30 November 2011

Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, farmers victorious vs Aquino hacienda

By: Rigoberto Tiglao
Philippine Daily Inquirer
10:36 pm | Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

You’d have to visit Hacienda Luisita to realize how vast it is, why it’s been a symbol not only of elite rule in our country but of its hypocrisy and powers of deceit. It’s the biggest hacienda in the country, with a total area of 64.4 square kilometers—nearly as big as the cities of Manila and Makati combined.

The sugarcane fields as far as the eye can see were a marvel for me when I first visited the hacienda in 1970. It was troubling though to see emasculated sugar workers, their skin blackened by the hot Central Luzon sun, their shoulders nearly buckling under the weight of sugarcane poles, and after that to be served US steak from nearby American Clark Airfield in an air-conditioned hacienda mansion. Class exploitation, class struggle are not ideas but realities in this hacienda, I then felt.

Indeed, it was in this hacienda that the legendary guerrilla Commander Dante, as a teenage cane-cutter, decided to take up arms against the ruling class. Yet it was ironic that it was also in the hacienda that an opposition figure named Benigno Aquino Jr.—who married into the Cojuangco clan that owned the plantation—brokered a historic meeting between Dante and Maoist demagogue Jose Sison, which led to the organization of the New People’s Army. The hacienda until martial law would be a nursery and refuge for the fledgling NPA, which Aquino calculated he could utilize in his fight against Marcos.

It wasn’t Marcos who invented behest loans. The hacienda, together with the sugar refinery, was acquired from the European firm Tabacalera in 1958 by the clan led by President Aquino’s maternal grandfather Jose Cojuangco through a P12.9-million loan from the Government Service Insurance System, and through a $2.1 million-loan from the Central Bank of the Philippines. The loan’s condition though was that the hacienda’s agricultural lands would be sold to its tenants at “reasonable” costs.

Because the Cojuangcos rejected the demands made several times by the central bank and the Land Authority starting in 1967 to implement this condition, the government in 1980 filed a case in the Manila Regional Trial Court to compel them to do so. There are no tenants to distribute the land to, the Cojuangcos replied.

The case dragged on for five years until Judge Bernardo Pardo (years later the Comelec chairman and then Supreme Court justice) in December 1985 ruled that the hacienda’s lands should be distributed to the farmers. Persecution by the Marcos regime, the clan claimed, and ran to the Court of Appeals.

Two months later, the Edsa Revolution of February 1986 would save the hacienda for the Cojuangcos. In 1988 during President Cory’s term, the Department of Agrarian Reform, the Central Bank of the Philippines, and the GSIS informed the Court of Appeals that they were no longer interested in pursuing the case to require the Cojuangcos to distribute the lands to the farmers.  The Court ruled that the hacienda would instead fall under the provisions of President Aquino’s “comprehensive agrarian reform program.”

Fortunately for the Cojuangcos, that program provided for an option in which, instead of distributing the land, the landlord may issue the farmers papers called stock certificates, representing their supposed minority ownership of shares in the corporation the landlord sets up to own the hacienda.

This scheme made land reform such a farce that only 12 other much smaller haciendas dared use it.  Cory though was the saint of Philippine democracy who could do no wrong, and the defiance by her clan’s hacienda of the Constitution’s land-reform mandate receded in the public mind. Starting in the 1990s, parts of the Hacienda would be transformed into a profitable modern complex with an industrial park, a business center, a shopping mall, two hotels, and a world-class golf course.

In November 2004, after the so-called Luisita massacre in which seven striking plantation workers were killed at the picket line—and seven others murdered one by one by assassins later—the DAR, under Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, accelerated its investigation over a complaint by the hacienda union that the stock distribution scheme was a farce.

In December 2005, upon recommendation of the DAR, the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council—a body Cory set up in 1987, made up of 15 Cabinet members and chaired by President Arroyo—ordered the hacienda’s fake land reform ended, and for the land to be distributed to the farmer-workers.

“Persecution by the Arroyo regime,” the clan then complained.

This time around though, there was no People Power uprising to overthrow the administration that went against them, so they could hold on to the hacienda. The Cojuangcos appealed to the Supreme Court. It is only six years later last week that the Court upheld the Arroyo government’s decision.

