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Monday, April 30, 2012

Wonderful English from Around the World

Cocktail lounge, Norway:

Doctor's office, Rome:

Dry cleaners, Bangkok:

In a Nairobi restaurant:

On the main road to Mombasa, leaving Nairobi:

On a poster at Kenco:

In a City restaurant:

In a cemetery:

Tokyo hotel's rules and regulations:

On the menu of a Swiss restaurant:

Hotel, Japan:

In the lobby of a Moscow hotel, across from a Russian Orthodox monastery:

A sign posted in Germany's Black Forest:

Hotel, Zurich:

Advertisement for donkey rides, Thailand:

Airline ticket office, Copenhagen:

A laundry in Rome:

The kindness of strangers

Are We There Yet?
The kindness of strangers
By Bong Austero

When we hear of stories of honesty, kindness, and valor committed by taxi drivers our default reaction is to be delightfully surprised simply because the general belief is that most—if not all—of these people are crooks. We’ve gotten used to the idea that if we inadvertently leave something in a taxicab, the probability of the item being returned to us is almost nil. I am told the conventional wisdom of those who “find” lost objects is that these are “blessings” that come their way—some kind of manna from heaven that only fools would refuse.

It is understandable that we have become cynical when it comes to dealing with taxi drivers. When we flag them, we expect them to be surly or to refuse to take us in if our destination happens to deviate from whatever route they seemed to have made up for themselves. We expect them to fleece us with some sob story or even bore or annoy us with their endless chatter about politics or their twisted take on current events.

It is possible of course that they just crave for some decent conversation—it must be frustrating to be cooped up for hours inside a tin box with strangers all day long while the whole city is baking and traffic is on standstill. When we come to think about it, taxi drivers suffer from extreme aggravation too. Sadly, years of pent up distrust seemed to have forced taxi drivers and commuters to tolerate each other only because of mutual need for each other.

But generalizations, and consequently, indulging in stereotyping, is dangerous. The truth is that there remain a number of good and honest taxi drivers out there.

Maximo Aton, taxi driver of O.L.A. taxi with plate number TYZ 619 is among them. And there are many Filipinos out there who are just as eager to praise and commend honesty and kindness. This is proven by the thousands who have come out in full force to salute Aton—many of them going out of their way to call or text Aton to salute him for his good deed and many more “sharing” the Facebook post that called attention to Aton’s simple but exemplary deed.

Aton’s valor has been picked up by mainstream media over the weekend, but credit for the snowball goes to photographer Raine Cruz who went out of his way to express his gratitude by publicly commending Aton in a post in Facebook that has gone viral. One wishes all of us were like Cruz who bothered to validate good deeds when it was done.

Cruz and his friend rode in Aton’s cab from Crowne Plaza in Ortigas to Taytay Rizal. They accidentally left behind a bag containing a laptop and some cash. They were able to trace Aton through the Crowne Plaza guards. When contacted, Aton was already on his way back to Crowne Plaza to return the bag, after trying unsuccessfully to retrace where he dropped Cruz off. According to Cruz, Aton did not only go out of his way to return the bag with the laptop and the cash intact, he manifested other acts of courtesy—he charged the exact rate, issued a receipt, refused to accept a cash reward from Cruz, etc. Truly, a man of integrity and heroism.

Honesty, kindness, and stories of heroism of common Filipinos deserve to be commended. I am personally rallying friends and members of the professional association I am part of to start a program that will publicly celebrate people like Aton and reward him for being proud exemplars of what being a Filipino is or should be. I hope others would do the same. I hope the Department of Tourism would do the same. It is easy to trace Aton—you can look up Raine Cruz in Facebook for Aton’s contact details, or through Crowne Plaza, Ortigas. Many people have done so and from what I gathered, Aton is overwhelmed by the outpouring of congratulatory messages.

The other noteworthy bit in this story is the fact that, finally, people are using social networking sites for positive purposes. The story of Jay Jabonete and his yellow boats is another heartwarming story that also started with a post in Facebook. I will write about Jabonete next week; it’s a story that deserves its own column.

In the meantime, we must nurture the belief that many times in our lives we will have to rely on the kindness of strangers. We must be kind to each other.

