Category Archives: statement

We condemn the declaration of Martial Law ! -iDEFEND

IDefendOn Tuesday night, President Rodrigo Duterte declared Martial Law on the entire Mindanao Island while on a state visit in Russia, following the fighting between the military and the Maute group.

It has to be clarified that the clashes were triggered by law enforcement operation in Marawi. This is a situation started by the government itself. Similarly, the Maute group is a local terrorist group, and not ISIS, even as the former tries to ally itself with ISIS.

We condemn the violence perpetrated by the Maute group to advance their political interest. Attacking civilian population not party to the conflict between government forces and the Maute violates duly recognized human rights of the people and violation of International Humanitarian Law on armed conflict.

While the fighting has endangered the life of civilians in the area, Martial Law does not alleviate this danger nor ensure the resolution of conflict and achievement of peace. Note that the National State of Emergency Due to Lawless Violence, declared after the Davao bombing, is still in place nationwide.

Martial Law adversely affects civilians as this would curtail many of their rights. Without Martial Law, the military has engaged and fought terrorist groups in Mindanao and can continue to do so as their obligation and mandate.

With Martial Law, the civil and political rights of the civilians, and their lives, are endangered more than ever. Confusion and insecurity among communities may be taken advantaged of by different armed groups, furthering the violence in Marawi, and the rest of Mindanao. Human rights abuses are bound to happen, especially under a presidency which has openly shown no respect for human rights. It could potentially endanger striking workers and other protesting activists in Mindanao.

The public has the right to be informed of the situation in Mindanao and as of the declaration of Martial Law, a lot of questions remained unanswered. Defense Secretary Lorenzana himself told media that “there is intelligence” about the situation in Marawi, but that this intel has been wrongly interpreted. If the situation in Marawi had to do with weaknesses in the execution of its job, Martial Law, and over the entire Mindanao Island, is NOT the answer to this shortcoming or failure.

The 1987 Constitution has limited the President’s powers to place the country or any part of it under martial law to two situations – invasion or rebellion – and only when the public safety requires it. Clearly, only compelling reasons must justify martial law. The current situation does not constitute sufficient factual basis for the proclamation of martial law or the potential suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.

WE CALL ON THE CONGRESS TO REVOKE THE DECLARATION OF MARTIAL LAW!

Martial Law is Not the Answer!

Philstar photo

The Sentro ng Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO) condemns the atrocious attack on the people of Marawi perpetrated by a local terrorist group. We solidly stand with them in this tragic moment. We believe, however, that the declaration of Martial Law is a heavy-handed response to the situation that even the AFP now claims is under control.

It is in this light that SENTRO condemns the declaration of Martial Law and joins the growing clamor of various social movements, civil society organizations and concerned citizens around the country, especially in Mindanao, in calling for the rescinding of the declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao.

The real possibility of a state of martial law being utilized for counter-insurgency and the suppression of civil liberties, including workers’ and trade union rights, is a well-founded fear of our people due to our two-decade experience of dictatorship. While the 1987 Constitution (under Art. 18, Sec. VII) has significantly constrained the latitude of abuse a state of martial law may entail, a pliant Congress does not inspire institutional confidence.

We are also calling on the recalibration of transparency ofinformation access regarding the unfolding crisis. While we respect the need for confidentiality and classification the AFP and PNP demands for such a sensitive operation, the humanitarian cost and the very real distress the relatives and friends of Marawi residents all over the country are experiencing also demand due diligence andresponsibility. Rescue the victims, pursue the perpetrators.

In placing Mindanao under Martial Law, the Duterte administration, ironically for a
Mindanao-based leadership, is merely repeating what other administrations have done – to treat Mindanao as a frontier to be subdued rather than governed.

Peace for Mindanao. Stop the War.

CALL TO ASEAN LEADERS: REJECT RCEP AND OPPOSE UNJUST TRADE DEALS

SENTRO and FDC lead a protest action in front of the Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila against RCEP. May 10, 2017.

Trade Justice Pilipinas a broad platform campaigning for just trade and investment policies expresses its opposition to the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement or RCEP.

We urge the leaders of the ASEAN members’ states to defend the primacy of human rights, environmental integrity and peoples’ welfare against international economic agreements like RCEP that advance commercial interests and the corporate agenda, and impinge on the ability of the government to advance the greater public interest.

Furthermore, we call on the Philippine government, as Chair of ASEAN for 2017, to demonstrate leadership in raising the peoples’ concerns against RCEP during the 18th round of talks here in Manila.

In the Chairman’s Statement from the 30th ASEAN Summit in Manila, Member States led by the Philippines, reiterated the common vision to build a truly inclusive, people-centered, and people-oriented ASEAN community and stressed the centrality of ASEAN in the RCEP talks.

We assert that RCEP and other new generation free trade and investment agreements ran counter to the vision of a people-centered ASEAN. Contrary to the view expressed by ASEAN leaders that the RCEP talks have progressed considerably, the direction of the talks have in fact moved backwards with the agenda becoming more ambitious therefore demanding deeper commitments from parties. RCEP has become in many respects worse than the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement or TPP.

