Thursday, July 27, 2017

Madeleine Albright: 'Read my Pins'

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

I have the book “Read My Pins: Stories from a Diplomat’s Jewel Box” by Madeleine Albright, a former US ambassador to the United Nations and the US secretary of state during the Clinton administration, the first woman to hold the position. I bought the coffee-table book at a sale for P50, although its original price was P1,670. It must have been a display copy because a tiny part of it was slightly torn. A little glue fixed it.

Albright was here a week ago for a speaking engagement organized by ABS-CBN News Channel’s forum on Global Governance and World Economy. A news report said Albright wore a pin for the occasion — a sunburst, perhaps to suggest the Philippines’ sunny clime.

I was not anywhere near the event so I cannot share what I did not hear. But I have Albright’s book about her pins, and also her biography.

“Read My Pins” is “part illustrated memoir, part social history.” There are stories about the pins featured and her wearing which to where, when, what, and who she was meeting. The “pindex” at the end has rows upon rows of her pins (285 in all), each one captioned, with the source and designers acknowledged.

But the main part of the book has photos of pins in bigger sizes, some on whole pages by themselves, plus photographs of her world travels and meetings with world leaders. And just as important, her colorful accounts of those pins and the related events. You read world history through her pins.

May I get ahead of myself by saying that I love that photo of Albright’s meeting with South Africa’s Nelson Mandela where she has a favorite stone-encrusted zebra brooch cozily resting on her left shoulder. Wow.

On the book cover is a close-up of a smiling Albright wearing a pin that looks like the head of the famous Statue of Liberty on New York’s Ellis Island where many immigrants from all over the world had landed. The pin has clock eyes that show different hours. (She explains why.) Albright’s family left Czechoslovakia and sought political asylum in the United States in 1948.

The 276-page book begins with an intro by David Revere McFadden, chief curator at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York where Albright’s pin collection has been exhibited. It has three chapters: “The Serpent’s Tale,” “Wings,” “Body Language” and “It Would Be an Honor.”

Best to let Albright speak for her pins. In “Serpent’s Tale” she tells us: “The idea of using pins as a diplomatic tool is not found in any State Department manual or in any text chronicling American foreign policy. The truth is that it would never have happened if not for Saddam Hussein.

“During President Bill Clinton’s first term (1993-1997), I served as America’s ambassador to the UN. This was the period following the first Persian Gulf War, when a US-led coalition rolled back Iraq’s invasion of neighboring Kuwait. As part of the settlement, Iraq was required to accept UN inspections and to provide full disclosure about its nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons program.

“When Saddam Hussein refused to comply, I had the temerity to criticize him. The government-controlled Iraqi press responded by publishing a poem entitled 'To Madeleine Albright, Without Greetings'…. The poet referred to me as ‘an unparalleled serpent.’

“In October 1994, soon after the poem was published, I was scheduled to meet with Iraqi officials. What to wear?” She wore a pin in the image of a serpent coiled around a branch, a diamond dangling from its mouth.

“[A] member of the UN press corps who was familiar with the poem asked why I had chosen to wear that particular pin. As the television cameras zoomed in on the brooch, I smiled and said that it was just my way of sending a message.”

Before long, she said, and without intending it, “I found that jewelry had become part of my personal diplomatic arsenal.”

Oh, but there’s more. Not only about world events but also about pins themselves, their history dating back to ancient times, and Albright’s own family’s heirloom pins.

I have only a few pins. My favorite looks like a fountain pen encrusted with rhinestones, its golden nib exposed.#

Friday, July 21, 2017

Amid Philippine anti-drug war, Sr. Nenet Dano shepherds drug users, pushers

Global Sisters Report/FEATURES/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

