Thursday, May 31, 2012

Senators save SC, opt for transparency

May 29, 2012

By Jarius Bondoc 
The Philippine Star
Filipinos revere Chief Justice Jose Abad Santos as the greatest hero of World War II. The Japanese invasion was only 17 days old when President Manuel Quezon appointed him on December 24, 1941. When Quezon and Vice President Sergio Osmeña moved the seat of government temporarily to Washington, Abad Santos chose to stay behind as caretaker of the national administration. The Japanese Military Command repeatedly approached him to swear allegiance to Japan, but he refused. Japanese troops under a colonel overtook him in Lanao and warned him once more to kiss their flag or be executed. Adamantly Abad Santos shook his head. Moments before he was shot to death on May 7, 1942, he told his son Jose Jr., “Weep not; show the enemy that you are brave. It is an honor to die for one’s country. Not everybody has that chance.” He was 56, the youngest Chief Justice of the Philippines to die.
Many other Chief Justices had served the country well. Roberto Concepcion was so appalled by the farcical ratification of the Marcos Martial Law Constitution that he resigned two months before the mandatory retirement at age 70, forfeiting the bulk of his pension. Bypassed five times by Marcos despite being the most senior associate justice, independent-minded Claudio Teehankee waited 18 years before he was named Chief Justice in a restored democracy. After retirement, Cesar Bengzon functioned with prestige as judge in the International Court of Justice. A few CJs took the path less noble.
Seventy years this month since Abad Santos chose death rather than shame the race, the position of CJ had sunk to a depth so low that Filipinos were beginning to feel demoralized. The justice system seemed in shambles. A CJ was exposed to have concealed, against constitutional rules on transparency by public officials, personal wealth in the hundreds of millions of pesos. That CJ confessed to the truth of the impeachment charge, but offered the lamest alibis for it. He also had led a cabal in the Supreme Court in consistently ruling for certain business and political patrons. His shameful acts were the fruits, it seemed, of his midnight posting at a time when his political patroness Gloria Arroyo was prohibited from making any appointments.
But yesterday 20 of 23 senators corrected the anomaly. On the pleading of 188 congressmen-impeachers, they removed Chief Justice Renato Coronado Corona and perpetually barred him from public office.
The process of removal took 44 hearings over five long months. It divided the nation, and diverted attention from other pressing concerns. But it had to be done. The Supreme Court had to be saved from internal decay and public distrust. The senators have earned their place in history: Juan Ponce Enrile, Edgardo Angara, Alan Peter Cayetano, Pia Cayetano, Franklin Drilon, Francis Escudero, Jinggoy Estrada, Teofisto Guingona III, Gregorio Honasan, Panfilo Lacson, Manuelito Lapid, Loren Legarda, Sergio Osmeña III, Francis Pangilinan, Aquilino Pimentel III, Ralph Recto, Ramon Revilla Jr., Vicente Sotto III, Antonio Trillanes IV, Manuel Villar.
Truth and justice will begin to be restored. Our country can now move on, stable in our institutions, although struggling still to rid the government of grafters and abusers of power. We can now face other urgent tasks, foremost of which are to prevent the bully China from grabbing our territories, to reform our electoral system, and to lift up a third of our population from want and ignorance.
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Has there been justice for such scams as in the NBN-ZTE $200-million overprice, the Diwalwal-ZTE giveaway, the NAIA-3 construction, Malacañang’s secret maritime survey with China of 2005-2008, or General Garcia’s plunder? Answers are provided in Exposés: Investigative Reporting for Clean Government. The compilation of my selected columns is available in hardcopy at National Bookstore and Powerbooks. And soon in e-book format.
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Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8-10 a.m., DWIZ (882-AM).
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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Corona’s punishment is immediate ouster, says Senate President Enrile


Removal from office is the only punishment for convicted Chief Justice Renato Corona, whom the Senate impeachment court found guilty of betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution in a historic decision on Tuesday.
That was how Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile declared the consequence of Corona’s conviction by a 20-3 vote of the 23-member Senate.

