On the accreditation of Higher Education Institutions in the Philippines

If institutions do not go through accreditation, does this mean that they are of low quality? In the case of the University of the Philippines, which did not undergo any accreditation from any accrediting agency, it is one of the best performing HEIs in various degree programs. Does this discount the fact that an institution does not have to undergo accreditation to attain higher quality?

A Review of the Accreditation System for Philippine Higher Education Institutions, Mitzie Irene P. Conchada and Marites M. Tiongco, Philippine Institute for Development Studies Discussion Paper Series No. 2015-30

Exactly, thanks to the authors of this PIDS Discussion Paper for having put the question out there. I’ve been recently wondering what added value accreditation serves HEIs in light of what we read and hear in the news year after year from parents especially about the dismal state of higher education in the country. Nakakairita na sa tenga.

Take the accreditation body PAASCU (Philippine Accrediting Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities), the oldest in the country, founded by eleven Catholic HEIs that are also members of the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP). Looking closer, one sees that members are none other than the country’s elite educational institutions whose origins hail from the Spanish colonial period. On its website are found only this statement about its accreditation work:

The Association does not impose arbitrary standards… Much emphasis is placed on the formulation of the school’s purposes and objectives. Only when its goals are clear can the school discover the extent to which such purposes and objectives are being achieved.

What does that even mean?

PACUCOA is another accreditation body that covers other private colleges and universities. Also, on its website one reads

accreditation is both a process and a result

You scroll for the explanation but it’s as vague. Morever, its manual of accreditation states there are

nine (9) sections/areas of concern: philosophy and objectives; faculty; instruction; library; laboratories; physical plant and facilities; student services; social orientation and community involvement; and organization and administration.(and) using the criteria and standards specified in the appropriate Survey Instrument, the Survey Executive Committee and area/sections sub-committees analyze, evaluate and rate the main areas of concern

You search and search but the “survey instrument” is nowhere in site.

In contrast, go to singaporeeducation.info for the same details about our neighbor Singapore and, voila, comprehensive and clear information on accreditation in the country instantly pops out. You’ll learn that the

Council for Private Education (CPE) a quality assurance agency is authorized with legislative power to control the private education sector. It sets out the basic standards that private education institutions (PEIs) must comply with in order to function. CPE is responsible for improvising the quality standards of education in the local private education industry. CPE also offers a voluntary certification scheme known as EduTrust Certification Scheme

On the EduTrust Certification site, details are provided including the certification criteria and guidance (EduTrust Guidance Document)! Download and open the document and see it written in clear, precise, and simple English that any literate person – parents – would understand on his/her own!

Another accreditation scheme in Singapore is the

Singapore Quality Class (SQC) for Private Education Organizations, SQC-PEO which recognizes Private Education Organizations (PEOs) that excel in performance, and thereby assists these PEOs to attain international standards of quality education. The scheme is based on the Singapore Quality Award Business Excellence Framework

On the Enterprise Singapore site you can learn about the Business Excellence Framework also downloadable in manual format!

In South Korea, similar information are also available to the public. In fact, a site hosted by the Korean Council for University Education makes available the assessment process (results are publicized!) and criteria in user-friendly format! There’s even a dedicated website on program-specific accreditation, an example here, engineering.

Why is information on higher education accreditation very stringent in the Philippines considering higher education is a public concern? What exactly are contained in evaluation frameworks being used – do they reflect relevant local, national, and international outcomes for 21st century HEIs and graduates? Do they measure what ought to be measured? Who has a hand in defining the criteria? Who are being served by accreditation – the business interest? Is this perhaps the reason that despite decades of accreditation, quality in Philippine higher education remains elusive?

I recently observed how an accrediting team works. To the tune of free flowing coffee and food, in what is called “the accreditation room”, air-conditioned in other words, team members pore over files of “evidence” that university personnel have for months on end painstakingly put together. When members need information not on file, they require the immediate presence of the personnel in charge of the program never mind that he or she could be in the middle of a lecture or equally important work. Nonetheless the personnel drops everything and races to “the accreditation room” where, the personnel is asked, “where is the documentation of xxx meeting? do you have the photos of xxx meeting?” This is harassment! But interest or inquiry as to the more salient aspects of the program? Nada. So what if a university has the photos and documentations on file but nothing in terms of lessons that it applied as a result of learning?

Also, I came to know from community folks about accreditors continuing project visits even when no one was around which begs the question, how were positive or negative reports made in the absence of information? Where is “evidence-based” in that? Another practice heard through the grapevine rife in the Metro pertains to undergraduate research. Accordingly, a continuing advice of accreditors is for faculty to team up with student-researchers with the former becoming “automatic” co-authors, all in order to secure scores for “increased research products.” Is this all they’re capable of mentoring univetsities? Such a disappointment! I’m now more inclined to regard accreditation as just a business out for profit. Meanwhile in the frenzy to please accreditors universities acquire chronic amnesia as to what’s essential in their work.

On PACUCOA’s website are the basic principles of accreditation. Of these, I’d like to emphasize one, viz.

accceditation admits periodic review, criticism and readjustment of its criteria, policies and procedures to changes in education

Indeed. Accrediting bodies must open themselves for evaluation with the aim of updating their systems in order to respond better to realities of their clientele. In the US,

the federal government oversees accreditors via the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI), which reviews them at least every five years based on accrediting standards, site visits, and public comments from colleges or programs recognized by the accrediting agency to receive federal financial aid. This committee, whose members are appointed by Congress and the secretary of education, makes its recommendation about recognition to the secretary (who has the final say). The NACIQI gained national attention in 2016 when it recommended that the secretary of education terminate recognition of the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS), one of the largest accreditors of forprofit colleges, because of quality concerns (US Department of Education 2016).

Higher Education Accreditation and the Federal Government, Robert Kelchen, September 2017, Urban Institute

Only with the assurance of oversight – policing the police – will accreditation fulfill it’s mission of contributing to quality higher education.


Best use of land, again

So. Now that we’re seeing the physical form of the choice in the use of the land occupied by the country’s “greatest mall”, are we happy? On the promontory facing the Convention Center, we see a “fun-filled” park better appreciated at night because then everything’s lit up helping to make things appear “magical”. Then, we see the giant “water scooper in the sky.”

On the other side of this now private property, fronting University of the Cordilleras, where the old pine trees that had occupied it were supposedly safely “tree balled” (to where, one wonders), what looks like a parking building is slowly but surely rising from the ground.  Ah-ha-ha, and everybody thought the fight’s over there at Burnham Park (well, that’s the next one).

The real value of this once forested public space is its economic cost.  Unlike accounting cost that everybody’s familiar with, economic cost takes into account implicit cost which is the opportunity cost or simply what the community gives up or sacrifices for taking on a choice.  In this case, this mountain city has given up, practically, it’s oxygen and respiratory system in order to have a go at a ferris wheel and provide shade for it’s cars (not even public transport, mind you).  For what the community sacrificed, are the elation gained from the rides and the roof over private cars a good business choice? productive use of resource? ethical even?

There’s a reason why City Hall was designed to be the endpoint (or, start) of Session Road.  Every time it makes a choice for the community, that choice goes out of the hall either to facilitate the end of the community or its beginning.

What are we instruments of?

I’m reading Managed Heart: Commercialization of Human Feeling by Arlie Russell Hochschild. No, it’s not a romance novel. But, yes, it’s all about emotion. Emotional labor. Totally riveting concept of work. Here’s an excerpt:

In a section in Das Kapital entitled “The Working Day,” Karl Marx examines depositions submitted in 1863 to the Children’s Employment Commission in England. One deposition was given by the mother of a child laborer in a wallpaper factory: “When he was seven years old I used to carry him (to work) on my back to and fro through the snow, and he used to work 16 hours a day…I have often knelt down to feed him, as he stood by the machine, for he could not leave it or stop.” Fed meals as he worked, as a steam engine is fed coal and water, this child was “an instrument of labor.” Marx questioned how many hours a day it was fair to use a human being as an instrument… But he was also concerned with something he thought more fundamental: the human cost of becoming an “instrument of labor” at all.

On another continent 117 years later, a twenty-year old flight attendant trainee sat with 122 others listening to a pilot speak in the auditorium of the Delta Airlines Stewardess Training Center…

The young trainee sitting next to me wrote on her notepad,”Important to smile. Don’t forget to smile.”…

…the value of a personal smile is groomed to reflect the company’s disposition–its confidence that its planes will not crash, its reassurance that departures and arrivals will be on time, its welcome and its invitation to return. Trainers take it as their job to attach to the trainee’s smile an attitude, a viewpoint, a rhythm of feeling… This deeper extension of the professional smile is not always easy to retract at the end of the workday, as one worker in her first year at World Airways noted: “Sometimes I come off a long trip in a state of utter exhaustion, but I find I can’t relax… It’s as if I can’t release myself froman artificially created elation that kept me ‘up’ on the trip…

As the PSA jingle says, ” Our smiles are not just painted on.”… There is a smile-like strip of paint on the nose of each PSA plane. Indeed, the plane and the flight attendant advertise each other…

The work done by the boy in the wallpaper factory called for a coordination of mind and arm, mind and finger, and mind and shoulder. We refer to it simply as physical labor. The flight attendant does physical labor when she pushes heavy metal carts through the aisles, and she does mental work when she prepares for and actually organizes emergency landings and evacuations. But in the course of doing this physical and mental labor, she is also doing something more, something I define as emotional labor

Beneath the difference between physical and emotional labor there lies a similarity in the possible cost of doing the work: the worker can become estranged or alienated from an aspect of self–either the body or the margins of the soul–that is used to do the work. The factory boy’s arm functioned like a piece of machinery used to produce wallpaper. His employer, regarding that arm as an instrument, claimed control over its speed and motions. In this situation, what was the relation between the boy’s arm and his mind? Was his arm in any meaningful sense his own?

When she came off the job, what relation had the flight attendant to the “artificial elation” she had induced on the job? In what sense was it her own elation on the job? … The workers I talked to often spoke of their smiles as being on them but not of them. They were seen as an extension of the make-up, the uniform, the recorded music, the soothing pastel colors of the airplane decor, and the daytime drinks, which taken together orchestrate the mood of the passengers. The final commodity is not a certain number of smiles to be counted like rolls of wallpaper. For the flight attendant, the smiles are a part of her work, a part that requires her to coordinate self and feeling so that the work seems to be effortless… for otherwise the labor would show in an unseemly way, and the product–passenger contentment–would be damaged…

There have always beenpublic-service jobs, of course; what’s new is that they are now socially engineered and thoroughly organized from the top…

Emotional labor is potentially good. No customer wants to deal with a surly waitress, a crabbg bank clerk, or a flight attendant who avoids eye contact in order to avoid getting a request. Lapses in courtesy by those paid tobe courteous are very real and fairly common. What they show us is how fragile public civility really is. We are brought back to the question of what the social carpet actually consists of and what it requires of those who are supposed to keep it beautiful. The laggards and sluff-offs of emotional labor return us to the basic questions. What is emotional labor? What do we do when we manage emotion? What, in fact, is emotion? What are the costs and benefits of managing emotion, in private life and at work?

Our search for answers to these questions leads to three separate but equally relevant discourses: one concerning labor, one concerning display, and one concerning emotion



Twitterlandia today is abuzz with condolences for US Senator’s John McCain passing due to brain cancer. Wishers including former US Presidents mentioned the Senator’s heroism. That is little known to most. How is John McCain a hero?

McCain’s conduct during nearly six years in a North Vietnamese prison, the infamous Hanoi Hilton, had become the stuff of legend. In 1968, less than a year after his Navy bomber was shot down, the imprisoned McCain was abruptly offered unconditional release by the North Vietnamese, perhaps because his father had just been named the commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific. McCain was still badly crippled from his crash and the poor medical treatment that followed, yet he adhered to the P.O.W. code of honor and refused to be repatriated ahead of American prisoners who had been in captivity longer than he. His refusal was adamant. His guard told him, “Now, McCain, it will be very bad for you.” He was tortured for his defiance, and ultimately spent more than two years in solitary confinement. The abuse, combined with the after-effects of his injuries, left him physically marked. He could have avoided it all, but out of loyalty and—one has to name it—love for his comrades, he chose not to.

James Carroll. July 21, 2017. The True Nature of John McCain’s Heroism, The New Yorker

Wow. This makes me think about the Philippine Congress and the men and women in there. Who among them posess that McCain-like character? Sadly, no one. Everybody in there flaunt themselves as men and women of privilege (choosing the supposedly people-focused SONA to parade that), landowners from the Spanish colonial times, who consistently show themselves entitled to royal treatment from their own colleagues and servitude from the people.Not a bone of true heroism in them. And since it’s Sunday, I recall the city of Sodom .It would’ve been spared from God’s wrath if there were 30 good persons in it. Apparently only Lot and his family were all the good ones. They were told to flee the city before it was burned down. The present Philippine Congress finds itself in a similar situation. The good ones among them will save it But, will they have the courage?

