barryClosing remarks delivered by Akbayan Rep. Barry Gutierrez during the forum “Implications of Mamasapano to the Peace Process: Moving Forward” organized by the Institute for Autonomy and Governance. The whole-day forum held at Dusit Thani Hotel, Ayala Center, Makati City was attended by legislators, opinion makers, ARMM leaders, civil society organizations and other stakeholders.

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We stand on the edge of a knife.

That is how I would describe where we are now as regards the peace process with the MILF in the wake of the tragedy at Mamasapano. And as we stand on this knife-edge, depending on which direction we step, we can make or unmake a fragile peace agreement, which after decades of conflict, and despite everything, still presents the best opportunity at ending the war and establishing a lasting peace in Mindanao.

In the immediate aftermath of Mamasapano, there were numerous, angry calls to abandon the peace process as passions, understandably, ran high. Ongoing discussions in Congress on the Bangsamoro Basic Law, the next crucial component of the peace agreement, were suspended, pending the results of several inquiries into Mamasapano. Some even proposed to go beyond suspension, and talked about scuttling the BBL, and the peace talks, altogether.

Those who from the beginning were dubious of the peace talks with the MILF, as well as others with the more general agenda of simply attacking the incumbent Administration, were, of course, quick to capitalize on this upsurge of public emotion. On a wide variety of fronts, questions ranging from the Constitutionality of the BBL, to the trustworthiness of the parties to the negotiation, even to the loyalty of government negotiators, were raised. And while some concerns were undoubtedly valid, and even perhaps well-meaning, it increasingly became more and more difficult to separate constructive criticism from unfounded condemnation, efforts to strengthen the peace from thinly disguised warmongering.

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FOI infoThe budget for the People's Freedom of Information Act of 2013 (FOI) on Wednesday clears the House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations with no objection from members of the committee.

"We are happy with the decision of the Appropriations Committee to approve the appropriations provision of the bill, consequently, approving the FOI budget," Akbayan Rep. Barry Gutierrez said.

"The budget is one of the crucial components of the bill as it determines if the bill could be successfully implemented. Without it, our efforts to pass the bill to ensure government transparency and practice of governance will simply end up as a shot in the dark.

According to Section 30 of the proposed FOI, it states that the appropriations shall be "the amount necessary to carry out the provisions of [the] Act [and] shall be charged against against the agencies' current budget and shall thereafter be included in the annual General Appropriations Act."

"We are optimistic that the bill when approved would enable all agencies of all branches of government to comply with the requirements of the FOI law on mandatory disclosure," he added.

With the approval of the proposed measure, the substitute FOI bill is expected to be delivered back to the Committee on Public Information before it gets transmitted to the Plenary for Second Reading.

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handshake projectYouth leaders led by the Akbayan Youth and the Student Council Alliance of the Philippines (SCAP) earlier today conducted a creative "social experiment" to contribute in eliminating stereotypes against Filipino Muslims brought about by the Mamasapano tragedy. 

Dubbed as the “Handshake Project”, the youth groups which converged at Ortigas, Mandaluyong City encouraged passers-by to show their respect and solidarity to Filipino Muslims by asking them to shake their hands and/or write messages of support on their “peace cards” in a bid to fight the growing anti-Muslim sentiment and promote greater peace, sobriety and understanding.

"We are deeply alarmed with the growing Anti-Muslim sentiment brought about by the tragic Mamasapano incident.  Today, we thus rally our fellow youth leaders against Islamophobia in all its forms through various symbols of solidarity--a handshake, a hug or a message of peace for our fellow Muslim Filipinos who for decades have been struggling for peace, justice and equality." said Akbayan Youth Vice Chairperson for Mindanao James Alih.

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edsa-shrine-rally-20150222-1This week, the nation observes the 29th year of the 1986 Edsa People Power uprising that resulted in the ouster of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos and the start of democratization process in the Philippines. As we rise from the aftermath of the Mamasapano tragedy, it is crucial for the nation to remember what Edsa truly stood for: the power of the people to defend democracy, justice and peace.

Unholy but expected alliance

Unfortunately, our commemoration of the spirit of Edsa’s is marred by the intention of a current crop of political opportunists and vultures to exploit it. In the mold of former defense secretary Norberto Gonzales, rogue religious leaders infamously known as the “Mitsubishops,” Peping Cojuangco, Kit Tatad, the extreme left, and the recent addition, widely discredited Ed Kabalu and alleged MRT extortionist Al Vitangcol, this unholy but expected alliance of Arroyo and Napoles minions, hypocrites, fraudsters, and political has-beens are shamelessly hijacking the people’s grief, anger and confusion over the Mamasapano tragedy. Under the promise of “transformation” and “transition”, they take advantage of the unfulfilled promises of Edsa by calling for a “new people power.”

We in Akbayan Party urge the people not to yield the spirit of Edsa to the perversion of those who intend to use it for their own selfish aspirations for power. Akbayan also caution the people to exercise vigilance and not to let their rightful indignation over the Mamasapano incident be disrespected and abused by those who want to pursue narrow ends.

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jennifer laudeAkbayan LGBT Statement on the Arraignment of US Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton

“For the Jennifer Laude murder, this is a classic case of justice delayed is justice denied.”

Akbayan LGBT collective today warned against the dilatory tactics of the camp of US Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton in the Jennifer Laude murder case. "Any further delay will work against the pursuit of justice for our transgender sister Jennifer. From the first day of the trial, the clock is ticking because of the 180 day period for the trial to be completed.”

“It is only through a speedy trial that justice could be rendered. We expect the Pemberton camp to let this case drag on until the prescribed period has lapsed. This is the challenge to our judiciary where legal processes move at a snail pace. It cannot be business as usual. There ought to be a commitment from our courts to beat the deadline.”

The Akbayan LGBT collective reiterated the call for greater sensitivity in the coverage of the case. "The victim is a transgender woman. Her name is Jennifer. Please respect her."