Reasons Why You Should Vote AKBAYAN PARTYLIST: Our Top 3 Nominees

May 9, 2007

Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel

AKBAYAN’s first nominee, Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel is an incumbent member of the House of Representatives. In her three-year stint in Congress, her accomplishments have surpassed those of other congressmen and congresswomen who have occupied their positions longer. This comes as little surprise to those who know her and have worked with her, for her background and experiences speak volumes of her commitment and dedication to uplifting the lives of the marginalized, voiceless and forgotten.

Though best known for her stint as a television broadcaster and media personality, Risa has quietly but steadfastly been involved in various advocacies ranging from peace, agrarian reform and women’s rights. Since 1998, for example, she was a member of the government peace panel conducting negotiations with the CPP-NPA. Such engagement has provided her with the necessary perspective in addressing pressing issues of peace and human rights, and has earned her a Nobel Peace Prize nomination. Her activism, however, traces itself much earlier, however, for even as a student, she had taken leadership positions in student organizations and helped articulate the voice of the youth in issues of national consequence. Both in St. Scholastica’s College, where she went for grade school and high school, and at the Ateneo de Manila University, she was at the forefront of the student movement – eschewing an otherwise sheltered life and throwing herself fully to progressive work.

Risa’s legislative track record reflects this passion and commitment. A well-known women’s rights advocate, she has filed several bills in Congress for the protection of women and the promotion of their rights. Among them are the Reproductive Health Bill, which aims to provide women with the necessary reproductive health information to empower them with knowledge and to protect them from sexually-transmitted diseases; the Anti-Prostitution Bill, which looks at prostitution as a symptom of inequitable and exploitative social structures and prostitutes, as victims rather than criminals; and the Gender Balance Bill, which will ensure women’s representation in all structures of governance. She is likewise at the forefront of the campaign for breastfeeding.

A critical piece of legislation crafted and filed by Risa is the Bill for Cheaper Medicines, a measure aimed at lowering the cost of essential medicines in the Philippines by allowing parallel importation and compulsory licensing. That the Bill was approved by both houses is a victory not only for Risa and AKBAYAN, but for the Filipino people as well.

Risa is also known as an agrarian reform advocate, campaigning actively for the implementation of genuine agrarian reform and condemning all forms of landlord violence. It is her office that has filed the CARL Extension Bill, a bill that pushes not only for the extension of CARL but also for a more meaningful program better suited to the needs of the farmers and the agrarian reform beneficiaries.

Over and above these achievements, it is her calm and gentle demeanor that has earned her the respect of her peers and the trust of the constituents that she serves. Though soft-spoken and mild-mannered, the passion of her activism and the strength of her convictions guarantee that her voice is always heard – whether in a podium inside the Session Hall of the House of Representatives or out in the world where the voice of truth always rings loud and clear.

Walden Bello

University of the Philippines Prof. Walden Bello, AKBAYAN’s second nominee in the Party-List elections, is first and foremost a teacher. A committed Sociology professor at the University of the Philippines, he has inspired generations of his students with the potent combination of fiery activism and scholarly discipline.

To himself and to those privileged enough to sit in his classes, he will always be the consummate professor. To the rest of the thinking world and the international academic community to which he belongs, however, he is an intellectual heavyweight and one of the foremost critics of the current model of globalization. His extensive contributions to the body of literature on the folly of neo-liberal capitalism and his thoughtful insights on a vast multitude of political and economic issues of the day have gained him the respect of friends and foes alike.

Many remember Walden’s participation in the round of WTO talks held in Seattle in 1999 where he was beaten up and manhandled by the Seattle police. Few know, however, that the bravery he displayed there was the product of an activism dating back as early as the Martial Law period.

When Ferdinand Marcos plunged the country into Martial Law – a move that has allowed wide-scale economic plunder and wanton human rights violations – Walden dove headfirst into the anti-Marcos movement. He became one of the leading lights behind the international movement to restore democracy in the Philippines and established the Philippine Human Rights Lobby in Washington. His indictment of the Marcos regime was at the same time a searing indictment of the global capitalist structure that supported it. He documented how loans and grants from the IMF and the World Bank were actually being used to fund a dictatorship. Though subjected to repeated arrests, Walden could not be silenced, and produced one hard-hitting report after the other that denounced economic subjugation and political repression.

