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[ 7 Dec 2016 | No Comment ]
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PRESS RELEASE
07 December 2016
Reference:  ACT Teachers Rep. Antonio L. Tinio (09209220817) and Rep. France Castro (09209698457)
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ACT Teachers Party-List Representatives Antonio Tinio and France Castro express solidarity with the Lakbayanis from the Visayas who travelled to Manila to demand an end to hunger, homelessness, and militarization in their land. The “Tindog Visayas: Lakbayan Laban sa Kagutuman at Militarisasyon” is held to urge the Duterte government to prioritize and address the widespread hunger, lack of livelihood, failed resettlement, and lack of sufficient and prompt assistance for disaster victims in housing and agriculture.
“The people of Visayas continue to experience hunger with little to no help from the government. They are now here in Manila to voice out their needs and rights so that government will listen to them,” Castro said.
“We urge the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte to redirect government thrusts on disaster resettlement and reconstruction because three years after Yolanda and the major disasters which followed it, we see heightening poverty, reduced yield of farmers, uprooting of entire communities away from their sources of livelihood, to name a few,” said Tinio.
Tinio and Castro said that the Lakbayanis shared first-hand accounts of hunger and joblessness in the regions, largely due to slow reconstruction of industries particularly agriculture.  “Peasant farmers who feed the nation are unable to put food on their own tables and their children are unable to go to school.  Especially in hardest-hit Eastern Visayas, there are still no decent jobs to be found and entire fields have gone bare due to the successive disasters and pests,” said Castro.
People Surge, the group of disaster survivors leading the Lakbayan, estimates that copra production was cut by 75% to 90%, thereby reducing farmers’ income to 50% up to 90%.  Cocolisap, bunchy top, and other pests struck the remaining coconut trees, abaca, and even root crops.
Tinio also cautioned Duterte to consider the homes and livelihood of the people in implementing resettlement programs.  “Government should ensure that resettlement enables the people to live in resilient sites and strong structures and not take them far away from where they get their food and livelihood,” he said.  “It should not unleash the police and DPWH and local officials upon the people to force them to demolish their own homes and prohibit residential structures along coastlines, only to favor corporate infrastructure.”
The solons also revealed that since typhoon Yolanda, promised aid has yet to fully reach intended beneficiaries.  Among these are the aid for housing repair and reconstruction from the President’s Social Fund (PSF) and the Emergency Shelter Assistance (ESA) for government employees, including thousands of public school teachers and employees, and indigents, respectively.  The PSF is managed by the Presidential Management Staff, an office under the Office of the President, while the ESA is disbursed by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
The Lakbayanis including those from remote areas also allege that assistance and subsidies for seedlings, fertilizer, and farm machinery and services are either delayed by bureaucratic procedure, pocketed, or given to them for a price.
“We demand immediate and complete release of the housing repair and agriculture assistance as well as investigations by the relevant agencies into the delay and denial of aid and subsidies,” Castro ended.  “As these are matters of life and death, this criminal neglect should not happen again.”
The delegates of Tindog Visayas are in Metro Manila until December 10 to hold consecutive protests at and dialogues with various government offices.  The Polytechnic University of the Philippines are housing them.  ###

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[ 6 Dec 2016 | No Comment ]
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PRESS RELEASE
06 December 2016
Reference: ACT Teachers Party-List Rep. Antonio Tinio (0920-922-0817) and Rep. France Castro (0920-969-8457)

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ACT Teachers Party-List Rep. Antonio Tinio and Rep. France Castro join the nationwide hunger strike of all political prisoners today, December 6.  The solidarity fasting for freedom from December 3 up to December 10, International Human Rights Day, calls for the immediate release of around 400 political prisoners, especially the sick, elderly and those who have long been in jail.

