Friday, September 29, 2006

Gov't Death Squads Run Rampant in the Philippines

2001 was a year of great hope in the Philippines. Joseph Estrada, the notoriously corrupt American puppet president was overthrown by a popular uprising and replaced by Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. It was hoped that the new president, who owed her place in office to the mass movement of the Filipino people, would usher in a new more democratic era. Instead, the Philippines today has turned into the new killing fields of Asia.

The Philippines is a land of tremendous natural resources, but also tremendous inequality. Over 30 million Filipinos live on less than $2 a day while a small group of wealthy landowners control the government, the courts, the armed forces, and various paramilitary death squads, which they use to maintain their brutal exploitation of the Filipino workers and peasants. It is these conditions that gave rise to the civil war between the government and the National Democratic Front, led by the Communist Party of the Philippines.

Rather than use her position as President to deal with the terrible sufferings and poverty of the Filipino people, GMA launched full scale war against the NDF, displacing whole communities in their drive against the New Peoples Army. Unable to defeat the CPP/NPA on the battlefield - and in many cases facing reversals - the government decided that rather than battle the guerrillas they would target the unarmed and legal mass movement.

Karapatan, an independent human rights organization in the Philippines, has documented that as of September 12, 752 activists have been murdered and 184 more have been forcibly "disappeared" by the GMA regime. The main targets of the military-backed death squads have been the political coalition BAYAN (Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, or New Patriotic Alliance, representing thousands of grassroots peoples organizations), as well as trade unionists, peasant leaders, members of progressive partylists, and clergy. After being eliminated, the victims are labeled "terrorists" by the government to justify the killings.

Rather than condemn these grave human rights abuses, the United States has aided and abetted.
"After 9/11, American military assistance to the Philippines skyrocketed by 1,111% between 2001 and 2002. US support has allowed the government to increase the military budget by nearly 11% from 2003 to 2005."(

Even non-military assistance tends to be channeled in ways that benefit the military campaign against the peoples movement, such as pacification programs or psychological warfare operations, often masked as "civil society initiatives" through NGO fronts. Canada also continues to assist the GMA regime as its sixth largest donour of foreign aid. In other words, the tax dollars of workers in Canada are being used to oppress workers in the Philippines.

Yet the popular outcry in the Philippines has not gone unheard. A growing international solidarity movement is getting the word out on what is going on in the Philippines. Recent presentations by several human rights groups to the United Nations may result in the Philippines losing its seat on the UN Human Rights Council, and maybe even a loss in foreign investment. This would not be unprecedented: after worldwide outcry against human rights abuses in King Guyanendra's Nepal and the military dictatorship or Burma, those countries lost much of their military assistance and foreign investment. By affecting the policies of their "own" governments, workers at home can positively impact the struggles of workers the world over. The government of Canada must stop supporting death squad regimes!

Friday, September 22, 2006

Wasun Gets It Done

On street corners, work places and living rooms, people discuss the problems in their lives and in the World and ponder over one question – what can be about this? Toronto hip-hop veteran Wasun gives us his answer with his debut CD What is to be done (Interscope 2006).

Hailing from the infamous blocks of Vaughn and Oakwood, Wasun skillfully flows over a diverse range of beats with relentless street knowledge. The lead off-track in this blazing 8 track EP, Building to Building which topped the charts of, paints the picture of the reality of Toronto streets since free trade after the exit of industrial jobs to sweatshops in the ‘Third World’.

Wasun hold no punches back, proclaiming very loudly that this system is corrupt and violent, and that he is working to organize its victims – immigrants, Black people and people of colour, and ultimately the working class.

Perhaps the most compelling song on the album is Urban Guerrillas, which combines a crazy catchy cinematic beat with one of the best displays of Wasun’s robust rhyming with lines like
"this revolutionary who inspired lots of crews/ love, peace, wisdom understand no talk is new/ the working class still not free - a lot to prove/ and organize until hi-hop is not the blues/ we gotta move"

Wasun’s fast spreading notoriety is well deserved. The flow is raw, the beats are hot and the lyrics are tight and direct. A must get for hip hop fans and those who still don’t know how to change things.

4.5 fists out of 5

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Whats good for the Politicians is good for the Workers

Salary increases show need for increase in wages of working people

Torontonians have seen two of the three levels of government officials give themselves raises in the last couple of months.

First, the Conservative Federal government, with approval of most Liberals Members of Parliament (MP’s) gave themselves a 20% pay increase, putting them in the richest 1% of Canadians.

More recently at the July session of City Council, Councillor’s approved a 9% increase to their base wage, arguing that Councillors in cities such as Vaughn and Mississauga are paid upwards of $117 000.

Predictably, the same Conservative media that rambles on about how ‘fiscally irresponsible’ socially funded education, health care and housing are, stayed relatively silent on the MP’s increase. With City Council being dominated by the New Democratic Party (NDP) these same media outlets came out blasting City Council.

Ultimately, what do these things mean for working people? In reality, these policies and the media response provide some important lessons regarding the opportunism and hypocrisy of government and media.

Nonetheless, the $8 million (308 MP’s X $25 000 per year) would have impact on people lives if it meant giving money for grants to low and middle income families looking to put a child through University. Likewise, the $400 000 (44 Councillors X $9000) would have benefited communities like Parkdale with hiring of a few more inspectors to shut down slum houses, or in Lawrence Heights where parks are in need to repair and clean up.

These same levels of government, not matter what Party controls it all are opposed to measures to increase the real or social wage for the majority of people. Not only this, but they have also implemented policies that DECREASE people’s wages. The municipal government continues to increase cost of services like the TTC, which the Federal government has gone out of its way to destroy the idea of a national system of affordable child care.

With the wages and services for the majority of people in decline, Politicians think it justified to be rewarded while our lives become harder. These increases will not make government more responsive and in fact show how hypocritical and unconcerned they are already.

Politician’s salaries should be indexed to minimum wages, so that politicians can’t raise their wages without raising the wages of all. We should remind these politicians that we need cheaper services, higher wages and more, better paying jobs.