tom villarinRally your supermajority. Pass a coco levy trust fund bill.

This was the message of Akbayan partylist Rep. Tom Villarin to the Duterte administration, who should be hard at work in ensuring the release of the P72-billion coco levy funds by enacting it into law.

Villarin pointed to several bills pending (wag languishing -  4 months palang kasi) in both houses of Congress, including a version he authored under House Bill No. 2833 or An Act Establishing the Coconut Farmers Trust Fund and Providing for Its Management and Utilization.

"Our coconut farmers need the funds back, not more excuses," he added.

Department of Agriculture (DA) Sec. Manny Piñol reportedly said that the farmers were "barking up the wrong tree," claiming that the government's hands were tied due to the temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by the Supreme Court on former President Noynoy Aquino's executive issuances that authorized the utilization of the coconut levy funds to benefit coconut farmers (EOs 179 and 180).

akbayan2014None of the above. This was Akbayan's challenge to  Pres. Duterte following his pro-China statements while dissing the US after visiting Beijing.

"A truly courageous foreign policy is one where we do not depend on either side while at the same time nurturing relationships based on mutual respect," declared Akbayan President Machris Cabreros.

"Duterte is toying with the country's sovereignty to curry favor with China for questionable investments, even if we enjoy the high ground due to the favorable UNCLOS Tribunal decision," declared Machris Cabreros today.

"Duterte's high-heaven praises for China, specifically his statement that "China has never invaded any part of the Philippines" is grossly ignorant of facts on the ground," added Cabreros.

akbayan2014As above, so below.

Pres. Duterte's rhetoric of violence gives a cue to security forces emboldening them to get away with brutality. The dispersal at the US embassy on Wednesday was but a manifestation of this culture of impunity.

We challenge Pres. Duterte to frame the investigation he ordered not only along the lines of who were directly responsible, but how the Manila Police District failed to uphold the rights of the protestors by violently cracking down on them.

The state, by the nature of its superior machinery and brute force is subject to higher standards of restraint and maximum tolerance while upholding the right to peaceably assemble and seek redress for grievances.

But when the leader of this country divides with his words, rather than unites, it becomes easier to demean and brutalize others, whether it be protestors on the streets or suspected drug addicts.

So while we support penalizing the police forces responsible for the attacks on the protestors, Pres. Duterte also needs to realize the implications of his reckless oratory, because as the embassy dispersal incidence shows, they have the ability to literally roll over people and their human rights.

Quote: Machris Cabreros, President

tom villarinAkbayan partylist Rep. Tom Villarin warned that the approval by the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments of a Resolution calling for Congress to convene as a constituent assembly to propose changes to the charter, is self-serving and will perpetuate elite interest and corruption.

"The Con-Ass mode of revising the charter, while constitutional, is not idea as its members who have vested interests will only do acts of self-preservation to perpetuate its interests rather than the national interest. Here we can immediately point out term limits and access to public resources as just a few of the narrow interests for legislators-turned-constitutional revisionists," Villarin said.

"Con-Ass is a mode severely lacking feedback, and devoid of informed consent. It can only open itself to charges of corruption if vested interests come into play in the amendments that will be introduced," he added. 

"Only an elected Constitutional Convention with qualifications insulated from vested interests would satisfy the  basic requirements of fairness and impartiality needed for this delicate undertaking," the lawmaker said.
The House will tackle the Con-Ass resolution when it resumes session on November 7, 2016 after a two week break starting October 22.

Akbayan, together with the legitimate opposition in the House, will exert all efforts to block its passage. It favors a constitutional convention to effect revisions to the 1987 Constitution.

"If Congress is genuinely interested on pursuing constitutional reforms with a bias for the poor, then it should open the process to stakeholders instead of shoving down ConAss for the public to accept," Villarin remarked. ###

duterte chinaAkbayan partylist Rep. Tom Villarin warned the Duterte administration against entering into a joint exploration venture with the Chinese government at such a critical juncture, stressing that Duterte should first focus on asserting the favorable decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration on the West Philippine Sea.

"A joint exploration with China while skipping around the issue of how to resolve Chinese incursion into the West Philippine Sea is tantamount to giving up our sovereign claims," Villarin.

"Winning our case at the UN Arbitral Tribunal and asserting it will fulfill the constitutional mandate of having an independent foreign policy. But asking permission from China so we can fish on our own waters degrades our status as a sovereign nation and will subject us to international ridicule," he added.