The Court’s decision could mean the clan’s bankruptcy. The Court not only ordered the Cojuangcos to immediately distribute 4,915 hectares to the haciendas’ farmer-workers. It also ordered them to pay the farmer-workers P1.33 billion, the proceeds of the sale of hacienda lands that became the industrial and business parks. Agrarian reform laws will peg “just compensation” for the clan at 1989 levels, or just about P200 million. Now I understand why they hate Chief Justice Renato Corona so much.

Arroyo’s critics claim she went against the Cojuangcos to retaliate against Cory’s participation in the July 2005 conspiracy to topple her. The counter-argument could be posed in a question: If Arroyo was overthrown in 2005, would the new DAR and a new Cabinet have ordered real land reform at the hacienda?

Now I understand why they would torment and put a former president in jail on the basis of the say-so of a lone witness implicated in the Maguindanao massacre. “Accountability” and “reckoning” have indeed taken a chilling meaning.

History repeating itself?


Out of my mind

Monday, February 27, 2006
Open Letter To Our Leaders

Dear Tita Cory, Senators, Congressmen, Businessmen, Media people, Leftists, and all Bleeding Hearts Out There:

I am angry. And I know that there are many out there who are angrier than I am for the same reason. And that reason is simple. I am sick and tired of all you guys claiming to speak for me and many Filipinos. I feel like screaming every time you mouth words about fighting for my freedom and my rights, when you obviously are just thinking about yours. You tell me that the essence of democracy is providing every citizen the right to speak his or her mind and make his or her own informed judgments, but you yourselves do not respect my silence and the choices I and many others have made. In other words, your concept of democracy is limited to having your rights and your freedoms respected, at the expense of ours.

I am utterly flabbergasted that you still do not get it: we already responded to your calls, and our response has been very clear - we chose not to heed your calls to go to EDSA or to Fort Bonifacio not because we do not love our country or our freedoms or our rights, but precisely because we love our country even more. Because quite frankly, we are prepared to lose our freedoms and our rights just to move this country forward. You may think that is not correct, you can tell me all the dire warnings about the evils of authoritarian rule, but quite frankly all we see is your pathetic efforts to prop up your cause. You tell me that you are simply protecting my freedoms and my rights, but who told you to do that? I assure you that when I feel that my rights and my freedoms are at a peril, I will stand up and fight for them myself.

You tell us that GMA is not the right person to lead this country because she has done immoral acts. As someone who sees immorality being committed wantonly in many ways every day and by everyone (yes, including the ones you do), I may have become jaded. But you have not been able to offer me any viable alternative, while GMA has bent over backwards many times to accommodate you while continuing to work hard despite all the obstacles and the brickbats you have thrown her way. From where I sit, she is the one who has been working really hard to move this country forward while all of you have been so busy with one and only one thing: to make sure she does not succeed. So forgive me if I do not want to join you in your moral pissing contest. Forgive me if I have chosen to see things from another perspective. You say she is the problem. I say, we are the problem, more to the point, I think you are a bigger problem than she is. Taking her out may solve part of the problem, but that leaves us with a bigger problem: you. That is right, YOU!

While I felt outraged that she called a Comelec official during the elections and that she may have rigged the elections, I have since then taken the higher moral ground and forgiven her. Yes my dear bishops, I have done what you have told me to do since I was a child, which you say is the Christian and moral thing to do: forgive. Especially since she has asked for forgiveness and has tried to make amends for it. Erap certainly has not apologized and continues to be defiant, continuing to insult us everyday with his protestations. Cory has not apologized for her incompetence but we have forgiven her just the same because like GMA, she has worked hard after all.

I know you do not think that GMA's apology was not enough, or that she was insincere, or that that apology should not be the end of it, but please spare me the hypocrisy of telling me that you do so for the sake of protecting the moral fibre of society. The real reason is because you smell blood and wants to go for the kill.

Well, I have news for you. I do not like her too. I did not even vote for her. I voted for Raul Roco. But as much as I do not like her, I do not like you even more. I may not trust her, but guess what, I do not trust you even more.

