Retrenched OFWs duped by Malacaňang, says Migrante

D’JAY LAZARO, GMANews.TV

12/12/2008 | 07:43 PM

MANILA, Philippines — Filipino workers terminated in Taiwan who came to see President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on invitation of Malacaňang were allegedly duped into making them believe that there is a livelihood program for them to cushion the impact of the economic crisis.

In a press statement, Migrante International quoted some of the workers as saying they were expecting at least a brief dialogue with the President, but were disappointed when their meeting was turned allegedly into a “photo-op” for administration.

“We were expecting to meet and talk with the President. But the President only came when the cameras started rolling. While in front of the cameras, President Arroyo herself handed checks to 4 of our representatives. After the ceremony, we were asked to immediately turn the checks over to the Technological Resource Center as the funds were allegedly for a livelihood program for us which we still needed to apply for. It was not what we were asking for at all!” lamented Cristina de Borja, one of the retrenched OFWs.

The incident happened on December 5 when Labor Secretary Marianito Roque and OWWA Administrator Carmelita Dimson herded the OFWs from OWWA to Malacanang.

De Borja continued, “Our demands are just and simple. We need the immediate reimbursement of our airfare and placement fee, and the payment of the unexpired portion of contract. At this moment, we are in crisis; we do not have any job, we are in debt and our main worry is how to feed our children. We cannot afford to stand in line and apply for some kind of assistance package which may turn out to be a loan and which could take months to process! We want President Arroyo to tell us that the Philippine government will do everything in her power to enforce our valid contracts!”

“But she did not speak to us at all! After the photo gimmick, she left, without a word to us!” Cristina bewailed. “Our hopes turned to utter dismay. We feel so betrayed, to be used as a media gimmick by the President herself!

The “assistance package” which the OFWs called a “bagful of brochures” was a simple native bag containing a demo-CD of the SSS, a certificate from TESDA, a certificate from Malacaňang, and flyers from OWWA and other related agencies.

“Our creditors, who saw that brazen lie enacted by Malacaňang, are now threatening to sue us, believing we now have money to pay back the loans we incurred to get to Taiwan,” Cristina added.

Meanwhile, Migrante International chairperson, Garry Martinez called the incident “the height of opportunism.”

“This administration has, once again, exposed itself, in the most tasteless way, to be a scheming administration ready to do anything for a quick public relations fix! Before it was the general electorate she duped, now the people she has repeatedly called the “Bagong Bayanis.” – GMANews.TV

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Feel-good stories

Early this week, Deputy Presidential Spokesman Anthony Golez implored the members of the media to come up with more ‘feel-good stories’ about Mrs. Gloria Arroyo in light of the global financial crisis.

“What our country needs today are feel-good stories, those that touch the heart,” he said in Filipino in an interview on dzRB radio.

Reached by the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Golez said it was important “that the media show both the positive and negative stories, especially at this time of crisis when the media can be an instrument to unify our people.”

“What we need now is unity. We should unite to confront the same problem, which is the financial crisis,” Golez added in the phone interview.

But how the hell can the media report ‘feel-good stories’ if the Filipino people isn’t feeling good at all largely because of Arroyo’s skewed economic policies, unjust taxes and corrupt ways? In fact Filipinos feel ‘worse off now’ compared to last year, according to an independent poll.

Malacanang has gone this desperate and amateurish that they are demanding the impossible from the media. To borrow the Palace’s official heckler, DOJ Sec. Raul Gonzalez’s words, they are “squeezing blood from stone” with their request.

If Golez really wants to read positive stories in the papers, maybe he should convince his boss to step down or to consider early retirement instead.

Now this certainly is good news!

Time for the bishops to back their call with action, but…

Senior leaders of the influential Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has gone out last week to issue their strongest denunciation yet of the rampant corruption in the Arroyo regime and called on the people to prepare for the establishment of a “new government.”

Led by no less than CBCP President and Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo, the bishops in a press conference pointed to corruption from “top to bottom” as the “biggest culprit and major cause of our nation’s poverty and hunger.”

“In the past few years up to today, we have watched how corruption has become endemic, massive, systemic and rampant in our politics. The faces and symptoms of corruption are overprized projects, multi-billion scams of various kinds, election manipulations, anomalous transactions, bribery of both high and low, unsolved murders of media practitioners. Corruption is a social and moral cancer!”

They also vehemently disagreed with Arroyo’s much ballyhooed slogan “Ramdam ang Kaunlaran” (Progress is felt), saying that it is more of “Ramdam ang Kahirapan. Ramdam ang Gutom” (Poverty and Hunger).

“Twenty million hungry Filipinos will disagree with the proclaimed “Ramdam ang Kaunlaran” with their own experience: “Ramdam ang Kahirapan. Ramdam ang gutom” … The benefits of the much proclaimed economic growth are not felt by the masses.”

And so, the bishops argued that the time to rescue our country from its “pitiful state” and rebuild it “economically, socially and politically” is NOW.

