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

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

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

Use your vote

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

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

In 2018 and beyond, therefore

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

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

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


On the diplomatic row between Kuwait and the Philippines

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

-Venetian Statute, 1554

royal decree,

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

-Charles V

and legal reference,

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

-Government of Colombia, to the International Court of Justice

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

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

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


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

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

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

WTF! No!

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

Regardless, there are far more critical national issues hounding this country than religion (we have too much of this already) or religiousity or a sudden love for the Bible. I’m tempted to post a long list of national concerns here but everybody, even folks cleaning the loos and sweeping the streets, know them already. We don’t want to repeat ourselves.
C’mon, people-elect in Congress, the people did not vote for you to breathe down their necks conjuring up as their pastors or priests and priestesses not even their Sunday School teachers. The nation isn’t one bible study cell, in case you need reminding.

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

Thoughts on Labor Day: volatile young demographic

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

5 trends for the future of economic growth,

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

Water wars

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

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

agat bridge
Source: wikimedia commons

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

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

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

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

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

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

quarrying Bued River
Source: wikimedia commons

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RA 7942 Section 19 Areas Closed to Mining Applications

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

d. In areas expressedly prohibited by law;

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

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

DILG Memo Circular 44 s. 2014

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

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

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

Why it’s imperative to exercise caution in making judgments

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

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

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

Modern life phenomenon:  Minister for Loneliness

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

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

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

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

“Women’s paths to peace”

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

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

On International Volunteer Day 2017

I tried volunteering this year. The kind in which you’re not paid a salary because you’re doing the work for altruism. I did get an allowance though and family insurance and a nice semi-furnished apartment and reimbursements of official business activities. For these, I have to humbly say I was much better off than local and national volunteers. A discrepancy that PVSCA should look into in order to propose change in local and national volunteering policies among sourcing agencies.

I decided to volunteer because (1) I wanted to know the difference between a formally-employed development worker and a volunteer who offers to be deployed in order to bring about change or development and (2) I’ve had my share of frustrations with agency-initiated development and I wanted to become the change to others that eluded me and communities in agency-based development.

I learned a lot from volunteering. Well, first, obviously I wouldn’t have known those communities if I didn’t volunteer to be in those communities. Second, what is volunteer work and what isn’t (relative to the official definition). One may say the word ‘volunteer’ is simply work with no pay, but mind you that’s not the entire definition. As part of my orientation, my mentor assisted me through an exercise that helped me distinguish volunteer work from not. Third, the faces and complex dynamic of conflict in the area. There are writings about the facets of conflict in the South, but one would understand it’s complexity only when one is actually in the midst of it– seeing, smelling, feeling it. Fourth, I bow down to all the volunteers there whom I’ve met. They continue to do and actively work for what is right despite threats to their lives. I’m so  much honored that they shared to me their experiences and thoughts. I’m wiser as a result. Fifth, the turf wars and the fight for limited resources (funding) among volunteer organizations. I guess this is what happens to volunteering when it is institutionalized. The personal and personalized (act of volunteering) is controlled using rules set by the organization that could spur resistance, in-fighting, and such unless these are effectively managed. This is to say, there’s really no perfect medium to deliver change or development. What really matters then is, given these imperfect media or vehicles for change what best suits the doer at the moment? People are not static beings nor are in static situations. We change our minds, tastes, some traits in our personality, etcetera. So yeah what medium best suit the change-agent or maker at the moment?

In all cases, however, volunteers always act first in times of crisis or emergencies. They are always the first to answer the call in times of need.

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