In 1995, he founded the non-government organization Focus on the Global South, which seeks to build grassroots capacity to tackle wider regional issues of development and capital flows. With Walden at its helm, it continues to push for alternative models of development that are people-centered, rights-based and democratic.

Beyond that, Walden is also a known environmentalist, campaigning actively against environmental destruction at the hands of multinational companies. He is likewise a firm human rights advocate, denouncing military intervention in vulnerable states that has resulted in massive and widespread loss of civilian lives. For all his efforts and initiatives, he was given the Alternative Nobel in 2003 for “…for outstanding efforts in educating civil society about the effects of corporate globalisation, and how alternatives to it can be implemented.”

Though a known academic, Walden truly remains committed to the marginalized whose interests he represents in the broader arena. A dedicated professor, a published writer, a public intellectual, a committed activist, a global Pinoy – Walden is truly a worthy addition to Congress.

Gico Dayanghirang

Gico Dayanghirang’s idealism and principles are razor-sharp. They have been tested in an arena where the incentives to discard them present an unmistakable allure.

If AKBAYAN’s third nominee to the House of Representatives gets a seat this May, it would not be his first time in Congress. In the 1980’s, he was a district Congressman from Davao, his hometown. While his colleagues have been making the most out of the pork barrel given them by the administration, Gico made the bold – and solitary – decision to refuse his allocation. For him, it was a means to perpetuate patronage politics and institutionalize horse-trading and he wanted to be spared the baggage of “utang na loob”. He surprised many with his courageous move, and inspired them when he stood by his decision.

Gico’s refusal to involve himself in traditional politics and ingratiate himself to trapo politicians affects not only the decisions he makes, but also the legislation he crafts for the society he envisions. In his short stint in Congress, he was part of a small group of congressmen who pushed for the implementation of genuine agrarian reform. He had some experiences working in farmlands in Davao and saw firsthand the oppressions that tillers of the soil undergo, so he sought to enact a piece of legislation that would truly serve their interests. As expected, there was much opposition to the bill. Amidst the company of landed congressmen who could not be persuaded to give up their vast tracts of land, he pushed his pro-people measures without flinching. Though the bill was waylaid by political realities, he had managed to gain the respect of his colleagues with his integrity.

Gico was born and raised in Mindanao, and so Mindanao issues of peace and development are foremost in his mind. He is a dedicated advocate of electoral reforms, owing to the tragedy of electoral disenfranchisement faced virtually every elections by voters from the South. He has a solid grasp and understanding of the problems faced by Mindanao and its people, and would be a worthy representative of the island’s broad and far-reaching concerns.

Gico Dayanghirang is a true-blue promdi, an experienced legislator, and most importantly, a man whose ideals remain untainted and intact. In Congress, he will speak for the sons and daughters of Mindanao ravaged by poverty and conflict, the farmers who are being victimized by a flawed agrarian reform system, and all Filipinos who seek clean politics and a robust democracy.

TAKBO PARA SA PAGBABAGO Pics Galore

May 7, 2007

The GMA coverage of “TAKBO PARA SA PAGBABAGO” organized by the Friends of Akbayan and UP Alyansa is online on GMANews.tv. Here are the links:

GMA Flash Report – Abra residents rally for peaceful polls* (Nope, not all of us are from Abra, it’s just a wrong heading.)

Unang Hirit – 50 youths join fun run for clean poll (Now, they got this one right.)

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Runner 1 (Guy with flag on the right):”Diretso! Diretso! 3 rounds!”

Runner 2 (Guy in the middle): “Waaaaaaaaah!”

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‘O sweating and smiling, bright creatures of the night

Labor Day Rally Pics Galore!

May 7, 2007

Hooray! Hooray! For the First day of May!

Friends of Akbayan: Umbrella Connection

A-K-B-A-Y-A-N!

All smiles!

And off we go!

“Hey, who forgot the sunblock?”

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How the umbrellas look like from above

FOA and Alyansa Peeps: Still smiling after a couple of kilometers under the scorching sun

Crazy-as-Pinoy Groupies: “Gotta bigger bling-bling than y’all!”

