Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Quotation of the Week

Quotation of the Week

     “Creativity is simply your willingness to take a step beyond.” Anonymous

Entrepreneurial Farmer by Ambrosio R. Villorente

Lifting Bank Secrecy Law

Sen. Chiz Escudero has requested Malacanang Palace to support his bill which when approved into law will lift the Bank Secrecy law for government officials and employees. According to Escudero, the bill will amend the restrictive  regulation the government wants to relax for tax purpose.
According to Sen. Escudero, his Senate Bill No. 16 was filed in July 2013. It is the same bill he filed in 2007 and in 2010.

“Public office is a public trust. Government officials and employees are accountable to the people”, Escudero stressed. To ensure a civil servant does not use his/her position to enrich himself/herself in office, a mechanism is needed to allow government audit of the finances of government officials and employees.

BIR Commissioner Kim Henares agrees to the income tax cuts if Congress amends the law to allow (BIR) to monitor bank accounts for tax purpose, and the people in government to submit waiver of rights under the law on the secrecy of bank deposits.

Senate Bill. No. 16 if approved into law will enable the government to audit the finances of all government officials and employees. It will compel them to permit the Ombudsman to look into all deposits of whatever nature with banks within and outside the Philippines. Any official or employee who fails or refuses to comply with any of the provisions will be barred from entering or continuing the functions of his/her office.

Senates Lauds Victoria Lucia Tauli – Corpuz

In a resolution the Senate adopted, it commends Victoria Lucia Tauli-Corpuz for being named United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on indigenous people’s rights. The commendation is embodied in Senate Resolution 568 authored by Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III and adopted in consideration of Senate Resolution 1527, Sen. Loren Legarda authored.

Tauli-Corpuz is a Cordillera Kankana-ey tribe member. The UN Human Rights Council during its organizational meeting in Geneva on May 14, 2014 appointed Tauli-Corpuz Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous People. 

Tauli-Corpuz is a nursing graduate from the University of the Philippines, Manila. She is the founder of the Tebtebba Foundation and the first indigenous Filipino woman to be appointed to the special procedures of the UN Human Rights Council, according to Sen. Legarda. Her appointment is a fitting recognition of her active involvement with the UN and multi-stakeholders cross-regional bodies on indigenous issues and past collaboration with and commitment to constructive engagement among government and indigenous peoples, Sen. Legarda added.

Tauli-Corpuz had discussed International Human Rights at the University of Toronto and Colombia University. She drafted and negotiated the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. She served as chairperson of the UN Permanent Forum on indigenous issues and member of the Board of Trustees of the UN Voluntary Funds on Indigenous Populations, a member of the ILO World Commission on Social Dimension of Globalization, and of the Philippine government’s National Commission of the Role of Filipino Women.

As Special Rapporteur, Tauli-Corpuz will conduct researches on issues relevant to the human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples. She will visit countries to observe and hear about the challenges indigenous peoples face and communicate with governments on alleged human rights violatin committed.

Victoria Lucia Tauli-Corpuz highly deserves the Senate Resolution of Commendation.


Another Senate Resolution approved is Senate Resolution No. 1527 Senator Legarda authored. It is a resolution commending Ligaya Fernando-Amilbangsa for her successful efforts in the promotion and conservation of “Pangalay”. This is a traditional dance form of the Sulu Archipelago.

Ligaya Fernando is a native of Marikina. After her marriage with her schoolmate who is a relative of the royal family of the Sultanante of Sulu, she moved to Sulu. While there, she perfected Pangalay “by looking at her own silhouette on the wall by a lighted candle since there was no electricity in their place”.
Pangalay means gift offering or temple of dance in Sanskrit, a pre-islamic dance tradition among the Samal, Badjao, Jama, Mapun and Tausug. It features complex body postures and gestures. It renowns for its graceful arm and hand movement, emphasized with the use of janggay, to the beat of kunlintang, gadang, agong, and gabang performed during weddings and festivals.

Amilbangsa graduated from Far Eastern University, Manila, where she was awarded the Green Gold Artist Award For Dance in 1994. She also received Tanglaw ng Lahi and the First Most Outstanding Artist of Tawi-Tawi.

The Senate Commendation is in recognition of Ligaya Fernando-Amilbangsa’s “love of the performing arts and Filipino culture”. /MP 


Picture above shows SPO1Michael D. Pontoy (right), delivering his lecture on “Crime Prevention Tips” to the parolees and pardoners.