Launching in July: 2018 State of the World Volunteerism Report

via @EvidenceUNV. FIRST PRINT of the 2018 State of the World Volunteerism Report, with the title ‘The Thread That Binds: Volunteerism and Community Resilience’

FINALLY, the much-awaited UN Volunteers flagship report 2018 State of the World Volunteerism Report (SWVR) with the theme Building Community Resilience in a Turbulent World which “sets out the value of volunteerism in relation to other types of resilience interventions” will be launched during the UN High Level Political Forum (HLPF) on the Sustainable Development Goals on 9 to 18 July 2018 in New York City. The year-long journey to the launch has been tremendously challenging considering the scale of work in putting everything together – largely done by volunteers no less – but ultimately rewarding for all involved.

Focus of the research were on these key questions: 1) in what ways do the distinctive characteristics of volunteerism help or hinder resilience?, and 2) what wider structures, policies, and norms affect volunteerism for community resilience? Field research was done simultaneously in 15 countries including the Philippines in 2017.

Development of the research conceptual framework, training of the international team of volunteers, and writing of the world report was commissioned to the research lead/consultant Benjamin Lough of the University of Illinois. Country researches were done by international and national volunteer-researchers in coordination with national UNV partner-organizations, and guided by international mentors, also volunteers, who served as link between the researcher-volunteers and the UNV team in Bonn.

On completion of the field research and country reports, a series of voluntary discussions were organized worldwide to obtain wider policy recommendations based on emerging findings culled from the country researches. Strategic “soft launches” such as at UN Climate Conference (COP 23) were also done.

It is the objective of SWVR 2018  that in the HLPF, member States, will have greater insight into the role and impact of volunteers and volunteerism and thus adopt the necessary policy measures to encourage and sustain volunteerism and support volunteers for resilience building.

Followers and readers of this blog are enjoined to visit the SWVR dedicated webpage on the UNV site here and here for more background information on the research process and related resources. On Twitter, follow @EvidenceUNV for updates. On Facebook, UNV will facilitate during the launch a live conversation between volunteers, member states and development partners on how best to collaborate with communities to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Agenda 2030. Audiences are invited to send polling questions, live comments and tweets using #SWVR18.

Also visit the High Level Political Forum 2018 website here for more information on the Forum (including countries’ Voluntary National Reviews on the SDGs (Philippines’ 2016 here)).


Probably the most feminist statement of the century


US First Lady Melania Trump continues to receive flak from US media for the statement on her jacket I really don’t care, do you? that she wore on her visit to the Mexico border amid public furor over immigrant children being forcibly separated from their parents. The media says she’s dumb for donning it at this particular time. But I think otherwise. Behind the seemingly silent, stoic, and reticent facade, I see a very smart and astute woman. And remember she was previously a model, used to projecting statements using face and body.

So let’s see. To me, the statement is satirical. It could actually be saying, hey, look, I left my hot bubble bath as soon as I could to be with these families, but where the fuck is everybody? Where?

In more detail, the statement could be directed to:

a) President Trump: Babe, where in god shit are you? How could I be here and you…there?

b) Media: I know it’s a bad time for you to leave the studio when you’re being dolled up for the cameras but…wouldja please put on your field jackets and get your insured asses over here?

c) Government of Mexico: They’re your people, no?

d) US Government / Congress: Look at what you made me do!

e) Everybody who care: Come om over or sponsor a migrant family.

e) The rest of the world, with eyes and can see: If you don’t have anything positive to contribute, just please…shut up!


On tambays

I don’t know why media people are reacting to old news as if they’ve just been born the past hour. Their strange reaction undoubtedly picked up by the viewing or listening public is bad influence. Bad as in fake as in divisive as in disinformative. As expected, they are quick to comment reacting without thinking apparently with no depth of knowledge on the subject of their report. Parents, if they cared at all, would unfailingly tell their children to get home straight away from school “hwag tumambay kung saan saan” malls (millenials’ favorite tambayan) included. Have media people forgotten that they too at one time have been recipients of the fair warning from their own parents?

The opposite of vagrancy or loitering is purpose. What the law in effect asks of citizens is to be aware, to be mindful of what we do. To be good citizens of the Republic. The law challenges citizens to work out for ourselves purpose-driven lives. We won’t achieve that with mindless behavior.


Why am I shrieking Guns n’ Roses at 10,000 decibels in the middle of the night in the middle of the street of 100,000 schoolgoing children and working people inside 10,000 houses both sides? Why am I doing it? Why am I drinking myself to death, as if there’s no tomorrow, with the street as my table and bed as well? Why am I doing it? Am I even aware of the repercussions? Why do I walk about in the street with my shirt off and expect others to regard it as normal whereas if I’m female and I do the same thing I’d be ridiculed even stoned? If we can justify these behavior without feeling an ounce of guilt or doubt then we’re vagrants– mindless people. People who don’t give a shit at all about themselves and others. It’s like committing suicide and murder at the same time only that the infliction on their victims (self and the others) is beyond physical. It’s on the mind and the psyche, until all sense of self respect becomes convoluted.

For people who know better to do nothing about the malady (it is, considering vagrancy was unheard of or minimal in our grandparents time) constitutes gross neglect. To apprehend the behavior now is actually saving the person before it’s too late. Apparently, families and communities fail to do that forcing the State’s hand on the matter.

The President merely reiterated a long neglected provision of the law that sitting ducks ie. local government units specifically the barangay, well, sat on. The provision in the Revised Penal Code on vagrancy has been established constitutional provided certain standards are in place. The following SC decision explains why it is so.


Ynares-Santiago, J . (Chairperson),
– versus – Chico-Nazario,
Velasco, Jr.,
Peralta, and
Bersamin*, JJ .
Respondents. September 18, 2009
x —————————————————————————————- x


If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of Heaven and Earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Assailed in this petition for review on certiorari is the July 29, 2005 Order of Branch 11, Davao City Regional Trial Court in Special Civil Case No. 30-500-2004 granting respondents Petition for Certiorari and declaring paragraph 2 of Article 202 of the Revised Penal Code unconstitutional.

Respondents Evangeline Siton and Krystel Kate Sagarano were charged with vagrancy pursuant to Article 202 of the Revised Penal Code in two separate Informations dated November 18, 2003, docketed as Criminal Case Nos. 115,716-C-2003 and 115,717-C-2003 and raffled to Branch 3 of the Municipal Trial Court in Cities, Davao City. The Informations, read:

That on or about November 14, 2003, in the City of Davao, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-mentioned accused, willfully, unlawfully and feloniously wandered and loitered around San Pedro and Legaspi Streets, this City, without any visible means to support herself nor lawful and justifiable purpose.

The first statute punishing vagrancy Act No. 519 was modeled after American vagrancy statutes and passed by the Philippine Commission in 1902. The Penal Code of Spain of 1870 which was in force in this country up to December 31, 1931 did not contain a provision on vagrancy. While historically an Anglo-American concept of crime prevention, the law on vagrancy was included by the Philippine legislature as a permanent feature of the Revised Penal Code in Article 202 thereof which, to repeat, provides:

ART. 202. Vagrants and prostitutes; penalty . The following are vagrants:

  1. Any person having no apparent means of subsistence, who has the physical ability to work and who neglects to apply himself or herself to some lawful calling;
  2. Any person found loitering about public or semi-public buildings or places, or tramping or wandering about the country or the streets without visible means of support;
  3. Any idle or dissolute person who lodges in houses of ill-fame; ruffians or pimps and those who habitually associate with prostitutes;
  4. Any person who, not being included in the provisions of other articles of this Code, shall be found loitering in any inhabited or uninhabited place belonging to another without any lawful or justifiable purpose;

The Regional Trial Court, in asserting the unconstitutionality of Article 202, take support mainly from the U.S. Supreme Courts opinion in the Papachristou v. City of Jacksonville case.

The underlying principles in Papachristou are that: 1) the assailed Jacksonville ordinance fails to give a person of ordinary intelligence fair notice that his contemplated conduct is forbidden by the statute; and 2) it encourages or promotes opportunities for the application of discriminatory law enforcement.

The said underlying principle in Papachristou that the Jacksonville ordinance, or Article 202 in this case, fails to give fair notice of what constitutes forbidden conduct, finds no application here because under our legal system, ignorance of the law excuses no one from compliance therewith. This principle is of Spanish origin, and we adopted it to govern and limit legal conduct in this jurisdiction. Under American law, ignorance of the law is merely a traditional rule that admits of exceptions.

Moreover, the Jacksonville ordinance was declared unconstitutional on account of specific provisions thereof, which are not found in Article 202. The ordinance (Jacksonville Ordinance Code 257) provided, as follows:

Rogues and vagabonds, or dissolute persons who go about begging; common gamblers, persons who use juggling or unlawful games or plays, common drunkards, common night walkers, thieves, pilferers or pickpockets, traders in stolen property, lewd, wanton and lascivious persons, keepers of gambling places, common railers and brawlers, persons wandering or strolling around from place to place without any lawful purpose or object, habitual loafers, disorderly persons, persons neglecting all lawful business and habitually spending their time by frequenting houses of ill fame, gaming houses, or places where alcoholic beverages are sold or served, persons able to work but habitually living upon the earnings of their wives or minor children shall be deemed vagrants and, upon conviction in the Municipal Court shall be punished as provided for Class D offenses.

Thus, the U.S. Supreme Court in Jacksonville declared the ordinance unconstitutional, because such activities or habits as nightwalking, wandering or strolling around without any lawful purpose or object , habitual loafing , habitual spending of time at places where alcoholic beverages are sold or served , and living upon the earnings of wives or minor children , which are otherwise common and normal, were declared illegal. But these are specific acts or activities not found in Article 202. The closest to Article 202 any person found loitering about public or semi-public buildings or places, or tramping or wandering about the country or the streets without visible means of support from the Jacksonville ordinance, would be persons wandering or strolling around from place to place without any lawful purpose or object. But these two acts are still not the same: Article 202 is qualified by without visible means of support while the Jacksonville ordinance prohibits wandering or strolling without any lawful purpose or object, which was held by the U.S. Supreme Court to constitute a trap for innocent acts.

Under the Constitution, the people are guaranteed the right to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures of whatever nature and for any purpose, and no search warrant or warrant of arrest shall issue except upon probable cause to be determined personally by the judge after examination under oath or affirmation of the complainant and the witnesses he may produce, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized. Thus, as with any other act or offense, the requirement of probable cause provides an acceptable limit on police or executive authority that may otherwise be abused in relation to the search or arrest of persons found to be violating Article 202. The fear exhibited by the respondents, echoing Jacksonville , that unfettered discretion is placed in the hands of the police to make an arrest or search, is therefore assuaged by the constitutional requirement of probable cause, which is one less than certainty or proof, but more than suspicion or possibility.

Evidently, the requirement of probable cause cannot be done away with arbitrarily without pain of punishment, for, absent this requirement, the authorities are necessarily guilty of abuse. The grounds of suspicion are reasonable when, in the absence of actual belief of the arresting officers, the suspicion that the person to be arrested is probably guilty of committing the offense, is based on actual facts, i.e. , supported by circumstances sufficiently strong in themselves to create the probable cause of guilt of the person to be arrested. A reasonable suspicion therefore must be founded on probable cause, coupled with good faith of the peace officers making the arrest.

The State cannot in a cavalier fashion intrude into the persons of its citizens as well as into their houses, papers and effects. The constitutional provision sheathes the private individual with an impenetrable armor against unreasonable searches and seizures. It protects the privacy and sanctity of the person himself against unlawful arrests and other forms of restraint, and prevents him from being irreversibly cut off from that domestic security which renders the lives of the most unhappy in some measure agreeable.

As applied to the instant case, it appears that the police authorities have been conducting previous surveillance operations on respondents prior to their arrest. On the surface, this satisfies the probable cause requirement under our Constitution. For this reason, we are not moved by respondents trepidation that Article 202 could have been a source of police abuse in their case.

Since the Revised Penal Code took effect in 1932, no challenge has ever been made upon the constitutionality of Article 202 except now. Instead, throughout the years, we have witnessed the streets and parks become dangerous and unsafe, a haven for beggars, harassing watch-your-car boys, petty thieves and robbers, pickpockets, swindlers, gangs, prostitutes, and individuals performing acts that go beyond decency and morality, if not basic humanity. The streets and parks have become the training ground for petty offenders who graduate into hardened and battle-scarred criminals. Everyday, the news is rife with reports of innocent and hardworking people being robbed, swindled, harassed or mauled if not killed by the scourge of the streets. Blue collar workers are robbed straight from withdrawing hard-earned money from the ATMs (automated teller machines); students are held up for having to use and thus exhibit publicly their mobile phones; frail and helpless men are mauled by thrill-seeking gangs; innocent passers-by are stabbed to death by rowdy drunken men walking the streets; fair-looking or pretty women are stalked and harassed, if not abducted, raped and then killed; robbers, thieves, pickpockets and snatchers case streets and parks for possible victims; the old are swindled of their life savings by conniving streetsmart bilkers and con artists on the prowl; beggars endlessly pester and panhandle pedestrians and commuters, posing a health threat and putting law-abiding drivers and citizens at risk of running them over. All these happen on the streets and in public places, day or night.

The streets must be protected. Our people should never dread having to ply them each day, or else we can never say that we have performed our task to our brothers and sisters. We must rid the streets of the scourge of humanity, and restore order, peace, civility, decency and morality in them.

