August 10, 2016

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The Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) launches an online petition to urge President Rodrigo Duterte and the members of the 17th Congress to repeal the Law on Automatic Appropriations for Debt Servicing and to conduct an Official Comprehensive Audit of all public debts.

“Filipino tax taxpayers'' money and all public funds should be spent for people''s needs and welfare such that provisioning for essential public services and immediate post-disaster rehabilitation for victims of calamities are assured and in place,” FDC stated in its letter through online petition platform Change.org.

According to the group, the Automatic Appropriations Law (AAL) forces the government to set aside a substantial portion of its annual budget for debt servicing before allocations are made for vital social and economic services. The law provision for Automatic Debt Servicing is contained in Section 26B, Book VI of Executive Order 292 or the 1987 Revised Administrative Code and was copied en toto from Section 31(B) of Presidential Decree 1177 or the Budget Reform Decree of 1977 of the late dictator, Ferdinand Marcos.

In the course of 30 years since 1986, the AAL has resulted in an average of 27.21 percent of annual public revenues automatically earmarked for interest payments, while principal amortization has eaten up an average of 67.61 of government''s borrowings.

FDC also calls for an immediate moratorium on repayments for questionable loans pending the results of the proposed Official Comprehensive Audit in order to stop further bleeding of public coffers for servicing of debts challenged as fraudulent, wasteful, and/or useless.

Earlier this year, FDC stated that out of the P214.5 billion scheduled debt servicing for foreign liabilities of the national government in 2016, P3.78 billion will go to interest and principal payments of five questionable loan-funded projects: Power Sector Development Program, Sixth Road (Tullahan), Pampanga Development Flood Control, Bohol Irrigation II, and Angat Water Supply Optimization.

In 2008 and 2011, FDC successfully lobbied the Congress for a moratorium on P25.9 billion interest payments for illegitimate debts and for an audit of all public debts. However, its efforts were blocked by the administrations of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Benigno Aquino III.

FDC urges President Duterte not to pattern himself after his predecessors but instead develop debt management policies and strategies that ensure provisioning for human life in all its fullness, integrity and dignity.

The online petition can be accessed through this link: https://www.change.org/p/president-rodrigo-roa-duterte-repeal-of-the-automatic-appropriations-law-for-debt-servicing-audit-all-public-debts

July 25, 2016

 

SONA STATEMENT of Citizens’ Council for Human Rights

In a little less than a month since his inauguration, President Rodrigo Duterte has delivered on his campaign promise to go after suspected drug pushers and users with little or no regard for human rights and due process. Units of the Philippine National Police, under the command of his close associate General Ronald (“Bato”) de la Rosa, have turned many low-income neighborhoods in the country into free fire zones. The bloody encounters taking place daily have polarized the country between those who support the president’s quick and dirty methods of dealing with drugs and crime and those who regard them as illegal, immoral, and self-defeating.

To date, more than 500 people had been killed in intensified anti-drug operations since the May 9 elections in which Duterte emerged as the victor. The pattern is worrisome: The police announce that drug pushers or users have been killed in an operation. Slain people are shown on television, invariably with firearms near their hands. The now routine police explanation: “The victims resisted arrest and fired on us, so we had to shoot them in self defense.” In some instances, the police story borders on the incredible. In a Pasay City precinct, for instance, two manacled suspects are shown on television being led into jail. Shortly thereafter, a policeman emerges to tell the press the father and son were shot dead inside the jail since they tried to reach for the police''s pistols and had to be killed "in self-defense."

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June 19, 2016

 

The Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) strongly urges the City Council of Batangas to deny the application for local clearance that will commence the construction of a new coal-fired power plant in Batangas City.

In particular, FDC asks Mr. Gerry Dela Roca, the Chairperson of the Land Use Committee, to lead the vote against the application for the construction of two boiler units of the new coal plant at 300MW each. The said project was the main target of the 10,000-strong mobilization against the coal energy and plants held last May 4 in Batangas City and as part of the global campaign to Break Free from Fossil Fuels.

FDC, together with other environmental groups, have been asserting that the so-called “clean coal” being peddled by coal energy adherents is, in fact, a dirty lie. It has already been proven that coal-fired plants are detrimental to both the environment and the health of those living in its vicinity. If the national government is serious with its commitment to reduce by 70% the country’s carbon emissions by 2030, it should begin by pressuring local governments to reject any future applications to build new coal-fired power plants.

FDC also reminds the City Council of its legal, social, and moral duty to protect the rights of the people, and more importantly, to protect the planet from utter destruction.

The recent Executive Order (EO) No. 206 in 2016 signed by outgoing President Benigno Aquino III that calls for a comprehensive review of the country’s energy policy in order to cut back on coal and ensure the shift to renewable energy should be an indication for the Batangas City government to cut down its dependence on coal and encourage a just transition to clean and sustainable renewable energy.

FDC stands in solidarity with the citizens of Batangas who will be holding a prayer rally to be led by the Archdiocesan Ministry on Environment (AMEN) outside the City Hall on Monday, June 20, at 9:00AM – in time for the City Council’s meeting to decide on the request by the coal plants for a local clearance.

The biggest anti-coal march held in Batangas City last May 4 should send a strong message to the new  local government of Batangas City, including the members of the Sangguniang Lungsod that the people of Batangas resoundingly reject the dirty coal energy and the death and destruction it will surely bring to the city.

Let the voice, the rights and welfare of the people and the community prevail over the powerful but narrow interests of those aggressively pushing for the construction of the coal power plant in the city and other parts of the country!

 

 

June 2, 2016

 

The Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) called on the incoming Duterte administration to undertake a review of all government issued sovereign guarantees following recent reports that the Department of Finance (DoF) was preparing to pay Maynilad and Manila Water P82.4 billion in compensation for supposed losses they incurred due to the postponement of the increase in their basic charges.

“One of the first things the Duterte government should do once it assumes office is to look into all sovereign guarantees issued in the past in order to determine how much risk the public sector has taken on and whether these guarantees were really necessary,” FDC Secretary General Sammy Gamboa said. “In issuing sovereign guarantees government could potentially set itself up for large, unexpected future expenses for which it has made not made enough provisions. There is also the fundamental question of whether it is right for government to take on virtually all the risks in multi-billion peso projects while the private investor reaps all the profits.”

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May 26, 2016

MANILA, Philippines – The shameless trumpeting by the Aquino administration of an economic growth that benefits only the rich and propertied segment of society is an outrage, the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC), the group said in a news release on Thursday.

Reacting to the Aquino administration’s recent claims of leaving a legacy of a strong economy, FDC President Ed Tadem said, “Economic growth as measured by the gross domestic product has indeed grown under Aquino but this pales in comparison to continuing high poverty levels, joblessness and rising income inequality, the P6.4 trillion public debt to be inherited by the next administration and the billions of pesos wasted in payments for fraudulent, wasteful and questionable loans.”

Tadem cited the Social Weather Stations’ report that 50 percent of Filipinos (11.2 million families) rated themselves as poor as of December 2015 while the joblessness average for 2015 was 21.9 percent. He also said that within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Philippines, as of 2013, registered the second highest income inequality ratio based on the Gini coefficient index.

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