On the theme, “Krimen ay Tuldokan, Karapatan ay Igalang”, Aklan celebrated crime prevention month. One of the highlights of the celebration is a lecture on Crime Prevention Tips seminar held on September 4 at Aklan Parole and Probation Office, Provincial Capitol, Kalibo, Aklan. Some 62 aqs clients attended the lecture.

SPO1 Michael D. Pontoy delivered the lecture to the parolees and pardoners under the supervision of Ms. Emma Y. Narciso, Provincial Chief of Aklan Parole and Probation Office. SPO1 Pontoy is a volunteer Parole and Probation Officer since 2013. He is an awardee as Outstanding Policeman of the Philippines. /MP



*Speech of Senator Loren Legarda as delivered by Commissioner Emmanuel de Guzman, Climate Change Commission during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Philippines 2015 9th Senior Disaster Management Officials Forum held on September 22, 2015 in Iloilo City. (1st of 2 parts)

Sen. Legarda
It is my distinct honor and pleasure to speak before senior disaster management officials of the Asia-Pacific economies.

Foremost, we express our solidarity with the nation of Chile and commiserate with those who lost their loved ones in the recent 8.3 magnitude earthquake and tsunami that hit the country. But we also admire this nation (Chile) for heavily investing in resilient infrastructure, imposing stringent building codes, and continuously improving on their early warning systems without these disaster risk reduction programs, the casualties could have been more and the damages greater.

I believe everyone in this hall is very much aware of the harsh reality each of our nations is faced with because of the new normal. We all know the great challenge we need to address and our goal is for our respective economies to effectively incorporate disaster risk reduction in our development agenda.

Through many decades, the complexity of the development problems in our world has been widely examined for insights into better approaches and solutions. Yet, the problems have persisted and the tasks for well-intentioned development leaders have become even more daunting as ever.    
Our world is wrought with danger. Disasters abound and they are getting bigger and deadlier. We have seen many times the impact of weather extremes and the prevalence of disaster risk, exacerbated by climate change.

The past decade alone saw disasters continue to exact a heavy toll a staggering 1.5 billion people were affected in various ways, including over 700,000 people killed and 23 million made homeless by disasters. The total economic loss was more than US$1.3 trillion.

The United Nations Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction 2015 points to the growing global inequality, increasing hazard exposure, rapid urbanization, and the over consumption of energy and natural capital as major factors that would “drive risk to dangerous and unpredictable levels.

Prior to the adoption of the Post-2015 DRR framework at the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (3WCDRR) that was held in Sendai, Japan last March, the review of nations’ implementation of the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) showed that among the five priority actions of the HFA, making disaster risk reduction a policy priority and strengthening institutions has progressed the most. However, translating policies into action is a different issue altogether.

In its mid-term review of the HFA, the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) declared, “less evident is improvement in the decentralization of responsibilities and financial resources for disaster risk reduction, as well as the systematic involvement of communities in the development of strategic plans for disaster risk reduction.”

Here in the Philippines, we enacted the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act in 2010. This law provides for the development of action plans and the implementation of measures pertaining to all aspects of disaster risk reduction and management, including good governance, risk assessment and early warning, knowledge building and awareness raising, reducing underlying risk factors, and preparedness for effective response and early recovery. (to be continued next issue). /MP
Sen. Marcos
SENATOR Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos Jr. has called on the Philippine government to act promptly on complaints by Filipino fishermen that they were being harassed by Chinese maritime personnel.

At the same time, he urged the government to drop its belligerent attitude towards China in connection with the West Philippine Sea territorial dispute.

Marcos made the call in the wake of an appeal to the United Nations by 16 fishermen from Pangasinan for China to respect their right to livelihood.

He said the government, particularly the Department of Foreign Affairs, should persuade China to sit down and talk so that Filipinos can freely fish in the disputed areas without being harassed or disturbed.

Earlier, fishermen from Zambales also complained of physical harassment by Chinese nationals while they were trying to fish at the Scarborough Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc, one of the disputed territories.

 “The first item in the agenda is to ask China to stop harassing our fishermen because they are just fishing and have no other motive in going there; it’s international waters anyway,” he said.

Marcos said while finding a solution to the territorial row is a protracted process, the safety of the fishermen can and should be secured immediately.

