News At A Glance

Tarlac journalists receive death threats

Two local journalists who covered the bloody dispersal of the Hacienda Luisita strike in Tarlac province (120 kms. from Manila) last Nov. 16, have been receiving death threats.

In a statement dated Jan. 12, the Tarlac chapter of the National Union of the Philippines (NUJP-Tarlac) scored the incident, saying it is yet another attempt to “muzzle the press.”

Len Espinosa, Manila Times correspondent and NUJP-Tarlac secretary general, received a text message saying “Pa2tayin Kta (I will kill you)” on Jan. 8. Since the message was sent through the “businesscard” function of the mobile phone, it did not carry the sender’s mobile phone number.

Meanwhile, Paul Gonzales, publisher and editor of the local paper Headline News, also received a threatening “Ksnod kna” (You’re next) on the same day. He continued to receive the threats the next two days. As these were also sent as “businesscards,” no suspect can be immediately identified.

Espinosa and Gonzales were the only two reporters present when the massacre of at least seven strikers erupted.

Meanwhile, the two were at Camp Macabulos, the provincial police headquarters, on Jan. 7, the day before they received the threats, asking for the names of the police officers who were relieved from post after the massacre.

The group condemned “in the strongest terms possible the cowardly acts of these individuals who resort to violence (or the threat of violence) to hold Truth hostage but take refuge in the safety of anonymity.”

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GMA beso-beso with Meldy irks militants

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan or New Patriotic Alliance) secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr. “feels sickened and nauseated” with the beso-beso (cheek to cheek greeting) of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and former First Lady Imelda Marcos in Malacañang Jan. 13.

With Marcos’ visit in Malacañang and former President Joseph Estrada’s surgery in Hong Kong despite his ongoing trial for plunder charges, Reyes said it looks like the government is making peace with the “enemies of EDSA 1 and EDSA 2.”

“The underlying message in the meeting of Mrs. Marcos and Mrs. Arroyo is that crime, sooner or later, eventually pays,” he said.

Reyes added that the perception that Macapagal-Arroyo is compromising with Marcos and Estrada puts to question her commitment to justice.

“That beso-beso from one plunderer to another speaks volumes on what direction this administration is headed for,” he said. “It is on the path of political compromise and continuing denial of justice.”

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Review of “odious” loans sought

Bayan Muna Rep. Joel Virador criticized Jan. 10 the reported plan of the government to borrow P7 billion to cover the 2005 budgetary shortfall. The plan arose despite the expected speedy deliberations to approve the proposed two-percent increase in the Value Added Tax (VAT) in the House of Representatives supposedly for more revenues.

Virador said that the loan would be used allegedly to gap operational deficits of the National Power Corporation (NAPOCOR) and other Government Owned and Controlled Corporations (GOCCs) “in a quagmire of debt owing to the huge perks of its high-ranking officials and other indefensible loans these agencies incurred in the past.”

He advised the Arroyo government to review and renegotiate all incurred debts, including foreign ones, citing the United States’ repudiation of some of its debts like those incurred from British financiers in building railroad networks in the 1800’s. The Philippines has the largest public debt in Asia with the Arroyo administration accumulating debts of P1.2 billion a day.

“Debt repudiation and not another set of borrowings would be a highly preferable course of action that should be seriously considered by the Arroyo administration to put an end to the country’s chronic fiscal crisis,” he said.

Virador cited the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant with a $155,000 daily payment despite not being able to generate a single watt of electricity and the loans during the late President Ferdinand Marcos which were allegedly used to finance his cronies’ business interests as “odious loans that should be obviously repudiated.”

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Ration of safe drinking water urged

The Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) urged the government and water companies Jan. 12 to give urgent attention to the reported water contamination in various areas in Metro Manila.

The water contamination was caused by the recent flashfloods.

KMU secretary general Joel Maglunsod recommended that Maynilad and Ayala-owned Manila Waters, together with the DoH, ration for free safe drinking water to consumers affected by the contamination to prevent the outbreak of contaminated water-borne diseases such as cholera, amoebiasis and dysentery. Maglunsod also said that health officials must give out advisories on water sterilization and distillation, while making sure that sufficient medicine are available in barangay health centers especially in urban poor communities.

The labor group also demanded Maynilad to give rebates to its residential customers affected by the water contamination.

“We are not paying the high cost of water services only to get murky and poisoned water from our faucets,” said Maglunsod.

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CPP demands release of arrested Moros

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) spokesperson Gregorio “Ka Roger” Rosal called Jan. 11 for the immediate release of Moros arrested on Jan. 7 in Manila. He called them “victims” of the Arroyo government and Philippine National Police (PNP) in “a desperate publicity stunt.”

According to the Philippine National Police (PNP), those arrested are terrorists who planned to bomb the Quiapo religious procession last Sunday.

Rosal, however, condemned the Arroyo administration for allegedly “victimizing the Moro people” and “hyping-up the terror-scare in a desperate publicity stunt to frighten the people.”

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