[27 Sep 2014 | Comments Off | 383 views]

As the House of Representatives passes the P2.6 trillion national budget on second reading, members of the Majority Coalition will go on holiday in the next weeks, assured that a budget laden with hidden pork, lump sums, and back alleys for realignment of funds has been secured.

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[19 Nov 2014 | No Comment | 199 views]

Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon said that the consolidated version of the Freedom of Information Bill (FOI) recently released by the Technical Working Group (TWG) of the House Committee on Public Information contains “more restrictions to information access than freedom.”

In a statement on Wednesday, Ridon said that the draft consolidated bill includes several exceptions to the granting of access to information which “restrict rather than ease access to government documents and information.”

Ridon is one of the authors of House Bill 347, which is one of the 24 FOI bills consolidated by the TWG.

“If we examine the exceptions provided under the draft consolidated FOI bill, it can be seen that it has morphed from a bill that provides easy and open access to government data to a bill that primarily lists down restrictions,” Ridon said.

Some of the restrictions listed in Section 7 of the draft consolidated bill include:

  • Information “authorized to be kept secret under guidelines established by an executive order”
  • Records of minutes and advice given and opinions expressed during decision-making or policy formulation
  • Information pertaining to “internal and/or external defense, law enforcement, and border control”
  • Draft orders, resolutions, decisions, memoranda, audit report etc.
  • Information obtained by Congress in executive session

“If these restrictions are passed into law, we will have an FOI Law that will ironically curtail access to information on several areas vital to public interest,” Ridon said.

“The draft consolidated bill essentially empowers the Executive – primarily – to decide on which information may be disclosed to the public and which information should remain in the impenetrable shroud of secrecy,” the lawmaker said.

“For example, the president can easily cloak details pertinent to the assailed Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) through the use of one or a combination of provisions listed in Section 7. Remember how difficult it was to obtain more detailed information on DAP? The situation could get worse if the exceptions in the draft consolidated bill passes into law” Ridon said.

“It’s the same case for the pork barrel system. Remember how House leaders discussed in so-called ‘executive session’ the details of the new pork scheme?” he added.

“The consolidated bill – for the large part – enlarges the powers and control of the president and his cabinet over government information. Passing these restrictions into law will defeat the stated purpose of the FOI bill,” Ridon stressed.

“The bill will still undergo further discussions and debates. Certainly, we will do everything to ensure that the restrictive provisions will not pass into law. We cannot let the Palace nor anyone with vested interests sabotage the people’s clamor for genuine freedom of information by inserting debilitating restrictions to the proposed law.

“The Filipino people don’t deserve a watered-down bill that will just enlarge the already-immense powers of the presidency. What we need is a law that will genuinely ease public access to government data and help Filipinos obtain the information they need to be free and self-governing. Anything short of that should be expunged and opposed,” Ridon commented.

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[18 Nov 2014 | No Comment | 80 views]

Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon has asked the House Committee on Transportation to intervene in the ongoing controversy surrounding the implementation of a new memorandum of the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) which seeks to integrate airport terminal fees into the total airfare costs.

In House Resolution No. 1662, Ridon called for a review of MIAA Memorandum Circular No. 8 (MC-08) that will institutionalize the integration of International Passenger Service Charge or terminal fee in the airfare costs of Overseas Filipino Workers and Migrant Workers, which the legislator pointed out as a “flagrant violation of Republic Act 8042 amended by Republic Act 10022 also known as the Amended Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act.”

“MC-08 is a clear violation of RA 10022. With the existing law, OFWs only have to present their Overseas Employment Certificates (OECs) to validate their OFW status and avail of exemptions,” Ridon explained in HR 1662.

The move for a congressional review follows the issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) for the implementation of MC-08, after OFW groups sought the Pasay City Regional Trial Court’s reprieve on the matter.

Ridon cited in HR 1662 data from Migrante International which show that since President Aquino assumed office in 2010, the government has been collecting an average of P27,000.00 from every OFW processed by the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency. This means that the government earns at least P2.8 billion a day or P1.009 trillion annually from the estimated 5,031 OFWs leaving the country on a daily basis.

“Thus, the automatic inclusion of terminal fees is a great disservice to migrant workers who keep the economy afloat through US dollar remittances, but in exchange has to endure the challenges of working abroad because of the inadequacy of jobs offered in the country,” Ridon explained.

“The agreement entered by the government with private airline carriers goes against RA 10022 as OFWs will automatically shell out P550 upon paying for their airline tickets. This devious scheme is seemingly aimed at squeezing more hard-earned money from our hardworking migrant workers. If the Aquino government wants to improve our airports, it should not do so at the expense of our OFWs’ welfare,” Ridon said.

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[18 Nov 2014 | No Comment | 85 views]

As the Supreme Court begins the oral arguments on the question of constitutionality of the newly-inked Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) this afternoon, Kabataan Partylist said that it is “the fervent wish of nationalist youths” for the SC to strike down the agreement.

“If we are to draw a Christmas wish list for the SC, declaring EDCA unconstitutional would be on top of that list,” said Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon, who is one of the petitioners in the EDCA case.

“We reiterate our belief that EDCA is prejudicial to national interest and is grossly lopsided in favor of Washington. By granting US military forces unimpeded access and use of Philippine military and civilian facilities, it is revealed to be a thinly-veiled basing treaty,” Ridon explained, adding that EDCA violates constitutional provisions on the protection of the environment, the Labor Code, the National Internal Revenue Code, and the Local Government Code.

The lawmaker added that EDCA poses threats even to the civil liberties of Filipinos, citing the case of slain Filipina Jennifer Laude.

