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

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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 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