Murder for life

It was going to happen sooner or later.

Last week Rizalito David, a former senatorial candidate of the anti-RH Kapatiran party, assaulted Kenneth Keng, a member of the pro-RH Filipino Freethinkers. The incident happened in the Batasan during plenary debates on the reproductive-health (RH) bill.

Below is the victim’s account:

    “It started with a brief exchange about how the RH bill was part of America’s imperialist plot. David spoke loudly so that Keng would hear his accusation: those who didn’t agree that the Kissinger Population Report was imperialist was bobo [stupid]. Keng replied that he has read the report and that he didn’t think it was stupid. David replied, “Like I said, bobo. Keng ignored the comment and continued to record the hearing.

    “Later, while Rep. Garcia was discussing the allegedly imperialist funding of RH advocates, David told Keng about the questionable nature of the funding that RH advocacy groups received from foreigners. Keng replied that the Catholic Church and the anti-RH side also received foreign funding and that this was also questionable.

    “At this statement David started to get angry. He invited Keng to go outside with him [doon tayo sa labas] where he would make it absolutely clear how questionable the RH funding was when it was only the two of them [pag tayong dalawa na lang]. The threatening tone and adversarial choice of words carried with it an implicit threat of violence. Keng pointed his cameraphone from the hearing to David to protect himself and gather evidence for these threats.

    “At this, David became furious. He stood up from where he sat three or four seats away, shouted some unintelligible words, and walked toward Keng with his arms slightly raised, as if prepared to throw fists. The people behind him managed to restrain him, so he pretended to have calmed down and sat beside Keng. Seated and unrestrained, David hit Keng’s cameraphone, which was next to Keng’s face, with the back of his hand, sending the cameraphone flying into Keng’s glasses.

    “David then stood up and walked out of the hall. Witnesses from the row behind picked up Keng’s phone and gave it to him. Red Tani, president of the Filipino Freethinkers, rose from the seat next to Keng’s and followed David outside. He caught up, introduced himself, and asked David who he was and which organization he worked with, also requesting that they discuss what had happened. David refused to identify himself. He accused Tani of committing an action against one of his [David’s] colleagues. Tani told David that this was the first time he’d even met David, and that he had no idea what action, colleague, or organization David was talking about. Keng arrived and asked David the same questions. David refused to reply with any information on his or his organization’s identity.

    “Keng and Tani followed David outside the hall and met other RH advocates in the lobby, where they discussed potential actions, such as filing a case against David in the precinct nearby, and submitting an incident report to Congress. They were about to approach David but he had started walking upstairs to where the other anti-RH advocates were.

    “Keng and Tani, accompanied by witnesses and other RH advocates, waited until the end of the session for David to return so that they could figure out who he was and discuss what had happened. At the end of the hearing, David finally emerged. He was escorted by Fr. Melvin Castro of the CBCP, discreetly walking near the edge of the lobby toward the exit.

    “Keng and Tani approached David and Castro to ask them about David’s then-unknown identity [at this point the RH advocates didn’t know who David was]. David and Castro ignored the pair and walked straight to the driveway outside. Keng continued to ask the question until it became obvious that David and Castro were determined to ignore him.”

I’m not surprised the debate has turned violent. I’m surprised it happened only now.

The rhetoric of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church has been incendiary. If the words of the bishops could kill, there would be dead bodies everywhere.

In the US, prolifers have taken to bombing abortion clinics. They say they commit murder because they are prolife. We don’t have abortion clinics here. But, when the RH bill becomes law, we will have barangay health centers distributing free contraceptives that prolifers insist are abortifacients.

The bishops have said prolifers are willing to go to jail for their beliefs. Are they also going to murder for life?

Photo credit: Mattes, some rights reserved.

Asean lists down causes of failure to meet MDGs

Asean lists down causes of failure to meet MDGs
Written by Estrella Torres
Business Mirror

LINGERING conflicts, fragile political situations and armed violence in Southeast Asia hamper the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) among the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).

Dr. Surin Pits wan, Asean secretary-general raised the need to address these concerns of members, particularly developing countries like the Philippines, at the sidelines of the United Nations Review Conference of the MDGs in New York City.

