rep tom villarinBills focusing on health and workers’ rights topped the initial list of pro-people and pro-poor legislation filed by Akbayan party-list together with Senator Risa Hontiveros in both chambers of the legislature.

Akbayan Rep. Tom Villarin filed house bills on anti-contractualization to protect workers’ security of tenure against the widespread practice of endo and 5-5-5 employment schemes. Villarin also filed a bill which seeks to strengthen the Social Security System to enable the coverage of informal sector workers and self-employed. Thirdly, Villarin also filed a house bill that bans aerial spraying of pesticides and other dangerous agro-chemicals used in plantations, to protect the health of workers, communities and the consuming public.

Akbayan also filed two health bills – one strengthening the anti-hospital deposit law, providing for stiffer penalties and stronger oversight, and another one which seeks to provide institutional support for barangay health workers.

All these bills specifically echo those bills which were also filed by Akbayan Senator Risa Hontiveros in the upper chamber.

“All these bills share one feature: they all seek to combat the inequalities that fester in society,” Villarin explained. “They all seek to remove some of the barriers that leave people behind.”

Villarin added, “because eradicating inequality is the change Akbayan vows to continue pursuing. It is the change that the Filipino people deserve.”

coco levyAkbayan challenged incoming President-elect Digong to follow through on his commitment to the coconut farmers and his statement expediting the release of the coco levy. This is long overdue, and a step in the right direction.

However, Akbayan said that the coco levy must be used in a programmatic way, and not directly distributed to the coconut farmers as such a scheme would not only be legally-infirm, it would also not have meaningful effects on poverty reduction.

Secondly, the Digong administration must find ways to focus its attention on SMALL coconut farmers, and will not be influenced by pressures coming from large coconut traders. The coconut levy hurt the small farmers the most so it is but just that the coco levy proceeds serve their welfare and interests, specifically for the strategic development of the industry that directly benefits small coconut farmers.

Thirdly, we reiterate our belief that legislation is the best way to ensure that the funds are insulated from private interests and go directly to the farmers.

As such, Akbayan will re-file its bill prescribing the way to realize this and protect coco farmers and their families. This is the same bill that was already passed on third reading by the House of Representatives during the 16th Congress. We call on legislators in both the House and Senate to work with genuine sectoral organizations to  reinvigorate discussions on this bill and pass it with the urgency it deserves.

akbayan2014Akbayan condemns the reported beheading of another hostage by the terrorist group Abu Sayaff. This group is a criminal band, and does not in any way represent the vast majority of our Muslim brethren.

We urge the outgoing and incoming administration to devote increased attention to the pursuit of these lawless elements so they can be caught and brought to justice before a court.

These heinous crimes of murder and kidnap-for-ransom committed by the Abu Sayyaf and other lawless elements must be met by a holistic approach of security, politico-economic, and empowered governance.

LGUs must be strengthened in basic service delivery to make residents feel that government is working for them.

A purely military solution will provide temporary relief but will not wipe out these lawless groups.

Strategically, the government must amplify confidence building measures in Muslim Mindanao to improve security arrangements in the region, and encourage citizen participation in monitoring and reporting possible terrorist activities.

And in the end, government must accelerate developmental efforts anchored on the broader questions of peace in order to address the injustices that provide groups like the Abu Sayyaf with fertile recruitment and operating grounds.

QUOTE: Tom Villarin, Congressman-elect, Akbayan
4336933

akbayan2014Incoming Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno's plan to limit the Bottom-Up Budgeting program to depressed provinces, instead of expanding and institutionalizing it, is a gross misreading of the empowering potential of the mechanism. 

He ignores the fact that the poor and marginalized lacking access to government funded basic services that could otherwise be funded by the BuB, are also in urban centers.

Secretary Diokno should discuss first with civil society groups the merits of the program and not unilaterally limit it in scope.

The BUB is a social justice measure and carries out the constitutional mandate of people's participation that is sorely lacking in development paradigms that has bred greater inequality. The BuB budget of some P24-B is just a drop in the bucket of total government expenditures reaching P1.4-T.

If the BuB, a trademark PNoy program, was indeed nothing more than a political tool to hostage LGUs, why the mixed electoral results then?

Instead Diokno needs to focus on the means by which the poor are able to stake their claim in governance by having their voices heard through the BuB.

The BuB is in fact an anti-patronage reform measure.  Because instead of relying on local government officials, the BuB allows ordinary citizens to influence which development projects are prioritized by the LGUs.

If Diokno has concerns with the way the program is structured, then he should work with civil society to improve on the existing safeguards to make sure the people's will is followed through from allocation to implementation.

But to close the door on a very promising reform legacy based on imaginary grounds is not only myopic, it is a disservice to the voiceless.

Quote: Tom Villarin, Congressman-elect, Akbayan
4336933

orlandoAkbayan joins in the condemnation of the mass shooting that killed at least 50 individuals from the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender community in Orlando, Florida, USA. This was a targeted, carefully executed act of terrorism.

Violence always begins with hateful speech. In the language we use to exclude others, stems the idea that some lives are worth less than others. It is the same rationale that invites apathy for the killing of minority groups and the vulnerable.

This is why LGBT-phobia is not acceptable. It contributes to a culture in which we get used to using the LGBT community as a punchline, and every time we demean someone by comparing them to homosexuals, we contribute to the idea that LGBTs are an aberration. This must stop.

In the Philippines, we have had too many cases of hate crimes committed against the LGBT community which, aside from not being swiftly acted upon, have not been treated with the sense and sensitivity that they were committed against persons for being LGBT. Recognizing this is the first step in introducing policies that will protect a vulnerable minority like the LGBT community.

The anti-discrimination bill should be passed as soon as possible as it would provide government with a statutory framework to work with in introducing more protections for the LGBT sector including against physical attacks and violence.

The Philippines must heed the lessons of tragedies such as this. We must not allow hate to become normalized in our own society, and we must take action to ensure that justice is served for our very own who have been victimized by hate crimes.

Quote: Machris Cabreros, President
4336933