Akbayan blasts “unwarranted” violent dispersal of farmers, seeks investigation

Akbayan Rep. Barry Gutierrez joins farmers, agrarian reform advocates in a peaceful assembly to urge Congress for immediate passage of HB 4296 to complete CARP. Photo was taken before the group was dispersed violently by security agents with water cannons and tear gas.

Akbayan Rep. Barry Gutierrez joins farmers, agrarian reform advocates in a peaceful assembly to urge Congress for immediate passage of HB 4296 to complete CARP. Photo was taken before the group was dispersed violently by security agents with water cannons and tear gas.

Akbayan Party-list today blasted the “unwarranted” violent dispersal of farmers holding a rally in front of Batasan Pambansa and urged the leadership of the House of Representatives to conduct a thorough investigation of the “cold-hearted” handling of the incident.

“We denounce the callous and violent method employed by security agents to disperse a very small and powerless group of farmers whose mere agenda for trooping to Congress is to express their long-awaited clamor for the passage of the bill seeking for the completion of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP),” Akbayan Rep. Barry Gutierrez said.

“The use of violence is callous and definitely unwarranted as it smacks squarely on the farmers’ right to fully express their legitimate concerns and other compelling public interests to be addressed by the government and other concerned government agencies,” he added.

The statement was made following reports that a team of security agents used water canons and tear gas to disperse a group of farmers and their sectoral leaders who were gathered together to call for the passage of House Bill 4296, which extends the Land Acquisition and Distribution (LAD) component of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).

In particular, the proposed measure seeks to continue the issuance of Notices of Coverage over land covered by the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program. Majority of remaining lands are in Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental, Eastern Samar, Leyte, Basilan, Iloilo, Capiz, Tawi-tawi, Surigao, among others.

Earlier on the day of the mobilization, Gutierrez, together with fellow Akbayan representative Angie Ludovie-Katoh, joined the farmers to express their “unwavering support” to the gathered farmers and their long-standing call for the full implementation of the agrarian reform.

The proposed measure was endorsed by the House of Representatives Committee on Agrarian Reform to the Committee on Rules, which shall calendar it for consideration on Second Reading.

Last March of this year, House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II has committed to the passage of HB 4296 before Congress adjourns sine die on June 11 following a meeting with President Benigno Aquino III in Malacanang.

The pending legislation has already been certified urgent by the President last June 2014.###


FOI moves forward, endorsed for Second Reading

Rappelling activists urge Congress "not to leave them hanging" and pass the FOI bill.

Rappelling activists urge Congress “not to leave them hanging” and pass the FOI bill.

The proposed People’s Freedom of Information Act (FOI) moves forward after the bill has been endorsed for Second Reading by the House of Representatives Committee on Public Information.

With reference number House Bill No. 5801, the committee report on the proposed measure was filed earlier today at the Bills and Index Service of the House of Representatives for referral to the Committee on Rules, which will calendar the measure for Second Reading.
“This is yet another step forward in our quest for a transparent and accountable government befitting the Filipino people,” Akbayan Rep. Barry Gutierrez said.
“We are looking forward to the plenary debates on the bill which are certainly bound to be challenging. But we are already prepared to answer any and all questions relating to the various issues and concerns about the FOI. With strong support from the various FOI legislator-champions and the public, we are optimistic the bill will make it to Second Reading before session adjourns on June 10,” Gutierrez added.
Weapon against corruption
Gutierrez also attested that the committee-approved FOI has been extensively discussed to make sure the bill protects the people’s right to information and makes it an effective weapon against corruption.
“The TWG devoted nine meetings to deliberating the bill line-by-line, particularly on the exceptions. Not only did we make sure that each exception related to protecting an acceptable, legitimate and clearly stated public interest, we also adopted strong safeguards to counter any tendency to abuse those exceptions,” the lawmaker said.
“For example, the government agency has the burden of proving the legal and factual basis in claiming an exception. Each exception shall be interpreted strictly, not liberally. Further, any exception shall not be invoked to cover up a crime, wrongdoing, graft, or corruption,” Gutierrez explained.
After the filing of the committee report, the proposed law is expected to be included in the Order of Business and referred to the Committee on Rules. The Committee on Rules, in consultation with the House leadership, shall calendar it for consideration on Second Reading.###

AKBAYAN: CA order will open door to unraveling the “tangled Binay web”


Vice President Jejomar “Jojo” Binay / INQUIRER File Photo

The decision of the Court of Appeals (CA) to freeze the bank accounts of Vice President Jejomar Binay, his close relatives, and several supposed “dummies” is a “significant development” in the ongoing investigation on Binay and several others facing criminal charges before the Ombudsman and investigation by the Senate Blue Ribbon Subcommittee.

“This is a significant development that takes the corruption issue against the VP, his family, and associates from the realm of mere allegation to that of judicial finding, if only on a preliminary basis,” according to Akbayan Rep. Barry Gutierrez. “It is also a huge step forward in unraveling the tangled Binay web that has emerged in the wake of the Senate inquiry and the cases filed before the Ombudsman.”

“The CA ruling upholding the findings of the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) that there was probable cause to believe that the Binay accounts were “related to unlawful activities” is an extremely strong statement on the ultimate liability of the Binays and their associates. The persistent accusations that first emerged in the Senate investigation can no longer be simply brushed aside as mere baseless politicking, but must be met with clear and convincing explanations from those involved,” Gutierrez explained.

Gutierrez is a former law professor and a Director at the University of the Philippines Law Center.

Binay and several others are currently facing plunder complaints and graft charges in relation to the alleged overpricing of the Makati City Hall Building II and Makati Science High School, and an allegedly disadvantageous land deal between the Boy Scouts of the Philippines and Alphaland.

“Potentially damning” evidence

Gutierrez pointed out that among the “potentially damning” evidence presented by the AMLC were records of huge cash transactions in the subject bank accounts during the construction of both Makati City Hall Bldg II and Makati Science High School between periods 2007 and 2014.

In the ensuing Senate Subcommittee investigation starting August 2014, the council went on to find many records of withdrawals and fund transfers from the accounts of Gerry Limlingan and Ebeng Baloloy, VP Binay’s purported ‘girl friday’, including the bank accounts of his close allies and associates.

Gutierrez also raised concerns over the finding of the AMLC that the bank accounts of the Vice President, his wife Elenita, their son Makati Mayor Junjun Binay, and other close allies involved in the same charges, were “inconsistent” with their declared statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALNs).

“The CA freeze order likewise reiterated the AMLC finding that the Binay’s lawful incomes were “disproportionate to the values, frequency and complexity of their banking transactions.” Simply put, this means that the value of their legitimate income — derived largely from their salaries as elected officials — was much, much lower than the amounts appearing in their bank accounts. The obvious question therefore is, where did all that money come from?” Gutierrez added

“With these serious allegations stacking up, there is a compelling need for VP Binay to come forward and provide a straightforward, substantial explanation for these apparent irregularities,” Gutierrez said.

The ‘tangled Binay web’

The ‘tangled Binay web’ is comprised of 242 bank accounts and insurance policies belonging to VP Binay, several members of his family and close associates, who were suspected of being his dummies.

His close associates with frozen bank accounts included Gerry Limlingan, Ebeng Baloloy, Antonio Tiu, some members of the Chong family, some companies linked to the Binay family, and even whistle-blower and Binay’s former close ally Ernesto Mercado.###