Thursday, May 17, 2018


Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

With Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno thrown out the door of the Supreme Court by eight (of 14) of her fellow justices last Friday the eleventh, many more things are coming to light. In fact more things that were heretofore not in our imagination have been laid bare in the recent months and weeks.
Are end times of a metaphorical kind upon us? Is it “Apocalypse Now,” to borrow the title of Francis Ford Coppola’s war movie, or an “Apocalypto” of sorts of Mel Gibson’s cinematic imagination? Not that kind in our present setting, please, God. National Artist Nick Joaquin’s novel “Candido’s Apocalypse” is more into the idea of reveal, which is what the word “apocalypse” really suggests.
“Apocalypse” comes from the Greek word apokalypsis, which means “revealing, disclosure, to take off the cover.” The Bible’s last book, “The Book of Revelation,” is also called “The Apocalypse.” It conjures images of chaos and destruction so that the word has become associated with cataclysmic events. Hear ye, the book ends with a warning for those “with false speech and false life.”

Revelations could be unsettling, terrifying. They could also herald change and renewal.

The “big reveal” is that Solicitor General Jose Calida has awesome powers that blow the mind. Many citizens, law practitioners, constitutionalists, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, senators, and the Supreme Court justices who voted to throw out the quo warranto petition Calida filed against Sereno are aghast that his move put the constitutionally correct impeachment option in deep freeze. He jumped the gun on the (deliberately?) dilly-dallying House of Representatives as well as the Senate that was eager to give Sereno the day in court that she wanted.
In the case of those who voted to oust Sereno, five were also her accusers who did not inhibit themselves. Her accusers sat as her judges.
A not-so-secret reveal was printed on a big tarpaulin at the May 11 protest rally against the quo warranto petition in front of the Supreme Court. On the tarp were pictures of the strong women whom President Duterte has issues with (or have issues with him), clashed with, or wants out of the way. A number of them he had verbally attacked.
Sister Patricia Fox, an Australian missionary who has worked among marginalized Filipinos for 17 years, was given 30 days to pack up and leave; Sen. Leila de Lima is in jail for what her allies call trumped-up charges; Vice President Leni Robredo was unceremoniously banned from Cabinet meetings. The others were Rappler CEO Maria Ressa and reporter Pia Ranada, Victoria Tauli Corpuz, three Muslim women, a grieving mother, and Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales whom Duterte allies threaten to impeach.
Another revelation is that the so-called millennials are taking up the cudgels for their future by braving the streets to protest what they believe is a travesty of justice, what they believe are wrongs that are to be righted. The twilight rally of students on Katipunan Avenue, held hours after the Supreme Court decision was issued, was proof that the young are waking up to harsh realities now staring them in the face.
Church people are still a strong presence in the streets, they who, during the dark days of the Marcos dictatorship, cut their teeth on Martin Niemoller’s words: “Then they came for … Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—/Because I was not a Jew./Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
I met the Siervas de San Jose, the Holy Spirit Sisters and the Missionary Catechists of St. Therese. There was Sister Teresita Alo, 79, Franciscan Sister of the Immaculate Conception, who had fasted and prayed for days in front of the Supreme Court.

And Benedictine Sister Mary John Mananzan of the Office of Women and Gender Concerns of the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines. Her apocalyptic words: “The Supreme Court which should uphold the law is breaking the law in a most blatant way. This is a fight between good and evil. Now is the test. If we no longer trust the executive, the legislative and the judiciary, we are the ones left. We will be like an atomic bomb, we will form a critical mass. All we need is a spark.”#

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Voices, images from the frontlines

Photo by Raffy Lerma/Philippine Daily Inquirer
Last May 3, World Press Freedom Day, media groups published a pooled editorial, “Speak truth to power, keep power in check” in newspapers, the Inquirer among them. Behind it were Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, and Philippine Press Institute. At the media forum held that day, they presented a report on the dismal and alarming state of media freedom under the Duterte administration.
To quote: “Rodrigo R. Duterte’s presidency has altered and controlled the public discourse so radically in its favor in ways rude and bold. One tragic result: It has restricted and narrowed the celebrated freedom of the Philippine press and the people’s cherished right to know.
“In his first 22 months in power, Mr. Duterte has earned the dubious honor of logging 85 various cases of attacks and threats on these dual values that the Constitution upholds as inalienable rights of the citizens. The number far exceeds those recorded under four presidents before him.”To read the entire report, go to the PCIJ website (pcij.org) and feel yourself sinking into the dark depths and moaning de profundis, “How have we come to this?”

