Daily Archives: March 4, 2008

Ramon Magsaysay Awardees: Changing Asia

by Anna Krisna Noble Bautista/Asianjournal.com

MAKATI CITY– The Ramon Magsaysay Awards Foundation (RMAF) marked the 51st death anniversary of former President Ramon Magsaysay  with the launching of the 50th  Ramon Magsaysay Awards at the Asian Institute of Management’s World Bank Resource Development Center.

RMAF president Carmencita Abella said that the awards began “to celebrate the achievements of the men and women of Asia that have given substance and dignity to the greatness of the Asian Spirit.”

Highlighting the celebra-tion was the audience’s dia-logue with Ramon Magsaysay Laureates Jon Ungphakorn (Government Service, 2005) and Arvind Kerjiwal (Emergent Leadership,  2006) via live stream.

Ungphakorn, through his Thai Volunteer Service, exposed Thailand’s privileged university graduates to the country’s rural poor and non-government organizations.  A pioneer in providing confidential counseling for people with HIV-AIDS, he also fought the public stigma on AIDS and asserted their rights to effective and affordable treatment.  He uncovered the government’s brutality against the Muslims in Southern Thailand and upheld the rights of rural folk property speculators and scandal-ridden infrastructures as well.

“After work they realized that they [volunteers] con-tribute to change.  Volunteer law graduates especially enjoy community service and were used to fight social injustices,” Ungphakorn said of his Thai Volunteer Service, which already has 40 genera-tions of volunteers.  “I would like to see that universities support their undergraduate to work with communities.”

Activating Indian citizens’ right to information and empowering New Delhi’s poorest citizens to fight corruption by holding the gov-ernment answerable to the people, Kejriwal was a significant factor for the passage of the Right to Information Act in his country.  Realizing that corruption stemmed mostly from the lack of transparency, he established the Parivartan movement, which makes government officials accountable for their projects.

“I would always feel guilty whenever I use the electricity because 40,000 families were displaced because of [the building] of the dam,” Kejriwal said.  The Indian of the Year in Public Service honoree in 2007 pointed out that everyone should find out his purpose and ask himself if he should choose pleasure while others suffer.  “What family gives us is little to what the community gives us.”

On the effective strategies they used to pressure the government and to keep the issue covered by the media, both said that a massive movement and the participation of the media and the youth helped, aside from upholding the right to information and having a political party that represents the marginalized and the poor.

Asked whether they were ever disheartened to continue their advocacy, Ungphakorn said, “My view is that this work is very interesting for me.  I don’t really like working for the government” but “doing your own moves, working with the community, the marginalized is always rewarding.”

Kejriwal, on the other hand, narrated the story of a 20-year-old girl who had her throat slashed by a mob, however, “In trying moments, all of us [working for the same cause] get together to carry on.”

he event also featured the launch of the RMAF blogsite and the Best Practices Video Documentary Series, which is the first DVD highlighting the Best Practices as exemplified by the RMAF Laureates.

Other activities of RMAF for this year include the opening of its blogsite this month, the announcement of the 2008 awardees in July, the Magsaysay Awards Week in August wherein Taiwan’s renowned dance group will perform, and the awarding ceremony proper also in Au-gust.  Bringing together the Magsaysay laureates, Gathering @ 50 conference will be held on September 1 and 2.

Among the youth participants were Paulo Benigno ‘Bam’ A. Aquino, Chairman of the National Youth Commission in the Philippines; Noelle Arcinue, former student council president of De La Salle University; Jay Bernardo, one of the Ten Outstanding Young Persons of the World in 2004; Carlos Conde, a National Book Awardee in 2004 for his book Unholy Nation: Stories from a Gambling Nation; Maria Streegan-Cruz, an active member of the Gawad Kalinga, the Holy Family Foundation, and the Habitat for Humanity; and Fan Dai, an assistant professor and an Outstanding Graduate of Jinan University in China.

The late Senator Raul Manglapus, in paying tribute to President Magsaysay, once said: “To Magsaysay, the word ‘man of the masses’ was clear and it was this: that there, across the mud puddle, stood a being, a person deserving of human dignity and it was worth leaping over that puddle with arm outstretched for a handshake, to give him perhaps his first taste of dignity – the dignity of recognition.”(AJ)

(For more information, visit the RMAF website at http://www.rmaf.org.ph.)

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De Venecia Calls for Arroyo to Step Down: Former House Speaker meets with LA media

By Rene Villaroman/Asianjournal.com

TORRANCE — Former Speaker Jose de Venecia, Jr. renewed calls for President Arroyo to step down at a brief stopover in LA en route to New York to speak at the United Nations.

“I am asking President Arroyo, in the face of mounting charges of corruption, in the face of a tidal wave of accusations – from bishops, from students, from various religious groups, Catholics, Protes-tants, Baptists, in the face of charges launched by leaders of civil society from various sectors in Manila, in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao – I ask her now to resign because she has lost all moral author-ity to govern,” De Venecia said.

De Venecia took time to speak with the local community journalists and dip-lomats at a dinner hosted by the Pangasinan Brotherhood-USA in a Torrance restaurant. He added that Mrs. Arroyo’s resignation was the only op-tion left for the Philippine president to save herself and the members of his family.

“That’s her only way out,” De Venecia emphasized. “Even overseas Filipinos in the Middle East, Europe, in the other side of the Pacific, here in America, in the Atlantic, in the Mediterranean – they are all disillusioned because of the failure of government to act.”

The five-term congress-man from Pangasinan’s 4th District, who was recently replaced as Speaker of the House of Representatives, re-vealed that he wrote Arroyo a letter last October asking her to lead a movement for a moral revolution and giving her a 100-day deadline. In that letter, De Venecia ex-pressed that Arroyo could use “the vast powers of the presidency to cleanse the society, to cleanse the government.”