Ridon explained that Washington may use a provision under EDCA to coddle accused US Marine Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton. Ridon pointed to Article XI of EDCA which states, “The parties agree to resolve any dispute arising under this Agreement exclusively through consultation between the Parties.  Disputes and other matters subject to consultation under this Agreement shall not be referred to any national or international court, tribunal, or other similar body, or to any third party for settlement, unless otherwise agreed by the Parties.”

“As the aforementioned provision is overly broad, Pentagon can argue that Laude’s case can be considered a dispute arising under EDCA and as such must be resolved through bilateral consultations. We have raised this fear way back in April, and now it’s not far from happening,” Ridon explained.

“We are now seeing how these loopholes in the new defense agreement endanger the very life of Filipinos,” Ridon added, saying that the Aquino administration practically surrendered the Filipino people’s right to life in signing the agreement.

 “It is thus the Filipino youth’s fervent wish to the SC that EDCA be declared unconstitutional,” Ridon stressed.

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[17 Nov 2014 | No Comment | 106 views]

As the world celebrates the International Students Day, Kabataan Partylist has called on Filipino youth and students to “rise against interstellar school fees.”

“As we remember how our forebears in the youth and student movement fought with blood, sweat, and tears for the rights that we enjoy today, we challenge youth and students to fight against these ‘interstellar’ school fees. For indeed, we cannot just stand and watch as schools charge out-of-this world and skyrocketing fees from students,” Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon said.

The youth lawmaker has earlier called on the House Committee on Higher and Technical Education on Friday to investigate the Commission on Higher Education’s (CHED) “failure to regulate ‘other school fees’ in public and private higher education institutions.”

In Ridon’s House Resolution No. 1640, the youth representative called on Congress to examine how “other school fees” (OSFs) – or fees collected from students apart from tuition – have remained “completely unregulated” despite the implementation of CHED Memorandum Order No. 3, series of 2012 (CMO 3-2012).

“CMO 3-2012 was supposed to cover other school fees, yet no such regulation of such fees occurred ever since CHED adopted these new rules,” Ridon explained.

“Millions of pesos have already been extorted from students and their parents due to the collection of OSFs. This translates to massive profit amassed by owners of private higher education institutions and the growing inaccessibility of education in State Universities and Colleges (SUCs),” Ridon added.

“The International Students Day is a testament of the potent power of students to foment genuine change in society. The assertion and advancement of democratic rights is a history marred by blood, sweat and tears. More than being thankful for what the student movement has done for us, the youth of today should live up to this history of militancy, and continue fighting against anti-student policies such as the continued deregulation and commercialization of education that have led to the creation of such dubious and exorbitant fees,” Ridon said.

First celebrated worldwide in 1941, the International Students Day marks the anniversary of the 1939 Nazi takeover of the University of Prague, which led to the execution and incarceration of thousands of student leaders, and the occupation of the then Czechoslovakia.

“One way to do this is rise up to the challenge of abolishing OSFs. And beyond that, youth and students must also stand united to fight the regime that perpetuated this system of education deregulation – the same regime that is now scrambling to cover up its corrupt practices, the same regime which has prided itself for bogus reforms. Today, we call on youth and students to rise against the Aquino administration and its moribund policies,” Ridon ended.Junk All Other School Fees Logo

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[17 Nov 2014 | No Comment | 106 views]

November 17 – Filipino students commemorated International Students Day through a nationally-coordinated protest against school fees, which groups describe as a “monstrous twin of tuition increases.”

Youth and student groups led by the RISE FOR EDUCATION Alliance held various protest activities against school fees, including ribbon-tying, demonstrations, and marches in key cities of the Philippines, including Baguio, Tacloban, Davao, Iloilo, and Cebu.

In Manila, hundreds of students from various universities including the University of the Philippines, University of Sto. Tomas, Far Eastern University, National University, San Beda College, Polytechnic University of the Philippines, De La Salle University, Eulogio Amang Rodriguez Institute for Technology and other schools converged at Liwasang Bonifacio at around 3 p.m. to conduct a protest program against school fees.

In the said protest program, student groups dramatized how school fees have become a “heavy burden” for students and their families through mock ball-and-chains hanging from their necks. Groups also tore images of President Benigno Aquino III and officials of the Commission on Higher Education, who they said were instrumental in implementing the policy of deregulating education, through the continued implementation of the Education Act of 1982 and regulations such as CHED Memorandum Order No. 3, series of 2012.

“Through the years, other school fees (OSFs) have morphed into a monstrous twin of tuition increases. These unnecessary fees are so prevalent that OSFs actually comprise bulk of the total semestral matriculation of students,” read a joint statement of the RISE FOR EDUCATION Alliance signed by over 100 student councils and youth groups that was presented during the protest program.

By 5 p.m., the students lit torches and marched from Liwasang Bonifacio to Mendiola to denounce the Aquino administration’s continuing policy of deregulation, which gave way to the charging of said “dubious, exorbitant, and redundant” school fees.

“We march to Mendiola to hold Aquino accountable for perpetuating this insidious system of money-making through his refusal to implement genuine regulatory rules on tuition and OSFs,” said RISE FOR EDUCATION National Convenor Sarah Elago.

“As we commemorate International Students Day, we must stand united in fighting against tuition increases and other school fees. We must march out of our classrooms and into the streets to demand that the national government backpedal on its policy of deregulation. We must drumbeat to the nation and to the world our demand for accessible and affordable education,” Elago explained.

First celebrated worldwide in 1941, November 17 is commemorated as International Students Day as it marks the anniversary of the 1939 Nazi takeover of the University of Prague, which led to the execution and incarceration of thousands of student leaders, and the occupation of the then Czechoslovakia.Junk All Other School Fees Logo