Launching in July: 2018 State of the World Volunteerism Report

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Probably the most feminist statement of the century

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

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

In more detail, the statement could be directed to:

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

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

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

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

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

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

f)

On tambays

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

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

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

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

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


THIRD DIVISION

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, G.R. No. 169364
Petitioner,
Present:
Ynares-Santiago, J . (Chairperson),
– versus – Chico-Nazario,
Velasco, Jr.,
Peralta, and
Bersamin*, JJ .
EVANGELINE SITON y SACIL and
KRYSTEL KATE SAGARANO y Promulgated:
MEFANIA,
Respondents. September 18, 2009
x —————————————————————————————- x
DECISION

YNARES-SANTIAGO, J .:

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

Martin Luther King, Jr.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The dangerous streets must surrender to orderly society.

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

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

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

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

Lessons on labor “importation” from hiring dynamics in football

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

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

Are footballers just a lump of labour?

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

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

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

But aren’t players paid too much?

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

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

Science, football, and life

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

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

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

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

On the ongoing reality at the US-Mexico border

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

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

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

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

Culture and the build, build, build strategy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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On the “ouster” of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We recommend the following:

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

*emphasis in italic and bold, mine

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

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

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

Use your vote

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

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

In 2018 and beyond, therefore

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

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

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