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 which is 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.

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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,

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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.

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On the “ouster” of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno

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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?

No.

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.

-Faustin-Hélie

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),

NIA’S POSITION ON THE EFFECT OF QUARRYING ALONG THE BUED RIVER DOWNSTREAM OF SAN FABIAN DAM

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.

Something beautiful

Displaced persons Marawi City
photo via Philippine Inquirer

We are all trying to change
what we fear into something beautiful

Peace is, ultimately, that ‘something beautiful’. Toward that, interim initiatives like rehabilitation and redevelopment of destroyed homelands need to be done. Another, repatriation of displaced persons and refugees. Yet another, preparing the displaced, psychologically, mentally, and economically, for their eventual return. And, on a continuing timeframe, respect for differences extremely difficult or impossible to change in oneself more so in others (eg. gender, race, religion, history) and not forgetting that at the bottom of it all we all belong to the same specie. The framework for human relationships then is one that should seek to promote collective resilience not to hasten destruction of the specie.

Home is where it all begins

In the 23 September 2017 episode of The Bottomline, one of the three male guests, Chair of International Studies of DLSU, gave this response to the host Boy Abunda’s query on why martial law appeal to many people,

People are looking for order… and a simple explanation to complicated issues hounding the country, and these they find in him (the President)

True. Just go at a street crossing. There are still plenty of people who, despite the red light, cross the street, arrogantly and defiantly too; despite the zebra crossing in school areas, do not slow down. Media as well, it persists on violating citizens’ rights to privacy and fair trial despite feedback provided them. And so on. Deviants only stop whenever police are present and go back to doing what they like when authorities aren’t around physically.

Martial law in this context is intended to correct persistent law breaking until such time deviants become law abiding, or law and order in deviant communities restored. It is after all the State’s duty to preserve law and order for it’s citizenry. However, since it’s real-world human communities, it is difficult, if not impossible to actually isolate x from y a relatively easy task in laboratory experiments. In the real world of humans, there is always spillover effects on the innocent or law abiding population. To make operations easier, therefore, the starting point is at zero ie. everyone is suspect. This is when martial law becomes problematic. Everyone starts blaming the implementer. But really the ones to blame, if pinpointing must be done, are the deviants, those without thought or care for the effects of their actions on others, the bad-influencers. Who was it who pushed the State to it’s limits (of tolerance, patience) in the first place? There were personalities who wanted the throne on the pretext of change. But was there ever a legitimate leader who gave up the throne to an usurper? You defend it like you naturally would your house from attackers. One could become ruthless doing this, naturally, angered by the attackers’ daring. Pasensya na lang kung ikaw ay naisama sa mga inaakalang kalaban. This is the context of Marcos’ martial law. I hope we won’t let history repeat itself again, and I say this to personalities who are wanting the throne in the pretext of democracy or righting human rights violations.

The Philippines is still relatively more tolerant, more free in the UN sense of the word than it’s Southeast Asian neighbors. Go to Malaysia, Indonesia, or Brunei- outsiders are bound to respect certain Muslim rules (here, we scoff at such rules confident Catholic ones are the only rules). Go to Singapore, traffic law breakers are fined without fail. Outside the region, go to the US or UK, zoning rules are taken seriously. Internally, Metro Manila is relatively more free, more secure, with more infrastructures, goods, and services than many cities, towns, and villages in Mindanao and rebel-infested parts of Visayas and tribal communities of Northern Luzon. But people in the Metro take to the streets as if they’re the most naapi sa lahat. When they yell No To Impunity, where do they mean? whose community, city, town, or village are they referring to? in whose behalf are they saying it? Moro Muslims? Mangyans? Ibanags? Ilocanos? themselves, in the Metro? How Metro-centric even in protest.

I suggest that in order for the Metro’s protesters to know the difference they go immerse themselves for two years in, say, Maguindanao, Masbate, Kalinga, Abra, or in the hinterlands of Zambales. Then afterward tell us how to go about doing rights and freedom. My point is, let’s stop protesting about ideals and instead start doing, faithfully, in our own neighborhoods and villages the change that we want to see. Talk to your Barangay LGU about making your village more child-friendly and gender aware. Organize your village youth group into making a journey within themselves and with other youth, dialoguing toward a purpose-driven life. Conduct adult literacy classes in your neighborhood. Educate transport groups in your barangay on customer service. Help the elderly with their grocery bags. Organize a single-parents club. Attend and speak up in barangay meetings (show rather than tell this ought to be the norm). Make neighborhoods and villages happy, safe, and secure, that media won’t have anything “newsworthy” to report anymore.

Eleanor roosevelt quote human rights

CCTVs and broadcast media

​Twenty years ago, on 19 April 1995, a disaffected veteran named Timothy McVeigh drove a Ryder truck stuffed with explosives into downtown Oklahoma City and destroyed a federal office building, killing 168 people, including 19 children, and maiming hundreds of others. That much we know.

We also know that, within 90 minutes of the bombing, McVeigh was pulled over near the Kansas border and arrested, alone, at the wheel of a glaringly improbable getaway car, an ancient, spluttering rust bucket of a Mercury sedan with no licence plates, which made him a sitting duck for any passing highway patrolman.

How could such a callous, carefully planned attack have come to such an incongruously slapdash end? After a vast investigation headed by the FBI , three trials mounted against McVeigh and his co-conspirator, Terry Nichols, and an avalanche of court documents, there is still no definitive answer to that question.

Perhaps the most striking thing about the Oklahoma City bombing – by far the most destructive act perpetrated by a home-grown assailant against fellow Americans – is not how much we’ve learned over the past 20 years but rather how much we still do not know.

Oklahoma City bombing: 20 years later, key questions remain unanswered, Andrew Gumbel, The Guardian

Another equally-riveting incident but closer to home was that captured on CCTV footage in 2014 of the artist Vhong Navarro mauled by a certain Cedric Lee and companion after Navarro raped the actress Deniece Cornejo, well, that’s according to media reports at the time. It repeatedly televised the footage and speculated on it like ten thousand judges speaking at the same time long before the trial had even started. In fact, analysis by the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility shows it was a field day for media companies,

Air time vhong navarro case by cmfrTurns out, those statements about that particular footage were misleading (there was or were other footages that media didn’t include in it’s broadcast, one of which of Cornejo and Lee kissing after they had brought Navarro to the police station). And so, just two days ago, the DOJ decided for the acquittal of Navarro.

What these imply is that, judgement made on criminal or illegal acts is not made basing solely on CCTV evidence; much more information is needed in order for a crime to be attributed beyond reasonable doubt on the accused.

One is the required authentication of CCTV recordings in order for these to be admitted as evidence (in court). The authentication procedure is provided for in the Rules on Electronic Evidence of Republic Act 8792 (E-Commerce Act of 2000),

(Section 1, Rule 11) [a]udio, photographic and video evidence of events, acts or transactions shall be admissible provided it shall be shown, presented or displayed to the court and shall be identified, explained or authenticated by the person who made the recording or by some other person competent to testify on the accuracy thereof.

(Section 31) access to an electronic file or an electronic signature of an electronic data message or electronic document shall only be authorized and enforced in favor of the individual or entity having a legal right to the possession or the use of the plaintext, electronic signature, or file and solely for the authorized purposes.

Also, as posted earlier, the Broadcast Code of the Philippines has provisions for the handling of similar material,

Sec. 4. NEWS SOURCES

4.b. Only news that can be attributed to a source shall be aired. When a source cannot be identified by name, the reason for this should be made clear in the news report.

4.d. News sources must be clearly identified, except when confidentiality of the source was a condition for giving the information.

4.c. Information provided by confidential sources may be aired only if it is in the public interest to do so.

4.e. Before airing information provided by a confidential source, an effort should first be made to look for a source who can be identified or who can corrobotate the information provided by the confidential source.

4.f. Rumors or gossips shall not be aired in the guise of news. Using terms like “anonymous source”, ” confidential source”, or “unknown source” shall not justify the airing of rumors and gossips especially in news programs.