Our opposition to RCEP is anchored on the following concerns:

RCEP is a threat to public health and peoples’ access to medicines. The proposed agreement with TPP+ provisions on intellectual property rights will make it harder for poor people in the region to access affordable medicines particularly life-saving drugs, and for governments to advance public health policies for the benefit of the poor. The IPR chapter and many other provisions in the proposed agreement could undermine State policies on public health enshrined in Constitutions and national health laws like the Cheaper Medicines law in the Philippines.

RCEP will give corporations–many of which have annual revenues bigger than the GDPs of most countries in ASEAN, the right to sue governments over public policies and regulations in secret, ad-hoc corporate courts.

The investor state dispute settlement provision or ISDS, which has been highly criticized in the context of TPP negotiations, should be strongly rejected as well by ASEAN governments as an instrument that will weakening the right of State to regulate investments in the name of the greater public interest.

RCEP will straight-jacket governments, curtailing their power to use public policies to advance development agenda by putting in place prohibitions on performance requirement such as policies on domestic content and export restrictions, policies that favor employment of locals over foreign workers or even those that push for technology transfer.

Amidst the continuing backlash against globalization policies that have disenfranchised and marginalized the working class, the imperative is really to push back on RCEP and new generation trade and investment agreements that advance the corporate agenda over peoples’ interests.

Women groups urge solons to stop culture of misogyny

Women leaders marched this morning from the Film Center to the Philippine Senate. Wearing purple, the women held a program in front of the Senate Building, strongly condemning the latest degrading remark of Senator Tito Sotto against single mothers.

The group also called on the Senate Ethics Committee to subject the conduct of the senator to an investigation on the basis of the Magna Carta of Women and other laws.

Judy Miranda, Secretary General of Partido Manggagawa (PM), said that workers’ taxes pay for Sotto’s salaries. “He should be taken off Senate’s payroll for his gross disrespect for women’s rights,” according to Miranda.

“Senator Sotto has historically disparaged women, with his anti-Reproductive Health stance, victim-blaming an abused woman in his show Eat Bulaga with “kababae mong tao, pa-shot-shot ka pa,” and most recently by referring to single mothers as “na-ano” lang,” said Jean Enriquez, Philippine Coordinator of the World March of Women. Enriquez added that she herself was a single mother for a long time, forced by the fact that she was a victim of domestic violence.

“Many women are also raising children by themselves because of the patriarchal culture, wherein women are left pregnant by men who do not take responsibility for the consequences of their sexual conduct,” said Mary Jane Labongray, a young woman leader of SENTRO. “One out of 10 teenage girls are already mothers,” added Labongray.

“There are many reasons that push women to a situation of single motherhood, arising from a situation of unequal situation between women and men, including the sexual objectification of women,” said Meth Jimenez of SARILAYA.

“It was the culture of misogyny among our politicians speaking through the Senator’s remark and the ensuing laughter heard from the other senators,” said Clarissa Militante of Focus on the Global South. “This culture of misogyny became worse by the words and practice of the President himself,” added Militante. The apology which was justified as street language by Senator Sotto, was a non-apology, according to the group.

The women also included leaders from Ina ng Bayan sa Sais and SPELL.

Labor groups raise grave concerns over RCEP

Representatives from major trade unions in both the public and private sectors have raised serious concerns on the possible impacts of the Regional Economic Comprehensive Partnership Agreement (RCEP) which is currently being negotiated in Manila: According to their analysis, prices of medicines may increase, government revenue decrease and the government’s ability to regulate foreign investments, service providers and transnational corporations may be constrained.

The analysis of the labor groups are based on leaked draft texts of the RCEP as no official document has been made public throughout the four years of negotiations. Only negotiators and key business representatives had access to the official documents. Even Congress has been blindsided. This seriously constrains the democratic process.

RCEP is a mega free trade and investment agreement negotiated between 16 countries in the Asian region- the 10 ASEAN countries plus India, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand.

The proposal to have an international private arbitration process that ignores national laws and the Constitution and where investors can make multi-billion claims against governments was another concern raised by the groups.

At a meeting attended by major labor centers like SENTRO and the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP), affiliates of global union federations such as PSI, IndustriALL and BWI, solidarity support organization like SASK, and the Trade Justice Campaign – Pilipinas, held on May 5 2017 in Quezon City, Dave Diwa, of National Labor Union (NLU) called RCEP a “danger zone that governments should avoid at all costs. “Vicente Camilon, Jr of the TUCP added that “RCEP might constraint our government’s power to regulate, undermine national sovereignty, and limit it ability to pursue national development objectives.” Jullian Roque of Public Services Labor Independent Confederation (PSLINK) further added that the deal could diminish public funds that should be devoted to basic social services.”

In contrast, the labor unions pointed out the corporate-bias of RCEP. Glen Pastorfide of the Philippine Government Employees Association (PGEA) said that RCEP could strengthen the power of corporations while weakening policies that seek to protect and conserve our natural resources and ecosystems.”

Alan Tanjusay of Associated Labor Unions (ALU) pointed out that “RCEP has no social dimension. Our government will be prevented from instituting policies and regulations beneficial to working people.”

Wilson Fortaleza of the Partido ng Manggagawa concluded that “RCEP is a global corporate agenda of regional oligarchs.”

“Clearly, the RCEP is as bad as the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP),” Josua Mata, Secretary General of SENTRO, declared. “If Pres. Duterte rejected TPP, then he should, at the very least, be worried about RCEP as well,” he added.