Bello calls for congressional hearing on plight of Filipinos in Sabah

Akbayan Party-list Representative Walden Bello today called for a congressional hearing to look into the plight of the Filipinos in Sabah as the Malaysian government rejected a ceasefire offered by the Sultan of Sulu.

Bello, who is the Chairperson of the Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs, said he will investigate reports of alleged cases of abuse against Filipino citizens working and residing in Sabah from Malaysian security forces as a result of the crisis.

“It is the responsibility of the Philippine government to protect Filipino lives wherever they are. Even as Congress initiates an investigation to the reports of abuse committed against our nationals, all concerned agencies must already take immediate steps to ensure the safety of our countrymen in the area especially those considered ‘stateless’ or undocumented,” Bello said.

Bello said that if there were clear violations committed against Filipino citizens, the Philippine government must demand its Malaysian counterpart to hold those involved accountable.

“The Malaysian government must not mistake our commitment to a peaceful solution to the conflict as an invitation for their security forces to take advantage of our citizens by wantonly violating their rights. All those that will be proven to have participated in such abuses should be made accountable,” Bello asserted.

Malaysia’s militarist response could spill over to Pinoy communities in Sabah

Bello, who is also a renowned international political analyst, feared that with the militarist solution carried out by the Malaysian government to end the crisis, arrests and incarceration of undocumented Filipinos in Sabah might escalate and become more abusive. He said that even legitimate Filipino residents and workers might become vulnerable to abuses.

“We all know that in the past, Filipinos, especially trafficked Filipino women in Sabah have become victims of arrests and illegal detention from Malaysian authorities. Crises such as this often create an atmosphere of xenophobia. We hope our countrymen don’t become victims of racial intolerance,” Bello explained.

“Thus, we call on the Malaysian government to heed the call of the UN and reciprocate the ceasefire offered by the Sultan of Sulu. We reiterate our call for restraint from all stakeholders and for both governments not to waver in finding a diplomatic solution to this conflict,” Bello added.

The Akbayan lawmaker also called on the Aquino government to work closely with its Malaysian counterpart to provide a ‘humanitarian corridor’ to allow the safe transit of humanitarian aid to Filipino and Malaysian citizens caught in the crossfire.

“I join the international community as we call on the Philippine and Malaysian governments to provide ‘safe zones’ where humanitarian organizations can provide assistance to both Filipino and Malaysian citizens who are displaced, injured and requiring medical care,” Bello said. ###


Akbayan on the Sabah Standoff

Akbayan Party-list expresses its deep regret and sadness regarding the deterioration of the Sabah standoff into violence. The fighting which killed several of Rajah Muda Agbimuddin Kiram’s followers and Malaysian security personnel could have been prevented if both sides exercised maximum restraint. To this end we urge both parties to halt any actions that might precipitate further retaliation from either side.

Moreover, we call on the senior officials of the Philippine government to refrain from issuing statements that might only further escalate the tension between both parties. We call on them to temper their pronouncements and focus on the task of aiding in efforts to defuse the standoff by arriving at a win-win solution together with the Malaysian government and the Sultanate of Sulu.

We also call on the Aquino government to review our historical and legal claims to Sabah with the end view of developing a comprehensive strategy to engage the Malaysian government. This must be immediately undertaken after the just resolution of the crisis. We urge the government to consult and forge partnership with all the stakeholders to seek a determined, yet, peaceful and diplomatic course to assert our rightful claim.

Likewise, we call on the Malaysian government to secure the safety of thousands of Filipinos working in Sabah. We hope the crisis will not be used to fan the flames of ethnic resentment, sexism and misguided nationalist sentiment that will further complicate the matter and distract focus from the more crucial and urgent task of coming to a just and peaceful resolution.

Lastly, we call on the people, both in the Philippines and Malaysia, to exercise vigilance against groups that would want to exploit the crisis to derail the current peace effort in Mindanao and drive a wedge between Malaysia and the Philippines. The circumstances on the ground are already tense as it is. We call on the public to exercise prudence and allow the political, diplomatic and legal mechanisms to fully function to end the crisis as soon as possible. ###

Akbayan Youth calls on the youth to carry on the spirit of People Power Revolution


As the nation celebrates the 27th anniversary of the EDSA People Power Revolution, Akbayan Youth calls on the youth to carry on the spirit of the people power by remembering the struggles carried on by earlier generation of youth and students, women, farmers, workers, common folk and academics, among the multitude of others culminated in toppling over the dictatorship and reinstating a democratic government.

Akbayan Youth Spokesperson JC Tejano said that these struggles have paved the way for the restoration of democratic freedom and rights curtailed under martial law years. “We, the youth of today, exercise and enjoy democratic freedom and rights. We owe these to the past generations who suffered and fought under martial law,” Tejano said.

Tejano said that the passage of the Marcos Compensation Law, although belated by more than two decades, is a triumph of the people’s clamour for the continuous quest for truth and justice.