Ayuz!

HAPPY REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD GO OUT TO VOTE ON THE 14th OF MAY

May 4, 2007

Ten Reasons

TEN REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD VOTE FOR AKBAYAN PARTYLIST

A Vote for AKBAYAN is a vote for:

Truth. Firmly believing in honest governance, AKBAYAN has been at the helm of initiatives to ferret out the truth and demand accountability from government. From the “Hello, Garci!” scandal to the botched attempts to change the charter through unscrupulous and unconstitutional means, AKBAYAN has maintained its brave opposition without fear or compromise. Whether inside Congress our outside, AKBAYAN articulates the desire of ordinary Filipinos for honest leadership and truthful politics.

The youth and the future. AKBAYAN believes in the strength, energy and vibrance of the Filipino youth. Hence, in creating policies and crafting its legislative agenda for the them, AKBAYAN sees the youth not merely as recipients but as competent equal partners. At the centerpiece of its youth program is a reform-oriented educational system, with the end-goal of providing quality education that is accessible and relevant. Indeed, investing in the youth is investing in the future.

Gender Equality. AKBAYAN envisions a society where opportunities are accessible to all, regardless of gender. It has championed the rights of women and has recognized the various spheres of oppression that the Filipino woman is finding herself in – domestic violence, inaccessibility of reproductive health information, discrimination. AKBAYAN also has a strong lesbian and gay rights advocacy and it has championed the Anti-Discrimination Bill to penalize discrimination against lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders.

The voiceless and marginalized. Its strong commitment to the marginalized sectors – the farmers, the fishermen, the urban poor – is at the core of AKBAYAN’s values. AKBAYAN sees these sectors as stakeholders, and thus tirelessly work for their integration and participation. Genuine agrarian reform and decent housing are but some of the advocacies pursued by the Party, whether through legislative measures or local government empowerment.

Health for all. There can be no denying the importance of health, and the imperative of coming up with a health care system responsive to the needs of all Filipinos. Believing that health is primary and should come before politics or profit, AKBAYAN is proud to author the “Cheaper Medicines Bill,” which seeks to amend the Intellectual Property Code to bring down the cost of medicines, and to spearhead the breastfeeding campaign which will reduce infant mortality.

Decent work. Unemployment continues to be a problem hounding millions of Filipinos, and the unabated migration only reveals the incapacity of the government to provide jobs and livelihood for all. AKBAYAN’s strong bias for labor is manifested in the initiatives it has made to uplift the condition working class – higher wages, better labor standards, stronger laws to protect trade unionism.

The environment and fair trade. A clean environment and a trade policy that revs up domestic industries instead of killing them are two of AKBAYAN’s policy objectives, and in many cases these objectives intersect. AKBAYAN exposed the Japan-Philippine Economic Partnership Agreement, which essentially allows Japan to dump toxic wastes in our borders and contains trade provisions onerous to the Philippines. We maintain that a robust economy can only be made sustainable by a fair trade policy and should always be backed by adherence to environmental regulations.

Good governance. Corruption is a malaise that could be found in virtually all levels of governance – from national to local. AKBAYAN has never blinked or flinched as it exposed corruption scandals in government, and called for accountability from and prosecution for the wrongdoers who cheat the Filipino people. AKBAYAN remains to be an example of a political party with program-based politics and a solid platform. Our local government leaders exemplify these ideals in their own areas of governance.

Peace and Human Rights. A peaceful, pluralist and democratic society that values human rights is AKBAYAN’s vision. Then as now, we have consistently condemned all forms of violence and oppression, whether from the State or the Armed Left. Our track record in the field of human rights is beyond question; most notably, AKBAYAN’s authorship of the Human Rights Compensation Bill for Marcos victims.

Integrity. Dignity. Honor. In one word, dangal. AKBAYAN represents and articulates the desires of nameless, faceless, voiceless Filipinos struggling to live and believe in the future amidst a crisis of faith and a poverty of choices. There is no integrity in corruption and trapo politics. No dignity in hunger and poverty. No honor in unjust wars and human rights violations. A vote for AKBAYAN is a vote for genuine, empowered and participatory democracy.– a vote to reclaim dangal for ourselves and for our children.