But just as disturbing are the five brief personal accounts, “Voices from the frontlines” by reporters and photojournalists, “the boots on the ground of Philippine media.” The accounts form part of the report on the state of media freedom in the Philippines.
Inquirer reporter Aie Balagtas See’s “A bloody trail of patterns” is about her police beat coverage and the nights she witnessed 8, then 14, then 26 bodies of alleged drug users and pushers showing up on the streets of Manila. See asked: “And where did we find the dead? In the slums, of course.”
A group of photojournalists who call themselves “The Nightcrawlers” prowled the city streets night after night to document with their cameras Mr. Duterte’s brutal war on drugs. Their prowling resulted in images too real to ignore.
Wrote these denizens of the night: “The President himself has called many of our works as ‘fake news’…. we have received insults, threats and harassment on and offline. And yet we continue our work. For us it is not about political colors … it is about looking beyond the death toll, and humanizing the victims.”
Last month, Manny Mogato, senior correspondent for Reuters, and his colleagues Clare Baldwin and Andrew R.C. Marshall, received the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting for “relentless reporting that exposed the brutal campaign behind Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.”
Revealed Mogato: “Reuters found sources inside the police who trusted journalists with information about the mechanics of the drug war, the rewards list and the staged encounters. These sources freely showed to Reuters journalists their mobile phones with text messages from the senior regional officials ordering them to do things related to the drug war. These are courageous police officers who shared sensitive information with journalists who they believed can be trusted.”
A senior TV correspondent wrote about the five-month siege of Marawi City and prior incidents of conflict in Mindanao. “As with any other conflict, the line between propaganda and factual information are almost always hard to distinguish. But in the battle for Marawi it was cranked up to the highest level. Access to the actual main battle area was tightly controlled by the military, and for good reason.”

PCIJ’s content producer Vino Lucero has filed with various units of the Philippine National Police over a hundred letters of request for data and documents on the war on drugs. His lament: “The Philippine National Police has set up all sorts of hoops and obstacles … One is wont to ask: What are the police trying to hide?”
Can’t hide this pattern of headlines: “Catanduanes newspaper publisher slain” (12/19/16), “Sultan Kudarat native first Mindanao journalist slain since martial law” (8/7/17), “Blocktime radio anchor shot dead in Kidapawan City” (2/2/17), “Broadcaster shot dead in Zamboanga del Sur” (8/6/17), “Dumaguete broadcaster declared dead after gun attack” (4/30/18), “Broadcaster-university professor killed in Ilocos Sur” (1/7/17), “Radioman shot dead day after Ombudsman ousts Bislig mayor”  (10/24/17), “Hard-hitting Masbate columnist gunned down” (3/13/17).

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Speak truth to power, keep power in check

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/Pooled editorial

This is a pooled editorial published by a network of journalists including the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, the Philippine Press Institute, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, and the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility. The editorial marks the observance of World Press Freedom Day today, and is also published in four other Philippine languages: Filipino, Ilocano, Ilonggo and Bisaya.
Mr. Duterte’s presidency has altered and controlled the public discourse so radically in its favor in ways rude and bold. One tragic result: It has restricted and narrowed the celebrated freedom of the Philippine press and the people’s cherished right to know.