Sec. 7. UNCONVENTIONAL NEWS GATHERING AND REPORTING

7.a. In the most extreme circumstances, when information being sought is vitally important to public interest or necessary to prevent profound harm, the use of hidden cameras or microphones and other similar techniques of news gathering and reporting may be resorted to. Before resorting to such techniques, conventional methods must first be exhausted. In all cases, the use of such techniques must conform to the law.

7.b. When material obtained through such techniques are broadcast, this must be presented fairly, factually, and in the proper context. The right to privacy must be observed and harm to the innocent avoided.

7.d. When materials that have been obtained through unconventional techniques are received from third parties, their broadcast must conform with the relevant provisions under this section.

Other relevant legal provisions include,

  1. The Data Privacy Act of 2012, protecting citizens from the misuse of data for profit;
  2. The Anti-Wiretapping Act of 1969, deeming it unlawful for any person, not being authorized by all the parties, to any private communication or spoken word, to tap any wire or cable, or by using any other device or arrangement, to secretly overhear, intercept, or record such communication or spoken word by using a device;
  3. Executive Order No. 2 of 2016 on the freedom of information

SECTION 3 . Access to information . Every Filipino shall have access to information, official records, public records and to documents and papers pertaining to official acts, transactions or decisions, as well as to government research data used as basis for policy development.

SECTION 4 . Exception . Access to information shall be denied when the information falls under any of the exceptions enshrined in the Constitution, existing law or jurisprudence (ie. Bill of Rights, Revised Penal Code, E-Commerce Act, Data Privacy Act, Anti-Wiretapping Act)*terms in parentheses, mine

These relative to media’s practice of broadcasting CCTV footages begs the question, are the footages authenticated? If not, then the public has been, or is being fed with unverified recordings. The public, at least those who passively believe what they see and hear a hundred and one percent, are made complicit in the perpetuation of speculations presented as news. Take the case of Vhong Navarro. (Or, the camera footages shown the past two days of the President’s partner Honeylet Avancena. The first was a teaser of some sort, the report containing no other details just that she’s in NYC “attending the UNGA”. The second one, shown on the following day, was a bit more detailed ie. she’s on a personal trip to attend First Lady Melania Trump upon the latter’s invitation and that expenses are on Avancena. What do media outfits want to convey by this? By broadcasting the footage ahead of the basic who, what, why, where, and how, the reporters came off as mere paparazzi stalking a celebrity, in effect, degrading themselves and their profession and missing the opportunity to promote the capacity of a Filipino woman to discuss global or regional issues with other women leaders of the world). The news coverage, based entirely on one footage, and despite Navarro’s subsequent acquittal had inadvertently planted the seed of doubt in the mind of many a Filipino. That’s irreparable damage to name and reputation not to mention emotional trauma and the resulting ill effects on the body, loss of potential income (as a result of potential employers shying away), and the slow-but-sure birthing of a mindless bully public. Imagine this being done through the screen on a daily basis, just because.

Broadcast media companies should take a serious look at their business model – how is their kind of journalism different from actions of human rights violators that they report hard about, how is it not peddling moral panic and an influence to impunity and toward establishment of a Surveillance State as a result of it’s indiscriminate use, in effect, promotion, of recordings of citizens to summarily sentence them without fair trial – and revamp it. Media holds a very important role in building a stable State, nation building, and development. It should hold itself up to the standards of that role. 

Conduct unbecoming of the fourth estate

A Penn State fraternity pledge died after stumbling and falling several times with toxic levels of alcohol in his body and suffered for hours with severe injuries while his friends failed to summon help, authorities said Friday in announcing criminal charges against the fraternity and 18 of its members.

A grand jury investigation, aided by security camera footage from the Beta Theta Pi chapter house, found that fraternity members resisted getting help for 19-year-old Timothy Piazza before his death in February. The grand jury said their actions in some cases may have worsened his injuries.

Eight of the fraternity brothers and the chapter itself were charged with involuntary manslaughter. Other charges include aggravated and simple assault, evidence tampering, alcohol-related violations and hazing.

The grand jury said the fraternity was heavily stocked with booze for the Feb. 2 ceremony at which Piazza, a sophomore engineering student, and 13 others accepted pledge bids. The pledges were pressured to run a gantlet of drinking stations that required them to chug vodka, shotgun beers and drink wine.

The cameras recorded Piazza drinking vodka and beer at around 9:20 p.m. and an hour later needing help to walk, staggering and hunched over, from an area near the basement stairs to a couch. He’s later shown trying unsuccessfully to open the front door, then “severely staggering drunkenly toward the basement steps” at about 10:45 p.m., the grand jury report said.

He was subsequently found at the bottom of the steps after apparently falling face-first. Four brothers carried his limp body back upstairs, where some poured liquid on him and one slapped him in the face, the jury said. Fraternity members put a backpack containing textbooks on him so Piazza, lying on his back, would not suffocate on his own vomit, the jury wrote.

When a brother insisted Piazza needed medical help, he was confronted and shoved into a wall, the report said. When the same brother insisted again that Piazza required help, he was told others were biology and kinesiology majors so his opinion wasn’t as valuable as theirs, the jury said.

Piazza tried to get up around 3:20 a.m. but fell backward and hit his head on the wood floor, the report said. He fell onto a stone floor at 5 a.m. and was last caught on video after 7 a.m. He was discovered in the basement at about 10 a.m.

“Timothy was lying on his back with his arms clenched tight at his sides and his hands in the air,” jurors wrote. “His chest was bare, his breathing heavy and he had blood on his face.”

During the next 40 minutes, fraternity brothers shook him, tried to prop him up, covered him with a blanket, wiped his face and attempted to dress him before one finally called 911, the jury said.

Penn State permanently banned Beta Theta Pi on March 30, accusing it of a “persistent pattern” of excessive drinking, drug use and hazing.

Another Hazing DEATH at a University Fraternity House…

Did Horacio Castillo III face a similar turn of events before his death? Did he die from heart attack due primarily to alcohol intoxication compounded by organ stress and shock after the first initiation beating? Did his family’s connections for instance to politicians such as Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri a factor for a more violent initiation relative to other pledges with no “connections of interest”? Is John Paul Solano actually a sympathizer to Castillo’s plight during the initiation?

Such queries about the crime, and more, depending on where our collective imagination carries us, point to the fact that what the rest of us could do is speculate. In this, broadcast media has the comparative advantage. At their worst, they are like starved crazed dogs, that, unlike snakes, attack in a frenzy shredding their food to unrecognizable pieces. Men and women of the law are able, at least, at court to contain their fangs within the procedural rules of law. Broadcast media still foam at the mouth even after having done it’s job reporting the necessary and publicly-legitimate facts. They go on and on, in a forever-mode of mad rampage. After what, no one is sure anymore, because, for sure, it’s not to set people free from the untruth. As what Congress’ new terms of reference implies from the televised series of it’s wasteful and illegal questioning of private individuals who are mere collateral damage in the doings of elected officials and civil servants, broadcast media outlets are the judge and jury in their own public trials, lasting all five minutes of air time, of a person’s or an organization’s reputation, usually, “persons and organizations of interest”, long before pertinent facts have been established and even after verdict has been handed by proper authorities, which provoke the viewing or listening public to hysteria or mob behavior toward the exposed person or organization.

Toward the have-nots of Philippine society, it entitles itself to adversarial questioning as for instance, say, in a corner of a police precinct in front of everybody in the world most of whom don’t know the person, the camera is placed intrusively close to the accused person’s face while asking in loaded words, “pinatay mo si xxx? saan mo tinapon yung kutsilyong ginamit mo? naka-droga ka nung ginawa mo? naka-inom ka nung nag-amok ka?” In another corner of another precinct, the camera is placed at the same distance, this time, to the victim’s while capturing the wailing screams, the snoggle trickling down the nostrils, the shock of unkempt hair, the blanked-out hollow eyes, the cries to their God and whoever else should or could help them, while persisting on the victim for a response to “ano ang nararamdaman nyo ngayon?” On the street, it walks over to the person sleeping on the wayside, the camera closing up onto the face after it did the same on the body while asking in behalf of the audience “pano ka napunta dito?” Yet, it restrains itself when in front of the top 10% of Philippine society. It does not, for instance, walk straight into the offices of the Zobel-Ayalas onto the plump leather chairs and bring the camera on their faces to ask them point blank, “ano ang ginawa nyo sa isang daang pamilyang naapektuhan sa redevelopment project ninyo?” Rather, they make an appointment and are mindful of the rights of the Zobel-Ayalas that they could be liable to violate. 