You know why? Because all you do is whine and sabotage this country. You belittle every little progress we make, conveniently forgetting that it is not just GMA who has been working so hard to achieve them. Every single day, we keep the faith burning in our hearts that this country will finally pull itself out of the mess and we work so hard to do that. Every little progress is the result of our collective effort, we who toil hard everyday in our jobs. Yet, you persist in one and only thing: making GMA look bad in the eyes of the world and making sure that this country continues to suffer to prove your sorry point. In the process, you continue to destroy what we painstakinly try to built. So please do not be surprised that I do not share your cause. Do not be surprised that we have become contemptuous of your antics. You have moved heaven and earth to destroy her credibility, you have convened all kinds of fora and hearings and all you have done is test our patience to the core. For all your effort, you have only succeeded in dragging us further down. I say enough.

Don't get me wrong. I am not asking that we take immorality lying down, or that we let the President get away with anything illegal. But you have tried to prove your accusations all these time and you have not succeeded, so it is time to let things be. Besides, you are doing something immoral as well if not utterly unforgivable. The Magdalo soldiers are consorting with the communists - the same people who have been trying to kill democracy for years. Cory has been consorting with Erap and the Marcoses.

So please wake up and take a reality check. In the absence of true and genuine moral leadership, many of us have decided to cast our lot with the President, even if we do not like her. A flawed leader is better than scheming power hungry fools who can not even stand up for their convictions in the face of an impending arrest.

Your coup attempts and the denials that you have consequently made only underscore what we think is true: you are spineless and unreliable people whose only defense is to cry suppression when your ruse do not work. You are like bullies who taunt and provoke, but cry oppression when taken to task for your cruelty.

I would have respected you if you took the consequences of your actions like real heroes: calmly and responsibly instead of kicking and screaming and making lame excuses. You say you are willing to die for us, that you do all these things for the country and the Filipino, but you are not even willing to go to jail for us.

Come on, you really think we believe that you did not want to bring down the government when that is the one and only thing you have been trying to do in the last many months?

We love this country and we want peace and progress. Many among us do not give a f*&k who sits at Malacanang because we will work hard and do our share to make things work. If you only do your jobs, the ones that we elected you to do, things would be a lot simpler and easier for every one.

The events during the weekend only proved one thing. You are more dangerous and a serious threat to this country than GMA is. We have seen what you are capable of doing - you are ready to burn this country and reduce everything to ashes just to prove your point. If there is something that we need protection from, it is protection from you.

17 November 2011

Forcible Resolution of Constitutional Crisis

"The Armed Forces of the Philippines is the protector of the people and the State." 1987 Constitution, Art. II, Sec. 3.

"All members of the armed forces (are bound by) oath or affirmation to uphold and defend this Constitution." Id, Art. XVI, Sec. 5(1).

Where the President issues unconstitutional orders defying lawful orders of the Supreme Court, the armed forces are DUTY bound to DISOBEY such unconstitutional orders.

Where the Supreme Court "requests" the armed forces to enforce its lawful orders against the unconstitutional defiance of the President, the armed forces are DUTY bound to UPHOLD the Supreme Court and defend the Constitution.

What exactly are the charges against her?

By: Rigoberto Tiglao
Philippine Daily Inquirer
9:48 pm | Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

Ferdinand Marcos in 1980 allowed his archenemy Ninoy Aquino to go to Boston for a heart bypass surgery, even as the procedure had become routine since 1975 at the Philippine Heart Center. Aquino had been sentenced to death for murder and subversion after five years of trial by Military Commission No. 2, whose legality was affirmed by the Supreme Court.

The Sandiganbayan in 2004 allowed Joseph Estrada to travel to Hong Kong so that the doctor he chose could undertake a very routine procedure to correct his knee ailment.  Estrada’s plunder trial was then underway for nearly four years, with credible eye-witnesses against him such as Ilocos Gov. Chavit Singson and Clarissa Ocampo and roomfuls of documents, especially bank accounts supporting the allegations that he enriched himself in office.