“Let’s make an arrangement with China that we will talk about fishermen only and not the contentious issue of who owns the territories. I think China will agree to that arrangement. That’s one big step,” he said.

Marcos noted that before the government refused to talk to China, both countries’ fishermen had “peaceful co-existence” in the West Philippine Sea.

Since the Philippines brought the territorial conflict to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Marcos has been appealing for the government to hold bilateral talks with China.

While the government has not heeded Marcos’ appeal, China lately hinted its openness to hold a bilateral negotiation.

“I suspect the government failed to notice the statement of the Chinese ambassador (Zhao Jianhua) that China is open to a bilateral negotiation on the basis of international law. I think the government should exercise prudence by grabbing this opportunity of having China in the negotiating table,” Marcos said. /MP

To The Top Finale Airs On Sunday

To The Top Finale Airs On Sunday
This weekend sees the rise of GMA’s newest boy band as To The Top airs its finale this Sunday, September 27.

The final showdown features special guest judges Gerphil Flores and Jim Paredes who are to join main judge Mr. Ryan Cayabyab and the GMA Artist Center in selecting from the top 10 remaining contestants the five artists who will make up GMA's newest boy band.

At stake is a one million peso prize and a 3-year management contract with GMA for the winning group.

In this quest for victory, who among Lance Busa, Bryan Olano, Adrian Pascual, Mico Cruz, Edric Ulang, Miko Manguba, Louie Pedroso, Joshua Jacobe, Martin De Vera, and Cholo De La Cruz will succeed?

Find out this Sunday in To The Top after Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho only on GMA 7.

La Union’s Best In Ang Pinaka

Meanwhile, this Sunday, Ang Pinaka continues its series of mouth-watering food trips as host Rovilson Fernandez and field correspondents Boobay Balbuena and Maey Bautista take viewers to a grand tour of the different home-grown restaurants around the surfing capital of Northern Luzon, La Union.

Join all three as they discover the richness and beauty of the Philippines by exploring the different food destinations that the country has to offer.

Find out the top 10 “Ang Pinaka: Yummy in La Union” this Sunday in Ang Pinaka at 6:30 PM on GMA News TV. /MP

AKLAN: THE PLACE TO INVEST* By Peter Wallace Chairman, The Wallace Business Forum


*A paper presented during the Aklan Investment Forum held on July 17, 2015, Grande Royale  Restaurant, Andagao, Kalibo, Aklan.(last of three parts)

But the issue of low productivity has been plaguing the local coconut sector for decades and Aklan, which now only accounts for 4 percent of the country’s annual coconut production, has not been spared from this. There has been very limited effort made to reverse this. There has been no massive replanting and fertilization of coconut farmlands. It is estimated that around 14 percent of the country’s coconut trees or 44.8 million trees produce little or no yield. Here in Aklan coconut occupies the largest area among major agricultural crops, so it’s a product that could be more actively developed.

One agri product that I particularly like is abaca because 35 years ago I was manufacturing rope made of abaca: Manila hemp as it was called. It’s a great fiber, very strong and manipulable. All kinds of products can be made from it. Pina, too, fits into this area. A beautiful cloth, both grow well here. Then, there are food products like banana, mango, and others. That are ripe (excuse the pun) for greater development, both to grow and to process.
To attract more tourism and agriculture investments Aklan needs to foster a business investment that is conductive to business. And in this regard I’m glad to note that Kalibo, Aklan’s capital, ranks well in the National Competitiveness Council’s (NCC) annual Cities and Municipalities Competitiveness survey. In fact in 2013, Kalibo was cited as the third most competitive municipality in the Philippines, behind Daet in Camarines Norte and General Trias in Cavite.

 The 2014 Cities and Municipalities competitiveness Index (CMCI) ranked local government units (LGUs) based on 3 main categories: economic dynamism, government efficiency, and infrastructure.

Economic Dynamism scores were based on data on the size and growth of the local economy. The number of business registrations in Aklan has grown by nearly a third from 2011 to 2013. For the first 3 months of 2014 business registrations in the municipality already reached 1, 900, accounting for more than two-thirds of the total registrations in 2013. The total gross sale of registered firms in 2013 were up by nearly 60 percent from 2011 while the total number of employees in the municipality increased by a third to 7, 324 in 2013 from 5, 336 in 2011 providing that you can be successful in doing business here. The local business are flourishing and increasing in number. As a result their contribution to the national coffers has been growing tremendously over the years.