Corona is the first Chief Justice to be removed from office through the impeachment process in the Philippines. His ouster came after a nearly two-year feud with President Benigno Aquino III over the magistrate's alleged "midnight appointment" and undue influence on Supreme Court decisions that supposedly favored ex-president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who placed him in the highest position in the judiciary.
After a five-month trial, the Senate sitting as the impeachment court found Corona guilty of Article II of the impeachment complaint or non-disclosure of his entire wealth in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN).
According to the Philippine Constitution, “judgment in cases of impeachment shall not extend further than removal from office and disqualification to hold any office under the Republic of the Philippines.”
Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, however, asked whether the penalty can be lessened since the law only says the punishment for conviction "shall not extend further than" removal from office.
"Thus, the Senate can impose a lesser penalty like censure, reprimand, fine, suspension form office or the like. In case of conviction how should the penalty be determined?" she said at the end of the closing arguments on Monday.
Speaking to reporters after Tuesday's trial, however, Enrile remained firm that Corona’s penalty is removal from office and that the court's decision is immediately executory.
“Acquittal or conviction, walang reprimand, walang admonition.  It is either removal or not removal,” he also said in a previous interview.
In a separate interview, Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. also said most of the senator-judges had already agreed on the penalty for Corona.
"Hindi na kuwestiyon ‘yung penalty, malinaw sa aming lahat na removal," he said.
The Senate secretary, as clerk of the impeachment court, was directed to provide Corona, his counsel, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Supreme Court, the Judicial and Bar Council, and the President of the Philippines a certified copy of the judgment.
Corona’s peso, dollar deposits
During Tuesday's trial, the senators cited Corona's dollar and peso deposits as the reason they found him guilty–for not declaring the money in his SALNs.
Corona tried to justify that he did not declare his dollar accounts and the extent of his peso-denominated cash in banks, saying these were covered by Republic Act 6426 or the Foreign Currency Deposit Act and his peso accounts were commingled with the money of his mother and his children.
Enrile, however, said Corona's reliance on the absolute confidentiality accorded to RA 6426 was "grossly misplaced."
"Consistent with the position taken by this court in the case filed by the Philippine Savings Bank before the Supreme Court last February, pursuant to which the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order, I maintain that the constitutional principle of public accountability overrides the absolute confidentiality of foreign currency deposits," he said.
The provisions of RA 6426 cannot be interpreted as an exception to the unequivocal command and tenor of Article XI, Sec. 17, of the 1987 Constitution, and he regretted that the Highest Magistrate of the land would think otherwise, according to the Senate President.
“A public officer or employee shall, upon assumption of office and as often as may be required by law, submit a declaration under oath of his assets, liabilities and net worth,” according to Section 17 or Article XI.
Enrile said there is nothing in RA 6426 that prohibits a depositor from declaring his or her foreign currency funds.
"I believe that the framers of the Foreign Currency Deposit Act did not intend to create the opportunity for public officials to conceal their assets or stash away foreign currencies under this law," added Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada.
But the feisty Santiago, after casting her vote, noted that the omission of his peso and dollar deposits in Corona’s SALN was not an impeachable offense. "An omission in good faith in the SALN carries a light penalty, and is even allowed to be corrected," she said.

The case of Delsa Flores
Other senators, however, cited the case of court interpreter Delsa Flores, who was removed from government service for failing to declare in her SALN a market stall she owned.
"Tama ba na ang pagsisinungaling ng maliliit ay parusahan habang ang pagsisinungaling ng makapangyarihan ang tungkulin ay i-abswelto?" noted Sen. Francis Pangilinan.
"Bakit sa mahirap pag nahuli, ang sasabihin sa kanya sa presinto ka na magpaliwanag? Bakit po kapag mayaman lahat ng lusot, batas, at technicalities available sa kanya?" Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano argued. —DVM/VS, GMA News