Lawyers and scams

Out of the box
Lawyers and scams
By Rita Linda V. Jimeno

Twenty-five years ago, when I was barely into my second year of practice as a new lawyer, a client was referred to me. She and her widowed mother were desperately in need of a lawyer they could trust. The lawyer their family trusted deceived and defrauded them. Before they could understand what he was up to, he had succeeded in selling practically all their valuable properties and pocketed all the proceeds from the sale. That lawyer, who started from nothing except his guile and legal cunning—which he used to promote injustice—now owns two buildings and has been living in undeserved comfort.

I write about my client because she died two weeks ago. I went to her wake which was held in a small house in a remote subdivision in Caloocan City. It broke my heart to see her remains lie in state in such stark simplicity, knowing she grew up with the proverbial silver spoon. Her father had provided well for her and her mom, giving them a life of luxury. But when her father died, the lawyer they trusted to settle the estate left by her father took away their fortunes including the ancestral home in a city which served as the symbol of their prominence in the community. Perhaps, the legal battles she had waged for the past 25 years against the lawyer have taken their toll on her health. Her mom, who used to be a Doña, died much earlier in despair at seeing all their bountiful riches gone.

We had succeeded in getting the lawyer disbarred. To this day, however, we are still in court trying to recover the properties he had fraudulently sold to other persons who knew that he had no power to dispose of them. The Supreme Court, in his disbarment case, had clearly pronounced that the properties fraudulently disposed of by him, must be deemed to not have been transferred at all and should be returned to the mother and daughter even if the properties may have passed on to innocent purchasers. But implementing the Supreme Court ruling regarding the property issues, embodied in the disbarment decision, proved to be a tough challenge. Trial courts still allowed the disbarred lawyer, acting for himself or though lawyers, to delay and frustrate the spirit of the Supreme Court’s pronouncement in the disbarment case.

It is not easy to understand why justice is, sometimes, so elusive and why evil prevails at all in the world. I can only rest in my faith that there is a day of reckoning for every wrong one does to another.
Lawyers who belong to the same breed as that one, who victimized my clients, give the legal profession a bad name. Because of them, jokes about lawyers’ greed and questionable character are a common fare. Ironically, many lawyers get scammed, too; sometimes, because of naivete and a trusting nature. More often, because of greed.

There is a scam unique to the legal profession perpetrated through the social media networks. The modus operandi of the con artists goes like this: an e-mail is received by a law firm from an alleged foreign company asking if the firm could handle a collection case against a local company which owes them a big amount of money. When one tries to be diligent by searching the Internet if such companies exist, one would find that, indeed, the creditor and the debtor companies both exist. Before the law firm could do its job of writing a demand letter to the debtor company; or filing a case in court for the purported client; the alleged client soon sends an e-mail that the debtor company has finally promised to pay within a certain period. And because the foreign company needs a representative in the country to receive the payment; and to file a legal suit in case the payment does not come through, the law firm’s service is engaged with a commitment that if payment is received, the law firm shall be entitled to an agreed percentage. Then, to the law firm’s joy, a check in hundreds of thousands of US dollars is delivered, payable to the law firm. The alleged client sends an e-mail that the law firm should deposit the check in its account and may deduct its retainer’s fee in full even if no legal work has actually been done. The law firm then deposits the check into its dollar account, eagerly anticipating substantial earnings from an effortless deal. After the deposit, in a day or two later, the alleged client will make an urgent call to the lawyer pleading that while the check is being cleared, if he could advance 50 per cent of the amount immediately. The alleged client will then explain that his company urgently needs the funds now and is willing to give the lawyer the other 50 percent of the entire proceeds of the check, even if the agreed lawyers’ fee was only between five and 20 per cent. Lawyers who get stunned and tempted by the generous offer will only be too glad to advance 50 percent of the face value of the check and immediately remit it to the account of the alleged client. Then the check turns out to be a dud but by then the lawyer would have advanced millions in pesos to an impostor whose real identity is not known. It will be too late for the lawyer to know that the company name used, though existing, does not have in its employ any person by the name of the con artist.

There is an old Filipino adage that says: Matalino man ang matsing napaglalalangan din (Even a wise a monkey gets fooled.) To the naïve ones out there: the rule of thumb is, when something is too good to be true, chances are, it is not for real.

Stagnant industrialization

Yellow Pad
Stagnant industrialization
By Rene E. Ofreneo

In an ironic and historic twist, the trade union movement and the Asian Development Bank (ADB), which normally do not see eye to eye on development issues, suddenly found themselves united on one: reversing the industrial hollowing out of the Philippine economy. The ADB wrote that the Philippines has an ampaw economy whose growth cannot be sustained unless its eroded industrial base is rebuilt and fortified. The ADB study, aptly titled “Taking the Right Road to Inclusive Growth: Industrial Upgrading and Diversification in the Philippines (2012),} has been circulated in the business community and members of the Cabinet.

