Monday, December 14, 2009

Conference at Club Filipino

"For ten (10) years, this administration with a woman president at the helm did nothing on health and women's rights issues, but "kill" programs that will help attain the country's international commitments."

In a press conference that followed a forum titled, "Strengthening Partnerships: Fostering People's Collaboration in Achieving the ICPD Programme of Action," held at Club Filipino, attended by leaders of various non-government and civil society organizations and government agencies, former Health Secretary Alberto "Quasi" Romualdez lamented the lack of programs that will help attain the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) Programme of Action.

According to Dr. Romualdez, the governments' neglect in meeting international commitments, such as the MDGs and ICPD, is very serious. He noted that if we had money to spend for health and family planning programs ten years ago, if we had implemented programs on these areas, then we should not be relying on foreign funding now."

"If only this administration has implemented programs on health, specifically family planning, then the unnecessary death of at least 30 to 40 thousand women who died due to childbirth and pregnancy related complications could have been prevented," laments Romualdez. "Maternal death over the past 10 years is six thousand times the number of deaths in Maguindanao massacre," he added.

Romualdez further emphasized the importance of the coming elections. He said, "it is very important to elect candidates in both national and local positions who are committed to resurrect these international commitments.'

"We should not allow candidates to issue motherhood statements, but we should engage them to have a written specific program of action, on how he or she will meet these international commitments once elected, so they will not be able to get away with it," Romualdez concluded.

Martial Law in the Philippines

By Bingo P. Dejaresco III

The nation seethed with rage over the brutal massacre of 57 civilians in Maguindanao by an alleged warlord family named the Ampatuans.

Yet when the Palace announced the declaration of Martial Law in Maguindanao last Saturday - presumably to short-circuit the warlord - not everybody was cheering.

The problem goes back to the "trust issue" that most Filipinos have over their president - who has decided to run as Congressman of her Pampanga district.

Though acknowledging GMA's being hostage by circumstances, many believe she will hold on to power - as a defensive move to protect her from legal perdition - once the shield of power is denied her as she vacates the throne of the presidency.

She certainly would not relish the path suffered by her predecessor Erap who was arrested and convicted for plunder and a virtual prisoner in his own Tanay rest house.

So, the analysts conjure of images of four Options GMA opened for herself.

One, is the electoral route which (unfortunately) did not jettison off the ground because the likes of popular vote-getters like VP Noli de Castro and Batangas governor Vilma Santos just refused to be stained by the "kiss of death" from MalacaƱang.

Their presidential bet Gibo Teodoro, while immensely qualified, is just too burdened by the baggage of the GMA presidency to fly off the ground - an Edu Manzano as vice president, notwithstanding. The clandestine talks between a "silent alliance" with NP stalwart Manny Villar remain within the realm of speculation - but that is not entirely impossible.

Second, GMA has filed her COC in Pampanga - and this is allegedly the groundwork, the foundation for a launch at the speakership - or the Prime Minister post at some point under a Cha-Cha scenario.

Third, create artificial state of violence in many parts of the country (like the one in Maguindanao) and issue a red flag warning for a grim No Election (NOEL) situation.

Fourth, is allow Smartmatics, the election computer company, to go haywire during the first automated elections in May 2010 and for Comelec to then thus declare a Failure of Election.

Those who oppose the ML (Martial Law) in Maguindanao are deathly afraid of scenario C, where the Ampatuan Case will be a first round of violence to escalate later into a major orgy of violence nationwide (precipitated by bad intentions).

GMA did a massive image refurbishing after the Ampatuan Massacre by merely allowing chief of staff Eduardo Ermita to announce the declaration of Martial Law and not herself as Commander-in Chief. That would somehow keep nasty rumors about her personal involvement in the creation of this new-found Proclamation 1959 and avoid putting political color to her various activities.

Then she hugged, assured the media families of the 27 media victims, rather than endorse the political enemy of the family - the victims of Mangudadatu - because pretty soon, this family will also be asked to disband - otherwise it will appear like the Palace is withdrawing support from one Warlord only to give authority to another.

Should Martial Law have been declared at all?

Brilliant lawyer-senator Miriam Santiago said there exists no rebellion and the agents of the Palace are just doing "creative constitutional construction." Therefore ML is not justified.

"No rebellion exists" says lawyer Harry Roque while former Concon delegate and Comelec chairman Christian Monsod indicated that the phrase "imminent rebellion" was excised off the 1987 Constitution - precisely to disallow its definition to be so liberally interpreted.

The explanation of the other side is very interesting.

The Generals and their Soldiers are one in fear that without the Martial Law mantel, it would have been difficult to recover the 3,000 arms and ammunition of the deadly Ampatuan family with over 2,000 armed men surrounding their area. They needed the iron-hand to collect guns, arrest people and file charges.

Now they have the Big Fish (vice mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr.), the governor in the Government Hospital - with the tightest of security and 19 other family relatives suspects for questioning.

According to the DOJ: the provincial and municipal governments were no longer functioning and the courts were becoming Phantom overnight - never to be as visibly seen by the general public.

All these proved the declared Martial Law was extreme useful, according to government apologists.

In the next 48 hours or so, Congress in joint session with the Opposition senate (18-5) ratio will vote for the approval/disapproval of the ML proclamation, as sure as the crow being black, the Proclamation 1959 will be supported because the gallant senators will be outvoted in the extreme since both houses will vote as "one".

This is the first time Martial Law has been declared in a limited way after the strongman rule of Ferdinand Marcos.

We had seen the excesses of Martial Law - shattered economy, no global credit, crony capitalism, human rights violations, plus real and institutionalized violence. We still stand four-square against any repeat of the same.

Perhaps the extra ordinary situation in Maguindanao justified, in the minds of government, extra ordinary means like Martial Law. It is also one of the powers of the president under the law but subject to congressional confirmation.

We have always fought against the idea of fighting fire with fire.

There is always the danger, that men being what they are, they will violate human rights in the hallowed name of giving justice to the hapless victims. And we affirm that we do not right a wrong by committing another wrong.

So with the cache of arms already collected and 19 of the Ampatuan family members in custody for questioning, we feel the backbone of the "rebellion" has been de facto quelled.

We say, lift Martial Law immediately and let Democracy take over.

If the Military cannot crush the Ampatuans using the methods of democracy in two weeks, it cannot deserve to be its qualified defender.