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7 of 10 farmers are landless

Seven out of 10 farmers in Southern Tagalog (a region south of Manila) are landless. Peter “Tata Pido” Gonzales, spokesperson of the Katipunan ng mga Samahan ng Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (Kasama-TK, a farmers’ alliance in the region) said Jan. 21that the unprecedented increase in the number of farmers who do not own any land is due to the increasing land monopoly through wide-scale conversion of productive agricultural lands and coastal areas. This reveals the fact that the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) is a farce, he said.

Gonzales also disputed recent findings by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) where the number of families that experienced a day without food declined in the last quarter of 2004. Based on Kasama-TK research, he said, the condition of farmers in the region has worsened since the implementation of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade under the World Trade Organization ten years back.

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Malacañang is misleading the public on media killings — NUJP

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) last week took exception to Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye’s downplaying of a report by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) on the media killings in the Philippines.

Bunye called the IFJ report “misleading,” saying majority of cases involving the killing of journalists have been solved by the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) Special Task Force.

In a statement, NUJP secretary general Carlos Conde said: “There’s no truth to his assertion that ‘majority’ of these murders have been solved – if we use the universal definition of ‘solved’ as justice having served, i.e. a court conviction of a suspect…Indeed, it mocks the victims and their families.”

Bunye apparently based his statement on the PNP’s definition of “solved.” For the PNP’s part, a case is solved if a suspect has been identified, even without an arrest.

Granting for the sake of argument that all the journalist killings since 1986, including the 13 last year, are “solved” by the government, “it does not erase the fact that these horrendous murders happened in the first place,” Conde said.

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ADB, government partners in corruption — Anakpawis

Anakpawis (toiling masses) Representative Crispin Beltran said Jan. 20 that the results of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) study, “Improving the Investment Climate of the Philippines,” which listed the Philippines as the most corrupt country in the world was not surprising. Beltran quickly added, however, that the motives of the ADB in releasing the study were “tainted and definitely self-serving.”

Beltran, who is also a labor leader, said that the ADB’s motive is not to help the Philippine government to clean up its act but to goad it to speed up the passage of the tax bills and impose more laws favorable for foreign investors and their big local counterparts to allegedly extract more profits at the smallest possible capital outlay.

“Corruption in inherent and endemic in the Philippine government precisely because of the clout and influence of multilateral finance agencies the likes of the ADB and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) over public officials up to the executive levels,” he said.

He added that the ADB, as one of the proponents of globalization, is also government’s partner in graft and corruption.

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Militant farmers sue MWSS, other agencies

The Manila Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) and other government agencies are now the subject of a complaint filed by militant farmers groups at the Ombudsman Jan. 19 for the illegal demolition of more than 200 houses in Macabud, Rodriguez, Rizal.

The farmers groups, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and its provincial chapters in Rizal, also included as respondents the Manila Water Company, the national police, the defense department, the Bantay Kalikasan Foundation, Inc. and others.

KMP spokesperson Willy Marbella accused the MWSS of violating not only the inter-agency memorandum of agreement of 2001, but also the human rights of the farmers in Macabud village. The police and the security guards continue to harass these families, he said.

Nestor Jose, Kasama-Rizal spokesperson, also accused the Lopezes of professing that they are for the environment but whose business “is detrimental to the lives of us peasants, who are the natural caretakers of the land. The Lopezes (owners of ABS-CBN and other corporations) reportedly plan to convert the village into a park.

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Beltran slams DoLE on P125 wage hike bill

Anakpawis (toiling masses) Representative Crispin Beltran scored anew Jan.19 the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) and Labor Assistant Secretary Ernesto Bitonio for warning Congress against legislating a P125 across-the-board wage increase.

“Instead of batting for wage increases and supporting the well-justified demand of workers for immediate economic relief, the DoLE does nothing but parrot the claims of big business,” he said.

Beltran called Bitonio and the DoLE’s offer to provide Congress with supposed “necessary information needed for drafting a new wage measure” as “hypocrisy.” He said even government the data show that workers need a wage increase, and a P125 increase is the smallest possible amount they should be given to help them cope with the econ crisis.

“Workers’ productivity continues to increase as employers and business exploit their manpower to the hilt; but workers continue to be given slave wages in return for their labor,” he said.

Anakpawis’ P125 wage hike bill which is now up for second reading and interpellation in Congress.

The cost of living for a family of six in the National Capital Region (NCR) is around P602.31 or P498.04 on the average nationwide while the prevailing daily nominal minimum wage is only P280 for non-agricultural workers and P213 for agricultural workers.

Using 1994 prices as the base year, Beltran said the real value of P280 in the NCR is only P152.17.

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