Tag Archives: Mamasapano

Sentro lauds Walden Bello for his ‘consistently principled politics, integrity, courage and dignity to fight the crooked powers that be’

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Rep. Walden Bello

WALDEN Bello is now an ex-member of the House of Representatives or the lower house of Congress, the state institution known for its trappings of power and privileges, which he did not indulge in, anyway, when he was still a congressman. He could have finished his third and last term until June next year either by constantly praising and blindly obeying President Aquino or by just keeping quiet while enjoying the perks of his office, even when he sees something wrong with the P-Noy government.

But, no, Walden is not a political leech nor a lapdog of anyone who does not have or no longer have the moral high ground to govern the nation. He belongs to a still very rare breed and very small group of public officials – hopefully, their tribe will increase sooner – who truly think and act for the good of the people. It is a genuine concern for the “masa” – not the perfunctory “kayo ang boss ko” label repeated ad nauseam in live TV broadcasts, not the pretentious pledge of “dating mahirap, kaya makamahirap,” and not the deceitful “makamasa” slogans that politicians routinely use during elections to win votes.

Walden does not look and speak like a “masa” but his politics and advocacies are certainly for the “masa” as his grassroots, activist and principled politics attest to. It is oceans apart from the prevailing elite politics as well as the politics centered on party bureaucrats and politics of expediency, a euphemism actually of opportunist politics.

Thus, not surprisingly, but with a heavy heart, Walden withdrew his support for Aquino last March 11 by irrevocably resigning as the principal Akbayan party list representative in Congress. While the immediate trigger was Aquino’s speech a day before in which he brazenly washed “his hands of responsibility of (the Mamasapano) mission he planned and executed” – there were also a series of earlier events that piled up which made that Jan. 25 tragedy the proverbial last straw for Walden, an erstwhile staunch but critical supporter of Aquino.

These include his vigorous appeals to Aquino not to lose the moral high ground of his administration’s much vaunted “tuwid na daan” drive and “reform agenda” by sacking Director General Alan Purisima, who was still then the PNP chief and not yet suspended, for his several plunder and graft cases. In the same vein, Walden implored Aquino to fire at least four of his Cabinet members who are mired in anomalies or incompetence: Vice President Jejomar Binay, the government’s housing czar and presidential adviser on OFW concerns for even large-scale and decades-long corruption; Budget Secretary Florencio Abad of the PDAF and DAP infamy; Agrarian Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes for his dismal failure to fulfill CARPER; and Proceso Alcala for being a lame duck agriculture secretary.

Walden likewise suggested the shaking up of other executive departments including the DOTC, DOE and DFA as part of the needed revamp and improvement of the bureaucracy. The goal of these and other related efforts is good governance or where the government is able to honestly and effectively serve the people (whom Aquino claims to be his “bosses”) and to institute necessary measures to achieve the elusive genuine inclusive growth – amid the successive GDP “growths” under Aquino but still do not benefit the vast majority of the Filipinos.

But lo and behold! Bello was instead castigated, ostracized and disowned by the President and the government he sincerely wanted to succeed, as well as by his party leadership he thought shared his passion and commitment to truly serve the people and advance progressive agenda.

Sentro expresses its unequivocal and unwavering support to Walden Bello’s well-intentioned proposals and constructive criticisms – emphasizing that no amount of rebuking or disowning him will prevent Sentro from expressing its support to him – as long as what he conveys is for the benefit of the vast majority of people, and not a few privileged ones. Walden should have been thanked for all his efforts.

Indeed, prior to the Mamasapano tragedy, Walden honestly and persistently believed – even amid the growing doubts – in Aquino’s credibility and big potentials. Even at present, he considers Aquino as “a decent fellow untainted by corruption,” but this has been “overwhelmed by his pigheadedness, loyalty to and tolerance of corrupt and incompetent subordinates, inability to appreciate the urgent need for massive social reform, and his allowing the United States undue influence on our foreign policy and internal security policy.”