Government Efficiency scores were based on data and transparency scores, local taxes and revenues, business registration efficiency, investment promotion, compliance to national directives, and delivery of basic services. Aklan topped this category in 2014.

Infrastructure scores were based on data on existing road network, distance from city/municipality center to major ports, Department of Tourism-accredited accommodations, health infrastructure, education infrastructure, basic utilities, infrastructure investments, ICT connection, ATMs, and public transportation. Aklan fared well in terms of availability of public utilities (1st), health infrastructure (2nd), education infrastructure (11th) and number of DOT-accredited accommodations (13th).

But aside from tourism and agriculture, there are other sectors that could drive Aklan’s growth. Among which is the business process outsourcing-information and communications technology (BPO-ICT) sector which is considered as among the Philippines’ most dynamic sectors today.  Both public and private administrations have been implementing programs aimed at honing this province’s ICT potential.

Last year the Department of Science and Technology- Information and Communication Technology (DOST-ICT) Office held a series of workshops in various provinces including Aklan to promote online freelance jobs. The DOST-ICT Office said that the program is in line with the government’s goal to produce 1.3 million jobs by 2016 in IT-business process management.

Also in 2014 AMA Computer Group through its Chief Operating Officer Arnel Hibo and Aklan officials led by Gov. Miraflores and Congressman Haresco signed a Memorandum of Agreement to build an AMA branch and a call center in Kalibo, Aklan. According to AMA, Aklan has been producing enough graduates who are proficient in English. The province has also vital infrastructure (Kalibo International Airport) and efficient internet connectivity which are key prerequisites in setting up a call center. The call center facility, when completed, will be the first in the province.

Aklan could be the next Cebu, Davao, Bacolod, or Clark and be among Tholons’ Top 100 Outsourcing Destinations in the world. Sitel, Teletech, Cognizant, Telstra, ADP, and DTSI are among our clients and also among the most successful ICT-BPO companies today. They might just invest here in Aklan in the near future.

The Philippines’ ICT-BPO industry is definitely booming and Aklan must not be left behind. The provincial government must ensure that Aklanons are equipped with the necessary skills. This can be achieved by increasing the national budget for Training-for-Work (TFW) programs that adequately provides college graduates with the skills that make them more employable, skills that are in line with what companies need. These TFW programs are not just BPO-centric, but also cover other high-growth industries such as manufacturing, electronics, and tourism, another major job- and livelihood-generating sector here in Aklan. I suggest that Congressman Haresco pushes for the expansion of the TFW budget in the nest national budget hearing.

Aklan has skilled manpower, an attractive business environment, a transparent local government, and vast natural resources. It is definitely heading in the right direction and undoubtedly has the potential to become one of the country’s major business hubs in the near term.

Thank You. /MP

Sugilanon Ni Tita Linda Ni Tita Linda Belayro Regalo Kay Marites

Regalo Kay Marites

Nagbahoe si Marites sa anang lola. Gin aywan imaw ko anang ina nga nagsapalaran sa Saudi. Tongod may hitsura, naka asawa imaw it isaeang ka manggaranon nga Arabo. Mabahoe ro anang ginapadaea kay Marites ag sa anang lola kada tapos it buean.

Ugaling indi magsugot ro Arabo nga mag-uli iya sa Pilipinas. Ro tanan nga padaea ko anang ina hay gina tinipon ko anang lola. Gin regaluhan si Marites it mahaea ko anang lola ag raya hay owa gid nana gina eayuan sa anang pagkatueog.

Nag daeaga is Marites. Sa owa magbuhay, naka asawa imaw it unga it manggaranon man, ugaling uwa imaw naila-i ko ina it anang asawa. Gin obra rong tanan ko ina it eaeaki nga bawi-on ro anang unga kay Marites bangod pobre ro daeaga. Tongod sa Mama’s Boy rong eaeaki, nagmunot imaw sa anang ina paadto sa Amerika. Naaywan si Marites. Tanan ro anang mga palangga hay gin aywan imaw. Pagkataliwan it pilang dag-on, namatay man ro anang lola. Nabilin si Marites nga naga isaeahanon.

