wore shirts with the same message.

Organized by the Kodao Productions in cooperation with Piston, Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU or May 1st Movement), Anakpawis (Toiling Masses), and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan or New Patriotic Alliance), Labs ko si Ka Roda was indeed a serenade. Testimonies revealed why he is so loved.

Ka Roda was born on Oct. 27, 1934 to a peasant family in Libanan, Camarines Sur in Bicol.

In 1965, he went to Manila to find work. He landed as a stevedore at the pier.

Later, he became a taxi driver. After four hold-up incidents, he decided to drive a jeepney instead. His first route was Cubao to V. Luna.

It was then that he met activists and started studying the ills of Philippine society. He rose as a leader of the most progressive and militant transport group.

Militant leader

Dr. Carol Pagaduan-Araullo, chairperson of Bayan, said that Ka Roda has been transformed from an ordinary jeepney driver into a street parliamentarian.

Araullo said Ka Roda led protest actions, mainly transport strikes against the soaring oil prices, against the exploitation of drivers and against the fascism of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

Steve Ranjo, Piston chair, said, “Dalawampung taong pinamunuan ni Ka Roda ang Piston. Malaking bahagi niyon ay panahon ng martial law. Ganyan kabigat ang kanyang naging ambag” (Ka Roda led Piston for 20 years. A great part of it was during the martial law years. That’s how great his contributions are.)

In a video released by Kodao Productions in 2007 entitled, Ang Ruta ni Ka Roda (Ka Roda’s Route), Ka Roda relates how Marcos viewed him: “The most rebellious driver the Philippines ever had, sabi ni Marcos. Gago talaga si Marcos.” (Marcos said. Marcos was really nasty.)

Ka Roda said one day, he was invited to Camp Crame. The invitation lasted for one year and three months.

Roger Soluta, KMU deputy secretary-general, recalled how he started admiring Ka Roda.

Sometime in 1990, Soluta said he saw Ka Roda at a court hearing. Both of them were facing charges. Soluta and his co-workers at a five-star hotel in Manila were charged with drug trafficking. He said they were framed up by the management. Ka Roda, on the other hand, was slapped with inciting to sedition.

Soluta said, “Nakita ko, matibay ang paninindigan nito. Ginigipit siya dahil sa inilunsad na welga… Nakita ko, tunay na lider ito, handang magsakripisyo alang-alang sa drayber” (I saw that his convictions are firm. He was being harassed because of the strike. I saw that he is a true leader, one ready to sacrifice for the sake of his fellow drivers.)

Araullo said, “Hinahangaan si Ka Roda bilang isang sinsero, matapat at marangal na lider… Laging tinatanganan ang kahilingan ng masang drayber” (Ka Roda is admired for being a sincere and honorable leader… He always carries with him the interest of the ordinary drivers).

Even Jose Maria Sison, chief political consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) agreed. In a video-taped message, Sison described Ka Roda as an intelligent, brave and militant mass leader. Sison said Ka Roda struggled against the foreign oil monopoly and their local cohorts.

Speaking at the gathering, Anakpawis Representative Rafael Mariano said of Ka Roda, “Hindi matatawaran ang nagpapatuloy na papel ni Ka Roda sa pagsigla ng kilusang manggagawa at mala-manggagawa sa ating bansa. Kung pag-uusapan ang pagpupundar ng KMU at Piston, hindi mawawaglit ang bahagi ni Ka Roda” (Ka Roda’s continuing role in strengthening the movements of workers and the semi-proletariat in our country cannot be downplayed. If we are to talk about planting the seeds of KMU and Piston, we cannot miss Ka Roda’s part.)

Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano sings “Patak ng Ulan” in a tribute to Medardo Roda.

Mariano said that even during the “storm in the national democratic movement”, Ka Roda stood by the principles of national democracy and struggled against the reformists who peddled right and left opportunism and urban insurrection.

Warm, cheerful

Soluta described Ka Roda, “Hindi nauubusan ng kuwento, magiliw.” (He would never run out of stories, he is cheerful). He even recalled one of Ka Roda’s favorite jokes.

Araullo said that despite debates between Piston and Bayan regarding certain tactical campaigns, Ka Roda remained warm and cheerful. She said Ka Roda does not take political contradictions personally.

During the entire program, Ka Roda sat in front of the stage. Many times, he would comment on the speeches.

When Soluta said he is cheerful, Ka Roda quickly added, “Madaldal” (Talkative.)

When a member of Tambisan sa Sining, KMU’s cultural group, was explaining their songs, Ka Roda jokingly said, “Kanta na” (Just sing it). Tambisan sa Sining sang “Walang Hanggang Paalam” and “Aanhin”.

While Mariano was singing “Patak ng Ulan”, the man sitting next to him asked him if he, too, is a good singer. Ka Roda replied, “Oo nama.” (Of course).

After the People’s Chorale sang two of his favorite love songs, “Moon River” and “Around the World”, Ka Roda said, “’Sumulong Ka, Anakpawis!’ naman”

Mariano recited Ka Roda’s favorite lines, “Public office is a public trust.” “Sovereignty resides in the people…”

Ka Roda quickly added, “…and all government authority emanates from them.” Ka Roda memorized certain sections of the Philippine Constitution, citing these whenever arguing with the authorities.

Ka Roda’s spirit has remained the same even as he is now confined to a wheel chair. He suffered two strokes in 2002 and 2003.

Outpouring of love

Members of the Concerned Drivers and Operators for Reforms (CONDOR), the Piston chapter in the Bicol region, sang to him “Sarong Banggi”.

Southern Tagalog activists performed a poem about the drivers’ plight.

Four women members of the People’s Chorale serenaded Ka Roda with songs, “Tuwing Umuulan at Kapiling Ka” and “Kung Tayo’y Matanda Na.”

Sison also sang to him an Ilocano folk song via the video.

Ka Roda’s grand daughters Rica, Nica and Bea offered two songs to their grandfather.

When asked to deliver a speech, Ka Roda said, this time, seriously, “Kung makakatayo uli ako, maglilingkod pa rin ako sa drayber at mamamayang Pilipino” (If I could stand again, I would still serve drivers and the Filipino people.)

Undoubtedly, he is the most loved driver. His love for others, too, is boundless.

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