On International Mountain Day

Let’s preserve Baguio City, the Philippines’ only mountain City; the Cordilleras, the country’s only mountain region. For present and future Filipino generations to continue and be able to experience the unique ‘mountain experience’.

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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

Martial law: whose perspective?

I’m not, never will be, for martial law or any restrictions to liberty and freedom. Even if it’s a benign form of martial law, the fact that civilians are searched or required to present evidence of who or what they are to armed personnel instill an environment of distrust that in turn gives birth to other negative feelings (fear, paranoia, anxiety, more distrust, and the like) and thoughts (am I going crazy? am I the only one distressed over restricted movement?). I can’t help feel angry that I’m searched or asked for identification. Do the checkers really give a hoot about who I am or what I do? No. They only need to see that I am not one of those wanted men and women. The wanted individuals that’s who or what they care about, bottomline, which is why it doesn’t really matter to them if good and law-abiding citizens are made to line up even in scorching high noon heat. Who are being persecuted? But this is my perspective.

I do try, for my own sanity, to understand martial law or forms of restrictions from the perspective of Mindanaoans. They welcome it. People here, Moro and migrants alike, tell me, “people in Manila who are protesting and complaining about martial law here do not know anything, if they want we’ll exchange places, they could come stay here and we’ll go there. See if they don’t embrace martial law.” I have no response to such, just a smile. But I understand now that I’ve been here some time and have gone around in conflict areas where you don’t know if you’re going to be sniped at driving through a village while Michael Learns to Rock is crooning 25 Minutes Too Late in the background, or becoming a secondary victim of a blast in a shop next to the one you’re in. Such does things to your psyche. What more for folks who have been subjected to such a volatile environment for the longest time? I understand, travelling on the Pan-Philippine/Maharlika Highway to and from conflict-ridden areas, why people from Visayas and Luzon would want to build their homes here and why some people here would want to defend it at all cost. This place, this region, is very beautiful. I’m caught by the beauty of it’s landscapes, it’s wilderness. It’s a much-contested space. But I also understand what somebody who’s working in peacebuilding in the region for more than a decade meant when he said “pagod na din ang mga tao dito. Mamamatay tayo na baka hindi pa naayos itong problema (people here are already tired. We’d probably die without the conflict getting resolved).” What a sad, sad thought. I wanted to weep.

Whose voice? Whose agenda? Whose perspective? Whose future? These should guide us as we make a decision or a judgment about what is best for a community.

Duterte at 365 days: fixer-President

Jose C. Sison in his Philippine Star article Unity in uncertainty writes,

the lingering questions that remain unanswered in the minds of our countrymen especially in the affected areas, are: why no preemptive action was taken to prevent the siege? Why the members of terror groups were able to carry out their plan and infiltrate the city with seeming ease? Why Marawi City? Are there many sympathizers of the group there as would enable them to stage a rebellion or uprising that led to the declaration of martial law in Mindanao? Is there really a rebellion happening in Marawi City now?

Maybe if these questions are satisfactorily answered, our people will be more united in supporting the moves of this administration and in praying that the fighting in Marawi City will soon come to an end.

The answer doesn’t have to always come from Malacanan or those the people elect, rather it should first and foremost come from the governed as a result of doing their part as good citizens. If the masses of Filipinos only make an effort to read more and often, invest in a home library, or visit and support their local libraries instead of always holding unnecessary fiestas (every month or so!) and boozing themselves to death, we should’ve all known by now that

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is likely to create branches in the Philippines and Indonesia this year.

Although the Indonesian military pre-empted ISIS plans to declare a satellite state of the so-called caliphate in eastern Indonesia, ISIS is determined to declare at least one province in Asia in 2016.

The creation of training camps will lure not only South-east Asians but also other nationalities – from Australians to Chinese Uighurs – who cannot easily reach Syria. The nationalities trained in the new ISIS province, and seeking to carry out the ISIS vision, are likely to be a threat to their home countries.

Just this month, ISIS announced the unification of four battalions in the Philippines and the allegiance of their leaders to Baghdadi.