The Philippine civil society movement has long been denouncing the jobless and industry-less growth pattern under three decades of aimless economic liberalization and globalization. What is new is the bold admission by the ADB that growth has indeed been jobless and industry-less in the last three decades, from the 1980s up to the present. The share of manufacturing in total employment has gone down from 12% in the 1960s to roughly 8% today. In contrast, manufacturing in our ASEAN neighbors such as Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia accounts for between 28 and 35% of total employment; China and the NICs have, of course, higher manufacturing employment. The author of the ADB report, Norio Usui, also wrote that the Philippines was a leader in industrial dynamism in Asia in the 1950s and 1960s; yet today, it is an industrial laggard in the region.

To the trade union movement, the above ADB findings are not new. Domestic industry and jobs are being clobbered by widespread and unchecked smuggling and the deep and unilateral tariff liberalization measures adopted by the economic technocrats without any clear adjustment and even information program for the affected. Even the Philippine ambassador to the WTO in Geneva was shocked when he saw that actual or applied Philippine industrial and agricultural tariffs in 2004-2005 were only one-third of the tariffs imposed by Thailand and China, both big exporters to the Philippines and to the world.

So where else do ADB and the trade union movement converge? The two sides recognize the need for an “industrial policy” to revive the industrialization process in the country. Industrial policy, ignored by many mainstream economists at the height of neo-liberalism in the 1980s and 1990s, is now being resurrected by the ADB and the World Bank, obviously due to the failure of the neo-liberal dogma in preventing the global financial crisis.

The ADB now thinks that industrial upgrading and diversification are not only desirable but also very much doable. Why indeed should the Philippines, a labor-intensive assembler of electronics for four decades, remain a labor-intensive assembler of electronics in the next four decades? Why can it not replicate the experience of South Korea, which made a successful transition from an electronics assembler in the 1970s to a diversified electronics manufacturer in the 1980s? This is best illustrated by Samsung, which started as a parts assembler for Sanyo, and which has now become a dominant global producer of a wide range of electronics products.

And why should the Philippines remain stuck at the customer servicing side of business process outsourcing? Why can it not emulate India’s experience in scaling up the IT ladder, designing and offering varied IT programming and ICT-enabled services to the outside world and to India’s domestic industry?

For such upgrading and diversification to happen, the ADB study argues the need for “public intervention” in order to improve information and coordination and “help entrepreneurs take advantage of market opportunities.” Had the ADB made this recommendation in the 1990s, this would have been denounced by the free-market disciples as an economic blasphemy, a hazardous formula for economic inefficiency and rent-seeking by the local industrial elite at the expense of the public coffers. Yet historical records show that Japan, the Asian NICs and now China have all taken this public-private industrial policy coordination as the guide in their steady march towards higher and higher levels of industrialization. As the World Bank Chief Economist Justin Lin put it, the global financial crisis revealed that all the developed countries have an industrial policy and prodigiously take care of their own in times of crisis.

The reality, however, is that industrial policy need not be translated into an expensive high tariff program, or a program of nurturing a few selected winners. What some local producers and exporters have been asking for in order to survive and grow in the Philippine market are very elementary.

How can local industry prosper in a market flooded with untaxed smuggled goods of varying shapes and sizes, a big percentage of which are global rejects being dumped in the Philippine market? Why are customs officials of other countries able to decisively reject ship loads of imports simply because there is doubt about their declared values, and yet here in the Philippines there is a lot of hemming and hawing about the validity of questionable imports? Why are there continuing reports that imported agricultural products, including swine, are able to get import permits only upon arrival? Why does the burden of proving injury always fall on the injured industry, which, very often, no longer has the resources to pursue safeguard cases? And why does Congress keep enacting laws creating duty-free ports just to be able to import fleets of duty-free cars and auto parts?

Relatedly, there should be “tariff calibration” or equalization, meaning Philippine tariffs should be pegged at a level equal to (need not be unilaterally lowered than) those of other exporting countries. And yes, there should be policy coherence and consistency in the implementation of tariff adjustments.