This is exactly why we have public order laws, to which Article 202 belongs. These laws were crafted to maintain minimum standards of decency, morality and civility in human society . These laws may be traced all the way back to ancient times, and today, they have also come to be associated with the struggle to improve the citizens quality of life, which is guaranteed by our Constitution. Civilly , they are covered by the abuse of rights doctrine embodied in the preliminary articles of the Civil Code concerning Human Relations, to the end, in part, that any person who willfully causes loss or injury to another in a manner that is contrary to morals , good customs or public policy shall compensate the latter for the damage. This provision is, together with the succeeding articles on human relations, intended to embody certain basic principles that are to be observed for the rightful relationship between human beings and for the stability of the social order.

Article 202 does not violate the equal protection clause; neither does it discriminate against the poor and the unemployed. Offenders of public order laws are punished not for their status, as for being poor or unemployed, but for conducting themselves under such circumstances as to endanger the public peace or cause alarm and apprehension in the community. Being poor or unemployed is not a license or a justification to act indecently or to engage in immoral conduct.

Vagrancy must not be so lightly treated as to be considered constitutionally offensive. It is a public order crime which punishes persons for conducting themselves, at a certain place and time which orderly society finds unusual, under such conditions that are repugnant and outrageous to the common standards and norms of decency and morality in a just, civilized and ordered society, as would engender a justifiable concern for the safety and well-being of members of the community.

Instead of taking an active position declaring public order laws unconstitutional, the State should train its eye on their effective implementation, because it is in this area that the Court perceives difficulties. Red light districts abound, gangs work the streets in the wee hours of the morning, dangerous robbers and thieves ply their trade in the trains stations, drunken men terrorize law-abiding citizens late at night and urinate on otherwise decent corners of our streets. Rugby-sniffing individuals crowd our national parks and busy intersections. Prostitutes wait for customers by the roadside all around the metropolis, some even venture in bars and restaurants. Drug-crazed men loiter around dark avenues waiting to pounce on helpless citizens. Dangerous groups wander around, casing homes and establishments for their next hit. The streets must be made safe once more.

Though a mans house is his castle, outside on the streets, the king is fair game.

The dangerous streets must surrender to orderly society.

It must not be forgotten that police power is an inherent attribute of sovereignty. It has been defined as the power vested by the Constitution in the legislature to make, ordain, and establish all manner of wholesome and reasonable laws, statutes and ordinances, either with penalties or without, not repugnant to the Constitution, as they shall judge to be for the good and welfare of the commonwealth, and for the subjects of the same.

The power is plenary and its scope is vast and pervasive, reaching and justifying measures for public health, public safety, public morals, and the general welfare. As an obvious police power measure, Article 202 must therefore be viewed in a constitutional light.

WHEREFORE , the petition is GRANTED . The Decision of
Branch 11 of the Regional Trial Court of Davao City in Special Civil Case No. 30-500-2004 declaring Article 202, paragraph 2 of the Revised Penal Code UNCONSTITUTIONAL is REVERSED and SET ASIDE.

– Read the complete ruling at sc.judiciary.gov.ph

Lessons on labor “importation” from hiring dynamics in football

The World Cup kicks off today in Russia, and for the players who perform well, it could earn them a transformative move to a European club. Are these moves a boon for fans and development, or are they an example of how migration and money have gone too far?

But with only 11 players starting per football club, isn’t this a classic case of another migrant taking a job that would otherwise be done by a native? And isn’t the amount of money completely disproportionate to the talent? And what has football really got to do with real life?

Are footballers just a lump of labour?

In general, the idea that when migrants arrive they deprive a “native” of a job is a fallacy both theoretically (because the migrant’s consumption creates jobs) and empirically (because large influxes of migrants don’t increase unemployment). This is known as the “lump of labour fallacy.”

While it’s true that in football there are only 11 players in the starting line-up, the extra quality that migrants bring to a league attracts new supporters, which in turn creates new jobs on the playing staff (through bigger squads), in coaching, TV, and on the commercial side.

Pairing the best players with the biggest platforms makes sense for fans and players alike. The infrastructure of stadia, leagues, and television technology at the big clubs enable more fans to appreciate a player. This is the same as migration everywhere—pairing ability and commitment with the capital creates more output.

But aren’t players paid too much?

Top footballers do indeed earn too much because TV money is inflated by clubs’ market power. But while competition authorities allow football to generate huge sums, who other than the players deserve them? Their earnings largely reflect that so many of us are willing to pay to watch them, and television technology means that we can.
Take the Champions League final a fortnight ago between Liverpool and Real Madrid—similar past audiences were estimated at around 180 million people . If each subscriber paid €10, then the revenue would be €1.8 billion. Who deserves that? The stadium owners, the TV crew, presenter, and commentator need some—but it’s the players who create the spectacle. For 48 squad members, that’s over €37 million each.

These substantial financial rewards attract talent. They create incentives for Bale, Ronaldo, or Salah and their parents to devote their lives to practising football and tempt them away from other careers.

Science, football, and life

But what has all this got to do with real life? Surely football is just a sport. Football is unique because skill level is almost completely observable. So, talent is recognised and rewarded quickly. It’s clear that Messi, Ronaldo, Pele, and Maradona are the best—and even an amateur fan can see it. The best players are easy to spot and fans quickly accept them in their teams for the same reason.

Contrast this with talent in other sectors, like science or entrepreneurship. Imagine if the Pele of science was in Russia or Saudi Arabia. With the best equipment and colleagues, perhaps that scientist could cure cancer, or make the key breakthrough in mitigating climate change—but will he or she be spotted and allowed to move?

Top-level football is remarkably liberal when it comes to migration, and the world’s audience and players both reap the benefits.

World Cup 2018: The World’s Biggest Open Audition, Ian Mitchell, Center for Global Development

On the ongoing reality at the US-Mexico border


International NGOs supporting children and their development have this mantra: children cannot wait. On that note, US President Donald Trump’s relatively quick response to events at it’s border with Mexico is commendable. Separation of children (to social welfare centers) and their parents (to jail), according to the Executive Order, is an unanticipated negative side effect of the administration’s border policy. The Order should mitigate that.

Nations should now be over the time in world history when children are taken away into institutions just because adults deemed their thoughts, words, and deeds immoral or queer. We know more now about child development. We know now that the attitude and belief toward children then were a grave and sad mistake.

Migration has to be understood as a symptom, an effect, of an emerging phenomenon everywhere but especially felt in countries with weak institutions: insecurity in an all-encompassing sense. Conflict, discrimination, unemployment and joblessness, emergencies and disasters both natural and climate-induced, resource depletion caused by indiscriminate corporate practices, land grabbing by transnational corporations, etc. When the grass is as green as that next door why would people want to permanently leave their homelands?

Developed countries need to own part of the problem. After all, they were the key players that produced this modern world and it’s inherent issues. Sure, illegal immigration should be addressed. But, to punish children who are the least responsible? If there should be anybody responsible, it would have to be the originating country’s government. What are they also doing to address illegal outmigration of their people? And what neighboring countries should do now, proactively, is to talk and include in their bilateral agreements provisions on migration/border management.

Culture and the build, build, build strategy

Today on GMA’s 24 Oras were featured potholes on asphalted sections of EDSA, newly-damaged from the recent habagat rain. DPWH personnel who were interviewed cited as cause “heavy and frequent vehicular usage of the national highway”. My god. Who do they think believe the crap they say?

The reasoning is in stark contrast to the national strategy in this sector of build, build, build and people would like to believe that quality is inherent in this strategy, because who is the government that would build, build, build houses out of sticks? But, that’s what DPWH frontliners are effectively communicating: the asphalt roads they built, built, built could easily be blown off by a mere few breaths of a medium-sized wolf of a habagat.

Pinoys here need to cast off their pwede na mindset once and for all. Quality work should be a habit not an act. If we continue with pwede na, this country will never attain the desired level of progress even with the right development strategies in place.


But who sets culture? When ‘HR’ at the organization I was working had been changed to ‘People and Culture’ following the trend internationally, we wondered what in the world does it mean? How is HR the right “person” to manage culture or even set the culture? We were right, eventually. The lesson learned was,


Similarly, when quality in roadworks is not set and demanded as a standard by DPWH managers, then it’s personnel and vendors that will dictate the result which could be anything. When DPWH managers go by the same inane reasoning of their staff, then woe to the nation. When they sign off on vendor payments, salaries, and wages despite non-delivery of contract provisions, then woe to taxpayers. As managers, they are responsible for the result – the brand – that the agency is reputed for.

What then is the right fit of people – managers, supervisors – that DPWH ought to hire into its build, build, build strategy? I suggest that the agency go back to its hiring mantra and practices and make changes.


On the “ouster” of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno


I don’t understand the hullabaloo over the “ouster” of Sereno as Chief Justice, which, thanks to media, is perceived by the general public as a “decidedly manipulative” move of the current administration. Well, bad news people the “ouster” isn’t wrong, not in the way you thought it.

In this country, the position of Chief Justice is an appointed position by no less than the President. On that note, if I’m appointed into a position, more so if it’s the highest and most coveted in my industry, I’d feel beholden to the person (or, committee) who appointed me. I’d feel very grateful toward that person. I’d bless that person every minute of my waking day. I’d swear loyalty to the person (even to his or her kin) who has power over my appointment. The dynamic, on the whole, mimics the relationship between creature and Creator. This is the nature of appointments.

On the other hand, if the person who appointed me is leaving the organization or moving away, I’d expect him or her to be responsible enough to discuss with me (including HR) my future with the organization. Does my appointment still stand, is it still valid, when he or she leaves? If not…well, these details should’ve been spelled out and mutually agreed on right from the start. Like, a prenup agreement. In the absence of a written agreement or specifics to that matter, the appointment is valid only until the term (or, whim) of the appointing party. Afterward, appointees are subject to the will of the wind.

In that situation, I won’t wait for when I’m told to my face to get out for lack of provision on continuity. I’d be proactive about it and go, grateful for the opportunity, deserving of it or not, to have been trusted with the position at all.

Sereno is an appointee of former President Noynoy Aquino who’s not exactly chummy with the current one (at least that’s what we know). Sereno, obviously, isn’t either.

Following the nature of appointments, the incumbent President has the prerogative to make his own set of appointments which as early cues have indicated doesn’t include Sereno. Solicitor General Calida’s accusation that Sereno didn’t comply with JBC’s requirements is moot given that it’s sufficient that the incumbent President by himself rescind or terminate his predecessor’s appointments which he does not honor or does not see serving the goals of his administration.

The real hullabaloo surrounding Sereno then should be about, (a) how come it is made to appear that Sereno is ousted by the current administration, (b) how come that Congress tagged along too justifying it’s involvement by Sereno’s lack of compliant SALNs, (c) how come that esteemed UP people wete too quick to launch #BabaeAko campaign implying that the case is a gender, and most confounding of all, (d) how come that Sereno played along with what apparently is a simple game of round robin? What do these strange bedfellows make of the Filipino nation by this – if I may call it – prank?

If there’s anybody who should be called in to enlighten the nation of why it deserved a Sereno, that would have to be the one who made the appointment. And, if there’s anybody who should be called in to enlighten the nation of why it doesn’t anymore deserve a Sereno, that would have to be the one who is presently making the appointments. These two should at least have the balls to proactively make a stand for their choices. The rest need to shut up.

Yet, the most crucial issue remains: why is the position of Chief Justice a mere appointment? Is this inscribed in the Constitution? Well, it is stupid. Foolish. And it doesn’t make sense. It’s inconsistent for the Constitution to say that the person in the position is unimpeachable when she is an appointee. How would an appointee, who owes her job and position not to hard work but to somebody who has favored her with it, imbibe the objectivity of Lady Justice? The people shouldn’t even expect it. How could her co-Justices, who are not appointees but are there as a result of hard work, not resent her appoinment? How would a Supreme Court that’s headed by a Presidential appointee and divided because of this truly fulfill it’s role as an institution independent of the Executive Office?

These are the real issues that continue to eat at the country, which media, if it’s still in it’s right mind, ought to make news of.

To be truly independent, and unimpeachable, the Chief Justice ought to come to the position through objective and fair means, a point system perhaps showing beyond doubt that he or she is the most deserving among his or her peers. Or, actually why not have the CJ elected in keeping with the two branches of government wherein the elect are accountable to the people (although we’re also having problems with this concept). Then, every good and persistent lawyer out there has a fighting chance. Then, Chief Justices are the products of a rational system rather than of politics gone wrong.