RE-ELECT AKBAYAN PARTYLIST !

Some words from your friendly friends…

April 30, 2007

 Also,

 

The campaign engine is revving up (Lapit na ng eleksyon)! That’s why we have a lot of activities lined up for the coming days. By the way, if you’re wondering why the ticket cost for the Cocktail-show is incredibly expensive, the event is a fundraiser for AKBAYAN’s paid ad… which is pretty expensive.

A Grounded Captain: Jagna’s Mayor Exuperio Lloren

April 16, 2007

For the longest time, government officials in the Philippines, from barangay councilors up to and including the president of the republic, have been viewed, almost unanimously, by the populace as being corrupt, self-serving, scheming, and devoid of any scruples whatsoever.

Exceptions to this rule are very far and very few in between, which is why the terms “respectable local official”, “morally-upright politician”, and “competent public servant” are now universally considered, at least in the Philippines, to be totally oxymoronic.

Enter Mayor Exuperio “Eksam” Lloren of Jagna, Bohol, one of the many local government officials today who are proud, defiant even, to call themselves “Akbayan members.”

An activist since forever, Mayor Eksam chose to give local politics a go after deciding, finally, to try a different activist path. In his first attempt, he was elected Barangay Captain of Pagina, one of the 33 barangays of Jagna. During this period, he also became the president of Jagna’s Association of Barangay Captains (ABC), which elevated his status to that of a municipal councilor.

He must have been exceptionally effective at being barangay captain and ABC president because, when the next election came around, “Captain Eksam” suddenly became “Mayor Eksam!” Considering that he isn’t a movie actor – although he can easily pass for one – a scion of a local political clan, or a jueteng lord, this feat becomes all the more remarkable.

Obviously, the values and principles that guided him during his young activist days still served him well when he applied them to his local governance work; so much so that he was voted for a second term as mayor of Jagna.

Under his watch, the people of Jagna were finally able to meaningfully participate in the development of their Local Economic Development Plan. Small wonder since Mayor Eksam, like Akbayan, has always espoused consultative and participative governance processes.

Knowing full well that Jagna must not depend solely on their meager Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) income, the local government – led by Mayor Eksam – focused on building up Jagna’s local economies, especially those related to the municipality’s traditional agricultural products.

Cooperatives were set up for Jagna’s Ube planters and Kalamay producers and, soon, for the rice farmers, and vegetable and cut-flower growers as well. Jagna’s local government also saw the value of investing in the technical training of its youth. The marketing of local products was likewise improved and “organic farming” soon became their battle-cry.

Mayor Eksam must have done something right because Jagna’s annual income has been increasing at an exponential rate (an average of ten million Pesos a year) since 2001, the year he was first voted into office. Is it still a wonder then why, even now, his supporters are already looking forward to when he becomes more than just “Mayor Eksam?”

This coming 14th of May, he will be running for his third and last term. Barring any untoward human machinations, his victory is already a foregone conclusion.

Mayor Eksam is doing his part for the development of the country and Akbayan is proud and committed to support him every step of the way.

This Chinoy Wants to Put Himself Out of Business

April 16, 2007

“Our end goal as alternative lawyers is to put ourselves out of business.”

Strange words for the son of Chinese entrepreneurs who have created a family business from scratch and who want nothing more but to have their lawyer-son at the helm. Strange words for an exclusive-school bred boy, with the world under his feet and all opportunities his for the taking.

But to those who know Levy Ang, those words are right on the mark. A labor lawyer and a member of Saligan, Levy believes that the role of an alternative lawyer is primarily to empower the sectors and to allow them to craft their own decisions and chart their own destinies with minimum intervention from technocrats and lawyers. In his line of work, Levy comes to the defense of the working masses – fighting for fair labor standards against oppressive employers, ensuring the enforcement of their rights, advocating free trade unionism.

It was an odd choice for a scion of a wealthy family and to this day, his parents and relatives still scratch their heads in disbelief. “My parents wanted me to join the family business, pero ayaw ko talaga. I went to law school to “buy” myself four more years. Nung nasa law school na ako, na-expose sa volunteering, sa human rights center, sa issues ng mga sector.”