In his first 22 months in power, Mr. Duterte has earned the dubious honor of logging 85 various cases of attacks and threats on these dual values that the Constitution upholds as inalienable rights of the citizens. The number far exceeds those recorded under four presidents before him.
Separately and together, these 85 cases have made the practice of journalism an even more dangerous endeavor under Mr. Duterte.
From June 30, 2016, to May 1, 2018, these cases include the killing of nine journalists, 16 libel cases, 14 cases of online harassment, 11 death threats, six slay attempts, six cases of harassment, five cases of intimidation, four cases of website attack, revoked registration or denied franchise renewal, verbal abuse, strafing, and police surveillance of journalists and media agencies.
These cases project the force of presidential power dominating the political sphere, with zealous support from Mr. Duterte’s allies and appointees, and their sponsored misinformation army online and off. They have hurled at members of the press insults and unfair labels, and allegations of corruption and misconduct without firm basis in fact or in law.
These cases linger amid effete efforts at solution by state agencies, and in the context of the hostile and vicious discourse against the administration’s critics and the critical media.
The President, Cabinet members, and the House of Representatives have imposed and proposed unprecedented restrictions on journalist access to official news events. Congress and executive agencies have denied or delayed the corporate registration or franchises required for operation of media companies.
Some journalists and media groups have also reported police surveillance of their movement and their places of work.
Attacks on press freedom diminish not just the news media. These weaken the capacity of the news media to sustain the people’s unfettered exchange of ideas about public issues. Presidential intolerance of criticism is now a well-established aspect of Mr. Duterte’s leadership. While he is not the only chief executive who has become sensitive to press criticism, Mr. Duterte has made sure that everyone understands that misfortunes could hound and befall his critics.
And yet Mr. Duterte had promised change; his government should thus tell the people when and where change has come to fruition, and whether it has triggered better or worse results. By keeping citizens and voters fully informed about what and how those they have raised to power are doing right or wrong, a free press sustains and strengthens democracy.
That is not quite the situation under Mr. Duterte as yet. Intimidated, restrained, and threatened with consequences, the news media have been significantly constrained to report well and fully on the war on drugs, the siege of Marawi, cases of alleged corruption in high office, questions about the wealth of the Duterte family, the public debate on Charter change and federalism, the shutdown of Boracay, and not the least significant, the incursions of China in the West Philippine Sea.
Mr. Duterte has brandished the power of fear. His threats and attacks bear the full weight of his office, the highest in the land. No need to test constitutional limits. All he seems to want to do is to make enough journalists understand that they should be very afraid.
But, like fear, courage could be contagious. And unlike fear that disempowers, courage built on the power of truth and the unity of all in media is a force that empowers.
To stand firm and to stand united for press freedom and democracy, to speak truth to power and to keep power in check — this much the press owes the people. And whoever is president, the paramount duty of a free press in a democracy is to defend and uphold the people’s right to know, with unqualified courage and unity.#



Attention" martial law survivors/claimants

The masthead of the Facebook page of the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board (HRVCB) states: “Tilting back the scales of justice, acknowledging the wrongs and healing the wounds of martial law.”
Nine days from now, on May 12, the HRVCB will close shop, ending its work of four years that began in May 2014. HRVCB was created through Republic Act No. 10368 that President Benigno Aquino III signed on Feb. 25, 2013 (the 27th anniversary of the Edsa People Power Revolution that toppled the Marcos dictatorship) in front of the People Power Monument and in the presence of martial law victims/survivors.
Here is a last minute reminder from HRVCB on how and what the approved claimants (and those claimants who had already collected a portion of their claim) should prepare in order for them to collect the total amount. Those who have access to the HRVCB’s Facebook page can also read the Filipino version of the reminder there.

HRVCB Notice No. 10: Guidelines for the opening of savings account at Landbank for eligible human rights violation victims/claimants in preparation for the payment of the full monetary reparation. All eligible claimants are advised to open a personal savings account at a Landbank branch nearest to them. Eligible claimants are those whose claims have been approved and awarded with corresponding point/s.

Eligible claimants are requested to transmit/send their Landbank Savings Transaction Information (STI) to the HRVCB as soon as possible.
1) Eligible claimants can e-mail their STI to secretariat@hrvclaimsboard.gov.ph.
2) They can also send their STI via private courier service to E. Virata Hall, E. Jacinto Street, UP Campus, Diliman, Quezon City 1101.
The HRVCB prefers the opening of a personal savings account in lieu of cash cards as the maximum amount which can be deposited (per month) in a cash card is limited to only P100,000. Since there is no limit to the amount which can be deposited in a personal savings account, the opening of the same will facilitate the payment of reparations especially for those who will be receiving more than P100,000.
For details, you may call the HRVCB hotline numbers: (02)373-4847 and 0999-5059737. Further notices and updates will be posted on the  HRVCB’s website/Facebook page.
HRVCB Division 3 is calling on approved claimants without or with wrong contact information to get in touch with the office regarding documents needed to accelerate the processing of their claim.
The phone numbers of the HRVCB Division 3 are: 0945-8197484 (Globe/TM) and 0912-5781369 (Smart/TNT). Claimants can also contact the HRVCB through Facebook: facebook.com/div3hrvcb.

