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Hacienda Luisita violence unwarranted, workers’ plight must be investigated November 18, 2004

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An immediate inquiry has to be called to look into the events leading to the gruesome incident at Hacienda Luisita. As Chair of the House Committee on Human Rights we recognize the legitimate interests of the hacienda workers seeking the full realization and protection of their rights. The events at Hacienda Luisita regrettably exemplify the most violent lengths to which labor rights are either realized or stunted.

Such violence is to be condemned, and there is a need to sort out the facts in order to ascertain just how the Constitutionally-mandated right of agricultural workers to peacefully assemble and seek redress for grievances was patently violated in this case.

Hacienda Luisita represents a very significant case at hand not only because of the size of this landholding but also because of its apparent symbolism, associated as it is with one of the country’s most eminent political clans.

The violent dispersal of the picket at Hacienda Luisita as shown on television cannot and should not be easily dismissed as a random act of violence. We must collectively seek out the historical foundations for the workers’ unrest in Luisita and take a closer whether the stock option scheme has worked or not to truly bring about the supposed benefits due the hacienda workers. Does retrenchment of these hacienda workers mean that they have lost their stock options as well? This only means that the scheme must be scrutinized, especially what it means for a supposedly losing enterprise such as Hacienda Luisita.

In the longer term, however, we must use this opportunity to look into the poverty situation in the rural areas, because at the root of disputes such as those in Hacienda Luisita is the continuing stagnation of the countryside from inequities in land distribution and lack of economic opportunities.


US elections underscore need for RP to modernize its own polls November 17, 2004

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A party-list lawmaker today said that the foremost lesson to be gleaned from the US elections is that the only way to remove doubts about the results over an election is to modernize the electoral system.

“While it may be true that there have been isolated incidents of snafus in the US elections like missing registrants and machines breaking down, no widespread irregularities were reported matching the highly contested episode that happened in Florida four years ago,” AKBAYAN Party-List Representative Loretta Ann Rosales said.

“The fact alone that in a few hours the results were known, totally eliminating the long-drawn manual counting which has in our case, delayed the results, reflects the indispensability of an automated process in elections,” Rosales explained. She said that because polls are computerized in the US, “the process is less prone to cheating and other glitches that fester backward election systems like the one we have in the Philippines.”

Rosales lamented that the planned modernization of the elections has been botched time and again by the Commission on Elections. “Our own election body is inept and susceptible to influence that it cannot independently take on its job of modernizing the country’s electoral system.” Rosales recalled cases in the past when for instance, the COMELEC allocated P1 billion for what was charged as an unnecessary project for voters’ validation, and its failed attempts at procuring computers for use in elections that were later found defective and prone to manipulation.

As for the results of the US elections, Rosales also said “On the other hand, the US election was characterized by exorbitant spending, which should not be emulated, yet the modernized US system helps cultivate a political culture in which the losing candidates learn to accept defeat without rancor and bitterness. “Our own politicians should learn the value of grace and tact in the face of defeat,” Rosales said, reiterating the often-repeated saying that in the Philippines nobody loses, candidates just get cheated.

As for a Bush victory, Rosales fears “Another four years for Bush might mean further uncertainty over the rule of international law, and an increased campaign against terrorism along the warped terms that Bush uses to define it.”

“The Arroyo administration should take this opportunity to take steps to define a foreign policy that does not blindly follow the US lead, especially with a Bush presidency again,” Rosales advised. “We are low on Bush’s list right now after the fallout from Angelo de la Cruz’s abduction in Iraq, and the President should seize this moment to contribute to the strengthening of multilateral efforts against terrorism instead of kowtowing again to Bush,” she said.

House Committee on Human Rights approves bill on Marcos victims November 11, 2004

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The legislative mill inches a step closer to providing justice to the thousands of victims of human rights violations under the Marcos regime.

This, as the House Committee on Human Rights, chaired by AKBAYAN Party-List Representative Loretta Ann Rosales approved the consolidated bill providing compensation to victims of Martial Law, which sets aside a portion of the recovered Marcos money for activists and other civilians who were tortured, imprisoned, and those who disappeared between January 1, 1969 and February 25, 1986.

According to Rosales, “The bill does not only set out to provide monetary compensation, but equally, it also says that other forms of non-monetary restitution under the principle of restorative justice will also be sought for the restitution of victims, such as psycho-social therapy, rehabilitation etc.,” she said. The bill also includes provisions on the documentation of human rights violations, which Rosales says, “will greatly aid in the process of closure and healing, as this mechanism would allow for such atrocities to be part of public record and part of institutional memory.”

Rosales said that the ease with which the bill was processed was aided in part by the active participation of PCGG Chairperson Haydee Yorac as well as Commission on Human Rights Chairperson Purificacion Quisumbing, who were vigilantly contributing from the technical working group up to the committee hearings.

The Akbayan solon added that it was the President herself during the meeting of the lady legislators in Malacañang the other day who promised that she would act to have the bill enacted into law before the end of the year. “We hope the legislature can take this cue, for enacting the bill into law would certainly be a welcome holiday gift for the victims,” Rosales said. As a result of that commitment, the President certified House Bill 1319 as urgent, recognizing the need to push for the rights of those who suffered fighting the Marcos dictatorship.

“From the very beginning we have been clear that the bill is not only about money, but a recognition by the State of the importance of keeping in line with the principles laid out in various international instruments such as the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the UN Convention on the Prevention of Torture,” Rosales said. “A principle that is underpinning the very essence of HB 1319,” she added. (30)