Walden said that it “seems that the President’s idea of an ally is someone who follows Malacañang’s line without question and without hesitation. It seems that an ally raising legitimate questions and criticisms is seen as sleeping with an enemy.” This is despite his unflinching support to the administration’s core legislative agenda, including the now controversial Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

Hence, Walden’s decision to quit his congressional post and privileges – as indignation to Aquino’s intransigent stand against meaningful social change as well as Aquino’s double standards and self-righteousness; and, unfortunately, in deference to the continued and unwavering support to the Aquino administration of his party’s leadership – is a paragon of statesmanship, consistently principled politics, integrity, courage and dignity to engage his adversaries head on.

Sentro and its member organizations are firmly behind you, Kasamang Walden. Mabuhay ka! Mabuhay ang prinsipyadong pulitika!

Stay the Course: Labor, Women and various groups reassert the need to continue the Peace process, but the guilty from all sides must be held liable

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ALONG with our fiercest denunciation of those few heedless and inept local brains and foreign instigators behind the foolish adventurism in Mamasapano, we the undersigned, likewise expressed revulsion over excessive acts in the battlefield. The tragedy resulted to the needless deaths of dozens of police commandos, Moro fighters and innocent civilians. Even wars, where combatants are expected to kill and be killed, have universally recognized rules of engagement that at least lessen the dehumanization inherent in armed conflicts.

Thus, if the video circulating in the social media that supposedly shows the cold-blooded and uncalled-for execution of an already wounded and helpless government trooper in Mamasapano is authentic, it should, without hesitation, be vigorously condemned regardless of who the shooter was or what group he belongs to. Bear in mind that summary killing and mutilation of (and other undignified acts against) an injured enemy survivor as well as fatalities in combat is a blatant violation of the humanitarian law, including International Humanitarian Law (IHL) Rule 113: On the Treatment of the Dead, which is specifically stipulated in the Geneva Convention.

At the same time, we reiterate our previous calls to conduct a thorough, honest and no-nonsense probe on those responsible for the tactless and incompetent planning as well as the gung-ho implementation of that police operation, which utterly disregarded all the standing ceasefire mechanisms with the MILF and which sent the unfortunate PNP-SAF troopers to a veritable death trap in a remote village in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last Jan. 25. We have  specifically identified those most likely to have an actual role in this debacle: President Aquino himself; then suspended (and recently resigned) PNP chief, Director General Alan Purisima; Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr.; and the ubiquitous and shadowy Americans, particularly those in the US military’s Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P).

Likewise, we again warn the public not to be deceived by rightwing hawks and demagogues who are fanning the flames of Islamophobia and knee-jerk call to arms.

Amid all these, we still support the noble ideals and aspirations of the current peace process. This initiative, while admittedly painstaking, complex and protracted, remains the only viable, just and ultimate solution to the decades-long bloodshed in Mindanao and elsewhere. Let us give “peace with justice” the chance it fully deserves and the goal that the people need and longed for. The Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) has to pass in the form that reflects the aspirations of the Bangsamoro people.

Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP)
Coalition Against Trafficking in Women – Asia Pacific (CATW-AP)
Partido Lakas ng Masa (PLM)
Partido ng Manggagawa (PM)
Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA)
Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO)
Transform Asia

Sentro slams sectors sowing anti-muslim prejudice and anti-peace talks sentiments after Mamasapano

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#TruthandJusticefortheFallen64+ #MoroLivesMatter

SEEPING OUT of the so-called “misencounter” last Jan. 25 are the troubling questions and apparent evasions and cover-ups: Who really are responsible for sending the PNP-SAF troops into a veritable death trap in a remote village in Mamasapano, Maguindanao? Why did this police operation flagrantly disregard the existing ceasefire mechanisms, including not notifying the Coordinating Committee on Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) and the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG)? What are the exact roles and how are is the accountability here of President Benigno Aquino III; his favorite PNP chief, the suspended Alan Purisima; his alter ego and executive secretary, Paquito Ochoa; and the shadowy US military-led Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines?