Ansarul Khilafah Philippines is the group that pledged allegiance to ISIS in August 2014. After it did so, it released a video threatening to deploy suicide bombers in the Philippines and make the country a “graveyard” for American soldiers. On two occasions, attempts by the group to transport weapons to Mujahidin Indonesia Timur were disrupted by the Philippine National Police working with their Indonesian counterparts.

Based in South Cotabato province, Sarangani province and General Santos City, Ansarul Khilafah Philippines is led by Abu Sharifah, who is also fluent in Tagalog.

The Philippines has been an important arena for domestic, regional and global terrorist groups for 20 years.

The ISIS-initiated merger of the fighting formations and unification of the leaders will present an unprecedented challenge to Manila. As the “soldiers of the caliphate” in the Philippines, they will mount operations that will increasingly mirror those of the ISIS core in Syria and Iraq. There is no better time for the Philippine government to act. If the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, President Benigno Aquino, procrastinates, ISIS ideology will spread, gravely damaging the peace process. The four ISIS “battalions” will grow in strength, size and influence and present an enduring challenge to his successors.

ISIS in Philippines a threat to region, Rohan Gunaratna, January 12, 2016, Straits Times

Same with the other threats to human security- illegal drug use, criminality, insurgency, and corruption. These did not suddenly happen during the current President’s time or watch. In a way then we could call him the fixer-President. But imagine the burden (of past inactions) on the shoulders of this 72-year old, foremost, that to his life from red ants scampering to get out of their mounds that are under attack. History is replete with stories about belated recognition of sincere and genuine leaders.

On the “do no harm” humanitarian principle and the Moro problem

The Moro struggle is not just about a conflict between the Philippine government and Moro rebel groups nor a religious conflict between the Muslims and Christians in Mindanao. Rather it is a complex, deep-rooted and multifaceted one spanning several centuries starting from the Spanish and American colonial times up to the present.

No single cause can sufficiently explain the Moro problem. Despite the many literature on the conflict, much is still to be told, learned and understood regarding the causes and consequences of the conflict that the Moros believe to be their holocaust.

Much of what has been written about the conflict in Mindanao focused mainly on its economic cost and partially on its social cost. Most of these accounts failed to expose the wounds and sufferings that are deeply entrenched in the Moro psyche that continuously shape and influence the Moro’s attitude towards the Philippine government and the rest of the majority Christian Filipinos. Since no respite was given for the wounds to heal, they are continuously aggravated by the protracted war and the elusive peaceful resolution of the problem.

Human Development, Economic and Social Costs, and Spillovers of Conflict: The Case of the Province of Lanao del Sur, Yasmin Busran-Lao

In our last stop of relief operations for Marawi City evacuees, while I was observing the queue of evacuees, under a very hot sun, toward the tables where their names would be verified against earlier validations and their names registered etcetera, a Moro leader came up to me. He told me of his concern that for fellow Moro who have not gone through a process of awareness, understanding, and thus opened themselves up to healing and closure, the fact that Christians were the front-liners in the operation (not withstanding that, too, the soldiers and police in the Marawi conflict are Christians) might again revive sentiments against Christians. My spontaneous reply was, “I understand. That was exactly what I was thinking last night.” When I got back to my place after the relief operations at another town, I couldn’t help the tears flow and spent much of the night trying to understand where humanity – us, Filipino Christians – did wrong. But such thinking always end up in me realizing my own limitations, humankind’s limitations to resolve it’s own problems. Humanitarians can only do so much. I finally went to sleep thoroughly humbled yet again.

The Moro leader had approached me asking if I could help them facilitate for a phase two of the relief operations to assist Moro evacuees undergo a culture of peace education, essentially a process of peace building that begins with the self and then with others. As goes the UNESCO Charter, since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed. 

Moving on, still on our exchange, but with one other a Christian migrant who joined us, I said, “but, you know, I’ve also thought about what if I was on the other side, an evacuee? how do I respond to aid, people helping me?”