US: Weapons not included in warship

May 22, 2012

By Alexis Romero
The Philippine Star 
USCGC Dallas (WHEC-716)
MANILA, Philippines – The United States did not give in to a request by the Philippines to include weapons and accessories in the second warship it will provide to the Philippine Navy.
Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said during an interview over radio dzRH that US Coast Guard ship Dallas would be similar to BRP Gregorio del Pilar, which had been stripped of its weapons system before it was turned over to the Philippines last year.
“Pareho lang ng del Pilar (The same with del Pilar),” Gazmin said when asked whether the US had granted the Philippines’ request to retain the armaments of Dallas.
Earlier, officials asked the US to retain some key features of the Dallas but Navy chief Vice Admiral Alexander Pama said the request was turned down last May 8.
Among the ship’s features that Pama wanted retained were its close-in weapons system, Bushmaster cannons, air search radars and fire control system.
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Jessie Dellosa and Philippine Fleet commander Rear Admiral Jose Luis Alano will attend the symbolic turnover of the ship on Wednesday (Manila time) at North Charleston, South Carolina.
US Coast Guard ship Dallas will be renamed BRP Ramon Alcaraz, a torpedo boat commanding officer during World War II. Alcaraz retired as a commodore of the Philippine Fleet in 1966 and died in 2009.
“What we are trying to prevent is the commission of transnational crimes that can affect our economy like poaching, piracy and drug trafficking,” AFP spokesman Col. Arnulfo Burgos Jr. said.
“Our borders are porous so we have to guard them closely and the acquisition of the long-range cutter will help the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” he added.
The Dallas is an all-weather, high-endurance cutter and has features similar to that of Gregorio del Pilar.
The cutter was used mostly for drug and migrant interdiction, law enforcement, search and rescue, living marine resources protection, and defense readiness.
The ship can accommodate up to 180 officers and sailors.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Senate votes 20-3 to convict Corona


MANILA, Philippines – Twenty senators, including Senate President Juan Ponce-Enrile, on Tuesday found Chief Justice Renato Corona guilty of Article 2 of the impeachment complaint filed against him pertaining to his failure to disclose to the public is statement of assets, liabilities, and net worth.
Only three voted to acquit Corona and they were Senators Joker Arroyo, Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Ferdinand “Bong-Bong” Marcos Jr.
“The Senate, sitting as an impeachment court, having tried Renato C. Corona Chief Justice of the Supreme Court…have found him guilty of the charge under Article 2 of the said articles of impeachment,” Enrile said.
Enrile then directed the Senate Secretary acting as the clerk of court to give the respondent a copy of the resolution, as well as the Speaker of the House, the Supreme Court, the
Judicial Bar Council and President Benigno Aquino III.
Aside from Enrile, the 19 senators who convicted Corona were the following:
  1. Senator Edgardo Angara
  2. Senator Alan Peter Cayetano
  3. Senator Pia Cayetano
  4. Senator Franklin Drilon
  5. Senate Pro Tempore Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada
  6. Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero
  7. Senator Teofisto Guingona III
  8. Senator Gregorio Honasan II
  9. Senator Panfilo Lacson
  10. Senator Manuel Lapid
  11. Senator Loren Legarda
  12. Senator Sergio Osmeña III
  13. Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan
  14. Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III
  15. Senator Ralph Recto
  16. Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr.
  17. Senate Majority Leader Vicente “Tito” Sotto III
  18. Senator Antonio Trillanes IV
  19. Senate Manuel Villar
Corona is considered barred from public office after senators voted to convict him on charges of betraying public trust and violating the constitution.
He testified last week that it wasn’t only him who is on trial and challenged all 188 lawmakers who impeached him to disclose their dollar accounts – but there were few takers.
The nationally televised 5-month-long proceedings gripped the nation like a soap opera with emotional testimonies, political grandstanding and a sideshow family drama.
Prosecutors, most of whom are Aquino’s allies from the House of Representatives, argued that Corona concealed his wealth and offered “lame excuses” to avoid public accountability.
Corona said that he had accumulated his wealth from foreign exchange when he was still a student. Rep. Rodolfo Farinas, one of the prosecutors, ridiculed the 63-year-old justice, saying he “wants us to believe that when he was in grade four in 1959 he was such a visionary that he already started buying dollars.”
“It is clear that these were excuses and lies made before the Senate and the entire world,” Farinas said in Monday’s closing arguments, adding that Corona had declared in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth less than 2 percent of what he actually owned.
Addressing not only the senators but a public hungry for transparency in a country where corruption is endemic, the rich and powerful rarely prosecuted and a third of the population of 94 million lives on $1 a day, prosecutors sought to discredit Corona’s defense with references to a lifestyle beyond the means of most of the people. With a report from AP

