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War criminals

Posted by lenolea on January 11, 2009

It doesn’t come as a surprise that the US government is the primary ally of Israel.

For decades, the US government has been financing Israel’s aggression against the Palestinian people. In fact, Israel is the biggest recipient of US military aid, getting $3 billion annually.

Both governments have no respect for international opinion. Despite a United Nations Security Council’s resolution demanding an “immediate, durable” ceasefire leading to the “full withdrawal” of Israeli forces from Gaza, Israel has insisted on its ways.

Such bullheadedness of Israel is supported by the US government, explicitly expressed when the US blocked the said UN resolution. It must be remembered that the US also shun the UN when it launched a preemptive strike against Iraq in 2003.

Both have been misleading the public to justify illegal and inhuman occupation. The US had Saddam Hussein and weapons of mass destruction (WMD) as an excuse, which, years after the start of the war, has been widely discredited. Saddam, the non-US ally, was killed and the US set up a puppet regime in Iraq.

Israel blames the democratically-elected Hamas for its aerial bombing and ground invasion of Gaza. US President George W. Bush justified Israel’s attack by branding the Hamas regime as a ‘terrorist group supported by Iran and Syria.’

Worse, the US military-industrial-media complex has been peddling their lies.

Both the US and Israel have committed war crimes, including genocide.

US’ “smart bomb” were so “precise” they hit residential areas. The Iraqi Health Minister said that there were 150,000 Iraqi civilians killed from March 2003 to November 2006. Also part of what the US called “collateral damage” in its war on Iraq are the 2,835 American troops killed during the same period.

Since the Israel army launched aerial bombing on Gaza on December 27 and moved into the Palestinian territory on January 3, almost 800 Palestinians, including 220 children have been killed. About 3,100 have been wounded.

The latest atrocities of Israel are but part of its long record of aggression against the Palestinian people. Since 1948, Palestine has been under Israeli occupation. Today, half of the Palestinian people are refugees abroad while one-third of the population has become refugees in their own land. At least 1.4 million Palestinians are living in areas confiscated by Israel.

Before 1948, 93.4 percent of those who live in Palestine are Palestinians and 6.6 percent are Jewish. By 1967, Israel occupied 79 percent of the land.

The Palestinian people have long been fighting for their right to land and their right to self-determination.

The US tolerates and funds Israel’s barbaric acts for its own interests. Just as in Iraq and even Afghanistan, it is the greed for oil that cause the shedding of innocent blood in Palestine. There is natural gas in Gaza, and an oil pipeline planned to pass through the strip.

The International League for People’s Struggle, an international anti-imperialist group, cannot be more precise when it said, “The US has used Israel as the bridgehead of US imperialist hegemony in the Middle East and as the platform for threatening and blackmailing countries in the region, making them military and political clients and controlling the oil resources.”

US President-elect Barack Obama’s deafening silence on Israel’s attacks is a sign of continuing US support for a war criminal like itself.

In the meantime, both the US and Israel will continue to face armed resistance of the peoples they oppress.

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Make noise

Posted by lenolea on December 31, 2008

Filipinos welcome the year with noise making. Doing so drives away evil spirits, elders say.

To make the new year and the rest of 2009 safer and more meaningful, let us do away with toxic and dangerous firecrackers. Instead, let us welcome the year with non-toxic noise-makers such as horns, loud music, whistles, and a pledge to make noise (literally and figuratively) every time the situation calls for it.

Activists make noise when the prices of oil and other basic commodities soar, when government officials get caught in their scandals, or when evil schemes by the powers-that-be need to be exposed.

This year, witnesses to the National Broadbank Network-ZTE project blew the whistle. Rodolfo “Jun” Lozada, Dante Madriaga, Jose “Joey” de Venecia III and Rep. Jose de Venecia spilled the beans about the shady deal.

Imagine if all of them did a Romulo Neri who kept silent about the scandal. We would have been paying $329 million to the Chinese firm, of which more than $41 million would have gone as ‘tongpats,’ as Lozada puts it. Neri refused to answer vital questions regarding Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s involvement in the anomalous deal.

We need not be Lozada, Madriaga or de Venecias to blow the whistle when something wrong is done. Noise is essential to wake up those who need to take action.

As Edmund Burke said, “All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”

When scandals come one after the other without the perpetrators being held fully accountable, when impunity persists amid extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and other human rights abuses, when the powerful schemes endlessly to protect its selfish interest, when the majority of the Filipino people live in abject poverty, when transnational corporations continue to plunder the country’s resources at the expense of the people and the environment, there can be no doubt that evil reigns.

