Tuesday, November 08, 2005

NR1106: two releases re: 6 Marines rapists; P125 wage hike


From the Office of Anakpawis rep. Crispin Beltran

News Release November 6, 2005

Malacanang's empty platitudes a further insult to Filipina raped by 6 Marines

Anakpawis Representative Crispin Beltran today demanded that the US embassy in the Philippines immediately surrender the six US marines accused of raping a Filipina late last week in Subic, Zambales. He said that the six Marines should not under any circumstances be allowed to leave the Philippines.

"This act of brutality against a Filipina is really reflective of US-RP relations -- a relationship of abuse, exploitation and injustice. If nothing comes out of the criminal case the victim filed, there will be hell to pay.If this doesn't strain US-RP relations to the the breaking point, then it's hard to see what else will. Six Marines raped a Filipina - the very sentence is enough to fuel mass protests against US military presence and interference in the Philippines," he said.

He said that there were more than enough grounds to scrap the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), the Mutual Logistics Support Agreement (MLSA) and other military agreements with the US that allow US military presence in the Philippines. "The Balikatan exercises must be put to an end immediately," he said.

Beltran demanded that Foreign Affairs Officials and Malacanang issue a public statement demanding that the US Embassy stop protecting and tolerating the suspects and give full cooperation to local authorities investigating the case.

"The six Marines must be surfaced and turned over to local police and military authorities. Philippine criminal laws must be upheld in this case, and the Marines should be investigated, tried and punished according to Philippine laws, and not those of the US," he said.

The activist lawmaker said that it was also appalling that the president of dubious legitimacy Macapagal-Arroyo herself has not issued any official statement on the rape case. He said that Malacanang spokesperson Ignacio Bunye has issued nothing but empty platitudes.

"Bunye's rhetoric all the more reveals Malacanang's fears that this rape case will endanger its relations with the US Embassy and the US govenrment. It's more keen on protecting these infamous relations than securing justice for the rape victim."

"Macapagal-Arroyo has not said anything on the matter -- not even to comfort the Filipina who was brutalized by the American military men. It is almost as if Macapagal-Arroyo is afraid of the repercussions of issuing a statement condemning the act. By remaining mum and refusing to denounce this act of brutality, Macapagal-Arroyo is exhibiting callousness and extreme insensitivity. She's also a woman -- and even as such she should speak up against this brutality perpetrated against her kabaro."#

Congress should put P125 wage hike bill on the agenda as session resumes tomorrow

Anakpawis Representative Crispin Beltran today said that Congress should include the wage hike bill among their first agenda for discussion during the resumption of session tomorrow, November 7. He said that House Speaker Jose De Venecia should not ignore the urgency of the issue and order the immediate deliberation of the P125 wage hike proposal contained in HB 345 which is up for interpellation by the congressional body.

"There is no way around it: Congress must step up to the bat and assume jurisdiction over the wage hike issue and the over-all determination of minimum wage levels all over the country. More than a decade's worth of experience under the authority of the regional wage boards has shown that it is really Congress that should determine wage hikes and minimum wages. The regional wage boards are institutions that actually kill wage hike demands from workers and take primary consideration of employer and big business' interests. "

Beltran has already filed a bill in Congress scrapping the rregional wage boards, saying that the RWBs were anti-worker and anti-wage hike. "Workers have nothing but strong contempt for these RWBs. These agencies are notoriously anti-wage hike. They always throw out proosals for just and substantial wage increases."

"The economic well-being and survival of workers in the midst of this continuously worsening crisis further exacerbated by the EVAT and the oil price hikes should take precedence over the charter change agenda and the Macapagal-Arroyo's ambitions to prolong her political career," he said.

The veteran labor leader in the meantimes said that wage increases and tax exemptions should also go together. "Workers should not be forced to haggle or choose between wage hikes and non-wage benefits and tax reprieve. Both are necessary for workers. They need these to survive. It's no exagerration to say that many Filipino workers have been reduced to hand-to-mouth subsistence because of low wages and high tax impositions."

Beltran also reiterated his condemnation for labor secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas and her continuing opposition to granting wage hikes to workers. "Sto. Tomas is no better than a hooded executioner. She has said and done nothing in defense of workers and their livelihood in the face of the EVAT and the relentless oil price hikes. All she ever does is thumb down and stand against the demands of workers for improved wages and benefits. Her statements are no different from those of the Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP). She should be booted out from the DOLE - she's the most anti-labor official in the entire department." #

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