“We commend the Congress and the Aquino administration for the passage of the law,” Tejano said. “It recognizes and compensates thousands of victims of the Marcos dictatorship. Yet, more than that, we look at the law as setting the records straight and establishing the facts that the Marcoses and their cronies continue to revise in favour of the dictator. Marcos was never a hero. He was a tyrant, a liar, a plunderer, a murderer. Those who say otherwise are proven wrong first by history, second by this legislation,” Tejano added.

Akbayan Youth calls on the youth to not keep calm just because our basic civil liberties are guaranteed by the 1987 Constitution. Do not keep calm just because People Power is already part of Philippine history.

“We call on the youth to continually be vigilant. EDSA People Power Revolution and its lessons should always be imbibed in our collective memory. We must learn from our Martial Law experience and embody its lessons for us to break loose from the tendency to repeat it,” Tejano said. “The spirit of the People Power must flourish in our democratic institutions and processes, such in the upcoming May 2013 elections,” Tejano added.

“We urge the youth to support progressive candidates and vote on the basis of track record and platform, instead on names and popularity. Ultimately, we call on the youth to carry on that spirit of People Power. That is, the spirit of reclaiming our collective freedom and democracy, not just in the streets but in reclaiming politics through the exercise of our right to vote intelligently,” Tejano said.

Akbayan Youth, together with Akbayan Party and the ML@40 Coalition, strongly campaigned for the passage of the Marcos Compensation Law. Further, Akbayan Youth has initiated last year an on-going democracy exhibit for the current generation to revisit and relearn the lessons of martial law and people power revolt.###

Youth leaders urge voters to junk trapos; support candidates who can sustain momentum of reforms


Two days before the official start of the campaign for the national and party-list elections, Akbayan Youth, the youth wing of Akbayan party-list called on voters to reject traditional politicians (trapos) and instead support “pro-change” candidates who can sustain the momentum of reforms.

According to Akbayan Youth spokesperson JC Tejano, traditional politicians have perennially used the elections to further entrench their interests while also serving as a stumbling block to meaningful reforms.

“Instead of the usual crop of trapos, the voting public should be more finicky and elect leaders who will uphold their sworn oath to faithfully serve the public and continue the momentum of reforms that have been started,” Tejano said.

Issue-based elections

Akbayan Youth also urged voters to ensure that the election season becomes a campaign based on issues by demanding from the candidates their platforms, programs and their stand on various political, social and economic issues and also go beyond the gimmicky and cheap tricks often employed by trapos to attract votes.

“We should raise the public’s level of political awareness beyond mere gimmicks and flare for pageantry and into a serious discussion of issues and platforms,” Tejano said.

“The people must build on the success of the significant reforms we have achieved in the past two years such as the reproductive health, sin tax, kasambahay, overseas voting laws, among others,” Tejano said.

Protect RH law, support pro-RH candidates

Tejano also urged the voters to support pro-RH candidates saying the recently RH law must be duly protected and defended from those that want to transform it into an unfunded mandate.

“We must guarantee that Congress will provide sufficient yearly funding for the implementation of the RH law. And one of the best ways to ensure that is to elect consistent and dependable RH advocates in the House of Representatives and Senate,” Tejano concluded.  ###

Akbayan Youth condemns the move to lower the minimum age of criminal liability

Press Release

Akbayan Youth condemns the move of some lawmakers to lower the minimum age of criminal liability to 12, asserting that HB 6052 is a misnomer.

HB 6052 or An act strengthening the Juvenile Justice System in the Philippines, amending for the purpose Republic Act No. 9344, otherwise known as the “Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006” seeks to lower the age when a Filipino can be tried and jailed for criminal charges from 15 to 12 years old.

Akbayan Youth National Spokesperson JC Tejano said that “the proposed bill (HB 6052) will not strengthen the juvenile justice system of the country, but will only serve to backtrack our progress in human rights.” Tejano added that lowering the minimum age of criminal liability is an injustice to the youth.

“Children who break the law at the age of 12 do not do so with proper discernment and understanding of the act and the consequences thereof,” Tejano said. “On the contrary, they do so because of circumstances and situations they are in. Poverty and lack of parental guidance are only few of the unfair circumstances that can lead to criminality,” Tejano further said.

Tejano pointed out that the implementation of the landmark Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006 has put the Philippines at the forefront in Asia in upholding international child rights standards. However, it has been a challenge for the government. Children in conflict with the law (CICL) are continually subjected to pre-trial detentions and poor conditions in overcrowded detention facilities without proper medical care, legal safeguards and proper counseling support.

“The challenge plaguing the justice system is not an issue of age. But it is an issue of the government’s failure to install and operate humane and rehabilitative mechanisms that would reform CICLs and prepare them to re-enter society,” Tejano asserts. “Consequently, lowering the age of criminal liability will not lessen the number of children who commit crimes due to poverty. The bill will only increase the number of CICLs facing the same dismal conditions and undignified conditions presently persisting,” Tejano said.