“Political prisoners have suffered long enough behind bars.  In fact, they should not have suffered in the first place since they are activists from marginalized sectors, including the education sector, who, in their struggle with the masses for their economic, social, and political rights, are branded as rebels by past administrations, the military and the police, and the Oplan Bayanihan,” said the solons.

“The ongoing peace negotiations between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) will be pointless if the previously signed agreements like the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIRL) and the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) are ignored,” Tinio argued.  “Government’s disregard of its duties under these agreements is what caused the criminalization of the activism of our political prisoners and the illegal arrests and detention of peace consultants.”

“Among those unjustly jailed are Lumad and volunteer teachers and organizers for the teachers’ movement, whose political convictions and activities are criminalized with the filing of trumped-up cases against them.  Due to these baseless and malicious charges, torture during detention, and inhumane prison conditions, they suffer from various diseases,” Castro insisted. “Should this be the return of their service to the people?”

Among these political prisoners were Amelia Pond and Dominiciano “Dioning” Muya, both Lumad educators in Davao, and Rhea Pareja, a volunteer teacher in Quezon.

Another person unjustly jailed is Rene Boy Abiva, a community social worker and organizer of the militant Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) in Cagayan who was arrested in December 2013 under Oplan Bayanihan.  The military implicated him with the ambush of soldiers in Tinoc, Ifugao in April 2012.  Rene Boy is gainfully employed since 2011 by the Department of Social Welfare and Development and has never set foot in Ifugao.

“The continued detention of Rene Boy, our teachers Amy, Dioning, and Rhea, and hundreds of other political prisoners has no place under an administration that brands itself as ‘activist’ and one for change,” said the solons. “It shows that, far from discontinuing the heinous Oplan Bayanihan, government still implements it as if it were legal and democratic.  It proves political repression still remains under the Duterte administration.”

“We fast today in protest of the injustice of a government that considers service to the poor, militancy, and dissent as rebellious and criminal.  We call on President Duterte to free them now.”  ###

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[ 5 Dec 2016 | No Comment ]
PRESS RELEASE
5 December 2016
References: ACT Teachers Party-List Rep. Antonio Tinio (09209220817) and Rep. France Castro (09209698457)
Solons demand release of political prisoners, including sick and elderly teachers
Following the death of an ailing detainee on the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) priority list for release, militant solons reiterate the demand for the government to release around 400 political prisoners, including 130 who are ailing and elderly, some of whom are teachers.  ACT Teachers Party-List Representatives France Castro and Antonio Tinio scored government’s failure to release political prisoners since President Duterte dangled the possibility of a general amnesty in May.
“The Duterte goverment has been fulfilling so-called campaign promises left and right, but he has yet to comply with its commitment at the peace negotiating table to free our political prisoners, all of whom are unjustly detained,” scored Castro.  “They are still suffering behind bars—activists, including teachers, whose service to the masses is criminalized, are jailed and branded as rebels.”
The solons cited the cases of Dominiciano Muya and Amelia Pond, both Lumad educators.  Muya was a school agriculturist and Technology and Livelihood Education (TLE) teacher of Salugpungan Ta ‘Tanu Igkanugon Community Learning Center, Inc. (STTICLCI) in Talaingod, Davao del Norte. The military arrested him in October 2014 in Tagum City, presented the teacher as a top-ranking leader of the New People’s Army (NPA), then collected a P4.8 million bounty.
Pond, 64, was a volunteer teacher, researcher, and curriculum developer for STTICLCI when she was illegally arrested in August 2016 under a warrant in the name of one Adelfa Toledo, an alleged NPA official in Davao.  The CIDG agents planted fake IDs at the very scene of her arrest then charged her with murder and frustrated murder.
The solons pressed for the immediate and unconditional release of the Lumad teachers, saying that aside from being charged with malicious trumped-up cases, Muya and Pond are ailing and elderly.  Muya, who suffers from pneumonia and bronchitis, is currently detained in an isolated prison facility in Malaybalay, Bukidnon.  He was reinfected with tuberculosis due to prison conditions.
Pond is under hospital arrest at the Southern Philippines Medical Hospital, after an operation on her lumbar spine.  She also has chronic renal infection, osteoporosis, and hyperlipidemia.
Another teacher, Rhea Pareja, 28, is in jail under false charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives.   She was a volunteer teacher participating in the Adult Literacy Program of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) when she was arrested in March 2010 in Mulanay, Quezon.  The military planted evidence, coined various aliases, and tagged her as an NPA to pin her on the charges.  She developed tuberculosis after physical and psychological torture and six years of difficult and unsanitary jail conditions.
“The health conditions of teachers Muya, Pond, and Pareja prove the urgency of their release.  We demand their immediate discharge from detention and the dismissal of the fabricated charges against them,” said Tinio.  “President Duterte should not wait for another detainee to die before fulfilling his commitment.  Free them now, in time for the coming International Human Rights Day.  Do not let them spend another Christmas behind bars.”
From December 3, political prisoners in detention facilities nationwide as well as human rights advocates are staging a hunger strike that will culminate in International Human Rights Day, December 10.  The hunger strike demands for the immediate release of 400 political prisoners, especially the sick, elderly, and those who have been long detained.  ###