Same with it’s one-sided reporting of and narrow commentaries on the crackdown on illegal drugs. Rallying all it’s resources – air time, investigations, and human resource – behind the street killings of the poor especially young so-called drug handlers and users serve to deflect public attention away from the other crucial side of the issue: the supply network. Throwing images of young innocents’ mutilated dead bodies 24/7 onto audiences’ laps inadvertently call up latent human emotions- my god, what’s happening to the world? Next the world knows, there’s a lynch mob on the street, the statements on the placards a far cry from the crowd’s level of sophistication, which of course broadcast media don’t fail to plaster on the screen accompanying the coverage with doomsday music. On the other hand, when the haves or in-the-know do come out to help authorities shed light on a wrongdoing, speaking like the Don and Dona they are in their own high-society brand of Taglish, their own community heavily censure them “we don’t do that” and even media don’t know what to do with their kind. Think the late Princess Diana trying to spill to the public her royal life behind the camera.

And, from among, say, 5,000 cases of street killings of young people across the country in a day, why the choice of that one from, say, Tondo? And how is that one representative of the 4,999 other killings? From among 10,000 cases of domestic abuse across the country in a day, why the choice of that one from, say, Caloocan? And how is that one representative of the 9,999 other abuses? And so on and so forth. Broadcast media’s silence on that vital piece of information which it should’ve divulged to the public is like serving broth to a customer which he paid for in full, but really it’s spit-infested. That’s fraud.

What about, recently, giving air time to the exiled head of the Communist rebels here, but not to families whose villages are raided and/or occupied by the rebels and whose loved ones were recruited, abducted, or killed by the rebels, and businesses who were forced by the armed group to provide them regular financial support? What about their voices in the midst of this modern day-irrelevant ideological push?

How would communities respect broadcasters who call themselves journalists who spend most of their day at the golf course with their big wig “friends”, have all the time to watch beauty contests from the front row, or enjoy free food on their advertisers’ accounts, and then go write or report about injustices done to the people? Actors at least have a more disciplined approach to their scripts and getting into their screen characters.

What are the ethical standards governing the country’s broadcast media? Below are some provisions in the Broadcast Code of the Philippines 2007 by the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster sa Pilipinas (KBP) whose members are liable to follow:

PREAMBLE
WE BELIEVE

THAT broadcasting, because of its immediate and lasting impact on the public, demands of its practitioners a high sense of responsibility, morality, fairness and honesty at all times.

THAT broadcasting has an obligation to uphold the properties and customs of civilized society, maintain the respect of the rights and sensitivities of all people, preserve the honor and the sanctity of the family and home, protect the sacredness of individual dignity, and promote national unity.

Article 1. NEWS AND PUBLIC AFFAIRS

Sec. 1. OBJECTIVE

News and public affairs programs shall aim primarily to inform the public on important current events and issues rather than merely to entertain. (Admonitory)

Sec. 3. FAIRNESS AND OBJECTIVITY

3.c. Side comments expressing personal opinions while a news item is being reported or delivered are prohibited to prevent the listener from mistaking opinion for news. (Serious)

3.d. When presented as part of a news program, editorials or commentaries must be identified as such and presented as distinct from news reports. (S)

Sec. 4. NEWS SOURCES

4.b. Only news that can be attributed to a source shall be aired. When a source cannot be identified by name, the reason for this should be made clear in the news report. (Grave)

4.c. News sources must be clearly identified, except when confidentiality of the source was a condition for giving the information. (S)

4.d. Information provided by confidential sources may be aired only if it is in the public interest to do so. (G)

4.e. Before airing information provided by a confidential source, an effort should first be made to look for a source who can be identified or who can corroborate the information provided by the confidential source. (S)

4.h. Rumors or gossips shall not be aired in the guise of news. Using terms like “anonymous source”, “confidential source” or “unknown source” shall not justify the airing of rumors and gossips especially in news programs. (G)

Sec. 7. UNCONVENTIONAL NEWS GATHERING AND REPORTING

7a. In the most extreme circumstances, when information being sought is vitally important to public interest or necessary to prevent profound harm, the use of hidden cameras or microphones and other similar techniques of news gathering and reporting may be resorted to. Before resorting to such techniques, conventional methods must first be exhausted. In all cases, the use of such techniques must conform to the law. (G)

7b. When material obtained through such techniques are broadcast, this must be presented fairly, factually and in the proper context. The right to privacy must be observed and harm to the innocent avoided. (G)

7d. When materials that have been obtained through unconventional techniques are received from third parties, their broadcast must conform with the relevant provisions under this section. (G)

Sec. 9. SENSATIONALISM

9.b. Morbid, violent, sensational or alarming details not essential to a factual report are prohibited. (S)

9.c. The presentation of news and commentaries must not be done in a way that would create unnecessary panic or alarm. (G)

Article 3. COVERAGE INVOLVING CHILDREN

Sec. 1. The child’s dignity must be respected at all times. The child should not be demeaned or his/her innocence be exploited. (G)

Sec. 2. The personal circumstance of the child that will tend to sensationalize his/her life must be avoided. (G)

Sec. 3. There should be a conscious effort to avoid sensationalizing, stereotyping, prejudging or exploiting children with disabilities or children belonging to minority or indigenous groups. (G)

Sec. 4. The right to privacy of children must always be respected. Since undue publicity or wrong labeling can cause harm to them, children who are victims of abuse or in conflict with the law shall not be identified, directly or indirectly. Any information that might cause them to be identified shall not be aired. (G)

Sec. 5. Surprise and unplanned (“ambush”) interviews of children are prohibited. (S)

Sec. 6. Child victims, child suspects, children accused of a crime, children arrested or detained on suspicion of wrong-doing, and children that are undergoing trial shall be protected from further suffering emotional distress or trauma; they shall be interviewed only upon the consent of their parent or legal guardian, unless the parent or guardian is the accused. The interview shall be conducted only with the authority and supervision of qualified lawyers, psychologists, or social workers responsible for their welfare. (S)

Sec. 7. Children should not be required, coerced or bribed to recall and narrate traumatic experiences, demonstrate horrific acts, or describe them in graphic details. (S)

Article 4. PERSONAL ATTACKS

Sec. 1. Personal attacks, that is, attacks on the honesty, integrity, or personal qualities of an identified person, institution or group1, on matters that have no bearing on the public interest are prohibited. (G)

Sec. 2. Programs intended to malign, unfairly criticize or attack a person, natural or juridical, are prohibited. (G)

Sec. 4. When personal attacks against any person, institution or group are aired, that person, institution or group shall be given a fair opportunity to reply immediately in the same program, if possible, or at the earliest opportunity. If not, the opportunity to reply should be given in any other program under similar conditions. (G)

Article 6. CRIME AND CRISIS SITUATIONS

Sec. 1. The coverage of crimes in progress or crisis situations, such as hostage-taking or kidnapping, shall consider the safety and security of human lives above the right of the public to information. If it is necessary in avoiding injury or loss of life, the station should consider delaying its airing.

Sec. 2. The coverage of crime and crisis situations shall not provide vital information, or offer comfort or support to the perpetrator. Due to the danger posed to human life in such situations, it shall be assumed that the perpetrator has access to the broadcast of the station.

Sec. 3. While the incident is going on, the station shall desist from showing or reporting the strategies, plans, and tactics employed by the authorities to resolve the situation—including the positioning of forces, deployment of machine and equipment, or any other information that might jeopardize their operations or put lives in danger.

Sec. 5. Anchors, reporters, or other station personnel shall not act as negotiators or interfere in any way in negotiations conducted by the authorities. If asked to assist in the negotiations, they shall first notify station management and carefully weigh how their participation will affect their journalistic balance before getting involved.

Sec. 7. The legal injunction to preserve evidence in a crime scene should always be kept in mind. When the incident is resolved, the coverage crew shall follow the lead of the authorities in the preservation of evidence, taking care not to move, alter, or destroy anything that might be used as evidence.