A Radically Different Imaginative Landscape — Watershed Discipleship

Following my earlier post on the proposed National Bible Day, here is an excellent way to put biblical teachings into action (which the country needs more of), in keeping with the call to preserve biodiversity:

I learned about watershed discipleship while hanging out with some Mennonites about a year ago… the proponents of watershed discipleship invite Christians to become “disciples” who emphasize and attend to specific “bioregions,” that is, watersheds. The term “watershed” simply designates the reality that every region is attached to complex, interconnected sources of water, which shape the surrounding region. Watershed discipleship is taking seriously the unique context (cultural, biological, etc.) in which discipleship takes place… What does the particular community surrounding your watershed think about time? What seasons or events are significant to that particular region? What kind of people must we be to care well for our watershed? And what kind of spaces are appropriate to our watershed (i.e. do we really need another parking lot or do we need a green space populated with beneficial plant life?)? Finally, how does being a people who all depend upon the same source of water resist and finally unravel the idea of anonymity?…

Perhaps we will find our own unique way to be disciples in our watershed, disciples who take seriously the call to grow our roots deep into the soil of the city to which we’ve been called.

via A Radically Different Imaginative Landscape — Theology Forum

On International Biodiversity Day: SEARICE Statement for the CSO Consultation on the Right to Food

I’m not a farmer, but my work constantly brings me to them (or, them to my awareness). I feel for them, especially the small farmers. They’re among the most under-appreciated and least supported of this country’s producers. But, visualizing the food chain with ourselves as top consumers, I also feel for myself, that is, the quality of food available for my intake, given that I rely on others to grow a large portion or all of my daily food. And, of course, for my children and the quantity and quality of food available to them growing up and in the future.

If and when farmers do not, fail, or stop growing food…can you imagine living off on canned and injected processed goods three meals a day the entire year (or, even, a lifetime)? Can we imagine this country finally possessing a complete arsenal of machinery that could destroy the world but with people that are emaciated, wasting, and sickly because of lack of adequate nutritious food?

Food, then, particularly it’s quality and availability, grown locally, basic to the survival of 100M Filipinos and counting, should be on the top priorities of the Philippine government. We’re unlike our food-importing ASEAN neighbors Singapore or Brunei in land capacity. Relative to these countries, this country has comparative advantage in local food production hence should not be signed away. I understand the need to strike a balance in investments, but the situation right now is that although foreign investors are small in number this 10% already owns 80% of the food production. The rest is a mine field populated by various local players in a shark-eats-shark competition for the market. This and we’ve not yet mentioned who owns the land. What this country need to do away with right now is monopoly and oligopoly and start embracing healthy competition and aligned to it, biodiversity.

The following Statement by SEARICE was issued in 2015 and reinstated here today as the same proposal has yet to be responded to by duty bearers:

Seeds are the source of food and livelihood of small farmers. Small food producers like the farmers, especially in developing countries, operate within an informal seed system. Farmers save, re-use and exchange seeds with other farmers, and this has sustained their agricultural production and contributed to crop diversity ever since agriculture begun.

We emphasize the direct contribution of biodiversity to food security, nutrition and well-being. It provides a variety of food sources of a range of nutritional requirements, and provides a safety net to vulnerable households in times of crisis. Diverse farming systems contribute to more diverse diets to communities that produce their own food, thus improving nutrition, and providing solutions to malnutrition.

We wish to build on this universal context of the farmer seed system and its vital role in ensuring agricultural biodiversity which is recognized by the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA). Likewise, we support the recommendations of the former Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier de Schutter in his Final report: The transformative potential of the right to food. We give particular attention to the general recommendations of the said Report on which we are able to put forward specific recommendations drawn from our site-specific experiences in engaging with farmer organizations and networks from CSOs and government agencies at the local, national and international level.

State Obligation to Protect, Promote and Fulfill the Right to Food and the Implementation of Farmers’ Rights.

Outside of the UN system, the attributes of the informal seed system of farmers have been translated into formal legal entitlement through the Farmers’ Rights provided under the ITPGRFA. These rights are: right to equitably participate in sharing benefits; participation in decision-making; protection of traditional knowledge; and the right to use save and exchange seeds. However, these rights only relate to the plant genetic resources, and their implementation is left to the national governments of the contracting parties with no specific provisions under the Treaty on the remedies in case of its violation. It was noted that “these so-called farmers’ ‘rights’ remain rights without remedies: they are rights only by name. The provision remains vague, and implementation of this provision is highly uneven across the States parties. This is in sharp contrast with the enforcement, at international level, of plant breeders’ rights and biotech-industry patents. Furthermore, there exists no forum in which the implementation of farmers’ rights in various settings is discussed, in order to provide benchmarks and examples of good practices which Governments could seek inspiration from.

We therefore recommend the immediate signing of the proposed Executive Order PROVIDING FOR THE COLLECTION, CHARACTERIZATION, CONSERVATION, PROTECTION, AND SUSTAINABLE USE OF PLANT GENETIC RESOURCES FOR FOOD AND AGRICULTURE, APPROPRIATING FUNDS THEREFORE AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES. The proposed draft was drawn from the 2-year-long meetings and consultations with key stakeholders. It provides among others that the Department of Agriculture, with the participation of relevant government agencies, farmers’ organizations and other stakeholders, shall conduct a review of laws, policies, rules and, regulations relating to plant genetic resources, including seed regulations, to determine if they are consistent with Farmers’ Rights and recommend such actions as may be needed to amend or modify them. The review shall include recommendations on how to address violations of Farmers’ Rights, including the imposition of penalties. This will actualize the state commitment to implement the Farmers’ Rights at the national level and it will set into motion the review of existing policies that runs contrary or is not supportive of the protection of farmers’ rights. Moreover, it will be consistent with the call for the swift implementation of farmers’ rights.

At the local level, local governments units (LGUs) promoting sustainable agriculture through adoption of organic farming practices, establishment of seed banks to conserve and manage farmer-bred and traditional seed varieties for local food security should be promoted by the national government. These practices enhance the functioning of the farmer seed system, thereby ensuring the availability, accessibility, and adequacy of seeds. Ultimately, it ensures the agricultural biodiversity and food security of the local communities. Municipalities like Arakan and Clarin in Mindanao and Calasiao, Pangasinan in Luzon have invariably drafted local ordinances that support and institutionalize farmers’ rights and the accompanying support system for their realization such as proposal to establish seed banks and seed registry for farmer-bred varieties and traditional varieties.

Promoting Innovations and Incentives on Plant breeding and the De Facto Exclusion of Farmers.

The Philippine Plant Variety Protection Act of 2002 (Republic Act No. 9168) provides protection to new plant varieties in the Philippines, as part of the country’s compliance with its commitments under the WTO-TRIPS. It follows the same requirements for protection, terms of protection, and scope of breeders’ rights as the UPOV 1991 Act, but differs in that it provides for a non-optional exception in favor of the traditional right of small farmers to save, use, exchange, share or sell their farm produce of a protected variety (with certain exceptions and conditions), a gene trust fund, and a community registry, among others.

A Human Rights Impact Assessment (HRIA) on the specific provision[7] of PVP Act of 2002, which is very similar to UPOV 91, indicated the following results:

  1. It could negatively impact the functioning of the informal seed system. Its restrictions on the use, exchange and sale of farm-saved PVP seeds would severely affect the positive linkage between the formal and informal seed systems, and make it harder for resource-poor farmers to access improved seeds. Moreover, selling seeds (including those protected by PVP laws) is an important source of income for many farmers. From a human rights perspective, restrictions on the use, exchange and sale of protected seeds could therefore adversely affect the right to food, as seeds might become either more costly or harder to access.
  2. Restrictions on the use, exchange and sale of farm-saved seeds might lead to fewer options for farmers, who then become increasingly dependent on the formal seed sector. Improved varieties, however, often require more inputs compared to local farmers’ varieties, pushing up production costs. In the case of varieties protected in line with UPOV 91, seed costs drive up production expenses even further. From a human rights perspective, higher production costs pose a risk to cash-strapped farmers by destabilising their household budget. This could negatively impact a range of human rights, by reducing the amount of household income available for food, healthcare or education.
  3. Furthermore, there have been indications that several UPOV-related provisions could undermine other public interest policies and processes by negatively impacting the state’s ability to comply with other international legal obligations (for example under the Convention on Biological Diversity or the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture) or national policies.
  4. In conclusion, the research provides clear evidence on potential human rights impacts and further areas of concern that should be carefully considered when designing and implementing PVP laws. The findings of the impact assessment showed (i) strong dependence of small-scale farmers on informal seed systems in developing countries, (ii) the threat to the enjoyment of the right to food when access to seeds of protected varieties is restricted, and (iii) the increasing malfunctioning of the informal seed system as the result of stringent laws including UPOV 91-style PVP laws on seeds

Relevant recommendations of the study to the Philippine Government are as follows:

  • undertake an HRIA before drafting a national PVP law or before agreeing to or introducing intellectual property provisions in trade and investment agreements in the area of agriculture;
  • improve the linkages between the formal and informal seed systems and apply a differentiated approach to PVP for different users and different crops;
  • ensure that governments abide by a transparent and participatory process that includes all potentially affected stakeholders when drafting, amending or implementing PVP laws and related measures;
  • inform government agencies and others involved in seed policy about their obligations concerning the right to food;
  • identify what accompanying measures may be necessary for new PVP-related laws, and implement them, including measures to mitigate and remedy any potential adverse impacts of the PVP-related laws on human rights or on the informal seed sector;
  • monitor the impact of PVP laws on the right to food, with particular attention to ways in which PVP-related laws or policies impact different segments of the population.

Quality Seeds for Farmers through Seed Certification. The Seed Industry Development Act of 1992 (Republic Act No. 7308) seeks to promote and accelerate the development of the seed industry, including the conservation, preservation and development of PGRs of the Philippines. A key policy objective of this law is to promote the development of quality seeds and encourage private breeding through incentives. Seeds to be certified as “quality seeds” have to undergo the certification process, the cost of which is prohibitive for small farmer-breeders for the testing of the varieties that they have bred. This was aired by farmer-breeders during the Farmer-Breeder Conference conducted by SEARICE last December 2014.

A farmers group in Calasiao, Pangasinan, on the other hand, lamented that even though they have produced surplus of local varieties that they have bred and developed, the local government could not procure the seeds that they have produced since there is a standing government guideline to procure only certified seeds, otherwise, it will be disallowed by government auditor. Thus, this has the effect of de facto exclusion of farmers from market access and to the incentives provided under the law, and ultimately, on their economic right to livelihood and their right to food in the context of having means to access it.

Although we find it commendable that the Department of Agriculture came out with a Guideline on the Implementation of Community-Seed Banks, which recognize an equivalent quality control for seeds produced by farmers, we recommend the review and/or amendment of existing seed certification laws/standards to incorporate and allow for local (i.e. provincial or regional) mechanisms to recognize and certify farmer-developed rice varieties.

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) and Food Availability and Access:

  1. FARMERS’ ACCESS TO TRADITIONAL VARIETIES DIMINISH: In the Philippines, the introduction of GMO crop like Bt Corn has significantly reduced the availability of and access of farmers to various conventional or traditional varieties. In Candon City, Ilocos Sur, most corn farmers are using Bt Corn because this is the only available variety in the market. Farmers claimed that they are having difficulties in finding the usual conventional and native varieties that they plant in their farms.
  2. LIMITED INFORMATION ABOUT GMOs: Farmers have little or no information about the GMO crops that they are planting. In the Philippines, there are farmers who claimed that they don’t know that Bt Corn is a genetically modified variety or what GMOs are in general. They were only informed that Bt Corn is a new variety that will address pest control problems, particularly the corn borer.
  3. FARMERS COULD NO LONGER SHARE OR EXCHANGE SEEDS TO OTHER FARMERS: Sharing and exchanging seeds among farmers have been a universal practice among farmers for centuries as part of the cultural and traditional knowledge of farming communities. With GM crops replacing native or traditional varieties in the market, farmers can no longer share or exchange seeds because GM crops are protected by patents.

We recommend the following:

  1. Review EO 430 and the Philippine Bio-safety Guidelines. The mandate of the NCBP, emanating from EO 430, should be reviewed. The leadership role played by the DOST in this policymaking body should be re-considered in view of the fact that the agency’s flagship programs are centered on modern biotechnology. The National Committee on Biosafety of the Philippines (NCBP) has not been up to task in performing its duty to raise public awareness on the issues and development of genetic engineering, as mandated in Executive Order 430. It has instead concentrated its efforts in processing and approving applications of field trials of genetically engineered crops like Bt Corn, Bt Eggplant and Golden Rice. Issues in public participation on biosafety regulations, accountability and transparency should have primacy in the review process. The Philippine Biosafety Guidelines should likewise be reviewed, in light of the recent developments in genetic engineering worldwide and the coming into force of the International Biosafety Protocol under the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD);
  2. Finally, we support the passage of House Bill 3795, also known as the Right to Adequate Food Framework Act of 2014 since it will provide among others a comprehensive framework to ensure the right of every Filipino to access adequate food at all times. On this note, we wish to underscore the need to incorporate agricultural biodiversity in measures to address hunger, poverty and nutrition.

*emphasis in italic and bold, mine

Rethinking Small Town Economic Development — Aaron M. Renn

A friend introduced me to downtown revitalization consultant David Milder, who sent me some of his thinking on economic development in small towns. I thought his idea for “small town entrepreneurship environments” was interesting, so I recorded a podcast with him on the subject. We talk about why many small towns can actually compete, why seeking…

via Rethinking Small Town Economic Development — Aaron M. Renn

Click to listen to the podcast on SoundCloud

SK and Barangay Elections 2018: eeny, meeny, miny, moe

Eenie, meenie, miney, moe,
Catch a tiger by the toe.
If he hollers, let him go.
My mother said to pick
The very best one
And you are not it.

