sacks of riceTo lift or not to lift restrictions on rice?

This is the question that Akbayan Partylist Rep. Tom Villarin wants answered through a legislative inquiry, following the reported decision of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) to stop imposing trade quotas on imported rice.

"For the longest time, we've been buying from other rice-producing countries. Are we now saying that we can compete with them?" the lawmaker asked.

House Resolution No. 392 seeks to clarify the possible implications of finally lifting the quantity restrictions imposed by the Philippine government on imported rice, in light of the impending 2017 deadline of a trade agreeement under the World Trade Organization (WTO) which saw to such terms over the staple commodity ever since the country joined the organization.

Lifting the restrictions may entail lower prices for imported rice but greater challenges for local farmers to compete with them in the market.

tom villarinIn light of the Senate proceedings on the government's request for emergency powers to solve the traffic crisis in Metro Manila, Akbayan Partylist Rep. Tom Villarin reminded authorities that the welfare of the urban poor should not be sacrificed.

"As much as we all want the traffic crisis to be solved, we must remember that the rights of the urban poor are just as important as other people's right to free, fast, and convenient travel," he said.

Villarin is also aware that under the proposed P3.35-trillion budget for 2017, the government is planning to construct various infrastructure projects such as elevated highways and railway extensions to alleviate the traffic problem that has been hounding Metro Manila and other major cities for years now.

However, it is a reality that many of these proposed areas of construction are currently occupied by informal settler families.

"In these areas, government can't simply start construction without providing families with decent relocation," Villarin remarked.

marcos-bust 4On the 44th Anniversary of Martial Law, Akbayan party-list joined the Duyan ng Magiting and the Coalition Against Marcos Burial in LNMB, to amplify calls for justice as an indispensable prerequisite before any attempts at forgiving the Marcoses, and to press the call against the burial of the late dictator at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

"The public needs to understand that justice is not an abstract call," explained Akbayan Chair Emeritus Etta Rosales. "These are the 70,000 victims of torture, illegal detention, physical abuse, extra judicial killings and the desaparecidos whose bodies remain missing today."

"These are the victims of warrantless arrests detained without legal assistance, who could not be produced in court because of the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus," added Rosales, "whose only sin was to question authority."

Akbayan Youth leader Paeng David added, "the democracy we enjoy today was built on the backs of people who shed their blood, literally. It is incumbent on us to ensure those rights are protected."

"Instead today we are faced with the ignorant, malicious attempt to rewrite history and paint Marcos as a hero and be buried as such," added Rosales.

velosoMary Jane Veloso is an exploited drug mule, duped into allegedly transporting illegal drugs into Indonesia by sinister forces who sought to profit at her expense.

It falls upon the Philippine government to explore all possible means even within the framework of respecting Indonesian laws, to ensure her life is spared, and the people responsible for her predicament brought to justice instead.

A short-sighted, myopic "follow your own laws" will not suffice, nor serve justice to Mary Jane and her family. It only serves to validate the anti-poor slant of any war on drugs, here and abroad; and refracts our attention away from the drug lords and big time smugglers who are behind this billion-dollar trade.

We join the country in prayer and hope that the Indonesian government exercise restraint and uphold the sanctity of life by sparing Mary Jane Veloso's life. We also call on the Duterte administration to instead help Mary Jane Veloso's family as well as the Indonesian government in getting to the people responsible for Mary Jane's predicament.

akbayan2014Akbayan joins the nation in commemorating the Feast of the Sacrifice with our Muslim brothers and sisters. We are one with them in solemn remembrance of this holy day.

May we as a country take this opportunity to remember the long history of struggle of the Bangsa Moro for recognition and justice. Our history is replete with tragic episodes against the Moro community, especially our Muslim brethren.

May Eid'l Atha allow us to reflect on the need to advance the struggle of Moros for self-determination, through concrete acts of justice and respect for human rights, by pursuing peace and locally-led development.

Akbayan therefore calls for the continued pursuit of peace-building in Mindanao, even as we address the myriad threats to the region's security and development. We call for the legislative translation of the peace accord with the MILF and the just resolution of the peace deal with the MNLF. We also call on government to recognize and address the historical injustices committed against Moros, especially during Martial Law, such as the case of the Jabidah Massacre, and the Palimbang killings of 1974.

Only by collectively looking back, recognizing these excesses, and serving justice can we truly move on as a society which can thrive in an atmosphere of respect and acceptance within the diversity of our faiths. ###