Rebuilding the industrial base means a revival of the industrial culture. This means above all some industrial visioning accompanied by public-private cooperation and consultation on industrial programming. To a certain extent, this is what the DTI is now doing, as illustrated by the recent industry road mapping it has done with the petrochemical industry. Such road mapping should involve the academe, especially the science community. Look at how the partnership between Taiwan’s Hsinchu University and Hsinchu Industrial Park has succeeded in producing Acer and Asus, the world’s leading notebooks.

The program to rebuild the industrial culture should also benefit from the positive attitude of the labor movement towards industry revival. This time, the trade unions themselves are asking for a clear-cut policy of industrialism and its all-out promotion nationwide. In Japan, in the 1960s, the miracle industrial economy was consolidated with the help of new-found cooperative partnership between Japanese employers and trade unions in support of the zero-defect program in manufacturing and the highly equitable productivity gain sharing program (roughly one-third of the gains to the corporation’s shareholders, one-third to the employees as added benefits, and one-third to the consumers in terms of cheaper products). Can the Philippines not forge a similar labor-management partnership in support of industry revival?

Finally, the Buy-Philippine movement also needs to be revived. However, its revival should not only focus on the value of tangkilikin but also on the value of excellence in product development in terms of quality, price, delivery and durability. For this, the government has a central role to play because it has a big say on whether the supporting infrastructure for doing business such as power are available and affordable (which can make and unmake industry) and whether the nation is able to produce the skills and talents needed by the emerging industry. Truly, a genuine public-private partnership in industrial policy is unavoidable, if the country wants to catch up with industrial East Asia.

Rene Ofreneo is a trustee and fellow of Action for Economic Reforms. He is a professor at the UP School of Labor and Industrial Relations.

Literacy is not only a matter of children…

To Rivera: What an uneducated and illiterate president can do for his country

A 12-year old shoeshine boy from a family of uneducated illiterates rises to be president. Read what happened to a country led by such a person. Whether one learns to read at 10, 12 or 14 is really irrelevant if one is so poor he has no access to books.

Here is a film biography of Luis Inacio Lula Da Silva. View it and understand the person we are talking about. http://film-forward.com/foreign/lula-son-of-brazil

Then look at the Philippines. Look at all the UP, La Salle, Assumption, San Beda and Ateneo graduates who became presidents, vice presidents, senators, congressmen and governors. To a man all these educated SOBs turned out to be big-time crooks.

Rivera wants more of these educated big-time crooks to lead the country. How many more of them does he need before he can decide to try something else?

I want one honest, intelligent, illiterate, uneducated person with his heart and soul in the right place. One such person connected to the poor. I want that one person to be president. Just one. He will change the landscape completely just as Lula did in Brazil.

Education awakes in Brazil

14 - April - 2007 |

Issue 2/ April-May 2007
By Carolina Ferreiro Fajardo

In last years Brazil has strongly gone for hunger reduction and equal access to education for millions of citizens. All these advances result from “Zero Hunger” the social strategy of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. The program was advanced in 2003 when Lula became President and since then it has been promoted as an initiative that should be followed by other countries. Notwithstanding the program, still a long way to go to resolve the oldest drama of the most populated country in Latin America.

In 1900, Brazilian population was 17,4 million and the illiteracy rate was 65,1%; infant mortality was 162,4 deaths/1000 live births; life expectancy was 33,6 years old and the average income was 516 reals (around 186 euros). 105 years later, in 2005, Brazil has more than 180 million inhabitants, illiteracy is 11,8%; life expectancy has risen to 71,3 years old; infant mortality is 27,5 deaths/1000 live births; and the average income is more than 8,000 reals (around 2,800 euros). How these advances have been possible?

This amazing evolution is explained by the advance in education. In Brazil education is not restricted to elite thus it has been an “almost universalization” of primary education. In 1940 just 21% young people aged from 7 to 14 were regularly enrolled, in 2004 almost 98% were in classrooms.

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) showed that in 2005 Brazil invested nearly 6% of GDP in education; this rate is similar to France, Switzerland and Germany. In proportion to economy, 1 real out of 16 is invested in education.

Therefore…Can we put Brazil on a par with any other developed country regarding social policies?

These surprising advances are the result of the social strategy implemented by Brazilian Government in 2003. President Luis Inazio Lula da Silva went for hunger reduction and equal education access. Thus he started the “Family Grant” program included into “Zero Hunger” initiative. As well as providing food for 750,000 families the program includes proposals for mass literacy, profession training and structures for the poorest citizens.