Sec. 8. The station should always be aware of the following provision in their legislative franchise: “The President of the Philippines, in times of rebellion, public peril, calamity, emergency, disaster, or disturbance of peace and order may temporarily take over and operate the stations of the grantee, temporarily suspend the operation of any station in the interest of public safety, security, and public welfare, or to authorize the temporary use and operation thereof by any department of the government upon due compensation to the grantee for the use of the said stations during the period when they shall be so operated.”

Sec. 9. When interviewing family members and relatives, friends, or associates of the perpetrator, care shall be taken to avoid provoking the perpetrator, interfering with the negotiations, or hindering the peaceful resolution of the situation.

Sec. 10. The tone and demeanor of the coverage should not aggravate the situation. Anchors and reporters must always keep in mind that lives are in danger and could be placed at greater risk by the way they report.

Sec. 11. A coverage should avoid inflicting undue shock or [and] pain to families and loved ones of victims of crimes, crisis situations, or of disasters, accidents, and other tragedies. (S)

Sec. 12. Unless there is justification for doing so, the identity of victims of crimes or crisis situations in progress or the names of fatalities shall not be announced until

their next of kin have been notified, the situation resolved or their names have been released by the authorities. (S)

Sec. 13. Images that are gruesome, revolting, shocking, obscene, scandalous, or extremely disturbing or offensive, shall not be shown or described in graphic detail. When such images suddenly occur during a coverage, the station shall cut them off the air.

Sec. 14. Persons who are taken into custody by authorities as victims or for allegedly committing private crimes (such as indecency or lasciviousness), shall not be identified, directly or indirectly — unless a formal complaint has already been filed against them. They shall not be subjected to undue shame and humiliation, such as showing them in indecent or vulgar acts and poses. (S)

Article 7. INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS

Sec.1. The right to privacy of individuals shall be respected. Intrusion into purely private or personal matters which have no bearing on the public interest is prohibited. (G)

Sec.2. Persons affected by tragedy or grief shall be treated with sensitivity, respect and discretion; they should be allowed to suffer their grief in private. (S)

Sec.3. News coverage must not violate nor interfere with an individual’s right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. (S)

Sec.4. Care and sound discretion should be exercised in disclosing the identities of persons, by face or by name, so as not to harm their or their families’ reputation and safety. Proper labeling of a person as a “suspect,” “alleged perpetrator,” “accused,” or “convict(ed),” is required. (S)

Sec.5. The broadcast of material showing arrested or detained persons being physically assaulted or verbally abused in a manner that demeans or humiliates them is prohibited. (S)

Sec. 6. No broadcast personnel involved in the coverage of arrested or detained persons shall encourage or exhort the commission of violence against the arrested person or detainee. (S)

Article 10. CALLS OR MESSAGES

Sec..4 Letters, phone calls, e-mails, text messages and the like from unidentified sources or from sources who refuse to be identified shall not be aired. Materials from letters, phone calls, e-mails, text messages and the like when aired must be in accordance withthe provisions of this Code and shall be the responsibility of the station. (S)

Article 20. CULTURE AND TRADITION

Sec.5. Broadcasters must acquaint themselves with the culture, mores, traditions, needs and other characteristics of the locality and its people to best serve the community. (A)

Article 21. RESPECT FOR LAW AND ORDER

Sec. 1. Broadcast facilities shall not be used or allowed to be used for advocating the overthrow of government by force or violence.(G)

Sec. 2. The broadcast of materials which tend to incite treason, rebellion, sedition or create civil disorder or disturbance is prohibited. (G)

Article 24. CRIME AND VIOLENCE

Sec.1. Crime and violence and other acts of wrong-doing or injustice shall not be presented as good or attractive or beyond retribution, correction or reform. (G)

Sec.3. Violence shall not be encouraged and horror shall be minimized. Morbid and gory details are prohibited.(G)

Sec.5. Details of a crime or the re-enactment of a crime shall not be presented in such a way that will teach or encourage the audience how to commit it. (G)

Article 27. ON-AIR LANGUAGE

Sec. 2. Language tending to incite violence, sedition or rebellion is prohibited. (G)

Article 29. QUALIFICATION OF ON-AIR/PROGRAM PERSONS

Sec. 1. Persons who are allowed to handle programs shall have adequate knowledge and competence for the job to insure the integrity and credibility of the broadcast media. (S)

Sec. 2. Program persons shall adhere to the basic principles and ethical standards of journalism, including those provided in this Code. (S)

PART II IMPLEMENTING RULES AND REGULATIONS

Article 1. Complaints of violations of this Code shall be handled by the KBP Standards Authority which shall hear and rule on such complaints in accordance with duly established rules of procedure.

It’s all there, what research and evaluation studies of broadcast media, the more discerning members of the public, and even the President talk about when they say the press has gone rogue. Furthermore, the press retaliates at persons who are providing them truthful feedback. If it comes from the President, they challenge him alleging he’s going politics on them, that he has plans to gag them, that his ultimate motive is martial law, the elimination of the right to free speech, and once that’s done, he’d let in gold bar-birthing citizens from Titan to rule. Dear broadcast media, it’s not personalities who are out to get you. It’s the quality standards of your own profession and industry.

A reckoning

Zero-based budgeting is a management practice that was introduced and popularized by Peter Pyhrr in the 1970s.

Most budgeting processes – especially in large firms – are based on questions of whether a particular department or function will get more or less money than they did the previous year.

Managers will use last year as a baseline and argue for where they think they should get more, or haggle with their boss and the finance department if they’re told they’ll get less.

Zero-based budgeting (ZBB) asks everyone to start afresh each budget period, and so managers must build up all of their costs for the next period and submit that as their budget. It can help finance teams and the managers they work with take a fresh and comprehensive look at how funds are used and reallocate resources to the most profitable activities.

Indeed, US presidential hopeful and former Hewlett-Packard CEO, Carly Fiorina suggests the US administration adopt ZBB .

Myth #2: ZBB budget cycles are excruciatingly long

The truth: ZBB is fundamentally designed to force managers to think hard about how to fund every function or every program within his or her control, and then document, analyze, and prioritize which ones will get funding and which ones will not.

So ZBB should take significantly longer than the traditional approach. But not according to CEB data: the average traditional budget cycle time is 69 working days, and ZBB is just marginally longer at 74 working days.

Myth #3: ZBB is a budgeting approach

The truth: ZBB is a more of a mindset than a process. Companies that are best at managing ZBB set a strong tone from the top that this is a shift in strategy versus an introduction of a new process. A zero-based mentality must permeate the day-to-day conversations that finance teams have with business partners, and that business partners have amongst themselves.

3 Myths of Zero-Based Budgeting, Gartner Inc.

Congress may have unwittingly introduced ZBB in government budgeting, starting with the CHR, ERC, and NCIP, with PHP1,000 each. This is consistent with the past administration’s financial reform of performance-based incentives among goverment employees: poor or no performance, no incentive. It’s just fair. Plus, ZBB does away with politically-motivated “priority lists”.

With CHR, one can see that, in going over it’s functions, it’s work on the following, for example, has not translated into significant change:

  1. Exercise visitorial powers over jails, prisons, or detention facilities;
  2. Establish a continuing program of research, education, and information to enhance respect for the primacy of human rights;
  3. Recommend to Congress effective measures to promote human rights and to provide for compensation to victims of violations of human rights, or their families.

The state of jails all over the country will break anyone’s heart. They are no place for humans. What has CHR been doing to facilitate change in this? We don’t see any third party reports.

National broadcast media have been indiscriminately showing to the public, practically anyone with a TV and internet connection, video recordings of CCTVs to bone up their news about who they report as crimimals. This is illegal, the very basis of anti-CCTV arguments because it intrudes on the right to privacy and protection from judgment without proper and fair trial. What is even more disturbing is how were they given access to the recordings, and why did owners of the CCTV system in the Metro think they’re doing the public a good turn by giving access to citizens’ data to third parties? But, above all, despite these disturbing practices there has been no word, admonition to the media companies, from CHR.