“Ah,” said the Moro leader looking amused, “sige daw ano? (okay, what?)”

“Sige (okay),” added the Christian migrant, “ano ang gagawin mo given na ang taas ng pinag-aralan mo (what would someone who’s had a university education like you do in that situation)?”

I laughed and said, “I’d refused to be interviewed. I’d refused to have my photo taken. To hell with them.”

The two men became silent and offered no response or reaction. I believed they fell into thinking. Perhaps the Moro leader was thinking I’m worse than his people? I didn’t offer further explanation. Let them think about what I meant, which is that human dignity is for every human being regardless of religion; it’s about one human being responding to another human being and taking care to do that justly, and to achieve that one must have an understanding of one’s own basic needs and rights transcending one’s prejudices against race, religion, gender, etc. For example: Just because someone is an evacuee doesn’t mean he or she is stupid or uneducated or his or her rights suspended that other people think they could go around the evacuation centers taking shots and making them public and thrusting microphones, recorders, or cameras at, for instance, mothers breast-feeding their babes, demanding or expecting coherent replies (and when they receive incoherent responses they readily label the evacuee-interviewees as schizophrenic. My god, who is the schizophrenic in such a situation)? Would I want that done to me if I were an evacuee? NO! If I’m required or pressured to be interviewed in exchange for food relief then take back your food relief! But media do that to evacuees to their fellow Christians too (think of evacuees from natural disasters in Luzon and Visayas).

Irresponsible callous acts are monitored by the offended party and added in it’s long List of Sins by the Enemy, naturally. Then when the offended party has decided it’s done with listing, it fires back and in the process not only are members of the offending party hurt but also innocent parties. Media and those dealing directly with fragile communities therefore have a great responsibility in sustaining the gains in peace building.

At it’s most basic level, human security consists of the freedom from fear, freedom from want, and freedom from humiliation.

Human Security and Armed Conflict, Philippine Human Development Report 2005

Prolonged humiliation does things to your head not to mention it’s ill effects on emotions and the body hence being genuine is a response that is so welcomed, in fact, heals.

Religion and ethnicity are incidental, in plenty of cases

The other passengers and I were waiting for one more individual before we could finally go on our way. Everybody was growing restless. Outside our vehicle, the scorching noon-time sun was painful to the eyes. Still, I watched the stream of people outside which I suppose is what people seated in the front do. So I was doing that and then– the two young men, barkers, standing near the headlights and who were just talking the last I saw them suddenly broke into a fight. My heart jumped up my throat. I was travelling alone and in a city that’s a melting pot of armed groups. I feared that any second they’d bring out guns from somewhere the way they were grabbing at each other’s necks. Should I stay put or get out at the driver’s side? Things happened quickly. In a minute, the area swarmed with more men who tried to break up the two young men. But they were bent to get at the other. Finally the men were able to get them to the back of the parking area which was when my breathing returned to normal. When we left, they were still in a heated discussion.

Thinking about the incident during the trip, I realized that nutrition, the lack of, may have played a significant part. Think diabetics experiencing erratic sugar levels. The men are Moro and Muslims and since it was Ramadan, on a fast. I have been amazed and curious from observation of Muslims during Ramadan here– they continue to do normal amount of work. But wouldn’t common sense tell you that with less food going in, energy usage need to be conserved. In short, less food and drinks means one has to cut back on physical work, physical movement, and the like. Otherwise, the body is put under extraordinary strain.

I then typed up a message to someone I knew: minsan, sa kakulangan lang talaga ng sugar sa katawan dahil sa pag-fasting nila ang dahilan kung bakit madaling uminit 🙂

‘Moro’ and ‘Muslim’ are over-rated, often cited as the reason native people in this region are violent or hot-blooded. But as it turns out there are other factors why people would become violent, in this case, perhaps, nutrition. What this points to is that the Moro as well as the Muslims, setting aside religion and ethnicity, are, simply, human beings, and just like the rest of the specie, we show our fangs when our stomachs and brains are drained of food and nutrition. And the reality for this specie is, only a few do get to become saints out of fasting. The majority grow temporary horns (I’m in this category which is why I don’t fast so much from food during Lent. I fast in other ways though like staying still and becoming quiet which is very hard to do).