Ko gabi-i ngaron samtang naga oeon imaw sa mahaea, mingko may naga hutik kana nga indi magkasubo tongod una kana ro anang lola sa mahaea. Nagbangon imaw ag nangawa imaw nga may mga bilog ro sueod it mahaea. Sa anang pagtabtab, nakita nana rong papelon nga kwarta ag mga antegong alahas ko anang lola.

Pagkaaga, nag adto imaw sa bangko agod ideposito rong kwarta. Nagpatindog imaw it tindahan ag nagtuon it pagka doktora. Nag asenso ro pangabuhi ni Marites. Isaea eon imaw ka doctor it medesina ag may klinika sa kilid ko anang tindahan.

Isaeang adlaw, may pasyente nga nagpa boeong. Owa imaw nakilan-i, ogaling kilaea nana rong pasyente, nanay ko anang asawa. Ginboeong ni Marites. Masunod nga adlaw, may eaki nga naka wheel-chair. Owa man imaw nakilaea ko anang asawa. Naaksidente gali imaw sa Amerika ag nabalda ro anang siki.

Indi eon mapunggan ni Marites ro anang kaugalingon. Nagpakilaea imaw sa anang asawa. Nag-iba sanda ag nangin kabulig nana ro anang asawa ag ina sa anang tindahan. Malipayon eon si Marites. /MP



The Weekly Kapihan on September 19, 2015 tackled the topic, “TESDA Updates” at NVC Carmen Hotel. Guest are Dr. Julius Sol Jamero, Provincial Director of TESDA and Ms. Leonore O. Medina, Pres. ATSA.

Dr. Jamero said that the mandate of Technical Education and Skills Development Authority is embodied in RA 7796 enacted by Congress 21 years ago. It addresses skills competence of out of-school youth undergoing training in technical vocational education. In 2015, we have 2, 270 scholars and 2,000 regular students taking up tourism, food and beverage services and housekeeping.

How do we manage this challenging mission with a limited budget of P18 million this year?
We coordinate the 21 Technical Vocational Educational Training Schools (TVET) scattered all over Aklan with funding of P13 million. Critical to our success is partnering with Local Government Units (LGU’s) and other government agencies, confided Dr. Jamero.

“Regarding the implementation of K+12 where 2016 is the initial year of implementing senior high school, we have an interfacing plan with DepEd for students taking up any of authorized technical vocational courses like Information Technology, tourism, agri-business, fisheries, housekeeping, and others. After graduating from their senior year, students must undergo competency assessment test in order to qualify for National Certificate (NC II).”

There is an approved ladderized program done in partnership with the Commission on Higher Education that college undergraduates could pursue technical vocational courses that could be credited in their favor.

The impact of technical vocational education on raising personal esteem and satisfaction is phenomenal. Presently, 53 percent of our graduates are fully employed after undergoing rigorous hands on training for 6-12 months. Compare this with a 4 year college graduate whose chance for employment is barely 20 percent, averred Dr. Jamero.

Ms. Medina clarified that despite the absence of basic textbooks on technical vocational from DepEd participating TVET, schools use the Competency Based Lesson Material (CBLM). Popular are massage therapy, masonry, welding, carpentry, and others. Because of better teaching proficiencies methods and style, at least one half of our graduates are now working abroad said the Lady Educator.

It is good that Dr. Jamero does not discourage parents or youth from pursuing higher college education. There is no question here if they can afford and take chances. Based on statistics, NC II holders with formal training of less than a year get the lion share in the job market. Presently, Tesda Aklan has a Facebook website where all their technical vocational experts on welding, electricity, plumbing, IT’s, tourism, housekeeping, and others together with their business address could be contacted for contractual services. The same is true for TVET accredited schools and their specialization.

There are only 2 Assessment Centers in Aklan that conduct regular Competency Assessment for 10,000 graduates. This is very inadequate that Director Jamero is appealing to Heads of Schools to collaborate in this important undertaking.

TESDA in the wake of typhoon Yolanda appropriated P3.3 million for recovery program that benefitted 3,000 recipients who were, trained on carpentry and plumbing done in coordination with LGU’s.

Another program in entrepreneurship is “Go Negosyo” where graduates are given allowance, apprenticeship training and tool kits.

Aware that college graduates have an uphill climb to land a job, many opt to take up technical vocational courses in order to qualify for many job openings here and abroad. This humbling trend shows that blue collar workers are on the rise. Alongside are their living standards.