According to tradition, noise drives away evil spirits.

The country needs more men and women to do something because the loudest noise that can drive away the evil that has entrenched itself in the palace has yet to be made.

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Neglected heroes

Posted by lenolea on December 19, 2008

On December 18, 1990, the United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution 45/158 or the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families.

The Convention establishes international standards of treatment to uphold basic human rights of migrants and their families. It also mandates State parties to give due regard not only to labor needs and resources, but also to the social, economic, cultural and other needs of migrant workers and members of their families.

The Philippines is one of the 39 countries that have so far ratified the UN agreement.

In her keynote speech during the 2nd Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) here in Manila, October 29, Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said, “We urge all countries which have not yet done so to ratify the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.”

Arroyo told the representatives of the 163 countries attending the GFMD, “[W]e must embrace them [migrants] as human beings who contribute to our essential well-being in this age of vast movement and change.”

On December 5, Arroyo proved she has taken to heart all her words.

That day, retrenched overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) from Taiwan went to Malacañang, prodded by Labor Secretary Marianito Roque and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) official Carmelita Dimson.

In a press conference days after the visit to Malacañang, Cristina de Borja, one of the retrenched OFWs recalled that day, “We were expecting to meet and talk with the President. But the President only came when the cameras started rolling…We want President Arroyo to tell us that the Philippine government would do everything in its power to enforce our valid contracts…But she did not speak to us at all. After the photo gimmick, she left without a word.”

The checks worth P50,000 handed over to four of OFWs’ representatives turned out to be a mere part of the gimmick. After members of the media have left, the OFWs were instructed to turn over the checks to the Technological Resource Center (TRC) and told they still have to apply for a livelihood program.

What the OFWs got that day was a bag presented as the ‘assistance package.’ The bag contained brochures of the Social Security System (SSS), PhilHealth, flyers from the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) and referrals to the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA).

May Ruiz, another OFW from Taiwan lamented, “They call us modern-day heroes. But apparently modern-day heroes are just worth a bag full of papers.”

This particular incident is just a tip of the iceberg, so to speak. The deep concern of the Arroyo government toward the OFWs is evident in many other cases.

According to Migrante International, the largest global alliance of OFWs, there are 30 OFWs facing death penalty in different parts of the globe.

Five have already been executed in Saudi Arabia since 2001. They were Antonio Alvesa, Sergio Aldana, Miguel Fernandez, Wilfredo Bautista, Reynaldo Cortez and Jenifer Beduya.

In a report to Malacañang in 2007, the Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs (OUMWA) of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) boasted that 19 OFWs were ‘commuted through the efforts of the President, the Vice President and the DFA conducting high-level negotiations with the host governments.’

Said OFWs, though saved from death, were sentenced with ‘less severe punishment’ including lifetime imprisonment. Never mind if these OFWs have insisted their innocence or have decried torture to admit crimes they did not commit.

Thousands of stranded and detained OFWs mostly in the Middle East have also been complaining that the government has been sitting down on their cases.

Amid the cold treatment on the plight of OFWs, the Arroyo government continues to promote labor export policy.

Why not? The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) recently said the country can continue to expect monthly dollar remittances of about $1 billion from OFWs. The bankrupt Philippine economy relies heavily on the blood and sweat of millions of OFWs in order to survive.

The government also earns around P2.92 billion a year from Filipinos seeking employment abroad, Migrante International revealed. Each of the 3,000 Filipinos leaving the country per day needs to shell out P17,665 for 76 documents required of them. OFWs are also charged with a 0.15 percent documentary stamp for every remittance transaction.

Is the Arroyo government treating OFWs as human beings?

The OFWs and their families have the answer.

Garry Martinez, chairperson of Migrante International said in a statement on the eve of the International Migrants Day, “We will do an al-Zeidi. We have already received a lot of suggestions that stilettos or Dutch wooden shoes would create more impact if thrown at President Gloria Arroyo. OFWs from the Middle East prefer safety shoes in construction sites since they have steel frame inside.”

Muntadhar al-Zeidi is the Iraqi reporter who hurled his shoes at US President George W. Bush during a press conference in Baghdad, Iraq.

OFWs in Hong Kong, Canada, Australia, Japan, Korea, Taiwan and the US also held protest actions, reminding Arroyo that they are human beings whose worth is far beyond the dollar remittances they send back home.

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