When the Sangguniang Kabataan and Barangay Local Government Unit elections were postponed for what seemed like indefinitely public expectation in general was that a plan toward improvement of the two institutions, the SK and the Barangay LGU, was in the works. But, here we are today with the holding of local elections come Monday, 14 May, and except for the one or two push messages from Globe and National Telecommunications Commission reminding subscribers of the ban on campaigns done in specific ways and places, nothing. It’s the same saba all over again. To this, you could hear the people going what else is new?

Use your vote

Is there anything more that could be done about the situation?

The general belief and attitude among Filipino voters toward government is that the President has all the answers to their problems therefore has all the power to change the country’s ills. This cloths him or her in God-like omnipotence. Not only is this understanding absurd and dangerous in democracies like the Philippines, it also ignores and does away with local government, that level of government having the most impact on the lives of the people.

In 2018 and beyond, therefore

  1. We want SK and Barangay officials who have in their minds if not their hearts the best interest of the people in the villages.
  2. We want local authorities who are efficient and effective managers (meaning, they get things done on time according to plan or public expectations) or at least learning and striving to become efficient and effective managers of their villages. We want local authorities who are leaders that don’t cower in the presence of top brass when arguing that top-down policies and actions are not helping the people and communities.
  3. We want local authorities who source their passion from the people that put them there and not from the promise of money, fame, and power.

We do not care for local authorities who appear on our doorsteps camouflaged as sheep (when they really are goats), as tigers (when they really are hyenas), or as owls (when they really are bats), and when voted upon based on these mistaken identities conveniently forget vows and promises made (“er, that was the tiger talking”). We are so fucking sick of and done with their kind.

But what if it’s the same faces and names that we don’t care for? That’s the conundrum in Monday’s elections, see? Power is underhandedly taken from the people who are inevitably left with little or no choice. The other option is electoral boycott for, well, want of public preparation. But imagine the chaos that could ensue. Who now wants chaos? Then again are we not already living in a silent, waiting kind of chaos? Suppose federalism pushes through in the near future, we’ll be seeing again the same authorities elected on Monday.

On the diplomatic row between Kuwait and the Philippines

Kuwait cuts off power, water to Philippine envoy’s home headlines the Philippine Star on 3 May. What? What did the Filipino ambassador do to earn the fury of the Kuwaiti Government? Without knowing more about the incident, I’d say that for anyone to cut off your basic utilities not content with declaring you persona non grata— he must be really, overwhelmingly, pissed off (nanggigil nang husto). But why does this piece of news make me want to laugh? As the question goes about the three blind mice, has there ever been such a thing?

Power. The word flitted across my mind to sum up the information I got on the incident. The test is,

if the US Embassy in Kuwait were the ones who did what the Philippines Embassy did there, would the US Ambassador and Embassy personnel made to suffer exactly the same fate under the Kuwaiti Government?


Take the principle of No Interference provided in the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic and Consular Relations. It’s an open secret that the US Government has dabbled enough (for locals to perceive it as interference) in the Mideast in the name of protection (ie. of US interests, and, well, world peace). We have yet however to hear of Mideast governments cutting off supply of utilities in US Embassy residences. If there would be a cutting off of something, it would be in trade – oil? – but not residential utilities for the United States. Otherwise, the Mideast governments will only make a laughingstock of themselves. You gonna cut off the electricity eh? Hello there NASA, bring in that solar spaceship! The more powerful a country the more sophisticated the treatment. The Kuwaiti Government apparently has deemed that cutting off Ambassador Villa’s utilities at his house is the most hurtful way to get at the Philippine Government. In a way, then, the Philippines has gotten away with less to worry about. With China humping happily on our back, the Bangsa Moro watching and waiting on the edges, the Commies flip-flopping like a car engine gone berserk, many young people un(der)employed, and the great masses still landless and poor, ah god, the Philippines can do very much with one less issue thank you. Even if it hurts our collective pride that our country by Kuwaiti standard is only as good as the cost of one household’s electricity and water!

Moving on, the Philippines’ rescue mission can be categorized as diplomatic asylum,

asylum granted by a State outside its territory, particularly in its diplomatic missions (diplomatic asylum in the strict sense), in its consulates, on board its ships in the territorial waters of another State (naval asylum), and also on board its aircraft and of its military or para-military installations in foreign territory

which, according to the UN Secretary General (1975), evolved from early custom and law,

he who has taken refuge in the house of a diplomat shall not be followed there, and his pursuers are to feign ignorance of his presence

-Venetian Statute, 1554

royal decree,

May the houses of ambassadors provide inviolable asylum, as did formerly the temples of the gods, and may no one be permitted to violate this asylum on any pretext whatever

-Charles V

and legal reference,

The American institution of asylum, with the special characteristics which it assumes on the continent, is, in short, the result of two coexisting phenomena deriving from law and politics respectively and in evidence throughout the history of this group of States: on the one hand, the power of democratic principles, respect for the individual and for freedom of thought; on the other hand, the unusual frequency of revolutions and armed struggles which, after each internal conflict, have often endangered the safety and life of persons on the losing side.

-Government of Colombia, to the International Court of Justice

DFA Secretary Alan Cayetano is therefore correct when he said that Ambassador Villa was merely doing his job. So shame to the DFA career diplomats apparently acting on their own who without further investigation were quick to call on the resignation of the Secretary (turning our backs on fellow Filipinos who dared risk their reputations and careers for others is exactly the mindless behavior of Filipinos that has gotten this country beholden and going around in circles).

There is, mind you, a caveat. Diplomatic asylum should not extend to criminal law offenders, for the reason that,

There would be no more sovereignty if within each State there was an independent territory which could serve as a refuge for all criminals and a hotbed for all kinds of conspiracies, and which could oppose its own law to the law of the country. The independent authority of ambassadors would completely absorb that of Governments.


We, here, wouldn’t want something like that happening in our own backyard, do we? Thus: were the rescued OFWs at the time of the rescue slapped with criminal cases under the Kuwaiti Government? If it’s a yes, the right thing to do in this case would be to follow the legal process – this world’s like that – and ensure that these innocents-until-proven-guilty OFWs are armed with the best legal minds and supported with the resources they need throughout. That’s what OFWs need, require, from their Embassies abroad anyway and it’s the lack or inconsistent delivery of these that has gotten OFWs in trouble abroad in the first place. If it’s a no, that is, there is no case filed against the OFWs, they are free to go, to walk out of Kuwait, and return home. Exactly what the Philippines Embassy expedited. No crime there. The President shouldn’t have apologized.

To close, the diplomatic row could’ve been avoided, easily. But, in acting on the dictate of their tempers, both sides missed the opportunity to finally work on a mutually-rewarding solution to a common concern the plight of OFWs. Let’s hope both sides will come to their senses quickly, repair relations, and aim for the greater good. That after all is the mission of international diplomacy.

Source (of quotes): Question of Diplomatic Asylum. Report of the Secretary-General. UN. 22 September 1975.

WTF! No!

National Bible DaySpecial working holiday- what does this even mean? how does Congress imagine workers getting time off to revisit and reignite affinity toward the Bible, on their lunch break? Because the classification – double pay is it? – would incentivize workers to work not take the day off in order to spend time on their Bibles. Between the choice of double pay and the Bible, workers would opt for? For the masses of unemployed or on hand-to-mouth subsistence, the law if passed has no impact on them whatsoever. They’re largely the ones already living the Bible fanatically so but where does that leave them, in the trenches (of ignorance, hunger, etc.) still. As for businesses especially SMEs struggling to establish themselves, it would be another unwanted dent on their pockets (perhaps a reallocation away from that planned much-needed capital investment). The only people to gain from such legislation would be, hands down, ass-kissing folks in Congress and their BFF-counterparts in the churches (it’s one more reason to collect “donation”). I can’t believe this Congress of today!

Regardless, there are far more critical national issues hounding this country than religion (we have too much of this already) or religiousity or a sudden love for the Bible. I’m tempted to post a long list of national concerns here but everybody, even folks cleaning the loos and sweeping the streets, know them already. We don’t want to repeat ourselves.

C’mon, people-elect in Congress, the people did not vote for you to breathe down their necks conjuring up as their pastors or priests and priestesses not even their Sunday School teachers. The nation isn’t one bible study cell, in case you need reminding.

If Congress is very much itching to promote the Bible, it’s part of the work, the public’s challenge, is to transform itself into an institution that citizens can be proud of, one that reflects the messages and spirit of the Bible! A personification of the Bible! Thou shall not impose acts of holiness if you’re unable or refuse to do them first yourselves is the golden rule Pharisees whom Christ so loathed fail to live by.

Thoughts on Labor Day: volatile young demographic

studies show that the higher the percentage of “fighting age” population (16 to 30 year-olds) in a country, the higher its chances for civil unrest, instability and war. The tipping point is when more than 60% of the population is younger than 30. In that case, the chance for civil war is a staggering one in two.

5 trends for the future of economic growth, weforum.org

That, or sports which the Sangguniang Kabataan seems to invest much of their elected time and resources in. Has there been a review and consequently revisioning of what the SK is for in the scheme of things? The SK Elections will push through on the 14th, how is this version of the SK an improvement of the previous years’? We don’t know, or at least majority of the voting public doesn’t. How then would young people vote wisely for change (as we’re now being push-messaged by Globe)?

Water wars

Today is World Water Day. Time to ask, yet again, what is the state of Philippine waters today? has water for drinking and household use in particular improved in quality and quantity? to what extent is the improvement this year?

This year, let’s cite as an example a water resource closer to home. Bued River. That portion forming the boundary between Rosario, La Union and Sison, Pangasinan both connected by the Agat Bridge.

agat bridge
Source: wikimedia commons

The River, technically a system says the DENR, spans 31 kilometers originating in Baguio City (covering 25 of it’s barangays including Camp John Hay reservation), and runs downstream following Kennon Road toward the two Benguet municipalities of Itogon and Tuba, then to La Union (Rosario) and Pangasinan, and finally draining into Lingayen Gulf. The River forms part of the Bued River Watershed as well as the Agno River Water Basin. It’s recently been declared by the DENR as a Water Quality Management Area (WQMA). As an WQMA, the resource is managed by a governing board chaired by the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) of the DENR hence assured institutional support for quality management. In fact, there’s a 10-year management plan on this.

Still, the River is a disaster. From Baguio City, on Kennon Road, approaching the police station, the air reeks of foul-smelling hog waste already a signature scent the entire way and has inadvertently replaced the soothing smell of pines. The smell is so offensive at times that it makes you want to throw up right where you are. What does this imply? Hog raisers are not complying to required sanitation measures (and nobody from the LGUs are checking and sanctioning). How and where do all that amount of hog poop disposed of day in and out, year in and out? Biology tells us that there is no wastage in nature, that everything is recycled, meaning, whatever’s put into and dissolved in the waters of the River eventually find their way back to us, into our guts and bloodstream. I therefore recommend that V/VIPs particularly decision-makers and policy-makers going up or coming down Baguio City to give their car air-conditioning a rest, open their windows (or, get out of the perfumed air of their cars), and smell the roses outside. It’s the easiest, quickest, and no-cost way to get to know local issues first hand (as compared to time-consuming convening of Governors and Mayors and spending public money on copious amounts of overpriced coffee that has zero effect on initiative). If shit is what enters their noses, then, well, they should know what to do next.

But if they don’t trust their own sense of smell, they could read up on a study about the River: GIS Application for Local Governance and Accountability in Environmental Protection: The Case of Bued River authored by Engr. Nathaniel Vincent A. Lubrica of the University of the Cordilleras. The research was published in the University’s research journal Tangkoyob (Volume 7, No.1, October 2013). Alternatively, a video summary is posted on Youtube,

The River has been a subject of contention even in the 20s and renewed conservation since the 70s. It’s 2018 and we’re now witnessing a vast gray desert of sorts especially in that Rosario-Sison area. A River without it’s water. The ominous heat reflecting from it’s excavated bed is such that it could dry up unprotected corneas (open your windows to know). Once, as I was riding a jeepney along the Bridge, two elderly women next to me were clucking their tongues and reminiscing how the River has turned out into “this desert” and how “scary (it is) to imagine the scenario ten years from now”. Indeed. The effect and impact of this desertification is presently felt in the areas covered by and reliant on the Bued River Watershed. Lack of supply. Water wars.

In my new place, water is a very, very scarce resource it’s scary. The community had come to a point in which they appointed a lawyer to administer over the community water system because relative to the barangay officials “he knows what to do”. I’m told that serious fighting over access to the supply have previously broken out among the otherwise peace-loving residents. Apparently acute lack of water does that. I’m just really lucky that this lawyer is my neighbor (so that if I’ve run out of stored water I could just yell from the bathroom for the valve to please be opened. Ha ha. But seriously it does help a lot if one has access, directly or indirectly). Otherwise there’s a deepwell at my place powered by a jetmatic pump but it has stopped working due to the previous renters’ negligence (what irresponsibility given the water situation). My friends from Baguio City promised to come over and repair it. In the meantime, if worse comes to worst, and I hope it won’t come to that, we could go over my aunt’s farm, ten minutes walk away to the neighboring barangay, where there’s flowing supply of clean water (we’ve tried drinking from straight without getting upset stomachs) from a hand-pumped deepwell. Such a contrast.