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[ 28 Nov 2016 | No Comment ]
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PRESS STATEMENT
25 November 2016
Reference: ACT TEACHERS Party-List Rep. Antonio L. Tinio (09209220817) and Rep. France L. Castro (09209698457)

ACT Teachers Party-List Representatives Antonio Tinio and France Castro, with the broad alliance of teachers, students and educators under the Education Sector Against the Revival of the Marcoses join the nationwide Black Friday Protest at Rizal Park to strongly condemn the recent hero’s burial of Marcos and to denounce the blatant historical revisionism.

“The education sector cannot ignore the historical revisionism happening right now. The decision overturned history as it declared that Marcos deserves a hero’s burial when in fact history already judged him as a plunderer, murderer, fascist, and criminal,” Tinio stressed.

“The Marcoses have several sins to the people especially to the education sector. Most of the problems faced by schools such as low budgets, lack of facilities, large class sizes, and other perennial problems were brought by Marcos or worsened during his reign, so we cannot condone the rehabilitation of his image nor that of his family. Until now, we are still paying the foreign debts,” Castro said.

The solons cited the Education Act which Marcos enacted in 1982. “This law started the privatization in the education sector and subjected the youth’s right to profit-orientation,” Castro added.

Citing a study of independent think tank Ibon, Tinio recalled that Marcos bloated foreign debt nearly 30 times from $1 billion in 1966 to $28 billion in 1986, trapping the country into a cycle of growing debts. Filipinos will be paying for Marcos debts alone until 2025.

The Marcos regime plundered $5 to $10 billion of ill-gotten wealth. The PCGG recovered only $4.2 billion. “This money came from the people, could be used by the people,” said the solon. “It can fund a lot for social services including education, minimize if not remove shortages in our schools but until now the Marcoses are intentionally keeping the ill-gotten wealth.”

The foreign debts that mostly were plundered by the Marcoses resulted to compounded problems in terms of finances. Because of it, every administration after Marcos up to President Duterte had been prioritizing the debt servicing rather than allocating the highest budget to the education as mandated by the 1987 Constitution.

“The low allocation of budget to education resulted to perennial problems such as huge class sizes, shortages, freezed salary increase and other issues that has an impact to the quality of education we have. Even the materials of teachers such as chalk and other instructional materials came from their pockets. The underfunding is the continuing result of the debts incurred and it will greatly affect our salaries and benefits,” Tinio added.

“For us, all our teachers and students, even those who were not yet born then, are victims of Marcos and Martial Law, because until now we are experiencing the emerging problems created then. So we encourage every teacher, student, and educator to condemn in all possible ways the recognition of Marcos as a hero and the blatant revision of history,” Tinio said. ###