However, these are not the only ones that unfortunately cropped up in the Mamasapano incident. Impulsive hawks with their knee-jerk reaction and rightwing demagogues with their messianic blabbers are fanning the flames of Islamaphobia or indiscriminate hatred and distrust of anything Muslim, of Hollywood-inspired call to arms for an all-out war, of a distorted black and white worldview of good and evil, of wholesale anti-MILF stance, of reckless and sweeping call to terminate the peace process between the government and the MILF.

Centuries of attempts to violently subjugate and wantonly exploit the peoples in Mindanao (or anywhere else for that matter) – from the colonial invaders to Manila-based “imperial” government – have resulted only to interludes of fleeting “peace and order” but followed again and again by either scattered or organized uprisings. Indeed, a long lasting peace will be realized if genuine justice and freedom are ensured. On the other hand, sincerely talking and striving for peace, however difficult and painstaking, is also a very promising avenue for paving the way for this elusive “peace with justice” dream.

Thus, while actively seeking honest and unedited answers to the Mamasapano incident – from both the government and the MILF – we must consciously strive for an inclusive justice to ALL those who have fallen from this tragedy – the 44 PNP-SAF personnel, the 7 unnamed civilians and the 18 MILF fighters. Their respective families also lost a husband, father, brother, kin, comrade and friend.

This is why the DepEd directive – that during flag raising ceremonies, schoolchildren should offer one second of silence to every SAF operative killed “plus one more second for all other casualties” – is a half-baked tribute for justice and peace. Why not extend the same homage to every civilian and MILF fighters who were also killed in Mamasapano? What does such a “tribute” tell our kids? That the life of one PNP-SAF is equal to the lives of all the civilians and MILF who were killed?

We must continue to support the current peace process as it remains a viable, just and enduring solution to the never-ending armed conflict in Mindanao. At the same time, any form of religious or racial bigotry should be vigorously opposed as it has no place in human society and it would only further inflame anger, violence and mistrust.

‘No whitewash in Mamasapano bloodbath probe’ – SENTRO

INSTEAD of shedding light on the circumstances behind the bloody clash last Sunday between security forces and Moro rebels in Mamasapano, Maguindanao which killed at least 44 policemen, President Aquino’s “explanation” in his televised address last night has in fact opened more questions and bolstered more doubts on the official “misencounter” line being mouthed by the government.

Official accounts said that the “misencounter” between the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) troopers and members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front – which has an ongoing ceasefire and peace talks with the government – happened when the police “entered” the MILF territory in a remote village in Mamasapano town. The elite police force was on a covert mission to arrest a fugitive Malaysian Islamist and his Filipino associate, who were both involved in several high-profile bombings and allegedly sheltered by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a breakaway group of the MILF. The SAF team was pinned down by both MILF and BIFF forces.

The national labor center Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa calls on the government along with other independent sectors to immediately conduct a thorough, honest and no-nonsense probe of this “secret” police operation that has gone awry. No stones should be left unturned in investigating the following, among others:

  • Aquino’s culpability since he knew all along of – he actually sanctioned – the said secret mission of the SAF in Mamasapano;
  • the reported active role of Director General Alan Purisima, Philippine National Police chief, despite being suspended from office for six months since December for graft charges;
  • the alleged important role of Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. and the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC) which he heads, while the secretary of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), which ostensibly controls the PNP, and the PNP officer in charge were both kept in the dark about the operation.
  • the apparent role of the US military, part of the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P), which, if the suspicion that the operation was “directed” by the Americans was true, would clearly indicate a blatant violation of the Constitution and infringement on the country’s sovereignty.
  • the supposed “non-coordination” with the MILF forces in that area as well as with the government’s military troops in the vicinity, which purportedly resulted to the “misencounter” with the MILF members and the “failure” of the military to timely assist the besieged police commandos.

Amid all this, SENTRO strongly urges the government and the board of inquiry not to whitewash the investigation and not to alter the facts so that truth and justice will be achieved.

At the same time, SENTRO reiterates its support for the peace process as the only viable, just and ultimate solution to the decades-long armed conflict in Mindanao and elsewhere. Likewise, SENTRO warns the public not to be duped by right-wing elements who agitate for Islamaphobia or anti-Muslim sentiments.