In sharp contrast to these past situations, the cases against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo haven’t even reached the very first stage of trial. Yet she is barred from seeking medical attention abroad for a rare disease that couldn’t be cured after three operations.

What exactly are the charges against Arroyo, which Justice Secretary Leila de Lima claims bar her from traveling abroad?  The complainants should already raise very red warning signals as to the charges’ authenticity.  Two were filed by the party-list Bayan Muna, which is allied with the Communist Party of the Philippines whose New People’s Army suffered serious setbacks under Arroyo’s watch.  The other leftist party Akbayan calculates that the publicity in filing its own charges against Arroyo would boost the senatorial ambitions of its leaders. And there is Frank Chavez, who perhaps not so coincidentally filed his attention-getting charges when President Aquino was still looking around for a new ombudsman.

While the term “plunder,” which conjures up images of pillage, in the charges was effectively designed for media impact, it creates a fatal legal flaw.  These charges will be thrown out simply because the crime of plunder that she is accused of doesn’t have anything to do with the things she is alleged to have done.  The requirement for conviction under the Anti-Plunder Law of 1991 is that there is proof of personal material gain of over P50 million—“an asset, property, and business enterprise or material possession” amassed by the accused government official through graft.  Estrada was convicted of plunder because prosecutors uncovered his bank accounts where he kept over P500 million acquired through graft.

All the charges against Arroyo, except one that doesn’t have an iota of credibility, do not even claim that she made money out of graft.

First, the most ridiculous, filed by Chavez:  that Arroyo (together with other officials such as the unassailable Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo) transferred overseas workers’ fund to the Philippine Health Insurance System.  This “plunder” put millions of overseas Filipino workers under the umbrella of the state’s medical care system.

Second, the most futile: that government funds for fertilizers were allocated to over 500 congressmen, mayors and governors who supported Arroyo’s election bid in 2004.  But Arroyo is not charged here for amassing money from the funds.  Would any congressmen or local politician testify that he or she received illegal funds?

Third, the most unintelligent: the alleged misuse of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office’s intelligence funds. It turns out that these were allocated for such purposes as emergency operations that saved overseas Filipino workers’ lives.  Even Sen. Francis Escudero pointed out that this charge is nonsense, as there is not even an accusation of personal gain on the part of Arroyo.

Fourth, the weirdest: that P72 million in capital gains tax was not collected from the sale of the old Iloilo City airport to Megaworld.   Even Revenue Commissioner Kim Henares says that there was no capital gains tax to be collected in the first place, as it is government selling the property.

Fifth, the most media-driven: that ZTE Corp., China’s largest listed telecoms company which this year overtook Apple as the fourth biggest cell phone vendor in the world, gave Arroyo a bribe to bag a government contract.  This allegation of a bribe to Arroyo was solely made by one Dante Madriaga, who claimed he overheard it from his employer.  He however refused to sign his affidavit, which he had distributed all over cyberspace. The Senate suspected he was fabricating lies and withdrew the security it initially provided him.  Sen. Panfilo Lacson disclosed that Madriaga initially asked him P10 million for his false testimony.

And sixth, the most sycophantic charge:  De Lima’s own 2007 poll fraud allegation, her “compliance” move to Mr. Aquino’s announcement that his administration would file charges against Arroyo by this month. But her main witnesses are the likes of Zaldy Ampatuan and the clan’s underboss Norie Unas, who are facing or will face charges for the Maguindanao massacre.  Their motives—obviously to save their own skins—are so suspect that any principled judge would strike out their testimonies.

It is because of these ridiculous, futile, unintelligent, weird, media-driven and sycophantic charges that a former president is being barred from seeking medical aid abroad that could save her life.

And we haven’t even discussed the unconstitutionality of barring a citizen from traveling abroad without a court order, as constitutional expert Fr. Joaquin Bernas, S.J., explained in a column in this paper.  We are seeing the eclipse of reason and justice under this administration.

If De Lima’s order is intended for her senatorial ambitions, she has made a big blunder.  Filipinos will not take kindly her callousness over the suffering of a former president, just because of her unprincipled servility to an equally hard-hearted boss.

E-mail for comments: tiglao.inquirer@gmail.com