After emerging from a face-to-face meeting with six drug users, Sr. Maria Juanita "Nenet" Daño heaves a small sigh of relief that perhaps these men will not meet a bloody end like dozens of others in the San Andres Bukid slum area in Manila, where she works. They have come forward to undergo counseling, hoping to change their ways and avoid becoming victims in the government's ongoing anti-drug war.
  Sr. Maria Juanita "Nenet" Daño, far left, with drug users who came forward for counseling. At far right is the barangay (area) chairperson. (Contributed photo)
Still, the sister of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd sees danger ahead for the self-confessed drug users because their names are on the police list. This means they are marked men, targets in massive police operations called Oplan  Tokhang" (Tokhang is a contraction of the Filipino words that mean "knock" and "invite"), which have been in force since Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte took office in July 2016.
"They are afraid they'd get killed," Daño said of her six clients, ages 25 to 47. "They also responded to the call of the barangay(a local governmental area) head, a woman, to make the barangay drug-free."
Depending on who is counting, the anti-drug war has claimed from 2,000 to 7,000 plus lives, both in police operations and vigilante-style or extrajudicial killings, carried out without any due process. Daily news reports carry incidents of summary executions whose perpetrators are unidentified. The killers often leave a note that the death is drug-related.
On the night of July 9, about five kilometers (3.1 miles) from Daño's area, a man was killed in front of the Pope Pius XII Catholic Center where the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, also known as the CBCP, had just finished their meeting and election of a new president for 2018 and 2019. Daño and her group of lay partners had also just ended their prayer vigil there.
Women hold a "Stop the Killings" streamer at the funeral of three young men who were summarily killed during a police operation. (Contributed photo)

Archbishop Socrates Villegas, the president of bishops' conference, who finishes his term in December, reacted swiftly to the recent killing: "We cannot be reconciled with this situation. Silence in the face of this horrendous deed is complicity," he said in a Facebook post that was picked up by the media. "Let the public outcry reach all concerned, for there must be an outcry. To us all is addressed that voice from heaven: 'The blood of the brother you have slain calls out from the earth.' "
Duterte had vowed to end the drug menace in the country and exterminate those involved in it — whatever it took. Now, drug suspects can end up as victims of the extrajudicial killings, the perpetrators of which are unknown and operate with impunity. Innocent persons, children among them, have ended up as "collateral damage."
As early as August last year, the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines, which includes both women and men religious, had issued a strongstatement denouncing the killings. The CBCP also issued a pastoral letter dated January 30, 2017, against the "reign of terror" sweeping poor areas. On July 14, the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines, in their Joint Biennial Convention Statement, expressed "solidarity with victims of human rights violations and their families, especially the victims of extrajudicial killings."
Duterte has been hitting back harshly at human rights groups, both national and international, and the churches as well, that have criticized his drug war.
Coffins of the three slain men (Contributed photo)

Grassroots ministry
Daño, a licensed social worker, has been doing outreach work since 2011 in San Andres Bukid, said to be the second most populous area in the Manila Archdiocese. She had spent eight years as missionary in Senegal, returning to the Philippines in 2011.* She worked in the sisters' infirmary for two years before joining the Welcome House/Tahanan, which is one Good Shepherd community with two locations.
Welcome House, which is in an adjacent district, specializes in crisis intervention among women and girls. Daño works as a counselor at Welcome House but spends half of the week in San Andres Bukid some three kilometers (about two miles) away, where the Religious of the Good Shepherd  maintains Tahanan (which means "home"). Tahanan is an outreach center that serves as an office, meeting place and Daño's sleeping quarters when she is in San Andres Bukid, located in a low-income tenement building built by the archdiocese. She is the only Good Shepherd sister working in that area.
The four-story tenement, a stone's throw from the parish church, stands out in a sea of patchwork houses and lean-tos made of light materials crisscrossed by a web of narrow alleys. San Andres Bukid is congested and overpopulated. There are 26 barangays, the smallest government unit which can vary in size and population, in San Andres Bukid; 11 of them are headed by elected women.
Before the drug war and the killings, Daño was busy with grassroots work in the area's Basic Ecclesial Communities, small Catholic communities whose members participate in the church's evangelical mission.
Lay partners
Helping Daño in her ministry is a group of women called Good Shepherd lay partners. The women are residents of the area, from poor families, but resolved to serve the church and improve the lives of their fellow residents.
The Good Shepherd Sisters in the Philippines have lay partners that help in their ministries. They come from different social classes depending on the areas where the sisters are situated.
They have been active in the Good Shepherd ministry and, recently but in a low-key manner, are helping families of the victims of the killings with Daño's guidance.
These lay partners helped gather members of families affected by killings for media interviews. One of the interviewees, Amina Merced, lost her two adult sons and a brother to a police operation in January.*

