March 3, 3008

TEN months after the abduction of her son Jonas, Edith Burgos began a seven-city speaking tour in the US on Saturday to bring to Americans and Filipino-Americans her plight and those of other victims of human rights abuses under the Arroyo administration.

Burgos, widow of Malaya founding publisher and press freedom icon Joe Burgos, started her speaking tour in New York Saturday night (Sunday afternoon in Manila) in a benefit dinner sponsored by the NY Committee on Human Rights in the Philippines (NYCHRP).

While in New York, Mrs. Burgos is also set to hold a private meeting with UN special rapporteur Philip Alston whose report on his 2007 visit to the Philippines tagged the Armed Forces as perpetrator of most of the extrajudicial executions alleged by human rights watchdogs.

March 1, 2008

DEFYING last-ditch scare tactics, a broad movement of groups seeking President Arroyo’s resignation yesterday mobilized tens of thousands of protesters at the interfaith rally at the Ninoy Aquino Monument in Makati City.

Organizers placed the crowd at 75,000 to 80,000. The police figure was 15,000.

Makati City Mayor and United Opposition president Jejomar Binay unleashed a minor political earthquake when he ended his opening remarks by calling on stage former Presidents Corazon Aquino, in her trademark yellow dress, and Joseph Estrada, in a red windbreaker.

Aquino and Estrada gave brief remarks before the crowd, in an apparent effort not to violate the agreed rally protocol that no politician would be allowed on stage, except for Binay who was tasked to deliver a welcome speech.

Aquino and Estrada sat beside each other on the makeshift stage.

Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said rally organizers saw the crowd peak at around 5 p.m., soon after marchers from various points in the country’s financial capital converged at Paseo de Roxas and Ayala avenue.

Reyes said the huge turnout represented “the strongest rejection yet of Mrs. Arroyo.”

February 29, 2008

ILLINOIS Sen. Barack Obama, the frontrunner in the 2008 Democratic presidential race, on Monday paid tribute to the 22nd anniversary of the 1986 People Power uprising and batted for the passage of the long-delayed “equity bill” for Filipino veterans.

In a statement, Obama said that “twenty-two years after the People Power Revolution in the Philippines, we remember and commemorate the Filipino people who used the democratic, non-violent method of ‘people power’ to overthrow the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos and end the martial law regime that ruled the Philippines for fourteen years.”

“Today, let us join Filipinos in America to honor the sacrifices and determination of the Filipino people in the tireless fight for democracy and freedom,” Obama added.

THE Chinese embassy yesterday assailed Sen. Ma. Ana Consuelo “Jamby” Madrigal for what it said were her “extremely irresponsible” claims of a “collusion” between First Gentleman Mike Arroyo and Chinese Ambassador Li Jinjun in connection with the NBN-ZTE broadband contract.

“What Senator Madrigal said doesn’t tally with the facts,” embassy spokesman Peng Xiubin said.

At Tuesday’s ZTE hearing, Madrigal showed a letter by then Socio-economic Planning Secretary Romulo Neri dated March 29, 2007 addressed to Li regarding the national broadband network and cyber education projects with the marginal note “copy for FG”.

She said the marginal note could imply collusion between the First Gentleman and the Chinese ambassador.

February 26, 2008

THE Gabriela Women’s Party in Hong Kong (GWP-HK) group on Sunday distributed “WANTED” posters to compel Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo to return to the Philippines and face corruption charges over the $329-million NBN-ZTE broadband deal.

The group distributed the posters at an interfaith rally held by OFW groups along Chater Road.

“However he may try to hide, protests will hound Mike Arroyo until he is made accountable for his crimes,” said GWP-HK chair Cynthia Abdon-Tellez.

Abdon-Tellez said OFWs are “not amused” that President Arroyo’s husband went to Hong Kong “to dodge protests and the Senate investigation.”

Going to Hong Kong “reeks of guilt,” she said.

February 25, 2008

CIVIL society, opposition, militant, worker, student and other sectoral groups, led by former President Corazon Aquino, are offering a thanksgiving Mass today at the Baclaran church to commemorate the 22nd anniversary of the Edsa “people power” 1 that ousted the Marcos regime.

Militant groups, who are calling for President Arroyo’s ouster, are also set to stage protest actions in at least 15 cities for the Edsa 1 anniversary.

The thanksgiving Mass, which will be held at 3 p.m., was originally set to be held in Makati City then moved to Sto. Domingo Church in Quezon City and finally to the Shrine of our Mother of Perpetual Help in Baclaran, Parañaque.

Sto. Domingo Church declined to host the Mass because Malacañang also sought to “reserve” the place for a Mass on the same day, said Joey Salgado, chief of the Makati public information office.

“Instead of being the site of two Masses, they decided not to allow any Mass there, said Rodolfo Noel “Jun” Lozada, the Senate’s key witness in alleged anomalies in the government’s national broadband project. “It’s sad but this is the reality.”

February 23, 2008

AN article in the Jan-Feb. 2008 issue of the Far Eastern Economic Review accused President Arroyo and Manila of selling out to China the Philippine and regional interests in South China Sea.

Barry Wain, a former Wall Street Journal Asia editor, in his article titled “Asean: Manila’s Bungle in the South China Sea,” argued that Arroyo violated a 2002 regional agreement that called on Asean member-states to deal with China as a bloc on the six-country Spratly Islands dispute.

Wain’s report came out weeks after the surprise Feb. 2 visit of Taiwan’s Chen in one of the disputed islands.

But for Wain, writer-in-residence for the Singapore-based Institute for Southeast Asian Studies, the Philippines-China ruckus over Chen’s visit appeared to be “flotsam” compared to what Arroyo had agreed with the Chinese government way back in 2004.

February 21, 2008

CIVIL society groups are organizing an inter-faith rally in response to the call of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines for what has been designated as “communal action for truth, justice and accountability.”

The prayer rally, scheduled Friday next week at the Luneta Park, could lead to calls for President Arroyo’s resignation, Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz said yesterday.

February 20, 2008

Tirador,” a digital movie about the life and survival of small-time crooks, bagged the Caligari Film Prize at the 58th Berlinale International Film Festival held February 7 to 17.

“Tirador,” directed by Brillante “Dante” Mendoza, is the first Filipino film to be screened in the Berlin Forum where new or unconventional films come together and find an audience known for its enthusiasm and discerning cinematic eye.

February 16, 2008

THOUSANDS converged yesterday at the Ninoy Aquino monument in Makati City to call for President Arroyo’s resignation and prosecution of officials involved in graft and corruption.

They also expressed support for Rodolfo Noel “Jun” Lozada, the Senate’s main witness in its inquiry into the national broadband network project that Arroyo cancelled last year amid allegations of payoffs.

Rally organizers said 10,000 to 12,000 participated in the protest action. The police figure was 8,000 at the peak around 5:30 p.m.

The organizers said talks are underway to mount the next protest action, tentatively set for the anniversary of Edsa 1 next week.

Today, a special “prayer service” for Lozada will be held at the Ultra in Pasig City to be led by Bangon Pilipinas president Bro. Eddie Villanueva. Tomorrow, a Mass will be held at the De La Salle in Greenhills, San Juan.