There are questions about the STI, why the need to send it, what about those who live in remote areas, etc.
With all the fraud, hoaxes and scams around, the STI will ensure that compensation goes to the real claimants and not to anyone else. The STI sent to the HRVCB secretariat helps protect the claimants’ monetary compensation.
It is not enough for a claimant to e-mail or present to the HRVCB a Landbank account number in her/his name. The claimant has to get an STI from Landbank, signed by a bank official, which would show that there is indeed such an account with such a name.
The claimant should then e-mail a scanned copy to the HRVCB. It can also be sent by mail or courier, or delivered personally. No scanner? Use your cell phone’s camera. For extra protection of the compensation, I suggest that the claimant include a signed photocopy of an ID or the HRVCB-issued docket slip just to make sure. Do all these unobtrusively. The process may be tedious and time consuming but better safe than sorry.
Who knows, a scheming relative, neighbor or acquaintance might open a fake account in a claimant’s name, send the STI to the HRVCB and end up receiving the money in that fake account. You never know.
The distribution process is different from the one for the Hawaii class suit victims/claimants who received checks issued in front of them.
I will go into numbers and computations next time.#

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Ban plastic straws

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

Belated Earth Day greetings!
When we were kids the straw that was used for sipping drinks from a bottle or glass was made of paper. Before throwing the straw into the trash, sometimes we would toss it in the air, catch it with the thumb and forefinger and start pressing it while saying, yes, no, yes, no to a question begging for an answer. One kept at it until the end of the straw was reached and there was nothing more to press.
The lovelorn would openly mutter, he/she loves me, he/she loves me not, and so on. The end of the straw answered the question. You can’t do that on a plastic straw because it retains its shape even when pressed, and there is nothing to show for your effort to find an answer.  Kid stuff, yes, but I wish those paper straws would make a comeback.
I do not remember when paper straws were replaced by plastic. Straws, the plastic variety, are a scourge to Planet Earth. Now we see that these small, seemingly insignificant items are causing so much havoc that many people all over the world are waging campaigns to ban them. “The last straw” is no longer just a figure of speech; it is, literally speaking, a cry, a call, that we may see the last of them.

Earth Day (last Sunday, April 22) came and went and we are still on page Boracay. The cleanup and rehab work have to do with the island’s capacity overload and the wanton disregard for environmental regulations, what with wayward structures and faulty human and kitchen waste disposal. It’s the same in other beach resorts now under scrutiny.
For Boracay habitues, there is a project called “The Last Plastic Straw” under the Plastic Pollution Coalition. It is foreign-based but its call is worldwide. It wants us to know that in the United States alone, over 500,000 plastic straws are used each day. “In only the past 20 years, people have come to expect plastic straws in every drink, in an example of extreme waste being generated for minimal convenience. These short-lived tools are usually dropped into a garbage can with no further thought, instantly becoming a source of plastic pollution.”
In our own congested cities, we see them strewn about, along with the plastic bags that held the drink bought from sari-sari stores or sa malamig vendors. I’ve seen these being thrown out of vehicles and into the street. After a sudden strong downpour, you see these being swept into the drains and clogging the drains’ strainers. Along with them are sharp barbecue sticks, rags, plastic cups, juice drink foil containers, candy wrappers, plastic water bottles, balloons, cigarette butts, etc. The huge ones — floating sofas, broken plastic chairs and folding beds, no kidding — are another story.
But the small ones — plastic straws, stirrers, cups and small drink pouches — are the ones that easily get swept into the rivers and seas and swallowed by marine creatures that die untimely deaths.
Some of our cities have ordinances on plastic bags. In Quezon City you bring your own grocery/shopping bags or pay extra if you need plastic ones. (Cardboard boxes are free in groceries.) So why not ban plastic straws in fast-food joints and make them use paper ones instead? Why not ban the manufacture and sale of these plastic items?
At the personal level, one can do something. Here are some suggestions from The Last Plastic Straw that I tweaked a bit (calling EcoWaste Coalition).
Make a personal commitment to say no to plastic straws.  Encourage your friends and family to do the same. Want to make an impact? Bring your own reusable (fancy) straw, and start a conversation.Reach out to food joints and ask them to give plastic straws only upon request. Or leave informational cards when you settle your bill.
Encourage eateries to make a change to nonplastic-straw options.
Host a screening of “STRAWS The Film” in your community to start a wave of change.
To find out more about the “No Plastic Straw Pledge” visit https://takeaction.oceanconservancy.org/page/9195/petition/1?ea.tracking.id=17WAXAWXXX. Help keep our oceans plastic-free! #skipthestraw. You can download “STRAWS the Film” for group screenings. #