Evil forces win Customs war

May 22, 2012

By Cito Beltran 
The Philippine Star
The evil forces at the Bureau of Customs are celebrating. They have prevailed against the single biggest threat against them.
In case you haven’t heard, the Mafia of brokers, officials and politicians have succeeded to get rid of Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon, not by force or opposition, but through a very complex and convoluted process. Because they could not destroy or discredit him, they had him promoted out of the Bureau of Customs.
The promotion comes by way of making him a senatorial candidate in 2013 and no less than President Noynoy Aquino himself announced and endorsed the candidacy of Ruffy Biazon. But one has to wonder why the rush to launch Blazon’s candidacy? and why Ruffy Biazon?
To begin with, P-Noy himself had made it clear that he wanted to put a stop to smuggling. So why is this administration solving the problem by removing the solution? Why is this administration fond of making sacrificial lambs instead of going after the real criminals behind smuggling?
I personally found it strange that when the Hog Raisers Association protested against rampant technical smuggling, it was Agriculture Secretary Prosi Alcala who took the lead by asking two of his senior officers to go on leave. The DA secretary may have his reasons, but how does removing agriculture officers solve a problem that concerns the Bureau of Customs and smuggling? Now to make matters worse, the BOC Commissioner himself is being taken out of the equation.
So how did Biazon end up in this royal mess? According to my sources, as slow as he may have been to respond to complaints, Biazon was in fact casting a shadow of fear upon hardcore smugglers, corrupt brokers etc. More money was being paid to government instead of lining the pockets of corrupt officials and this is what led to his “promotion.”
It seems that in the BOC a number of brokers and officers are actually anointed, appointed or placed by certain politicians or officials in every administration. Their backers can be a Congressman, a Senator or someone upwards in the administration. In return for their profitable posting these individuals must then meet a quota or deliver cash intended to support the lifestyle and candidacy of said politicians.
Because of Ruffy Blazon’s presence at Customs, the previously large collections have plummeted and has affected the cash flow of politicians who will be mounting political campaigns in 2013. Knowing that an open offensive against Biazon will not have credibility with the media and the public, the sly politicians have obviously convinced President Noynoy to promote Biazon in the interest of the party. Chances are, they even convinced the President that this would be the equivalent of hitting two birds with one stone: finding a suitable candidate for 2013 and appointing an action man at Customs.
Judging from his reaction, Ruffy Biazon is not excited about the plan considering he lost in the last election when he ran for the Senate. Even if P-Noy endorses Biazon, that in itself does not guarantee victory against household names such as Enrile, Angara, etc., as well as the diminishing popularity of the President. To add to Blazon’s uphill struggle, P-Noy and the Liberal Party are not exactly known for being generous when it comes to campaign funds and political support.
After the announcement, Biazon was clearly taken aback because he is now officially a “lame duck” Commissioner surrounded by people waiting for his replacement and no longer threatened by his integrity and plans to computerize the Bureau of Customs.
With one year to go before the 2013 elections, there is now pressure to find a quick replacement for Ruffy Biazon so that the forces of evil at the Bureau of Customs can immediately launch their fund raising campaigns. The question is who will be the next Customs Commissioner? Will he or she be a symbolic head, a tong collector or will President Noynoy be true to his declarations and bring in someone who will be the worst nightmare of the evil forces?
In the meantime, check out your friend, relative or neighbors who work at the Bureau of Customs. Check out who their favorite Congressman or senator is and why. As they say, birds of a feather flock together. In their case, they’re called vultures.
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Whoever is behind the Anti-Corona propaganda machine, it is clear that they also hate the Iglesia Ni Cristo. The same group that has been sending out emails and text messages half of which are outright lies, have included the INC in their hit list.
In the last few days, the said propaganda group has been messing with people’s minds by telling them that the INC has began a man to man campaign to convince Senators to acquit Chief Justice Renato Corona.
Yesterday, the same bunch of liars sent word to “expect heavy traffic along Roxas Blvd. Taft, P. Faura, and Quirino grandstand as INC mobilizes Pro-Corona rallies this week.”
This is obviously the same outfit that spread the rumor that Mrs. Corona was flying out of the Philippines last week, and may very well be the same group who has also been trying to undermine the Vice President.
All it takes is an elephant’s memory to realize that the propaganda group who hates CJ Corona, hates Vice President Binay, and hates the INC. What and whom do the three groups have in common? They obviously have a common enemy, and it can only be about politics. So who is the politician that has reason to hate Corona, Binay and the INC? That list can quickly get shorter.
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Monday, May 28, 2012