The illiteracy plan has reached 20.000.000 Brazilians and its main target is to eliminate hunger and illiteracy in Brazil in 4 years and to establish a basis for reducing inequality.

The “Family Grant” program provides 540 dollars a year to each family (around 45 dollars a month). In exchange families must commit to some Government conditions. The first one is sending all children to school, especially the ones aged from 9 to 15. The second one is there should not be any illiterate in any family. Thus, the Government runs free literacy courses available for all citizens –for all age groups-. The third one establishes that parents should follow a health program that includes vaccines, antenatal and postnatal care for mothers and babies.

The “Bolsa-Escola”, a very effective initiative

The “Bolsa-Escola” is a simple idea that protects the future of Brazil through the protection of children’ present. It places children in schools instead of streets or working. The starting point is the urgent need to solve the problem of abandoned children, it is based on a simple idea: “children do not study because their families are poor therefore we pay families for children to study”. Thus, at the same time that families get incomes, children and parents are better fed resulting in a local economic dynamics and children are kept in schools.

This idea was first implemented in 1995 in Brasilia and it was spread to other cities and countries. Since 1997 the program is being implemented in Mexico, in Brazil since 2001 and it will be developed in Bolivia. In other Latin American countries the program operates at local level. The program has been successful because around 20 million children have benefited from it.

This initiative has been supported by international entities such as the World Bank, IDB UNESCO, UNICEF, ILO and the General Secretary of the UN. There is no doubt that the “Bolsa-Escola” is becoming a world program and in a few years it could change the reality of poor, abandoned or working children.

The immense value of education

According to the Spanish Royal Academy of Language “education” is the bidirectional process for transmitting knowledge, values, costumes and ways of acting. Education not only occurs through words but it goes further and it is present in all our actions, feelings and attitudes.

But we should not forget that education has a major meaning because it is a fundamental right recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989); it is the most ratified human right in history. Thus, education is an international responsibility shared and recognized as engine for human development because it allows citizens to participate in public life and to defend their opinions and rights.

Wealth is not only material but cultural, linguistic or ecological, likewise development should go further. Education is the bridge bringing people from different cultures together and it is also the way towards sustainable human development.

An example of the immense value of education is Germany. After the Second World War this country was completely destroyed. Just a strong bid for education together with a fighter population made this country become developed in the medium term.

The world situation of education:

Think about these hair-raising data:

Absenteeism affects more than 120 million children in the world
One out of four survives with less than one dollar a day
One out of twelve dies in 5 years
20 million are refugees
More than 100 million are exploited
Many are slaves or soldiers

Many international organisms such as the World Bank have demonstrated that progress is not possible without investment in children. It is demonstrated that the main key to overcome the poverty vicious circle is the access to education. Countries that have worried about education, health and nutrition have developed. Population less than 16 years old is 16% of world population. For these reasons education is very valuable therefore it should be a prime issue in the governments and main international organizations agenda.

Literacy is not only a matter of children…

Around 870 million adults do not know how to read and write; two thirds are women. Moreover, there are 115 million illiterate children two out of three are girls. These frightening data made the UN organize the World Education Forum in Dakar (2000) and they named the following 10 years “Literacy Decade”. In the same Forum held in Jomtien (Thailand) in 1990 a deadline for world primary literacy was established. But due to the fact that this target was not achieved, 2015 was the new deadline.

Currently there is no hope to think this target will be achieved. According to UNESCO estimates adult illiterate population will be around 830 million in 2010. In other words, one out of six humans will not write or read. By then 75 million children will be still illiterate and three out of four will be African.

Education is not seen as important “investment” yet in many countries. However, it is proved that education is the first arm to fight poverty and the fundamental key to develop. General illiteracy is an obstacle for the progress of undeveloped countries.

There are 870 million illiterates in the world; 860 million live in poor countries; 70% are women. Poverty spiral condemns 125 million children to be out of the schools because they have to work all day; 150 million children leave the school before finishing primary education.

The situation of education in Latin America

The main task and maybe the most urgent one of Latin American Governments is literacy because in that region there are 43 million illiterates. To do so they have to increase public spending as well as improve labour conditions and teacher professionalism.

