Thursday, December 21, 2006

Ka Bel's fight for P125 Wage Increase

News Release December 21, 2006

Ka Bel devoted the last five years of his life as a people’s lawmaker to lobby and campaign for the passage of pro-worker, prop-poor bills such as HB 345, the bill legislating a P125 across-the-board wage increase for all workers nationwide

Free Ka Bel Movement Spokesperson Dennis Maga today lauded the passage of HB HB345 in the Lower House, saying that it was good news for all Filipino workers. The bill legislates a P125 across-the-board wage increase nationwide. Members of congress voted on the measure last night, December 20.

“We wish to thank the members of the House who worked hard to lobby and campaign for the passage of the bill. Especially the chairman of the Committee on Labor Zamboanga del Sur Rep. Roseller Barinaga. Rep. Barinaga and Anakpawis Rep. Crispin Beltran have worked long and hard since the 12th Congress to have this bill passed through the Lower House,” he said.

“All the more do we feel Ka Bel’s absence from Congress. It’s been 10 months since he was arrested and charged with crimes he did not commit. He deserves to be free to thank Rep. Barinaga and all other lawmakers who supported HB345 himself. Ka Bel has committed five years of his life as a people’s lawmaker to campaigning for this measure,” Maga said.

“This measure and others like it which aim to give immediate and long-term economic relief to Filipino workers and members of other impoverished sectors are what kept Ka Bel busy all these years. He did not use his time colluding with disgruntled members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines like the Macapagal-Arroyo has falsely charged him. It is not a crime to speak out on behalf of workers and to lobby for measures that will help fight their poverty. Ka Bel should be immediately released,” he said.

In the meantime, Maga said that the bill’s passage was also a victory for all Filipino workers who continually took to the streets to express their support and their demand for a P125 across-the-board wage increase.

“Workers from various unions and even those who did not belong to unions supported this bill and continue to support this bill and press for the legislation of wage increases. Part and parcel of the call for the legislation of wage increases is also the abolition of wage rationalization and the Regional Wage Boards whose only function is to keep wages down all over the country,” he said.

“The campaign will now move on to the Senate where we hope that the senators will not be adverse to the measure and pass it before the 13th Congress ends. Senators should approve the bill and make note of the worsening economic conditions of most Filipino workers and their families. A P125 across-the-board wage increase implemented nationwide will provide immediate economic relief to workers who are greatly saddled by increasing electricity and water rates, as well as prices of basic commodities,” he concluded.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Prof. Jane Kelsey's letter to PM Helen Clark of New Zealand


Dear Helen,

Subsequent to my faxed letters from Cebu, I had the opportunity to meet with Congressman Crispin 'Ka Bel' Beltran in the hospital where he is detained on several charges of rebellion. Only one of those charges is currently being heard, and that is making no progress because of the non-appearance of prosecution witnesses - a tactic commonly used during the trials I witnessed in the Marcos era.

Of greatest urgency is the desire of the police to return him to the prison. A decision on that application is due this week. There is no doubt that his physical and psychological condition will deteriorate if he is returned to the jail, especially as there currently appears to be no prospect that the government will release him for many years without considerable pressure.

Ka Bel recalled his meeting with you back in 1999 during APEC when you werel eader of the opposition and was intensely grateful for your intervention inthe Philippines last May. When I asked if he had a message for New Zealand, he said:

"I would like to thank Helen Clark, who has been the only Asian leader willing to raise these issues directly with Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. It means a great deal to us. I appeal to Helen Clark to continue these efforts at the ASEAN, and if Arroyo¹s planned visit to New Zealand in May proceeds to urge her to make the Philippines a civilised country, because it is not civilised now".

Concern about the deteriorating human rights situation extends beyond KaBel. As of last week the documented extrajudicial killings in the six years since President Arroyo came to power had reached 799, from all walks of life. I learnt, for example, that a lawyer who had organised our investigation into the vigilante killings in the 1980s was killed in May.

The risks to critics of these violations have intensified given the recent moves to secure a revision of the Philippine Constitution, by passing the Senate and the procedures set down in the 1987 Constitution. The Constitutional Assembly process would have seen the scheduled May election deferred. Now that has been abandoned there are very grave fears that a state of martial law may be declared before May. That would be accompaniedby a large number of arrests of opposition activists in the church, congress, trade unions, media, lawyers, human rights groups and political parties and potentially an upsurge in the extrajudicial killings.

I urge you to respond to the request to meet with a delegation of those whohave been documenting these violations when you attend the rescheduled EastAsean meeting in Cebu in January and if you are in Manila to ask to meet with Ka Bel himself. I would ask that you provide Ms Maria Theresa Nera-Lauron as much advanced notice as possible of the time for such a meeting as people will need to make special arrangements to go to Cebu.