And, instead of joining members of Congress in hurling accusations left and right which they have no intention of following up in court, inadvertently revealing that the accusations are only meant to rile up public sentiments, the public has not heard news about CHR recommending, in a non-combative stance, effective policy measures to promote human rights in the country as a result of research it regularly undertakes.

I’ve read CHR reports for Philippines, publicly available on the UN site, and most in them are motherhood statements that are too-associated with campaigns pushed by personalities. came by it’s 2016 report in which there’s this statement

The government generally respected the privacy of its citizens, although leaders of communist and leftist organizations and rural-based NGOs alleged routine surveillance and harassment.

My god. We’re not a communist country so of course groups that are a threat to a republic will be routinely surveilled. What does CHR want? For this nation to give up a hard-earned republic? CHR people need to remember that for every right acted on, a corresponding right is withheld. By protecting the right of communist groups to take to the streets, you deprive the right of democracy-loving citizens of security. Where does CHR stand, with the voice of communism or of democracy? In any case, I was looking for a human rights-based analysis in the reports. Let’s take the right to basic education. The quality standards of this right include, quality, access, and availability.  How is the quality of teaching, learning materials, school infrastructures, and the like? To what extent are school-aged children have access to schools? To what extent are schools available to school-aged children? To what extent is DepEd allocating resources to uphold these standards?

As to IEC on human rights, they don’t show up unless invited (meaning,     expenses are paid for by the inviting party). This says so much about who their clientele are. What about the masses, the poor communities whose rights have long been overlooked and/or stepped upon? There have been no initiatives from CHR, for example, of launching a caravan of human rights educators and counselors traveling the entire year to every nook and corner unreached by electricity, television, radio, or telephone. If this will take them to rebel or guerilla lairs, well and good because these communities need to have a good shakeup around human rights issues. Christian missionaries, private citizens, were brave enough to take the road less travelled in order to educate communities not even government has reached. This should inspire CHR- to make it their mission to educate each and every Filipino on their human rights. But, none.

Same with the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC). In 2005, ADB released it’s Sector Assistance Program Evaluation of ADB Assistance to Philippines Power Sector report from which the following risk assessment is lifted:

Fast forward to 12 years, now, the state of power facilities and supply lag behind ASEAN member-countries. The sector remain controlled by just a few the reason they are incentivized to dictate the price. And what has ERC done about this?

Lastly, what is this PHP1Billion budget the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) wants from taxpayers? The Philippines is probably among the countries populated with multiple ethnic minorities. Cordillerans probably have a better deal, with each ethnic group having it’s own territorial land where they basically could practice their own unique culture and governance practices. Still fundamental issues common to IPs remain: titling, poverty, recognition of their language, beliefs, and practices, ownership to indigenous inventions eg. farming technology, seeds propagation, medicines, art, music, lierature. Of the latter, NCIP could have assisted the IP communities set up a kind of community savings from royalties received from use of patented inventions. But, none. Little is known about the IPs in this country and they remain misunderstood and hidden. If not for a private individual who popularized “carrot man” many Filipinos would’ve remained ignorant of the “normal” features of “carrot people”.

So, yes, PHP1,000…until these agencies come up with the one critical thing they will do this year and show results for. 

A problem of community

People are noticing and commenting — from the Public Attorney’s Office in media statements to a broadcast journalist who interviewed me during the wake for Carl Angelo Arnaiz in Filipino: “Have you noticed that both Kian delos Santos and Carl Arnaiz’s mothers were OFWs (overseas Filipino workers)? Maybe we shouldn’t have mothers leaving to work overseas?”

The next day at the university, a dean at UP discussed the same issue with me, but expanded her concerns to include some of our students with serious mental health issues and she observed in all the cases she mentioned that the mothers were working overseas.

When mothers leave by Michael L. Tan, Philippine Inquirer

Indeed, the problem is not the mothers (or, women) leaving for work abroad, because with the masses the choice is often the devil or the deep blue sea ie. get a job that will at least provide basic needs for the family and where else is that but abroad, or stay and live without dignity like a sewer rat consequentially setting in motion a slow onset trauma among family members, but rather it is the lack of decent work right here, in the town or municipality and city the mothers or any jobseeker for that matter reside in, not 2,000 miles away, in the “big city” ie. Metro Manila, Metro Cebu, Metro Davao.

Today, the big news on TV is New Zealand opening it’s doors to 5,000 foreign workers, and to show how bright the beckoning light is from the land of Lord of the Rings, it was reported that a driver there stands to receive PHP150,000 monthly and an opportunity to bring in the family after a year. That figure here is in the range offered to senior executives, if not the head of office. This inequality begs the question, why couldn’t employers here pay the same fair price for the same skilled service rendered? Must Filipinos, women or men, mothers or fathers, leave their families years on end just so to receive what they deserve as workers? And we complain about human rights violations!

In Baguio City, a highly-urbanized city, classified ads are the most depressing section to look at. Week after week, for years, jobseekers who are mostly graduates of the several recognized universities here, will go nowhere with their future with “online English tutors”, “call center agents”, “frontdesk clerks”, “sales clerk”, “domestic helpers for Hongkong and Taiwan”, and the like. If it’s like this here, what about the provincial towns? Eh, putang ina talaga. 

It is worse for men especially the unskilled, skilled but with no or limited demand for it, or those wanting to get a new skill. There’s TESDA, but if they’re from the masses, even the agency’s “minimal fee” is beyond their reach. So, in comes the women. With the women, they can fall back on DH or domestic helper that, abroad, more or less, rakes in PHP30,000 monthly. Compare that to at most PHP5,000 here (for same job, same skills set). Saan ka pa? But with the jobless men, thank you traditional views about gender, there’s no such thing as a male DH. Would guys go into it though?

In biology, there’s a topic on symbiotic relationships, one of which, commensalism, comes near to defining the relationship between the jobless frustrated male at home and the financially fulfilled focused female abroad. Commensalism is a type of relationship in which one benefits and the other is neither benefited or harmed. In other words, wala lang. The male who’s left at home is, obviously, the one benefitting. You’d think because he is, he’d happily take on the role of mother to the children. But the arc of the female OFW story doesn’t end happily ever after, for many. Men who are left behind, in the long term, oftentimes, become neglectful of their households including the children. Apparently, they’re taking a longer time coming to terms with their new role in the family.

It takes a village to raise a child.  Spouses left behind by their partners who need to work abroad are in need of their communities’ support. But, what is community to today’s Filipinos? The answer is easy. The image that we are seeing now in government, national and local, reflects our new community: lying, cheating, power play, betrayal, looking the other way, one-uppance, laziness, planning for the next bright move, always looking out for mine, mine, and mine. Gone, particularly in urban communities, is the mindset of looking out for each other. No wonder the children are growing up on their own.

Bayanihan as the term suggests is about building community. The behavior shouldn’t be manifested only during disasters. It should be an intuitive act- for instance, a women’s or mothers group may want to go cook a whole day’s set of meals, say, on father’s or mother’s day, for that household whose mother/wife is abroad working. Or, the therapist in the neighborhood to volunteer some time to go visit households that have one spouse abroad in order to listen. Most of the time, people just need someone to listen, without judgment, to their inner selves, and after that, we’re OK and ready to face the world. This reminds me- once, I hugged my oh-so-tall son on the street, before sending him back (as he isn’t living with me). I haven’t seen him for the longest time and I missed him. I heard from a passer-by, surprisingly, a child, commenting that it’s very, very bad to have a relationship with a much younger guy di ba mommy? To which the mommy said, yes indeed it’s evil blah blah blah. Bayanihan can also be about not going into wholesale judgment about a person until you know all the facts.

Community is not built arguing about it in courtrooms or lecturing about it in the classrooms. We know most everything about it anyway. We just have to do. The Catholic Church (instead of joining in the rah-rah-rah which mostly rings hollow anyway) has a key role in inculcating this in Catholics through it’s Basic Ecclesial Communities. In the barangays, there’s the day care for young children, which, by the way, needs major upgrade in infrastructure and service. There’s also the barangay health center for psychosocial needs of families, which is also in need of overhaul. These, and several more, are facilities being paid for by taxpayers and to be taken advantage of therefore.