The situation of education in Latina American countries has been analyzed in “The Subregional report on Latin America: Education for all Assessment 2000” made by the UN. This paper shows the apparent and hidden areas of such situation. The report states that there are not alarming problems regarding gender problems in access to education and illiteracy has been reduced in all Latin American countries. But behind these positive data there is a less encouraging reality because there are 43 million illiterate citizens in all Latin America. The report states that this illiterate population is above 24 years old in indigenous communities, rural areas and urban poor areas. These data points out the existence of an important problem of unequal opportunities and it shows that adult education has not been a high-priority target in national policies, likewise primary education programs and programs oriented to disable people.

To conclude, “Education for all” pointed that Latin American governments have done an attempt to extend primary education; despite they have not universalize it, primary education rate has increase to 85%. This figure is not bad but effectiveness and permanence of children in classrooms is still an important challenge because many children in the fourth academic year have real problems to understand simple readings and to do basic calculations.

Apart from education universalization, it is urgent to guarantee a minimum of quality in education. To do so, it is essential to improve labour conditions and teachers professionalism and to provide them training, means and acceptable salaries. Therefore it is necessary an increase in public spending for education. Thus, governments should be released from the burden of external debt. For example, a country as damaged as Nicaragua should not earmark 50% of public budget for paying external debt whereas education is just 5% of the budget.

In the last years, the education projects of several NGOs have played an important role due to their direct knowledge of the situation. “Teachers without Barriers” implements programs in seven Latin American countries to facilitate the access to education to children from rural areas, evening classes for working children and parents’ commitment to keeping children at schools. Apart from this important NGOs labour, national governments and international organisms should be more committed to fostering education. The future and decent life of millions of people depend on it.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Walk to Freedom and Dignity

By Fr. Shay Cullen
(His columns are published in The Manila Times,
in publications in Ireland, the UK, Hong Kong, and on-line)

The day he walked to freedom was a happy day in the life of fourteen-year-old Miguel. For months he had been detained in the Parañaque jail, accused of stealing a pair of flip-flops, worth no more than 50 cents. He was, at first locked in an overcrowded cell that was a living hell of squashed human bodies in a space about 14 by 8 meters. He was jailed because his parents, street food vendors, could not afford to give free meals every day to the police. This was their revenge.

The stifling nauseating smell of urine and feces and the crush of human bodies made the boy cry until the other prisoners shouted at him to shut-up. Miguel was scared and dying of thirst in the hot windowless cell with one electric fan tied to the bars. It gave no comfort.

He had to beg for water. The guards gave him a plastic bottle of warm dirty water and made him sick. He got diarrhea. He had to squirm over the bodies of prisoners who shouted abuse until he reached the corner of the cell where a filthy hole in the floor was the toilet. It stank. Only a curtain separated him from the adult prisoners who were blaming him for making worse smells.

No one could lie down in that cell. All the prisoners sat with their knees drawn up. He, a minor was in this terrible place although it was forbidden by law. No one cared, it was the way it always was and for the authorities always would be. No official ever went there. His family had not been informed of his arrest. He had no food and begged scraps from the other prisoners. Until he could prove he was a minor, he had to stay in the cell of crushed bodies.

One day Shiela and Joan, Preda Foundation social workers came to visit, saw him and immediately got his name and went to the police to demand he be transferred to a cell for minors only. weeks later they got the court order for him to be transferred to the Preda home for boys.

Hundreds have been released by the intervention of the Preda social workers. Last March 5, this year the lobbying of Preda to the department of Foreign Affairs and the Secretary of Local Government succeeded in having that cell closed and all the prisoners transferred to a clean spacious area in another building.

The jail rescue project of Preda for youth in conflict with the law is attracting the attention and the support of distinguished visitors from Germany a group of parliamentarians headed by Dagmar G. Wohrl MsB Former Parliamentary State Secretary and chairwoman of the Economic Cooperation and Development committee joined the Preda team to visit the jails last year and were shocked by what they saw. During the visit they witnessed the sub-human jail conditions.

The Preda representative is now invited to make a presentation at the German Parliament this 2012 before the Economic Cooperation and Development committee. He will speak and answer questions on the Preda programs and issues of human rights, child protection and Fair Trade in the Philippines.

The Preda project shows that children and youth in conflict with the law are not criminals, many are innocent. They are frequently forgotten by the legal system and stay for months in jail without justice.

The Preda home is open, no fences, and no punishment. It is a beautiful building situated in an organic farm. The youth could escape easily yet 94% of them voluntarily stay to improve their lives. They get non-formal education, skills training, emotional release therapy to deal with aggression and violent tendencies.