And that was that: at the heart of capitalist, consumerist Makati, Levy Ang made the decision never to go into corporate lawyering and cast his lot in alternative law.

There was, at first, no deliberate effort to go to Labor and make it his field of specialization. It was the only slot that was open in Sentro ng Alternatibong Lingap Panligal (Saligan), the legal NGO he works for. In time though, he realized that he found his true calling. “Sa labor ko nakita ang kahalagahan ng sama-samang pagkilos para sa kaligtasan ng manggagawa.”

It has, of course, its share of heartaches. Like for example, surviving the wheeling and dealing at the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) with one’s scruples intact. And not getting disheartened with losing what appears to be cut-and-dried cases where injustice is patent. Slowly, however, incremental changes are being made and incremental good is being done. Policies are slowly being crafted that reflect the experiences and struggles of the ordinary worker. Levy is proud of being part of that movement. He has been one of the most persistent advocates of the AKBAYAN-sponsored Right to Self-Organization Bill, drafting it and seeing it through its eventual passage in the House of Representatives and the Senate. In AKBAYAN’s campaign against military infiltration in urban poor areas, Levy stood as counsel. He remains supportive and committed to the AKBAYAN values of social justice and civil liberties.

“The important thing is to see yourself as one piece of a puzzle in a bigger project. It’s not just your work and your commitment; it’s you joining your voice with a million others.”

And in that sea of voices, Levy’s rings loud and clear.

Bianca Beyond Limits

March 29, 2007

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When I stepped into college, I was the typical passive and nonchalant teenager concerned only with two things: to finish college and to get employed in a good company. However, midway through my freshman year, a friend insisted that I run in the College Student Council elections as councilor. I won and so began my journey towards being part of the student movement thru my involvement in a number of organizations within and outside Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) where I am taking BS Journalism. Read more about Bianca Lapuz

The ideal world of Barry Gutierrez

March 27, 2007

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In an ideal world, there should be nothing remarkable about the story of Ibarra “Barry” Gutierrez, Jr.

An achiever from his early days at Philippine Science High School all the way to the UP College of Law and a committed lawyer, he was granted the opportunity to pursue a Masters’ Degree in Public Interest Law from New York University (NYU). Wife and young son in tow, he left the Philippines for a two-year stint in the United States. Amidst cajoling from relatives and friends to stay on after he completed his degree, he went back to the Philippines – more committed than ever to finish where he left off.

In visa-crazy Philippines, however, with snaking lines outside the US Embassy and everyone and his mother dreaming of the Land of Milk and Honey, his is an extraordinary story indeed. For many, it is letting go of an opportunity. For Barry, it is simply standing by a life-choice.

Not that this 33-year-old lawyer treats this “life-choice” as a big deal. Forever punctuating his sentences with a hearty chuckle that is always just a little too loud and hogging the magic mike just a little longer than he should, Barry is neither the grim and determined activist nor the morose nationalist that one might imagine. He simply is someone who is truly happy to be back home – home being not only the Philippines, but also, a small unit at a housing project inside the UP, a teaching job in the College of Law , and a law practice dedicated to poor and the marginalized.

To refute allegations from well-meaning people that he and people like him are simply being foolish, Barry came up with an email that he sent to friends. Such was the power of this email that it was circulated heavily, even landing in national newspapers. In this email, Barry expounds: “”Neither do I believe that the United States is such a wonderful place to live and raise a family in. This is a country that spends billions on law enforcement and “homeland security,” but where almost no one feels safe in their own home. This is a nation with the best medical facilities in the world, but where without health insurance you cannot even get a splinter removed. This is the land of the free, at least until the government starts suspecting you are a terrorist.”

In AKBAYAN where Barry is legal counsel and in the UP Institute of Human Rights where he is director, these principles are put to good use – and find good company amidst like-minded individuals who believe in the same thing. And for Barry, that is the entire point.

He is not THE bright and shining example for other people to emulate. He is but one example of a person daring to make the unpopular choice, daring to make a difference amidst despair and desperation.

And doing so at home. Happily.


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