A protest T-Shirt (Contributed photo)
"I was told that two of them, my son Leo and my brother Bimbo were asleep, while Joshua, my other son, was taking a bath and was naked when shot," she said. "Bimbo was mistaken as his brother Crisanto who was being hunted. I rushed back and found blood all over the wall in our house." The police had taken their bodies to a funeral parlor that charges 66,000 pesos ($1,320) per body for funeral and burial services, she said, adding she had to borrow money for the burials even when the price was lowered.
Unlike many, she is unafraid of being identified. "And yes, please use my real name."
A seven-year-old boy told how he found his father lying dead in a pool of blood. With his mother now in jail because of drug-related charges, the boy is being cared for by relatives and neighbors.
The oft-repeated police reason for the killings is that the suspects "fought back," but in most raids, usually at night, the target suspects are unarmed or even asleep. As to unknown assailants in vigilante-style killings, people can only speculate whether the hired killers are from the police or drug lords, who both want to silence their operators.
The women lay partners and volunteers assist with funerals and join protests. They undergo paralegal training so they can document cases, and help grieving families. They spoke about their first-hand experiences of the drug war, but for security purposes asked not to be identified by their real names. "Ely" says she has had to comfort mothers of those killed and grieves with them. "I am a mother, too," she says. "Some nights it is hard to sleep when you hear little noises" that might signal a police raid nearby.
"When the residents notice unusual police presence, they conclude that there will be killings," Daño said.
The women also minister to drug users who are not yet badly addicted by giving them activated carbon capsules meant to help clean out their systems. The capsules are made from burned coconut husk and sourced from alternative health groups.
The most common prohibited substance used is methamphetamine hydrochloride, known as "poor man's cocaine" (locally called "shabu") and marijuana. But shabu is the substance of choice for most drug users and pushers because of its availability and easy transport. Shabu is now locally produced in hidden laboratories. Chinese nationals with Filipino accomplices who operate these laboratories have been apprehended, charged and imprisoned. Shabu is also sourced from outside the Philippines. It is common knowledge that policemen are also often involved in the drug trade.
"I approached some users and offered to help them," "Dianne" said. "For several weeks they take the capsules two to three times a day and later in lower dosage. After that they undergo a urine test." According to "Pia," it is a joy when someone tests negative but a disappointment when someone who tested negative turns out positive again.
Good Shepherd lay partners with Sr. Maria Juanita "Nenet" Daño (center, wearing white) after a paralegal training held at the Lyceum of Makati College of Law. (Contributed photo)

Paralegal training
The women, mostly middle-aged, have undergone paralegal training for those who, like them, have no college education but are eager to learn. The Free Legal Assistance Group, composed of human rights lawyers including a law dean, has conducted a seminar for them.
"They can now write fact sheets but in Filipino," Daño said with a hint of pride in her voice.
Sr. Regina Kuizon, province leader for the Philippines and Japan, and co-chair of the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines, is supportive of Sr. Nenet's ministry. "Like Jesus the Good Shepherd, Sr. Nenet reaches out to the most in need and the victims of [extrajudicial killings]," she said. "Undaunted, she speaks on their behalf and takes the risk to protect them. I pray for her and all those who are fearless to be on the side of the poor in our country."
The Religious of the Good Shepherd Sisters came to the Philippines in 1912. There are 26 Good Shepherd houses in the Philippines. There are 172 Good Shepherd sisters in the Philippines and 19 overseas, not including the Japan province, which merged with the Philippines province in April.
The main street in San Andres Bukid area in Manila where Sr. Nenet works. (Ma. Ceres P. Doyo)