There is rarely any serious conflict between the boys showing that the therapy is beneficial and works well to reduce tension, stress and emotional hurt and anger. The values formation programs helps them discover their dignity as a person and to respect themselves and others. They have access to sports; swimming, basketball, volley ball, soccer and many other activities like beach outings and other trips.

The Preda program and home is implemented and run by Filipino professional staff. It can be replicated if there is the political will and respect for the rights of the children and the authorities accept they have a duty to give the children and youth an education and a life of dignity.

www.preda.org | shaycullen@preda.org

Corona asked: Explain $10M bank accounts

Corona asked: Explain $10M bank accounts
By Juliet Labog-Javellana

Aside from his peso accounts and real estate properties, impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona allegedly has at least $10 million in bank accounts that the Ombudsman is now asking him to explain.

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, acting on several complaints filed with her office, asked Corona to explain in writing within 72 hours how he acquired several peso and dollar accounts, allegedly “grossly disproportionate” to his salary, in different banks.

The order was dated April 20 and served on Corona on April 23.

“This office finds that there is reasonable ground to proceed further with the conduct of an inquiry vis-à-vis the charges that you, during your incumbency as a public officer, accumulated wealth that is purportedly grossly disproportionate to your salary and other lawful income,” Morales said in the April 20 order, a copy of which was obtained by the Inquirer.

In addition, Morales said in the letter that she had received information that “there are several bank accounts in PSBank and several other banks in your (Corona’s) name, including those denominated in US dollars the aggregate value of which amounts to at least US$10,000,000.”

Through his lawyer, Ramon Esguerra, Corona responded with a terse four-point reply: (1) I do not own 10M. It simply does not exist. (2) It’s part of the black propaganda and mind-conditioning preparatory to the resumption of trial on May 7. (3) No different from the phoney LRA [Land Registration Authority] list, phoney US property list, phoney surveys, phoney letters to the Inquirer editor, etc., etc. (4) The Ombudsman has no jurisdiction over the Chief Justice.

Three complaints
Invoking her powers under Republic Act No. 6770, which defines the powers and functions of the Office of the Ombudsman, Morales asked the Chief Justice to reply in writing to the complaints and to the information concerning his alleged accounts in several banks.

Morales cited three complaints filed against Corona before her office for violation of antigraft laws, invoking the Ombudsman’s power to investigate impeachable officers for serious misconduct, including violations of RA 9194, or the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2001.

“They claim that you do not have the means to acquire properties in substantial amounts, supposedly considering your ‘indicated net worth, modest means and salary as a Chief Justice,’” the Ombudsman said in her letter to Corona.

Complainants Ruperto Aleroza, Gibby Gorres, Harvey Keh, Risa Hontiveros and Albert Concepcion sought to have Corona investigated for allegedly amassing “real and personal properties in significant amounts” and not declaring them in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) as required by law.

In a complaint dated Feb. 17, the complainants cited 10 pieces of real property which were presented by the House prosecution in Corona’s impeachment trial at the Senate. These include supposedly “posh” units at the Bellagio, Spanish Bay, The Columns, One Burgundy Plaza condominium developments and houses in the La Vista and Ayala Heights gated communities.

The complainants also cited Corona’s alleged 10 peso accounts and two dollar accounts at Philippine Savings Bank (PSBank) and five peso accounts with Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI).

A second complaint was filed on March 1 by party-list member Walden Bello (Akbayan), Earnest Francis Calayag, Moses Mikael SD Albiento and Tristan Diane Brioso Zinampan.

They claimed that Corona underdeclared the values of his real properties in his SALN and did not declare his property in La Vista, Quezon City, and in McKinley Hills, Taguig.

They claimed that the “actual value of his personal properties in the amount of P31,752,623.00 exceeded the declared value in his SALN by P27,252,623.09.”

“According to complainants, the real and personal properties supposedly owned by you and your family are manifestly out of proportion to your salary as public officer, as well as other lawful income, during your respective tenures as associate justice and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court,” the Ombudsman said.

A third complaint dated March 28 was filed by Emmanuel Tiu Santos who said Corona had unexplained wealth consisting of P24.6 million in five accounts at PSBank and P12 million with BPI.

Santos, citing reports published in the Inquirer, pointed out that Corona also withdrew P32.6 million on the day he was impeached.