It’s the sustained and increasingly extensive mining and quarrying of the River. Like, termites slowly but surely eating away at a house and destroying it. But far worse than termites these mindless humans in question have not re-planted even just one tree to mitigate their exploitative activities.

quarrying Bued River
Source: wikimedia commons

I’m not going to delve into the science of how these activities over time change the working of the River system not to mention it’s effect on the local climate because, well, it would be good as another article. But, the National Irrigation Authority (NIA) position in 2011 frames the argument succinctly (bold phrases mine for emphasis),


Strongly supported by NIA’S more than forty years of invaluable experience in the operation of the San Fabian Irrigation System and considering the historical facts of the Bued River and backed by our technical assessment of the various phenomena that took place in the area and its effect on the San Fabian diversion dam, the Regional Manager and Staff of the National Irrigation Administration firmly believe and state that:

a. The lowering of the riverbed is the main reason for the damage and collapse of the old diversion dam. This is perceptible by examining the old and latest design of the dam whereby the downstream apron is typically set at riverbed elevation or lower. In the original design of the dam, the downstream elevation was then at 51.00 but needs to be lowered to 47.5 or 3.50 Meter below for stability and hydraulic considerations in the 2009 dam design.

b. The lowering of the riverbed is greatly affecting the delivery and application of diverted water for irrigation because of deep percolation due to a much lower water table. This is manifested by the diminishing irrigated area from 2,765 has. In the 1970’ s to a mere 1,144 has. even during the wet crop season since 1994 to present.

c. The more than 4.5 meters difference of elevation from the downstream apron to about One (1) kilometer of the Bued river near the quarry site is causing the slope of the river to become steeper thus increasing the velocity of flood water. Stronger current carries more sediments and scouring the embankment and nearby farmlands as they are made of finer and erodible materials.

d. The existence of sandbar in the middle of the river is causing the shifting of fiercer water current towards the western embankment thus the erosion of farmlands and houses at the same time scouring the riverbed.

e. To stop further the lowering of riverbed no quarrying is allowed downstream of the dam. This is to allow the river to negate the effect of retrogression and extensive quarrying, i.e., to replenish the extracted materials downstream of the dam up to the mouth of the river until such time that more gentle and more stable slope shall have been attained.

What do our laws say about mining and quarrying? These activities are supported under certain conditions (bold phrases mine for emphasis):

RA 7942 Section 19 Areas Closed to Mining Applications

b. Near or under public or private buildings, cemeteries, archaeological and historic sites, bridges, highways, waterways, railroads, reservoirs, dams or other infrastructure projects, public or private works including plantations or valuable crops, except upon written consent of the government agency or private entity concerned;

d. In areas expressedly prohibited by law;

Section 79(a) DENR Administrative Order No. 2010-21

No extraction, removal and/or disposition of materials shall be allowed within a distance of one (1) kilometer from the boundaries of reservoirs established for public water supply, archaeological and historical sites or of any public or private works or structures, unless the prior clearance of the Government agency(ies) concerned or owner is obtained.

DILG Memo Circular 44 s. 2014

3) Mining including quarrying is not allowed in areas categorized as No-Go Zones pursuant to the pertinent provisions of RA No. 7942 and EO No. 79. Beaches (within 2 meters from the mean low tide), foreshore areas (within 500 meters from the mean low tide), and river banks including the mandated buffer zone pursuant to Presidential Decree No. 17 and the Water Code of the Philippines are No-Go Zones.

Elementary students given adequate explanation would understand these provisions so what in them isn’t clear to the adults? It’s the set ways of adults regardless of whether these are right or wrong. Like their set ways in urinating and spitting in public. Or, unsanitary disposal of garbage. But citing old dogs can’t be taught new tricks isn’t an excuse before the law. In fact, the case of the Bued River degradation is a prime example for public litigation under Writ of Kalikasan. The inadequate and polluted water supply (not to mention the worsening heat as there’s no flowing water to absorb or store heat energy, food insecurity and loss of incomes as a result of diverted irrigation water) in the affected communities in the four provinces is an outcome of the River’s and it’s watershed’s deterioration (in fact, wala na ngang River to speak of) that has resulted from continued defiance of quarrying (and mining) laws.

Imagine the extent by which a handful of enterprises were able to negatively transform the nature of a water resource and consequently affected thousands of lives. Hello DENR, was it you who said human survival depends on clean water? How could local governments just sit there and watch without regard the desertification of an invaluable resource that’s in their own front yards? Where is rule of law in the few enjoying financial returns from third party use of a public good at the expense of the majority owner? And everybody should stop pointing at the changing climate for this destruction.

Why it’s imperative to exercise caution in making judgments

What is overlooked or given little attention to today’s conversation on human rights violations, poverty, and corruption, among others, in the global South is that these generally are views of the free (or, first) world nations and governments that started so much ahead in the race to development. We forget that back when they were in the same situation, riddled in poverty and rampant corruption, they too employed now-questionable methods to solve those problems. But the difference is that these countries then didn’t have to additionally deal with, for instance, trade sanctions due to, say, domestic labor exploitation in factories producing the goods being traded. And that the continuing poverty in Africa and Asia is interlinked to today’s phenomenon of global ownership of local resources, in other words, there is no way individual smallholders of land or any other contestible domestic resource could compete with the amount and desires of global capital.

The game is hugely biased toward owners and administrators of this capital. Yes, a percentage of first world’s GDPs is allocated to overseas development assistance (ODA) but the lesson learned is that unless locals themselves are capable of financing their own development no amount of ODA pouring in will transform poor communities much less nations. Such capacity entails local ownership of local resources, local leaders and champions with the strategic vision, drive, and initiative, and locals willing to make sacrifices now.

Would today’s first world countries be where they are today without their tenacious and compelling leaders who used their Pied Piper talent to rally the nation toward a singular vision? In no other time in the world than today has it become more urgent that a more honest conversation takes place about the rules of the game and the ways less free countries could truly benefit.

Modern life phenomenon:  Minister for Loneliness

On Wednesday, the U.K. made political history by creating an entirely new, untried political role: the world’s first “minister for loneliness.” The post is designed to combat what Prime Minister Theresa May called “the sad reality of modern life” for many people.

Half a million British people over 60 only talk to another person once a week or less. People who self-report as lonely are more likely to experience dementia, heart disease, and depression. When it comes to life expectancy, the long-term health effects of loneliness are equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

The World’s First Minister of Loneliness, Feargus O’Sullivan, Citylab

Maybe there’d be less songs for the lonely in the world, let’s see.

L-worthy design

Longaberger Company basket buildingBuilt in 1997 as the headquarters of the Longaberger Company—an American manufacturer and distributor of maple wood baskets—the building takes the shape of the company’s biggest seller, the “Medium Market Basket.” The building measures seven stories and 180,000 square feet. The structure and its surrounding 21 acres were purchased by developer Coon Restoration.

But news has it that the building’s sold to a developer. The current design is amazing so I hope it stays. 

The Philippines doesn’t venture into similar “riskier” designs, architects here influenced and still preferring Brutalist design ie. concrete-heavy fortress-like buildings. But what buildings would we have if builders design out of the box? A bahay kubo (nipa hut) perhaps? But then there’s already the iconic still operational Cultural Center in Manila…derided by people of the extreme right on the grounds that it was a project of Imelda Marcos (in other words, everything the former First Lady had ever touched is bad). Or, perhaps a reimagined pine tree…burned during the holidays in Baguio City. Accordingly some people had had enough of the artificial kind that manifested each year the dirty hand of politics.

Tourism which is being aggressively-promoted in the country iif it is to endure as a unique offering need to be packaged as a total experience of place which includes architecture. You can’t call people to come visit for them to just see or smell the flowers (literal and not!) and not care about them seeing vandalism on buildings, abandoned and decaying properties, and haphazard and uninspired design all over the place. Consciously designing the place ideally right from the start should eliminate the need later on to hide from visiting VIPs embarassing elements such as decay.

Urban diaries

How can urban diaries influence effective city planning and development outcomes?

My answer, first of all, is that using the time-honored words of designer George Nelson, “to see is to think.”

I believe that urban diaries are one key to a more inclusive and empowering approach as our cities change around us. A camera and smartphone are great tools for development of this exploration and vocabulary. We can focus on common urban themes, such as street corners, plazas, parks, and other shared spaces, and evaluate what appeals to each of us, and what does not.

Urban diary topics are as varied as the inspiration that we find in cities. The urban diary interprets the intersection of the public and private realms, the boundaries of the built and natural environments, the relationships between land uses and transportation, and issues of adaptive reuse and public safety.

Five concluding suggestions gleaned from Seeing the Better City summarize how to start thinking more visually in urban settings, and help read, frame, and connect with urban surroundings:

  • Choose the diary tool and type. Will you photograph, write in a journal, sketch, record audio, tweet, or do a combination of each? Pick a medium that best fits your diary’s purpose, whether your aim is to explore, document, or advocate for change.
  • Plan your path. Decide whether to follow a prescribed path or wander. Where will you start and end? Will you walk, bike, use public transit, or drive? Use maps (paper or digital) to gain perspective and define initial goals.
  • Select what you will focus on. Examples include the role of transportation, nature, color, the overlap of public and private space, height and scale of buildings, street features, spontaneous expression (e.g., graffiti), and feelings of safety or discomfort.
  • Use the book’s LENS (Look, Explore, Narrate, and Summarize) Method. Here are some easy examples: summarize the walk from your home to a chosen destination in one to two paragraphs, videotape a walk, bike trip, or other focused activity along a street, or use continuous shutter or “burst” mode to photograph street life that you observe from a passing car, bus, streetcar, or tram.
  • Finalize conclusions and use. Assemble and present photographs and other diary media in a way that will inspire and show what is possible and what might be adaptable to your city or neighborhood. Most importantly, address human character and opportunity, no matter how the diary will be used.

 Seeing the Better City, Making a Better Place, Charles Wolfe, Planetizen

“Women’s paths to peace”

Saan ko nga ba huhugutin and aking Kapayapaan? / Where do I find my Peace?
Kagalingan sa sakit / Healing from pain
Kaligtasan sa hinagpis / Refuge from despair
Katapusan ng alitan / The end of conflict
Walang hanggang kapayapaan / Never-ending Peace
Sa armas? / In the use of arms?
Sa pagtitiis? / In forbearance?
Ang manahimik o magmaktol? / To keep silent or brood?
Ang tanggapin ang lahat ng latay? / To endure every lash?
O gumamit sa matinding galit? / Or seek revenge in blind rage?
Sa mundo kong mabilis ang pag-ikot / In my world ever-spinning
Nakakahilo / Dizzying
Saan ko nga ba huhugutin ang aking Kapayapaan? / Where do I find my Peace?
Saan nga ba? / Where?

– opening poem, Paths to peace: A forum on women’s spirituality 2001, Women’s Feature Service Philippines Inc.

Today, the International Day of Elimination of Violence Against Women

We, in the Philippines, need to review the current Anti Violence Against Women and their Children Law (Republic Act 9262) to include non-spousal violence. This requires a real and comprehensive understanding of gender inequality, that is, violence done to women (and their children) isn’t confined within a male-female relationship, but also, in many instances, within a female-female relationship as for example a mother-daughter relationship wherein either is the perpetrator or abuser. As I’ve written in earlier posts here, women also abuse other women in covert and overt ways. What if your own mother assaults you and your children in the middle of the night? What instant legal remedy could you avail of? Authorities and public services, per RA 9262, respond only to women-victims of spousal or partner abuse. It’s the saddest thing when authorities are themselves at a loss when you tell them that you want a protective order against your mother. 

One might argue there are in the Revised Penal Code remedies against non-spousal violence. True, but, you see, the treatment under this Code differs from that in RA 9262. In the latter, there is urgent response and “special” considerations ie. arrangements that are sensitive to needs of the woman-and -child(ren) victim which are not provided for in the former (RPC). 

The lesson here is, policy-makers, in enacting gender-equalizing and protection laws need first to understand the concept of gender and women ie. it is not just men who are violent or abusive. And what about domestic violence done to LGBTQ? Moreover, enactment of laws such as RA 9262 cannot be divorced from laws such as on divorce given that women’s rights are non-divisive. One’s right to life cannot be divorced from one’s right to education. Sama-sama lahat yan. Policy-makers need to understand these in order to draw up effective policies.

International day elimination of violence against women

Four years post-Yolanda: remembering Filipino aid workers

the filipino aid workers of typhoon haiyan
Newton Tech4Dev Network launches the book The Filipino Aid Workers on November 9, 2017 at De La Salle University. The commemorative book brings together powerful stories and evocative photographs of eight Filipino aid workers who conducted technology and communications work for international aid agencies in the wake of Yolanda. The book recounts not only the difficult stories of working in an emergency context, but also their personal challenges. The launch will feature a roundtable to discuss with the aid workers to be honored their key lessons learned from the Yolanda response and invite reflection on how global aid agencies can better support local aid workers.

The featured stories provide a snapshot of the work of Filipino aid workers in the country, the challenges encountered in the field, and the innovative solutions borne out of those challenges. The book is available to download on Newton Tech4Dev.