After the deadline expired this year, and the President did not take him up on his offer, de Venecia called for her resignation.

“Before, sinasabi natin, it was the First Gentleman and their two sons, and their cronies,” he said. “But she’s at the center of corruption. She’s evil. Hindi ako ang nag-sasabi niyan. Yung kaniyang cabinet member ang nagsabi niyan.”

Following his call for the President to step down, De Venecia knew that his days as Speaker of the House were numbered. De Venecia reached a fork in the road in his friendship with Arroyo when his son, Joey, uncorked the anomalous $329 million National Broadband Network deal with a Chinese company.

“I knew that a vendetta was coming because of what my son did,” De Venecia said. “I wanted to rein him (Joey) in, but he said to me, ‘Dad, would you reign me in? Would you stop me? When they are running away with kickbacks and commissions as much as $200 million?'”

De Venecia told his son to do what he had to do. “Yung project ni Joey, no government loans, no government guaranties, expense, no risks. No scandal,” he said.

The protests because of  this later government corruption scandal has been growing progressively.

“It’s coming. It’s coming and it is mounting. It is be-ginning and it is going to be massive,” he replied when Asian Journal asked him if another people power revolution is in the offing.

De Venecia believes that the military would not get in the way in case another EDSA uprising happens. “The military will turn around, and it would be better for them not to get involved. They should stay in the barracks,” he suggested.

De Venecia announced that his call for a moral revo-lution was met with wide-spread support from various churches and organizations. It was endorsed by Cardinal Vidal, the most senior of all (Catholic) religious leaders; endorsed by Archbishop Lagdameo, who is the President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), Bishop Eddie Villanueva of Jesus is Lord, Bro. Mike Velarde of El Shaddai; and Bishop Benny Abante and the 28 pastors and bishops of the Baptist Church; the parish priests of the top three Catholic churches in Manaoag, Pangasinan; and the National Prayer Breakfast Conference.

“There is corruption in Malacanang, in the cabinet. There’s corruption in the First Family, corruption in Congress, corruption in the Senate, corruption in the Supreme Court, corruption in the lower courts, corruption in the COMELEC, corruption in the local government units, corruption in the churches, corruption in the business community, and corruption amongst leaders of civil society,” De Venecia enumerated. “The first test of wisdom is to admit the truth. That all of us have sinned, and therefore, we must change.”

“De Venecia is a survivor. He is going to bounce back from the ouster,” observes community journalist Dan Niño. “Although he has lost his swagger, I’m sure that he is not retiring from public service as yet. I just feel that he will retire when he is on top of the game again.”


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More Protests Against GMA Loom

by Jherlyn Meneses/Asianjournal.com

LOS ANGELES – Opponents of embattled Philip-pine President Gloria Arroyo held a “mass for the truth” on Sunday and vowed more street protests in the coming weeks to press for her resignation.

Hundreds of students joined former President Corazon Aquino, Manila Mayor Alfre-do Lim, and representatives of the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP) and the Associ-ation of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines (AMRSP) in the mass which was held at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila. They sang nationalistic hymns and raised clenched fists as they repeated demands for Arroyo to resign.

Also in the gathering was whistle-blower Rodolfo Lo-zada, Jr. who implicated Arroyo’s husband and a political ally in a corruption case sur-rounding a botched telecoms deal. Lozada’s explosive tes-timony has led to escalating calls for Arroyo to step down, and on Friday more than 15,000 people gathered in the capital’s Makati financial district in the largest protest since the scandal broke last year.

United Opposition (UNO) spokesman Adel Tamano said more rallies and mass actions will be held to press for President Arroyo’s resig-nation and for the “truth” to come out.

“There will be more rallies to come, we believe that the rally last Friday has led to snowballing effect. We are beginning to reach a critical mass,” Tamano said on local radio. He added that the pro-tests in Manila were matched by smaller rallies in key cities around the Philippines. Tamano said that momentum is now on the side of those pressing for “truth and justice”.

“It cannot be business as usual (for President Arroyo),” said former peace adviser Teresita “Ging” Deles. She said the political situation will only intensify.Aquino and another ex-President, Joseph Estrada, were the key figures in last week’s protest and both called for Arroyo to step down.

“I don’t want to discour-age you but it appears it may take a longer time because we have not awakened those countrymen of ours who seem to be feigning sleep. Still I am not losing hope. If we were able to remove a dictator, maybe it would be easier for us now because there’s no martial law and I hope we will not have martial law,” Aquino addressed the crowd in UST.

Aquino wearing a bright yellow outfit — her signature color and also the color of UST — asked for patience and stressed that she would not abandon Lozada, who had linked  Arroyo and her husband, Jose Miguel Ar-royo, to the scandal-tainted NBN deal.

Meanwhile, BAYAN Sec-retary General Renato Reyes said Friday’s rally was the “strongest rejection” yet of Arroyo. “This is an encouraging sign of political maturity among Filipinos,” he said, adding that the next protest would be on March 8, to coincide with International Women’s Day.

Arroyo’s chief legal coun-sel, Sergio Apostol, said the President was confident her opponents could not draw enough people to the streets to oust her. Pres. Arroyo has kept a low profile amid the anti-government protests, and her spokesman Ignacio Bunye on Sunday said she had spent Friday chairing a mining conference and visit-ing development projects in the countryside.

The president earlier said she would not step down until her six-year term ends in 2010 and denied that her family had profited from government deals. She has ear-lier survived three impeach-ment bids in Congress, and put down two coup attempts.


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