On the alleged PNP killings of young people 

change quote

The killings of two young people, Kian and Carlos, remind me of an incident in a City in Mindanao that involved young people mostly minors who protested, on the day the President delivered his SONA, the extension of martial law in the region. We learned about it directly from two young people.

Their group, around 30 in all, were not several minutes at a spot on the main street with their placards when police came and hauled them into the waiting police vehicles (there were some in the group who were able to get away unobtrusively which caused the rest of the group to, later, accused them privately because “didn’t we say that we’d stick together no matter what?”). They were brought to the central precinct and held up there for almost four hours.

In the precinct, the police (except for one who they said treated them humanely) proceeded to verbally harass them, pressing them to own up “c’mon, who”s really behind this protest?” Media people were there but were basically useless. This treatment stopped when, first, somebody, a City resident who’s on the government’s peace panel, arrived to assist the youth group, and soon after, the lawyer for the youth group whose presence earned them their release.

The two young people had been recounting this to us in a light and humorous manner. In fact we laughed at some of their accounts while the head of my host organization interspersed the air with “congratulations!” He meant it as compliment for them being able to come out of that first experience in relatively good spirits. Still the young people’s group concluded it was the President’s mandate, that he was going against his own assurances of non-abuse during martial law.

Me, I was busy thinking. I was bothered and piqued that those policemen dared to act out of character to what no less than the President constantly reminds them to be especially during martial law. I probed the two young people further. I learned that the order to round up protesters on that particular day, the SONA, emanated locally, from the LGU, which purportedly didn’t want potential PR disasters in their backyard on such a day. A blanket official backing is cover that could justify the means, means that national government, the Office of the President or the PNP, may not be privy to. There were no similar orders from the LGUs in other areas. which points to discretion.

This is what I’m reminded of with Kian’s and Carlos’ death, the politicians’ and media people’s knee-jerk reaction, convinced as if they’ve all witnessed each and every incident first hand, as to who is behind the deaths: the President. A very dangerous and damaging thought considering

(1) the CCTV recording of what clearly are the backs of, was that, a couple of men, accosting, what appears as a younger man, is not conclusive. One wonders where the story of cops dragging someone named Kian blah blah blah popped out from. Anybody with clear vision and a brain will tell you it sure does not come from that recording;

(2) Senator Hontiveros appearing on the scene to take away the witnesses in order to protect them herself along with “another institution” promising “they’ll appear in Congress at the right time” is highly questionable, given that there are their families, the Barangay LGU, and the local social welfare office as the proper custodians. Next, we see the Senator at the Senate grilling the PNP, pressuring them to own up to their policy to kill indiscriminately, the authority coming from the President. In any case, my God, even if it was true, who is dumb enough to own up to something that’ll put your own head on the block? 

(3) the female witness who appeared in Congress has material information missing in her account, that anybody with a brain could tell. Materially incomplete accounts do more harm than good, as, one, people who are watching or listening are propelled toward wrong conclusions. 

Nothing therefore of what the politicians and media people said since the death of the teenager named Kian made sense. Who is to tell it was actually 10 men and 4 women (remember, the recording only shows the edge of the dragging scene such that there could be more than what appears on screen), two of whom were in police uniform the lucky ones caught on screen, who accosted a teen named Gian after a gang fight and brought him to a nearby alley where…in a corner they saw a dead body their age, which gave them such a scare they took off on all directions. What if that’s the true story of Kian, whose already dead body was found? Remember that reforms are like disturbing the mounds housing armies of red ants. 

On the other hand, what became clear out of these young people’s deaths are the relentless attempts to confuse the nation, to shake the people’s trust, to switch off the sunshine, to nail the country in perpetual third world mode, to usurp a legitimate Presidency. What’s even more disturbing is, this is not just in Duterte’s time, but true in past administrations as well. The first responders, citizens’ first line of defense, are the Barangay LGUs thus when residents get murdered in or abducted from their own villages the Barangay LGU is the first one accountable- what measures did they put up to make the alleys safe? to secure and protect residents? do they actually believe that CCTVs on every corner is enough? Citizens are working hard to pay their salaries but they, for instance, tanods couldn’t even put themselves in between residents and their attackers? Why are LGUs not called on the Senate hot seat? We’re moving in circles when it comes to failures of LGUs.

What is clear is, those behind these attempts are traitors, not only to the legitimate leader, but also to the republic. They’re just lucky that while the law is hostile to such acts, this government, unlike those in the rest of the world, tolerates treachery and treason. Real impunity is when people and institutions get away with words and actions that debase, divide, demoralize, and destabilize the nation and government rather than promote reflection and learning for reform and growth.

The people’s eardrums are near bursting from continously hearing of accusations against one individual, the President, Duterte and past ones, of human rights violations. What about institutionalized – politicians’ and civil servants’ compounded – violations of people’s human rights as a result of dirty politics and plain laziness?

What is clear is, no politician truly cares who or how a citizen dies as their bodies are mere playgrounds for political power.

body not political playground quote

In the end, ang kawawa, those essentially ripped off of respect and dignity, victimized many times over, used, are people like Kian, the families they left behind, as well as the witnesses dragged into the public eye who have had no access to proper legal procedures hence justice.

Muslim Moro in a modernizing Philippine society

But Islam, like other religions, has also known periods when it inspired in some of its followers a mood of hatred and violence. It is our misfortune that we have to confront part of the Muslim world while it is going through such a period, and when most—though by no means all—of that hatred is directed against us.

Why? We should not exaggerate the dimensions of the problem. The Muslim world is far from unanimous in its rejection of the West, nor have the Muslim regions of the Third World been alone in their hostility. There are still significant numbers, in some quarters perhaps a majority, of Muslims with whom we share certain basic cultural and moral, social and political beliefs and aspirations; there is still a significant Western presence—cultural, economic, diplomatic—in Muslim lands, some of which are Western allies.

Is Islam, whether fundamentalist or other, a threat…? To this simple question, various simple answers have been given, and as is the way of simple answers, they are mostly misleading.

(There are those for which) there is no way but war to the death, in fulfillment of what they see as the commandments of their faith. There are others who, while remaining committed Muslims and well aware of the flaws of modern Western society, nevertheless also see its merits—its inquiring spirit, which produced modern science and technology; its concern for freedom, which created modern democratic government. These, while retaining their own beliefs and their own culture, seek to join us in reaching toward a freer and better world. There are some again who, while seeing the West as their ultimate enemy and as the source of all evil, are nevertheless aware of its power, and seek some temporary accommodation in order better to prepare for the final struggle. We would be wise not to confuse the second and the third.

– Bernard Lewis, The Crisis of Islam: Holy War and Unholy Terror

These, too, were my discovery in the time I’ve spent in southern Mindanao. The realization that the Moro Muslim society, contrary to the image formed by media, is not homogenous, and that it is also wrestling with the winds of change threatening it’s culture and faith, dawned on me while I was listening in on a seminar session.

We were waiting for the session’s resource speaker as he was an interviewee in the study my friend who I’d been visiting in the City was undertaking for an organization. With the way the speaker’s assistant assured us, we thought it’d only take, maybe, half an hour to wait. We ended up waiting for three hours, more or less. When we took our seats at the back and had adequate time to survey our surroundings, the sea of mostly black traditional Muslim clothing among the women and white among the men many of whom, I recognized, are ulema, hit us. My friend and I were the only non-Muslim in there. My friend suggested we wait outside. But I reassured her we’d be fine right where we were, besides the session seemed interesting. My friend whipped out her smartphone and focused on it the entire time. I listened.

They were speaking in the Maranao dialect. Previously, for some weeks already, I’d been exposed to the Iranun dialect (it’s said the root of all Moro dialects is the Iranun) and became acquainted with the meaning of their words, thus I wasn’t exactly a fish out of the water among the seminar participants. Otherwise, you can say I can sense the meaning of foreign words and phrases (in contrast to having learned them) which is similar to people who could, say, smell their way around. The Iranuns laughed when I told them “I just know” after I “guessed” a conversation correctly.