Baguio City: UNESCO City of Crafts and Folk Art

​The role of culture is…now taken into account particularly within Sustainable Development Goal n°11 to “Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”. UNESCO and other stakeholders have been actively advocating for the integration of culture and creativity in the international development agenda.

2030 Sustainable Development Goals

It is first and foremost at local level that culture and creativity are lived and practised on a daily basis. It is therefore by stimulating cultural industries, supporting creation, promoting citizen and cultural participation and approaching the public sphere with a new perspective that public authorities, in cooperation with the private sector and civil society, can make the difference and support a more sustainable urban development suited to the practical needs of the local population.
The contribution of culture to urban development is also acknowledged in the New Urban Agenda (led by UN Habitat).

Building partnerships and sharing practices lies among the key principles of the (UNESCO Creative Cities) Network. However, despite significant effort to improve the geographical balance of the Network, cities from the Global South are still under-represented. Ensuring equitable representation from different regions is a strategic objective to ensure the sustainability of the Network through inclusiveness as well as its capacity to demonstrate the power of creativity for sustainable development in diverse social and economic contexts, in line with the core values of UNESCO. Opening up the Network to cities from the Global South also offers the opportunity to explore new dimensions of creativity, often more intimately linked to local development, which is also a source of mutual learning for member cities.
The seven creative fields provide an anchor to characterize each city, ensure their visibility and facilitate fundraising to support their programmes. The categories also reflect the identity and strategic positioning of the Network and constitute an added value for its visibility. 

Baguio City joins UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network, as a City of Crafts and Folk Art.

Baguio City UNESCO Creative City Crafts & Folk Art
via UNESCO webpage

So happy for the City! So proud for the woodcarvers, weavers, knitters, painters, tattooists, folk singers, writers, dancers and choreographers, jewelry makers, etc.! They have faithfully preserved their craft even when it has gotten difficult over time. Indeed the global recognition is a dream come true and opens up a world of possibilities for both the community and the City.

Quoted texts (except par.2), source: Building a Collective Vision for the Future, UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN) Strategic Framework 2017-2021

Quoted text, par.2, source: Why Creativity? Why Cities?, UNESCO UCCN website

Why Ms. Avancena should be called First Lady and reporters, male and female, need to overcome prejudicial views of women

Common law wife. Others, just wife. Some, partner. But first things first: common law wife is not necessarily synonymous with mistress or kabit.

And, please, wife or partner is a non-title. It would be the height of discourtesy, or is it unlawful, in Britain, for example, if a local reporter headlines his report with Prince William arrives in Paris for a second State visit with his commoner wife Katie and their half breed children George and Charlotte who by the way is a spitting image of old lady Elizabeth. Such reporting will I’m sure bring out the Red Queen in Queen Elizabeth II. Wife, whether the woman is in Britain or the Philippines, a royal or not, is an adjective not a title not even a person. 

The President has been heard to have spoken about Ms. Avancena as replaceable, but logic would tell you, it was uttered perhaps just to wake up sleepy heads in the audience – at which time the sleepy heads did wake up, wrote down what they’d just heard, without understanding that those words were really for them not about Ms. Avancena, and if they’d dug deeper into previous talks, they should’ve also heard the President crediting Ms. Avancena for helping him look after his health which says something about his trust of her – so that, as verified by deeds, he’s actually respectful of her, a case of actions speaking louder than words.

Hence ik-kan tayo met a apo iti asin dayta sa-o tayo (let’s add in salt to our words), as what old folks in Ilocandia remind younger people. Let’s be more professional in our approach to reporting. Or, if we don’t want professional, then, be gender sensitive as this is a required competency in journalists. 

Moreover, media people’s refusal or difficulty acknowledging Ms. Avancena as the First Lady (shocking, too, that on the Net “history” has written her off as just businesswoman and nurse) in light of the annullment of the President’s first marriage could only be explained by machismo and prejudice overtaking their education. Because, people, in the Philippines:

When a man and a woman who are capacitated to marry each other, live exclusively with each other as husband and wife without the benefit of marriage or under a void marriage, their wages and salaries shall be owned by them in equal shares and the property acquired by both of them through their work or industry shall be governed by the rules on co-ownership.

In the absence of proof to the contrary, properties acquired while they lived together shall be presumed to have been obtained by their joint efforts, work or industry, and shall be owned by them in equal shares. For purposes of this Article, a party who did not participate in the acquisition by the other party of any property shall be deemed to have contributed jointly in the acquisition thereof if the former’s efforts consisted in the care and maintenance of the family and of the household.

– Article 147 of the Philippine Family Code

Why media editors do not know that the law recognizes common law union and renders it with rights otherwise would’ve promptly called their reporters attention is grave negligence on their part. They’re lucky nobody’s suing them (look at US First Lady Melania and Duchess of Cambridge who sued media outfits who publicized their photos. Yes there is the right to free speech but there are certain lines that can’t be crossed, out of basic human respect for another). Such also points to the role of the coomunications outfit for Malacanan, in terms of laying out the protocol to be observed by media covering the Office of the President: official titles, official names (eg. is it Honeylet or Cielito?), and important what-nots. The choice of public address of the wife of the Philippine President reflects not just on individual reporters but more importantly  on the Filipino people as he is their elect and on the State which he and his family represents. 

Livelihood programmes:  a comedy of sorts

​In the days and months after the Sri Lankan civil war ended in 2009, aid groups wasted little time.

Many women had been on the front lines, fighting among the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Now, these groups decided, those women needed a healthy dose of “empowerment.”

In development circles, the word “empowerment” has become synonymous with an income stream. So the organizations offered the women opportunities to take sewing classes or attend beauty school. “These are women who had joined an armed movement because of their political ideals,” said Kate Cronin-Furman, a postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School who studies human rights and mass atrocities. “And they were being sent to learn cake-making.”

A lot of these programs were actually disempowering, Cronin-Furman found. They kept women at home, disconnected from their networks and from opportunities to organize. One government official told Cronin-Furman that despite years of training programs, she had never seen any of the women earn a living from these skills. “It’s not just that they failed to help,” Cronin-Furman said. “It’s that it actually made them worse off, cutting them off from political power.”

Aid groups say they’re ’empowering’ women with cows and chickens. They’re not., Amanda Erickson, The Washington Post

Precisely. This reminds me of Angat Kabuhayan a national livelihood programme implemented by the Office of the Vice President. Apart from it (1) reeking of bad politics, that is, an obvious PR tactic to endear the VP to the people (the natural outcome of the VP’s name, face, and person going around localities to launch this and that livelihood project), (2) use of public and donated funds as if it’s personal money by attaching the VP’s name instead of the Filipino people’s or donors’ names as programme owner, and (3) which compels people to ask what’s the country’s VP doing livelihood projects when the VP ought to be strategic, provide oversight to the national legislative agenda, and assist the President considering they’re both the current Administration ie. the Duterte-Robredo Administration? (in short, lend the Office of the VP the respect and credibility it should), the Angat Kabuhayan is another replication of the numerous livelihood projects of various government agencies. DSWD has it’s SL or Sustaimable Livelihood Programme (apart from livelihood projects attached to it’s 4Ps). DOLE has it’s Livelihood Integrated Program / Kabuhayan Program. DILG, it’s own (why the Department of Interior funds village association-level livelihood projects behooves me. Truly only in da Philippinesfunded through the Bottom-Up Budgeting process. The LGUs as well have their own. And we’re not mentioning here those by the I/NGO community that’s come to billions worth through the years. The question regardless is, to what extent have all these livelihood projects contributed over time to regional and national GDP? It is apparent, without a PSA-type impact survey to know, that it’s been minimal, and what’s been stimulating growth ie. consumption instead are OFWs’ regular remmittances from abroad. 

Livelihood is alright but only as a stop-gap intervention. It’s always been a stop-gap intervention, intended to transition skills-, resource-, or capital-poor households from hand-to-mouth existence as when on top of production training they’re taught basics of accounting and saving, but agencies and organizations looked at livelihood as the miracle cure to poverty and the direct path to immediate wealth. But how is that when, in the first place, majority of livelihood project beneficiaries do not own the land they built their houses on and till so that no matter the tools given them, be these in the form of carabaos, goats, chickens, hoes, and loads of training, if they cannot decide on their own how to appropriate the land and enhance it according to their needs, as well as if they also lack mobility (essentially cash and networks to be able to relocate to a better place) these tools will eventually come to naught as when granaries built for them free turned into dance halls if not white elephants. Carabaos, goats, and chickens are butchered one by one and eaten for dinner by money-strapped and near-starving beneficiaries. Livelihood has never been the engine of economic growth. It’s not now, in this fast-globalizing and hyper-paced world.

The other argument against livelihood as the miracle cure to poverty especially when it involves public funds is fairness and justice given that many of these projects are dole-outs to individuals and families who are identified by contestible measurements because they filter out the more economically poor. For example, how is providing ten heads of goats to a farmer-household on leased land while withhelding intervention to a woman-headed household whose house is on public land fair and just? Livelihood projects in these instances overlook the systemic causes of poverty thus perpetuating these dynamics and so no matter the interventions the community, overall, ends up as poorly, forever in circles. Moreover, it’s painful for a taxpayer who is, say, paying off a mortgage at the same time putting the children to school and struggling to sustain medical needs of elderly parents, to reconcile with the fact that one is working one’s butt off just so for government to decide, oh, hey, there’s one family (out of 10M) we’d grant a capital fund for a sari-sari store. If it was a personal choice, the taxpayer would just as soon hand the tax amount from the year’s earnings to his ailing and widowed neighbor.

It would seem livelihood projects are to keep the mass of poor people busy never mind if what they’re busy at has, without their knowing it, gone bust even before it could take off. We wouldn’t want them to congregate into an angry mob, chant insensible things, destroy public property, and maybe if they’re lucky, overthrow an administration because they’ve got nothing else to do, would we? So keep them happy and busy raising pigs (without a market).

What the country need to further stimulate, support, and take advantage of right now, any economist would tell you, is entrepreneurship. And entrepreneurship is essentially about owning “intangible resources” as for instance the ability to visualize a clear vision of the livelihood or business you want and to communicate this as clearly and convincingly thus compel others eg. investors, consumers to latch onto and actually build your vision. Traditional livelihood on the other hand is about other people eg. governmeent, I/NGOs going to you to tell you that what you need to get yourself rungs up the ladder is, say, weaving. They then get into your head by painting a very rosy picture of you and your woven products that are unique in all the world they’ve caught the eye of the global market…and millions in exchange. What’s funny in this is (1) it’s the outsider-vision peddlers who are really the entrepreneurs and the beneficiaries the “consumer-victims” (for lack of an appropriate term), and (2) the “promise” of producing a “one-of-a-kind” product hence profit is however undermined or negated even before the beneficiaries have started with their weaving business because of funders’ decision to distribute 1,000 weaving kits which is all the households in the neighborhood.
The fair and just approach to poverty alleviation, aside from the support of entrepreneurship, is a social insurance system comparable to the Nordic countries’. We have a system but is still far from being fair and just. For one, many of the poor remain outside of the SSS and PhilHealth system which begs the question whatever happened to the “registration of indigents” that LGUs are supposed to oversee? It should’ve been completed by now.

Another is the upgrade of basic and adult education. The K12 that we have has turned out as an embarrassment to the study and profession of ‘public education’. The children no less are being shortchanged as a result. This conversation can start with the lack of and poor content quality of textbooks. Also, to have a significant number of illiterate adults at this time and age when technology is all around is the saddest thing for a country. The ALS program need to be re-designed for relevance in today’s workplace. But, in order for such innovations to be recognized and adopted, the public education system need to loosen up, meaning, to become flexible and agile.

And one more, land. How could the poor own land without being pushed to do the usual violence, or becoming victims of violence?  The right to own land is a human right, right? The concern is within libertarian aspirations thus ought to be the priority project of the Liberal Party. On the other hand, if the Communist Party is the one yakking about the poor owning land we ought to know this goes against communism (wherein resource ownership is communal) and is an indication of disjuncture within and among the Parties. Who are each of them yakking for really? ‘Me’, again?

In sum, what I’m saying is re-appropriate the amount targeted for livelihood projects instead to strategic high-impact programmes and initiatives. This implies a more efficient governance framework as programme redundancy is eliminated because then government and I/NGOs are talking to each other and agencies and organizations focus on producing and delivering their comparative advantages.

On human greed

‘Balance’ is an Oscar-awardee short animation film. It’s theme touches on human greed. I’ve had it for several years but it’s only recently that I watched it again.

My thoughts watching it is that greed is part and parcel of being human, it’s in fact a spectrum and the challenge is not to eliminate greed at all, because to an extent greed is necessary for human survival and continuity, but rather, as this brilliant animation shows, it’s striking a balance between “good” and “bad” greed. Extricating greed from the human system is impossible without causing irreversible harm to the human psyche. The less harmful way is to make dormant the “bad”. Or, better yet, to work out for a yin-yang situation.

“Good” greed is what pushes us to want to know about things in our environment, discover treasures, recognize the contribution (well, also the deceit) of others and allow them with us on the playing field, and so forth. 