Power punches thrown in previous fights: Pacquiao, 274; Bradely, 346

May 21, 2012

By Alex P. Vidal
HOLLYWOOD, California – When Timothy Ray Bradley Jr. declared recently he is “going to be all over” Manny Pacquiao when they clash for the WBO welterweight 12-round championship at the MGM Grand, he must have been reviewing the chart of their previous fights where they both bundled out their respective foes in contrasting fashions.
Both champion Pacquiao, 33, and challenger Bradley, 28, last fought on November 12, 2011 in a pair of world title fights and logged punch statistics that could serve as guide for oddsmakers and experts to assess the outcome of their showdown on June 9.
Pacquiao (54-3, 38 KOs) escaped with a disputed 12-round majority decision win in a trilogy against Juan Manuel Marquez (54-6, 39 KOs) to grab the WBO 147-lb diadem, while Bradley (28-0, 12 KOs) stopped Joel Casamayor (38-6, 22 KOs) in the 8th round to keep his WBO 140-lb belt.
Although Pacquiao outpunched Marquez (14-11 in average per round), Bradley released the most number of power punches (346) against Casamayor (136) and connected 177 against Casamayor’s 136. Pacquiao was able to connect 117 of his total 274 power punches.
Floyd Mayweather (43-0, 26 KOs) was busier than Pacquiao and Bradley. The popular black American ring superstar connected 128 of the 382 power punches thrown en route to trouncing by unanimous decision defending WBA junior middleweight ruler Miguel Angel Cotto (37-3, 30 KOs) on May 5, 2012 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Bradley cautioned Pacquiao not to underestimate him. “I have been an underdog my whole career. You think Marquez gave him a tough time? I’m going to be all over him,” vowed the unbeaten challenger nicknamed “The Desert Storm.”
Bradley said he is unfazed by Pacquiao’s winning streak in world title fights saying the most feared fighter outside the heavyweight division from Saranggani Province in the Philippines has failed to score a knockout again fancied but “old, straight-forward fighters” in his last four performances.
He belittled Pacquiao’s wins against Joshua Clottey (34), Antonio Margarito (34), Shane Mosley (40), and Marquez (38) saying they were “lackadaisical.”
“He’ll have to dig down deep to beat me,” Bradley warned the Filipino congressman.
“I slip, slide, bob and weave,” Bradley added. “I have good footwork. For Manny, he’ll be looking at himself when he sees me. The only advantage he has on me is his power. But I can go to the body if he gets reckless. I’m young, in my prime, and I have a lot of confidence and swagger. I don’t fear this guy. He’s just a guy to me. He hasn’t proved he’s better.”

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Scarborough Shoal a Precursor?

May 21, 2012

By Mong Palatino
The Diplomat Blogs
Image credit: Philippine Navy
French philosopher Voltaire once wrote a story about the mad behavior of men going to war over a “few lumps of earth.” In Southeast Asia, there are numerous small and midsize conflicts between countries over temples, borders, islets, reefs, shoals, and even puny rock formations that disappear during high tide.
For example, Thailand and Cambodia are feuding over the ownership of the historic Preah Vihear temple and the four square kilometers of territory around it. The conflict intensified in 2008, which led to some deadly exchanges of fires between border troops. It strained the relations of two erstwhile friendly neighbors and, more tragically, it reinforced ultra-nationalism and xenophobia in their countries. Last February, renewed clashes resulted in lives lost on both sides.
For several decades, Singapore and Malaysia contested the ownership of several islands, namely Pedra Branca, Middle Rocks and South Ledge, which are all strategically located at the eastern entrance of the Singapore Strait. Middle Rocks consists of two clusters of small rocks, while South Ledge is visible only at low tide. Fortunately, the International Court of Justice in 2008 recognized Singapore as the owner of Pedra Branca and gave Middle Rocks to Malaysia.
The Paracel Islands, meanwhile, are being claimed by Vietnam, China, and Taiwan, while Indonesia and Malaysia have a longstanding dispute over maritime naval borders in the Malacca Strait, which has led to several coastal patrol detentions of fishing boats of the two countries. Recently, the decades-long maritime dispute in the Bay of Bengal, which involved Burma and Bangladesh, was finally resolved by the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea.
The active flashpoint today is in the Scarborough Shoal, located in the South China Sea or West Philippine Sea. It’s a chain of reefs and rocks claimed by China, the Philippines, and Taiwan. China is accused of using its superior force to assert ownership of the territory. Its decision to dispatch oversized quasi-civilian boats near the shoal is interpreted by many Filipinos as an act of bullying and aggression.
But the main conflict in the region involves the resource rich Spratly Islands, which are being claimed by six countries: China, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei, and the Philippines. Tension is permanently high in the area because of the military posts established by the claimants. If the dispute isn’t resolved diplomatically today or in the near future, it could potentially trigger a broader conflict in the Asia-Pacific.
Could the little spats over Scarborough, the Paracels, Pedra Branca, and the Malacca Strait lead to a bigger clash over the Spratlys? Are they just a sideshow to the main event? Are they just a foretaste of the real tragedy that will befall the region if the Spratlys dispute explodes into a Southeast Asian War? Diplomacy and peace must be given the chance to succeed now.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Fair Trade – Protecting Human Rights