The session entailed participants to present skits of Moro life in Marawi City prior to and during the armed crisis, and afterward, the audience provided their feedback, and the ulema elevated further in terms of implications on their faith.  The portrayals were honest, laugh out loud humorous, and to me, enlightening. They were stories of dirty politics, arms, drugs, and families dealing with parental imposition of careers onto their children (promising them kilometer-long tarpaulins to publicly extol their graduation and board or bar passing), homosexuality, displacement, etcetera. As I said, the presentations were done to humor but for fear that I’d be seen as a non-Muslim laughing at Muslims I tried to trap my laughter inside my chest. The three-hour wait was worth it and serendipitous for me.

Moro Muslims face the same issues that hound modern societies such as those by mainstream Filipinos, but that their religion and cultures  (13 tribes comprise the Moro people, meaning they don’t always see eye to eye) render these issues in different light which in effect means their interpretations of them hence how they deal with them is different. Just as Christians see the world and life from the perspective of Christian teachings so do Muslims, in varying degrees, from the perspective of Islam. Just as the Bisaya or Ilocano or Mangyan approach the world and life from their cultural heritage, so do the different Moro tribes. Being a Moro doesn’t necessarily mean one is a Muslim (as there are the Lumads who also belong to the Moro group). But, otherwise, at the core, we all want the same thing:  a society that’s corruption-free, equal regard for all, equal opportunity for all, and such like. We just need to talk to each other more often.

This is what the media, being the first source of information of many Filipinos, need to correct in it’s language describing natives in the south. ‘Moro’ and ‘Muslim’ need to be unpacked to reveal their varied facets.

On the plan to build a new Marawi City

Coordination for the City’s rehabilitation is said to be led by ADB and the World Bank. I don’t know what their terms of reference as lead coordinators entail but I’m sure Filipinos prefer to have a national body or institution in the lead. Marawi City is not just a city, it’s a heritage city (as Aleppo is in the Muslim world). For this reason alone, the City’s rehabilitation should be fronted by insiders. Planning and actual rehabilitation should involve or integrate input from City residents especially the Moro people. In fact, visioning exercises can already start now with the temporarily-displaced inside evacuation centers in Iligan City and elsewhere, for them to also get their minds off despair and on productive and hopeful thoughts. Peace-building could be embedded as a strategy into the rehabilitation which should bring to the table the GOP, MNLF, MILF, civil society, private sector, and urban planning experts. This project could be implemented as a pilot project to test the operational workability of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (rather than have Congress again bore citizens to death by arguing theoretically whether or not BBL works).

On Headstart, in June, I watched the interview with Senator Gordon about the plan to rebuild Marawi City. He said that a tourism hub is what comes to his mind. This is the thing, whether or not Marawi will become a tourism city should be an offshoot of the planning process with City residents not what politicians want. Says who? you might ask. Says lessons learned.

I’m really excited for the rebuilding of Marawi City. When I told my host organization I’m interested to take part in it, they exclaimed “are you planning on committing suicide?” I didn’t expect the reaction. But my primary motive is, I’d like to put my urban management knowledge into practice, to help ensure that the foundation of the rehab plan is anchored on input from locals/residents. It’d be similar to an architect or interior designer getting the clients’ vision of their dream house and giving expert suggestions as to the best way to put the dream together and then render that on paper and eventually onto the actual space. In other words, to transpose this creative process – collab – in planning the new Marawi City (in contrast with the usual practice of urban planning in this country which is developer-led or largely the playground of real estate developers which does nothing to bridge the gaping divide between the haves and have-nots of this country).

It is said “war in Mindanao is a business” the reason why conflict is sustained which benefits the architects and actors of such a business. It is also the reason why Mindanaoans in general are wary and distrusting of external initiatives that promise peace and stability. Sincerity is needed, for once, and the opportunity to demonstrate that has presented itself once again this time in Marawi City. Let’s not lose it (like we did with Tacloban City post-Haiyan).

war torn city via livejournal

Where are the feminists?

If you’ve read the five-part Infidelity series by Aleatha Romig (author of Consequences), you’d see that the state of affairs, in as far as what’s hinted at amongst the pile of documents, between Commission on Elections Chair Juan Andres Bautista and ex-wife Patricia Cruz shares similarities with that of the series’ protagonist’ mother, Adelaide Montague and her second husband Alton Fitzgerald. One tale is fiction and the other not but both are windows to lives of women in high society.

Adelaide Montague, heiress of a tobacco empire in America’s South, was widowed young. She re-married according to family traditions, to what could only be summed up as a husband from hell. Her father though had a hand in it- his last will and testament lays out the role of his only heir, Adelaide, in the Montague wealth: the company will only go to her if and when she marries, and when she does, it’s the husband who manages her share of the stock and runs the corporation. That, in the wrong hands, spells oppression for the female heir, and in Alton’s, that’s what happened. Their affairs get messier and messier until finally the husband’s deeds catch up with him which is the only time things start to get better for the wife. But not before the husband accuses the wife of insanity and locks her away in an institution. Adelaide’s daughter, the protagonist in the story, who’s busy establishing her way in the world on her own terms, steps in to facilitate her mother’s escape.

I’ll stop there. What I’m pointing at here is, where are the feminists? Where are the women who show to the world with the words on their clothing that they are feminists? They have been strangely quiet since Day One of the Andres and Patricia press conferences.

feminist tshirt

I watched the replay of Patricia’s interview in Headstart. It’s disheartening to hear the anchor, a woman, telling Patricia “clearly, you’re out of your league here.”

What do we call first time mothers when they carried their unborn for a good nine months? when they birthed their first children? when they handled their first family budgets, opened and managed their first joint/family accounts?
Some time last year, in one of the training sessions on LGBTQI, everybody was asked to get up and dance to One Billion Rising. I didn’t get up. I was sure that when shit does hit the fan no woman in that hall would come to, for example, my aid. What is the use of dancing to something that one doesn’t have the guts to fulfill in reality? I hate hypocrisy. I was protesting that.

More recently, after an interview with a civil servant that spilled over into lunch hour, I asked my companions, one of them the head of an NGO, if Muslim women also went to pray because it seemed to me it’s the men who were always rushing to the mosques. It was Ramadan.

“Women go,” the NGO head said, “only that inside the mosque they stay behind the men.”

“Why is that?” I asked.

“Well, it has something to do with men avoiding temptation,” he said.

I laughed. Then I said, “You know, that’s the thing. Men think it’s the women who are the temptation. But what about the torture they put women through when men are the ones in front? Women are also distracted by the array of male bodies before them, who has got the more muscled back, firmer butt, toned legs. It’s the same thing.”

He looked at me and then laughed out loud. “I’ll tell them that,” he said.

“Please do,” I said.

I have a post here from several years ago about why women empowerment, women equality, feminism, etcetera haven’t come up to the level that women would’ve wanted: women are also the barrier. We continuously fail one another. When we call each other slut or bitch, it gives men an opening to do too. Behold the men. They don’t go calling one another slut, rather their word for each other is macho. A woman’s vagina and breasts do not have anything to do with understanding financial statements. Same with men- a man’s penis does not have anything to do with them being able to open multiple bank accounts. Our vocabulary shape our behavior.

So yes words spoken by one woman to another like “clearly you’re out of your league here” and “are you an adulterer just so the audience will be clarified” don’t help the sisterhood at all. Such undermine the previous and ongoing work of women for women. Media people, therefore, should study and understand their material for them to formulate intelligent questions and thoughts in order to present an angle that, if the material involves women, supports the sisterhood’s long-time campaign for equality.

“Mr. and Mrs. Smith”

Privately, a woman’s touch is often needed in the White House, whether it’s a steadying hand on the shoulder or a judo chop to the back of the neck. Publicly, nearly every First Lady has flourished an identifying issue (Lady Bird Johnson, highway beautification; Nancy Reagan, “Just Say No” to drugs; Michelle Obama, physical activity and healthy eating). Melania Trump’s was to be cyberbullying, a ludicrously unself-aware, doomed-from-the-start crusade, given her husband’s stubby-fingered prowess as chief Twitter Troll. As any number of people have observed, if Melania really wanted to curb cyberbullying, the first, best thing she could do would be to confiscate her husband’s Android phone and flush it down the toilet. Good luck with that. Given his nocturnal addiction to Twitter, he won’t surrender his phone until it’s pried out of his cold dead hand.