If one can be proficient in a job after one year, then why is there a need for additional 2 years in basic elementary education? If the answer is for quality education, how come these graduates are required to pass the competency assessment test given by TESDA? Simple answer: K+12 graduates per se are not job ready. The Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2011 is just an educational experiment that impoverishes people. Hence, impractical. As a developing country we must be pragmatic. Quality education is associated with highly motivated teachers and well equipped classrooms (books, chairs, tables, teaching devices, lighting, electric fans, running water). Spreading the education budget too thin invariably results in half baked graduates and misfits.

UP, Ateneo, La Salle and UST are among the 300 best schools globally according to QS World University Rankings and yet they are products of 10 year basic education. Ironically, we have plenty of college graduates in oversubscribed courses that are employed in jobs that do not match their skills and training. Indeed, this is waste of human resources and lost opportunities. Perhaps a rational approach is to strengthen TESDA and propel Filipino excellence in blue collar jobs and the service industry. /MP


Party-list lawmakers push to exempt electricity as a commodity from the 12 percent Value-Added Tax (VAT) in order to provide economic support to consumers.
Farmers’ voice in Congress AAMBIS-Owa, through its lone Representative Sharon S. Garin co-authored House Bill 344, introduced by Bayan Muna Party-list Representatives Carlos Isagani Zarate and Neri Colmenares, which will in effect  amend the National Internal Revenue Code of 1997.

“The Philippines has already one of the highest costs of electricity in Southeast Asia. For instance, the 2011 addition of 5.8 centavos per kilowatt-hour (kWh) on generation charges plus the 12 percent VAT imposed raised the price of electricity at P9.55 per kWh. For a household consuming 200kWh of electricity a month, the VAT is estimated at P191, an amount quite substantial to the average working Filipino,” Representatives Colmenares and Zarate said in the explanatory note of the proposed measure.

Rep. Garin, a Certified Public Accountant and taxation lawyer by profession, urges fellow legislators to pass the bill describing the measure as a “direct form of economic relief” for all Filipino households and businesses.

“Supposed revenue losses to be incurred by the government will definitely be compensated by increase incorporate income tax and indirect taxes because people will buy and spend more,” Rep. Garin, Vice-Chair of the Committee on Ways and Means said.
House Bill 344 is currently pending before the 75-member Committee on Ways and Means in the House of Representatives.

The Ways and Means Committee is one of the 59 standing committees in the House of Representatives. It covers all matters directly and principally relating to the fiscal, monetary and financial affairs of the national government including tariff, taxation, revenues, borrowing, credit and bonded indebtedness. /MP

Luisita Farm Workers Slam Aquino’s Consistent Defence Of Virgie Torres

Luisita Farm Workers Slam Aquino’s Consistent Defence Of Virgie Torres

Farm workers dared President Benigno Aquino III today, Thursday, September 24, to immediately order the filing of appropriate charges against ex-LTO Chief Virginia Torres, instead of functioning like an unabashed apologist for his embattled Kabarilan.

Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) Deputy Secretary General Ranmil Echanis criticized Aquino for issuing statements echoing Torres’s sentiments and propping her “pitiful predicament” as she came under fire for alleged sugar smuggling and influence-peddling at the Bureau of Customs (BOC).

Aquino was quoted in news reports as saying that Torres “is considering suing her detractors” because “accusations against her were too much for her to take.”

“Why is Aquino now acting as Virgie Torres’ spokesperson and legal adviser? When Aquino said that  the supposed ‘wrongdoers’ must be punished, is the haciendero president referring to the persons besmirching his loyal Kabarilan’s reputation?” Echanis asked.

“We support the calls to dig deeper into this sugar smuggling issue. Malacanang and Aquino have so far engaged only in cover-ups and damage control. The thousands of affected sugar workers and supposed land reform beneficiaries in Hacienda Luisita want to see firm action and decisiveness from government in handling influential persons like Torres,” said Echanis.
According to reports from UMA’s local affliate, the Alyansa ng mga Manggagawang Bukid sa Asyenda Luisita or AMBALA, Torres has effective control over at least 200 hectares in Barangay Mapalacsiao alone, land supposedly distributed to farmworker-beneficiaries in Hacienda Luisita.

Torres has ostensibly utilized armed goons and local police in des-troying farmers’ rice and vegetable plots to ensure continued planting of cane sugar for the Aquino-Cojuangcos’s Hacienda Luisita, Inc. (HLI) and Central Azucarera de Tarlac (CAT).  The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) is also complicit in fresh human rights violations against supposed beneficiaries in Hacienda Luisita.