May 21, 2012

By Fr. Shay Cullen
(His columns are published in The Manila Times,
in publications in Ireland, the UK, Hong Kong, and on-line) 
Preda Fair Trade. Philippines. Mango saplings distributed to Aeta communities.
Dublin, Ireland – Juanito Hacinto is a poor man in Bataan, Philippines. He is a member of the Aeta indigenous people. He sat with his wife Nita, and their three children under a mango tree to hear our message that the Preda Fair Trade organisation, Profairtrade, will pay 100% higher for their mango fruit so that they could have a better life. The Preda project is turning mango fruit to Preda Fair Trade dried mangos. Sales are boosted by growing demand and so it is expanding to help more indigenous hill farmers. The not-for profit project is using earning to bring practical economic help and justice to their villages, social benefits and development too. Sales of the mangos go to help exploited and abused women and children also.
Juanito and Nita were happy to hear this as they only get a pittance for their mangos from commercial traders and the price is so low it is not worth even harvesting and carrying them over the mountain to sell. There is no road and not even a viable school in their remote village. Preda Fair Trade dried mangos will help empower them to get the school operating and teaching the children. A child with a cleft lip was found and brought for a surgical operation. After speech therapy she will learn to smile and talk normally for the first time in her life.
Fair Trade fortnight is a time when we ought to think how we live and consume products. Do the faith based values we hold dear apply to what we buy and consume. When we buy products do we ask the supermarket manager where it’s from and is just and fair? Faith without action for doing good, like bringing about social justice, is useless, St. James says.
This past week I had an interesting meeting with the Minister of Trade and Development, Joe Costello, in Dublin, Ireland about the Preda Fair Trade project and human rights advocacy and discussed how it helps deliver many services to the small farmers. The presentation showed how people are trafficked and exploited especially children in the Philippines and together we are helping to deliver the shared programme of strengthening respect for human rights everywhere.
The Preda human rights advocacy and practical action for victims of human rights abuses is supported by Irish Aid under Minister Costello’s office. Preda human rights advocacy is a work that goes beyond the Philippines to an international audience through networks of civil society and to various government entities in the EU countries. Defending human rights spurring economic development that brings about a more just society and earns respect in the emerging markets.
That is the same message that I shared with the members of the German parliamentary committee for Economic Cooperation and Development and the committee for foreign aid. The members mostly women, are very concerned about respect for human rights in the countries where they give aid and want to end the exploitation of women and children above all. I made a presentation to the committee last May 9, on this very theme and received their support to continue the advocacy and campaign to end sex slavery of women and children. Last August 2011 they sent a delegation to the Philippines and joined the work of Preda for a day to rescue a 15 year old child from cruel detention.
Fair Trade is all about protecting human rights in the work place paying just and fair prices and providing good working conditions for workers who produce the products that we buy, consume and use. Economic exploitation is common in the world and we have to act to end it as much as possible. Its hard for customers to know what is a product made in just and unjust fair condition. Our task is to help make them aware of the fairly traded products. That’s what Fair Trade Fortnight is about.
Some people wrongly think they are helpless to help exploited workers. The consumer has power. Power to be more fully human and exercise their most powerful ability, free choice. We can choose to do good and buy fair products. We all have the power to protest and the duty to speak out when we see unfairness and exploitation. That is our sacred obligation – to speak out against evil, do good and buy fairly traded products. That’s the way to go. END