Greed that veers toward the extreme end is one which sees the world as a place where there is only ‘me’ or ‘I’. In such a scenario, as what the film suggests, who’s going to help ‘me’ haul in the treasure chest? figure out how to open it? sell them if need be? Nobody. ‘Me’ ends up essentially with nothing. Greed of this degree completely contradicts the creation story of ‘us’ and ‘we’ hence is tauted as one of The Seven Deadly Sins.

The success of democracy (and free markets) rests on the framework of balance. Too much (eg. unregulated free market systems in which greed is given absolute rein) or too little (eg. communism wherein greed is altogether repressed in the service of community) causes a situation of imbalance which in turn implies the constant work of re-balancing.

The one lesson Filipinos have yet to learn going forward

Unity quote

We thwart the one who’s leading us. We wilfully disobey. We insist that our way is the only way. We don’t take well to suggestion or correction. Our pride and pocket hurting, we push the one who’s leading us into the waters and look for a puppet to replace the one who we’ve felled. But what does our history tell us? With or without a leader, whether he’s or she’s a puppet or dictator, highly educated or not, professional or actor, reluctant or eager to take the reins, each Filipino is rowing his or her own way.

Do we want to move forward to modernization? Then we need to sacrifice today. Modernization of transportation should’ve been done eons ago but it didn’t happen and when the government did make one commies were successful in thwarting the plan by labeling it as “anti poor”. BS! (Or, should I say what else do we expect from that ideology?) Thanks to them the problem of outmoded transportation has again overtaken us, now, together with an altogether new generation of commuters riddled with the result of past inaction.

Earth’s time space is forward (not backward) moving hence it’s inevitable that any change in our world is going to be in the form of improved versions of yesterday’s. Anybody who’s conscious of this fact yet insists otherwise, in effect wishing the nation and country to stay unimproved like the vineyard worker who instead buried the talents given him, is obviously a painter of an anti-human progress narrative, an anti-God.

In this day of advanced communication and planning models a smart transport union or association will not hijack the needs of the community just because they can (although such a capacity was rendered irrelevant with Malacanan declaring nationwide two-day suspension of classes and work). The group should’ve come up yesteryears pa sana with it’s side of the modernization plan and asked to speak and negotiate with authorities. That’s the win-win move. That’s business with a brain. That’s business with a strategy. That’s business with responsibility.

Members of Congress who publicly oppose the modernization plan thereby adding fire to the misdirected protest and undermining authority should be held accountable for sheer rebelliousness against a lawful order which eventually benefits the country and nation no less the jeepney drivers (because then with improved green-compliant jeeps the dagdag pamasahe they’re demanding every year or so is justified.

Iconic jeepney by thecolorofred

We Filipinos are crazy for agreeing, out of awa, to pay more and more for crap facilities and lousy service. Awa in these instances are misplaced.).

More on Burnham Park

This is Baguio City’s only park but how come City Hall couldn’t maintain it as it should? Is City Hall bankrupt?

Seats around the lake and elsewhere. They’re the same old ones from my childhood and my parents’ college years. What’s not doable with improving say five seats a year following modern design (as below) until every seat has been updated?

Park seating design

The grass at Melvin Jones football ground. Shamefully patchy and an embarassment to City visitors if not City residents themselves. The City’s tree planting activities should expand to grass patching in this area.

“Let a thousand flowers bloom” so goes the Panagbenga banner. Where else in the City to show this but Burnham Park? But, for several years now, the statement is like the truth in most ads: believe it at your peril. Take for instance, Pantene’s current TV ad of it’s 3-Minute Miracle Conditioner. This beautiful lady with the beautiful long hair goes off to stand inches away from a jet plane’s engine. The engine is started and the turbine whirls sending the hair flying in all directions. The turbine is turned off and…”damaged hair”. But no worries, Pantene Miracle Conditioner will save the day. Thing is, in the real world, there’d be no more hair (or, head of hair, wait, in fact, no more beautiful lady) to speak of when you stand right in front of a jet’s churning turbine. At full speed it’d send you off to Laguna de Bay if not suck you in…a bloody mess for the airline’s mechanics to clean up. Back to the Park. Anybody with eyes, a City resident or a tourist, can see that the few surviving flowers at the Park are near-wilting. Or, perhaps since the City has not actualized the bloom of a thousand flowers since the first festival it’s time to revisit the slogan to see if it’s still appropriate. The phrase is actually borrowed from Mao Zedong:

Letting a hundred flowers blossom and a hundred schools of thought contend is the policy for promoting progress in the arts and the sciences and a flourishing socialist culture in our land.

In reality, however, according to history, “many of those who put forward views that were critical of Mao were executed”. 

The Children’s Park. On hot windy days, earth from the grass-less ground is carried by the wind to end up on children’s skin and into their lungs. Meanwhile City Hall declares itself a child-friendly City.

The Cycling Area. The place is full of potholes. City Hall has leased this part to rent-a-bike entrepreneurs who, obviously, have not done any maintenance work. What are the provisions in their contract with City Hall? Whose responsibility is it to maintain and repair the area? If it’s the entrepreneurs’, what’s City Hall doing to ensure they act on their responsibility? The area is not private property that maintenance is left to the whims of the users.

The Park as a cultural space. For culture to thrive, grow, and be appreciated and enhanced, it needs to be made a regular part of community (or, public) life. Where else to do that best than at the Park? The mall has become the place to see, hear, and know culture but what’s hosted there are the commercialized versions. As a result, people now believe that them buying and putting on a pair of earrings of native design is culture. That’s similar to getting pranked on April Fool’s Day. Culture is a mindset, that shows in one’s daily decisions, actions, and habits.

Theater stage modern design

How else could Cordillerans pass on their indigenous legacy than through stories, songs, and dances, art forms very much indicative of who they are? Once a year as in street dances on opening day of Panagbenga is not doing their culture justice. These require a public staging place. How else did the English influence the rest of the world with their culture? They were staged (in short, written and replayed again and again to audiences who in turn passed them on to and through their networks and so forth, similar to Facebook’s friends of friends business model).

Open public theater

Speaking of Panagbenga, City Hall should’ve by now come up with minimum quality standards that booth-owners renting space at the Park should comply with (otherwise, go find the place where polluters are so welcomed). This sounds heartless but, think, this is the only remaining Park we have in the City- would we leave it’s health to business which if left alone to do it’s thing will naturally maximize free resource in order to squeeze out the most profit? The years have shown that the businesses that rented from City Hall were just that. 

Booth design sample starbucks

Finally, the felled trees of the Park. Where were they brought to? They should be publicly-displayed artistically, something like the one below, with appropriate captions (name, age, specie, history) as monument to ancient ones that had lengthily served the City and it’s people; also to educate and develop appreciation among the public for the City’s tree species and the role of trees in the survival of human communities.

Tree logs public display

The Philippine Senate today

Snollygoster definition

The Senate is so full of itself. Look at it’s reaction to some members’ named as “dogs of Malacanang” in one blog article (who knows, the writer might be from among them?). Explosive. But look at it’s reaction to Senator Sotto’s remark to Presidential appointee DSWD Secretary Judy Taguiwalo as “na-ano lang”. Silence. Look at Senator Hontiveros response to DOJ’s Secretary Aguirre’s alleged plot against her. Privileged speech. But look at it’s reaction to members’ broadcasted grilling of private citizens. Like the big bad wolf. Look at it’s reaction to Senator Trillanes’ having an alleged mistress at AMLC. Amused. But look at it’s reaction to Senator de Lima’s leaked sex tapes. Righteous.

It’s talk redounds to me, myself, my agenda, my image, my political future, my business interests, my political legacy to my family who’d take over one day. It’s really not about the country, the people, the good of Filipinos. Why are they even there?

“Owners” of Mindanao

Odd that, while countries such as UK and Australia have rallied their support behind the Moro people’s quest for self-determination, Filipino leaders from here have not shown the same active enthusiasm. Why? What is difficult with giving your own kin the freedom that you are fully enjoying? This country needs to take a hard look at why; therein lies the key to why this part of the country is constrained from attaining its potential.

​Christian Filipino legislators in the bicameral US civil administration played a hitherto unacknowledged role in pushing for the colonisation of Mindanao, as part of the Philippines, by proposing a series of Assembly bills (between 1907 to 1913) aimed at establishing migrant farming colonies on Mindanao. This legislative process was fuelled by anger over the unequal power relations between the Filipino-dominated Assembly and the American-dominated Commission, as well as rivalry between resident Christian Filipino leaders versus the American military government, business interests and some Muslim datus in Mindanao itself for control over its land and resources. Focusing on the motives and intentions of the bills’ drafters, this study concludes that despite it being a Spanish legacy, the Christian Filipino elite’s territorial map — emphasising the integrity of a nation comprising Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao — provided the basis for their claim of Philippine sovereignty over Mindanao.

Upholding Filipino nationhood: The debate over Mindanao in the Philippine Legislature, 1907–1913, Journal of Southeast Asiam Studies, National University of Singapore, Volume 44 Issue 2, Nobutaka Suzuki

To build or not to build: City parking at Burnham Park

Baguio City is back to two of it’s more contentious topics- parking and Burnham Park. The long term solution to this, given that the City’s land area is non-expandable unless the mountains around it are bulldozed (I say this because it’s actually started for inappropriate residential and commercial projects and I don’t know if some people have just totally gone mental) is usage of economic tools to manage vehicular traffic within the CBD in particular and car ownership in general. There has been no initiative from City Hall toward this, despite persistent recommendations from local architects and planners, which is why parking has grown and grown and grown into this monstruous problem now.

In the short- and mid-term, parking buildings could be considered which as prerequisiite should’ve undergone environmental impact assessments. Anybody who’s done an EIA would know that risks posed by construction of a parking building in Burnham Park include:

  1. Cultural – loss of heritage (mana) for the City’s present and future generations, as in, ano na lang ang mamanahin ng mga anak natin at ang kanilang mga anak? a graveyard of parking buildings?;
  2. Environmental – during the 1991 7.6 earthquake and aftershocks, those of us who were trapped in the CBD and spent the night (or, days) at the Park know, from experience, that the ground there is water underneath; increased pollution from incrrased vehicular traffic in and out the Park; increased heat island effect as a result of pollution and conversion of green space; accelerated loss of biodiversity as a result of pollution and habitat disturbance; decreased capacity of the Park to provide ecosystem services eg. air filtration, protection from solar rays, carbon absorption, climate regulation;
  3. Socio-Economic – loss of space for the City’s civic activities (eg. jogging, morning exercises especially among senior citizens, strolling instead of in malls thus benefitting from fresh air and natural Vitamin D) that promote health and wellbeing in the population; loss of green space offering to tourists and visitors (they don’t come to this mountain City in order to drool over a parking building but rather for the zen effect of mountain foliage and cool weather that are fast becoming a thing of the past by the way);
  4. Etc.

Such an assessment, together with cost-benefit analysis, will provide scientifically-correct data and information on which to base decision as to whether project risks can be mitigated or the entire project scrapped.

Let’s say City officials take the road oft-travelled which is, to go on ahead and put up, without being informed by an EIA, the parking building right in the Park. Common sense will still say the project has got be done in a way that it  will “continuously compensate” for the losses, hardships, and inconveniences it brings to the community. What are some of these compensations?

One, design. The reason why City folks (and others in the country) are protesting such a project is because of how ‘parking building’ has been normally imagined by Filipino builders: a massive concrete box and nothing else. Walang ka-arte-arte. The word now in building design is ‘green’ as in integration of carbon minimizing aspects of the naturally beautiful natural environment into built spaces.

Parking area design

Green building design

Green building design

And, since the City is the residence of choice of artists, the building could be a mount for their works (which by the way should be regularly maintained and, resouces permitting, changed periodically. One of the City’s bad habits, which it needs to change, is inaugurating a work of art in the public space and then completely forgetting about it until bugs have eaten it away and there’s nothing to see, or a passerby had to be hospitalized after the rotting thing fell on his head).

Green building facade design

Two, as talk show host Boy Abunda always reminds his audiences, be kind. This in today’s design sciences means, buildings are mindful of the needs of people, both their residents and visitors. An unkind building is one which has not for instance a single bench for children, the elderly, pregnant women, people with disabilities, or the suddenly ill to sit or rest while, say, waiting for the elevator to come up or down from the 100th floor.

Once, at a posh department store, at the ground-level parking area, I saw a man, maybe 50s, shopping bags of women’s brands to his side, sitting on a narrow bench just outside the mall doors. He was apparently waiting for his partner who I guessed, if she’s female, was still deliberating on a thousand choices of shoes. He looked spent and close to imploding. That area of the mall was hot but I had a feeling his state of being was more due to discomfort. Where he was waiting wasn’t exactly heaven and if he was inside his car, well, these days everybody’s saving on gas, and if he waited inside the mall he had to do it at a cafe or restaurant which meant he had to buy, again. 

Green building interior design

A kind building has thought ahead about it’s users and visitors and purposefully integrated human needs into it’s entire space (versus throwing in a bench or two on afterthought). My point, basically, is for buildings or technology to cater ultimately to humans (people) and not to things. When planners, decisionmakers, and builders use this as their guiding principle there’s no reason for most people to protest or suffer from effects of mindless decisions.