Surin met with Timor Leste President Jose Ramos Horta; officials of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation and of the World Bank and the United Kingdom, to identify programs to raise the importance of peace-building and state-building in achieving the MDGs, according to a briefing statement issued by the Asean.

Indonesia, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and the Philippines are having difficulty complying with the MDG commitments due to the lingering conflict and fragile political conditions in those countries.

In March 2009, Asean members agreed to align to the attainment of MDGs the road map to establish a single market by 2015.

The signatories to the MDG compact signed in year 2000 also set year 2015 as the end-year for compliance with the eight goals.

The declaration “reflects Asean’s serious commitment to reducing poverty and inequality and improve the standard and quality of life of the peoples of Asean,” Surin said

The MDGs are time-bound goals that aim to halve global poverty incidence by 2015 by eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal access to primary education, promoting gender equality and empowering women, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, ensuring environmental sustainability and developing a global partnership for development.

Asean signed an assistance program with the European Union to develop statistical reports using the MDG indicators to support regional programs aligned to achieving the MDGs.

Philippine election killing spree in full swing

Philippine election killing spree in full swing
Agence France-Presse
via ABS-CBN News

MANILA, Philippines – A series of killings since the political massacre of 57 people in the southern Philippines last year has set the stage for the country’s most violent election in recent history, experts warn.

Politicians defying a government crackdown and running their own mini-armies are one of the key trends behind the political murders, according to independent monitors and officials trying to stem the bloodshed.

“There are just too many private armies, goons for hire and entrepreneurs of violence,” Rommel Banlaoi, executive director of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research, told Agence France-Presse.

“The government must urgently find ways to deter armed groups and ensure they are not used for election-related purposes.”

More than 90 people have already been killed in the run-up to the national elections in May, when thousands of positions from the presidency down to town councilor will be contested, according to the institute.

This includes the 57 people who died on November 23, when a Muslim clan that was then closely allied to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo allegedly carried out the murders in Maguindanao province to wipe out a rival politician’s challenge.

With the political tensions still to peak, Banlaoi said the Philippines was on track to surpass the 189 people killed in the last presidential elections six years ago, which was regarded as the most violent in recent memory.

“Based on current pre-election trends we are monitoring, 2010 may see the most violent elections in recent history,” he said.

Dante Jimenez, a member of a presidential commission created to dismantle private armies following the Maguindanao massacre, offered an equally gloomy scenario.

“There are really expectations that this will turn out to be a very bloody election,” Jimenez said.

“People will kill each other because of interests involved. A politician’s salary is not that big, but it’s not easy to let go of influence and power and the huge business interests that come with it. That includes illegal activities,” he said.

Jimenez said the commission knew of at least 117 so-called private armies being run by politicians across the country.

The Ampatuan clan accused of the Maguindanao massacre allegedly had about 100 members of its private army carry out those murders, with the victims part of a convoy of people traveling to an election office.

Analysts say the culture of political violence in the Philippines can be partly blamed on rampant gun ownership.

There are more than 1.2 million unlicensed firearms and 1.8 million registered ones, according to police estimates. This means there is an average of roughly one gun for every three Filipinos.

A weak gun control law that allows civilians to carry licensed firearms with special permits has perpetuated the culture of violence, according to Nandy Pacheco, founder of the anti-gun lobby group Gunless Society.

“Buying firearms in the Philippines is like buying candy, it’s very easy. And for a certain fee, stores will actually help you process your permit-to-carry license even without checking backgrounds,” he said.

Among the dozens of victims in recent months was Joen Caniete, 36, whose death at the hands of anonymous gunmen in December was typical of the way politicians are killed in the Philippines.

Caniete, a member of the opposition Nacionalista Party running for a town councilor post in the northern Philippines, and about 40 colleagues were ambushed as they returned from a Christmas gathering.

Two other Nacionalista Party candidates running for local posts elsewhere in the country were also killed that same week, while a fourth was felled in January.

“The best measure for safety is to really have as few enemies as possible, but there really is no guarantee,” Nacionalista Party spokesman Gilbert Remulla told AFP.

“If somebody really wants to kill you, they will find a way to do so.”