“We in Akbayan Youth posits that cases dealing with CICL must be handled in such a way that the age of the offender and the context they have been brought up should be taken into account. Treatment of cases involving children must be made in a way that promotes their sense of dignity and worth,” Tejano said. “Hence, branding CICL, especially those as young as 12 years old, as criminals is not only pejorative and disparaging. It further restricts the opportunities available for the juvenile offenders and results to their exclusion from society,” Tejano added.

Furthermore, Tejano asserts that CICL should be given better attention through functional rehabilitative centers in the spirit of restorative justice.

“The government must subsequently increase the resources available for reforming the juvenile justice system,” Tejano said. “They must provide better safeguards to ensure that the rights of the child are upheld and provide opportunities and support mechanisms to promote the development and well-being of each child,” Tejano concluded.###

Akbayan Youth: Kabataan PL, two-faced!

Press Release

“First, the FOI network; now, the Students’ Rights and Welfare (STRAW) Coalition. It is clear that Makabayan lawmakers are nothing more than deceitful partners ready to take the credit when a coalitional campaign succeeds and quick to blame fellow advocates when the campaign faces setbacks,” Akbayan Youth Spokesperson JC Tejano reacts to the statement of Kabataan Party-list Rep. Mong Palatino.

Palatino recently blamed Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello for the cancellation of the technical working group (TWG) meeting in Congress to consolidate the different versions of the STRAW Bill.
Through an SMS message, Bello informed and consulted Palatino about the former’s request to postpone the meeting. Palatino replied “noted” but later attacked Bello publicly on his party-list organization’s website. Bello explained that the postponement was a strategic move given that there were only a few session days left.

“It is difficult to deal with groups like Kabataan which, instead of working in good faith with partners to seriously pursue reform legislation, have only the 2013 elections in mind. Inasmuch as we dream of a unified student sector to push for the passage of the STRAW Bill, propaganda such as this from Kabataan are not helping at all,” commented Mickey Eva, National President of the STRAW Coalition, a network of student groups advocating the legislation of the STRAW Bill.

“It is interesting to note that Kabataan never criticized COCOPEA when it argued during the committee hearing that students can be discriminated on the basis of gender, pregnancy, religion, and political affiliation upon admission into schools,” added Ernest Calayag, Secretary-General of the Student Council Alliance of the Phillippines.

“As it seems, Kabataan’s tactic is not to push for the STRAW Bill but to disparage like-minded advocates in order to get ahead of them come election time,” Calayag quipped.
Akbayan has been pushing for the STRAW Bill since the 10th Congress and has taken the lead in forging the nationwide STRAW Coalition for the passage of the bill.

In cooperation with the National Youth Commission, the STRAW Coalition has been engaging institutions to take action on documented and undocumented violations of students’ rights. Kabataan, on the other hand, has never assisted or even engaged the STRAW Coalition.

Akbayan Youth, along with the STRAW Coalition, remains committed to effectively and strategically work for the passage of the STRAW Bill in Congress.###

Akbayan Youth: Sen. Sotto should resign

Press Release:

17August 2012

Akbayan Youth: Sen. Sotto should resign

“In school, a student caught cheating during an exam or plagiarizing in a paper is either suspended and/or expelled,” says Akbayan Youth spokesperson JC Tejano. “Why shouldn’t be a senator?” Tejano asked referring to holding Senator Tito Sotto accountable for plagiarizing at least 5 different blogs in his turno en contra speech against the RH Bill.

photo from facebook.

Sotto’s staff has admitted to plagiarizing Sarah the Health Home Economist, a foreign blogger, after news reports broke out and Sarah noted in her blog that her work was indeed plagiarized by Sotto. Philippine Blogger Raissa Robles has also pointed out five other instances of plagiarism in Sotto’s speech.

“To young people, this would send a message that cheating and stealing is okay.” Tejano explains the implications of not having a public figure like Sotto held accountable. “Furthermore, it tarnishes the reputation of the Senate as an institution,” Tejano added.

With these grounds, Akbayan Youth calls for the filling of ethics complaint against the senator. The youth group also took the opportunity to call on voters not to support that likes of Sotto in succeeding elections.

“Ideally, we want Sen. Sotto to resign. He brings himself, the Senate and the country so much shame with his arguments against the RH Bill and now with the plagiarism issue” Tejano remarked. “But we know he wouldn’t do that, he’s been thick-skinned even with the plight of women who needs the RH bill the most.”

Senator Sotto challenged proponents of the RH Bill, including Akbayan, to provide him the list of 11 women who died annually to pregnancy and birth complications. On the other hand, Akbayan Youth has challenged Sotto to a debate, last year,  a challenge Sotto cowered in.###


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