I guess the solution there is that when we have to fast from food and drinks our entire waking hours, we take care to avoid situations in which our biological vulnerabilities could take over our rational thinking (the ability to think rationally requires adequate and right nutrition hence food, just observe nutritionally-deprived school children).

Which brings me to ask, what is the poverty incidence level in the poorest areas of this region (eg. ARMM)? In other words, imagine going on a decades-long fast.

confucius on simplicity

Confucius says… simplicity

In an earlier article, I briefly mentioned about Church leaders’ absolute rejection of the use of birth control methods that in effect stands in the way of citizens’ civic responsibility. In this article, I’m adding to this topic by mentioning another issue that’s disallowed by Church leaders:  Divorce. Church leaders’ absolutist stand against divorce when they are fully aware of it’s impact particularly on already disintegrated families is just plain cruelty. Why should Church leaders dictate on your personal right to an openly happy and fulfilling life?

Divorce is again being revived by women’s party lists and as to how to re-frame this divisive topic, perhaps we should look to Presidential Decree 1083 (signed 1977) also known as the Code of Muslim Personal Laws of the Philippines (yes, there is such a Code!) specifically on the provisions for divorce or talaq may help, viz.

Section 1. Nature and Form

Article 45. Definition and forms. Divorce is the formal dissolution of the marriage bond in accordance with this Code to be granted only after the exhaustion of all possible means of reconciliation between the spouses. It may be effected by:

(a) Repudiation of the wife by the husband (talaq);

(b) Vow of continence by the husband (ila);

(c) Injurious assanilation of the wife by the husband (zihar);

(d) Acts of imprecation (li’an);

(e) Redemption by the wife (khul’);

(f) Exercise by the wife of the delegated right to repudiate (tafwld); or

(g) Judicial decree (faskh).

Article 46. Divorce by talaq.

(1) A divorce by talaq may be affected by the husband in a single repudiation of his wife during her non-menstrual period (tuhr) within which he has totally abstained from carnal relation with her. Any number of repudiations made during one tuhr shall constitute only one repudiation and shall become irrevocable after the expiration of the prescribed ‘idda.

(2) A husband who repudiates his wife, either for the first or second time, shall have the right to take her back (ruju) within the prescribed ‘idda by resumption of cohabitation without need of a new contract of marriage. Should he fail to do so, the repudiation shall become irrevocable (Talaq bain sugra).

Article 47. Divorce by Ila. Where a husband makes a vow to abstain from any carnal relations (ila) with his wife and keeps such ila for a period of not less than four months, she may be granted a decree of divorce by the court after due notice and hearing.

Article 48. Divorce by zihar. Where the husband has injuriously assimilated (zihar) his wife to any of his relatives within the prohibited degrees of marriage, they shall mutually refrain from having carnal relation until he shall have performed the prescribed expiation. The wife may ask the court to require her husband to perform the expiationor to pronounce the a regular talaq should he fail or refuse to do so, without prejudice to her right of seeking other appropriate remedies.

Article 49. Divorce by li’an. Where the husband accuses his wife in court of adultery, a decree of perpetual divorce may be granted by the court after due hearing and after the parties shall have performed the prescribed acts of imprecation (li’an).

Article 50. Divorce by khul’. The wife may, after having offered to return or renounce her dower or to pay any other lawful consideration for her release (khul’) from the marriage bond, petition the court for divorce. The court shall, in meritorious cases and after fixing the consideration, issue the corresponding decree.

Article 51. Divorce by tafwid. If the husband has delegated (tafwid) to the wife the right to effect a talaq at the time of the celebration of the marriage or thereafter, she may repudiate the marriage and the repudiation would have the same effect as if it were pronounced by the husband himself.