Victims of violent eviction in Hacienda Luisita have already filed complaints against Torres before the Department of Justice (DOJ) last year.  Hundreds of other complaints were also filed against Aquino’s relatives led by Presidential sister Ma. Elena “Ballsy” Aquino-Cruz by farmers supported by AMBALA and their legal counsel Atty. Jobert Pahilga of the Sentro para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo (SENTRA).

Among the farmers’ complaints against Torres, her hired goons and conniving local police officers are related to at least four (4) separate bulldozing incidents in Sityo Maligaya, Barangay Mapalacsiao, Hacienda Luisita. Some incidents were caught on camera and uploaded by witnesses and the Luisita Watch network on social media. One video ( emphasizes the role of local DAR officials in facilitating the destruction of farmers’ crops.

Complaints of malicious mischief, grave threats and grave coercion against Torres, et al were filed in October 2014 at the DOJ with docket number XVI-INV-14J-00352. 

Despite several attempts by AMBALA and UMA to follow-up on the farm workers’ complaints, the DOJ has yet to act or conduct any serious investigation. (Gi Estrada)


Sugar workers expressed support for House Resoluton No. 2413 (HR 2413) directing the House Committee on Agriculture and Food to conduct an inquiry on rampant sugar smuggling, filed today, Thursday, September 24, by Representative Neri J. Colmenares of Bayan Muna Partylist amid the ‘Sugargate’ scandal at the Bureau of Customs (BoC) involving Presidential Kabarilan Virginia Torres. 

“We back Rep. Colmenares’s initiative to investigate sugar smuggling, long considered by industry stakeholders and even ordinary sugar workers as a serious matter that government should immediately address,” said John Milton Lozande, Acting Chairperson of the national agriworkers federation Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA).

Lozande is also the secretary-general of the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW), UMA’s local affiliate in Negros Island, where more than half of the country’s total sugar output is produced.

Colmenares’s house resolution noted that the reported series of smuggling happened and swelled into an alarming level in such a short period of time, amounting to an estimated total of Php 140 million during the second quarter of 2015, not including “what may have passed through BoC monitoring, as admitted by BoC Commissioner Alberto Lina.”

UMA observed that sugar smuggling became even more pronounced despite purported “tighter government policy” through the implementation of the recently-enacted Sugar Industry Development Act (SIDA) of 2015.

 “Even before President Aquino signed the SIDA last April, UMA had already forewarned concerned Congress and Senate committees that come 2015 sugar smuggling in the country would have certainly gotten out of hand. We have long expressed this point in several of our position papers precisely criticizing the rationale behind the sugar bills which eventually became the SIDA,” said Lozande.

UMA decried government’s flawed framework in “protecting the sugar industry” and its complete lack of will to challenge the very evil that has made the current crisis imminent – liberalization in agriculture.

UMA stated that “only through the repudiation of unequal neoliberal trade and economic treaties such as the GATT-WTO and the Asean Free Trade Agreement (AFTA), and the implementation of genuine land reform can the crisis in the sugar industry and in the whole sector of agriculture can decisively be resolved.”

“If (government) cannot be relied upon to pursue the aforementioned solutions, it should at least try to look into the alleged cases of corruption (in) irregularly hefty bonuses of executives in the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA), or into the reported anomalies in the implementation of the SAP (Social Amelioration Program for sugar workers)”

“It is very timely as well for the Senate to probe the extent of sugar smuggling in the country and set up ways to preempt its escalation especially come 2015 when sugar tariffs for imported sugar, as dictated by rapacious global neoliberal policies, finally becomes zero rated.”

Colmenares’s HR 2413 noted that “the sale of illegally imported sugar shall only be possible if the SRA approves for the auction of the confiscated shipments of sugar.” UMA pointed out that with reported corruption at the SRA, the public must also be made aware of how government utilizes proceeds from smuggled sugar.

“If these shipments are not returned to Thailand, burned, destroyed or throw out to sea, then sugar workers would not want to hear that funds culled from these illegal shipments have disappeared in thin air.

UMA also agrees with Anakpawis Partylist Rep. Fernando Hicap, who said that “Torres will not be brave enough to pull this daring stunt (at the BoC) without any connection in high level government offices.” (Gi Estrada)/MP