The First Lady’s degree of sway rests on her hubby president’s being cognitively supple and emotionally receptive to persuasion, and on his trusting, respecting, and being willing to listen to his wife (or, here, darling daughter), to take her seriously as a person and perception.

Can Melania Trump Ever Be A Great First Lady?, James Wolcott, May 2017, Vanity Fair


This is the rare time that being up to date with the news is chicken soup for the soul. We have already abandoned the Ozamiz City weekend happening and hot on the trail on the real-life Mr. and Mrs. Smith show. Or, the next big thing between the Commission on Elections Chair Bautista and his estranged wife. I guess this is what we can call a “first lady’s” judo chop. Although, now that it’s out there if I were the wife I’d be scared to go back to the “conjugal” house. Ah, but this might finally lead to the truth in the rumors that simply won’t die about Smartmatic having made fools of Filipino voters. Let’s see.

What it takes to become a republic

The Filipino has this attitude of making light of every single thing, joking about everything even serious and grave matters. You could witness this in a funeral vigil. There’s always laughter in there somehow. Well, Haiyan was no joke. A republic running on drug money is no laughing matter either. Nothing is as clear then than that, in a republic, anybody who wants to run the country on drug money is the enemy of the citizens.

I was in Panguil Bay a few days before the weekend when the incident with the late Ozamiz City Mayor happened. Ozamiz City from where I was at the time is only a 15-minute ferry ride across the Bay. The City is the stuff of legend according to both insiders and outsiders from the towns on the other side of the Bay. Ozamiz City is supposedly the Sherwood Forest to “Robin Good and his merry men”. But that, in a sudden reversal of fortune, now looks like it’s going to be “the forty thieves” minus Ali Baba.

The closest analogy to this event can be likened to the case for risk reduction measures in natural disasters. For example, we know there’s going to be “the big one” but if all we do is worry about it happening… could worrying save us? Action is what’s needed to be prepared for and the risks of a megaton earthquake reduced.

So yes in this war against drugs everybody had been given early warning. How many times have we heard “do not do it!” over broadcast media? Is the message too difficult to comprehend? I guess it truly “is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God”.

Local politics is oiled by incredibly unbelievable negotiations and settlements even between and amongst enemies, one of the more famous ones was the arranged marriage of Dimaporo and Quibranza, once bitter enemies, touted to have “healed (the) relationship” between these two political clans, that the thinking has become everything including personal happiness therefore freedom is negotiable. That has been the case for a long time not only in Mindanao which is why this country fails to take off as a republic again and again.

saltwater cure for anything

How does one pick up 1001 kinds of shit?

I’ve been off the news (except for the SONA which I replayed) the past weeks, partly for my own well-being. You see, there is so much more to the Philippines and the Filipino than what’s in the news. That is the truth. What gets in the news are – I will be blunt – biases of this and that editorial team from this and that agency. Featuring a 30-second statement out of an hour of speech or report is like zooming in on just a brow out of an entire person’s face– it doesn’t help audiences form right decisions and opinions. What if the person is actually blind in both eyes but the news is talking about his brow? Does that make any sense?

Inside a taxi late one night, my companions and I were listening to the news through the radio. The anchor was reporting about a drunken man in so-so neighborhood in so-so City  One drunk. On air for a good 10 minutes. I couldn’t help myself and blurted out, “how do these people do it? why that drunk out of probably fifty million Filipino men drinking out there? and why always about drunkards? what about the other half who are sober?” There was a few seconds of complete silence and then my companions burst out laughing. I realized it was because one of them, the executive director who was sitting in front, was once infamous for his drinking ways among local partners. He has since sobered up after a health scare. But, seriously, though, whose story gets published or reported? and what about the other half of the story?

So I was taken aback when on meeting my host after the weekend, he asked if I’ve heard the news- the raid in Ozamiz City that led to the Mayor’s death. “How?” I asked (it has been an interesting time since I came here. the news about the Marawi City siege and then Martial Law and everything in between). The response was that the Mayor’s security detail fought back. Soon as I got back to my place, I re-connected and replayed the news. Here are my thoughts:

This war on drugs stems from the repeated failure of local government especially Barangay and Municipal/City Local Government Units and citizens to address community issues before they morph into monsters. Once these are out of the community’s control, it’s not just the locals who suffer but also the wider community. Like what we have right now with this. And, look, the resolution to this drug abuse problem is being commuted back to the originating communities through the community-based MASA MASID (Mamamayang Ayaw Sa Anomalya, Mamamayang Ayaw Sa Iligal na Droga) program in which local teams that also include barangay volunteer-members are put in charge of managing the rehabilitation of drug abuse-surrenderees.

community based rehabilitation program masa masid

When I was told this, I was “oh.my.god. so many years gone to waste. if only the barangays and the people did this the first time the problem popped out instead of closing their eyes to the problem and believing that it can’t be solved thus allowing the problem to grow, grow, and grow out of proportion and control. we’re all so back to square one.” If I were the President, listening to this, I would’ve gone and grab the useless Barangay Captain and his cohorts by their ears and drag them a mile. Because- my god, my god, years and years of tax money gone to waste! Not to mention wasted years of otherwise productive lives.

National government DILG’s MASA MASID program is news-worthy topic that news agencies have not given equal air time to so that all people (and other countries) know is that the drug abuse problem in the country is being resolved through EJKs (which we should note were in the news as early as then former President Noynoy Aquino’s term). This begs the question, how is journalism – the ethical search for and telling of the entire truth – helping the nation to resolve the drug problem? Whose side are news agencies on? Their investors? Their businesses? What sells? Truth should not be sold as if it were a good nor chopped into pieces that make it impossible for audiences to understand the complete whole. Truth is integral to the personhood of human beings. Journalists messing with truth is like them chopping up the human body into unrecognizable pieces that anyone buying cannot distinguish it from minced livestock meat.

Finally, the people. The masses. What’s funny about the masses is that they continue to have fiestas and dancing on the streets even when they know where the money that funded the dancing came from. They dance long and hard for fiestas but not for basic medicines and equipments for their village health centers. They sing long and hard at neighbors’ birthday parties but not for roads in their villages. They approach the throne like very meek sheep for, like, maybe, food, clothing, shelter, and curse the same throne once they’re far away and have gotten the goods. Well, this is the sort of attitude and behavior that produces shit, not freedom, as the outcome.

And so, 1 + 1 = 1001. Elected local officials who live as if they will live forever + citizens not in the proper state of mind + media that keep their cameras on perpetual zoom mode = 1001 kinds of shit.

What is the proper way to go about picking up shit like this?

In any case, the weekend incident in Ozamiz City is yet another call for the nation to reform. Something we should’ve done a long time ago, since the time of Rizal and Bonifacio. To reform, at the core, means to be authentic. STOP using the people’s money to buy collections of Birkins or Hermes bags, luxury cars, or children’s tuition into Harvard or Oxford. STOP using the masses as if slaves, your errand boys and girls. STOP knighting family members as second-liners to a throne that’s not there. We are a republic. STOP the desire for quick and easy money. We have long ago turned our backs to Juan Tamad. Let’s faithfully till the land this time to it’s full potential. STOP the thinking that this nation is comprised of just one class or tribe of Filipinos. We are many. We urgently need to learn how ‘many’ could actually become a strength. STOP everything that has gotten us to this point of in-fighting, back stabbing, and fakery. STOP trying hard to be Americans or like Americans. Let us START to embrace our identity. We are Filipinos. Let us START to listen to old folk songs if only to re-call the life of honor that Filipinos before us strove to live. Let us START to live our positive values of maka-Diyos, maka-bayan, pagtutulungan, pagkakaisa, hiya.

Sustainable security

The sustainable security of states can only be based on the security of people: their physical safety; their socio-economic well-being; respect for their dignity and political and cultural identity as individuals and as members of communities; gender equality; and the protection and promotion of all human rights – including women’s rights – and fundamental freedoms in the home, in the community, in their country and in the wider world.

Agents for Change: Civil Society Roles in Preventing War & Building Peace, Catherine Barnes, European Centre for Conflict Prevention