Article 52. Divorce by faskh. The court may, upon petition of the wife, decree a divorce by faskh on any of the following grounds :

(a) Neglect or failure of the husband to provide support for the family for at least six consecutive months;

(b) Conviction of the husband by final judgment sentencing him to imprisonment for at least one year;

(c) Failure of the husband to perform for six months without reasonable cause his marital obligation in accordance with this code;

(d) Impotency of the husband;

(e) Insanity or affliction of the husband with an incurable disease which would make the continuance of the marriage relationship injurious to the family;

(f) Unusual cruelty of the husband as defined under the next succeeding article; or

(g) Any other cause recognized under Muslim law for the dissolution of marriage by faskh either at the instance of the wife or the proper wali.

Article 53. Faskh on the ground of unusual cruelty. A decree of faskh on the ground of unusual cruelty may be granted by the court upon petition of the wife if the husband:

(a)Habitually assaults her or makes her life miserable by cruel conduct even if this does not result in physical injury;

(b) Associates with persons of ill-repute or leads an infamous life or attempts to force the wife to live an immoral life;

(c) Compels her to dispose of her exclusive property or prevents her from exercising her legal rights over it;

(d) Obstructs her in the observance of her religious practices; or

(e) Does not treat her justly and equitably as enjoined by Islamic law.

Article 54. Effects of irrevocable talaq or faskh. A talaq or faskh, as soon as it becomes irrevocable, shall have the following effects:

(a) The marriage bond shall be severed and the spouses may contract another marriage in accordance with this Code;

(b) The spouses shall lose their mutual rights of inheritance;

(c) The custody of children shall be determined in accordance with Article 78 of this code;

(d) The wife shall be entitled to recover from the husband her whole dower in case the talaq has been affected after the consummation of the marriage, or one-half thereof if effected before its consummation;

(e) The husband shall not be discharged from his obligation to give support in accordance with Article 67; and

(f) The conjugal partnership, if stipulated in the marriage settlements, shall be dissolved and liquidated.

Article 55. Effects of other kinds of divorce. The provisions of the article immediately preceding shall apply to the dissolution, of marriage by ila, zihar, li’an and khul’, subject to the effects of compliance with the requirements of the Islamic law relative to such divorces.

Section 2. ‘Idda

Article 56. ‘Idda defined. ‘Idda is the period of waiting prescribed for a woman whose marriage has been dissolved by death or by divorce the completion of which shall enable her to contract a new marriage.

Article 57. Period.

(1) Every wife shall be obliged to observe ‘idda as follows:

(a) In case of dissolution of marriage by death, four months and ten days counted from the death of her husband;

(b) In case of termination of marriage by divorce, for three monthly courses; or

(c) In case of a pregnant women, for a period extending until her delivery.

(2) Should the husband die while the wife is observing ‘idda for divorce, another ‘idda for death shall be observed in accordance with paragraph 1(a).

The above provisions clearly state the parameters in which divorce are allowed, which is basically what the hype is all about. We contend that the Islam way of life is constricting, but in fact in certain aspects it’s essentially more progressive, practical, and respectful.

Another case in point: Acknowledgment by father (of his children). The same Code provides,

Article 63. Acknowledgment by father. Acknowledgment (igra) of a child by the father shall establish paternity and confer upon each the right inherit from the other exclusively in accordance with Article 94, provided the following conditions are complied with:

(a) The acknowledgment is manifested by the father’s acceptance in public that he is the father of the child who does not impugn it; and

(b) The relations does not appear impossible by reason of disparity in age.

Whereas it took us mainstream Catholics/Christians 27 years (after 1977), but not before having subjected to hell thousands of parents to produce this and that documentation and having made a volleyball out of innocent young children as when they were referred to on public policy papers illegitimate this and illegitimate that, to finally put into law Republic Act 9255 (An Act Allowing Illegitimate Children to Use the Surname of their Father). My god. Oftentimes, we complicate human life unnecessarily.

As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness.

― Henry David Thoreau

Food for thought (going forward toward understanding and assimilating with our Filipino Muslim brothers and sisters).