Trial resumes May 7
“While you may only be removed from office through impeachment proceedings, this office has, as reflected earlier, the power and duty to investigate you for any serious misconduct in office for the purpose of filing a verified complaint for impeachment, if warranted. It was on this account that this Office conducted an initial evaluation on the complaints,” the Ombudsman said.

The Ombudsman’s move comes as Corona’s impeachment trial at the Senate resumes on May 7 after Congress returns from a six-week break.

It will be the turn of the defense to present its case for Corona.The prosecution sought to subpoena Corona’s alleged dollar accounts, but the Supreme Court stopped the Senate from compelling the banks to submit documents on the alleged dollar accounts.Corona has said he would open his bank accounts to public scrutiny in due time.

5 years of search, 5 years of hope

By Ellen Tordesillas

Edith Burgos: today's Mater Dolorosa

On April 28, 2007, past noon, Jonas Burgos was at Ever Gotesco Mall in Quezon City waiting for friends. Before his friends came three military agents, one was a woman, approached him and forcibly brought him out to a waiting vehicle. Jonas was never seen after that.

Jonas’ mother, Edita, wife of press freedom fighter Jose Burgos, Jr. (founder of Malaya) issued the following statement yesterday:

“April 28, 2012 marks the fifth year of the disappearance of my son, Jonas Burgos. Jonas’ family commemorates this day by looking back at the five years of search. We recall how we have exhausted every possible peaceful means available to us within the limitations of resources and information.

“We have encountered numerous attempts at individual and institutional cover up and confronted these with more determination to uncover the truth. The denials, the stone-walling, the labeling, all the lies and even the indifference have only encouraged us to pray some more and to look at others with the eyes of a Christian heart. Undeterred, our search must go on.

“At every turn of the uphill path of the search, something and someone would somehow turn out to be His Providence supplying what was needed for the moment. The particular grace would always be on time… just enough, and would, in spite of the pain and seeming helplessness… fuel a renewed vigor to search for the lost son, the lost brother, the lost husband, the lost father.

“We may have been denied our petitions in court. We may have been perplexed by inaction from the authorities. We may have been reduced to ‘just’ a number among those searching for the lost love, relegated to the pages of a report on human rights violations in the country.

“ Yet the search has been a journey where hope, enkindled at the very start, has grown and has been nourished. For indeed, as we have read, heard and believed… grace would abound where trials exist.

We continue looking for Jonas with hope. God in His Mercy will hear our prayers.

“’ Jay hold on, we will not give up.’”

Yes, hope is our weapon in the face government indifference and inaction.

It is also important that we continue to keep tab of every step taken, even the steps not taken.

Last year, the Commission on Human Rights identified a junior Philippine Army officer, 1st Lt. Harry Baliaga Jr. , who was then assigned at the Philippine Army’s 56th Infantry Batallion in Bulacan.

The identification of Baliaga gave a lie to the continued denial of the military of any involvement in the disappearance of Jonas. It is reported that Baliaga is in detention.

The expose of Baliaga’s role in Burgos abduction helped in the dismissal of the case against 2Lt Dick Abletes, who was arrested in March 2007 and linked to the disappearance of Jonas.

Abletes was tried in a court martial for “spying”. The military’s evidence: Amado Guerrero’s 1971 “Philippine Society and Revolution”; Victor Corpus’ 1990 book, “Silent War”; and “compilation of reading materials on Communism.”

On August 22, 2011, after more than four years in detention, Abletes, represented by lawyer Vicente Verdadero, was cleared of the charges against him. He is now assigned at the 6th ID in Maguindanao.

The campaign against forced disappearances, however, has not moved much. “The Butcher”, retired Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan has been ordered by the Malolos Regional Trial Court for the 2006 disappearance of UP students Sherlyn Cadapan, Karen Empeno and farmer Manuel Merino but he remains beyond the reach of the law.

The Philippines has not signed up to now the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance which has been signed by 92 countries, 32 of which have ratified the Convention.

“The UN Convention For the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance is a concrete legal measure which, when put in place, can be a powerful tool to help strengthen governments’ capacities to eradicate disappearances, punish the perpetrators and provide truth, justice, redress, reparation and historical memory to victims and their families,” said Mary Aileen D. Bacalso, secretary general of the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances.

This coming May 29, Jeremy Sarkin,chairman of the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, will be coming to Manila.

AFAD, which is arranging the visit of Sarkin, has requested an appointment with President Aquino for him.