A vocal critic of the bloody drug war of the Duterte government, Daño recently posted on her Facebook page: "Here in my area the morgues are happy when drug suspects are killed and brought to them. The poor families sometimes leave the dead there as they cannot afford to 'ransom' their loved ones."
Long wakes that last more than one week are common in depressed areas as bereaved families try to raise enough money for burial expenses.
In the post, she added with sarcasm: "This is a reality that shows this administration is anti-poor. Killing the poor is their poverty-alleviation strategy. Less poor people because many of them are 10 feet below the ground. A real change, is it not?"
In a follow-up interview she cited a recent casualty. "He was a 49-year-old father of two, a person with disability and known to rent out his place for drug sessions. He charged 20 pesos per person. He was sleeping in the alley that night. The raiders took him inside the house and killed him there. The police said he fought back. How could he fight back when he couldn't even raise his withered hand?"
Daño said that she is collating all her cases of extrajudicial killings for her congregation and others to read. But her main focus is to stop those who are addicts from becoming victims in the government's war on drugs and to live drug-free, meaningful lives. "When I brought a 14-year-old girl for drug rehab to the Department of Social Welfare and Development office I was told they did not have a budget for even a drug test that cost ten dollars," Daño said. "I told the social work official that the government has no intention to let the addicts live." #
*This story has been updated to correct the month that the Merceds were killed and the year that Daño returned to the Philippines.http://globalsistersreport.org/news/ministry/amid-philippine-anti-drug-war-sr-nenet-da%C3%B1o-shepherds-drug-users-pushers-48086

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Nobody told me...(a reprise)

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo
As we are witnessing the changing of the guards in this media institution’s corporate leadership, questions are flying from all directions. All I can say for now is that being with the Inquirer spells all the difference in my life.
Having written for the Inquirer since its founding in December 1985 and becoming a full-time staff member in March 1986 (as feature writer and later, also as columnist) I can say that this paper is family.
My Inquirer family and I — and even those not from the Inquirer — are going “senti” over the decades past. But as my colleague Tino Tejero (Lifestyle section) solemnly said in his text message after the news broke, quoting St. Teresa of Avila of all people, “Let nothing disturb thee; nothing affright thee. All things are passing.” Affright “designates a state of terror occasioned by some unexpected and startling occurrence.”
 Let me now reprise something I had written years ago. It is not a eulogy, an elegy or a sad refrain. Just a remembrance of things past. There was a voice, a call. I answered. The voice may have sounded like that of Letty Jimenez-Magsanoc but it mattered.
Thirty-one years and some 2,000 articles later, here I am still saying, nobody told me it would be like this. I’ve had a great time. I’ve lived (and continue to live) a privileged life. Privileged, meaning I have been privy to so many things of this world that other mortals are not because “they are not there.” Oh, “to be there” where people live and die, feast and famish, laugh and cry, to be there where events unfold and to watch history leave its tracks behind for us to decipher and be sometimes awed and humbled enough to make us fall to our knees in thanksgiving and sometimes in mourning.
To be there where the heavens opened and hell broke loose. To watch great lives, small lives, dirty lives, fascinating lives, beautiful lives, incredible lives rise and fall, bloom, break into a thousand pieces or become whole again.
All those years are crashing down on me now, chasing me all over again. The weight of it in stories is awesome.
Nobody but nobody told me I’d be climbing mountains and bathing in freezing rivers. Nobody told me I’d be meeting with armed men and women who had spent away their youth and their dreams in uncharted jungles. Nobody told me I’d confront a snake and slip on a mountain slope or that I’d meet people of the forest who spoke in songs.
Nobody told me I’d be able to talk to the powerful and the mighty as well as to the poorest and the most forgotten of the land. Nobody told me that I’d mingle with people who were the epitome of saintliness or that I’d one day come face to face with a 17-time assassin who would tell me his life story. Nobody told me I’d have to track down members of a death squad and break bread with them.
Nobody told me people would entrust to me their ugly secrets and their deadly sins. Nobody told me I’d have coffee with generals, politicians and movie stars; or that I’d be sleeping over with prostitutes and embracing AIDS-stricken women. I’ve learned about the sex lives of the very poor as well as the proclivities of the rich. I would not have met people so diverse and strange and beautiful and ugly had I stayed on a previous career in behavioral science or stayed holy in the convent. From behavioral science to feature writing? It was an easy shift.
There are stories I consider significant to me, not because they won honors or prize money but because they were high in excitement, danger, the human factor. Whether or not people loved or hated me for writing them is another story. I’ve been honored and praised; I’ve been rebuked and reviled. I am humbled that students are dissecting my works.
I have put many of my “great” stories and photographs between book covers. The stories are not exactly literary gems but rather imperfect shards of so many lives, events and places. What does it matter, I was there, others were not. And doing the stories gave me great times—of terror and joy and sadness and fun. #