“The time to start radical reforms is now. The time for moral regeneration is now. The time to conquer complacency, cynicism and apathy and to prove that we have matured from our political disappointments is now. The time to prepare a new government is now.”

They said, the country’s liberation from poverty and hunger “may yet serendipitously happen” and that they are actually “dreaming, praying and hoping” that the “needed liberators” will somehow “effectively and uncompromisingly reform our country” in a “courageous, peaceful way.”

Of course, this call from the country’s prominent bishops has spooked Malacanang Palace especially since this came on the heels of former agriculture secretary Joc-Joc Bolante’s scheduled return to the country after facing deportation from the United States. Bolante is widely perceived to have masterminded the diversion of more than P728 milion worth of fertilizer funds to finance Arroyo’s presidential campaign in 2004.  He and his role in what was dubbed as the “grand acricultural theft”,  holds the key to finally pin down Arroyo and cause her eventual downfall.

Unsurprisingly, the palace’s official heckler cum secretary of justice, Raul Gonzalez, has lashed out at the bishops, saying that what they said are political in nature and could be considered seditious.

“They were talking about removal of president, sweeping statements about graft and corruption.  They’re doing clearly political statements. They have crossed the line on separation of church and state,” said Gonzalez.

Today’s Inquirer editorial is right. The bishop’s statements can never be considered seditious  unless we are still living in the Spanish times where one can easily be charged as a ‘filibustero’  and ordered executed via  garrote for criticizing the government.

Maybe Gonzalez were already born during that era (haha!) but of course this is not the cause of this senior citizen’s selective senile dementia : It is his untiring devotion to defend Arroyo and the status quo no matter what, even at the expense of justice that he is sworn to protect and uphold!

“The bishops’ statement is both emphatic and cautious; it is clear about the ills it attacks, but it uses the right language in attacking them. Thus, contrary to Gonzalez’s blithe attempt at intimidation, there is nothing seditious about the bishops’ appeal to the people to “prepare a new government.” Calling on the people to exercise their sovereign prerogative and prepare a new government is an exercise of political maturity,” says the Inquirer editorial.

The Inquirer lauded Lagdameo and his fellow bishops for doing “all Filipinos a signal service,” for getting us asking questions again.  Questions not about the veracity of all the allegations of corruption involving Arroyo and her ilk – because the majority already knows that they are true  anyway considering the lengths that the establishment have resorted to (EO 464, executive priviledge, extrajudicial murders etc) just to cover them up – but about the alternative to the detested Arroyo regime.

Unfortunately, the bishops never expounded on what exactly did they mean by “new government” and who are the country’s “needed liberators” that they had hoped would free us from the muck we are currently in. But one of the bishops, Lingayen Archbishop Oscar Cruz, has hinted that what they may very well be “dreaming, praying and hoping” for is for the military to step in.

Cruz unequivocably answered “OK yun” when he was asked if he favors the military to lead the radical reforms needed in government. Journalist Ellen Tordesillas jotted-down the question and answer portion of the bishops’ press conference:

Asked if Arroyo can lead the radical reforms, he replied, “Siempre hindi.”

Q: How about Vice President Noli de Castro?

Cruz: Walang ganyanan.

Q: How about Senate President Manny Villar?

Cruz: Walang ganyanan.

Q: How about House Speaker Prospero Nograles?

Cruz: Walang ganyanan.

Q: How about Chief Justice Reynato Puno?

Cruz: Pwede.

Q: How about AFP Chief Alexander Yano?

Cruz: Okay yun.

Q: Have you met with General Yano?

Cruz: Tama na. tama na.

No where to go but ‘oust’ for the bishops

While it is true that the military component is a vital ingredient in a successful people power uprising, it is still the people who is decisive. Absent the millions of people in the streets calling for the ouster or removal of Arroyo, any action from the military will not only prove to be futile, it will not be truly representative of the Filipino people’s sovereign will.

Also, for Cruz to confidently proclaim “OK yun” to the AFP Chief’s lead is so scary that it might be viewed by some hawks within the armed forces as an outright endorsement by the Church of a military junta to replace the Arroyo regime. Note that Cruz only answered “Pwede” (maybe) to Chief Justice Puno, who hands down has more credibility than the other names mentioned.

The bishops’ statements are merely a timely reiteration of what we as a people should do. They aren’t inciting us to sedition, they are only reminding us of our collective task to exorcise the evils of corruption committed with impunity by this evil regime, of our moral duty to renew our calls for Arroyo to step down immediately so genuine and pro-people reforms can start to take place.

It is no where to go but ‘oust’ for these bishops, especially for the CBCP President. This is why it is imperative for him to take the lead in strengthening the united front of the broad masses of the Filipino people against the corrupt and morally bankrupt Arroyo regime. He should refuse to take part in any move that will pave the way for a military junta as an alternative to Arroyo. Instead, he and his influential CBCP should support the setting-up of a transition council, composed of different sectors of the society, that would institute urgent and much needed economic and political reforms in the country while the nation prepares for a free and democratic elections.