Thank you in anticipation,

Professor Jane Kelsey

Professor Jane Kelsey
School of Law
University of Auckland
Ph: +64 9 373 7599 x 88006
Fax: +64 9 373 7471

Friday, December 15, 2006

Judge Pozon should handle Ka Bel's rebellion case

News Release December 14, 2006

The spokesperson of the Free Ka Bel Movement Dennis Maga today said that Makati Regional Trial Court Judge Benjamin Pozon should be the one to handle the case of detained solon and veteran labor leader Anakpawis Representative Crispin B. Beltran.

"It could well be that if it was Judge Pozon' sala Ka Bel's case landed in, Ka Bel would've been freed long before. Judge Pozon appears like a man of integrity and a genuine sense of justice. Neither is he afraid to stand up against Malacanang in defense of what he believes to be right. Here's a man who has an independent mind, a sense of patriotism, and a working conscience," Maga said.

Maga said that Ka Bel has been detained since February 26, 2006 on impossible-to-prove and substantiate charges of rebellion and collusion with disgruntled members of the military to remove Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo from office.

"It's been almost ten months since the arroyo government had Ka Bel arrested, and since then it has failed to prove the charges against him. Hardly surprising since the charges are all fabricated," he said.

"We decry the slowness of the court proceedings and the unfairness of Makati Judge Elmo Alameda. We seek the indulgence of the Supreme Court and approve our petition for certiorari. The Beltran's lawyers are urging the High Court to set aside the Orders dated May 31, 2006 issued by Makati RTC Judge Encarnacion Jaja G. Moya and the Order dated August 29, 2006 issued by Judge Elmo M. Almeda which denies Beltran's Motion for Reconsideration. They also seek the High Court's intervention by having it enjoin respondents Judge Alameda and Sec. Gonzalez, from proceeding with the hearing on the rebellion case.

His lawyers led by Atty. Romeo Capulong said that the Supreme Court is respectfully being petitioned to impose a special civil action for Certiorari and Prohibition under Sections 1 and 2 of Rule 65 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure.

"We seek the SC's support and ask it to order the setting aside and annulment of the May 31, 2006 Order issued by Judge Encarnacion Moya which finds probable cause against Ka Bel for the crime of rebellion; and the setting aside and annulment of the August 29, 2006 order by Judge Alameda, denying Ka Bel's Motion for Reconsideration of the May 31, 2006 order," said Maga.

Sec. Gonzalez is in charge of the prosecution against Rep. Beltran. Judge Moya is the presiding judge of RTC Makati, Branch 146 Judge Alameda is the presiding judge of RTC Makati, Branch 150.

Maga said that as they have been consistently arguing since February when Rep. Beltran was first arrested, there are no records to show that he was 'lawfully arrested.' "Ka Bel was not arrested for rebellion but for the alleged charge of inciting to sedition, in gross violation of his constitutional privilege of immunity from arrest; none of the 'arresting' officers had any 'personal knowledge' of facts indicating that petitioner attended a meeting on February 20, 2006 with 1Lt. San Juan and form a tactical alliance to overthrow the government."#

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister expresses support for Ka Bel's case; says Canadian government involved in keeping Human Rights a priority in the Phi

Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Peter G, MacKay stated that his government is well aware of the developments in the human rights situation in the Philippines, including the case of detained Anakpawis Representative Crispin B. Beltran.

Free Ka Bel Movement (FKBM) spokesperson Dennis Maga said that the Canadian official sent Anakpawis and FKBM a letter dated September 25, 2006.

"I share your concerns about the uncertain political environment in the Philippines and the arrest of Congressman Beltran as well as others. The Government of Canada, through our Embassy in Manila, is in close and regular contact with many of the organizations that have been targeted in the recent increase in violence against several organizations, including Anakpawis," MacKay say.

The Canadian Foreign Affairs minister said that When Canadian officials meet with their Philippine counterparts, "We urge them to fully respect international human rights commitments such as the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which the Philippines is a party. Our Embassy also continues to coordinate with a wide variety of partners, including non-governmental organizations,
civil society, other embassies and international organizations, and Philippine human rights officials to improve the situation in the country. The Philippines Justice Reform Initiatives Support Project, Local Government Support Project and McLuhan Prize for Investigative Journalism are only some of the ways in which Canada is involved to keep human rights as priority in the Philippines," he said.

"I can assure you that the Canadian government will continue to monitor human rights in the Philippines and will follow closely the developments of the Beltran case."

Maga said that the FKBM and Anakpawis Party-list continue to receive messages of support for Ka Bel and reassurances that they – foreign officials, church leaders and concerned citizens—are doing their share in campaigning for Ka Bel's release.

"We continue to reach out to as many groups and individuals as possible to unite and rally them behind the cause of Ka Bel's release. It's been nine months, but the Macapagal-Arroyo administration remains stubborn in its refusal to release Ka Bel despite the truth that it doesn't have any real case against him. It's already an international embarrassment that at this day and age when the Philippines is supposedly a country with democratic processes, a well-respected and renowned labor leader and people's legislator such as Ka Bel is being persecuted and made into a political detainee. This all the more focuses the spotlight on the Arroyo government's worsening tendencies of dictatorship," he concluded.#