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Journalism in the age of fake news

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

In the bad news/good news section (depending) is Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre who earned the moniker “Fake News King” after the Akbayan Youth and Millennials Against Dictators filed a complaint against him at the Office of the Ombudsman. He objected to the label.

The group said Aguirre should be held administratively liable for violating the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials every time he makes erroneous claims against critics of President Duterte. Aguirre recently implicated opposition senators Bam Aquino and Antonio Trillanes IV in the Maute terror group’s Islamic-State-inspired attack on Marawi City that began on May 23.

King, prince, whatever. Aguirre has since apologized to the two senators, but blamed journalists and said he had cautioned them that the report was not validated.

The alarming thing is that false news is proliferating on the internet and in the mouths of newsmakers. Self-styled news providers who are actually prevaricators and purveyors of falsehood are preying on the gullible and undiscerning public.

The good news: In town is Sheila S. Coronel, cofounder of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) and now dean of academic affairs of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. She recently delivered a lecture, “Journalism in the Age of Fake News, Propaganda and Media Manipulation,” sponsored by the PCIJ.

Coronel presented the “new landscape of news and information.” That is: News media no longer have the monopoly on news creation and distribution. Audiences get their news no longer directly from the news media but from social media platforms. Massive market penetration of smartphones means that news—including fake news and misinformation — is constant and ubiquitous. Polarized politics means competing narratives and filter bubbles. In this environment, hyperpartisan, highly opinionated, fake news and propaganda go viral.

She gave examples of these and showed questionable and fake news sites that peddle information and with hidden agenda. So how is the news consumer to discern? In their desire to be ahead, even legitimate news sources fall for false information and end up red-faced. But the harm has been done.

Fake news sites, Coronel said, ride on tried and tested formulas — crime, entertainment, politics. And they look real, have exaggerated and misleading content, and expand the range of what is politically acceptable.

To be expected is a decline of trust in institutions — the Church, government, etc., and a loss of faith in mainstream media. For whatever reason, audiences sometimes consider the media partisan or elitist.

News media have their own mistakes — e.g., commercial imperatives (chasing clicks vs credibility), arrogance, blinders, support for elite narratives and indifference to issues concerning audiences. As audiences have access to more information, these flaws become more visible. Decline in trust in news media tracks decline in trust in other institutions, including political parties, government and mainstream churches. The good news is that in this age of false news, the mainstream, legitimate media sources can strike back and rise above the fray because truth is always a needed, wanted, genuine commodity.

For journalists and news consumers: fact checking (Snopes), exposure of fake news, research and propagation of verification techniques, more contextual and critical reporting of news, media literacy, innovative, tech-savvy engagement, emotional skepticism. And remember: Just because it feels right and conforms with what you believe does not mean it’s true. Take responsibility for what you communicate to others.

Coronel also discussed, among others, technological solutions and threats against journalists. She suggested sites that should aid journalists in this age of fake news:

First Draft News: guides on verification, misinformation and new literacy Bellingcat’s Digital Forensics Tools: First Draft founding partner reveals its verification and investigation tools, resources and methods in this open-source Google Doc.

The Intercept’s Surveillance Self Defense Checklist maximizes security.

The Listening Post Collective: resources, tools, peer-to-peer support and a shared learning space for journalists, newsroom leaders and community groups that want to revitalize local news and information ecosystems.

Data and Society, Media Manipulation and Disinformation Online analyzes patterns of disinformation and manipulation in America.